Leeds’ rollercoaster season - time to spend?

After a campaign of ups and downs Ross McCormack tells Simon Hart he is hoping for club’s new owners to spend heavily this summer so they can push on next term

Anybody seeking an image to sum up Leeds United’s 2013-14 season should have been at Flamingo Land this week, where the sight of Brian McDermott’s squad on a rollercoaster during their annual end-of-term visit offered a perfect visual metaphor for a turbulent campaign.

A queasy stomach from the North Yorkshire roads meant Ross McCormack stayed off the rides. But it seems fair to say he has had quite enough ups and downs already in a season in which his 29 goals in all competitions earned him a place in the PFA’s Championship team of the season yet his side’s on-field fortunes have been damaged by seemingly constant turmoil behind the scenes.

For better or worse, McCormack describes it as “an experience I will never forget” as he sits down to reflect on events at Elland Road in the theme park’s Mansion House tea rooms.

One particularly unforgettable day came on 31 January. This was the day after the collapse of ex-managing director David Haigh’s proposed takeover, when instead Massimo Cellino, a convicted fraudster, agreed to buy a 75 per cent stake in the club from previous owners Gulf Finance House (GFH), sparking the dismissal and subsequent reinstatement of manager McDermott.

“There was a lot going on that night; it was surreal, to be honest,” McCormack recalls. “Surreal” is probably an understatement when you factor in his own situation at the time, with five different teams trying to lure him away, including his old club Cardiff City, who had a bid rejected, and West Ham United.

He insists that his evening visit to Elland Road – where he says he tried but failed to speak to Cellino – was not made to engineer a deadline-day escape from the madhouse. “It would have been easy for me to do that, but no. There were a lot of things going on. A lot of people think someone made a bid for me and the club turned it down and I wanted to go. That is not what happened. In the lead-up to the 31st, things were happening. I think certain people at the club were trying to sell me behind my back as well. They are things people don’t know.”

McCormack actually issued a statement stressing his commitment to staying and “playing at the club under Brian McDermott”. Hours later, after McDermott’s sacking, he tweeted: “Most pointless statement I’ve ever given!” The next day he hit a hat-trick as Leeds beat Huddersfield  5-1. “You could look at it as everyone making a statement but we weren’t trying any more than we’ve tried every other game,” he says. It certainly looked like a statement, and McDermott ended the day back in the job.

The saga went on, with Cellino’s takeover blocked by the Football League before the Italian’s successful appeal last month. Amid the chaos a Leeds side who had sat fifth in the Championship on Christmas Day won just three of their next 20 league games. “I could sit here and say we are footballers and have just got to do our job but there was so much uncertainty and no one knew a thing,” McCormack says. “We didn’t know if we were going to get paid, we didn’t know if the takeover was going to happen. If it didn’t happen, were we going to go into administration? If we went into administration and lost points, we could have been relegated. You’ve got all these different things in your head and it is hard to put them to the side and play football, whether people think that’s what you should be doing or not. It was a hard time.”

Ross McCormack enjoys the sights during the Leeds players’ day out at Flamingo Land Ross McCormack enjoys the sights during the Leeds players’ day out at Flamingo Land (Asadour Guzelian)
The one saving grace has been McCormack’s goals, without which 15th-placed Leeds would have been relegated. Only once before, with Cardiff in 2008-09, had the Glaswegian reached 20 league goals in a season yet he has thrived on the extra responsibility given him by McDermott – “the best manager I’ve worked under” – who has made him Leeds captain. McCormack had a strained relationship with the previous manager, Neil Warnock, but his successor, McDermott, has built his attack around the Rangers youth product, a player blessed with excellent awareness and anticipation, if not lightning pace.

“The manager took me into his office and said he wanted me to play up front and just be the go-to guy. Straight away I started scoring. Managers [used to] play me in different positions but under this manager he said, ‘Forget that, you’re a striker and that’s it.’ That enables you to bring out things: when you’re in the box you’re constantly getting into areas where you think the ball has a chance of landing and when it’s there [you] have the sharpness of mind to get there before defenders.”

The Championship’s leading scorer, McCormack goes into today’s final fixture at home to Derby County two goals shy of becoming the first Leeds player since John Charles in 1956-57 to hit 30 league goals in a campaign. “It seems to be everywhere I turn – everyone is asking, ‘Are you going to get the 30 goals?’” Alas, it is not the only question on fans’ lips, given the doubts still lingering over both McDermott’s and his own future at Leeds.

“It has not been nice,” says McCormack of the treatment McDermott has endured, though he suggests there is plenty of steel beneath that affable demeanour. “Everyone just thinks he’s this nice guy but there’s a lot more to him than that.”

McCormack turns 28 in August and is hungry for Premier League football. Yet he maintains he would like to get there with Leeds, with whom he signed a four-year deal last August. “I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t want to play in the Premier League, but I want it to be with Leeds and to get there as club captain would be something special. If I get a phone call saying ‘we’ve accepted an offer for you’ then it’s something I would have to consider, but at the minute I am mega-happy to be here and desperate to play in the Premier League with Leeds.”

And does Cellino share his ambition? “I’ve not had any conversations with him in terms of that, but I’m hoping he starts throwing his money about and buying all these players that are worth millions and then we go to the Premier League. That’s the ideal scenario.”

After a season like this, Leeds’ long-suffering supporters will believe it when they see it.

Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition