Richard Sutcliffe: Cellino’s departure from Elland Road is good news for Leeds United

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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Not arrivederci but addio.

Massimo Cellino’s tenure at Leeds United is over and few tears are likely to be shed among the Elland Road supporters.

The Italian’s three-year reign, at times, turned the club into a laughing stock.

Constant managerial changes were a factor, as was Cellino being banned by the football authorities three times. Then, there were the sometimes rambling press conferences, which once famously included him announcing halfway through he was nipping out for a cigarette.

Court cases such as the one involving the club’s former Academy welfare officer Lucy Ward also shone a less than flattering light on United’s way of doing things under their controversial owner.

The tone for the often chaotic goings-on was set very, very early on. Two months before he took charge, in fact.

On a never-to-be-forgotten weekend early in 2014, Brian McDermott was ‘sacked’ by a lawyer working on Cellino’s behalf and then reinstated two days later following protests from irate fans that included a taxi attempting to pick up the club’s prospective new owner being chased around the West Stand car park.

As this comical scene played out, captain Ross McCormack was wading into the row live on Sky TV to add to the unfolding farce of a Friday night that, by its end, had seen the acting chief executive sacked and the managing director having quit over McDermott’s own dismissal.

Things, it seemed, could only get better. But, if anything, the next two or so years merely added to the sense of unfolding chaos.

That said, Cellino does deserve credit for some major steps forward taken by the club on his watch. Chief among these was him getting rid of Gulf Finance House.

The Bahraini bank bought out Ken Bates in December, 2012, but little went right. Debts soared during their time in charge and such was the convoluted make-up of the club’s structure that many potential bidders were put off.

Dejphon Chansiri, whose millions have so transformed Sheffield Wednesday, was one of those to look at Leeds and then quickly looked elsewhere due to the convoluted structure of the club’s shareholding.

A much needed control on the finances also came during Cellino’s reign with the losses for his first year at the helm falling to just £2m from the previous figure of £23m.

Cellino is also a personable man with no little charisma. That was evident on my first meeting with the Italian, even if it did end in truly bizarre fashion thanks to one of his many superstitions.

An enjoyable interview concluding was my cue to get up and leave. At the door, I then turned back to thank Cellino once again for his time.

The shove in the chest that quickly sent me into the corridor was explained, amid profuse apologies, by his belief it was bad luck to return to a room after leaving and he had to prevent me from doing so. I chuckled all the way back to the car.

A few hours later, Dave Hockaday was sacked – despite Cellino having taken time during the interview to stress his head coach would get another chance. It summed up the scattergun approach that characterised his time in English football.

Leeds, despite the strides made this season, simply couldn’t function amid such unpredictable leadership. Hence why yesterday’s parting of the ways was for the best.