Friday, February 28, 2014

Leeds United: Cellino is right in thick of it

Yorkshire Evening Post 28/2/14
by Phil Hay
Brian McDermott revealed last night that prospective new owner Massimo Cellino was already in the thick of Leeds United’s operations as two transfer deals raised McDermott’s hopes of a period of calm at Elland Road.
The United manager said Cellino was taking a “very close interest” in the club’s affairs, strengthening the belief that the Italian was behind positive developments seen at Leeds in the past seven days.
United allowed McDermott to strengthen his squad by signing goalkeeper Jack Butland on loan from Stoke City last week and striker Connor Wickham from Sunderland on Wednesday, deals which Cellino appears to have helped to fund.
The Cagliari owner is not officially in charge at Elland Road and is waiting for the Football League to approve his £25m buy-out of Leeds. But United’s financial situation – a deep concern towards the end of January – has improved since he agreed to purchase 75 per cent of shares from Gulf Finance House. Leeds have staved off a winding-up petition served on them by shirt sponsor Enterprise Insurance over a £1.5m loan given to the club in 2012, and McDermott was able to sign Wickham, too.
McDermott, who spoke again with Cellino on Tuesday, said: “It’s fair to say that Massimo is taking a very close interest.
“We’ve had conversations and David (Haigh, United’s managing director) is taking a close interest on GFH’s behalf. But it’s fair to say that he (Cellino) is taking an interest – a close interest.
“From Leeds United’s point of view, to sign the players we’ve signed and with the calibre of Jack and Connor, it’s got to be exciting looking forward. I’m really happy with that.”
Asked if the club had received fresh investment, McDermott said: “You’d have to ask the board that rather than ask me but I would say so. It looks that way.”
McDermott said United had regained some sense of order since the chaotic day when Cellino tried to sack him as boss, saying: “It happened, I got through it personally and we got through it as a club.
“Things were said, mistakes have been made on all counts but for me I’m in a good place as far as concentrating on what we have to do goes. We’ve had stuff going on off the pitch which will hopefully calm down but we’ve signed a couple of really good players and we’re moving forward.”

Switch to Leeds offers Wickham chance of different road to Wembley

Yorkshire Post 28/2/14
by Leon Wobschall
CONNOR WICKHAM may have potentially sacrificed Wembley glory with Sunderland to head to Leeds United – but is not yet giving up on an appearance at the home of football this season.
The 20-year-old has joined United on loan for the rest of the season and while gatecrashing the Championship top-six looks a decidedly onerous task for him and his new team-mates, he insists it’s not beyond the realms of possibility yet.
As it stands, Leeds are seven points adrift of the play-off positions, but that hasn’t stopped Wickham, whose parent club face Manchester City in Sunday’s Capital One Cup final, eyeing a play-off final date at the end of May.
Wickham, who scored two goals for the Black Cats in their round two victory over MK Dons and has made two appearances for the Wearsiders in the competition this term, said: “I hope I would have been involved. I helped the team get through to the final, so I would have liked to have been there.
“But first things first, I need to play football. Whether it’s at Wembley or anywhere in the country. Good luck to the lads, I’ll watch the game, but I’m here.
“I said to my agent ‘get me to Leeds.’ They are a Premier League club and that’s where they need to be. I have come in and hopefully we can make the push for the play-offs.
“That is where we want to be and we have got 15 games. We need to make the push and then who knows.”
The 20-year-old, who cost Sunderland £8.1m back in 2011, is aiming to carry on at Leeds where he left off down the M1 at Sheffield Wednesday, where he fired eight goals in 11 games in a bountiful loan spell to help get the Owls season out of first gear.
His haul included a strike against Leeds in the 6-0 televised demolition in January and despite Wednesday’s bid to sign him for a third spell, he says the lure of United proved irresistible, even if it means losing a ‘few friends’ at Hillsborough.
Wickham, who will wear the 
No 9 jersey at Leeds, said: “Football’s a small world and obviously you are going to lose a few friends. But I am thankful to Sheffield Wednesday for what they did.
“They gave me the opportunity when maybe no-one else would and I did well.
“I made a lot of friends but now I’m here at Leeds and I need to concentrate on pushing us up the table.”
Meanwhile, Leeds manager Brian McDermott has revealed that he is hoping to add another new face to add to his high-profile signings of Wickham and goalkeeper Jack Butland, but it is unlikely to come before Saturday’s trip to QPR.

Leeds United: Enterprise withdraw winding-up petition

Yorkshire Evening Post 27/2/14
by Phil Hay
Enterprise Insurance, the shirt sponsor of Leeds United, has withdrawn the winding-up petition it issued against the club last month.
The petition - served on Leeds on January 29 - was withdrawn after a hearing at the High Court in Manchester today.
United were threatened with a winding-up order over a sum of £1.5m borrowed from Enterprise Insurance in 2012 but the club repaid the money with interest ahead of this morning’s hearing.
Leeds were ordered to meet the costs of the legal case but His Honour Judge Hodge QC.
In a statement, Enterprise Insurance said it had taken action against Leeds after “the club’s solicitors claimed in correspondence that there was no debt to Enterprise.”
The firm took out an injunction against Leeds following the club’s insistence that the attempt to reclaim money owed was “an abuse of legal process.”
Enterprise’s solicitor, Michael Ozon, said: “While we are pleased the court ruled clearly in favour of Enterprise, it is regrettable this matter had to end up in a hearing before the court.
“Enterprise Insurance acted responsibly and with great care for the club. It offered to withdraw its petition on the basis that the club agreed to comply with its contractual obligations in relation to the payment of certain monies due.
“Despite repeated requests, no undertakings were given and the club simply failed to engage. Enterprise was left with no choice but to take action seeking injunctions to compel the club’s owners to comply.”
Andrew Flowers, the company’s managing director and a man involved in a failed by to buy Leeds last month, said: “Not only did they refuse to accept liability for the substantial sums owed but they challenged our petition on the grounds that it was an abuse of process.
“To add insult to injury, (Leeds) then told the High Court today that Enterprise should have sought to appoint a provisional liquidator instead of pursuing an injunction.
“I was not prepared to act in this way out of a genuine concern and repercussions for the club. While I am bound to protect our company’s interests, I am nevertheless a lifelong supporter of Leeds United and would not want to damage the club in any way.”
The winding-up petition against Leeds was due to be heard in the High Court on March 17 but the case has been cancelled.
The club are understood to have repaid around £1.6million to Enterprise, including interest. Legal costs are expected to run to £100,000.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Leeds United: Cellino counting the days to ownership

Yorkshire Evening Post 27/2/14
DONE DEAL: Well, that’s how Massimo Cellino appears to view his Leeds United takeover even without football league approval. Phil Hay reports.
The Football League stands between Massimo Cellino and ownership of Leeds United but in spite of delays and a strict administrative process, he still acts like a man who thinks his £25million takeover is done.
Doubt was cast over his acquisition of Leeds when the Football League stated on Tuesday that the process of approving him could run to March 13, but Cellino remains in England and remains intent. He was due to spend part of this week house-hunting in north Leeds.
At Elland Road, a fresh payment from the Italian has provided the money needed to meet the staff wage bill for February tomorrow. He loaned £1.5m to the club for the same purpose last month and, on top of an initial sum paid to United owner Gulf Finance House as part of his 75 per cent takeover, Cellino appears happy to fund operating costs for the second time in the space of four weeks.
Money has also come the way of manager Brian McDermott who signed goalkeeper Jack Butland from Stoke last Friday and has spent the past few days sealing the arrival of Sunderland striker Connor Wickham. Leeds have not explained how transfers are being funded – their wage bill was lowered recently by the departure of Luke Varney and Paul Green on loan – but McDermott has been more active in the transfer market in the past seven days than at any stage since the 24 hours when he brought in Cameron Stewart and Jimmy Kebe.
There have been other developments too. The YEP understands that a loan given to Leeds by shirt sponsor Enterprise Insurance in 2012 – resulting in a winding-up petition which the High Court is due to hear on March 17 – has now been repaid. The petition, filed on January 29, remains in place while Leeds and Enterprise resolve all legal issues related to the £1.5m debt but it is likely to be withdrawn before the hearing date.
Cellino, nevertheless, is powerless to officially complete his takeover until he fulfils the Football League’s request for full disclosure about his purchase of United.
The League opened discussions with his legal team at the end of January, around the time that GFH agreed in principle to sell him a majority stake, and he and the Bahraini bank have been supplying documentation since the governing body met with Cellino at his request in London on February 12.
Cellino, 57, is expected to pass the Owners and Directors Test but the League’s examination of him is concentrating on his wealth and his ability to fund a suitable business plan at Elland Road in the 12 months ahead.
A statement from the League published on Tuesday afternoon said: “The board of the Football League is next scheduled to meet on March 13 where it will receive an update on the matter from the League’s executive, unless all the remaining issues can be resolved satisfactorily in advance of this date.”
The League is not required to wait until next month’s board meeting to officially sanction Cellino’s buy-out and it is likely to act sooner if he and GFH meet the organisation’s demands before then. But repeated statements from the League – an unusual feature of lower-league takeovers – have done little to foster the belief that Cellino’s takeover is a formality.
Charlton’s new owner, Roland Duchatelet, shed some light on the approval process yesterday, describing it as “quite straightforward”. The Belgian, who also controls Standard Liege, bought the South London club around the turn of the year and was approved by the League around a month after first making a serious approach to Charlton.
“The process was actually quite straightforward, as long as you have the answers to the League’s questions,” Duchatelet said. “None of them were particularly difficult.
“They (the League) just want to understand whether you’ve got the money to finance the club’s business plan as they don’t want their clubs to end up in administration a few months after they’ve approved a takeover.
“Nearly all Championship clubs need extra funding to help them balance their books. So the League doesn’t sign off any takeovers unless you can show them that you have got enough money to meet the club’s financial commitments as well as showing them where that money has come from.
“We also had to provide letters showing that we could call upon that funding as and when the club needed it.”
It is not known whether GFH has contingencies in place to cope with a scenario where the Football League rejects Cellino’s takeover outright. The Islamic bank has owned Leeds since December 2012 but is no longer financing day-to-day costs at Elland Road and is anxious to sell a majority stake in the club. Together Leeds, a consortium fronted by ex-Manchester United International managing director Mike Farnan, have voiced their interest in buying Leeds for the past four months but are waiting in the background having written to the Football League two weeks ago to request that the governing body force GFH to negotiate with them.
GFH is unwilling to discuss a takeover with Farnan’s group after rejecting what it said was a “derisory” offer from Together Leeds in November. The bank subsequently reached a deal with Cellino, a deal which the Cagliari president has already begun paying for.
Details of Together Leeds’ proposals are scarce beyond an admission that Farnan’s group are backed by “institutional funding”. They are thought to be planning to buy back Elland Road from the stadium’s private owners, though the consortium intend to do so through a mortgage deal rather than an outright purchase. Among Cellino’s promises was a vow to use his personal wealth to immediately activate Elland Road’s £15m buy-back clause once his takeover goes through.

Leeds United: New-boy Wickham eyes a play-off push

Yorkshire Evening Post 27/2/14
by Phil Hay
Leeds United have given their bid for play-off qualification a major shot in the arm by taking Sunderland striker Connor Wickham on loan in a further sign of Massimo Cellino’s growing influence at Elland Road.
Wickham vowed to drive Leeds towards a top-six finish in the Championship after joining United for the rest of the season and becoming the club’s second high-profile recruit in the space of a week.
United funded the arrival of goalkeeper Jack Butland from Stoke City last Friday and have now beaten Sheffield Wednesday to the signing of Wickham – a player who scored against Leeds during their 6-0 defeat at Hillsborough last month.
Wickham, 20, will make his debut away to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday with Leeds fighting to overturn a seven-point deficit to the play-offs during their final 15 matches.
The England Under-21 international said: “The potential here is big. There are some players I know already and the team is looking to push towards the play-offs. Hopefully I can help with that.
“I just want to play football, do the best I can and hopefully push the team into the promotion picture.”
His prolific record with Wednesday – eight goals in 11 appearances – helped to drag the South Yorkshire club away from the Championship’s relegation zone, and Wednesday were keen to re-sign him from Sunderland.
But Wickham, who is currently surplus to requirements at the Stadium of Light and has started only one Premier League game all season, took up United’s offer yesterday, saying: “Once I heard Leeds were interested in signing me there were no other choices and no doubt I wanted to come. I need to be playing football.”
Leeds have not confirmed whether Cellino – the Italian businessman who is waiting for the Football League to approve his 75 per cent takeover of the club – was responsible for funding the deal for Wickham but evidence of the 57-year-old’s input at Elland Road is increasingly apparent. Cellino is understood to have injected fresh funds into the club this week with the February wage bill due and despite recent financial concerns, the club have allowed manager Brian McDermott to make his first signings since the middle of the January transfer window.
Wickham received squad number nine at Elland Road, a shirt which has been vacant since Steve Morison’s move to Millwall in the summer.

Wickham Connor ready to fire up Play Off push

leedsunited. com 26/2/14
New striker can't wait to get started... New loan signing Connor Wickham is hoping to play his part in firing Leeds United towards the Play-Off places.
The England Under-21 international has joined the club from Sunderland on loan until the end of the season, and says he can’t wait to get started.
“I need to be playing football,” said the striker, who scored eight goals in 11 games while on loan at Sheffield Wednesday earlier this season.
“I’d been playing at Wednesday and I knew there was some interest in me, but I just needed to focus on playing football.
“Once I heard Leeds were interested in signing me there were no other choices and no doubt I wanted to come.
“I played against Leeds earlier this season with Sheffield Wednesday. The potential here is big. There are some players here that I know already, and the team is looking to push towards the Play-Offs. Hopefully I can help with that.
“I just want to play football and do the best I can, and hopefully push the team into the promotion picture.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

United win race for striker Wickham 26/2/14
Connor Wickham joins on loan... Leeds United have won the race to sign Sunderland striker Connor Wickham on loan until the end of the season.
The highly-rated 20-year-old, who cost the Wearside club £8m when he joined from Ipswich in 2011, boasts 28 goals from 128 appearances and has represented England at all levels up to Under-21.
“We are delighted to have signed Connor until the end of the season,” said United manager Brian McDermott.
“There was a lot of competition for his signature, but he was very keen to come and play at Leeds United. He is another young English player who has everything in front of him.”
Wickham carved out a name for himself at Ipswich before earning a move to Premier League Sunderland. He has also had two loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday.
The striker is the club’s second signing in the space of a week, with Wickham following in the footsteps of full England international Jack Butland, who has joined on loan from Stoke and made an impressive debut at Middlesbrough last weekend.
Elland Road managing director David Haigh said: “We’re delighted to bring another quality player into the club. Jack showed why we were so keen to sign him with a terrific performance at Middlesbrough on Saturday, and Connor is another young player with a similar pedigree.
“Brian has made no secret of the fact that he has been looking to strengthen, and we’re delighted we’ve been able to support him with two key acquisitions to the squad.”
Wickham will wear the number nine shirt.

Leeds United snap up former Owls loanee Wickham

Yorkshire Post 26/2/14
Leeds United are on the verge of completing a deal to sign striker Connor Wickham on loan from Sunderland.
The 20-year-old is set to join United until the end of the season, strengthening their squad ahead of the final 15 games of the Championship term and a trip to QPR on Saturday.
Wickham has already completed three months on loan at Sheffield Wednesday this term and scored once in United’s 6-0 hammering at Hillsborough last month.
His proposed move to West Yorkshire comes ahead of Sunderland’s appearance in the League Cup final this weekend.

Italian link sees Leeds United linked with Cagliari wonderkid

Here is the City 26/2/14
Stephen Pickering
Leeds United have been linked to Cagliari's exciting young defender Dario Del Fabro as takeover saga drags on.
According to respected journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, Leeds United are interested in 18-year-old defender Dario Del Fabro from Cagliari.
The young defender is renowned as an exciting prospect in Italy, playing at all levels in the Italian youth set-up from the under-16 side, right up to the under-19s.
He made his debut for Cagliari's first-team last season despite only being 17 years of age. He came on as a second half substitution against Italian giants and Serie A Champions Juventus, but unfortunately he was on the end of a 3-1 drumming.
The very next game he made his full debut for the club, playing the full 90 minutes in a tightly contested away match in Rome against another Serie A giant in Lazio. It was a game that unfortunately ended in defeat for the young defender as Lazio ran out 2-1 winners.
In the penultimate game last season, he came off the bench for a second time against Juventus, this time in the iconic Juventus stadium. He played a huge part in restricting them to just one point at home, which saw his reputation take off.
This season he has spent the majority of his time outside the first-team squad. However, he has made two starts for the club, with the first coming in a very good draw to title challengers Napoli and the second was an unfortunate defeat to relegation rivals Livorno.
The 6ft defender has a reputation of being a very good footballing centre-back, as well as being dominant in the air. He would certainly boost the situation at Leeds and offer good competition to Tom Lees, Scott Wootton and Alex Pearce.
Are you looking forward to an Italian influx happening at Leeds?

Cellino’s deal delayed further but Charlton owner is proof things can be settled quickly

Yorkshire Post 26/2/14
THE most recent club owner to pass the Football League’s Fit and Proper Persons’ Test last night described the process as “quite straight-forward” as Massimo Cellino’s protracted takeover of Leeds United suffered another delay.
Yesterday, the League revealed that they had asked the Italian for more information over his proposed purchase of a 75 per cent stake in the Elland Road club through his company, Eleonora Sport Ltd.
Cellino exchanged contracts with Gulf Finance House, the Bahrain-based investment bank that bought United from Ken Bates towards the end of 2012, on February 7 and is keen to push the £25m deal through as quickly as possible.
The 57-year-old, who was at United’s draw with Middlesbrough last Saturday, needs the League’s approval to ratify the deal, but that will not happen until March 13 at the earliest – which is when the body’s next board meeting takes place.
A League spokesman said: “There are still a number of outstanding matters that will require further submissions from the two parties.”
The new delay is not only frustrating for Cellino, who is believed to have twice injected funds into the club to help cover the monthly wage bill, but also supporters who are desperate for some clarity.
United’s protracted takeover saga is in stark contrast to the last League club to have been bought by a foreign businessman.
Charlton Athletic were taken over last month by Belgian businessman Roland Duchatelet, who made his fortune in electronics.
He owns a number of clubs across Europe including Standard Liege. Duchatelet, who bought the London club outright, passed the League’s Fit and Proper Persons’ Test just four weeks after first showing concrete interest in Charlton.
To gain an insight into the process that Cellino and Leeds are currently embroiled in, theYorkshire Post spoke exclusively to Duchatelet about his own experiences of satisfying the criteria laid down by the governing body.
Fresh from his club’s impressive FA Cup win at Sheffield Wednesday on Monday, the Charlton chief last night said: “The process was actually quite straightforward, as long as you have the answers to the League’s questions. None of them were particularly difficult. They (the League) just want to understand whether you have got the money to finance the club’s business plan, as they don’t want their clubs to end up in administration a few months after they have approved a takeover as it would be very embarrassing for them.
“Nearly all Championship clubs need extra funding to help them balance their books. So, the League doesn’t sign off any takeovers unless you can show them that you have got enough money to meet the club’s financial commitments, as well as showing them where that money has come from.
“This meant us providing financial details of all the companies involved in the group so that we could prove that we could meet the financial projects we gave to the League.
“We also had to provide letters showing that we could call upon that funding, as and when the club needed it. You have obviously got to meet the fit and proper persons’ test too, but that’s essentially self-certification against published criteria.
“As long as you haven’t got anything in your background that would lead to you being disqualified, it is relatively simple.
“In our case, we could supply everything the League asked for pretty much straight away and the takeover was approved in around a month.”
In contrast to Charlton’s relatively smooth takeover, the Leeds saga looks set to rumble on after the League made clear yesterday that, while progress has been made, they require further documentation before a decision can be made over Cellino’s bid to take charge.
A spokesman said: “A significant amount of the requested information has been supplied by GFH and Eleonora Sport, but there are still a number of outstanding matters that will require further submissions.
“The Board is next scheduled to meet on March 13 where it will receive an update on the matter from the League’s executive, unless all the remaining issues can be resolved satisfactorily in advance of this date.”

Leeds United: Butland’s got it all to be a big success

Yorkshire Evening Post 26/2/14
 by Phil Hay
There are goalkeepers who spend their careers in reserve and others like Jack Butland who fight inaction at every turn. It was the thought of playing rarely – if at all – that convinced Butland to reject a move to a club who held the European Cup last year.
Chelsea made him an offer they thought he’d accept but the teenager refused to be blinded by the bright lights of Stamford Bridge. On the last day of the 2013 January transfer window, he joined Stoke City; the right move in theory if not in practice.
It was widely believed that Asmir Begovic, Stoke’s first choice, would depart soon after and sign for Manchester United but the Bosnian stayed put and Butland was soon trapped behind him and Thomas Sorensen. In the spirit of a keeper unwilling to sit idly, he joined Barnsley temporarily for the first half of this season and will finish it on loan with Leeds United. He has come to Elland Road to play.
Maik Taylor, the former United keeper, had a close-up view of Butland’s emergence while Taylor was a veteran at Birmingham City and Butland was branching out of their academy.
“Back then he was one for the future,” Taylor recalls, “but he’s made great strides in a very short period of time.
“We thought of him as the outstanding keeper in Birmingham’s academy and you could see straight away that he was so keen to get on. He’s a normal lad, level-headed, and he was never motivated by anything other than wanting to play the game.
“He’s not a sit-around-and-pick-up-your-money type. That’s obvious. If he was then he’d probably have gone to Chelsea. He’s just extremely ambitious in terms of wanting to make the best of his ability.”
Butland receives around £17,000 a week at Stoke, a portion of which Leeds are now paying after signing him last Friday. At Chelsea he stood to earn a greater wage but risked becoming another Ross Turnbull – a keeper who left Middlesbrough to spend four years at Stamford Bridge but played only 19 times.
“It was a refreshing decision,” Taylor says. “I’d assume that Chelsea would have paid Jack more money than Stoke but he obviously realised that his chances of playing wouldn’t be high. Other lads his age might have made a different decision. They’d have looked at the money and used that as their motivating factor.
“In the end he’s been a bit unlucky because it sounded like Begovic was going to move on from Stoke but he’s stuck around and Jack hasn’t had much of a chance. This could have been a wasted season for him but he’s gone out twice, played more games and he’ll be better for it. He’s a really good example to young professionals.”
Butland’s Leeds debut in a 0-0 draw at Middlesbrough on Saturday was as good is it could have been, an exemplary start in difficult circumstances. Much was made of his saves from Jacob Butterfield and Albert Adomah – the second a last-ditch block towards the end of the game – but the 20-year-old caught the eye with safe handling under high crosses and his command of United’s box.
Leeds lost their long-standing first choice, Paddy Kenny, to an ankle injury and are not yet certain about when he will be fit again. Butland’s 93-day loan runs to the end of the regularChampionship season, giving manager Brian McDermott some assurance in a position which has always been one setback to Kenny away from a crisis.
Taylor, who was an understudy at Leeds during the 2011-12 season and is now a goalkeeping coach with the Northern Ireland squad, watched Butland’s performance at The Riverside and saw the traits that made him a prized asset from the day when Birmingham put him on show. Butland famously made his debut for England before his first competitive debut for City.
“He did exceptionally well at Middlesbrough,” Taylor says. “He only joined Leeds on Friday so he’s had to wrap himself up in the squad very quickly and he’s had to settle in fast. But really, he looked like he’d been playing in that team for weeks. It all came naturally to him and his temperament for someone so young is impressive. He’ll have the supporters onside already.
“He’s got himself a fantastic club at Leeds and he doesn’t have the luxury of going there and playing without pressure. That’ll be good for him. He’s a player who obviously wants his career to go on and on.”
Butland will keep his mobile phone close over the next 24 hours with England coach Roy Hodgson about to name his squad for next week’s friendly against Denmark.
The pool chosen by Hodgson will be taken as an indication of how his squad might look for this summer’s World Cup, and McDermott and Butland spoke of the keeper’s chances of selection after his display at Boro.
“He’s 20 years of age and he’s played 86 games already so he’s very mature and very hungry,” McDermott said. “He wants to be on that plane to Brazil with England. You can see that.”
There are other English keepers who will cross their fingers that Butland’s name does not appear. Goalkeeping is notoriously competitive though strangely supportive – a ‘union’ in most cases, despite the fight for a single position.
Dave Watson, the England goalkeeping coach, held the same job at Birmingham while Taylor and Butland were team-mates there. Watson has consistently championed Butland’s national prospects but Taylor never felt threatened or resistant to the youngster’s obvious talent at St Andrews.
“He was a pleasure to work with,” Taylor says. “You know what they say about the goalies’ union. You help each other, you support each other and I think when you’ve got someone as young as Jack alongside you, you try to push him on like others pushed you.
“Don’t get me wrong, every keeper wants to play, but I’ve never held grudges against keepers who’ve been ahead of me. If you’re not playing and you think you should be, your argument’s with the manager, no-one else. You don’t want to create a situation which is detrimental to one of your team-mates.
“From a young age, Jack’s had a lot thrown at him and he’s handled everything like his debut on Saturday. There’s no arrogance with him – just plenty of ability and the knowledge that he’s got it.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The saga continues... Cellino's Leeds takeover delayed by outstanding paperwork

Mail 25/2/14
The Football League has confirmed it is still in talks with Leeds over the club’s proposed £25million takeover by Italian businessman Massimo Cellino.
Cellino’s company Eleonora Sport Ltd exchanged contracts with Leeds’ owners Gulf Finance House Capital on February 7 for 75 percent of the club’s shares and the Cagliari owner has since been waiting for the League’s approval.
A League statement read: 'The Football League remains in discussions with both the owners and proposed purchasers of Leeds United, regarding the planned change of ownership.
'To date, a significant amount of the requested information has been supplied by GFH and Eleonora Sport, but there are still a number of outstanding matters that will require further submissions from the two parties.
'The Board of The Football League is next scheduled to meet on March 13 where it will receive an update on the matter from the League’s executive, unless all the remaining issues can be resolved satisfactorily in advance of this date.'
Miami-based Cellino, 57, has twice been convicted of fraud and is currently contesting a charge of embezzlement, but remains confident of passing the League's 'owners and directors' test'.
Current owners GFH Capital, a Bahrain-based investment firm, bought the club from Ken Bates in December 2012 and plan to retain a 10 percent stake in the club.
If Cellino's takeover is approved by the League, Leeds' current chairman Salah Nooruddin will remain in his post and managing director David Haigh will become the club's new chief executive. International Investment Bank and Nooruddin (3.3 percent) will still own the remaining 15 percent of shares.
Cellino, nicknamed the "King of Corn" after making his fortune in the agricultural industry, received a 15-month suspended prison sentence in 2001 after being convicted of false accounting at Cagliari.
A previous conviction in 1996 for fraudulently claiming EU agricultural subsidies was overturned in 2012, while in February 2013 he spent 16 days in jail after being arrested for embezzlement - a charge he denies - in relation to the redevelopment of Cagliari's Is Arena stadium.
But Cellino's two convictions, nearly 13 and 18 years old, are considered 'spent' in English law and it is understood they cannot be taken into consideration under the League's 'owners and directors' test'.
In relation to his outstanding charge, Cellino is assumed innocent until it can be proved otherwise.
Cellino, long considered one of the most charismatic owners in Italian football, was shown around Leeds' Thorp Arch training ground for the first time in October.
He verbally agreed to a 75 percent takeover with GFH Capital at the end of January and tried to sack manager Brian McDermott and install friend and former Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa as team boss.
That bid sparked outrage among Leeds fans, who attempted to barricade Cellino at Elland Road on the eve of their home game against Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield on February 1.
McDermott stayed away from the game, which Leeds won 5-1 under the stewardship of assistant Nigel Gibbs, while GFH Capital released a statement before the game had ended overruling Cellino and stating McDermott was still manager.
McDermott returned to work as normal the following Monday and Cellino attempted to distance himself from the controversy, claiming it was the current owners who wanted to sack the manager.
Cellino has since said he is willing to work with McDermott if his takeover gets the go-ahead and the two men have met twice to discuss the way forward.

Leeds United: Outstanding matters to be resolved in takeover, say League bosses

Yorkshire Evening Post 25/2/14
by Phil Hay
The Football League said today that it was still to resolve “a number of outstanding matters” relating to Massimo Cellino’s takeover of Leeds United as the wait for a change of ownership at Elland Road goes on.
Cellino’s 75 per cent purchase of United through a firm called Eleonora Sport Ltd remains up in the air with the League yet to approve his £25million deal.
The Italian businessman agreed terms with current Leeds owner Gulf Finance House on February 7 but the League is refusing to sanction the takeover until Cellino and GFH satisfy its demands for information relating to his buy-out.
The League is understood to be focusing its examination on the funding behind Cellino, an agricultural mangate who has run Serie A side Cagliari since 1992.
“The Football League remains in discussions with both the owners and proposed purchasers of Leeds United, regarding the planned change of ownership.
“To date, a significant amount of the requested information has been supplied by GFH and Eleonora Sport, but there are still a number of outstanding matters that will require further submissions from the two parties.
“The Board of The Football League is next scheduled to meet on March 13 where it will receive an update on the matter from the League’s executive, unless all the remaining issues can be resolved satisfactorily in advance of this date.”

Leeds keen to snap up Sunderland striker Wickham on loan to boost play off push

Mail 25/2/14
Leeds United are in talks over a loan move for Sunderland striker Connor Wickham. The 20-year-old, who scored against Leeds while on loan at Sheffield Wednesday last month, may be allowed to go as Steven Fletcher has returned to the Sunderland first team fold after injury.
The England Under 21 striker, who has scored eight goals in 11 league appearances for Wednesday, returned to Wearside in January.
But Wickham has struggled to make an impact in the north east since his £8.1million switch from Ipswich during the summer of 2011.
However, he has impressed during his loan spell at Hillsborough and Leeds are now keen to take him on loan for the rest of the season.

Leeds United: Mac’s hoping to land a striker

Yorkshire Evening Post 25/2/14
by Leon Wobschall
LEEDS UNITED boss Brian McDermott is intensifying his search for new striking recruits this week – in a bid to inject much-needed impetus into the club’s play-off bid.
United drew a blank for the second game running, at Middlesbrough on Saturday, with the match watched by prospective new owner Massimo Cellino, hoping to receive the green light from the Football League for his takeover to be completed this week.
Heading into this Saturday’s game at QPR, United find themselves in 11th spot, seven points adrift of the side currently occupying the final play-off position in Reading, who have played a game more with the pair meeting at Elland Road on March 11. United have struggled for attacking punch in the last two matches, with top-scorer Ross McCormack having drawn a blank against Brighton and Boro, with McDermott seeking to bolstering his attacking options to help ease the burden on the Scot.
With the loan window open until the final Thursday in March, United have time to assess their options, but with a key schedule of games coming up next month, they remain keen on doing some incoming business sooner rather than later.
McDermott, who revealed at the weekend he has had talks with an unnamed player said: “We have got that resilience and just need to do that extra bit in the final third now that can make that difference.
“Something could happen. We are trying to help the squad as best we can; that’s what we did with Jack (Butland); we’ll wait and see.
“It’s been intimated to me there is a possibility (of bring loan players) in.”
Meanwhile, Butland has been handed a pre-World Cup boost by his weekend rival Shay Given, who believes the 20-year-old has a real chance of getting on the plane to Brazil with England in the summer.
The loan keeper, who joined United for the rest of the season from Stoke City late last week, claimed the man-of-the-match accolade for a faultless weekend showing in the 0-0 televised draw at Middlesbrough.
After the game, Butland revealed that an interview he read from the former Republic of Ireland custodian, who played his final game on loan for the Teessiders on Saturday before returning to Aston Villa, proved a useful tool in his pre-match preparation.
Butland said: “I was actually reading something the other day that Shay said. He said that he had come off the pitch completely shattered and sweating, even though he’d had nothing to do really. That was because of the concentration and the mental aspect you have to put in.
“He was right. No matter what you do and how much you have got to do, you have got to be switched on and concentrating for the full 90 or 95 minutes.
“You do come off the pitch tired and I was just thankful to help out the lads on Saturday.”
On his thoughts on Butland’s World Cup hopes, Given added: “Jack is a fantastic keeper and obviously was man-of-the-match (on Saturday) and a real keeper for the future, even though he is very young in goalkeeping terms.
“He is probably buzzing to be back out playing again as it’s frustrating when you are not playing, especially at his age.
“It’s a tough one for Jack to get in, but he’s definitely got an outside chance. He went to the last European Championships, so he’s definitely got a chance.”
Meanwhile, United midfielder Alex Mowatt has been named in England U19’s 17-man squad for their clash with Turkey at Chester’s Swansway Stadium next Wednesday (March 5).
Mowatt was called up for the clash with Hungary in November, only to pull out through a groin injury.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Young lion: Leeds star Mowatt wins England cap

Yorkshire Post 24/2/14
by Leon Wobschall
TALENTED Leeds United midfielder Alex Mowatt has been named in Noel Blake’s 17-man squad for England U19s’ friendly clash with Turkey next week.
The Young Lions face the Turks on Wednesday, March 5, with a 7pm kick-off time at the Swansway Chester Stadium, home of Conference Premier side Chester FC.
Doncaster-born Mowatt, who turned 19 earlier this month, was called up by ex-United centre-half Blake, who coaches England U17s, for the autumnal game against Hungary in November, but had to pull out through a groin injury.
The schemer, who has enjoyed a hugely impressive breakthrough season at Leeds since making his debut against hometown club Doncaster in a Capital One Cup clash in August, is now hoping for a case of second time lucky as he aims to make his U19s bow.
The game is part of England’s preparation for the elite round of the UEFA U19 European Championship qualifying section - which the Three Lions host in May.
Southampton’s Calum Chambers is expected to captain the side next week.

Leeds United: Friendly rivalry between goalkeepers is fine by Butland

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/2/14
by Phil Hay
Jack Butland said he and Paddy Kenny would maintain a friendly, supportive rivalry at Leeds United after staking his claim to the goalkeeper’s shirt with a flawless debut against Middlesbrough.
Butland earned Leeds a 0-0 draw at the Riverside on Saturday and then crossed his fingers for a run of appearances as he chases the dual ambition of play-off qualification and inclusion in England’s World Cup squad.
The 20-year-old, who has joined Leeds on loan from Stoke City until the end of the season, replaced the club’s existing first-choice keeper with Kenny requiring treatment on an ankle injury.
Butland emerged from a difficult debut unscathed, producing crucial saves from Jacob Butterfield and Albert Adomah as a disappointing clash with Boro ended goalless, and he is ready for an extended spell in United’s starting line-up with manager Brian McDermott still to set a timescale on Kenny’s return.
Asked if he was hopeful of a spate of opportunities, Butland said: “I’d like to think so.
“But Paddy’s a great lad and I know him from playing against him. We’ve had good chats after games and stuff like that. Whoever’s playing I’m sure the other will give full support. We’ll see when he gets back fit.
“I just really enjoyed being back on the pitch again. It was a great atmosphere and the travelling fans were awesome. Unfortunately we couldn’t get all three points but the lads were solid and strong and it was a good away point.”
Butland denied Butterfield with a diving save before half-time and prevented Adomah from snatching a win for Boro with a point-blank parry 12 minutes from time.
“The one with Adomah in the second half was the better save, definitely,” Butland said. “I made the one in the first half look a little bit special because the (television) cameras were here! But I’m really pleased. I couldn’t have asked for any better way to start.”
Leeds are seven points behind the play-offs, a point closer to sixth after Reading’s defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers, but a scrappy draw failed to seriously enhance their prospects of finishing inside the top six.
But Butland said: “The target’s got to be the play-offs. With the expectation and size of the club as it is, it would be wrong not to target that. I think we’ve got the lads to do it and this is a good start with a solid away point.
“The support that comes with wearing the badge and playing for Leeds is incredible and this is a great opportunity to be part of something special.”
The former Birmingham City ’keeper, who made his England debut in 2012, also has an eye on this year’s World Cup in Brazil, saying; “The summer is obviously a massive target and I’d love to be able to go.
“It’s obviously a dream of mine but it’s only possible if I’m playing regularly and playing well.
“If I am playing, I have a chance – if not then I’ll be out.”
Butland’s inclusion on Saturday was one of five changes made by McDermott, a number of them enforced by injuries and off-field matters.
Kenny and Sam Byram were both declared unfit ahead of the game and Tom Lees made way for Scott Wootton in the centre of the defence due to family issues.
“Tom has family issues which are far more important than football,” McDermott said.
“That’s why he wasn’t here. They’re far more important. Sam’s got a hamstring which we couldn’t take a risk on.”
The Leeds boss, however, revealed that another signing might follow the arrival of Butland, confirming that he had held discussed the possibility of a further addition to his squad.
“I never say we’re close until it’s done and dusted,” McDermott said. “But let’s just say we’ve had some talks about a certain player.”

Leeds United: Cellino makes first public appearance as fight for Football League approval continues

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/2/14
by Phil Hay
Massimo Cellino cast his eye over Leeds United’s 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough on Saturday – and then turned his attention back to his fight for Football League approval.
The Italian made his first appearance in public since finalising a £25m takeover of Leeds as United and Boro shared the points in a low-key match at The Riverside. The result on Teesside did little to enhance the club’s chances of reaching the Championship play-offs but Cellino has a more pressing priority with the Football League still considering his bid to buy United.
Cellino’s 75 per cent purchase remains subject to approval from the governing body and despite a belief in the 57-year-old’s camp that the Football League might make a ruling today, a decision is unlikely to come in the next 24 hours.
Lawyers acting for Cellino and Gulf Finance House, United’s current owner, have supplied the Football League with documents outlining the terms of their deal and the details of his wealth but the organisation in turn sent back a lengthy list of questions and requests for further information.
Cellino, however, remains confident of securing ownership of Leeds and he was present at Saturday’s match with one of his sons, looking on from the directors’ box in the main stand.
He and manager Brian McDermott met again last Thursday, with Cellino travelling to Thorp Arch to watch United train ahead of the game against Boro, and the Leeds boss admitted that he was no closer to knowing the Football League’s intentions.
“We’re still waiting on the Football League to do what they have to do and tell us what the situation is, to tell us what’s happening” McDermott said. “That’s it really.
“But it’s so important that we talk about football now because we’ve had an awful lot of time where football’s been a bit of a distraction. We need to talk about football with 15 games to go. We really need to focus.
“Everybody at the club from top to bottom appreciates that. I’m sure the board know that.”
United are seven points behind the play-off positions after Saturday’s stalemate.

Leeds United: Whites and Boro far from finished article

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/2/14
by Phil Hay
There was urgency in the end but too little, too late from Middlesbrough and Leeds United.
The Championship is renowned for churning out games like Saturday’s and the clubs involved have grown accustomed to finishing their seasons in no man’s land.
Massimo Cellino holds finite knowledge of England’s second division but, as an observer in the stands at The Riverside, he would have doubted the suggestion that a potential winner of the play-offs was on display in front of him.
Mid-table football between two mid-table teams was his reward for gracing Teesside with his presence.
United’s impatient buyer – as yet lacking permission from the Football League to push through his £25m takeover of the club –put his head above the parapet in Middlesbrough, watching Leeds in the flesh for the first time since agreeing to purchase a 75 per cent stake. His son, Edoardo, made the trip too, suited and booted in Italian fashion.
The message for the Cellinos was that the seven-figure sum they are paying to Gulf Finance House will not yield a spectacular return by way of immediate promotion to the Premier League. This, for them, cannot be a flash-in-the-pan romance.
Leeds accrued a point at The Riverside but needed three, and Shay Given, the Middlesbrough goalkeeper, did not have a shot in anger to save. Boro produced a few but drew a blank too.
“Another game without us scoring goals,” said their manager, Aitor Karanka.
The pressure on the play-off positions comes from Wigan Athletic who have won four games from five and possess a weapon’s-grade squad.
Boro are six matches without a victory and have not scored for 10 hours, a club record established over the weekend.
Leeds, meanwhile, have beaten two sides since mid-December and badly need an injection of oomph.
The table as it stands is not a mystery and no grave injustice.
“A point is a good point at Middlesbrough,” said United’s boss, Brian McDermott.
“I was looking at their form at The Riverside beforehand and it’s good. They don’t lose many games here so of course we’ve got to take the positives from that.
“We’ve just played Brighton with nothing in the game and got beat 1-0.
“This could have gone either way too. It could have been 1-0 either way.
“At least we’ve kept a clean sheet and got a point.”
United’s clean sheet owed itself to Jack Butland, the goalkeeper they signed on loan from Stoke City on Friday.
Leeds have operated without a proven replacement for Paddy Kenny for more of this season than they should have done but Butland is an understudy who Kenny will struggle to displace once his ankle injury subsides.
Leeds’ last encountered Butland when the England international was on-loan at Barnsley and the pivotal presence in a one-sided goalless draw at Elland Road in December. He exerted the same influence and forced the same result in Middlesbrough, mixing safe handling with two fine saves, the second a textbook reaction to a crisis created by Emmanuel Ledesma’s pass to Albert Adomah in the 79th minute.
Butland met Adomah in the blink of an eye, spreading himself and repelling the ball with his shoulder.
Adomah should have repaid the favour in the final seconds of injury-time but hacked a shot wide from six yards out, leaving Butland to take a standing ovation from the travelling crowd.
He was alone by the time he approached the away end and was the only Leeds player – perhaps the only player – deserving of deafening applause.
“He’s 20 years of age and he’s played 86 games already so he’s very mature and he’s very hungry,” McDermott said.
“He wants to be on that plane to Brazil (and the World Cup) with England. You can see that.
“He made a couple of really good saves, he came for crosses and we put him under a little bit of pressure in the first half with some of our backpasses which he dealt with well. He’s terrific.”
There is a bigger problem for McDermott at the other end of the field where, in spite of Ross McCormack’s 23 goals, service to him is sporadic.
United’s tactics in a 1-0 defeat to Brighton earlier this month failed because their counter-attacks collapsed on the wings.
At The Riverside the same was true and United’s chance to steal the points as the game opened up in the second half went begging as Jimmy Kebe and Cameron Stewart grasped for touch and control out wide.
When McCormack finally wriggled free and shook a post late on – an effort diverted brilliantly by Given’s fingertips – the contest had already stopped for a foul. The second half at least had an edge to it, caused by the anxiety of two teams who gradually woke up to the implications of a tepid draw.
In the first 45 minutes they were less animated. Luke Murphy pinged a 20-yard shot wide and Butland leapt to punch Jacob Butterfield’s volley over the crossbar shortly before half-time.
McDermott took issue with an incident involving Noel Hunt, who failed to meet Stewart’s 17th-minute cross with Jonathan Woodgate all over him inside the box. “The lads were going mad at half-time,” McDermott said.
“They thought it was a nailed on penalty. It was blatant.”
There was a shout for another later in the match when the ball brushed one of Woodgate’s hands but in amongst the fraying nerves, Boro were always closer to a goal. Butland denied Adomah skilfully and then watched him shoot wide with virtually the last kick of the match.
“You don’t want to lose a game like that,” McDermott said. “Especially late on.”
Quite why Adomah started on the bench when Curtis Main, wide on the right, gave Stephen Warnock a free lunch for 72 minutes was a question which Karanka failed to answer adequately. The nuisance caused by Hunt’s late replacement, Matt Smith, in the last eight minutes was enough to surmise that he could also have made a telling difference with longer on the pitch. This is how it is in Middlesbrough and Leeds – a case of buts and what-ifs. And time waits for neither of them.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bahrain's GFH more than doubles Q4 net profit

Arabian Business 23/2/14
Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House , whose unit is in the process of selling a majority stake in English soccer club Leeds United, said on Sunday its fourth-quarter net profit more than doubled due to revenue derived from investments.
The investment firm made a net profit of $5.2 million in the three months to December 31, up from $2.5 million in the prior-year period, it said in a statement.
It cited "income generated from investment advisory and the sale of investments" for the increase. It did not elaborate.
However, for the 2013 full year, GFH's net profit fell 37.2 percent to $6.3 million.
This decline came despite a 20 percent reduction in operating costs, as the firm continued to aggressively cut expenses in the wake of a number of debt restructurings in recent years.
GFH, through its Dubai-based subsidiary GFH Capital, agreed to sell 75 percent of Leeds United to Italian Massimo Cellino earlier this month, subject to the takeover being sanctioned by the Football League governing body.
In its earnings statement on Sunday, GFH said the sale would "support value creation at Leeds to ensure strong future returns on this investment".
Leeds supporters groups have expressed their concern over the takeover as Cellino, whose family have been involved with Italian side Cagliari since 1992, has a criminal conviction for fraud in his homeland.

Butland delighted with performance on Leeds debut

Jack Butland was delighted with the start to his Leeds United career as he produced a man of the match performance in the 0-0 draw at Middlesbrough.
Butland, who only arrived on loan for the remainder of the season on loan from Stoke City on Friday made crucial saves to deny Jacob Butterfield, Danny Graham and Albert Adomah as he helped Leeds to a first clean sheet in eleven games.
Speaking to Sky Sports after being named man of the match, Butland said, "It was a great way to start for me and I was pleased to put in a performance.
"My favourite save was the one-on-one in the second half."
Butland was brought in by Leeds with regular goalkeeper Paddy Kenny ruled out through injury and after this performance by Butland; it will be hard to see how Kenny, who had been an ever-present before Saturday, will get back into the side.
Brian McDermott says he wants to help on loan goalkeeper Jack Butland realise his dream of travelling with England to the World Cup finals in Brazil this summer.
Butland produced an outstanding performance for Leeds on his debut on Saturday to thwart Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
The 20-year-old has arrived at Elland Road on loan for the remainder of the season from Stoke City after he found himself back down the pecking order at the Britannia Stadium following the return to full fitness of Asmir Begovic. With the World Cup finals just four months away, Butland needs regular first team football if he is to have any chance of making Roy Hodgson`s squad and McDermott says he is hoping he can help him. Speaking after the Middlesbrough game, McDermott said,"Butland was outstanding and he made a couple of fantastic saves and he came for crosses.
"He is hungry, he wants to go to the World Cup with England and we want to help him."
Butland was named man of the match after producing fine saves to deny both Jacob Butterfield and Albert Adomah, as Leeds held on for a point in a goalless draw. Whilst Butland, who holds the record as the youngest goalkeeper to play a senior game for England at just 19, wants to concentrate on playing regularly, he admits it would be a dream if he can make the plane for Rio. Speaking after the game, Butland said, "I want to focus on playing, it is the target and it would be a dream to go to the World Cup.
"I want to keep playing, keep playing well and we will see whether it becomes a reality."
Butland has represented England at six levels during his career. In 2012, he was part of the England squad in the 2012 European championships and later that summer he represented Great Britain in the 2012 Olympic Games, making five appearances.
After his fine performance for Leeds on Saturday, Butland will now wait to find out whether he will continue to feature for Gareth Southgate`s England under-21 side for their European Championship qualifier against Wales or whether he will be included in the senior squad, for the friendly against Denmark at Wembley.
Both squads will be announced this week for the games that both take place on Wednesday March 5th.

Middlesbrough 0 Leeds United 0: Faint promotion hopes fade for Yorkshire rivals

Yorkshire Post 22/2/14
A BORE of a stalemate saw the slim play-off prospects of both Leeds United and Boro recede further in a grim TV spectacle.
The only noteworthy episode in the game saw the Teessiders make an unwanted entry into the record books after extending their goal drought to almost ten-and-a-half hours, with Aitor Karanka’s side having now not found the net in almost seven games since January 18.
For United’s travelling support of 3,211, there was precious little to shout about on a day when prospective new owner Massimo Cellino was in attendance on Teesside as both sides played out their fourth 0-0 draw at the Riverside since the stadium opened in the mid-nineties.
Brian McDermott pledged that Leeds would go out on the attack, but in the event, United produced an inhibited display low on quality and chances.
It was a scrappy spectacle, with Boro carving out the best opportunities, without showing too much attacking competence over the ninety minutes, and feeling more entitled to be aggrieved with a point.
The closest to a goal arrived 11 minutes from time when substitute Albert Adomah was sent clear by a precision pass from fellow sub Emmanuel Ledesma, but debutant Jack Butland showed his international class to race out and make a splendid block.
The hosts’ other best moment also arrived at the feet of Adomah, who blazed over in stoppage-time following Nathaniel Chalobah’s pass.
Head coach Karanka fired a broadside in the direction of his players after their limp performance at Watford last time out and made a number of significant - and surprising - changes to his starting line-up in a bid to yield a response.
Top-scorer Adomah was dropped to the bench, while fellow winger Mustapha Carayol wasn’t even afforded a place in the matchday squad.
Kenneth Omeruo, in for the suspended Ben Gibson, partnered ex-United favourite Jonathan Woodgate in the heart of the Boro defence for the first time with Curtis Main, who scored the only goal in the clash at the Riverside last term, recalled.
Leeds, facing their first game in 12 days, made five changes, with the two major ones seeing loan recruit Jack Butland handed his bow in place of the injured Paddy Kenny and Noel Hunt return to the line-up and make his first start since October 5.
Scott Wootton came in for Tom Lees, with Cameron Stewart and Lee Peltier also starting, with Alex Mowatt on the bench and Sam Bryam out with a hamstring problem.
Despite the raft of changes on both sides, the main pre-match talking point was the presence of Cellino, spotted outside the Riverside in the build-up to kick-off.
On it, it was Boro, playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Kei Kamara and Curtis Main the wide-sided attackers and Bradford-born Jacob Butterfield just behind lone frontman Danny Graham, who started the brighter.
A scuffed early pot-shot from Kamara was dragged wide before the Sierra Leone-born frontman then headed over following Grant Leadbitter’s corner.
Leeds struggled to get a foothold in the game in the opening 15 minutes but eventually starting to impose themselves.
Their first threatening moment arrived in the 17th minute when neat work by Wootton and Jimmy Kebe supplied Cameron Stewart in space down the left and his teasing cross just evaded Hunt in the six-yard box.
A full-stretch Stewart then just failed to get on the end of Peltier’s deep cross, while at the other end, Boro’s early momentum tapered off.
In a half on genuine quality, Leeds edged proceedings, but struggled to string together worthwhile chances, with one finally arriving on 40 minutes.
It ended with Luke Murphy firing a stinging low shot just wide of the left-hand post of Shay Given, making his final appearance for the Teessiders before returning to parent club Aston Villa.
Boro finally awoke from their slumber to piece together their best opportunity of the half just before the break, with Leadbitter’s corner half-cleared to Butterfield, who took aim with a well-struck rising shot, which was tipped over by Butland.
The first significant action on the restart saw Stephen Warnock cause momentary alarm when he diverted a dangerous cross from full-back Geroge Friend - Boro’s best attacker - towards his own goal, but an alert Butland saved the day.
Another close shave soon arrived with Graham’s acrobatic effort was blocked after Kamara failed to get a clean connection on the ball as Boro pressed.
The game was, belatedly, showing signs of opening up at long last, with Boro fans finally warming to their side’s offensive efforts after a tame first half.
Graham was to next to show on the hour, firing an effort over before Aitor Karanka played his first card in bringing on transfer deadline-day arrival Lee Tomlin on for his debut with Kamara coming off.
Just prior to that, Main saw an effort fly of target after a sweeping pass from Leadbitter with Leeds continuing to look subdued at the other end of the pitch and struggling to piece together anything worthwhile.
Adomah then entered the fray for the hosts before the hitherto quiet Ross McCormack conjured up a moment of menace from Leeds, with his speculative shot flying wide.
Ex-Bristol City wingman Adomah almost made the perfect impact seven minutes later with Boro’s best opportunity.
He raced clear following Ledesma’s pass, but Butland came out to deny him impressively.
Giant striker Matt Smith made his appearance on 82 minutes, with United’s fans cajoling their side to go on the offensive after a quiet second period.
But the closest moment to a winer arrived from Boro with Leadbitter firing over after an attack down the left before no home player managed to get on the end on an inviting cross from Adomah, who spurned an opportunity at the death.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Middlesbrough 0 Leeds United 0: Positive point for Whites says McDermott

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/2/14
Boss Brian McDermott said he was happy to escape with a point against Middlesbrough in a game where debutant Whites goalkeeper Jack Butland made crucial blocks on Danny Graham and Kei Kamara.
“That’s a positive point for us,” he said. “Middlesbrough made it difficult for us and had some good chances.
“But Jack Butland was outstanding, the back four were excellent and the whole team put in a good shift.
“When we become a good side, a side capable a challenging in this division, then maybe we could have nicked that game 1-0 but we are not quite where we want to be as a team yet.
“But we kept a clean sheet and showed resilience, we just need to find that bit extra in the final third.”
Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka insists “the goals will arrive” after watching his shot-shy side extend their goal drought.
“Yes it is six games without a goal and for that I am disappointed,” Karanka admitted. “I am always disappointed if we do not win. But if we play like we did today every week then the goals will arrive.
“We can not become obsessed by the goal. We must just continue to play the best way we can as a team and will create chances and the moment will come.
“Last week at Watford I was not happy because the team did not function as I asked. This week they did so for that I am happy.
“We had good chances, the team was good. I am not saying we deserved to win but we played well.”

Middlesbrough 0-0 Leeds: Butland stretches Boro's winless run without scoring to six games

Mail 22/2/14
Middlesbrough's goal drought now stretches to six games and more than 10 hours after yet another Sky Bet Championship goalless draw at the Riverside.
It was Boro's third successive goalless goal at the Riverside and while they edged the match on chances they could not beat in-form Leeds debutant goalkeeper Jack Butland.
Boro started the brightest but their only real chance came on five minutes as Jacob Butterfield shrugged off a challenge to find Kei Kamara in space but his low 25-yard effort flew a yard outside the far post.
Leeds' first threat was on 13 minutes as Jimmy Kebe sent full-back Lee Peltier overlapping down the right to cut inside then square towards Ross McCormack's run into the box - but Boro skipper Jonathan Woodgate arrived with a sliding tackle to block his shot.
Then on 18 minutes Leeds broke down the left and Cameron Stewart drilled a low ball across the face of goal but Noel Hunt failed to make contact under pressure from Kenneth Omeruo with the Leeds man claiming he had been fouled, although referee Anthony Taylor waved play on.
Boro broke out of a long spell of stalemate to carve out a chance on the half-hour as Nathaniel Chalobah found Kamara outside the box but with time and space he checked inside and was closed down before he could shoot.
Both sides had good chances in the closing spell. Kebe carried forward from a short free-kick on 40 minutes to find Hunt and when he laid it off, Luke Murphy sent a low 20-yard effort fizzing just outside the far post.
Then Boro almost broke the deadlock on 43 minutes when a corner was only headed away as far as the edge of the box for Butterfield to unleash a screamer that an alert Butland did well to tip over.
Boro almost grabbed the opener within three minutes of the restart as Butterfield sent full-back George Friend to the byline to drill in a low cross towards Graham but defender Warnock got there first with a touch that forced keeper Butland into a point-blank reflex save.
And Boro went close again on 51 minutes as Curtis Main headed a ball down in the six-yard area and as it bounced Kei Kamara took a swing but failed to get a good contact. It screwed sidewards for Graham to put in an overhead kick that bounced at the feet of the keeper and up into his hands.
They went close again on 79 minutes as substitute Emmanuel Ledesma crossed for Albert Adomah to chest down at stab goalwards but Butland was out quickly to block.
Leeds rattled the woodwork on 83 minutes as from a Peltier long throw Ross McCormack cracked through a crowd and Given did well to tip it onto the post, although the whistle had already gone for a foul on Woodgate.
Boro amost snatched victory in stoppage time when Graham touched on a ball for Adomah 10 yards out - but he was leaning back as he shot and the ball flew over.

Leeds United: Loan ace Butland targets play-offs

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/2/14
by Phil Hay
Jack Butland urged Leeds United to believe in their bid to make the Championship play-offs after joining the club on loan until the end of the season.
The England goalkeeper, who was poised to make his debut at Middlesbrough today, said he was hopeful of seeing Leeds overturn an eight-point gap to the top six and claimed the play-offs were “certainly the target.”
United signed Butland, right, on loan from Stoke City yesterday, bringing him to Elland Road with first-choice Paddy Kenny troubled by a long-standing ankle injury.
Butland accepted a 93-day loan with 16 matches remaining and Leeds under pressure to make their move for the top six having slipped down the league gradually since Christmas.
The 20-year-old said: “Everything that’s gone before needs to be forgotten. There’s 16 games now to focus on and in 16 games there’s a lot of points up for grabs. Eight points can swing in a matter of weeks. Reaching the play-offs is certainly the target. The fans want that and I’m sure that they’ll be behind the team the whole way.”
Kenny had completed every minute of United’s season prior to today’s visit to The Riverside but manager Brian McDermott moved for Butland with Kenny suffering from an injury he first sustained in December.

The 35-year-old was not expected to feature in Leeds’ squad against Middlesbrough but McDermott has given no indication of whether Kenny is facing an extended spell on the sidelines. Butland’s arrival, however, gives Leeds a highly-rated replacement and a keeper who became a fully-fledged England international in 2012.
Stoke paid more than £3million to take him from Birmingham City last year but his opportunities at the Britannia Stadium have been few and he was loaned to Barnsley earlier in the season.
Butland said: “It ticks all the boxes in terms of the pressures on the game and the crowds. It’s as close as you can get to Premier League football outside of the Premier League.
“The loan system has been very helpful for me to get out and get experience. I’m very lucky to have the chance to come to Leeds and hopefully there’ll be some really good times while I’m here.”
Butland’s arrival increases the competition for Kenny, who has played without an experienced replacement behind him since September, and McDermott said defender Marius Zaliukas was also under pressure to fight for a place having failed to feature in the wake of the debacle at Hillsborough.
McDermott, who has limited Zaliukas to appearances with United’s development squad, said: “He (Zaliukas) is part of the squad.
“That game is gone, done and dusted, and you now pick your squad. We all train as hard as we can and if you’re playing in the under-21s you do as well as you possibly can.
“This is Leeds United and we need strong competition for places. It should be a tough team to get into.”

Leeds United: Leeds need a plan for next season like Boro - Hay

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/2/14
by Phil Hay
Meh. That’s what they say about Middlesbrough’s season. One hundred and 20 seconds of this afternoon’s game against Leeds United and Boro will set a club record for minutes without a goal. They’d struggle to find the net in a fishing shop.
They say too that Aitor Karanka, their Spanish coach, has given up on the play-offs for the time being. He is relatively new to the Championship but deficits are deficits and Boro are chasing a ghost halfway down the league. Not this year, realistically. Leeds know the feeling. It would be classed as a waste for Boro were Karanka not using the back end of a mediocre season to model his squad in his own image. Boro were a lax, open team when he brought them to Leeds for his first game in November but their tactics – the Tony Mowbray philosophy – were not for him. Three months on, they are safe as houses; infuriatingly blunt but tight in the area where Mowbray’s teams were often so prone.
The continental streak in Karanka brought with him an addiction to a continental system: a disciplined, organised 4-2-3-1. Boro will play that way for as long as their players take instruction from him. The club have contested 16 fixtures since losing at Elland Road and conceded in only seven of them. They have closed the door. This is all offset by an inability to score goals themselves – the name of the game – and Karanka has been no overnight sensation. He said after their defeat at Watford last Saturday that “some players think they are better than they are. Some players need to be more humble.” So he has work to do.
What he lacks, seemingly, is a proficient number 10 to play behind a lone striker. If loanee Danny Graham goes back to Sunderland then come the summer, Boro will need a lone striker as well. Those who watch Karanka’s team think two astute signings during the close season will bring his ducks into line. And all the while he has the permission of his owner, Steve Gibson, to take his time and do his thing.
That is more than enough about Middlesbrough. Who knows if Karanka has the wit to make it click? But they are a relevant comparison to Leeds – a mid-table team aspiring to be better and wondering how to crack the Championship. You’ll find a vision on Teesside and a fixed plan too; a plan which, like every one at every club, makes the assumption that Karanka will not blow up. But if his ambition comes to pass, Boro will say that foresight and patience made it possible.
Until quite recently they spoke about defining plans at Leeds – three years in Brian McDermott’s case, two years in Gulf Finance House’s and shorter than that in the club’s dreams. There was a period when it felt like the club had a clue where they were going and that their manager was pulling the important strings with a team as settled as Karanka’s. But the clock has stopped while Massimo Cellino waits for the Football League to sanction his takeover, suspending everyday business as it used to be. The signing of Jack Butland yesterday was an unexpected reminder that Leeds United still do football.
McDermott, to hear him speak, is a coach who has no idea where precisely he stands. He touched on last week’s meeting with Cellino – a prospective owner who has already tried to sack him – with the media on Thursday but was guarded and withdrawn, almost hedging his bets.
The conversation between them he described as “good” and he will undoubtedly work with Cellino if the Football League pit them together but there was no glowing appraisal and no attempt by McDermott to nail his colours to the Italian mast. He might think it prudent to keep his powder dry until the Football League say yay or nay. He might also feel that one discussion with Cellino is insufficient for him to draw a conclusion about how the two will rub along.
They have a mutual love of guitars but Guns N’ Roses shared a love of guitars. The boys from Los Angeles just can’t share a room together. McDermott is not much of an egotist or a difficult character but his relationship with Cellino needs to be based on matters of import – football, results, transfers, policies. On those subjects a manager can face the music.
This could well be Cellino’s club in a week’s time and for all that has happened, a new owner with his buy-out ratified needs a line drawn under him on day one. The attention should switch from what Cellino has done previously to what he does next. And what he does next needs to become clear quickly. February becomes March next weekend; the season becomes the summer in early May. Other clubs are in better shape and some, like Boro, have a much clearer picture of what they are doing. A firm hand on the grindstone at Elland Road has been sorely needed for weeks.
McDermott said recently that this is “not about him” and ultimately he is right. He deserves to be treated properly and sacking him as Cellino tried to was at odds with standards of respectable ownership. It was a shocking start and Cellino will be closely watched because of it. But what McDermott has realised, and what all of us must, is that confirmation of Cellino’s takeover – assuming it comes – cannot be met with bad blood or arguments about bygones; not if we want his era to go anywhere. You give Cellino a chance and hope he gives Leeds United the same. It’s all anyone round here has ever asked for.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jack Butland's excitement at loan move 21/2/14
Jack Butland on his loan move…
England international Jack Butland says his loan move from Premier League Stoke City ‘ticks all the boxes’.
The move is the keeper’s second loan stint of the season, having spent the early part of the campaign at Barnsley, and he admits to being excited at joining United.
“I think that the move is good for all parties,” said Jack. “I’m coming to a massive club with big expectations and hopefully a big promotion push.
“It ticks all the boxes in terms of the pressures on the game and the crowds. It’s as close as you can get to Premier League football outside of the Premier League. I’m really excited to be here.
“On the Stoke side of things they are happy that I’m playing and developing. Obviously for me it is a nice chance to get some games under my belt and perform well for Leeds.
“The loan system has been very helpful for me to get out and get experience. I’m very lucky to have the chance to come to Leeds and hopefully there will be some really good times while I’m here.”
The 20-year-old is keen to use his time at United wisely as he is looking to improve and wants to do that by putting in the performances with a Play-Off spot the aim.
“The only way you learn is by playing. I’ve been lucky enough to play in big pressure situations in front of big crowds,” said the England international. “Leeds is certainly one of those and I’m looking forward to in front of the crowds, both at home and away.
“I’ve played here with Birmingham and Barnsley over the last couple of years and the fans have been incredible. Obviously I got a lot of stick playing for Barnsley at the time but the fans were brilliant.
“The atmosphere is always good and they expect of the team. Those are the pressures that I need to be dealing with and they will help me improve and set me up for the future.
“Everything that has gone before needs to be forgotten. There is 16 games now to focus on and in 16 games there is a lot of points up for grabs.
“Eight points can swing in a matter of weeks. Reaching the Play-Offs is certainly the target. The fans want that and I’m sure that they will be behind the team the whole way.”
The keeper could be set to make his United debut on Saturday at Middlesbrough and he is looking forward to jumping straight into action for his new side.
“I’m looking forward to it, hopefully if I get the nod and I get the chance it will be a fantastic occasion,” added Butland.
“The game is on Sky Sports as well and that is what it is all about. I like being thrown in at the deep end. I’ve been in this situation before where I’ve joined a new club with a quick turnaround.
“I’ve met a few of the lads already and hopefully I’ll meet a few more and we’ll hit it off.
“Leeds has a great history with goalkeepers. There is some pressure there but I’ll thrive on the opportunity and I’m looking forward to putting the Leeds shirt on.
“Hopefully I can be up there by helping Leeds push on and getting in the Play-Offs.”

Boro: Jack Butland set for Leeds debut? 21/2/14
New signing in line for first start…
New loan signing Jack Butland could be set to make his Leeds United debut at Middlesbrough on Saturday (12.15pm).
Paddy Kenny, who has been an ever present this season, is struggling with an ankle injury, and England international Butland could be set to make his Whites debut. The keeper completed his loan move on friday morning and will go straight into the squad.
A further injury doubt for the away clash is United defender Sam Byram who is suffering with a slight hamstring strain.
“Paddy has had an ankle problem for a little while now,” explained the boss. “He has been playing since the Nottingham Forest game where he got that kick early on in the game.
“You have got to give him credit for that.
“Sam didn’t train on Thursday but he should join in on Friday and we will see how he is.”
One selection boost for Brian McDermott will be the return of Cameron Stewart after he missed the Brighton clash due to a break his loan agreement, designed to extend his playing time this season.

Leeds United: Teenager McDaid close to signing two-year contract

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/2/14
Leeds United are close to completing the signing of teenage striker Robbie McDaid after fielding him as a trialist in a game against Sheffield Wednesday earlier this week.
Leeds intend to give McDaid – currently on the books of Glenavon in Northern Ireland – a two-year contract after watching him score twice in an Under-17 game on Tuesday afternoon.
McDaid, 18, is a highly-rated prospect who has featured in Northern Ireland’s Under-18 and Under-19 squads and is attracting interest from several English clubs.
McDermott, who sourced players from Ireland during his years as Reading’s chief scout, has met with McDaid and his parents and is hopeful that United will tie up a transfer from Glenavon.
“We want to try and do that deal if we can,” McDermott said. “He’s a young player.
“I met him and his parents the other day and he’s a lovely lad.”
Speaking this week, Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton said: “We don’t see any problems from our side.
“The progress is very positive but Leeds are in the middle of a takeover and you never know what way things will go.”

Let’s build in summer – McDermott

Yorkshire Post 21/2/14
by Richard Sutcliffe
BRIAN McDERMOTT last night insisted that he and prospective new Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino can work together despite neither seeking or receiving assurances over the future at a recent meeting between them.
The pair last week enjoyed their first face-to-face get-together since the early days of the Italian coveting the Championship club.
Cellino, believing he had a remit to run the club after reaching agreement over a £25m purchase of a majority stake, infamously sacked McDermott on January 31 only for GFH Capital, United’s owner, to reverse the decision a couple of days later.
Since then, the two men have publicly been making the right noises about each other, both speaking of their shared love of music.
The 57-year-old Italian will become McDermott’s boss providing he gets Football League approval for his 75 per cent buyout.
The matter has been in the hands of the governing body for a fortnight but, as yet, no resolution has been found.
Providing Cellino can satisfy the League’s Fit and Proper Persons Test, the United manager’s future is likely to come under the spotlight.
However, when asked if he had sought any assurances from United’s prospective new owner, McDermott said: “That is not something I would ask any owner for.
“My position will always depend on results. Obviously, whoever the owner is, that is always the case. Your job depends on getting the right results.
“For me, I am confident enough to know that long term, if I get the opportunity, we can be successful. I am absolutely sure of it, with the right help and support.
“I didn’t ask for any assurances. But I will work to the best of my ability every day, that is all I can guarantee.
“Our staff do the same and so do the players. I have never once asked for assurances and I wouldn’t from any owner.
“The most important thing for me is that when it (the takeover) is decided and we know who the owner’s going to be – and I am sure that will be pretty soon – I have no problem working with Massimo. None at all.
“We have had a couple of meetings, we talked football a lot. I have no problem with that at all.”
With Cellino, who was at Thorp Arch yesterday, having sacked 36 coaches or managers in 20 years while at the helm of Serie A side Cagliari, his transfer deadline day attempt to dismiss McDermott did not come as a surprise to seasoned watchers of Italian football.
McDermott, though, is keen to focus on the present and he seems to have taken encouragement from last week’s meeting with Cellino.
The Leeds chief said: “It was fine. We talked about football.
“He is a football man and we talked about what he has done in his career, talked about what I have done.
“We had a good conversation. It was frank and it went well. The details of the conversation? Well, that is for me and him.
“I have won the Championship, been in the Premier League, been in two (Cup) quarter-finals. Your record is what is important as a manager, and those are facts.
“I want to win more games than we are winning at Leeds United, that’s the long and short of it.
“For me, every manager is judged on results. We want better results and we want to kick on but a lot of stuff has gone on which hasn’t helped, but you don’t want to look for excuses.
“Let’s get to a good decision, get to the summer and build again.
“Nothing has changed as far as I am concerned. I work day to day to the best of my ability. We are trying to do everything that is good for Leeds United.
“Anyone who can help Leeds United and bring them forward is going to be a friend of ours.”
The dramatic events of transfer deadline day which saw McDermott apparently dismissed also involved Academy director Neil Redfearn being asked by Cellino’s representatives to take the team the following day against Huddersfield Town alongside one-time Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa.
By the following morning, however, that plan had been shelved with Redfearn instead taking his place in the dugout accompanied by Nigel Gibbs, McDermott’s long-time assistant.
Festa, an associate of Cellino and last month tipped as McDermott’s successor, was instead in the East Stand as United beat Huddersfield 5-1.
Asked about the former Boro defender, the Leeds chief said: “Gianluca, I spoke to once but there is no involvement from him, I haven’t seen him since. That hasn’t changed at all.”
Cellino has been suitably impressed in his dealings with McDermott to give the green light for the United manager to bring in England goalkeeper Jack Butland on loan.
The 20-year-old, who recently spent time on loan with Barnsley and kept a clean sheet against Leeds in his final appearance, is expected to sign today and will go straight into the squad to face Middlesbrough tomorrow.
Leeds have moved for the highly-rated Stoke City goalkeeper due to Paddy Kenny struggling with an ankle injury.
McDermott said: “We are delighted to agree a deal to secure the services of Jack until the end of the season. He has already been involved in the England squad and I know he is very much looking forward to coming in and being part of the group.”

Leeds United: Butland agrees loan move

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/2/14
by Phil Hay
Leeds United have lined up the signing of goalkeeper Jack Butland on loan from Stoke City as an ankle injury threatens to break Paddy Kenny’s ever-present record.
Butland is due to join Leeds on loan today, in time to make his debut against Middlesbrough at The Riverside tomorrow lunchtime. The deal comes with Kenny troubled once more by an injury he suffered at the end of December.
United’s long-standing first choice was hurt in the first minute of a 2-1 loss to Nottingham Forest on December 29 but played on through January and the early weeks of this month with Jamie Ashdown recovering from toe surgery and 21-year-old Alex Cairns on the bench.
Leeds hinted at a problem with Kenny earlier this week when they made an approach to Stoke for Butland and asked Tottenham Hotspur about the availability of Heurelho Gomes, Spurs’ out-of-favour Brazilian international.
A deal over Butland’s £17,000-a-week salary was agreed between Leeds and Stoke yesterday, giving manager Brian McDermott the option of removing Kenny from his line-up for the first time this season.
“Obviously (Butland) has high ambitions,” McDermott said.
“He’s already been involved in the England squad and I know he’s very much looking forward to coming in and being part of the group we have here.
“Paddy’s been playing with an ankle injury since Nottingham Forest.
“He’s come through those games but he has been playing with a problem.
“There’s a possibility he won’t be playing tomorrow.”
Butland, a full England international, is trapped behind a number of more experienced ’keepers at the Britannia Stadium and was allowed to join Barnsley on loan during the first half of the season.
He was man-of-the-match during a 0-0 draw between United and Barnsley in December but returned to the Britannia Stadium the following week.
Barnsley have opted not to pursue a fresh deal with a large number of loanees already in their squad.
The South Yorkshire club paid just £5,000 of his weekly salary with Stoke keen to ensure that the 20-year-old was not left to endure an inactive spell.
City are willing to allow him to move to Elland Road on a full 93-day emergency loan until the end of the season.
The Potters’ boss Mark Hughes said: “That’s the motivation for us – to look to place him somewhere.
“He’s a had a good year and been out on loan already.”
Leeds have a further injury concern with right-back Sam Byram carrying a hamstring strain.
The right-back – plagued by injury problems throughout the Championship term – missed training yesterday and could be forced to make way for Lee Peltier at The Riverside.
But Caeron Stewart is available again and likely to start after Leeds renewed his loan from Hull City in time for this weekend’s match.
United suspended the winger’s 93-day deal – agreed midway through January – ahead of their 1-0 defeat to Brighton to ensure that his loan would run until the penultimate weekend of the Championship season.

Middlesbrough v Leeds United: Whites given green light for all-out attack

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/2/14
by Phil Hay
Goals are an acute problem for Middlesbrough but the club’s mid-table position and their relative safety owes much to a formation which gives away few.
Boro fought out three successive 0-0 draws around transfer deadline day and have not scored themselves since January 18 but Brian McDermott will tell Leeds United to attack them tomorrow in the manner of a team who have little to lose.
Leeds are at the 30-game mark and will have little interest in the play-offs this time next month if their season fails to ignite quickly, and McDermott has spent the 12 days between their loss at Brighton and tomorrow’s match at The Riverside stressing the importance of “attacking games.”
United were beaten at Brighton – their 12th defeat of the term – by one of the few chances a laboured match produced but the absence of creativity around Albion’s box gave the home defence a comfortable night.
The league table has worsened from Leeds’ perspective since then and they trail sixth-placed Reading by eight points, a sizeable gap so late in the season. Few in Middlesbrough think Aitor Karanka’s squad have any chance at all, two places and three points further back and in the middle of a transitional period with their Spanish coach.
Two of McDermott’s players – Sam Byram and Jason Pearce – talked up United’s chances of reaching the play-offs this week, however, and McDermott has given his team licence to cut loose on Teesside as their campaign approaches the run-in.
“You know as well as I do the thin, small margins we talk about in the Championship,” the United manager said. “Look at the last game against Brighton.
“I feel that with 16 games to go what we need to do is really attack games, not wait for things to happen – especially with the ball. We need to get more crosses into the box and more action in the goalmouth.
“We’ve got one game in front of us tomorrow and we’re going to try and win it. That’s it, the long and short of the situation. We can’t do any more than that at the moment. We only talk about trying to win the next game. Everyone else can talk about top-six finishes. But it does make sense that you have to get a run of results at some point. With 16 games to go, there’s no better time to start than now.”
McDermott was grateful for the break between Brighton and Middlesbrough – a break enforced by the postponement of last weekend’s game at home to Charlton Athletic – but admitted that he and his players were keen to resume their season after a short interlude.
Leeds and Boro contested a tight but entertaining match at Elland Road in November, Karanka’s first game as Middlesbrough boss. A second-half header from Pearce settled the contest, earning Leeds a 2-1 win, but Boro’s set-up and system has changed markedly in the intervening months.
“It seems like a long time ago,” McDermott said.
“I know the team they’ve got now and the system they’re trying to play, what they’re trying to do. Going to any Championship team is difficult, we know that, but we haven’t played for 12 days so we’re looking forward to it.
“The players would always rather be out there playing but the timing of the break was quite good for us.
“I was pleased with the timing. But we lost our last game after winning the previous two so we want to get back to winning ways.”

Leeds United: No assurances for Whites boss Brian

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/2/14
Brian McDermott insisted last night that he was happy to work for Massimo Cellino without any assurances about his future as manager after “frank” talks with Leeds United’s prospective new owner.
McDermott said a meeting with Cellino in Leeds last week – the first between them since the Italian attempted to sack him on January 31 – had prompted a “good conversation” about the prospect of them working together at Elland Road.
Cellino will become McDermott’s boss if the Football League agrees to ratify the 57-year-old’s purchase of a 75 per cent stake in Leeds, a takeover which has been in the hands of the governing body for the past fortnight.
The relationship between the two was soured early on when Cellino tried to sack McDermott on transfer deadline day, hours after reaching a £25m deal to buy United from existing owner Gulf Finance House.
GFH revoked that decision, claiming Cellino lacked the necessary authority to take it, and attempts by the Cagliari president to reconcile his differences with McDermott led to positive discussions between them a week ago.
Cellino’s initial treatment of McDermott suggested that the former Reading boss would be at immediate risk of the sack if the takeover went through but McDermott, whose contract runs to 2016, said he had asked for no guarantees about his job during his meeting with Cellino.
“I didn’t ask for any assurances,” he said. “It’s not something I’d ask any owner for.
“I’ll work to the best of my ability every day, that’s all I can guarantee. My staff do the same and so do the players. I’ve never once asked for assurances and I wouldn’t from any owner.
“We had a good discussion. It was fine. We talked about football because he’s a football man. We talked about what he’s done in his career and talked about what I’ve done. We talked about football a lot.
“I’ve won the Championship, been in the Premier League and been in two quarter-finals. Your record is what’s important as a manager. You’re talking about facts.
“I want to win more games than we’re winning at the moment, that’s the long and short of it, but for me every manager is judged on results. My position will always depend on results.”
Asked if Cellino had apologised to him for the events which saw McDermott dismissed and then reinstated during an unprecedented weekend at the start of this month, the Leeds boss said: “Yeah, we had a good conversation. It was frank and it went well. The details of the conversation - that’s for me and him.
“The most important thing for me is that when it’s decided who the owner’s going to be, and I’m sure that will be pretty soon, I’ll have no problem working with Massimo. None at all.”
Cellino was at United’s Thorp Arch training ground yesterday while McDermott was finalising preparation for tomorrow’s Championship game at Middlesbrough, and McDermott has been given permission by the club to complete the signing of goalkeeper Jack Butland on loan from Stoke City today.
McDermott said he’d had no further contact with Gianluca Festa since speaking to the former Middlesbrough defender - a close ally of Cellino’s and a potential addition to the backroom team at Leeds - two weeks ago.
“Nothing’s changed as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I work day to day to the best of my ability.
“We’re trying to do everything that’s good for Leeds United. Anybody who can help Leeds United and bring the club forward is going to be a friend of ours.”