February 5, 2018 / 5:46 PM / 5 months ago

New chapter of woe afflicts the Damned United

(Reuters) - By Leeds United’s turbulent standards, replacing a seventh manager in four years represents a small bump on a road alongside the major potholes of administration, relegation, fan rebellion and serial ownership changes.

But it is hard to escape the view that the three-times English title-holders and Champions League semi-finalists as recently as 2001 are back in the state of chaos that has gripped them, on and off, for the best part of two decades.

Or even longer if including the 44-day reign of Brian Clough in 1974, a notorious episode that led to a book and film called The Damned United, a title still resonating 44 years later.

Thomas Christiansen, 44, outstayed Clough by 190 days, departing as manager after a run of seven games without a win and chronic ill-discipline that led to four red cards in five games, the latest issued to Gaetano Berardi in Saturday’s 4-1 league defeat to Cardiff City.

That left the Yorkshire club in 10th place in the second-tier Championship, seven points off the playoff places and unlikely to secure a return to the Premier League for the first time in 14 years.

Christiansen’s departure follows a week after the club revealed, and then quickly scrapped, a controversial new crest when more than 77,000 people signed a petition calling for a rethink.

Nearly every successive attempt to revive the club has ended in failure and often acrimony. When former Chelsea chairman Ken Bates took charge, he branded Leeds fans “morons” and “sickpots” as well as raising ticket prices.

Poor results blighted the short reign of Bahrain-backed owners GFH Capital, while the turmoil only increased under volatile Italian Massimo Cellino, who had convictions for fraud and false accounting.

HIRE AND FIRE

When Andrea Radrizzani bought out his compatriot last year, a more stable future seemed to lie ahead, particularly after the club bought back its Elland Road ground which had been sold in 2004.

Hope flickered earlier this season when more than 20,000 supporters snapped up season tickets for the new campaign under the untried Dane Christiansen, whose only previous managerial success had been in Cyprus.

Leeds even topped the table in September but injuries, suspensions and the failure to bring in reinforcements in the January transfer window led to Christiansen departing after 15 wins from 35 games in charge.

British media report that Leeds expect a quick appointment ahead of Saturday’s Yorkshire derby with Sheffield United. Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom is the early favourite, ahead of former Scotland manager and ex-Leeds player Gordon Strachan and former boss Simon Grayson.

Former Leeds player Noel Whelan, who has his own show on BBC local radio, said the club needed to appoint “someone with heart, desire, passion and discipline,” adding that the new man must “install into the players the expectations from our club.”

As ever, those remain high, with a quickly delivered promotion top of most people’s agenda. However, few now believe it will come this season.

($1 = 0.7141 pounds)

Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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