Brian McDermott was considering a return to Leeds United on Sunday night, 48 hours after the club’s prospective new owners sacked him before they even took control.
The 52-year-old is understood to believe the situation at Elland Road remains extremely fluid and that there could yet be more twists and turns this week, as the Football League embarks on discussions with the company of controversial would-be owner Massimo Cellino, who had McDermott dismissed on Friday evening.
With the League expected to be urged today by the 9,200-member Leeds United Supporters Trust (Lust) to bar Cellino and his company Eleonara Sport from buying the club under fit-and-proper-person ownership rules, McDermott’s Elland Road staff were hopeful last night that he would return to the Thorp Arch training ground to resume work with the players today.
Sources close to McDermott said that he had also been hugely encouraged by the defiant show of support for him from Leeds fans during Saturday’s 5-1 win over Huddersfield, during which his name was sung repeatedly.
McDermott is understood to be unwilling to work under Cellino, who last week by instructed his compatriot Gianluca Festa, the former Middlesbrough defender, to observe two of McDermott’s training sessions and then requested that Festa be in the dug-out for the 1-1 draw against Ipswich on Tuesday.
Miami-based Cellino’s attempts to buy a 75 per cent share in Leeds for £25m will place the League under pressure to impose its own rules, which prohibit owners with criminal convictions. Cellino has a conviction for defrauding the European Union and the Italian Ministry for Agriculture out of £7.5m, for which he received a reduced and suspended 14-month sentence following a plea bargain in the 1990s. In 2001, he was given a 15-month suspended sentence for false accounting at Cagliari.
Gary Cooper, chairman of Lust, said he anticipated his members being overwhelmingly in favour of asking the League to reject Cellino’s bid to buy the club when they were canvassed by email last night. “I don’t think there will be a willingness to welcome him and his family here,” Cooper said. “I imagine the Football League are under massive pressure to get things right on this one.”
The League said it had made Eleonara aware of its “requirements under Football League regulations relating to the change of ownership at Championship clubs. Information has been requested that is consistent with that required of all potential new owners.”
McDermott does not appear to have received a letter terminating his employment at Leeds, following his dismissal by telephone by one of Cellino’s lawyers at 6pm on Friday, though several sources last night suggested that one was written on club headed notepaper and signed by Cellino.
The decision of present Leeds owners GFH Capital to sell a majority ownership to Cellino reflects the desperate need for money, with the club currently running “unmanageable losses”, according to one source. “We accepted that GFH bought us as an investment but we have always said that if they brought someone else in we expected them to ensure that they were the right people,” Cooper said.