Leeds’s tale has more twists than trademark Gray wing play

Brian McDermott
Brian McDermott
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A WEEK ago, this column likened the uncertainty surrounding Leeds United to the final days of the board led by Gerald Krasner.

The comparison, it seemed, was a logical one with the 2004-05 season having brought similarly disappointing results on the pitch against the background of rival bidders – Sebastien Sainsbury and local businessman Norman Stubbs – attempting to strike a deal to buy the Championship club.

What could not have been foreseen, however, as that day’s Yorkshire Post hit the streets, was that within 12 or so hours any notion of comparing United’s current travails to those of nine years earlier had been blown to smithereens by a chain of events that quickly turned the club into a laughing stock.

The past seven days at Elland Road have been without precedent, the twists and turns so numerous that even Eddie Gray, in his mercurial pomp when turning opposition full-backs inside out, would not have been able to keep up.

Brian McDermott’s ‘sacking’ and then subsequent reinstatement has obviously been the headline act in the circus that has become Leeds United’s day-to-day existence.

But the supporting cast has featured all manner of bizarre incidents, including the lawyer who ‘sacked’ McDermott, right, being escorted from the premises, previous rivals in the bidding process joining together, a winding-up order being issued plus worrying revelations about just how perilous United’s finances have become.

Several local businesses have also told the Yorkshire Post in recent days that invoices are going unpaid and that anyone enquiring about possible payment is being told by club staff that nothing can be done until a takeover is completed.

Understandably, no mention is made by said members of staff as to who might carry through this takeover successfully. Not after a saga that has seen Massimo Cellino face competition from a consortium called Sport Capital and another going by the name of Together Leeds before key members of both joined together earlier this week in an attempt to stop the Italian.

After that failed and Andrew Flowers walked away, Mike Farnan and his colleagues in Together Leeds vowed to fight on, but sources are indicating that Cellino is edging ever closer to winning the race.

His £25m offer is comfortably the biggest on the table for Gulf Finance House, the Bahraini bank that bought United from Ken Bates in December, 2012.

And with passing the Football League’s ‘Fit and Proper Persons’ Test’ not now considered to be as much of a hurdle due to one of his two well-documented previous convictions for fraud having been overturned on appeal and the other being considered ‘spent’ under British law due to having taken place more than 10 years ago, it seems a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ the deal goes through.

Cellino, thanks to the bizarre events of last Friday night that also included United trying and failing to sign five Italian players, has a lot of ground to make up with supporters.

Alarmed by the chaos that unfolded following the Italian’s jumping of the gun in sacking McDermott, a significant number of fans voiced their opposition to the Miami-based 57-year-old during last weekend’s 5-1 derby demolition of Huddersfield.

That tough stance has, judging by the chatter on internet messageboards, not weakened over the last few days.

The problem, however, is that the perilous state of the Elland Road finances – a source told this paper yesterday that United are losing a seven-figure sum every month – means we may well be reaching a point where the club needs Cellino as much as he wants to buy it.

Certainly, Leeds thought nothing a week ago of accepting a £1.5m loan from the Italian – a move that, when revealed this week, further increased concerns about the club’s financial health.

‘Doing a Leeds’ is a phrase that has passed into the lexicon of modern day football. Portsmouth are the most glaring example of a club following a similarly calamitous path.

Now, though, we have the bizarre spectacle of Leeds shaping up to do a Leeds. A farcical scenario, even for a club that more resembles a West End farce with each passing day.