last orders for brian mcdermott at leeds unitedBack
The tweet from Leeds United’s official account announcing Brian McDermott’s departure “by mutual consent” came at 11.26pm British Summer Time.
BREAKING NEWS: Brian McDermott and Leeds United have parted company by mutual consent. Official statement to follow shortly #lufc
— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) May 30, 2014
According to Simon Austin, Massimo Cellino only arrived in London on Friday on his way back from Miami, where Leeds’ club president had been attending to the sale of Cagliari Calcio and his daughter’s graduation; and, by the looks of things he made quick work of finally ending the saga of Brian McDermott’s slow, painful exit from the drama of LUFC.
The tweeted announcement has been followed by a statement on the official website with comments from both McDermott and Cellino, but with no further details of how McDermott has come to leave.
The statement begins, “Brian McDermott and Leeds United have announced their mutual decision for the Leeds United manager to depart from his position,” and Cellino adds, “I did not fully understand the mess [Brian] had to work in, and the broken promises he had to deal with, until I have got involved trying to turn Leeds around. He has been a gentleman to deal with in our discussions and has been very understanding of my wish to implement a new structure.”
McDermott’s part of the statement begins, “It has been my great privilege to manage this great club and I have enjoyed the challenge immensely. However it is clear that Massimo wishes to implement a new structure and feels he will work more successfully for Leeds with a coach rather than a manager.”
He goes on to pay tribute to the club’s supporters, and pointedly refers to Leeds United as “we” throughout:
"Finally to the incredible force that is the Leeds United supporters, I offer my heartfelt thanks. Your support of me and the players was always an inspiration and I urge everyone to get behind the team and the new owner next season to get us back to where we need to be, fighting for trophies and competing at the top-table of English and European football.
"It won’t be easy, but Marching On Together we can get there.
“I wish Massimo and all my friends at Elland Road every success in the future.”
McDermott has followed the statement with a phone conversation with BBC Leeds’ Adam Pope, who tweeted:
#lufc Brian McDermott has just rung to say thank you. He said "Wow what a club. The fans are everything." Different class.
— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) May 30, 2014
That McDermott is described as leaving by mutual consent is an interesting clue to how what looked like an increasingly antagonistic situation between Cellino, the club and McDermott has been resolved. The pay-off due to him if he should be sacked by Cellino – again – was believed to be one of the reasons why McDermott still had a job at the club.
In recent weeks McDermott appeared to have a job in name only, but not in deed, with the appearance of Benito Carbone – in selfies at Thorp Arch, formal photos in Elland Road, an announcement on the official website, and in an interview this week with Simon Austin – that of someone with all the responsibilities of a football manager, just not the job title.
McDermott has meanwhile appeared ostracised, although he might claim he simply went on holiday; Cellino has declared publicly his disappointment at finding McDermott absent with the season over, while towards the end of the season McDermott seemed increasingly agitated at not being granted a meeting with Massimo. Like two increasingly grumpy ships in the night, they kept passing each other, not destined to sail smoothly side by side.
A showdown meeting was expected when the players and staff returned to Elland Road on this coming Monday, their holidays at least temporarily curtailed at the demand of the president. Perhaps it’s a good thing that one question that was due to hang over the meeting has been answered in advance, although that attention will now no doubt shift to the players, like Ross McCormack, who stayed publicly loyal to McDermott through his last sacking and the difficult close to the season.
The second half of the season may well have done for Brian McDermott under another chairman or president anyway – one who had the money to sack him. From the optimism of last summer’s pre-season trip to Slovenia, when McDermott famously gave his last €50 note to fans for drinks, and the first day cup final atmosphere of the last minute win over Brighton, Leeds’ season became one of the worst in living memory – which, after Neil Warnock, had not been thought possible.
After the first takeover bids were lodged in November and Gulf Finance House’s focus moved from running Leeds United to selling it, McDermott’s job seemed divided between fronting up to answer questions about the takeover that should have been asked of the owners, and trying to manage and motivate a football team that was distracted by off the field matters and weighed down by the financial albatrosses left by Ken Bates’ ownership and Neil Warnock’s ‘rebuilding’.
Personally I found it hard to pin the blame for performances and results on the pitch on a manager who plainly could not believe how badly a squad of players representing Leeds United were performing. Brian McDermott’s own motivation to manage Leeds United was strengthened by what seemed to be a sudden but genuine love of the football club; perhaps Brian’s failure lay in not being able to understand why the players weren’t as motivated by the stadium, the tracksuits, and the 1970s style wave as he was. How much of this can be blamed on McDermott and how much on a squad of players that has reduced in quality and attitude season-on-season since promotion from League One is open to debate.
There is less debate to be had about Brian’s work in the transfer market, as Jimmy Kebe proved an embarrassment to himself and to the manager who trusted him, Noel Hunt succumbed to injury and poor form, Cameron Stewart made no impact, and only Matt Smith and to an extent Luke Murphy could be said to have been successes.
There is also little to be said in Brian’s favour for some of the absolute tankings Leeds received last season – outplayed in a 2–0 defeat at Rochdale, destroyed 6–0 at Sheffield Wednesday, 4–1 at Bournemouth, 5–1 at home to Bolton. There was also the outright grimness of games like the home defeats to Doncaster and Charlton.
While it would be nice to be able to cite the circumstances, in modern football the responsibility for results and performances like those will always end with the manager, and the manager will always pay with his job – assuming the club president can find a way to take the job from him.
And also assuming that the manager and the club president aren’t one and the same person, which may be an interesting twist for Leeds fans to look forward to.
Whether anyone could have done better than Brian McDermott in the circumstances will be one of the great what-ifs of McDermott’s time in charge; what he could have done in the right circumstances will be the other. How much worse last season could have been with a manager less committed to the job than McDermott is another hypothetical that should be kept in mind when assessing his time in charge.
What I don’t doubt is that Brian McDermott did everything he could for Leeds United. And I don’t doubt that, if he’d been allowed, he could have done much more.
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