Sackings, abusive phone calls at 2am, negative social media and unpaid players: Brian McDermott reflects on his spell as Leeds United manager

Brian McDermott and Massimo Cellino at Leeds United
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Brian McDermott has reflected on a tumultuous 2013/14 campaign in charge of Leeds United, revealing what it was like behind-the-scenes at Elland Road during his single season in charge.

With Leeds in the play-off places at Christmas, fans were cautiously optimistic that McDermott would be able to secure Premier League football at the club once again after more than a decade away. 

However, when GFH Capital, who had only owned the club for a year, announced soon after they they couldn't finance Leeds anymore, the off-field drama took hold and soon unravelled performances on the pitch. 

Italian entrepreneur Massimo Cellino, who immediately fell foul of the FA's fit and proper persons test due to a past criminal conviction, brought the club, creating chaos among an already turbulent situation, as McDermott highlights to FourFourTwo. 

"Leeds were in the process of being taken over by Massimo Cellino," McDermott explains. "He sacked me on January 31, 2014, then I was reinstated a few days later. 

"We went on a very poor run of results. Players didn’t get paid, I didn’t get paid, and there was uncertainty around the place. All of this stuff was going on and I was trying to manage it as well as what was happening on the pitch – story after story after story, but none of it was football. 

"It was an awful situation for the Leeds fans and coaching staff – I struggled and couldn’t get a result. I received abusive messages and phone calls at 2am. That was a minority of people, because most Leeds fans were great to me."

The 62-year-old does understand the feeling among supporters, though. After all, Leeds finished in a disappointing 15th in the Championship in the 2013/14 season. 

"I get why people were cross: we were losing at home and I totally understand that it’s the nature of the beast. The fans at Reading and Leeds were always very good generally, but there was the social media stuff, too. I began to read that, which became a problem. If I could give any advice to any young coach, it would be to not read about yourself – good, bad or indifferent. Just leave it alone, please.

"It’s a strange thing, like how you know to never pick up someone’s diary, because if you do, you might end up with a bash in the face. If you’re reading the comments section about yourself, you’re going to get that punch in the face – and then you read it and read it again.

"You’re thinking, ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself through this?’ I’m sure I wasn’t the only one doing that, especially younger managers and players – you can’t tell me they don’t read stuff about themselves. They do, and I believe it affects them. You always pick up on the bad stuff: even if there are 99 good comments, it’s the one bad comment that gets you, as you want to respond to it and can’t."

Eventually, Cellino parted company with McDermott, ending a pretty torrid time for the former boss in Yorkshire. However, the new president still managed to slight his outgoing manager, questioning his decision to take a holiday and asking, "who's managing this club? Brian, where's Brian?".

"I was sacked by Cellino in the summer," McDermott adds. "It wasn’t a surprise, because he’d sacked me in January. I knew I was finished because if he was going to sack me once, he’d do it again."

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future. 

With contributions from