Is Adam Pearson the man to finally 'get it right' at Leeds United?

Leeds United Crest

For the past decade the potential has been there at Leeds United, but a succession of key figures have failed to raise the sleeping giant.

The shock appointment of Adam Pearson as Executive Director at Leeds United, announced on Monday evening, brought to a close an encouraging day for Leeds fans, which had started with the securing of Lewis Cook on an extended two-year deal.

While the commitment of the club's promising youngsters was at the top of the priority list for Leeds fans at the beginning of this summer - along with the re-appointment of head coach Neil Redfearn - the arrival of Pearson as Massimo Cellino's 'right-hand man' is perhaps as significant in terms of the immediate and long term future of the club.

For years people have spoken of the potential at Elland Road, and just how close the club always are to forward progression which would rapidly gain momentum, if only somebody could 'get it right'. 

Adam Pearson's first association with Leeds United came during the 1995/96 season when he joined the club as head of retail. It kick-started a period of unprecedented commercial success at the club. The following summer Leeds were taken over by the Caspian Group, the old board of Leslie Silver and Bill Fotherby gave way to Peter Ridsdale and Pearson became integral to significant shirt sponsorship and kit manufacturing deals with Strongbow and Nike, which coupled with several other deals, took Leeds United on to another plane. 

One of the key failings in Leeds United's business operation over the last decade is the apparent loss of trust with the business community of Leeds. One of the most thriving commercial sectors in the country has never truly been exploited by the club, and this is one area where Pearson was a pivotal figure during Leeds' rapid rise to prominence in the late 1990s.

The ability to identify, harness and exploit that business potential is within Pearson's abilities, and he has proven it before at Leeds and elsewhere during successful periods at Hull City and Derby County. Internally, staff at Elland Road will also be crying out for stability behind the scenes and for a figurehead they can see, approach and work with. Harmony has to be found and leadership taken, and this just might be it.

What is perhaps most telling about Pearson's appointment is that it is in stark contrast to how Massimo Cellino has preferred to operate throughout 25 years of football club ownership. This brings a mixture of hope and fear to Leeds United fans.

On one hand there is the desire for Cellino to learn from past mistakes and accept that Leeds United is a very different beast, one that he cannot ride alone. On the other hand there is the trepidation that the club has been down this road before, with seemingly 'good' people such as Paul Hunt and Matt Child unable to work with the maverick Italian.

Certainly the sack-happy Leeds United president is no stranger to staff turnover, but the hope among Leeds fans is that in Pearson Leeds have a personality who is far stronger and more savvy than Cellino has come face-to-face with before. For one thing, Pearson knows Leeds and knows Leeds United, he also knows English football and has the business sense and the industry nous to rein in Cellino's trigger-happy tendencies.

Furthermore, Pearson is known to Leeds United fans and is associated with success, and Cellino's partnership with the club's former Commercial Director is not only a concession that he has made mistakes at Leeds United and needs to change his ways, it is also a nod to Leeds United's past and an embracing of methods that have worked previously. If you like, it is a symbolic acknowledgement that Cellino's way is not the only way, and for the first time in the chaotic 16 months since Cellino arrived at the club, this is the first indication of that happening.

Of course, it is easy to suggest that Cellino and Pearson won't get on, and already Twitter is awash with cynical humour discussing when Pearson will be sacked or announce he is moving on. It is also impossible to ignore the suggestion that Pearson is at the club as a conduit to a potential takeover deal. Pearson has been linked with one consortium after another over the years, and having bought Hull City in the past and as current owner of Hull FC Rugby League Club, this is an area he knows well, and Cellino will be perfectly aware of that.

The suggestion has always been that Pearson left Leeds United in 2001 because he could see the distasteful manner in which Peter Ridsdale and the PLC were running the club, and not liking what he saw, he left before the wheels came off. It could be suggested that Pearson was disloyal in that respect, but looking deeper it shows a man who has good business sense and is not there for the personal gain and the personal glory. There was plenty of that at Leeds United in 2001.

Now it remains to be seen whether the Cellino/Pearson partnership can work, and immediate indications will be there for all to see in the future of Neil Redfearn. Is Pearson strong enough to talk up Redfearn's case or has the decision already been made? The next few days will tell us.

But with Pearson starting work back "where my heart lies" on Tuesday morning, Leeds fans can at least settle down with the assurance that a steady, logical head is looking at the huge 'to do' list and a reasoned, coherent approach may be returning to life at Leeds United.

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