The Game's Gone Crazier

For all the latest on the exploits of Uncle Festa, Godfather Cellino, Friar Brian, Old Big Gob, GianFredo Zola, Butterfingers Green, 'Arry the Albatross, The Grand Puppet Master, Il Duce Di Canio, Timmy Sherwood and a cast of thousands!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Festa, Carbone, Zola & Di Canio - The Leeds United Short List!

So it looks like four Italians are in the running to replace Nice Guy Brian. All four, like Mussolini, will be expected to get the Leeds United Feel Good Factor Sleeper Express to the Premiership, Europe, Infinity and Beyond to run on time, but do any have the credentials for success?

Well Uncle Festa knows the club and seems to have been the nominated man when Cellino first arrived. But since then, he has faded into the background with Carbone coming more to the fore. Festa has, of course, next to no management experience and no track record in the British game apart from 136 games for the Smoggies - hardly a great reference - and a further 27 starts for Pompey. Why is he amongst the favourites? Because he is a mate of Cellino's, and Sicilians like to keep it in the family. A strong candidate for appointment certainly, but utterly unqualified for the job.

So to Benito Carbone. Well he has the right first name, is Italian, is a mate of Cellino and is already at the club, so he has to be worth 50 lira of anybody's money! Like Uncle Festa, Carbone has played but never managed in England and, like Festa, his management CV is far from extensive, with appointments limited to lower division teams in Italy. He already has one sacking on his CV and does not have any of the right credentials for such a challenging job. But Cellino likes him so, even though he is a favourite amongst Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City fans, Carbone must be considered a strong contender to be appointed.

But if Cellino wants to look further afield, there are two other Italians waiting in the wings, both with experience of playing and managing in England.

Zola would be a popular choice because Zola is, well, lovable. As a manager he is pretty crap, of course, but why should that stand in the way of his appointment. He has managed in the Prem, turning Curbishley's mid table West Ham team into a rag bag relegation fighting mess in less than two seasons. And he has also managed in the Championship, taking Udinese Calcio to the brink of the Prem in his first season in charge before the ruote came off big time in his second season at the helm. It seems that, like Nice Guy Brian, Zola is good when the Feel Good Factor is high, but when things start to go wrong, he is utterly clueless. On that basis, he is the very worst man to take over at Leeds Disunited but he is Italian and is desperate for a job, so he can't be ruled out!

Which brings us to Il Duce Di Canio. Now here is a man made for Leeds - he would love to manage a team known as the Whites! And with his fascist salutes, he would have instant appeal for the "force" - as McDermott termed Leeds fans, or the "vile animals" if you prefer Dave Jones' description! Of course, his track record is less than perfect. Yes he guided Swindon to promotion and kept Sunderland up in his first season in charge, but his insane antics made his continued employment impossible. A Brian Clough with knobs on, the unstable Di Canio would be a marvellous appointment for Dirty Dirty Leeds. He's Italian, he's unemployed, he's passionate - so who knows? He would be the perfect last nail in the Leeds Disunited coffin!

McDermott & Cellino speak with Forked Tongues as Brian leaves Leeds

Well, the parting statements reek of a pay off and a gagging order don't they? Now we know why it has taken so long for Cellino to force out McDermott, lawyers have been in smokeless rooms negotiating the divorce settlement.

For Cellino there were obviously three key objectives:

1) Getting rid of a man he clearly feels was no more than a nodding dog for the previous regime - and with GFH Capital still maintaining a 25% stake in the club, his retention was dangerous.

2) Keeping to an absolute minimum the pay off to purge himself of McDermott.

3) Bringing the fans with him. He saw how the fans rallied around McDermott the last time he sacked him, and the last thing he needs at the moment is for the fans to turn against him personally. So the need for "mutuality".

For McDermott there were two key issues:

1) A pay off.

2) Leaving with a degree of dignity.

So, a "mutual" parting of the ways has been agreed, but the world and his dog know that McDermott was pushed out. Cellino's lawyers will have briefed the Italian on the Constructive Dismissal laws in the UK and cited the example of Curbishley and West Ham and McDermott would have had a hot line open to the legal eagles at the Manager's Association.

But let's not allow Nice Guy Brian to paint himself in pure white here.

First and foremost, he failed as a manager of Leeds United. True he faced difficulties during his reign, but what's new at Leeds? Old Big Gob Warnock had to deal with Bates and GFH Capital in much the same way as McDermott had to deal with GFH Capital and Cellino, and Warnock did a better job: Leeds were in 12th when Warnock resigned and finished that season in 13th; and this season, McDermott's team ended the campaign in 15th. And remember, Warnock's plans were disrupted by the sale of Snakeinthegrass and his leading goal scorer, whereas McDermott was allowed to keep McCormack and Byram and allowed to buy Murphy and Smith into the bargain.

Meanwhile, McDermott has claimed that, first and foremost, he had the best interests of the club and its wonderful fans in mind; but that is pure cobblers: it was obvious to everybody that he was a lame duck manager after the initial dismissal and his decision to return and remain, even into the close season, suggests that he has been acting on legal advice, positioning himself perfectly to maximise the financial payoff from Cellino, with a complete disregard for what is actually best for the club. The fans want a successful team, and McDermott's protracted departure has done nothing to help that cause. Now player defections may follow, further weakening an already weak squad.

Don't expect any revelations from McDermott anytime soon - a gag would have been agreed as part of the deal. So Leeds fans will have to swallow the bullshit, knowing that club and former manager are in fact treating them with contempt, striking deals with a complete disregard for what the fans themselves want. But hey, what's new?

For Master Bates read Godfather Cellino!

Meanwhile, LUST strangely don't seem to have been consulted!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Leeds United Supporters' Trust New Survey Questions

1. Do you believe LUST are partially culpable for the current mess because of their promotion of the takeover of the club by Gulf Finance House Capital?

2. Do you think an organisation formed to protest against Ken Bates should now shut the fcuk up?

3. Would you donate a pen to help LUST to sign its own winding up order?

4. Do you find the self congratulatory posturing of LUST both obnoxious and tiresome?

5. Do you think Cellino gives a flying fcuk what LUST's orifices think and say?

6. With less than 1600 people responding to the latest survey, do you think LUST have simply highlighted their total irrelevance by publishing the results?

7. Would you donate a KFC Family Bucket to shut up LUST Chairman Gary Cooper for good?

8. Do you believe anything would be different at Leeds had LUST never been formed?

The results of the poll are just in. There has been no independent verification because this is a tin pot survey that nobody gives a damn about anyway!

Are Leeds set to become a feeder club for yo yo West Bromwich Albion?

Boing, boing! With Norwich back where they belong and so no longer in a position to feed, carrion style, off the rotting carcass of Leeds United, West Brom look likely to swoop in as the latest opportunist vultures, reaching deep inside the cadaver  and tearing out the juiciest bits - with an offer of £3m mooted for future England right back Sam Byram.

Last summer, all the talk was of a £10m bid from Manchester City for the rising star, but after an injury ravaged season and an unconvincing campaign when he was fit to play, Byram's price has plummeted. True, Leeds may stand out for a higher price but there doesn't appear to be a queue for Byram's services, and that was always the problem when Norwich came knocking. So, with Cellino desperate for cash, we can probably expect the hammer to go down on the first bid.

"Going once, going twice, come on ladies and gentleman, this is a good lot, cheap at twice the price. £3million, no advances on that? For the final time! Sold to the Midlands vultures who finished one place above the relegation places last season!"

Who will be left at Southampton after Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United feeding frenzy?

Poor Southampton, after four remarkable years, the club finds itself like a bleeding sailor bobbing up and down in shark infested waters. The bigger boys have smelt the blood and are moving in for the kill.

Of course, this was always going to happen as soon as Pochettino jumped ship, but whilst the defections of Lallana and Shaw were predictable, the decision to part with Lambert for the paltry sum of four and half million quid signals a depressing summer indeed for Saints fans. The guy is a talisman and so much of what Southampton have achieved has been based on his footballing brain and tenacity. For me, he is the best striker of his type since Teddy Sheringham and it is criminal that he was allowed to spend so long in the lower reaches of the league.

Where now for Southampton exactly? Saints fans took issue when I said that the club was getting its just deserts following the sacking of the man who guided them to the Prem. All sorts of excuses were given - it was a different chairman, the fans didn't want it to happen - but none of that washes. Having been to university in Southampton I counted the club as my third team - after West Ham and Yeovil (where I lived from the age of five) - but my affection for the club evaporated with that cruel and disrespectful dismissal.

I don't want the Saints to go down the tubes completely, but a return to the Championship would, I feel, be a fitting punishment for replacing a loyal servant with an opportunist rat like Pochettino.

Player Strike Looming at Leeds?

Things are going from bad to worse at Elland Road. With players called back early from their holiday for training and no training ground to train on, there's now suggestions that they won't get paid at the end of this month. Meanwhile, Nice Guy Brian has been called before the Godfather on Monday, and we all know that he will wake up in the morning with a horse's head in his bed!

The PFA are on alert and the players are said to be "furious" about events. Well, there's only one place that this is leading, and that's a mass exit of anybody of caliber and the possibility of a player strike, supported by the PFA.

And if wages are not paid and Cellino finds himself at odds with the players' union, what hope has he got of signing new recruits and returning the club to health? The Football League will be watching the situation very closely, and with Cellino facing another trial for tax evasion, the Fit & Proper Crook test may raise its head again - although I'm not sure if it can be applied retrospectively.

Put yourself for a moment in McCormack's shoes. McDermott reinvented him as a player last season, building his confidence and making him team captain - and the Scot rewarded his manager, the club and the fans with a truly brilliant season, shining like a diamond in the stew of mediocrity around him. Now the man who revived his fading career faces the sack. What would you do in that situation, especially if your wages are not paid when you return from your holiday?

If Byram goes, it will be at a cut price after a tepid season. If Mowatt goes it will be at a cut price because he has proved nothing yet. If McCormack goes, it will be for a decent sum, but that money will almost certainly be used to service debt rather than buy a replacement.

What a mess!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Southampton Get Just Deserts As Pochettino Defects To Spurs

So, how fitting is that? Less than two years in to the "project", Pochettino has jumped ship and left Southampton in the lurch. And doesn't your heart bleed for a club that stabbed Nigel Adkins in the back after he guided them from the old third division to the Premiership with back to back promotions? What goes around comes around it seems.

Mind you, Pochettino couldn't have found a more appropriate home could he? Talk about a rat setting up home with a viper! Tell me, whose team finished higher in the table, Timmy Sherwood's or Mauricio Pochettino's? But despite a fantastic win percentage, Timmy was unceremoniously dumped just as this blog predicted (not hard I know) on the day he was appointed.

So the bookmakers can now offer a Special Bet. Who will dump who first, Levy or Pochettino? And how long will this marriage last? Until October, February, next May or might the Argentinian break all records by making it into a second season?

There's only one thing that's certain here, this won't last. Just ask AVB, Timmy, 'Arry and Oneday Ramos!

And meanwhile, with Daddy Rat jumping the sinking Saints ship, watch how quickly all the baby rats follow. Well, why should they show any loyalty to a club that sacked the man who turned them into Premiership players exactly?

Southampton relegated and Pochettino sacked by the end of February might be an interesting double!

All time great close to joining Newcastle but never considered other English clubs

It's not every day of your life that you get to meet one of your heroes and one of the greatest players ever to grace the game, so today was nearly as special as the day I met Bobby Moore. And like Moore, Hagi proved to be a modest, affable man, full of charm, good manners and consideration.

The conversation was enlightening on a number of levels, not least when I asked if he had ever considered playing in England. Hagi smiled and said, "I had the chance to join Newcastle when Kevin Keegan was manager and the deal nearly happened. But it was not to be." There was no comment about West Ham, Leeds or Spurs!

Asked why Romanian players, apart from his brother in law Popescu, had never cut it in the English game, Hagi replied, "You have to have a real desire to play in England. You have to have a big heart, a hunger, a passion." The implication was that the likes of Dumitrescu, Raducioiu, Rat and Chiriches were / are lacking in that department but he was too polite to be specific.

Pressed on who is the better player, Ronaldo or Messi, the former maestro replied, "Both are great players, both are making history. Ronaldo has great power, athleticism and skill, but for me Messi is the player I prefer. He has more skill, he plays more for the team. I also like the way he conducts himself off the football field." (Of course the Spanish tax man might disagree there!)

When asked who was the greatest player ever, he was reluctant to name anybody replying, "That is a question of opinion. I have a saying, the greatest player is the player who wins the most trophies. That is what counts at the end of a career, not what people say about you. For me, I admired most Pele and Maradona and it was a great honour to be compared to Maradona - the player, not the man off the pitch! I also learnt so much from Cruyff and from the coaches at Ajax where I studied the academy. At Ajax they teach you to think about the game, to play the game in your head, to see the whole pitch and that is what I try to teach at my academy in Constanta."

He explained what made him special as a footballer: "It is all about speed, not speed across the ground but speed of thought. The best players think quicker. They see things quicker. And it is all about fight. You have to play with passion, with heart, with desire. When you lose it has to make you unhappy and that is the time to analyse, to work out why you did not win. But you fight when on the pitch, not off it."

And which is the best league in the world? "At the moment Spain. England is second." And on playing for both Real Madrid and Barcelona? "It was easier because Brescia came in between. Moving from one to the other would not have been so easy." And his views on the England national team? "I like the England team very much because I never lost to them!"

A great day meeting a great man. And Newcastle missed out on one hell of a player as this link will confirm:

Monday, 26 May 2014

Former Leeds United Immortal Must Be Turning In His Grave

So it's 25 years since Don Revie's death and 37 years since he walked out on England, selling his soul to the oil rich United Arab Emirates and his story to the Daily Mail. Its also 34 years since he took control of footballing giants Al Nasr and exactly thirty years since accepting the position as manager of Al-Ahly - not quite Real Madrid or Barcelona, or Manchester United or even West Ham United for that matter, but outside of Leeds, Revie was, of course, as welcome as a dose of syphilis in European football after he had betrayed his own nation and its football fans.

But even Revie, a man without a conscience if ever there was one, would be appalled by the on-going chaos at Leeds Disunited. Next season will see the once mighty Whites rubbing shoulders with Rotherham, Bournemouth, Brentford and Wigan (who were a non League club when Leeds were winning titles). The club doesn't own its own ground and, if Cellino has his way, will soon be training in the local park, using jumpers as goal posts no doubt.

Of course the Heads Up Their Arses brigade still talk as if the Leeds Disunited of 2014 is the same club as the Leeds United of the Revie era, but that's as daft as thinking that Chelsea under Abramovich are the same as Sexton's heroes who dumped Revie's boys on their arses in that epic FA Cup Final replay, or that Unreal City are the same Manchester City that pipped Manchester United, Liverpool & Leeds to the title in 1968. The game moves on.

But sadly, the new Leeds, formed after administration, are stuck in Groundhog Day, unable to break free of the chains of debt tying the club to the second tier of English Football. GFH Capital thought they could turn a fast buck when Master Bates wanted out, but the Arab Bank Built on Sand quickly became the Arab Bank Sunk in Quicksand. Now Cellino has arrived and has been shocked by the way the club is haemorrhaging money. Forget team building, Cellino is desperately trying to tie a tourniquet in the hope of stopping the sick parrot nailed to its Championship perch from pushing up the daisies on the disused Thorp Arch training ground!

So 25 years after the Don's death, and with a  real  Sardinian Don now owning the club, Leeds and Revie are as close to being reunited as at any time since the man who betrayed his own country walked out on the club that he fleetingly made great. Because if the Cellino era ends in abject failure, God knows where the club will turn to next. You can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Still, spare a thought for the fans of Al Nasr and Al-Ahly today, 25 years after the Don's death they must be feeling the hurt!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Time for the book to be thrown at QPR to be fair to all the other Championship clubs

Full marks to former West Ham cult figure Bobby Zamora. He may be old. He may be crocked. But he's still got it, evidently. One shot on target all game, and Zamora scored it. Memories of that win at Highbury during West Ham's great escape anybody? And, of course, Butterfingers Green and Inadequate O'Neil were both playing for the Hula Hoops too, with the mighty Ravel on the bench. And 'Arry the Albatross masterminded it all and there's rumours that he now plans to bring Rio and Joe Cole to the Bush! With QPR looking for a new ground, perhaps they should check out Upton Park after our move to the Olympic Stadium!

But that's for the future. In the here and now, action must be taken against QPR for cheating their way to promotion. Financial Fair Play? UEFA have hammered Manchester City and now the Football League must follow the example, demanding immediate and full disclosure of the operating losses for the 2013-14 season and imposing massive fines to punish Fernandes, thereby ensuring that no team dares to follow the QPR model into the future.

Indeed financial penalties aren't enough. If the game really wants to put its house in order, then QPR shouldn't be allowed to take their place in the Premiership. Look at the calls for West Ham to be relegated over the Tevez affair - and that was one player! QPR have won promotion with a squad of players that they cannot afford and have flagrantly and knowingly broken rules that other teams have respected. There should have been a transfer embargo last summer but 'Arry was allowed to bring in Austin, Phillips and a host of others, even though everybody knew the club were not going to comply with the financial rules.

So, for the good of the game, action must be taken and taken quickly. The only fair punishment would see QPR financially crippled for next season, guaranteeing an immediate return to where they belong - in the Championship!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Time for McDermott to wave goodbye to Leeds

With QPR securing the final promotion place and Leeds fans reflecting on yet another season of turmoil and disappointment, it's surely high time for manager McDermott to quit and tell Cellino he will see him in court.

God knows why both men are still playing silly buggers. McDermott may want to stay - he really may be a masochist - but everybody knows his days are numbered; and Cellino may be trying to avoid paying his manager off, but he clearly does not understand the law relating to constructive dismissal.

As far as the courts are concerned, McDermott is bullet proof, whilst Cellino's prints are all over an arsenal of smoking machine guns. Dear God, he has already sacked McDermott once, and since reinstating the loveable underachiever, he has done absolutely nothing to make amends. There's been public criticism, communication by email rather than telephone, absurd insistence on an early return to training, talk of closing the training ground and now the Italian has said he is too busy to be bothered with signing new players - despite offloading the Less Than Magnificent Seven this week on free transfers.

How, exactly, is McDermott expected to manage in these circumstances? He has no authority in the dressing room now and with Cellino ushering employees out of the door quicker than the Italian army retreats from the battlefield, there isn't much of a club left to speak of either. And meanwhile, Carbone is hanging around on the touchline like a vulture waiting for a carrion feeding frenzy.

Come on Brian, find your pride, talk to a lawyer and get the hell out of this nest of vipers - a massive compensation pay-out is guaranteed! And then, with the only decent person at the club gone, those of us who detest Leeds can get back to doing what we love doing most: delighting in the continuing demise of what was all too fleetingly a biggish club.