The Times, Sunday Times and Telegraph now seem to require registration to view articles on their sites, with the Times and Sunday Times charging readers outside the UK. The Times/Sunday Times has also moved some of the older articles into an archive which requires separate registration and requires you to pay to access the content. The Independent now charges for access to articles more than a week old.
When West Ham visited Elland Road earlier this season, we were close to the nadir of our league form and the 1-0 defeat only served to underline the fact. Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick dominated the game, the midfield supply to the strikers was terrible and the injury list seemed to be getting longer every day.
What a contrast with this game. The Hammers are in a slump, Leeds are on the sort of run in the league that has hopefully come in time to save a Champions League place, and confidence is sky high.
From the off today, Leeds attacked and never looked like taking less than the full 3 points. Danny Mills continues to look better going forward than he does in defence, but once again he produced some wicked crosses that caused all sorts of problems to the home defence. Harry Kewell left his marker clutching air and produced a cross to the back post. Ian Harte - who had been involved at the start of the move - arrived to head goalwards, and although Hislop did well to block the header, the ball ran out to Robbie Keane, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net from the six yard line.
Almost immediately things got worse for the Hammers with the departure of Kanouté. We were missing our first-choice strikers - Smithy suspended and Vidooks out with a back injury (strained picking up his pie order from Morrisons apparently) - but West Ham don't have remotely the same depth of squad as we do, and with Di Canio going through a bit of a slump, they were now relying on a goal from midfield. In the first half that was never going to happen - Nige barely got his gloves dirty, and only once did Cole come close, but even then the young prodigy's shot was a good 3 yards wide.
The second half started out much the same - and when Ian Harte's free kick was knocked towards the goal by Rio's header, the only question was whether Bakke had reached the ball before it had crossed the line, and the celebrations and TV replays seemed to indicate that our captain for the day had scored his 3rd goal in 4 league games.
We were still celebrating when Batts won the ball from Joe Cole halfway up the park. Cole immediately reacted by pushing Batty to the floor, but when the ref produced a card it was red and aimed at the Leeds player. Our old friend Graham Poll strikes again. Needless to say the retaliation (and the numerous other bits of diving, cheating and elbows) from Cole was more or less ignored. The rest of the team filled the gap left by Batty, and although Nige had to make 3 or 4 excellent saves in next half hour, West Ham couldn't break through. When Bowyer appeared to be hauled down as he struggled past Hislop to try to kill the game, we thought the numbers were about to be evened up - but the ref waved play on.
With 15 minutes remaining, the locals decided they'd had enough. By the time the board showed 2 minutes of injury time, nearly half of the seats in the Bobby Moore Stand were visible, their occupants having wandered away muttering about next season. Not the greatest performance by Leeds - but another valuable win to keep up the pressure in the chase for Europe, and another feather in DOL's cap. £18 million for Rio? A bargain if you ask me :-)
There is something strange about West Ham and my bladder. Earlier in the season at Elland Road I decided to syphon the python a few seconds before the break and no soon as i'd unzipped the old fella out of his pit than another "old chap" - Nigel Winterburn - scored an unlikely goal.
On Saturday the snake was singing to the same tune. As I closed my eyes, rocked gently back onto my heels and whistled "Marching On Together" a huge cheer from above echoed around the urinals. Startled - I jumped and splashed everywhere.
"Rio ! Rio Ferdinand" came the chant. Two shakes later I was making my way back up to my seat. I was hoping nobody would notice the lad stain. For some strange reason I stopped and started to chatting to somebody I'd never met in my life. When I eventually got to my seat another roar turned me around. In the mayhem I saw David Batty trudge up the tunnel. I'd p***ed it all and missed it all.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 23/04/2001.
Ninety minutes after the final whistle Rio Ferdinand was sitting in his car down a side street less than 100 yards from Upton Park. As West Ham fans ran eagerly towards him, each request for an autograph or picture was granted patiently and with a smile. The words David O'Leary had spoken earlier sprang to mind.
Near the dressing rooms Ferdinand once called home the Leeds manager was discussing what made his £18m signing a potentially great centre-half. It was not just talent, he said, but personality: a friendly, down-to-earthness mixed with steely desire.
"From the first time I gave an autograph I wanted to make sure people had a reason to have it," was how Ferdinand put it. "I have always tried to be the best." The number of programmes shoved through his car window meant his signature at the very least should be perfect.
Copy from The Independent of 21/04/2001.
West Ham, who according to their manager, Harry Redknapp, "hit the wall'' some weeks ago, failed to find a second wind on Marathon weekend and were left plodding along the cobbles just wanting their misery to end. There will not be many stragglers behind them when it does.
Leeds United, meanwhile, are in the final straight and running free, fatigue apparently not a factor. David O'Leary fielded nine of the players who survived a gruelling midweek workout in La Coruna, yet they looked daisy-fresh and did not even miss the other two, the club's leading scorers Alan Smith and Mark Viduka. Smith, the Premiership's leading miscreant with 14 bookings and two dismissals, was suspended, and David Batty will now be banned unless O'Leary can persuade the referee, Graham Poll, to rescind the red card he issued for a challenge on Joe Cole.
Poll, flourishing a 10th red in 21 Premiership games, indicated the use of an elbow after Batty had lunged in from behind. But the Leeds manager insisted: "It was disgraceful on the video - I don't think he made any contact. If he had, Joe Cole would have been hurt, but he was up straight away.'' Up quickly enough, in fact, to push Batty in anger and collect his team's fifth yellow card of the seven in a bad-tempered game.
Rio Ferdinand's return for the first time since his £18m transfer in November might have been expected to spread a little East End warmth around Upton Park, but though there were handshakes aplenty and a rousing reception from the Upton Park crowd, he soured the mood by scoring the visitors' second goal in the 46th minute. The simplicity of Ferdinand's far-post header from Ian Harte's free-kick brought renewed frustration for his already disgruntled former supporters and team-mates, and the tackles took on a new edge.
So, at last, did West Ham's attacking, even though Frédéric Kanouté, who should probably not have started the game, had hobbled off after only 10 minutes. "Once I lose Kanouté, I've got no strength or pace up front or a focal point for the attack,'' Redknapp complained. "It was always going to be uphill after that. If Freddy was fit, Rio would have had a game on his hands - he ran Leeds ragged when we won up there this season.''
Strange to think that soon after that game, at the start of December, West Ham were four places above Leeds and Redknapp was talking about his boys as "a top-six team''; they have subsequently won three Premiership games out of 19 as a hotch-potch of cheap foreigners were added to the combination of old heads and young legs. Neither group has wintered well.
When a little bit of good fortune was required yesterday to capitalise on Mr Poll's hard-line refereeing, Nigel Martyn brought off four excellent saves in 10 minutes midway through the second half. He stopped Michael Carrick's 20-yard drive, Kaba Diawara's overhead hook and low header, and an Igor Stimac header from a corner. It needed one of those to go in for the players to recapture some belief and the crowd to raise their voices in something other than discontent. Instead, the storm blew itself out and Lee Bowyer, outstanding again all over the pitch, was denied a third goal on the break by a clearance from Hayden Foxe.
The Australian defender had replaced John Moncur in a second substitution at half-time, playing in a midfield in which Cole and Carrick might have been on Redknapp's mind when he said: "One or two have run out of steam.'' He will certainly need to spend some more of the Ferdinand windfall this summer, even though West Ham have committed several million pounds to a new main stand. In the meantime, one point from visits to Manchester City and Middlesbrough and a home game with Southampton should see them mathematically safe from relegation.
Bowyer had begun the flowing move that brought the first goal early on. It rippled out to Batty and Harry Kewell, whose cross was headed down by Harte for Robbie Keane to bang in. "It's always tough to come to West Ham,'' O'Leary said. Not on days like this.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 22/04/2001.
What price success? On this evidence £18million goes a long, long way.
When Rio Ferdinand became the world's most expensive defender, West Ham, the club he left behind, were faring very nicely thank you while his new employers were in a rut. Now Leeds are soaring on all fronts, while his old friends from the East End have spiralled in the opposite direction.
As if to emphasise the change in fortunes, Ferdinand marked the occasion with a goal. Leeds mobbed him. At the same time you could sense thousands of claret and blue hearts sinking.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 23/04/2001.
A NINTH away win of the season serves to question what might have become of Leeds United if they had not conceded 18 points on home territory.
The kings of the road in the Premiership lie that precise margin behind the champions with four matches to play and qualification for the Champions League via a top-three finish still a burning issue.
Seeing the form side, the most exciting side and the most accomplished side in English football in action at the moment confirms that European football's most distinguished competition will be the poorer next season if Leeds fail to make it.
They embarrassed another team from another parish at Upton Park, playing on a different plane and producing a wholly superior brand of the game.
United, without Alan Smith and Mark Viduka but parading a midfield which operates like a well-oiled engine and full-backs who overlap with such uplifting pace and purpose, have peaked at the right time and are a joy to watch.
Taken literally, their place in the Champions League semi-finals makes them one of the best four teams in Europe, and though plenty would argue with that they make be struggling for conviction.
What a day for Rio Ferdinand. He returned as captain to haunt his former West Ham home with a majestic display at the back and the second goal which put this argument, or slight disagreement, beyond doubt.
There were some self-righteous words from Hammers boss Harry Redknapp, who maintained that Ferdinand had always promised to be the best defender in Europe, wasn't any better with Leeds than he had been at West Ham and that Leeds boss David O'Leary was no genius in spotting the talent, merely fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy him.
Ferdinand's third goal in five games is a ratio that many strikers would be proud of and there is some debate as to whether he scored two or three in his entire time in the east end of London.
United played nearly half the game with 10 men after David Batty was sent off following a clash with Joe Cole, but such was United's grip on the game that their safety was never in doubt.
Leeds suffered a pre-match blow when 20-goal Viduka reported hamstring problems. His absence severely reduced his chances of finishing this season as top Premiership marksman, and he was replaced up front by Harry Kewell.
Ferdinand was afforded a rapturous welcome on his return to Upton Park, where he built his reputation over a decade before joining Leeds in a world record £18m deal last November.
"Welcome home," said the announcer.
United were looking to extend their unbeaten run in the Premiership to 12, and maintain their push for a top-three finish, against a Hammers outfit who had won only two of their previous 14.
After a scrappy opening notable only for Di Canio's push in the face of Danny Mills, United were in front after eight minutes.
Bowyer fed Kewell out on the left and when he foxed Dailly and crossed to the far post Harte's downward header was smashed into the roof of the net by Robbie Keane.
West Ham lost Kanoute through injury within three minutes of the goal and Bakke did well to swat away two challenges and get into the box to lay the ball back for Kewell, but he volleyed high into the crowd.
Mills sought retribution on Di Canio and was lucky to get away with a yellow card before West Ham's first shot on goal saw Lampard aiming for the afternoon sun high in the sky.
Harte's free-kick after Dailly's indiscretions on the edge of the box flew wide of Hislop's left-hand post, but Leeds were in total control against a thoroughly disorganised outfit.
The West Ham goal had a remarkable escape from Harte's corner on the half hour, with Ferdinand and Kewell forcing deflections and Keane left in amazement when Hislop fell on his backheel from just a yard out.
Bowyer miscued his volley from Dacourt's cross as Leeds broke swiftly from a fruitless Hammers corner and Keane was way too high with his first-time effort from Kewell's laid-back pass.
Keane forced Hislop into a brave save at the expense of a corner as half-time approached and this, really, was Easy Street.
United's fears on emerging for the second half was that they would be made to pay for their missed opportunities, but they were quickly allayed when Harte's deep right-wing cross was headed home with authority by Ferdinand at the back post in the 47th minute.
But United were going to have to play the rest of the game with 10 men, for Batty immediately received his marching orders for his confrontation with Joe Cole, who was booked for retaliation.
Batty always challenges with his elbows high and this time he brushed the youngster's face as he dashed to the aid of Bakke.
Martyn was alert to Cole's shot on the swivel as West Ham came forward with new hope, and the keeper again did well to turn Carrick's stinging blast for a corner.
Further classy saves from a Diawara overhead kick and header, and a point-blank Stimac header, served to further frustrate West Ham and Lee Bowyer had a great chance to put the issue beyond doubt 12 minutes from time.
Dacourt worked wonders to create the opening and after Bowyer rounded Hislop it seemed he must score. But Foxe raced back to clear off the line.
There was a consoling word from O'Leary for his old Arsenal team-mate Nigel Winterburn at the end.
What different courses in life they have taken.