Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn is on the verge of the sack after an outspoken attack on him by owner Massimo Cellino.
In a savage interview with Sunday Mirror, Cellino accused Redfearn of turning the club’s fans against him and acting “like a baby” over his contract at Elland Road.
The Italian’s comments appear to have shattered an already tense relationship between him and his head coach, who was appointed by Cellino last November but will reach the end of his deal on June 30.
Leeds have an option to extend Redfearn’s contract for another 12 months and speaking at a 70-minute press conference last Thursday, Cellino refused to confirm whether the 49-year-old would stay in his job for the 2015-16 season.
But Redfearn is now poised to leave the club after Cellino claimed he “tried to play the fans against me” in the hope of remaining in charge.
Redfearn received the backing of United’s support during the final weeks of the Championship season, a period which was marred by the unexplained suspension of his assistant, Steve Thompson.
An away crowd of 3,000 subjected Cellino to chants of ‘time to go, Massimo’ during a 2-1 defeat at Charlton Athletic last month following the withdrawal of six foreign players through injury 24 hours before the match.
Cellino, however, told the Mirror: “He thinks he’s so strong that he can put me in the s**t because I’m worrying about the fans. F*** me, what kind of chairman have you got?
“He tried to play the fans against me to keep his place. Do you think that Neil Redfearn loves Leeds more than me?
“Tell me why I am in Leeds, why am I so involved with the club? Why am I putting in a lot of money, killing myself? Because I fell in love with this club. But to love this club is to do something for this club.
“Neil Redfearn does the (Leeds United fans’) salute. He challenged me. If you are good I can accept the challenge. But not if you are a bad coach.
“He wins two games and he disappears. He loses five games and he comes to me to ask my advice. Then he wins and disappears again.
“He has to respect the chairman. He has to respect the club. He’s like a baby. He’s been badly advised and used by someone. He is not a bad person but he has a weak personality.”
Redfearn’s position has been precarious for many weeks and he and Cellino have had no contact since the Italian completed a Football League disqualification earlier this month.
The deal Redfearn signed in November gave him the right to return to his old job as academy manager if Leeds looked to replace him this summer but he looks likely to leave the club completely, six-and-a-half years after joining United as a youth-team coach.
Nigel Adkins, Gus Poyet and Mark Warburton have all been touted as possible replacements.
Redfearn was approached by this newspaper, but declined to comment.