Life of Brian McDermott at Leeds United has been a real drama this season
EVEN those within the inner sanctum at Leeds United are unsure whether these are exciting times, or worrying ones for the once-great club.
Just over a month ago, all footballing eyes were on Elland Road as manager Brian McDermott was sacked unceremoniously by incoming owner Massimo Cellino on a night now known locally as “Mad Friday.”
In typical Leeds fashion, the team – led jointly by ex-Whites midfielder Neil Redfearn – hammered Huddersfield Town 5-1 the next day. McDermott then found himself reinstated after a tidal wave of fan pressure and protests around Elland Road.
Cellino’s arrival as owner has yet to be ratified by the Football League, who say they still have some questions to be answered.
And yet the Italian has already bailed the club out of some short-term financial problems, and seemingly bankrolled the arrival of two big international players in striker Connor Wickham and goalkeeper Jack Butland.
Form has been relatively inconsistent but fans around West Yorkshire have not yet given up on one final push for the play-off spots, and crucially say those in the know, nor has the owner-in-waiting.
In the decade since Alan Smith wept as he left the field at the Reebok with Leeds’ relegation all-but rubber-stamped, the story of the Yorkshire club’s chaotic financial dealings reads like a Hollywood script.
It remains a convoluted web of loans unlikely to get untangled until Leeds can rely on Premier League income.
Could this be the season? Midfielder Luke Murphy, himself the first player to have cost the club £1million for almost a decade, believes it just might be.
And if nothing else, the former Crewe star believes the fact that the squad have rallied round McDermott since his 24 hours in exile may have made them a stronger prospect.
“It was a situation that no-one deserved to be put through,” he said.
“He deserves the utmost respect for what he’s done in his career and the way he dealt with things was first class. His standards never slipped and he kept his head held high.
“We were definitely glad to see him stay. He brought me in and I’ve got huge respect for him. I owe him a lot. I was sad to hear he’d been sacked but when he was reinstated, that was good news all round.
“That whole weekend was really weird. I was out for some food on the Friday night and I had no signal or Wi-fi on my phone where we were eating. I didn’t have a clue what was going on.
“It was only when I got out of the restaurant that I found out what had happened. It was strange.
“But what’s happened off the pitch hasn’t affected us (the players) at all. We’re staying well out of it. There was a lot going on a few weeks ago but since then it’s been business as usual.”
Leeds have been on the road for the last five weeks but welcome Wanderers to Elland Road looking to build on a good draw at QPR last weekend.
“We’ve had four tough away games in a row but in hindsight I think we’ve done okay of late,” Murphy said.
“Bolton will be tough opponents though. We went to their place earlier in the season and got a great result.
“They know they won’t be in for an easy game but they’ll come here believing they have nothing to lose.”