As you may recall, fallen former English Premier League giants Leeds United is a hub of weird-shittery. Latest antics: six players pulled out of the roster on the eve of a Championship match against Charlton citing injuries.
Now, that’s a four-hour coach journey from Yorkshire to London on one of Europe’s most congested major roads, in order to play a meaningless encounter between teams who can’t be promoted or relegated. Pretty much everyone can think of better things to do on a weekend.
Still, it’s notable that all six players — Mirco Antenucci, Giuseppe Bellusci, Dario Del Fabro, Marco Silvestri, Souleymane Doukara and Edgar Cani — are recent signings from Italy. Five were signed by the club’s Italian owner, Massimo Cellino. “I admit it looks weird,” he told The Sun, denying he told them to go on strike.
“This looks like a fight between manager Neil Redfearn and the ownership of the club, which is not good. From day one, I felt I was at the right club, because I am more fucked up than the fans. I am 58 and my dream is still for us to do something big here.”
Cellino, a man who does more firing than the NRA, is currently banned from making any decisions at Leeds until next month because of a conviction related to not paying tax on a yacht.
Perhaps the players truly were all injured and this was indeed a “freakish” event, as Redfearn described it. But Leeds isn’t a club with the kind of history that makes you want to believe in coincidences. And there was more internal turmoil earlier in the month when Redfearn’s assistant, Steve Thompson, suddenly lost his job.
Leeds issued a statement with the kind of defensive defiance its back line can only dream of:
“Every member of the Leeds United squad receives first-class treatment from the club’s head physio and his team at Thorp Arch. It was the medical team’s view from Thursday onwards that some first-team players would struggle to be fit for Saturday’s game at Charlton. It was declared that the six players were unavailable to travel to London on Friday, the club needs to protect its assets. The club completely stands by the internal medical recommendations that it receives.”
It’s a stance contradicted by none other than Silvestri’s dad, who says that his son and Antenucci are genuinely injured but the rest are faking it. “Apart from Marco, also Antenucci is really injured, the others have done, for what I know, a stupid protest,” Claudio Silvestri wrote on Facebook, per the Mirror.
As for the result: Charlton won 2-1; but that’s about the least interesting part of this curious tale.