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Cellino wastes opportunity to give Leeds fans answers

Thursday's long and confusing press conference left the majority of Leeds fans bewildered and still seeking answers to the many open issues at the club.

Despite talking for over an hour, Leeds United owner and president Massimo Cellino did little to add clarity to an ever-confusing situation at Elland Road yesterday. The hordes of media men and TV crews entered the press conference wondering what the gathering had been called for, and the purpose of the disjointed and unfathomable rant was still open to question as they filtered out.

Cellino returned from his three-month ban on Monday 4th May having had time away from the club to mull over a long-term strategy, and plan an assault on addressing the many dangling issues that have remained unresolved throughout his absence. Certainly Cellino has been consistent in insisting he has had no influence on proceedings at Elland Road during his Football League-enforced ban, but nevertheless, as an observer from afar in Miami - and knowing full well how he prefers to have full control over every aspect of the club - Leeds fans were expecting the Italian to be prepared with an action plan upon his return.

If the purpose behind Thursday's press conference was to put Cellino back in the limelight following his return to the club, then it was an unqualified success. If the purpose was to formally present new executive director Adam Pearson to the media, then it was a partial success (Pearson had already done LUTV interviews and had spoken widely to the local press, plus he was a bemused bystander for much of the proceedings). If the purpose was to give Leeds fans clarity on open issues surrounding the team management, player contracts, loan players being signed, transfer policy and the apparent division in the dressing room surrounding the 'injured six', then it was an unmitigated disaster.

The seventy minute conference was peppered with erratic tangents, paranoia, contradiction and pantomime farce. Throughout, a deeply uncomfortable Adam Pearson attempted to maintain a professional front, and the ten minutes during which Cellino stepped outside for a cigarette break prompted a string of quick-fire questions, which Pearson tackled with calm assurance. It was merely an interlude to the Cellino show.

It was hoped that Cellino had learnt some lessons from his previous administration of Leeds United - and to be fair, the appointment of Pearson suggests that to some extent he has - but still the ad hoc approach to critical strategic decisions was apparent. It appeared that Cellino had a problem with investing in the academy, Cellino had still to make any contact with Neil Redfearn - despite claiming himself to be a "fair and professional" man - and Cellino still insisted he would identify and sign players so that they could be 'his mistakes'. Hardly the stuff to reverse a trend of 'no confidence', which many Leeds fans hold in the Italian.  

A long-standing problem at Leeds United is 'communication', and Pearson has vowed to improve that in his early dialogue with the media. Certainly, Leeds fans can glean much more information from tweets and blog posts from assorted freelance media and the local press, than they do from the club's own official channels.

Thursday's press conference was an opportunity for Cellino to address Leeds United's global fanbase and provide a formal, structured and stimulating message, particularly with season ticket renewals waiting to be returned and the fanbase split over so much of the immediate future. What Leeds fans got was a message that critical decisions were still being made via an arbitrary route, based on little more than whim and that particular days' inclination.  

The only hope for Leeds fans is that Adam Pearson has a strong enough personality to reign in Cellino's maverick tendencies and, behind closed doors, can harness Cellino the showman and provide some coherent logic to proceedings. It may be that in a quiet moment on Thursday evening Cellino was regretful at how he had allowed the press conference to descend down a myriad of inexplicable paths.

Either way, it was an opportunity missed, and for many Leeds fans there may be no coming back.  

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