Brian McDermott leaves Leeds

  • Last Updated: February 1 2014, 1:54 GMT

The proposed sale of Leeds to Italian Massimo Cellino claimed its first casualties on Friday night as manager Brian McDermott left the club, sponsors threatened to walk away and the police were called as protesting fans tried to barricade the prospective new owner inside Elland Road.

Brian McDermott: Sacked by Leeds
Brian McDermott: Sacked by Leeds

Cagliari owner Cellino is on the brink of purchasing a 75 per cent stake in the Championship club and, even though the deal has yet to be announced - or passed by the Football League - and has a rival, the 57-year-old has overseen the removal of McDermott to much fallout.

McDermott learned of the decision on Friday evening having that afternoon given a press conference during which he admitted Saturday's game with Huddersfield could be his last and that he was determined to "enjoy the occasion".

Two of the club's main sponsors, Enterprise Insurance and Flamingo Land, are understood to be withdrawing their backing in protest and the fans went one step further as they turned up late in the night to chase away taxis that Cellino had called after another round of talks.

There were also reports, unconfirmed by the club, that acting chief executive Paul Hunt had also been removed.

McDermott's position had seemingly been undermined during the week by the presence of former Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa, both at Elland Road and the club's Thorp Arch training complex.

The 44-year-old, a long-standing friend of Cellino and a former Cagliari player, is the preferred choice to replace McDermott and is likely to lead the team against Huddersfield. Cellino had wanted him to occupy such a position during the 1-1 draw with Ipswich on Tuesday but McDermott refused.

It is understood that McDermott, who joined Leeds from Reading last April, was removed after objecting to both Festa's presence and being told he would be getting a number of new Italian players.

He had a meeting with captain Ross McCormack on Friday afternoon during which this news was broken and later left the club.

Speaking briefly to BBC Leeds on Friday night he said: "I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart every Leeds fan for their support. You've been amazing."

McCormack's own future had been the subject of speculation after bids from Cardiff and West Ham were rejected and, after earlier tweeting his commitment to Leeds and McDermott, he called Sky Sports News during its deadline-day show to voice his concern.

"The club have decided to sack him unfortunately. He called me up earlier and he told me he'd gone. It's hard times at the club. I'm absolutely gutted because I had a really close relationship with the manager," he said.

Off-field business has long been the primary news source at Leeds but the events of Friday appear to be treading new ground.

Cellino's group became the leading candidate to buy the club after a consortium called Sport Capital, comprising club managing director David Haigh and businessman Andrew Flowers - the owner of Enterprise Insurance - collapsed after a two-month period of exclusivity to buy Leeds from its owners, Gulf Finance House.

GFH, a Bahrain-based investment bank, bought Leeds from Ken Bates in December 2012 and appears to favour Cellino's bid, despite interest from a Yorkshire-based consortium called Together Leeds which is headed up by former Manchester United director Mike Farnan.

Together Leeds claims to have been unable to get to the negotiating table with GFH, though it did say on Friday that it would not be going away.

Cellino's takeover still has to be ratified by the Football League and it remains to be seen if he will pass its fit-and-proper-person test owing to a previous conviction for fraud.

He was given a taste of what he could expect at Saturday's game as he tried to leave Elland Road late on Friday night.

News of his presence spread on social media and the police were called as a taxi sent to collect him was repeatedly chased away and exits were blocked.

"A number of supporters have gone down to protest and we have units from Leeds present and are monitoring the situation," a West Yorkshire police spokesman told Press Association Sport.


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