Leeds United Stories, Vol. 1
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leeds united latest: monday already

leeds united latest: monday already

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Sunday petered out quietly without many more revelations than the conversations Eleonora Cellino was having with enthusiastic Leeds fans on Instagram.

Then just as Monday began, the BBC’s Adam Pope tweeted that the two previous rival consortiums looking to buy Leeds United, Sport Capital and TogetherLeeds, are combining forces to derail the deal struck by Massino Cellino; at lunchtime, Brian McDermott gave an almost saintly press conference and vowed he would not walk away from United; and this evening the Liverpool Echo revealed Merseyside businessman Terry Riley, owner of the Ascot Property Group, had been involved in the Sport Capital bid. 

About Terry Riley’s involvement in Sport Capital, The Echo said, ‘It is understood Mr Riley invested a considerable sum in the bid and is bitterly disappointed that it failed,’ and that the consortium ‘included backers from Dubai, Monaco and Majorca.’ It added that the deal collapsed when, after due diligence, the consortium revised its offer for 75% of the club, "and certain consortium members withdrew their support for the deal."

While the mere mention of Monaco can set Leeds fans’ pulses racing, that’s understood to be a reference to the home of Andrew Flowers, rather than anyone else.

Stuart Howard, speaking on behalf of Ascot Property Group, told the Echo: "Meetings have been held over two continents and the deal was so close to being completed. David Haigh, Leeds United MD and Andrew Flowers, who led the consortium, have been a pleasure to work with. We developed an excellent working relationship with them over the past six months and like us they are devastated by events. Sadly though the takeover has now collapsed and we want to move forward with other property development transactions we are currently involved in."

The plan for a combined Sport Capital and TogetherLeeds bid has been confirmed on Monday afternoon by Phil Hay of the YEP, who also reports that Chris Farnell, the lawyer acting for Cellino who sacked McDermott by phone on Friday night, was escorted off the premises at Elland Road by David Haigh, Salem Patel and security staff, and told not to return unless Cellino is confirmed as owner.

As part of the reassertion of control, Salem Patel has spoken to BBC Leeds’ Adam Pope, saying GFH Capital are running the club and it "has been an amazing experience … when we came to the club fans were disengaged, the fans were not happy, a lot of things weren’t right; both for myself and for David we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved. It goes beyond professional pride, both David and myself really have personal pride at what we’ve achieved and we’ve really grown to love Leeds United."

Speaking of the current state of the club, Salem said, "Like with most other football clubs, the club runs at a loss, and it needs cash resources to be invested by its owners, and Leeds is no different. We hope to – and this is something we have said from the beginning – we want the club to be sustainable, to be funded by its own means. Because any financial owner, like ourselves, I don’t believe will continue to underwrite losses over the medium to long term. We are continuing to work in that regard, it’s not an easy endeavour but something that was planned from day one and it will take some time."

Patel repeated what the release on Saturday said about GFH agreeing a deal with Cellino, but wouldn’t say more due to "where we are in the deal"; it was the same about the bids from Sport Capital and TogetherLeeds: "Both are covered by confidentiality agreements."

listen to ‘Salem Patel: GFH Capital are running Leeds United’ on Audioboo

On the subject of Cellino, Leader of Leeds Council Cllr Keith Wakefield has written to the Football League to ask them to be rigorous in their testing of Massimo Cellino’s suitability as a prospective owner of a football club. The letter reads in part, "It is critically important for the city and all fans of Leeds United that any new owners are robustly and thoroughly vetted to ensure that they pass, without doubt or exception, the fit and proper person test."

Meanwhile freelance journalist Scott Austin, who is in regular contact with Cellino, told BBC Leeds tonight that as far as Cellino is concerned the deal went through on Friday lunchtime; the funds cleared, he had a message from the Leeds chairman congratulating him on being the new owner, and the only remaining hurdle is Football League approval.

Austin added that Cellino had been taken aback by the fans’ blockade that trapped him in the stadium on Friday night, and led to him changing his story from sacking McDermott himself because he was being "impossible", to only sacking Brian because GFH didn’t have "the guts" to do what they wanted to do.

"He’s certainly someone who does want he wants, shoots from the hip, won’t be dissuaded from what he wants to do," said Austin. "But he likes to be seen as a man of the people and a man of the fans, and we’ve seen that with Cagliari. He’s said that a big reason for choosing Leeds was because of their passionate support, and I think he was taken aback by the level of feeling against him, and realised that he’d got off on a very bad footing. So that was what brought about the change of heart I think."

Despite that, Cellino has said he now has "an affinity with Leeds now," and that as far as he is concerned, he is the owner but for passing the Football League’s Owners and Directors test.

You can also see Simon Austin interviewed on ITV’s Calendar here.

This morning Brian McDermott returned to work at Thorp Arch, where Sky Sports News cameras were at the gates, and where he was said by YEP photographer Steve Riding to be smiling. 

There were more smiles at a press conference called for 1.15pm, where McDermott appeared in his role as manager of Leeds United.

"I’m responsible for all football matters at the club," said Brian, about the assurances he has been given by the owners. "Nobody will be invited to the dugout, or the dressing room, or to speak with the players unless the manager okays it. [I’ve had] assurances about who the owners are, and I’ve been given assurances that I answer to GFH, and to GFH only. And if the football club does change hands, I’m [to be] given assurances of who that’s going to be."

The best parts of the conference for Leeds fans were the parts where Brian spoke about the two reasons why he was continuing in the job despite everything that has gone on over the last week: the club and the supporters. So let’s cut straight to some of the heart-stirring quotes from our manager:

"The reason I’m sitting here is I’ve been reinstated, for one. But this is Leeds United, I’m Leeds United manager, and I want to be Leeds United manager.

"I’ve spoken to a lot of people in the game, a lot of really important people, and they’ve said ‘You shouldn’t go back.’ But if you saw the support that the team got, and the staff got on Saturday, and personally the support I got was incredible; Nigel Gibbs proved what a class act he is, and the way he conducted himself; the way the players played; and my captain scored a hat trick. I know what a difficult time our captain has had over the last two or three days. So I have to say I was just completely proud of them, all the players, the staff and the fans, they all came together on Saturday and it was a fantastic day."

"Is that why you’re back?" asked Bryn Law from Sky Sports.

"Yes. That’s why I’m back. The fans proved that they are a class act. It’s their football club and that’s the most important thing, and this football club doesn’t belong to anyone but the fans. And it has to be said that whoever eventually takes this football club on has to have those people first and foremost in their mind. Nothing else matters."

Then, later on:

"It would have been very easy for me to walk away. And that was the advice of an awful lot of people. But in my mind there was no way I was ever going to be walking away from this job. Why would you walk away from being Leeds United manager? It just doesn’t make any sense. So all it’s done for me is give me more drive, the staff more drive, the players more drive, and all of us coming together with the fans."

And one more: "My personal feelings are I want to be Leeds United manager, that’s it. First and foremost, nothing else matters. That hasn’t changed, and I have to say the support I have received personally has been fantastic."

McDermott confirmed that he had been sacked by phone on Friday night, by Chris Farnell, a conversation McDermott described as "…odd. You do have to be the owner of the football club to sign a player, or to sack the manager, so I did think it was very strange to say the least." Another phone call from GFH on Saturday morning said that was not the case, and although McDermott wasn’t in charge of the team on Saturday, he did work with Nigel Gibbs and Neil Redfearn to return it to the line-up chosen during training on Friday.

"It was changed overnight," he said. "We then changed the team back, Nigel Gibbs took the team, he did a fantastic job with Neil Redfearn, and we won the game. That was the only thing on my mind was to win the game. I was obviously upset to have lost my job – you would be. But then Saturday came and I was just thinking about the game."

Gianluca Festa, the ex-Middlesbrough defender believed to be Cellino’s choice as coach in place of McDermott, was said to have been at the training ground on Monday with Andrea Tabanelli; but with Tabanelli’s registration on loan from Cagliari not confirmed, the player took no part in training.

One of the most noticeable aspects of the press conference was that Brian McDermott was very, very, very calm. He even said so himself, answering a question about whether the phone call on Friday had angered him. "No. What’s the point? There’s no point. I was calm. The only thing I was thinking on Friday night was to get a result."

McDermott’s calmness will serve him in good stead as the wrangling continues for control of Leeds United. After the press conference news came via Adam Pope and Phil Hay on Twitter suggesting that GFH Capital have reasserted their control of the club, while the Sporting Capital consortium, believed still to include Andrew Flowers of Enterprise Insurance and current MD David Haigh, are working on a united bid with the TogetherLeeds group, led by Mike Farnan and thought to still include Gary Verity, Adam Pearson and Lucas Radebe; the exact make up of the new group has not been revealed. It has said, however, that it will match Massimo Cellino’s offer for Leeds during talking with GFH in London tomorrow. 

Development: told that Chris Farnell, the lawyer who sacked BM on Cellino’s behalf, has just been escorted off the premises at Elland Road

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

Farnell is understood to have been at Elland Road pending the completion of Cellino’s deal. Deal hasn’t been done. #lufc

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

Apparently, he was shown out of Elland Road by Haigh, Patel and security staff. Cellino bid seems to be sinking.

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

#lufc Farnell shown off the premises by Haigh, Patel & security staff & understood not to return unless a deal is completed with Cellino.

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

Latest – understand that takeover talks will definitely be held between Flowers/Farnan consortium and GFH in London tomorrow. #lufc

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

The consortium have told GFH that they will match the offer made by Cellino. #lufc

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

Not sure precisely who is in this consortium but Flowers and Farnan have come together to organise the bid. #lufc

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

#lufc chairman Salah Nooruddin has told all staff in the last few minutes that GFH Capitalcurrently retains its ownership of the club.

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

#lufc Nooruddin has said existing Board remains in control & David Haigh is the MD.

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

#lufc Nooruddin added that no instructions or directions whatsoever shouldbe taken from anyone outside existing management structure & Board

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

MONDAY MORNING: Adam Pope announced overnight that some of United’s sponsors are "looking to recall their funding & preparing injunctions to prevent the club using their brands." Both Enterprise Insurance and Flamingo Land pulled their sponsorship in protest after Brian McDermott was told he was sacked. 

#lufc I have learnt there has been advanced discussions between previously rival bidders Sport Capital and the Mike Farnan led consortium,

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

…plus other significant businessmen in Leeds to today present a combined bid to buy a majority stake in #lufc

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

As the news broke just after midnight on Adam Pope’s timeline, Leeds’ managing director David Haigh – who also resigned in protest on Friday night, only to return on Saturday – returned to Twitter, retweeting two songs posted by Pamela Anderson’s Twitter account – David Bowie’s Starman and The Beatles’ Revolution – before taking several attempts to quote Billy Bremner correctly; first trying ‘Team before self’ (and being told off by Simon from the Kaiser Chiefs):

Before getting it about right with:

Although he still deleted that and reposted, adding a spelling mistake.

Adam Pope’s exclusive interview with GFH and GFH Capital’s Salem Patel was broadcast on BBC Leeds’ Liz Green Show this morning; the audio is embedded below:

listen to ‘EXCLUSIVE: Leeds United director Salem Patel’ on Audioboo

In the interview, Salem says that he was in Bahrain when he found out about Brian McDermott being sacked; his wife read the news on Twitter. In response to Cellino’s claim that he only sacked McDermott because GFH wanted him gone but didn’t have the guts to do it themselves (Cellino’s second version of the story, after first claiming McDermott had become impossible), Salem said: "As a board it’s within our remit to ensure the manager is performing and the team is performing and that we’re moving in the right direction. Unfortunately I think after the Barnsley game, and through the Christmas period, and to Brian’s own admission, the team wasn’t performing. I don’t think it’s fair [to say] that the board collectively wanted to get rid of Brian; certainly that discussion was not held."

Asked if they would be behind McDermott if he returned to work – as he has done – Salem said, "Of course. We hired Brian. We hand-picked him … he has performed really well in the last year that he’s been here, and we hope he continues to be our manager for the foreseeable future."

Here are the rest of Adam’s tweets from the smallest hours of Monday morning:

This to derail the current deal, yet to be ratified by the Football League, but agreed by Italian Massimo Cellino with #lufc owners GFHC.

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

The combined bid will back Bri Mac who will return to work today having being dismissed by lawyer Chris Farnell acting for Cellino #lufc

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

GFH Capital did not authorise the dismissal and want McDermott to continue at #lufc

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

I understand some current #lufc sponsors are looking to recall their funding & preparing injunctions to prevent the club using their brands.

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 3, 2014

Now at a more reasonable hour of the morning, Phil Hay of the YEP has added more to the story of the ‘super-consortium’:

News came too late for today’s YEP but can confirm that Andrew Flowers is leading a consortium who plan to submit a bid for #lufc tomorrow

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

The group plan to match the terms of Cellino’s bid and want an immediate answer tomorrow.

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

With this consortium, I don’t think it’s 100% decided who’s in and who’s out. Sounds like a coming together of people who want Cellino gone

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

As I said yesterday, contracts between Cellino and GFH haven’t been exchanged yet. Door still open to Flowers et al

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 3, 2014

Late on Sunday evening, Eleonora Cellino, the daughter after whom Massimo Cellino has named the company being used to buy Leeds, discussed her father with Leeds fans commenting on a ‘I Am Leeds’ Macron advert she had posted on Instagram:

… If my dad wanted more money and made soccer a business he wouldn’t have gone public and he would have hired someone else to be a public figure. My dad has a passion for soccer, and once he owns a team and that team does well he uses all his power and puts all the love that he has for it. He doesn’t care about the money, he wants the team to improve and he wants to use the skills that he was gained in this 21 years of experience with soccer on a team that he has faith in, and that he liked since the first moment they proposed it to him.

… he’s really not a materialistic man. He doesn’t care about making it about business that’s the last thought on his mind.

… think he figured that Brian is a talented and loved man in Leeds and he has nothing against him, I think a big misunderstanding happened on Friday. 

… his priority are the Leeds now, the club that he has in italy has been giving him many problems for the past years and the governors don’t like soccer and won’t give any permissions to make things better for that club, so his main focus is Leeds.

… He doesn’t need to win "you" over, I guess that people judge other people too fast without even knowing them, I think you have to give him some time, and the decisions he took weren’t so wrong since the team won 5-1 last time….just be patient and let him do what he thinks is right for the team, and he really cares about his team’s fans and about their opinions and he will listen to what the fans and the supports think is right. So what I have to say about it is give it some time. It’s to soon to tell. 

… he will do whatever he thinks is best I like Brian and he likes Brian so I’m sure he will give him time. He’s good at that, and he is working on getting us back to premier league! Hopefully he does!!!!

The latest comments on the post are from Leeds fans informing Eleonora of the combined Sport Capital/TogetherLeeds bid, meaning that Massimo Cellino may well hear of the competition via his daughter in Miami’s Instagram account from supporters on the other side of the world who have read about it on Twitter. Which is probably still not the weirdest thing to have happened this weekend.

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