Where does the latest bombshell rank at Leeds United?

Massimo Cellino 2

Thursday's suspension of assistant head coach Steve Thompson is the latest bizarre occurrence under the current ownership regime, but does it beat these?

Not much has followed logic at Elland Road in the last 12 to 15 months, and everything Leeds fans were warned to expect under the ownership of Massimo Cellino has come to pass.

Even with Cellino under an ownership ban and supposedly holed up in Miami with no governing influence on the club, the suspension of Steve Thompson on Thursday threw the successful team management structure into turmoil and the fans into despair. Now, with head coach Neil Redfearn considering his future at the club, we look back at the other pantomime occurrences at the club under the current regime to see where this latest one ranks.

1. January 28th 2014 - Gianluca Festa on the Leeds bench

It was no secret that Cellino was in talks to buy Leeds United in January last year and in the build-up to a Tuesday night encounter with Ipswich Town at Elland Road, the Italian attempted to plant former Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa in the Leeds dugout as an 'observer'. It transpired that Festa had visited the Leeds training ground twice during the previous week, with manager Brian McDermott oblivious to the reasons why. On the night of the game Festa was refused access to the bench and Cellino and his entourage flew home without staying to watch the game. However, the attempt to unsettle and undermine McDermott had worked, with Festa clearly touted as the next Leeds boss. This was just the beginning, though.

2. January 31st 2014 - sacking Brian McDermott

Cellino certainly made an entrance and immediately threw the club into chaos by living up to his scattergun approach to people management, allegedly firing Leeds boss Brian McDermott before he had the authority to do so. It triggered a chain of events in 24 hours that saw sponsors withdrawing support, chief executive Paul Hunt being sacked, managing director David Haigh resigning then re-instating himself, top scorer Ross McCormack threatening to leave the club live on Sky Sports on Transfer Deadline Day, and ended with Cellino himself being chased by irate fans around the perimeter of Elland Road, as he attempted to leave the ground in a taxi.  

3. June 20th 2014 - Appointing Dave Hockaday

One of the most illogical managerial appointments in British football history saw failed non-league boss Dave Hockaday picked from obscurity to mastermind Leeds United's return to greatness. It seems Cellino selected Hockaday on a whim after a chance meeting in a London hotel, but the appointment was doomed from the start. Cellino said at the time that "Coaches are like watermelons, you only know how good it is when you open it". Rotten fruit was soon being stocked up for Hockaday who never stood a chance at the Elland Road helm and consequently lasted just six games before being sacked. When asked about Hockaday's full-time successor Darko Milanic, Cellino claimed he was appointed because "he is good-looking".  

4. July 3rd 2014 - Selling Paddy Kenny because he was born on the 17th

Cellino has held a long-established superstition over the number 17, claiming it causes bad luck. The Leeds president was also hell bent on reducing Leeds' squad size and wage bill. As a high earner the 36-year-old Kenny was always likely to be easy fodder and it is alleged that the goalkeeper returned to training overweight after the summer break. While this is not unusual and images failed to substantiate that Kenny's weight was out of the ordinary for a professional footballer returning for pre-season, Cellino instructed coach Dave Hockaday not to select him for a pre-season trip to Italy. The final straw came when Cellino was described as 'reacting emotionally' when he discovered Kenny was born on May 17th. Kenny never featured in pre-season, was instructed to train with the development squad and left for Bolton Wanderers in September.

5. April 2nd 2015 - Preventing Neil Redfearn selecting his top scorer

Since the start of pre-season, Leeds fans have seen the first team squad asked to bring their own packed lunches to training and wash their own kit, they have seen Benito Carbone, Graham Bean and Matt Child all appointed to high profile positions before leaving under mysterious circumstances, they have seen Brian McDermott's assistant Nigel Gibbs reduced to a desk job at Elland Road prior to leaving the club, and they have seen arch-villain and ex-owner Ken Bates provided with his own executive box at Elland Road, in return for dropping an unfair dismissal case. On Thursday of this week, the news of Steve Thompson's suspension was compounded by the revelation that top scorer Mirco Antenucci was being prevented from playing due to a contract clause which Cellino himself negotiated. Antenucci has 10 goals this season, but a further two would trigger an extra year on his contract, something the Leeds board now do not wish to honour. With Cellino serving a suspension away from the club, confusion surrounds who has made this instruction and why, given it contradicts Cellino's determined recruitment drive in the Italian market last summer, and indeed is fiercely opposed to the natural ethos of football at any level, ie. signing a footballer to score goals but then not wanting him to do so.    

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