Every great comedy duo has a dynamic; one is zany and the other is deadpan. This press conference gave me hope that in Cellino-Pearson we have the beginning of something great. In comedy terms, that is. What, this wasn’t a joke? Dear god…
I knew that it was another bizarre day at Leeds when Massimo dodged the first question about Redfearn’s future, instead deferring it to later with the same affable shrug and a smile that has become his signature. What followed was 70 minutes of evasive smirking, an impromptu cigarette and many, many rambling answers that even the most ambitious reporter would struggle to attribute to the question.
Crucially, there were numerous references to the bleak future that Neil Redfearn appears to have. El Presidente made direct reference to Neil “not coming” to an all-staff meeting to welcome him back to the club, something he suggested showed disrespect. It was also clear that Massimo hadn’t attempted to make contact with him, somehow expecting this responsibility to fall to the employee. A mystifying shift in employer/employee responsibilities, I think you’ll agree.
Cellino then made comment about Redfearn having “many agents”, a statement I’m sure has been thrown back-and-fourth through the Google Translate in his head until it makes no sense. I’m not sure what point is trying to be made here. But that’s true for most of what mumbled English that comes from his mouth, I struggle to believe what I do understand and the other bits are incomprehensible.
It was concerning when El Fuhrer referenced that he needed to appoint the right head coach, and he couldn’t keep Redfearn purely because he was afraid of fan blacklash. Granted, he’ll get that if he sacks Neil. Pearson stepped in, when the glossed-over look in the Italian’s eyes suggested more rambling nonsense was coming. “The owner has put in a lot of money” Adam attempted to argue, “he’s able to make the decisions that are best for the club”. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s close.
It looks very much like the writing is on the wall for Neil; Cellino has been awfully blase about contacting him and making comments about how “I need to make the right decision” and that “I cannot be afraid”. These are all words that suggest the inevitable is coming. If it looks familiar, maybe re-read the particulars of McDermott’s final weeks and play “spot the difference”.
So that’s Neil going we assume, what else?
It was nice when Adam Pearson spoke, not only because he did so with a calm, assured (and understandable) voice, but because he was far more “direct”. If he didn’t know the answer, he said so. He didn’t enter a long diatribe about his wife and daughter or opt to answer something completely different. Like I said, this comedy duo has legs.
Cellino made a perplexing comment about the Academy costing £1.2m per year to fund, which he has decided is too much. Not forgetting that Milanic (a man he hired for 6 matches) was on a reported £400k/year, a third of the annual academy bill. Or the fact that Doukara and Bellusci were both more than that to purchase. Considering we survived relegation this season because of our ex-Academy boss and a spine of players from it, it’s a pretty bizarre statement to make.
Yes, objectively, it’s a lot of money. But when a player like Alex Mowatt is worth 5-6 years of that and Cook potentially even more, surely it’s a worthwhile INVESTMENT. That’s right, an investment, because £1.2m annually to fund the academy seems to produce £5-6m of good players per season. Doesn’t look expensive to me. But I’m not a madman.
There were moments where Pearson looked like he had been wheeled out on an ISIS video and forced to denounce the Western infidels, as he gazed at the floor while El Presidente rambled on various topics, such as taking credit for Charlie Taylor and debating (with a fan who took advantage of slack security) who was better, Cani or Becchio. Other journalists have called this a car crash, whereas I’m quietly holding onto the hope that it was some kind of brilliant performance art that we won’t fully appreciate for a few more months.
After all, have you ever stopped mid-sentence during a meeting YOU organised, get up from your seat, clumsily stumble through a crowded room in front of rolling cameras only to mumble “I need a cigarette”? No. Of course you haven’t. Massimo did. Leaving Pearson, only 3 days into his role to face a room of journalists with suitably probing questions.
It was a day where nothing added up and no real points were made, just more uncertain rambling. Normally press conferences are arranged for a reason, with a club agenda or some news to discuss. This felt like Cellino was inviting everyone round for a chat. It certainly felt like an afternoon with a drunk uncle (or one who partakes of the devil’s dandruff), rather than a professional event arranged by a millionaire businessman.
Any good news?
There were moments of insight; an Italian Director of Football was a bad idea, it was concluded, as was the bias towards foreign players that were brought in. These were suggested as necessities due to not having a scouting network here and the timescale in which deals needed to be done. This makes sense.
There was a suggested focus on English players and talent that knows the division – this too makes sense. Strange, then, that we let Rudy Austin depart without a contract when he’ll have no shortage of suitors at this level.
A promise was made, too. If Leeds aren’t in the Premier League by the start of the 2017/18 season then Cellino will sell. On what basis this decision was made I have no idea, but Pearson confirmed it. They jointly affirmed that the club was not currently for sale, which means very little.
Will Neil Redfearn be seen in the dugout come September? I doubt it. From the tone that is used when he is discussed and the various things El Fuhrer says I’d say his mind is made up already, like it was with McDermott. I’ve started bracing myself for that inevitable sacking.
But who replaces him? What signings are coming in this Summer? What departures are happening? Is Adryan still alive? Will Luciano Becchio ever wear football boots again? Will Sam Byram sign a new deal? Tune in next time on “the world’s most bizarre football club”.
At least Luke Varney isn’t getting promoted with Ipswich, so that’s something. On and on.