Nicola Salerno 'had issues' with Steve Thompson at Leeds United

Leeds United East Stand

Former Director of Football Nicola Salerno has been singled out by acting chairman Andrew Umbers as the man solely responsible for suspending Steve Thompson.

Mystery has surrounded the suspension of Neil Redfearn's right-hand man on April 2nd, just as Leeds were enjoying a run of eight wins from 13 games that had lifted them away from the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone. Since Thompson left his position Leeds have lost all five games. 

Fans have been left to speculate on the reasons behind the shock decision that left Redfearn dumbfounded and questioning his own position at the club. Naturally, questions have been asked of banned president and owner Massimo Cellino and whether the Italian had set out to undermine the duo's success.

The official word from the club initially was that Thompson had "underperformed" in the role, despite the tangible success on the pitch, but acting chairman Andrew Umbers on Tuesday evening revealed that Nicola Salerno, who has since left the club, was fully responsible for the football side of the business and took the individual decision to suspend Thompson.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Umbers said: "Nicola Salerno had a responsibility to look after all the footballing side of Leeds United post Massimo’s disqualification. He took that decision. When we look back on it, was it timely? No. But it happened. The issues that Nicola Salerno had privately and professionally with Steve Thompson were issues that led him to make that decision.

"He came to us and said there had been a breakdown in communication. A breakdown of trust. One or two other personal issues. These matters will be remaining internal."

With Salerno now having left the club, many fans look at the situation and wonder whether the 'private and professional issues' between Thompson and his immediate superior remain relevant, and whether Thompson's employment as Redfearn's assistant - a relationship that appeared to be very successful - is not beyond repair?

Furthermore, questions surround the explanation that Salerno had 'issues' with Thompson. Allegations suggest the situation stemmed from events after the 3-0 win at Fulham on 18th March 2015. Observers note that the Leeds camp was extremely buoyant after the emphatic away win and there were no suggestions of an unsavoury incident having taken place. On the contrary, Salerno himself was seen to plant a kiss on Neil Redfearn's forehead as he conducted a post-match interview with BBC Radio.

Certainly a fallout between two parties who appeared to both be friendly and popular within the Leeds camp seems at odds with their personal characteristics and supporting events at the time.

Given this background, Umbers was asked whether the club had properly investigated Salerno's apparent complaint: "Of course we have," Umbers replied. "Steve Thompson had one boss, Nicola Salerno. That boss decided that Steve Thompson was not going to be part of our set-up. That was the decision he made and we supported that. He came to the board and we said ‘okay, but there will be issues that result from this decision.’"

That Salerno has since left the club adds fuel to the suggestion that there is a lot more to this situation, particularly as Thompson appeared to have also been informed that his contract would not be renewed in the summer.

However, in explaining the reasons behind Salerno voluntarily leaving his position at Leeds, Umbers did appear to leave the door open for Cellino's long-time colleague. "He (Salerno) found social media and everything else too much. He took it all pretty badly actually (when Thompson was suspended). He felt he wasn’t welcome. He’s a fantastic guy, a lovely guy, and he’ll remain absent. We’ll see what happens in the close season."

It appears that if one party is to return to the club, it will be Salerno and not Thompson. Whether Cellino has anything to say on the matter when he returns we can wait and see, but certainly the official line at the moment is that Cellino has been absent and had no involvement whatsoever in Thompson's suspension.

With Thompson currently discussing the situation with the League Managers' Association, it may be that the full story is revealed eventually, but in the meantime Leeds fans are not hopeful that some much sought-after stability will return to Elland Road.

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