Massimo Cellino is many things to Leeds United fans. He is a lightning rod for everything that frustrates us about football. He is #TimeToGoMassimo. He sells our best players and dodges paying tax. He makes every conceivable mistake over a 24-month period. He inspires hope with the recruitment of a thirty-something manger. And best of all, he is somebody who can be called diabolically insane, then credited, in the space of 500 words, just last week here on this blog. Confused yet?
He is remarkably still the owner of our football club, and now, I am left drooling over promotion promises as a new season draws near.
The upcoming 2016-17 campaign is the most important for Leeds United this decade. Because, for as much as Cellino has disappointed us, he has allowed hope to fester as we sit 19 days away from a trip to QPR. And in my best Andy Dufresne voice, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.
Hope allows us to dream of keeping Lewis Cook, despite the absurdity of him playing for a club as bereft of success as ours. It allows us to watch YouTube videos of Garry Monk lifting trophies for Swansea and dream of something similar. And it makes me spend $90 Australian Dollars on a sexy new away kit because I get flashbacks of Mark Viduka sinking Arsenal.
But hope also creates expectations, which in turn brings pressure to a football club that hasn't sniffed the Premier League in the longest time. And the guaranteed by-product of pressure is action - either positive or cataclysmic. Could it be any other way at Elland Road?
Something is brewing in Yorkshire, and I have a sneaking suspicion Cellino’s reputation is 46 league games away from being sealed. Johnny Wakefield wrote the following last Monday, and I 100% agree with the sentiment:
Whatever the case, I hope it's a make-or-break year for the controversial owner. Let's go up, or let's get him out. I'm hoping it's the former, and we're celebrating promotion instead of dealing with drama.
But Johnny is nicer than me, and his thoughts are the PG version of mine. It’s time for Cellino to put up or shut up. Plain and simple. His footballing expedition is at the crossroads.
Truth be told, it might too complimentary to even say it’s at the crossroads. What’s one step up from life support? Because everything the man had done prior to this offseason made him moronic in my eyes. But the wheel has slowly been turning over the past two months.
If we park the Lewis Cook departure to the side for a moment (more on this in minute), I cannot argue with a single move made since we saw Steve Evans crying in May.
The combination of each new signing - Kemar Roofe, Marcus Antonsson, Robert Green, Matt Grimes, Kyle Bartley, Hadi Sacko, Garry Monk, Pep Clotet - excites me more than those who have departed. Once again, the simplicity of signing promising footballing minds, finding attacking options and a juicy away kit creates hope.
Make no mistake, losing Cook is a shot to the heart. He is the next big thing of English football, and as I wrote back in April, he was ours. A knight in shining armour who could lead the renaissance of our football club. But he is too good for the current version of Leeds United. We must admit that to ourselves.
A.F.C. Bournemouth is a better footballing destination than Leeds United in 2016. Let that sink in for a moment. As depressing as it sounds, it the undeniable truth. If I were in the shoes of Cook, I would have pushed to leave months ago. The circus lifestyle is only sustainable for so long.
His departure speaks to what we have become. Not just under Cellino, but under the limitations of financial implosions, multiple relegation seasons and yes, even the guidance Ken Bates.
Change is needed, you already knew that. And Cellino has been afforded one last chance to change us for the better.
Is it insane to trust the man with anything at this point? Maybe. Am I a sucker for believing he can oversee the next great Leeds United side? Most definitely, but I don’t see another way forward as at July 18, 2016.
But just ask yourself this question: what if QPR, Fulham or Blackburn Rovers had signed Monk and enjoyed the offseason United has just completed? How would you rate their moves? I, for one, would be throwing praise their way and thinking jealously about when my football club could recruit a manager like that.
Owners can learn, evolve and change for the better. Joe Lacob was hated by the state of California in 2012, but is now beloved for breaking a Championship drought with the NBA's Golden State Warriors. He is still, similarly, a smug man who ignores the karma gods, but everything bad is forgotten because his sporting club wins.
The cross sport comparison isn't perfect, but the point remains. If Monk leads us into the Premier League, the Cellino missteps will be secondary to this simple fact: WE WOULD BE IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE!!!
But Cellino is out of chances, and this season is a referendum on his dictatorship.
When the end of May arrives, there are only two options for my feelings about our Italian leader: either #WeAreGoingUp or #TimeToGoMassimo.
Or to steal (and ruin) another quote from Shawshank, it’s time for Cellino to get busy winning, or get busy packing.
We don’t need a cup run that inevitably ends in the round of 16. We don’t need four game winning streaks that highlight a long English winter. We simply cannot stand another off-field controversy. We just need a successful football side; sounds simple doesn't it?
For all of the misery we have endured on this Cellino mystery ride, he is still the owner of Leeds United. His footballing moment of truth is present and I cannot wait. The stimulus for change has arrived, and action will follow. Let’s just hope there are happy days ahead at Elland Road.