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just back from murkyside and a pleasant day accompanying Olof, the swedish JOTL.
Olof has come over to research some footie journalism for his paper and a magazine so he had a press pass for today's game, which meant that I hung around for half an hour or so after the game, while Olof had a chat to the players about the game.
I'm really glad that I did this because it gave me a few opportunities for brief exchanges with people I would not normally get the chance to talk to. Please read on...
As already revealed by Betty Boocock, the Leeds support was swelled by the presence of Carl Cort and Kieron Dyer, both obviously on a dress-down Saturday - jeans and jerkins the order of the day, no Prada or Armani today.
I walked alongside Kieron and Carl as they made their way to the reception after the game. I asked Kieron if he had enjoyed the game and if he fancied being part of the team - response to the first part was forthcoming, an answer to the second part of my question was left hanging.
Dyer was greeted by several Leeds fans and one asked him "are you signing for us then, Kieron?" - response was a non-commital shrug. He happily posed for photographs with Leeds fans and was free with his time for autographs. Hmm... obviously keeping his options open.
Remember, you heard it hear first, Kieron Dyer did not deny signing for Leeds! He is a very slightly-built guy with a pronounced limp, a bit like Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, I don't know how he plays football with such an obvious physical affliction.
So, the two Toon favourites disappeared into the bowels of the plush Anfield hospitality. Probably making it a proper Leeds day out by going to Rio's opening night later on I expect.
I passed on the news of this encounter to Monsieur Boocock toute-bloody-suite by cellphone (none of your Vodafone rubbish). While I was shooting the breeze with John-Boy, one of my personal favourites came striding out - Bernard Hill, looking even more like Yosser Hughes at his most manic. Or it might have been Souness? No, it was definitely Bernard Hill. I thought about asking him for his autograph, pretending I thought he was Souness but he is a big lad and he didn't look in the mood for any cheerful banter. Great actor.
Ten minutes or so later, next out of the trap was our very own Mr Grimsdale. Brief exchange as follows:
Dunderhead: Good game Peter?
Olof re-appeared at this point to make sure that I was all right waiting, and to check if the team had gone yet 'cause he wanted a chat with Eirik Bakke. We then established where the team coach would be positioned and waited for the players. Memories of long waits in the car park at Elland Road, waiting for Billy's autograph many, many moons ago.
Eventually, the team bus backed into the driveway and the players started coming out. Danny Mills, merseyside favourite, was obviously trying to keep a low profile in case he got himself booked again for having a sloppy tie-knot, or dirty shoes. Harry Kewell, superstar, a legend in his own lunchtime, strode purposely past as many importunate autograph hunters as possbile. Perhaps the guy had his hands full, perhaps he didn't really want to mingle with real people. Who knows?
Bakke appeared and started signing autographs. Olof engaged him in a scandanavian tongue (ooer missus)to try and set up an interview with Eirik over the next couple of days. Our own little viking was being a bit evasive, saying that he had a lot on (i.e. he was going on the lash with the rest of the team at Rio's new bar which opens tonight) Olof offered him a copy of the swedish footy magazine, which Eirik thought about taking until he realised it was in Swedish - at which point he started gently playing the Noggy/ Swede rivalry thing but to be honest I thought that Eirik was obviously knackered after another hard game and just wanted to get on the bus and play pokemon with McPhrail and Wilcox.
The pieman was next out and was genuinely pleased that so many people wanted his autograph. He duly obliged each and every one. Someone had mentioned to me the other night on the Leicester match IRC that it was Viduka's birthday on October 9th, the same as my own. I asked him if it was his birthday last Tuesday and he confirmed it was. So there you go, the Leeds number 9 shares his birthday with Dunderhead. Some unkind observers may feel that we also share a similar physique, appetite, mobility and general level of fitness. I couldn't possibly comment. Very amiable guy, though. Probably too nice for the job he has to do.
Still, we already have a striker with attitude - Smiffy.
He too worked his way right along the line of pen-wavers and he seemed to protect them from any feelings of personal boredom or frustration on his part. I had a very quick exchange with Rothwell's finest:
Dunderhead: it's a pity that you weren't given the last ten minutes today
So that's what you miss when you rush away straight from the game to the pub. Maybe I'll do it again sometime.
After a day long jaunt to East Anglia last time out, a quick trip to Liverpool, home of the over sensitive "comedians". Leeds fans are twice as funny. Liverpool fans are twice as quiet.
This was, for the non-neutral, an exciting game - not sure how it will have come across to the neutral 'cos it wasn't exactly overflowing with chances, especially in the first half.
Last season, Leeds played Liverpool off the field in the first half at Anfield, this season it was far more even. Last year we sang Liverpool fans off the park and although many of the favourites came back there was one memorable mutation of the "We've got Dom Matteo, you've got our stereos" chant. Every time Phil Thompson got up "We've got Dom Matteo, you've got Pinnochio" rang around Anfield. Poor big nosed bastard!
On the field, Danny Mills is starting to get the sort of reputation that means he probably won't win most liked player in the Premiership this year. Just about every ground he goes to these days he seems to end up winding the fans up and getting booed. This time, for a bizarre incident where a Liverpool player went down under a challenge and everyone stopped, Leeds and Liverpool players alike. The ref then waved play on, so DMIFB decided he'd carry on rather than kick the ball into touch. He scarpered towards the penalty area and was brought down as most of the Liverpool players stood and watched. If Harte's free kick'd been on target there'd have been a riot according to a couple of whinging Scousers on the way out. Good job half time was just round the corner as we had to tell all the Liverpool fans to "Calm down, calm down". When the Liverpool fans got really pissed off at Mills they had "Who the fcking hell are you" chanted at them, which really offended some of them. We were only having a bit of a laff... All this after Mills had been booked in the first couple of minutes for an incredibly innocuous looking challenge (although there might have been shirt pulling going on he [I] reluctantly admitted).
Liverpool were poor in the first half. Heskey looked like the useless lump he is and although we hadn't created a whole lot, after Rio crossed after a half cleared corner, McAllister headed nicely to Kewell who thumped the ball through a crowded area into the corner of the net and we were off and running.
The second half was a whole lot better and more open. Maureen came on for Heskey at HT and immediately made a difference. Liverpool strung a few passes together and looked like they might threaten the Leeds goal, although they were limited to long range chances on the whole. DMIFB looked like he'd get sent off at any moment for a second bookable offence.
With twenty minutes or so to go, Fowler, who had shown moments of skill and periods of looking totally off the pace, found the ball at his feet just in the area on the left hand side. He twisted and chipped a brilliant shot that immediately had Nige in trouble. It looked like it was going to just dip in the net, but it hit the bar and came out. Phew. But with Mige on the floor and no-one close enough to stop him, Danny-Murphy's-fcuking-average, headed the ball into an empty net. Finally the Liverpool fans woke up and were fcuking loud!
Immediately afterwards a long ball over the top to Keane was nicely controlled by him and despite Hyypia all but wrestling Keane to the ground, Keane got a shot on target that went between Dudek's legs and squirmed past the post. So, so close. Kewell made a fantastic, mazy run past about forty-five Liverpool players and struck just wide from the edge of the box; then, after a cross to Viduka, he nodded back to Bowyer who struck a fine shot millimetres over the bar - we could have stolen it at the end.
We'd have settled for a draw before hand, but we were probably the better team and a victory wouldn't have flattered us. Shame about the other big teams winning, but good to be still five points ahead of Liverpool. Bring on Chelsea. Twice.
If David O'Leary can't be arsed using his subs then I cant be arsed writing a report.
We threw this game away. After an hour all the signs were there that Liverpool were winning the midfield and Batty would have been the ideal man to have sewn it up.
Also why Smith didn't have a run out I'll never know. It defies all logic to me. Just how badly does Viduka have to play in order to be subbed ?
Copy from Football Unlimited of 15/10/2001.
In the end, a hard-fought game at the pinnacle of the Premiership was put into the shadows here on Saturday.
News of Gérard Houllier's critical condition dampened an atmosphere of relief on Merseyside after Liverpool had rallied from pathetic to parity. That sentiment quickly reverted to concern on the final whistle.
In truth, the scrappy stalemate played out here summed up much that is infuriating for managers. The coaches were exasperated by a whistle-happy referee and some astonishingly slapdash passing from their sides. With the pressure to succeed increasing daily, the dug-outs must have felt utterly impotent while their charges inexplicably floundered.
Copy from The Independent of 13/10/2001.
On such a day, recording the minutiae of what turned out to be a mostly forgettable contest becomes almost superfluous. Dubious refereeing decisions, deflected goals and one team's disappointment at missing out on three points, in this case the Premiership leaders Leeds, is rendered virtually irrelevant.
Even as we witnessed Liverpool stage a bold second-half revival, there was a significant presence missing: the raincoated figure of Gérard Houllier exhorting his team with all those Gallic gestures that have become so familiar. When the reasons for his absence became apparent, it will have evoked, for many, memories of the fate of Jock Stein, who died of a heart attack during a Scotland game at Ninian Park. Or, more recently, Joe Kinnear, who was taken ill before a Wimbledon contest at Sheffield Wednesday.
Last night, Houllier was undergoing surgery and will obviously not travel with his squad to Ukraine for Tuesday's Champions' League game against Dynamo Kiev. His illness will inevitably create uncertainty about his managerial career, though if he wishes to seek inspiration he will look towards the former Anfield captain Graeme Souness, now manager of Blackburn, who has recovered from serious heart surgery.
One of the Frenchman's friends in the game, the Leeds manager David O'Leary, revealed that the pressures of the game had been a source of conversation between the pair beforehand. "Funnily enough, we had been having a laugh and a joke about our ages," O'Leary recalled. "Gérard said to me: 'I'll tell you something. This game has changed. Keeping 20 very rich, young people happy all the time - that can be bad for your health'. He looked absolutely fine then and this has shocked me. I just hope he's fine. He's a lovely man and a lovely person, with a lovely wife. I'm sure he'll make a speedy recovery."
The half-time team-talk which Houllier was able to issue before suffering chest pains had followed one of Liverpool's most indifferent periods of play all season. The Worthington Cup defeat by Grimsby had been one thing; this, if anything, was grimmer. In the first half, Leeds' rearguard strangled the life out of the Liverpool attackers, who fashioned not one serious opportunity between them.
There is almost an intuitive understanding between the Leeds back four, who included Dominic Matteo - back at the club which allowed him to leave - and Rio Ferdinand, who displayed no lack of confidence after his unconvincing performance for England last Saturday. As a cohesive unit, they are beginning to bear an uncanny similarity to the Arsenal back line in which their manager once featured. However, just as against Greece in that woeful first half, Emile Heskey and Robbie Fowler singularly failed to produce the guile to trouble the visiting defence.
O'Leary had been concerned about "the beast ready to come out of the traps against us" after that Grimsby reverse, and also Leeds' double over Liverpool last season. But in the first half the beast was still licking its wounds. As Liverpool's Phil Thompson said: "It was not a classic by any standards. There weren't too many chances for either side. And in the first half, our passing was not good. There were too many unforced errors."
In contrast, O'Leary's men combined to produce neat, precise passing, with Olivier Dacourt outstanding as the conduit for most of Leeds' best movements. Though Robbie Keane and Harry Kewell constantly troubled Liverpool's defence, the end result was disappointing, with only a fierce drive by Eirik Bakke to boast before the visitors broke through before the half-hour.
When the goal arrived it had more than a touch of fortune about it, but it was not unmerited as a reward for Leeds superiority. Ian Harte's corner was not adequately cleared by Liverpool and when it was retrieved by Ferdinand on the far byline, he looped the ball back into the heart of the home defence. Gary McAllister effected a weak header which fell to Harry Kewell, and although the Australian's firm angled drive was heading for goal, it required a deflection off Stéphane Henchoz to beat Jerzy Dudek and find the far corner of the net.
At that stage, there was a sense of resignation around Anfield that appeared to temporarily afflict the players' self-belief. They were well aware that Leeds yield goals with parsimony.
Yet, whatever the nature of Houllier and Thompson's interval galvanisation, it had its desired effect in the Frenchman's absence, to-gether with the introduction of the Finn Jari Litmanen as a replacement for the injured Heskey as a foil for Fowler. Leeds' early swagger was less pronounced as Steven Gerrard, back after a three-match suspension, began to assert himself.
It was the England midfielder who instigated Liverpool's equaliser with a firm forward pass to Fowler, whereupon the captain turned and dispatched a splendid effort which struck the bar. As Leeds, for once, hesitated, Danny Murphy reacted quickest to head past the stranded Nigel Martyn.
Leeds retaliated immediately and Keane complained bitterly that Sami Hyypia's arm had prevented a scoring chance. But overall, the goal tended to inspire malevolence rather than goalscoring chances. Liverpool's Gerrard and Murphy were cautioned, adding to Hyypia's first-half booking, while Leeds' Bakke and Mills went into referee Alan Wiley's book.
However, in five minutes of added time it was Leeds who came closest to victory, with Harte's deep cross being headed back for Lee Bowyer to steer just over the bar. In truth, though, anything more than a point would have been unkind to Liverpool after a battle of attrition in which both teams displayed too much respect for the other. But, as the home faithful wended their way home, their minds were on other matters.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 13/10/2001.
Phil Thompson dedicated Liverpool's second half recovery to Gérard Houllier, who unbeknown to his players was on his way to a Merseyside hospital as they fought back from a goal down against Leeds United.
'The players responded in the right manner, exactly the way Gérard would have wanted,' Thompson said. The assistant coach was too tactful to mention the possibility that the way Liverpool played in the first half might have contributed to his manager's discomfort, but judging by the apoplectic reactions of supporters around the press box, half of Merseyside could do with calming down.
The bottom line is that this was almost Liverpool's third defeat in five Premiership matches, and coupled with the midweek humbling by Grimsby it is easy to see why Anfield is growing restless. No one is likely to shed many tears at abandoning the Worthington Cup at an early stage, but Liverpool are not playing well, and if they are not careful their title ambitions will go the same way.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 15/10/2001.
THE title credentials of Leeds United took another boost at the weekend as they once again proved more than a match for one of their championship chasing rivals.
A point at Anfield was only ruined by the very thought that they could and indeed should have come away with all three.
The disappointed look upon the United faces at the final whistle revealed their thoughts just as the relieved expressions among the Liverpool camp told their story.
United will be kicking themselves that they did not win this match and add to their already impressive tally of away wins at Arsenal, Charlton and Ipswich.
These next few weeks were always going to be a huge test of the United championship credentials.
The rest of the Premiership will look on with interest to see how the early table-toppers cope with consecutive games against Liverpool, Chelsea and current champions Manchester United.
Fixtures on the trot like that would be enough to make most teams go weak at the knees. Not this Leeds United side.
Indeed it would be no surprise if they had a game-plan to come away from all three encounters with a total of nine points under their belt - such is the high-level of confidence flowing through the club.
The fact that they did not start that run on Saturday with the maximum they fully expected and deserved was down to a mixture of bad luck, some poor finishing and a touch of brilliance from England striker Robbie Fowler.
It was his exquisite turn on the edge of the United box and delicate chip which beat Nigel Martyn and dropped invitingly off the bar for Danny Murphy to nod home.
Fowler had done little else all game. In fact he was having a nightmare and may not have been on the pitch had Emile Heskey not been injured at the break.
Ironically, he was the worst player on the field and the man most of the Kop were booing from start to finish, yet he was still the hero.
When you possess the quality in your boots that he does then you just know it is only a matter of time before something special materialises.
It took until the 69th minute, however, and when it arrived it was enough to rob United of their victory.
Liverpool had only come to life in the second half after Leeds had looked strong and in control throughout the opening 45 minutes.
The home side had struggled with their passing while O'Leary's boys had grown in stature as the game progressed.
There was no real surprise when they took the lead in the 27th minute through Aussie Harry Kewell.
He had struggled to break free from the shackles imposed by the impressive Jamie Carragher, but when Eirik Bakke nodded an Ian Harte corner into the path of Rio Ferdinand the defender's deep cross evaded Gary McAllister and landed perfectly for Kewell to strike.
He made no mistake as his low drive scuttled through a forest of legs, via a couple of minor deflections, before nestling in the bottom corner.
With Olivier Dacourt in blinding form in the heart of the United engine room the Whites ruled the midfield and took the game to the home side in positive fashion.
However, Liverpool boss Gerrard Houllier introduced the guile of Finnish international Jari Litmanen at the break. It made a huge difference to their play although Houllier was not around to see it.
The Frenchman had already been rushed off to hospital complaining of chest pains and would later require a major heart operation. He missed his team's best period of the game as Litmanen and John Arne Riise both went close with long range drives.
But despite their possession it seemed as though the Leeds defence was well in control.
The five scrooges at the back of the United formation had only let in two league goals all season and it needs something special these days to breach them.
Fowler, with a little help from Murphy, provided that to ignite a final 20 minutes of frantic action.
Kewell went agonisingly close after a stunning run and shot which just missed the left hand post and Robbie Keane was set free by the brilliant Dacourt only to see his shot somehow saved by Dudek. Indeed Keane looked as though he had been pulled back by Liverpool skipper Sami Hyppia before unleashing his shot and there were legitimate, if half-hearted, claims for a penalty.
However, the best chance for a winner fell to Lee Bowyer as Mark Viduka nodded a long Harte cross into his path, but the midfielder couldn't get on top of his volley as he sent it screaming just over the bar.
The effort had O'Leary jumping out of the dugout and punching the ground. He knew just how close he was to grabbing the winner.
A point leaves United still top of the Premiership pile, they are still unbeaten in eight and there are still only three goals in the against column.
Now that seems like Championship form to me!