(Associated Press) — The future looks bright for new English Premier League club Leeds United.
Sophie/Leeds United Ltd. Leeds United Ltd.
For the first time since the mid-1980s, Leeds is working through the preseason without any uncertainty about its future.
It is heading into the new season on the back of a decade-long stint at the second-tier Championship after being bought by wealthy Singaporean businessman Massimo Cellino. In the end, owner Ken Bates — who at the time faced questions about whether he had the contacts, contacts and money to keep Leeds out of administration — went to great lengths to keep the club at the elite level.
It seemed the end was nigh when Bates missed a series of deadlines imposed by the Football League in March, only to be bailed out at the last minute by minority investors.
But despite the drama, Cellino seems determined to put the club back on a solid footing and he’s already turned his attention to the next stages of the club’s development.
With eight Championship-winning players — including Joe Cole, Bradley Johnson and Massimo Luongo — having returned to the club this season, Cellino now plans to add more new faces.
“I think we can give the Premier League a run for its money this year,” Cellino told the Times newspaper last month. “We’re doing everything to make the fans happy. We’re trying to make sure that the players like the city and the fans, because if they don’t like them, they won’t play for us.”
Since his takeover in February, Cellino’s front office has transformed the mood at Elland Road, with manager Brian McDermott claiming he “can’t wait to get started” in the Championship on Saturday.
“I’m excited about what’s coming up,” McDermott said. “We’ve got good players who are ready to play, we have a good management team and we’ve got the new owner. “
Despite the fact that Leeds is no longer at the foot of the table, Cellino says that is not the priority.
“Obviously you have to win but before that you have to try to make sure we improve our position, but that is secondary. It’s not the most important thing to me. Before I take a job, I want to take into account what is important to the club and the interest of the supporters.”
Cellino is now focused on finding a manager to replace McDermott, who remains in charge with the support of Cellino and his trusted advisors.
“My first job is to find a manager, but this is a top club with some of the best players,” Cellino said. “But we will discuss the manager with [director of football] David Haigh, and when the time is right I will speak to the board. It is only right that I speak to them first.”
Among potential candidates is former Queens Park Rangers boss Neil Warnock, who has already held talks with Cellino about the job. There are also reports that Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp is in the frame as is Gianfranco Zola, who has already left Bournemouth to return to West Ham as manager.
McDermott’s apparent future at Elland Road is unclear, but unlike McDermott’s predecessor at the club, Simon Grayson, the 48-year-old former Notts County manager is enjoying his new role so far.
“I am settling into things well,” McDermott said. “I have a settled house and a settled family. The players are settling in as well. We have a few who are coming into their best years.
“I’m really looking forward to the season ahead and I think it’s going to be a really good year for the club.”
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