Surviving Cellino – the rise of Leeds United’s Garry Monk

2 years. 6 managers. The average number of games that a manager survives? 19. Massimo Cellino loves firing managers so much that he issued orders to sack Brian McDermott before he had even become the owner of Leeds. In Italy they call him Il mangia-allenatori, “The Manager Eater” . In total he went through 36 managers in 22 years as owner of Cagliari. It begs the question; who in their right mind would want to work for Cellino?

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino

Early Warning Signs

The Football League rejected Cellino’s first bid to become owner as he didn’t pass their fit and proper test. Not a great start, but Leeds fans were so desperate for change that a maverick, Italian owner, who ‘spoke his mind’ didn’t seem so bad. Donald Trump, anyone? Cellino appealed to the supporters by saying that they were:

tired of eating shit and shutting their mouths. They accept me with enthusiasm and that gives me a lot of responsibility. I’m the richest man in the world with these fans and I can challenge anyone, everyone.

He stopped just short of promising to build a wall around Elland Road. Cellino eventually got his way and took over the club towards the end of the 2013-2014 season.

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino


After attempting to fire Brian McDermott before he even got the keys to Elland Road, it wasn’t the greatest surprise to see him getting sacked in the summer. After the bravado and wild claims, fans were expecting a world class managerial appointment. Who did Cellino go for? Dave Hockaday. Who, you may ask? Well he was the former manager of Forest Green Rovers, before getting sacked by the Conference Premier side. Hockaday’s wages were rumored to be around 15% of McDermott’s, so fans were suspicious to say the least.

Hockaday lasted 6 games. 2 wins and 4 defeats, before Cellino swung his axe. That was 6 games in to a 2 year contract. It could surely only get better. Next up was  Darko Milanič. The Slovenian coach had a far better pedigree than Hockaday. He had managed in leagues across Europe, so was expected to last at least last a couple of months. His tenure? 6 games as well. 3 draws, 3 losses and zero wins. Beaten by ‘The Hock’. Once again a 2 year contract went unfulfilled.

Dave Hockaday
Dave Hockaday

Neil Redfearn must have had serious concerns about taking the manager’s job. A couple of stints in the caretaker role (there were many opportunities)  had given him an idea of what the position would be like. He signed a 12 month contract, perhaps wisely avoiding the cursed 2 year deal. In December, Redfearn would then experience a stroke of luck when the Football League sensationally disqualified Cellino from running the club. This was based on a guilty verdict for tax evasion in an Italian Court. For Redfeard, this was perhaps a ‘stay of execution’.

Cellino was reinstated by the Football League on the 2nd of May, 2015. 18 days later, Redfearn was sacked. Cellino had called Redfearn ‘weak’ and a ‘baby’ with an interview with the Daily Mirror before deciding to appoint Uwe Rosler to the role of coach. Rosler had considerable experience managing in England after stints with Wigan and Brentford. Expectations were high. Rosler lasted an incredible 12 games in charge before getting sacked.

Uwe Rosler
Uwe Rosler

On the same day Rosler was sacked, Cellino appointed Steve Evans to the role of head coach. Evans would strike it lucky, like Redfearn, when Celllino was once again disqualified. This distracted Cellino, who had began to lose interest in the Leeds project. Evans guided the Yorkshire club to a mid-table finish.In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Cellino said that he felt Evans ‘talks too much’ and that he had to learn to ‘shut his mouth’. Not surprisingly, Evans was sacked at the end of the season.


Many managers were linked to the Elland Road position. Even with an unpredictable, trigger-happy owner, Leeds is still a massive club. Karl Robinson of MK Dons and Darrell Clarke of Bristol Rovers both turned down the advances of Cellino. Meanwhile, after 7 months out of work, Garry Monk was looking around for a suitable role.

Leeds United's Garry Monk
Leeds United’s Garry Monk

In Monk’s first full season as Swansea manager, he guided the club to their best-ever Premier League finish of 8th, earning a record points tally to boot. He was perhaps unfairly sacked in December, 2015, after a poor run of results. The club sat in 15th place. For a while, it had seemed that Monk was close to being the next English manager-in-waiting. Now he had to rebuild.

When Monk decided to take on the Leeds job, many critics thought that he had lost his marbles. There was surely a better way to get back in to management? Monk was undeterred and immediately got to work. 18 players would come through the Elland Road door on transfers and loans during the summer, while 17 exited the club. Monk worked wonders with a very limited budgeted, primarily reinvesting the 7 million they received from Bournemouth for Lewis Cook.



The dreaded 6 game marker. Was Monk to suffer the same fate as Hockaday and Milanič? 1 point from his first 3 Championship games was not the start he wanted. Cellino must have been sharpening his knives. However, Leeds started to improve and had a successful September with 3 wins out of 6 games. The 12 game marker NOW loomed.


October brought an impressive 10 points from 5 games. Monk has instilled a level of confidence that hadn’t been seen at Leeds since Peter Risdale spent a few grand on an aquarium. However, this was the right sort of confidence, not the Seth Johnson type.

Leeds currently sit 9th in the table, only 1 point off the play-off spots. Monk has managed an  inspirational 19 games in charge across all competitions, with a 47.4% win rate. It was a calculated risk by Monk, but the right one it seems. He was fully aware of Cellino’s reputation when signing up:

“I can honestly tell you that I don’t worry about that. If you worry about all of that, you’ll never take a job anywhere and I want to be challenged. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the country”

Leeds United's Garry Monk
Leeds United’s Garry Monk

After 12 relatively steady years with Swansea, he chose a different sort of challenge, a crazy one. His stock is rising so fast that even if Cellino pushes the red button, at least Monk will have plenty of other suitors. There’s also the enticing opportunity to bring Leeds back to the Premier League after a 12 year absence. While Cellino’s antics have brought ridicule by opposition fans, Monk’s professionalism is positively changing the club. Perhaps Monk can even eventually change the meaning of ‘doing a Leeds’ to something more suitable than a club imploding?

It’s early days for Garry Monk, but what do you think? Is he destined for greatness at Elland Road?


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