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Its not easy watching a game live and also listening to another 2 matches on the radio at the same time, whilst juggling a balti pie and a mobile phone.
In the 1st half at The Valley, Radio 5 informed me that Charlton were battering Liverpool. The way it was going it seemed to me that Liverpool would be lucky to get even a point out of their game.
Leeds needed a goal to push themselves into the gold encrusted 3rd place spot. 3rd is no longer bronze. Its all gold-gold-gold.
After 20 minutes of Leeds pressure the crucial goal arrived. Leicester's Marshall slipped, Kewell nipped in and fired low and hard to Smith at the far post. Smith, fearless as ever slid in with the defender and keeper and forced the ball home. This was the sort of challenge that could end one's own career. Smith didn't think twice.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 21/05/2001.
If David O'Leary was distraught at missing out on third spot, he hides his feelings better than John Prescott. The Leeds manager maintained that a title challenge would be easier outside the Champions League and sounded excited about adding to his squad. The remarks of Mark Viduka afterwards must have given him even greater encouragement.
For weeks the striker's future has been in doubt. Italian and Spanish clubs are keen to sign the Australian, and the half-dressed male streaker who gestured to swap shirts with Viduka at the finish may have felt it would be the No9's last sighting at Elland Road.
He ought to have kept his pants on. Although Viduka did not guarantee he will be at Leeds next season, there were positive signs for O'Leary and the board, who hope to stave off foreign interest by negotiating an improved contract.
Copy from The Independent of 20/05/2001.
Leeds were forced to endure a finale when momentary pleasure at victory yesterday was quickly replaced by a bitter realisation that it would be followed by many months of anguish. They may well, ultimately, have been denied a Champions' League position by the miraculous and belated conversion of Liverpool into a side of admirable consistency, culminating in their 4-0 win at Charlton, but they have lived to rue points dropped at home, so profligately, against the likes of Middlesbrough and Manchester City.
It was a day when even a bronze medal would have been worth solid gold, both to the Leeds followers and the club's financiers. In the end, Alan Smith's brace and Ian Harte's free-kick proved futile, as David O'Leary's men did all that was asked of them but had to repay the long-term debt of an inauspicious Premiership start, when at one stage they descended to 13th place.
To Leeds, victory would have been worth at least the £8m for Champions' League qualification and potentially over £20m by repeating this season's feat of reaching the semi-finals, had Liverpool capitulated at Charlton. In contrast, a win for Peter Taylor's men had a bounty of a mere £600,000, the prize for climbing two places in the table. Neither came to fruition after a contest in which Leicester fought for much of the time as though they were the Anfield men's brothers-in-arms until finally yielding the points which could have been so crucial to Leeds.
O'Leary reflected: "My goal now is to win the Premiership next season. I feel that we have a better chance of doing it now that we're not in the Champions' League. But, being honest, I'd prefer to be in that competition again and take my chances with the title."
For the home supporters, it was an afternoon to have a radio glued to an ear to relay events from south-east London, and a steady nerve. The Leeds fans were well aware that Leicester, having broken the spell of a club record of nine successive defeats, were quite capable of thwarting their hosts' European ambitions, regardless of Liverpool's fortunes. So it transpired, in a first half governed by O'Leary's men, but in which Leicester demonstrated that they were by no means demob-happy.
For a time it appeared as though Leeds' lack of power and direction in the air would mean that all the excellent approach work would be in vain. Smith, Mark Viduka and the club's player of the year, Lee Bowyer, all headed centres within range of Tim Flowers. The Leicester goalkeeper was also saved low down from a raking shot by Dominic Matteo.
But Leeds struck just before the half hour with the goal their invention merited. Harry Kewell dispossessed Ian Marshall and crossed low from the left and, as Callum Davidson challenged with Smith at the far post, it was the Leeds and probably soon-to-be England striker who applied the final touch. It appeared likely that his team would proceed to put the issue beyond Leicester, but only five minutes later Andrew Impey's cross found Junior Lewis, whose header bounced down off the Leeds bar, struck Rio Ferdinand's knee and crossed the line.
New life was breathed into a rather subdued contest. Davidson was cautioned for a foul by referee David Elleray, who was officiating in his final Premiership game, and Harte then roused the crowd by shooting wide with a trademark attempt from outside the area. Leeds were unfortunate not to gain further reward for their supremacy when Eirik Bakke and Smith combined well before fashioning an opening for Viduka. Flowers took the sting out of his shot, but the ball rolled on until, frustratingly for Leeds, it hit the post and was cleared by Marshall.
With the knowledge that Liverpool were drawing 0-0 at half-time, O'Leary's men took the field after the interval bent on victory and eyes ablaze. Bowyer shot through a crowded goalmouth, but Flowers was again well placed, while Kewell blazed high and then wide, and finally headed over. Then Olivier Dacourt's lovely, teasing cross found Viduka at the far post, but the Australian headed against it, before the Frenchman himself produced a spectacular, curling effort from wide on left. Again the ball hit woodwork, this time the bar.
By now, Liverpool were coasting to victory at The Valley, but Leeds continued to press diligently and, with 13 minutes remaining, a superb Harte free-kick eluded Flowers. For good measure, Bowyer's ball through to Smith, which the striker converted for his 17th goal of a mercurial season, ensured that there was no way back for Leicester.
The Foxes' faithful must hope that, next season, their manager's contribution to the England cause does not continue to be accompanied by such a decline as Leicester experienced recently, although Taylor maintained: "I've taken a lot of stick because of the England situation, but I can't blame Sven [Goran Eriksson] for the results we've had. It doesn't get in the way."
While Taylor joins up with England, O'Leary will be looking forward to attending the US Open with his friend Lee Westwood this summer - and no doubt hoping he doesn't miss the cut again next season.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 20/05/2001.
It was one heck of a ride, now Leeds's Champions League number is up. At the end of a long, long season, 2000-2001 belongs to Liverpool. Demotion to the Uefa Cup it is, then. Maybe David O'Leary was half-right after all. Maybe this is a young team which still has lessons to learn.
But they could have done little more in the season's climax - but for a sequence of nine wins from their last 11 games they wouldn't have been in the position to be hoping for helping hands on the last day of the season to sneak into the top three. There was a time not too long ago when Leeds would have been content to qualify for the Inter Toto Cup. Surging back up to within a point of re-qualification for the Champions League, coupled with an unforgettable European odyssey this time around, was recognised with a euphoric lap of honour.
That said, it will be hard for this year's excitable Champions League semi-finalists to accept the Uefa Cup next time around. The competition they had graced in such mesmerising style hung heavy in the Yorkshire air. After an 18-match adventure which took in the marvels of Milan, Barcelona, Rome, Madrid and Valencia amongst others, Leeds's desperation to book next season's Champions League ticket was palpable.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 21/05/2001.
UNITED may have missed out on their Champions League dream, but there was no sense of failure inside a packed Elland Road.
As referee David Elleray blew time on this most extraordinary and tiring season there was more a feeling of relief than disappointment.
And in no small measure there was a satisfying contentment among the fans, players and management that this Leeds United side would be back even stronger come August.
It is unimaginable that David O'Leary's side will not be challenging for the Premiership title next season.
Alex Ferguson, or whoever is in charge of the red machine, had better watch out because this United side is growing into something special.
They have moulded and forged together with a unique team spirit against the back-drop of immense difficulty and there is no doubt they will come back after the summer break hungry for success.
Dead and buried at Christmas they have shown nothing but championship form in the New Year and anything like this again come August will no doubt set them on their way to toppling their Lancastrian rivals.
Perhaps it is fate then that next year will be the 10th anniversary of the last time United lifted the championship. What odds on O'Leary's class of 2001/2002 matching that feat of Howard Wilkinson's boys of 1991/1992?
Saturday's game against Leicester never really lived up to the pre-match hype. Despite Liverpool taking until the second half of their clash at Charlton to stamp their authority, there always seemed an air of inevitability about proceedings.
Liverpool, after their magnificent season, almost seemed destined for that Champions League place. And who is to say it is a bad thing for United to miss out on the elite European competition this time around?
The UEFA Cup and a tilt at the Premiership will surely be enough to satisfy any Leeds fan. Roll on August.
David O'Leary certainly thinks it could be a blessing in disguise.
"I do feel if you are really going to give it a crack then this is a good chance for us," he said. "If you were to ask me our goal then it is to be in contention, at least, for the Premiership title. I feel that we have a better chance of doing so by not being in the Champions League.
"On the other hand, contradicting myself a bit, I would rather be standing here with a Champions League spot in our hands."
United reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup last time around. Only the tragedy off the field got in their way of a final spot. It is almost as if United have some unfinished business in that particular tournament.
And this time around the United squad will be stronger as O'Leary looks to add to his playing options.
"We came very close to the UEFA Cup last time and I doubt playing cup games on a Thursday and league games on Sunday will hamper us," he said.
"We blew up in the league at the end of our UEFA Cup run last year because we did not have the quality in depth in the squad. Now we will look to strengthen our squad for the new campaign.
"With a few additions we will be ready to mount a challenge for both the UEFA Cup and the Premiership title."
One, two or maybe even three new players will have the United fans licking their lips in anticipation.
Leeds sent them off into the summer with a 3-1 victory on Saturday, but it was never a classic as they struggled to kill off a dogged Leicester side.
They were always in control, even if it did take them until the 76th minute to complete the victory, but the size of the task ahead always seemed to be on their minds as they performed in front of a fidgety crowd.
United started strongly with Alan Smith putting a header straight at Tim Flowers and Dominic Matteo seeing a low drive well saved by the former England keeper.
Flowers also needed to be alert in the 22nd minute as he arched back to flick a Rio Ferdinand header over the bar.
Leicester, complete with former United trainee Matthew Jones in their squad, offered little up front despite Dean Sturridge's deflected shot which flashed past Nigel Martyn's post.
Smith, who netted a double in the opening game of the season against Everton at Elland Road, then notched the opener and his first of the game.
Harry Kewell, who had celebrated becoming a father the day before, robbed the dithering Lee Marshall and crossed low to the back post where Callum Davidson's attempted clearance struck the sliding Smith and the ball ended up in the net.
Less than a week earlier Leeds fans had enjoyed a 6-1 rout of Bradford, but there was to be no repeat this time as Leicester hit back inside five minutes - even if it was down to a huge slice of luck.
Andy Impey's cross was met by the powerful header of Junior Lewis, the effort came crashing back down off the bar and hit the stunned Ferdinand on the knee and rebounded into the net.
United pressed to regain the lead as they stepped up a gear. One brilliant move saw Kewell, Bakke and Smith link well before Viduka twisted and turned and shot low across Flowers. The Leicester keeper just got a hand to the ball and touched it onto the post.
The pressure continued in the second half as Kewell fired over the bar and then sliced an effort wide.
Olivier Dacourt was marking his call-up to the French squad with a typically-outstanding display in the midfield and he unlocked the defence with a great run which resulted in a cross to the far post and Viduka hitting the woodwork for a second time.
Dacourt then curled a beauty against the bar from 25 yards before United finally got the goal they deserved.
Frustration had started to seep into their play at the lack of a goal. However, when Danny Mills was tripped 30 yards from goal and Leicester's Trevor Benjamin failed to withdraw in time, Elleray moved the kick forward 10 yards and free-kick specialist Ian Harte said thank-you very much.
His curling effort uncorked the pressure and Elland Road was free to celebrate.
Smith capped off a fine individual season by slotting home the third late on and United fans went home wishing the new campaign could start tomorrow.