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If eight goals in one week papered over the cracks appearing at Leeds, then Bolton's inspectors of buildings cruelly and slowly ripped off every layer of wall covering to reveal gaping chasms at Elland Road this afternoon. Soon the whole set-up will be condemned and another builder will be brought in to try and stop the rot.
The afternoon started with the discovery that central midfield consisted off McPhail and Burns, and that Wilcox, who had given the team much needed balance in midfield in the last two or three games, was playing at left back. No sign of Harte surprisingly - presumably he was injured - but the ministry of no information failed to inform us.
Just after kick off, Burns slid late into a Bolton player well inside the Bolton half. The referee made his one decent decision of the game and played a good advantage. The ball played down the wing and then into the area, splitting the defence for Pederson, looking somewhat like a clone of Dean Holdsworth - only with skill, to sweep the ball past Robinson. Less than two minutes gone and 1-0 to Bolton.
Moments later, McPhail showed what he should be doing more of and played a perfect long ball to Kewell, today on the left wing, who squared the ball to Smith who side footed home powerfully from just inside the area. Smith made it look easy and surely paved the way for Bolton to be stuffed.
Terry Venables is supposedly a genius when it comes to footballing tactics. Surely the blind guild who have never been to football game in their life would know that Burns and McPhail are not going to hold their own in a Premier league game. McPhail is fine passer of the ball, he can beat players with sleight of foot, he makes finding another Leeds player look simple and you wonder why other players in white shirts can't do the same with such graceful ease. However, he is not - and never will be - a holding midfield player. He needs someone next to him who can win the ball, hold his own and boss the midfield. Poor Jacob Burns, who is probably a smashing bloke with a lovely wife and who might well pay ten quid a month to Oxfam is neither a passer of the ball or a holding midfield player.
Of course we have no-one who could play as a battler; a winner of the ball; someone who would be giving one hundred percent when others around disappear for large periods of time. Well, no-one apart from one man who is being paid 20,000 a week or so. No-one except the one man who epitomises the spirit needed out on the pitch today. No-one except the man who has been told he's not good enough anymore without being seen in one single half competitive game this season. No-one apart from the player who, despite him probably being past his prime, was arguably the best midfielder at Leeds United last season. No-one apart from the player who is the fans' favourite. He might well not solve all - or any - of Leeds' current problems, but the fact that David Batty's not even been given the chance is the main reason that El Tel will probably be hounded out of Elland Road sooner rather than later. He might well be a great man manager and motivator of the players, but there are tens of thousands of other people he needs to motivate and the chants of "Time to go" aimed squarely at the manager, clearly show he's failed miserably in that area for a large percentage of fans.
Tel's dropped Viduka and Harte, used subs, done lots of things that we moaned about O'Leary not doing. He's put some things right, but he's made a lot of other things wrong.
Apart from all that, today's game saw Lucic injured, Duberry warming up for ages, but waiting for Bolton to score before being brought on. Then after Kewell equalised again almost immediately, Bolton scored another two in the last couple of minutes. Ricketts won a penalty Barmby would have been booked for diving for, then Pederson rounded off his afternoon with a superb volley to make it 4-2. In between Milner came on and looked lively in a couple of moves and Bridges, inexplicably, didn't come on for any of the tired looking trio of Smith, Viduka and Kewell. Baffling.
Bolton fully deserved their win. Lots of players were missing injured. Man U lost at home to Bolton as well. All of these would be reasonable, acceptable excuses if it wasn't the fifth defeat in seven games at home this season. Defeat to Malaga would surely see a new manager at Elland Road. Don't bet against it.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 18/11/2002.
"What on earth is going on?" chanted the Elland Road crowd, or words to that effect. Their anger was entirely justified. Five home defeats in seven Premiership matches, with none surely as abject as the one suffered against Bolton yesterday, leave Terry Venables's much trumpeted return to management in a state of deepening crisis.
This was the Wanderers against the wanderers - a Leeds side of wandering minds and questionable spirit, as indicated by the concession of three goals in the last 10 minutes that took Bolton off the foot of the table. Against ineffably weak defending they could hardly have failed to accept the invitation.
Leeds were stricken by injuries. Nine senior players were absent. But in West Yorkshire such excuses will be given short shrift. Venables is widely disparaged as a southern import imposed by a distant board; the coach Brian Kidd, whose appointment has coincided exactly with Leeds's unarrestable decline, is caricatured as a Manchester United double agent. The chairman Peter Ridsdale, who stands for re-election at the club's AGM on November 29, will be the first to feel the fall-out.