By Steve Barras
If you rewind the clock, back to the 12th April 2013 you would find Elland Road in a state of optimism, a state that has very rarely been experienced in the past decade. Brian McDermott had just taken over the managerial reigns of Leeds United from the tactically inept and roundly criticised Neil Warnock and was making all the right noises in his opening press conference.
Unveiled by then majority shareholders of the club GFH, he revealed that he didn’t want to come back into management at that particular point of the season and he wouldn’t have done so if it wasn’t a club of Leeds’ size and stature, he would rather have waited for the summer. Leeds though were in danger of being dragged into a relegation battle and needed a steady hand on the tiller and McDermott was that steady hand.
Joined in the Elland Road dug-out by his trusted no’ 2 Nigel Gibbs the day after they both signed their contracts and against Sheffield Wednesday. It was a debut victory for the pair, two goals from Luke Varney giving Leeds three valuable points and McDermott showed his tactical nous by moving Varney up front after the break. That win and the bearhug shared between McDermott and Neil Redfearn sent Leeds fans into a land of optimism for the summer. Surely we were heading for the promised land and leading the charge was McDermott and GFH Capital.
The summer arrived and despite McDermott saying he wanted the bulk of his shortlisted seven players in place before pre-season started, his first signing (Matt Smith) wasn’t announced until the 10th June and the following signing (Luke Murphy wasn’t announced for nearly a month and we started to see the first cracks in what was to ultimately prove to be the beginning of the end of GFH.
Luke Murphy’s arrival in Leeds was meant to have sent a signal of intent across the decks of other Championship clubs and it was certainly a surprise to see Leeds shell out a seven figure sum on one player but with the gift of hindsight would he have brought Murphy in if he had known about a certain Alex Mowatt lurking around Thorp Arch.
Another million pound man arrived after the start of the season, Scott Wootton was brought in from Manchester United, he scored on his debut but has been largely missing since, unlike Murphy he has the excuse of not being picked for the squad of eighteen.
The problem with McDermott’s signings was that they were M.I.A for a lot of the season and particularly around Christmas, Noel Hunt continues to be the prime example of this.
After a shaky start to the season, McDermott went on a Reading-esque run of form that saw us catapult up the table to fifth before Christmas then our usual holiday form saw us on a run of five straight defeats which included an embarrassing defeat at Rochdale in the F.A. Cup then a 6-0 thrashing in Sheffield which prompted an all out mug and DVD memorabilia session from the Wednesday-ites.
January arrived and the circus really started then, rumours that the King of Corn, Massimo Cellino was wanting to buy a majority share of Leeds from the now widely ridiculed GFH were ultimately true but before officially taking over he sacked McDermott and Gianluca Festa was the man to take over, he had arranged for Festa to sit alongside McDermott in the dug-out for Leeds’ 1-1 draw with Ipswich.
Gibbs was asked to take the team for the 5-1 win over Huddersfield whilst GFH and Cellino tried to figure out whether McDermott was in fact jobless and who was actually in charge of the club.
The following day McDermott was reinstated but a terrible run of form really put the writing on the wall for McDermott and he looked and sounded like a dead man walking towards the end of this season.
Leeds finished 15th and Cellino asked the infamous question twelve days after the draw with Derby, “Where’s Brian?”. A quick phone call would have told him all he needed to know however but it seems the relationship between our former manager and our President was fractious at best and they only communicated via post. Sixteen days later Leeds and McDermott parted ways amicably, the reason given was that Cellino wanted a head coach rather than a manager.
Without the lies from GFH and the constant belittlement from Cellino I think McDermott would have made a success of his time at Elland Road but his players didn’t perform for him and it looks like a few players were undermining him in the dressing room.
Cellino’s parting words for him were true, he really was the right manager at the wrong time, enter David Hockaday.