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Copy from Football Unlimited of 31/12/2001.
Gordon Strachan, David O'Leary revealed, always made the tea when the pair were roomies in their playing days with Leeds United. "And a very good cup of tea it was, too," he added, a tad condescendingly.
The balance of power, one senses, will never change; Strachan will continue to play Sancho Panza to O'Leary's Don Quixote, to battle for mere survival while his master tilts at windmills. On Saturday afternoon the Southampton manager strutted the touchline like a demented troll, pulling lumps out of his red mane, while the tall, dark O'Leary sat with an air of dispassionate cool a few yards away.
Leeds , meanwhile, allowed Southampton to do all the running about before Lee Bowyer pick-pocketed the points. To preserve his sanity, Strachan excavated for consolation. "Look," he pleaded, "we've just played Manchester United, Spurs and Leeds. I would have settled for a draw in all those games. As it is, we've lost to United and Leeds but beaten Spurs, so we still have the three points." Strachan would also settle for four points from the next four matches: Chelsea, tomorrow, followed by Liverpool, Manchester United and Liverpool again.
Copy from The Independent of 29/12/2001.
Every week has been a test of character for Leeds this season. A trip to the south coast proved no different. Without a possible seven first-team players, most significantly Harry Kewell and Robbie Keane, Leeds survived a severe examination of their resilience to record their sixth away win of the season. And the architect of victory? Need you ask. Lee Bowyer, taunted and jeered all afternoon by the home fans, responded with an 89th-minute winner.
It was Bowyer's second goal since he and Jonathan Woodgate were found not guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to an Asian student. While the parents of Sarfraz Najeib are seeking a civil action, David O'Leary called on both his players to mount their defence on the field. Not even the Leeds manager could have anticipated the fluency of the response.
Woodgate's assured performance alongside Rio Ferdinand provided Leeds with a defensive confidence lacking against Newcastle and Leicester in recent weeks. Leeds might have known that keeping a low profile is not quite Bowyer's style. But someone in the script-writing department has a warped sense of humour.
O'Leary would only countenance talk of a Champions' League place, but titles are won and lost on the back of scrappy exhibits like these. In the calendar year, between all the off-field distractions, Leeds have lost a mere four League games, the fourth being an unlikely defeat at home to Newcastle last week. "Good, solid, workmanlike," said O'Leary. Right on all counts. Gordon Strachan, his opposite number and former Leeds roommate, could have delved into the same box of adjectives to describe his own side's performance. But just as the Southampton manager was contemplating a fourth successive clean sheet at the St Mary's Stadium, up popped the vagabond to ruin an already bitterly chill afternoon.
O'Leary's concern as Leeds moved into third place is his ever-lengthening injury list. Seth Johnson, Eirik Bakke and Keane may be out for another month, but Kewell's absence is most critical. Leeds miss his direct running and intelligence as much as Manchester United rue the loss of Ryan Giggs. The appearance of Harpal Singh, a prolific scorer in the youth team and the only Asian player in a Premier League squad, among the substitutes - along with Michael Duberry - reflects the reality of Leeds' plight as well as their genuine desire to repair damaged relationships with the Asian communities. "I'd like to use Harpal in a game when we're 4-0 or 5-0 up," said O'Leary. "But he's a lovely lad to deal with, with a real future."
Pairing Gary Kelly and David Batty in central midfield was indicative of Leeds' approach, though Alan Smith joined Robbie Fowler and Mark Viduka in a three-man attack. For long periods, Southampton, seeking their fourth consecutive victory at St Mary's, were the more compact side. James Beattie, one step too slow to be anything more than a jobbing centre-forward, constantly tested Ferdinand and Woodgate's aerial aggression, while Anders Svensson, built like a motorway pillar, deserved to cap a masterly display in the Southampton midfield with a goal. But, with a clear shot of Nigel Martyn's goal just before half-time, he blasted over the bar. The Swede was not alone in holding his head in his hands. "You don't create many chances against world class sides," lamented Strachan.
Leeds could also have reached half-time with a lead. Smith, latching on to a downward header by Viduka, swivelled and shot straight at the advancing Paul Jones and Ian Harte rattled the Southampton crossbar with a devastating left-footed free-kick from 30 yards. Much of the rest was forgettable enough for the St Mary's crowd to continue the national campaign of vilification against the Hull two. "You're supposed to be in jail" is a chant that Bowyer will hear in his sleep for the remainder of the season.
Leeds did get the ball in the net seven minutes before half-time, but after Smith's header had dribbled past a distracted Jones, the linesman rightly ruled Bowyer offside. No game against Leeds would be complete without the odd petty feud and there was just enough bite to keep referee Mike Halsey busy. Mills, having been booked for hacking down Beattie from behind, was lucky to stay on the field when he flailed an elbow at the combative Southampton striker. The meeting of Mills and Marsden, a follically-challenged affair, was the equivalent of two hard-boiled eggs knocking into each other, ending honours even.
Strachan gambled, withdrawing Telfer for the more mercurial Fabrice Fernandes, newly recruited from Rennes for £1.1m. Leeds had settled for a point, all except for Bowyer. Put through by Viduka, a minute from the end of normal time, the Leeds midfielder drilled the winner past Jones from 10 yards to give Leeds their ultimate reward. Who knows how precious that goal might prove to be come May.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 30/12/2001.
Lee Bowyer stole the show again with an 89th-minute winner, to move Leeds into third place in the Premiership table on an afternoon when they would have been happy to come away with a point.
It was all too much for one incensed fan who ran on to the pitch from a section of Southampton fans and aimed a punch at the Leeds midfielder, who had been subjected to taunts of 'You're supposed to be in jail' throughout the game, in relation to the recent high-profile trial from which he was acquitted.
Bowyer escaped unharmed from the irate supporter and continued to celebrate after he had scored with a clinical low, right-foot shot from a Mark Viduka pass. There was no coming back for Southampton, who had controlled much of the game against a depleted Leeds side. Southampton's rise from the relegation zone now looks like being shortlived, as their next four games are against Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Liverpool again.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 31/12/2001.
LEE BOWYER slammed the door shut on his nightmare year by firing in the last-gasp goal which beat the Saints and kept United's championship charge well on course.
Court room battles, newspaper headlines and constant verbal abuse from opposing supporters has no doubt left the young midfielder feeling much like public enemy number one.
Only the support of his family, the backing of Elland Road officials and the constant devotion from Leeds fans has kept Bowyer going in what has been a turbulent 12 months.
As he waved a not-so fond farewell to his own personal annus horribilis this week he did so in typical Bowyer fashion - sticking a proverbial two fingers up at his well-voiced critics.
With barely a minute remaining of Saturday's encounter the man seen by so many as a sinner came back to haunt the Saints and ram the incessant jeers back down their supporters' throats.
Nipping in unnoticed he collected Mark Viduka's perfectly-weighted pass and with one swing of his left boot swept the ball under the seemingly unbeatable Paul Jones.
It was his first sight of goal for the entire 90 minutes - but world-class players like Bowyer need just the one opportunity and he took it, much to the delight of the thousands who had travelled south from Yorkshire.
The split in opinion on Bowyer was never better demonstrated as he enjoyed the adulation of his own supporters only to then dodge the flying fist of a home hooligan who had raced onto the field.
Chants of "Bowyer for England'' had replaced the "You should be in jail'' mocking that had echoed around the impressive St Mary's Stadium for most of the afternoon.
There is no doubt that such nasty chants will continue throughout this season, however, it is also very much a certainty that Bowyer will be able to shrug them off and play a major role in United's Premiership push.
His goal was the icing on the cake of a hard-working performance which once again highlighted the battling spirit which resides in the Elland Road camp.
Bowyer may have been the match winner, but the heroes were central defenders Rio Ferdinand and Jonathan Woodgate.
The duo were brilliant at the back and seem now to be forging the very partnership that manager David O'Leary had always dreamed of.
Ferdinand was back to his best, simply nothing got past him and his class on the ball was there for all to see. He is outstanding, of that nobody can deny - but new partner Woodgate is not far behind.
The Ferdinand and Matteo partnership may have been something special, but his teaming-up with Woody has the makings of something just as good - if not possibly better.
United struggled early on as Saints ruled the midfield and as the boys in yellow came to terms with a new system that saw Alan Smith play in a more advanced midfield role.
With only 20 seconds on the clock Batty's poor ball was picked up by James Beattie and the Saints striker teed up Anders Svensson on the edge of the box, but his volley was way off target.
Saints' lively opening continued as Rory Delap crashed a long-range effort just past the post and then called Nigel Martyn into action with a fierce long- range drive that the Leeds stopper had to beat around the post.
United did finally wake from their slumber and started to turn on the style with 15 minutes on the clock.
Gary Kelly, pushed into midfield, let fly with a speculative drive from distance only to see Welsh international Jones get down well to make the save.
Harte's deep cross was then flicked on by Mark Viduka and the predator Smith was on hand at the far post to swivel and shoot powerfully goalwards only for Jones to make a brilliant one- handed block.
Beattie then saw a neat flick header land harmlessly into Martyn's arms just to show that the Saints were still a dangerous proposition.
However, it was Leeds who went the closest in the opening 45 minutes as Ian Harte crashed a 25th-minute free-kick against the bar.
At the other end Anders Svensson should have done better after waltzing through the defence and blazing over from the edge of the box.
United did have the ball in the net just before the break as Smith headed Mills' deep cross past the stranded Jones, but Bowyer was caught off-side.
Saints started the second half much as they had the first - by attacking the Leeds goal.
Svensson again should have done better after working a good opening just inside the box and Pahars had two chances well saved by Martyn.
The Leeds keeper then stood tall to deny Beattie as he rose highest at the far post to head a Bridge free-kick goalwards.
Again it took about 15 minutes for United to get into gear and Viduka got the visiting fans excited with a neat turn and low strike which Jones saved brilliantly.
Fowler, quiet for most of the game, flashed an effort wide of goal and then saw Jones make a great block to deny his close-range shot.
However, Jones could do nothing to prevent Bowyer's winning goal. A goal which not only silenced the home fans' jibes but one which also brings the tumultuous year of 2001 to a happy end for all concerned at Leeds United.