Brian McDermott focused on action at Leeds United

Brian McDermott’s position as Leeds manager appears under threat

Brian McDermott’s position as Leeds manager appears under threat

First published in Sport by

Brian McDermott is ready to “enjoy” what could prove to be his final game in charge of Leeds.

United face Huddersfield in a Yorkshire derby tomorrow afternoon in the shadow of yet more off-field chaos at Elland Road.

The ownership of the Championship club is up in the air after Sport Capital, the consortium fronted by the club’s managing director David Haigh, yesterday collapsed after two months of holding exclusivity to purchase a 75 per cent stake.

It is believed that put Massimo Cellino, the Italian owner of Serie A side Cagliari, in the box seat to purchase a majority share in the club from owners Gulf Finance House, who bought Leeds from Ken Bates in December 2012.

A delegation representing Cellino has been at Elland Road several times over recent days, to the extent where it is understood they asked for former Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa to sit in the dugout for Leeds’ 1-1 draw with Ipswich on Tuesday.

Festa is an ex-Cagliari player, coach and a long-term friend of Cellino and is thought to be his preferred candidate to replace McDermott, who would likely be the first casualty of an Italian reign in Leeds.

But McDermott was flat-batting any ownership talk at his weekly press conference today, saying: “I know where I am; I’ll tell you where I am. We have a big game on Saturday, the players have trained really well and we’re looking forward to the game.

“It’s a derby and for me it’s a privilege to walk out in front of that crowd. I can’t wait.

“I have no idea (if it will be his last match). The only thing that matters is the game.

“Every time you’re a manager it could be your last game. That’s how it works in football, so you make the most of every game – especially when you’re manager of Leeds United because it’s a privilege.

“That’s what I do. I’m a football man and it’s about football and our supporters. You have to be professional. I am doing that and I’m really going to enjoy this game.”

It is understood that Cellino’s impact at Leeds has already extended beyond the dugout, with other members of his delegation having been present at the club’s Thorp Arch training complex over recent days.

As a result of the breakdown of Haigh’s group – which also included club sponsor Andrew Flowers – the only two known bidders have been Cellino and a group fronted by former Manchester United director Mike Farnan, who had an offer dismissed as “risible” in November.

His party, Together Leeds, is understood to include former Leeds captain Lucas Radebe and he released a statement via the Leeds United Supporters Trust today in which he insisted he remained committed to being involved.

It read: “Together Leeds, led by Mike Farnan, issued an offer for the share capital of Leeds United on November 14, 2013. The value offered was significantly in excess of the amount publicly reported.

“Our bid remains fully funded and our strategy involves credible Yorkshire and football people, with Leeds and the community at their heart, rebuilding this great club. We think that our consortium is the best future custodian of the club and represents the best way forward.

“In recent days, before and since the collapse of the Sport Capital bid, we have re-engaged with GFH and offered significant investment into the club.

“We are hopeful of those discussions being allowed to progress to a successful conclusion.

“We thank everyone for the huge support shown to us, particularly this week.”

Cellino, a 57-year-old agricultural entrepreneur, has a chequered background, having previously been convicted of fraud. He is known in Cagliari as the ‘King of Corn’ and in 2010 was linked with a takeover of West Ham.

Leeds could announce he has bought the club but any takeover would require him to pass the Football League’s ‘fit and proper person’ test, which is mandatory for anyone purchasing more than ten per cent in a club.

There was no comment from the Football League this afternoon.

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