By Alex Stevens

Peter Lorimer has launched a staunch defence of controversial Leeds owner Massimo Cellino and claimed he is the “best option” the club have in the circumstances.

The Italian has been the target of huge criticism from supporters during his two-year reign, which has included a series of court cases and run-ins with the authorities that have shed the club in a poor light.

Cellino has also fired five managers and appears to be on the verge of sacking a sixth in Steve Evans, whose position hangs by a thread following a season that ended in a 13th place Championship finish.

The owner claimed last week that he wished he had never bought Leeds and is willing to sell if he can find a buyer.

However, Leeds legend Lorimer believes Cellino does not deserve all the criticism that comes his way.

“In the past few weeks we’ve had the refund offer on season tickets and indications that he’s going to ‘go for it’ this summer,” Lorimer told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“But if I was him then I think I’d be feeling demoralised too. He’s in the same boat as Mike Ashley at Newcastle and Randy Lerner at Aston Villa. Say what you like about these guys but over time they’ve put plenty of their own personal wealth into the clubs they own. It’s gone wrong for them and when that happens you’re always going to cop for some flak, but it must be tough to see so little appreciation of the investment you’ve made.

“Personal investment at Leeds doesn’t come from anyone other than Cellino. No-one else on the board of directors is putting any money in and the accounts show that the cash spent by him so far is not inconsiderable. Far from it in fact.”

Lorimer made it clear that Cellino has underestimated the quality of the Championship by overseeing a recruitment policy which has included players from Serie B who are unsuited to the more demanding second tier of English football.

But the former Leeds midfielder is not convinced there are better, richer owners willing to take over the club from Cellino.

“Over the past two years he’s got things wrong and he’s done things that he shouldn’t have done,” Lorimer told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “Yes, he’s deserved some of the criticism that’s come his way. But I’ve felt for a while that there’s a desire among some to chase him out of the club at every turn. To me, Cellino is our best option in the circumstances. What is the alternative?

“I know people have this idea of finding better owners who are filthy rich or perfect in every way, but I don’t believe there’s a queue of people waiting to take Leeds off his hands. I don’t believe there’s a queue of people rich enough to do it.

“I go around the country every weekend, I speak to people from the Football League and other clubs and they all say the same thing to me – there are fewer and fewer individuals out there who want to buy a football club.”

In other Leeds news, another club legend Eddie Gray has given a surprise verdict on the identity of the manager next season.