Revealed: Bizarre demands on McDermott by Leeds owners

Brian McDermott
Brian McDermott
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A bizarre series of threats and demands was made by Gulf Finance House to Leeds United manager Brian McDermott as the club’s season began to falter in January.

A letter sent to McDermott by GFH chief executive Hisham Alrayes and seen by the Yorkshire Evening Post, attacked United’s results and performances and told McDermott to comply with a number of orders including:

The submission of a report explaining the club’s form and “technical shortfalls” between a 3-0 win at Doncaster Rovers on December 14 and a 1-0 defeat to Leicester City on January 18.

A demand that McDermott allow Alrayes and Leeds chairman Salah Nooruddin to approve his “strategy, list of players and squad formation” for every game, at least 24 hours before kick-off.

A written analysis outlining “technical assessment, performance of players and forward planning for discussion with the board” after each of United’s fixtures.

The memo was drawn up by Alrayes in the days after Leeds lost 6-0 at Sheffield Wednesday on January 11, the club’s heaviest league defeat for more than 50 years.

The scathing document said Leeds had been “humiliated live on television against a local rival” and talked of the “dissatisfaction” felt by GFH and United’s board “on the way the team has been managed and the surprising results in the past seven games”.

Alrayes said the club’s form “cannot be excused” and called for “immediate improvement” in a veiled threat to McDermott’s job as manager. Alrayes – a senior official at GFH, the Bahraini investment bank which has owned Leeds since December 2012, and a board member at Elland Road until last September – is thought to have pushed for McDermott’s sacking during a phone call to Leeds managing director David Haigh midway through the game at Hillsborough.

That game followed a bitter dispute over the proposed move of striker Ashley Barnes from Brighton & Hove Albion to Leeds, a transfer which GFH refused to finance.

The following week, McDermott was served with a letter in which Alrayes said that “whilst we continue to support you further if positives results and performance of the team is turnaround (sic), we expect you to take the points raised in this memo seriously.”

The memo included a paragraph saying: “For each game now onward, you will be required to submit a report on strategy to be undertaken, list of players and squad formation a (minimum) of 24 hours prior to the game for group CEO and chairman’s approval.”

The insistence that McDermott send teamsheets and tactics to Bahrain ahead of United’s league fixtures and the demand for detailed post-match reports was implemented for only a short period of time, but McDermott is known to have dealt with a catalogue of interference from GFH.

Last weekend, prior to United’s derby against Doncaster Rovers, the club’s owner attempted to stop him from speaking to the media after taking issue with comments made by McDermott about the club’s problems and the attempted takeover of Leeds by Massimo Cellino.

The 52-year-old has received written warnings following recent interviews.

The instruction to halt McDermott’s press conferences was ignored by Haigh, United’s MD and the only board member regularly present at Elland Road.

Nooruddin has not attended a game since before Christmas and Salem Patel, United’s third and final director, was last in Leeds around two months ago.

Alrayes came to London last week in the midst of a fight to pay the club’s wage bill for March but did not travel to Yorkshire or take in the clash with Doncaster.

GFH was asked for comment last night but did not respond.

United’s season has deteriorated badly since the turn of the year, with an under-pressure McDermott struggling for results and frustrated by events off the field, including an aborted attempt to dismiss him on January 31.

At his press conference yesterday, he revealed how he had taken abusive phone calls from the club’s supporters this week as tension rose on the back of Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Charlton Athletic, Leeds’ 18th defeat of the Championship term.

The former Reading boss also spoke again of the need for an end to Cellino’s long-running battle to buy United.

The Italian, who appealed against a Football League ruling barring him from taking charge of Leeds, expects to hear the outcome of his appeal around 6pm today.

McDermott said: “All I know is that there’s an appeal and there will be a result.

“That’s the only fact I have.”