It was rumored for months now, and had been in the works, but all Leeds United fans were probably waiting until the ink was dry before getting too worked up about it. Massimo Cellino has finally sold his shares in the club to Andrea Radrizzani and his time at the head of United is thankfully, finally, and joyously, over.
The rollercoaster of being a Leeds fan comes with the expectation that the owners be a bit mad. After all, after Ken Bates, Peter Ridsdale, and Gulf Finance House, how bad could this Italian be? He’d owned a football club before, at least, right?
Cellino’s time at Elland Road will likely not be remembered fondly, but the past few owners haven’t exactly left on the greatest of terms either. He came aboard in 2014 and has left three seasons and a barely a sniff of the playoffs later. His ownership provided enough fodder for a novel or a screenplay, but either would likely struggle to get approved because of the bizarreness and chaos of his behavior. That’s crazy, the editor would say, no one acts like that. And yet Leeds fans lived the chaos for three seasons, and now hope that a new owner, Radrizzani, will succeed where so many before him have proclaimed that everything is wonderful to the cheers of fans before everything goes all wrong.
Something about football attracts the bizarre and boastful owners, those who crave the spotlight while abhorring criticism. The landscape of football below the Premier League is littered with the tattered shells of formerly great clubs, lurking in the memories of past glory while former owners give interviews on Sky TV about how they feel so bad for the fans and that no one could have foreseen the destruction that occurred. The fans at Leyton Orient are some of the latest victims of an owner’s ego, while Nottingham Forest have greeted their new owner as a savior after another formerly great club narrowly avoided another relegation. Plastic pigs have been thrown onto the pitch by fans from Charlton Athletic and Coventry City in protest, while Blackburn fans face League 1 football next year.
Time will tell if Radrizzani is the real deal, and while fans might celebrate his ownership, a lingering doubt remains. But have hope, for every Nottingham Forest, Notts County or Leyton Orient, there are the tales of Brighton & Hove Albion, who were minutes away from sure extinction 20 years ago, making the Premier League or AFC Bournemouth, an unglamorous club that has punched above its weight in the Premier League for three years now, after barely being allowed to compete in League 2 due to questionable finances in the 2008-09 season.
So celebrate today, as Garry Monk, Chris Wood, and the rest of the team takes a giant step towards the Premier League next season. The manager is signed up for another season, and while the team just barely missed out on the playoffs this year, next year might bring promotion. We hope.