A summary of Massimo Cellino’s reign at Leeds United

The verdict has finally been given. This week, President and Director of Leeds United Football Club, Massimo Cellino was left with no choice but to walk away from his positions at the Elland Road club, following his disqualification at the hands of the Football League.

The Championship’s governing body’s decision came after they received documents from an Italian Court of law that had previously found Cellino guilty of tax evasion. The Italian businessman had an appeal waved away earlier this week and is now officially out of the job until April 10th at the earliest, the date that enables him to regain his spot at the helm of Leeds United.


Massimo Cellino’s time at the football club has been a roller coaster ride. His official arrival at Elland Road on February 7th, 2014 was met with great approval by the Yorkshire club’s faithful. A genuine feel of optimism was in the air as fans believed that this was the man that would pump the finances required for a return to the Premier League into the club. They would soon become disappointed.

On January 31, 2104, before Cellino was even handed the go ahead by the Football League to take to the throne of Leeds, he controversially sacked team manager Brian McDermott and placed McDermott’s right hand man, Nigel Gibbs in charge for the upcoming home clash with Huddersfield. These actions raised eyebrows amongst everyone connected to Leeds United. McDermott was confused, Gibbs was confused and the supporters were confused. It was only following a statement from Gulf Finance House, Leeds’ Bahrain based owners, that everyone realised Brian McDermott was still in charge the whole time.

They say you only get one chance to make a first impression; it’s fair to say Mr. Cellino made a very controversial one that will live on in the memories of the club for a long time to come.

The animated Italian’s purchase was finally made official on when the Football league approved his purchase of a 75 per cent stake in the club from Gulf Finance House. However trouble would soon follow. Just over a month into his tenure as owner of Leeds, Massimo was fined 600,000 euro for failing to pay import duty on a yacht that was previously ceased from his ownership in 2013. Days later on March 24, things went from bad to worse for Cellino when he was unable to pass the Football League’s owners and directors test. The League voted to block his takeover of Leeds and disqualify him from owning the club.

Weeks later, the skies began to look slightly brighter for the fiery Italian. Massimo Cellino decided to appeal against the Football League’s ban by taking his case to an independent QC. Cellino won the battle against his case and his 75 per cent takeover of the club was complete. Cellino in delight when asked about his challenge at Leeds decided to undermine the club’s previous owners rather than talk about himself.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Cellino’s reign, the managerial merry-go-round he created was enough to leave Leeds fans rather unsettled and unsure of the direction this Italian mad man was taking them in. The 11 month stint of the Italian has seen four different managers at the club. When the original confusion of McDermott’s dismissal was cleared up, the English man (with Irish roots) managed to see out the remainder of the 2013/14 campaign in the Elland Road hotseat. Cellino was visibly unhappy with the break McDermott chose to take at the end of the season,

I think at this moment the club is not managed by anybody. Who’s managing this club? Brian? Where is Brian?

On May 30 it was announced that McDermott’s tenure as Leeds boss was ended by mutual agreement.


The owner’s appointment that followed McDermott’s exit turned out to be a real eyebrow raiser. June 19th saw Dave Hockaday appointed new gaffer at Leeds United Football Club. This was perhaps the most bizarre hiring in recent memory, as Hockaday’s only previous managerial experience was at non-league side, Forest Green Rovers. However, the fairytale story of Dave Hockaday would come to a sudden halt just 70 days later. The Capital One Cup defeat to local rivals Bradford would prove to be Hockaday’s last assignment in charge, as he was handed the sack shortly after.

The appointment of Darko Milanic was the one that really put Cellino’s foolishness on show for everyone to see. Milanic was yet another unknown quantity, not just to Leeds United supporters, but to English football in general. Even the man that hired him, Cellino knew nothing about him.

I don’t know. Coaches are like watermelons. You find out about them when you open them

Within 32 days, Milanic was sacked due to his negativity and Cellino apologised to Leeds supporters for making a mistake. All of this was happening at the same time as Cellino was being accused of not paying import duty on a second yacht. The trial in Sardinia was delayed due to a conflict of interest.

The fourth and final man to take charge of proceedings during Cellino’s tenure was Neil Redfearn. Redfearn remains in the hot seat to this day, however he seems to be treading on hot water due to Leeds’ poor showings in the league which sees them locked in a battle for survival at the foot of the Championship.

That takes us to the present day scenario. On December 1st 2014 the Football League disqualified Massimo Cellino after receiving detailed evidence regarding the Italian’s original yacht case. Cellino responded to the news by questioning “Why is this club hated so much?”. Cellino appealed the disqualification and as recently as Tuesday this appeal was rejected, meaning he is deemed barred from having anything to do with the running of Leeds United until April 10.

Massimo Cellino’s 11 month stay at Elland Road has been filled with one controversial story after another but while the Italian often makes the news headlines for the wrong reasons, he has done some good for Leeds. He has put a lot of money into the club’s transfer fund, bringing in a substantial amount of players. We are sure he is a hardworking man behind closed doors also. It will certainly be interesting to see how Leeds supporters feel when he makes his return to the football come April 10th.

The Author

James Nolan

I love to play football, coach football and most importantly write about football. I ply my trade for Wicklow Rovers in the Leinster Senior League and coach a team in the same club. I write for my local newspaper, the Wicklow/Bray People where I provide coverage of local soccer, as well as BackPageFootball.Com.

3 thoughts on “A summary of Massimo Cellino’s reign at Leeds United

  1. As is often the case with articles about LUFC, and Massimo Cellino, this is quite a unilateral piece about mistakes made. However, there is no balance to the view. No mention of the money pumped into the club to keep it going BEFORE taking ownership, no praise for being the first owner since the financial collapse of the club in the early 2000’s to invest in the playing staff significantly, and no praise for the fact that, with all the adverse press, speculation, and rumour mongering, he stuck to his guns when he could so easily of walked away. I’m not saying the man is a paragon of virtue, but just listing the negatives of his reign is not the way to write a balanced summary of the man’s tenure.

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