A STICKY patch on the pitch has been a mere sideshow compared with the soap opera which has unfolded at Leeds United in recent weeks.
The Yorkshire club has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons due to ongoing issues surrounding Massimo Cellino’s proposed takeover.
Cellino, who has owned Serie A club Cagliari for 20 years, heads Eleonora Sports, which agreed to buy a 75 per cent stake in Leeds from Gulf Finance House Capital in February.
However, the deal was last week cast in doubt when the 57-year-old Italian businessman was found guilty of failing to pay import duty on a yacht and was yesterday blocked by the Football League. Cellino, who has two previous convictions for fraud, is expected to appeal having invested £6 million in Leeds.
Although Leeds have continued to hold their own in mid-table in the Championship, boss Brian McDermott was dragged into the saga at the end of January.
It appeared McDermott had been sacked by the prospective new owner with Cellino understood to have been keen to install his friend Gianluca Festa, the former Middlesbrough and Watford defender, as the club’s new head coach.
The current owners were subsequently forced to release a statement to insist McDermott remained in his post, while Cellino later revealed he had tried to telephone the former Reading manager in a bid to “reinstate” him.
McDermott, 52, decided not to attend Leeds’ derby with Huddersfield at the start of February, a clash they won 5-1 when a crowd of more than 31,000 chanted in support of their manager and made clear their opposition to a Cellino takeover.
Victory over Millwall at Elland Road on Saturday saw Leeds end another turbulent week off the pitch with a first win in seven matches thanks to a header from Matt Smith and Ross McCormack’s 26th goal of the season.
Following the triumph, McDermott told the media: “We are fighting for our lives as a club with the ownership situation. We want to get it sorted out as quickly as possible.
“We have had a run of form that has been difficult to say the least, but you have to remember how many young players are in this team.
“We need an owner that really wants to carry this club forward and that is the most important thing. This place is uncertain. Fans pick up on it and so do players and staff.
“We want the uncertainty to go away and, once we have a decision, it will give us a chance to put this club back where it belongs.”
Leeds, currently two points and two places below Cherries in 13th, have won five and drawn four on the road this season. The recent six-match winless run had yielded two points from draws at Middlesbrough (0-0) and QPR (1-1).
Scotland international McCormack, who netted in Leeds’ 2-1 win over Cherries in October, is the leading marksman in the Championship, his 26-goal haul including 25 in the league.