Thursday, 7 May 2015

Another day at Leeds United: Cook, leaked lists and bung allegations

Forget the General Election - Thursday was another calamitous and chaotic evening at Elland Road.

First came news of a 'summer transfer list' Neil Redfearn had submitted to Massimo Cellino.

What immediately struck me was that these were exactly the types of players Cellino would NOT want. They were almost exclusively veterans likely to command big wages.

The Italian has spent the last year getting RID of exactly that type of player at Elland Road and has always been clear he wants to focus on young players of promise.

Two of the bright spots of the last year - perhaps the only bright spots - have been a reduction in the overall wage bill and the emergence of a young core to the team, largely facilitated by the exodus of old timers.

So the list, including Charlie Adam, Joey Barton, Jason Shackell, Tom Ince and Matt Phillips was so unlikely to be sanctioned by Cellino that it made you wonder who had released it and why.

After some investigating, I found out that some of the names were on a list given by Redfearn to Cellino in January, and others weren't.

On another note (or list), Cellino has spoken privately about Redfearn giving him the names of players he wanted to offload earlier in the season. The Italian said he was shocked by the names, which he refused to disclose.

Anyway, this was all merely an aperitif, because the main action of the evening was still to come.

First of all, the BBC's Adam Pope reported receiving a text from Cellino at 9.14pm, telling him "we have just signed the Cook contract".

It turned out there was the still not inconsiderable hurdle of Lewis Cook himself having to sign the contract to overcome. And the contract extension was for just one more year, not the three that Cellino had previously promised.

And the thought arose: is there any other club that would release news of a contract renewal for a key player (which had not yet been signed by the player himself) via a text from the owner to a reporter? I can't think of one if there is.

An hour later, there was another story, making it apparent that Cellino's text was a desperate attempt to release good news to overshadow the bad. Fat chance of that though, because the bad news was nuclear.

It came via the well-respected football journalist David Anderson, from the Daily Mirror.

Anderson reported that not only was Cellino being investigated by the Football Association for alleged third-party ownership of the player Adryan, which we knew about, but also for an alleged six-figure transfer bung paid during the sale of striker Ross McCormack to Fulham last summer.

Anderson said he had seen documents which appeared to show that Cellino had signed off a payment of £185,000 to football agent Derek Day, collected on behalf of McCormack's adviser, Barry Hughes.

When asked for a response, Cellino replied: "Everything I done. For me was clear I had the club consultant and my accountants. I don't know many people in England, if I did something wrong I didn't do it on purpose."

It was hardly a denial and it really doesn't bode well for the club. As we all know, saying you didn't do something on purpose isn't a defence to most offences.

And again: would any other club release a response to such a serious allegation via a text from the owner, which was barely even legible? Wouldn't other clubs produce a considered response via official channels?

As I write this update, at 10.20am on Friday morning, there has been no further response from the club. Perhaps that isn't surprising, because they don't have a chief executive or a head of communications.

Graham Bean, who was acting as a consultant for the club at the time of both the McCormack and Adryan transfers, was reported by the Mirror as saying: "Mr Cellino was the club signatory at all times and he agreed all payments relating to Ross McCormack's transfer."

Yesterday, when I said this club lurches from calamity to calamity on a weekly basis, people pointed out that I was wrong - that in fact this happens on at least a daily basis.

And I think they were right.

1 comment:

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