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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post

February 28: The inquest starts here. The season's body is still warm and arguably has a bit of life in it yet, but Dr O'Leary has started cutting it open and knows what the problem is. "It's in the players' hands, players who have big reputations perhaps didn't live up to their reputations." DOL spoke as we saw it: "I thought we played well in the first half but we needed to take our chances." He added: "It was a poor goal to give away. There was something missing of our spark in the second half but there were no excuses with the pitch."

February 28: After dominating the first half and wasting two good scoring chances (and being denied by some excellent work by Lodewijks) Leeds should have been two or three up by the start of the second half. But when PSV came out and took control in the second period, you might have thought that the introduction of Keane or Wilcox for Bakke or Kelly might have made a difference. But we once again kept our spare talent on the bench and paid the price in the last minute when a brave header from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink broke the deadlock and took PSV throught to a quarter-final clash with Feyenoord. Good luck to them - over two legs they played the better football, and although van Bommel added "diver" to the "thug" tag he earned in Eindhoven, the players and the fans are good enough to go all the way. Credit again to the ref tonight - there were a couple of challenges he could have booked, but he let play flow, played a good advantage and, although he got in the way of a Leeds defender and nearly let them score, was another shining European example which the PL refs would do well to follow.

February 28: Nigel Martyn is the latest to comment on the possibility of an InterToto entry. He said: "The England players are meeting up straight after the last Premiership game of the season and the Intertoto starts in July. It's the last thing we want in a World Cup year. The chairman has played his trump card by geeing us up with a wake-up call he thought we needed. But the players didn't need to be told."

February 27: With all the transfer talk floating around, it's not surprising that Leeds are being mentioned both as buyers - and sellers of players who might want to play in the Champions League, or who are perceived by the management as not having justified their wages in the summer. Bids come in all the time - and you've got to agree with DOL that that's a good thing - showing we've got players in our team that others want. So far we've hung on to the players we wanted to keep, but the manager sounded a note of caution for the future: "If we do get a bid for somebody and we're not in the Champions League, then we will have to decide what to do at the end of the season. It's no good speculating now."

February 27: Don't mention the Intertoto if you want to stay on the right side of captain Rio Ferdinand and the rest of the players. Ferdinand played in the competition for West Ham a couple of years ago, and doesn't want to do it again. "I've played in the Intertoto tournament before and it's not a healthy competition to be in if you enjoy your holidays." And the tabloids know how much footy players like their holidays, don't they. He added: "It will be much more enjoyable to go to the World Cup and then have a proper holiday, hopefully looking forward to competing in the Champions League." Couldn't agree more - and what about the rest of us - getting time off for all these Euro games plays havoc with my holiday allocation!

February 27: This 5-a-side lark is getting serious: the game will be played at the Skylark centre on Lowfields Road with a 1530 KO, and cameras from Sky, BBC and ITV will be there to talk to the participants and capture the action. Get on down to cheer the Lards on and we'll look to hold on to that cup! The bar will be open BTW - so please patronise it and reward the generosity of the good folks at Skylark who have offered the centre free of charge for the game.

February 27: Jon Woodgate has returned to training as he tries to get back to fitness following a hamstring injury at Chelsea last month. Olivier Dacourt remains under treatment and is hoping to be fit for tomorrow night's game but it's still 50/50.

February 27: Robbie Keane, Danny Mills and DOL are both pretty confident that Leeds can progress against PSV tomorrow night. Keane said: "Although we are going through a bad patch, with the players at the club, I am sure we can turn things around. Mills said: "We haven't been too great away from home in Europe but that result has given us a great chance to finish the job at Elland Road. Our natural game is to attack and as the home team the emphasis will be on us to get the goal, but we wouldn't want it any other way." And manager DOL was hoping for a big crowd and noisy reception for our visitors: "It should make for a good rip-roaring atmosphere and match played in front of a full house at night time. We have an impressive record at home in Europe and long may that continue."

February 26: Andy Gray, Lee Sharpe and Simon Grayson all played tonight as Bradford got a late winner to beat Forest 2-1. Carlton Palmer's efforts to drag Stockport out of the mire came to nought tonight: although he scored to halve a two-goal deficit in the first half, home side Grimsby scored again and Palmer was dismissed for a second yellow card 5 minutes from the end. The win does wonders for Grimsby's hopes of survival although they remain in the relegation zone - but Stockport are now 18 points adrift of Walsall and have a goal difference of -50. The big question in British football is will they become mathematical certainties of going down before or after Celtic clinch the SPL title. Jamie Forrester netted for the 19th time this season as Northampton saw off the challenge of Port Vale 1-0 at Sixfields.

February 26: Dundee United's ex-Leeds striker Derek Lilley will be appealing the red card he received after playing just 15 minutes as a sub on Saturday.

February 26: PSV's striker Arnold Bruggink - who was subbed after half an hour last week - will miss the return match with a hamstring problem.

February 26: Alan Smith is the latest positive voice to make itself heard at Elland Road. He said: "Anybody watching the PSV game last Thursday will have been reminded of the way we played in the Champions League last season, the way we soaked up pressure and looked dangerous on the counter attack." And he's not ruling out a return to Europe's top competition next season: "I think we showed we are good enough to turn things around and make the top four of the Premiership." Peter Ridsdale has issued a call for calm and asked everyone not to panic, saying that there are no major changes planned for management or playing staff. He said: "We have got a strong squad, one of the best management teams in the game and they are capable of providing a great future for this club. We were top of the table on January 1 and you don't become a bad team overnight." Which is true - we've taken 2 months to do it and we'll be world-beaters again by Sunday :-)

February 26: "We're all bestest mates," said David O'Leary (or something like that). He insisted that there had been no training ground fights and that he had not changed his tactics. The reason for our recent slump in form (number 28 in an ongoing series) is that "We are no longer a surprise package." I dunno - I've been pretty surprised by how clueless we've been in front of goal recently...

February 26: How many transfer rumours can you take in one sitting? Deep breath - ready - go! First up, we're apparently taking a look at a left back (surprise surprise) - Peter van der Heyden, who is a Belgian international currently at Club Brugge. On the way out is Robbie Keane, who will move to Spurs where Glenn Hoddle will flog Sergei Rebrov to raise the cash and might actually play Keane having bought him (but having gone from Cov where he was a regular to Inter and then Leeds where he's barely had a start, he won't want to be seen as taking over from another professional benchwarmer at White Hart Lane). Making room for Mark Viduka at AS Roma (and that must be quite a bit of room for the rotund one) will be Gabriel Batistuta - his destination? Fulham! Makes a change from Tigana signing French players I suppose. Finally, Wimbledon's Lionel Morgan has been the subject of attention from a variety of clubs, Leeds - naturally - one of them, but no offer has been made for the young midfielder just yet, other than a bid from Spurs which was considerably short of the valuation that the Dons place on the player.

February 25: If you fancy yourself as a footballer, take a look at - former Leeds player and Kettering Town boss Carl Shutt was watching some of the players at an Assessment day in Northampton the other week. You never know - you might be the next Roy Essandoh! Or you might just be another 30-odd-year-old like me whose only hope of footy stardom is playing 5-a-side half cut on a Euro away trip. Which reminds me: the return game with PSV will be held at the Skylark Leisure Centre in Lowfields Road, KO at 1530 on Thursday, so if you're in Leeds early enough get along and give the Lards a cheer.

February 25: Brett Emerton's agent has dropped a five-ton hint that Newcastle rather than Leeds would be his client's preferred destination if/when he leaves Feyenoord. Of course now that Newcastle have signed Jermaine Jenas (not massively impressive in yesterday's game with the Mackems but I suppose he didn't do too badly for a 19-year-old making his first start in such a big game) and are likely to have Kieron Dyer back - so Emerton might find his opportunities limited there, although the prospect of Champions League football might be enough to entice him to St James Park. Champions League? Pah! Give me the InterToto any day!

February 25: Lee Bowyer's agent has contacted the club and indicated that his client wanted to stay at Leeds and that contract negotiations could start soon. Peter Ridsdale said: "Lee Bowyer will still be playing for Leeds in four or five years' time. He has always said to me that he wants to stay with Leeds."

February 25: DOL believes that his side have slid right down the popularity stakes - from everyone's favorite "other team" to the most hated team in the country. He's been surprised at the volume and intensity of the remarks that have been directed at the club in the wake of the trial and the FA's victimisation of Leeds players doing exactly what other players do (yet another example yesterday - Craig Bellamy appearing to say "What the f*** was that you prick?" to the ref in the north-east derby without punishment).

February 25: The reserve game against Man U - postponed a couple of weeks ago - has been rescheduled for May 7, but the venue is yet to be confirmed, since Bury's future is currently in the balance and Gigg Lane might not be available.

February 25: Olivier Dacourt injured his knee in yesterday's game - that's why he had to be replaced by David Batty at half-time - and is now a serious doubt for Thursday's second leg against PSV.

February 24: Euro round-up time, and of course we start in Holland. For the second week in a row, PSV scored four - Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink bagging a hat-trick at home to Utrecht. Remarkably, the ref in that game wasn't quite as lenient on Thursday: Mark van Bommel actually picked up a yellow card. PSV move into second place ahead of Feyenoord who lost 1-2 at home to FC Twente with Leeds target Brett Emerton scoring for the home side. Ajax remain top of the table with a 0-1 win at NAC.

In the Bundesliga, leaders Borussia Dortmund were already two goals behind at Bayer Leverkusen when Jan Koller picked up his second yellow card in 10 minutes. Two more goals followed for the home side as they leapfrogged the visitors back to the top. Hertha Berlin did their cause a lot of good with a 5-1 win over third-placed Kaiserslauten, and although Schalke won as expected over Freiburg, Bayern got a chance to stay close and improve their goal difference when Cottbus had two players dismissed: they took their chance with both hands, winning 6-0 and now have a goal difference better than the three clubs between them and Bayer Leverkusen.

With Lyon due to play Sunday evening, Lens went back to the top of the table with a 1-2 win at Montpelier, despite playing for nearly an hour with just 10 men. Nantes' good performance in midweek against Manchester United was followed by a slip in the league that leaves them hovering just above the drop zone: they too were reduced to 10 men when drawing 1-1 at Auxerre, but the home side got a winner with just over 10 minutes to go. PSG left it late before finishing off Sedan 3-0, and our friends from Troyes are slipping back into the pack: they're now 7th after a 1-0 reverse at bottom club Lorient. Lyon surprisingly lost 2-1 at Sochaux in tonight's match, so Lens have a 5 point lead and a game in hand, and Auxerre are just two points behind Lyon with two games spare.

The top three sides were all in action on Saturday in Spain - and although Valencia and Real Madrid both managed to win, Valencia's victory at the Mestalla was at the expense of third-placed Barcelona, allowing Deportivo to jump over them with a one goal win over Alaves at the Riazor. The trainer had to be called on to deal with a case of RSI in the ref's writing hand in the game between Real Betis and Celta Vigo: eight of the visitors were booked - and two subsequently dismissed - as Betis won 4-0 to jump over Barca and Depor into third spot.

Inter are back on top of Serie A on goal difference - surviving a late scare in the San Siro to beat Udinese 3-2. Roma are second - 1-0 winners at home to Perugia yesterday. It took a last-minute equaliser from Maresca to secure a point for Juve in the Turin derby - they drop to third as a result. Bologna are now a point clear of Chievo in fourth after the Veronese side once again slipped up against lowly opposition, drawing 1-1 at home to Brescia and they now find themselves just a point clear of Milan.

February 24: Positive Leeds news: the Ladies won 1-3 at Barry Town this afternoon and now sit second in the league table. Sylvia Gee, Lucy Ward and Stacey Daniel all netted for the Whites - but life could be a bit harder next season when Fulham get promoted: the full-time professionals beat Barking 22-0 today and will be in the top flight next season barring a disaster or administrative screw-up.

February 24: Post-match reaction to this afternoon's game: DOL cleared Robbie Fowler of any blame for the goalless draw, saying: "He had one chance which hit the post, one he should have buried, but that's what can happen in this game. Robbie's confidence has been high of late because he has been scoring goals. This was just one of those days when he missed the chances that came his way." At least DOL seems to understand what's happening on the terraces this year: "It's frustrating for the supporters because they are waiting for something to turn. There are 11 games to go and hopefully we might start getting the rub of the green. We've been saying that for the last few weeks but it just doesn't seem to be happening." Alan Curbishley was, of course, very happy to come away from Elland Road with a point: "I think the stage was set early on when we looked at the teamsheet and saw that David O'Leary was playing with four players up front. We knew we would have to sit back and soak up a lot of pressure and that is just what we did, so I'm delighted with the point."

February 24: A massively disappointing day today, in which a Leeds team with 4 nominal strikers - Viduka, Fowler, Keane and Kewell - failed to score against an average but well-organised Charlton side. This really does look like the end of the Champions League hopes, but we've still got a good chance of catching Chelsea and finishing 5th. I guess all the focus will be on the UEFA Cup, and Thursday night will be a massive game.

February 24: It's not quite a "vote of confidence" in the ominous sense of the word, but Peter Ridsdale has backed DOL as the man who could bring the Premiership to Elland Road. "We've given him a fast car and the combination of the safe at Old Trafford," he probably didn't say. What he did mention was the fact that the club had now seen off the darkest days of the trial and other problems and could now look to the future with some hope. The chairman said: "There is no panic, nor any problems, at this moment. It doesn't take much to get us back where we belong." I guess it's easy to criticise, and we should be happy that the chairman and manager are prepared to take a long view. Think back to the days of Wilko: he always said that he thought that we'd won the title one or two years too soon, and that the expectations went up for the team before the players and structure were in place to support it. If the chairman - and his major shareholders - genuinely believe that we're making the right sort of progress, and that the manager is making the right decisions and steering the team in the right direction, then they must retain our support - at the very least at the matches: we might be on a bit of a dodgy run, but we shouldn't be booing the team off the pitch just yet.

February 24: Frank Strandli - the Norwegian striker who had a brief run at Leeds in the early 1990s - has been forced into retirement after sustaining a groin injury which hasn't responded to treatement. He's been with Danish side AaB for three years, but played less than 50 games as a result of his injury.

February 23: John Charles received his CBE last year but there's a growing band of people who think that was scant reward for such a great player and a wonderful ambassador for the sport. There's an online petition that you can sign here to add your name to the list.

February 23: Harry Kewell is admitting that he's in a bit of a form slump at the moment - but is adamant that he'll play through it. "What's happening to me is something footballers go through. You can't go through life up all the time. There's going to be a down point at some stage. The important thing is it's still good being a footballer and it's good being a part of Leeds United." Well, at least if his slump continues we'll be able to hang on to the Aussie for another season :-)

February 23: Danny Mills is still holding out hope for his chances of getting into Sven's World Cup squad. The England coach was in Eindhoven to watch the game on Thursday, and must have been impressed with Mills' performance and his self-control - subject to a couple of very dodgy tackles he kept his temper and didn't lash out. He said: "I know that I have got to cut the silly things out, the sending off at Arsenal, swearing at the referee and the kick on Bellamy, things that you should not do, but which sometimes do happen." He's not into deep self-analysis and sounds a bit like Smithy when he adds: "I will just play my game. I have always played the same way and that is not going to change. It would be very difficult for me to change and I don't think it will do me a lot of good."

February 23: Rio thinks that we need to restore the old Fortress Elland Road reputation and score a maximum 21 points in our remaining home games this season. "We want to win all of our home games, if we can do that and then try to pick up extra points away from home then we will have a chance of making it to the Champions League." The PSV game could prove to be a good platform to build on for the rest of the season. "The aim was to take a clean sheet back to Elland Road and we have managed to do that. It was a tough game but I do believe that we have handled ourselves very well."

February 23: Jamie Forrester put Northampton into the lead for the second time at Chesterfield, but the home side came back to square it and the game ended at 2-2. Derek Lilley was sent off for a bad tackle in the Scottish Cup Quarter-Final as Ayr came from behind twice to end the tie all square with Dundee United at Tannadice.

February 23: Transfer news and rumours. News first: Leeds seem to have given up on the idea of taking on Patrick Kisnorbo from South Melbourne. The youngster had been doing okay according to stories coming from Australia but Leeds have decided not to take him onto their books just yet. But reports in Italy are saying that Leeds are one of several clubs interested in AS Roma's Jonathan Zembina. The 23-year-old Frenchman is a centreback who has started most games this season for the Italian champions - which sounds like a good recommendation - and he'd cost at least £5 million if he were to move.

February 23: Seth Johnson has been swapping notes with Michael Jackson after spending some time in an oxygen tent in order to speed his recovery. His thigh injury is the latest in a series of problems to have troubled him since his move from Derby, and the idea is that the oxygen-rich air will make his muscle tear mend quicker. He said: "All I want to do is play football and it has been frustrating that I have missed so many games through suspension and injury."

February 23: It's a long way to go, but thoughts are turning to the World Cup, and a friend of mine has passed on an Excel spreadsheet that will calculate tables and schedules if you update the results as you go along. Pick it up here. All the usual caveats apply: I'm not able to test this since it doesn't fully work with the spreadsheet I use. Don't enable macros or owt like that on anything you get from the net until you're sure of what it does!

February 22: Team news ahead of Sunday's game. Gary Kelly, David Batty and Robbie Fowler will return to replace the suspended trio of Mills, Bowyer and Smith. Jason Wilcox might be back on the bench after missing Thursday's game with a slight injury picked up in training. For Charlton, Mark Kinsella is set to return, but defender Richard Rufus is thought to be not quite ready to be risked after nearly six months out with a knee problem.

February 22: DOL praised the three players who returned to the team from their enforced absences in England as being key figures in last night's performance. "They are vital players for us and they gave me wonderful performances, in particular because they came back fresh," said O'Leary. He was particularly pleased that none of them picked up bookings - although the ref's ultra-economical use of the cards made you think that nothing short of armed robbery or murder would warrant anything more than a ticking off. The PSV players - van Bommel in particular - did their best to provoke reactions with some pretty late and high challenges, but Smithy was particularly impressive in staying cool. DOL said: "As for Alan, he worked very hard as usual and I could not fault him." The Charlton game is the last of Smithy's current ban, and he will be hoping to force himself into the England squad for the game against Italy at Elland Road - but first the Witchfinder General at the FA must review the clash between Smith and Graeme Le Saux from last November to decide if Smith should be given the chance to represent his country in Japan or if he should be burnt at the stake. Nigel Martyn - whose early saves kept Leeds in the hunt - warned that there was still a lot to do. "PSV are a good side, with good players, and we know they are still very dangerous. The tie is not over by a long way and we will have to respect them if we are going to progress."

February 22: The teams that are the real favorites for the UEFA Cup were the only ones to actually win their first leg ties: Milan could only just manage a 0-1 win at Roda, Valencia comfortably beat Servette 3-0 in the Mestalla, and Internazionale had a 3-1 win over AEK in a tie that was marred by an incident in which a fan was seriously hurt after falling over a balcony in the San Siro. There was crowd trouble in the game between Rangers and Feyenoord - just as well the first leg was in Scotland, otherwise we might have found ourselves lumped together as possible hooligans by the Dutch authorities and wouldn't have had such an enjoyable as a result.

February 22: It would have been nice to come back from Holland with an away goal - but a draw remains a good result against a decent team. Things went well in the town, with no problems off the pitch and a good time was had by all in the square beforehand. The Lards ran out 7-5 winners over the PSV fans in the 5-a-side thanks to the sneaky tactic of Lard Manager Wiggy in fielding a 15-year-old girl who turned out to be a better footballer than all of the other players out there :-)

February 22: Since Leeds have spent over £100 million on players since DOL took over, you'd think that an award for being an "Investor in People" would be a shoo-in. But this particular accolade is awarded for staff training and development, and Leeds are only the second Premiership club to receive the award.

February 21: No news updates today - I'm rising at some ridiculously early hour to hop on a Stelios Special from Luton to Amsterdam. Hope to see at least a few of you there - match reports and news updates for the rest of you when I get back on Friday.

February 20: Leeds flew out to Eindhoven today, and although the participation of Lee Bowyer and Danny Mills is a dead cert, the big question remains: who will play alongside Vidooks up front? Robbie Keane's goalscoring form for Ireland - and in every previous round - must put him in the frame, but DOL might just go with Smithy. PSV's Marc van Bommel has signed a pre-contract agreement with Arsenal according to the manager of Bayer Leverkusen. Arsenal rubbished the claim - but it's been one of this season's more persistent transfer rumours. Let's hope the midfielder doesn't get the chance to leave Eindhoven on a high.

February 20: Olivier Dacourt has been spurred on in his battle back to fitness with the prospect of a final push for the UEFA Cup. "If you consider what teams are left in the cup they are not bad. There are some good teams and it will be a good competition to win." Too right mate - if we can get past PSV plus whoever is left out of Valencia, Inter and AC Milan then we will have a very worthy piece of silverware on the sideboard.

February 20: Scotland's new coach Berti Vogts will try to tempt Leeds' former captain Gary McAllister out of retirement to have one last fling as the Scots try to qualify for Euro 2004. Germany's coach Rudi Voller reckons that Macca would be the most dangerous player if he played, but he'd be 39 by the time the finals came round and he must still feel some degree of bitterness to the Tartan Army boo boys who managed to rid their side of its best player. McAllister said: "I don't want to keep a young player out of the side and stop someone getting a game." Voller's side face the Scots in the qualifying group - he said: "He may be old, but every time I see him I see he is a great player. I hope he stays in retirement."

February 20: DOL says that for Lee Bowyer to refuse to sign an extension to his contract would be "a massive kick in the teeth" to the club and fans who have supported him over the last two years. The manager said: "I want Lee to stay here - and he knows it. This club has backed him unbelievably over the past couple of years. We have had to go through a lot to support him." Bowyer has indicated that he would sign an extension - but no talks have been held for some time. Juve are the latest name to add to the number of clubs that have been connected with Bowyer, but it's all pie-in-the-sky for now.

February 19: Jamie Forrester scored Northampton's second goal tonight as they came from behind to beat Peterborough at home - that's his 14th goal of the season. In the north-east derby, Mark Tinkler scored Hartlepool's equaliser as they drew 1-1 at Darlo.

February 19: Peter Ridsdale is pretty confident that Lee Bowyer will sign a contract extension soon - and with his contract expiring next summer, we need to make a quick move and get him on board or be forced to sell him to realise his value before he leaves on a Bosman. Bowyer will obviously be looking for a rise on his current deal - believed to be about sixteen grand a week - but the club will want to introduce something into the contract that looks to bind him to a good behaviour clause. The chairman thinks that he will repay the loyalty that the club and supporters have shown him throughout the last two years, despite recent disagreements: "The indications are there will be no problems because Lee wants to stay."

February 19: Regulars will know about the magnificent footballing force that is Internet Lard FC. The Leeds Email List team gets together on a number of occasions throughout the year - notably for Worldnet in the summer, where we usually manage to make it to the quarters or semis. And on Thursday afternoon, the Lards will be playing a 5-a-side game in a square in the centre of Eindhoven against a team of PSV fans. The game will take place on a special pitch, erected near the beer and food stalls that will be supplying the visiting Leeds fans with the necessary fuel ahead of the main event in the evening. Kick-off of the Lards game should be around 1500 local time - so keep an eye out if you're in the town and give the mighty Lard warriors a cheer. The people and club in Eindhoven are going out of their way to make the visiting Leeds fans welcome, and the police will aim to keep a very light presence (the good press we received a couple of years back when we visited Heerenveen probably helping matters) - but have promised that any misbehaviour or OTT drink-induced antics will not be tolerated.

February 19: Leeds have confirmed their entry for next season's InterToto Cup. The deadline for entry is Monday, and with a UEFA place only guaranteed by finishing a place higher than we currently are, it's sensible insurance to put us in the frame for European football next year (though it would screw up my holiday plans and leave me asking if I can take unpaid leave if we manage a decent run again...). Ipswich and Villa have also confirmed that they will take up a place if it is offered.

February 19: Team news for Thursday - or rather not. DOL is dropping no real hints on what changes will be made to the league line-up. "I have heard people say that because many of our players are suspended for the league matches that they will be fresh for the UEFA Cup, and I see where they are coming from. However, there is a big difference in being fresh and being in the groove of playing regular football."

February 19: Ticket news - or rather, lack of ticket news. All the remaining away games are now sold out or pre-allocated right up to the end of the season. Quite a few of the home games are also sold out, and tickets for the Boro game are on sale to Striker Card holders as of today, so get your skates on if you want to see us relegate the Smog Monsters and sneak up into a Champions League place on the last day of the season.

February 18: Even the reserves can't win against 10 men. On a sodden pitch and with the rain pouring down, Bolton took the lead on the hour, and it took a penalty and red card for deliberate handball to even the score - Smithy scoring from the spot.

February 18: If nowt else, at least the players aren't burying their heads in the sand. Captain Rio Ferdinand knows what the team need to do if they are to qualify for the Champions League next season. "We will only have ourselves to blame if between now and the end of the season we don't perform to the best of our ability and put pressure on the teams around us."

February 18: South Melbourne player Patrick Kisnorbo has impressed Leeds - according to his Aussie manager anyway. He's trained with the squad and will be playing in a couple of practice matches before returning, and could even make the move permanent before the end of the season. In other young player news, Harpal Singh is the latest to commit his immediate future to the club, signing a contract that will keep the 20-year-old at Leeds for another 3 years.

February 18: Former Leeds striker Phil Masinga says he'll stay in the game - but must give up playing as a result of a knee injury. He joined Leeds at the same time as Lucas Radebe, and it's a bit of a coincidence that both are seeing their careers come to an end (sorry Lucas, but it doesn't look like we'll see you again) at the same time. Masinga left Leeds in 1996 after just 11 goals in 39 appearances, but had some success with Bari in Italy and St Gallen in Switzerland before having a brief spell with Coventry and then moving on the UAE. He won 59 caps for South Africa and had been trying to have one last shout at this year's World Cup Finals.

February 18: The reserves are playing at Bolton tonight and the fact that Alan Smith is in the squad might indicate that it will be Robbie Keane who will start alongside Mark Viduka on Thursday night. Keano deserves his chance - but Smithy has shown he's got an eye for the vital goal in these Euro games, so let's hope he gets a chance to do it again at some point.

February 18: The Hooli Table was published at the weekend, purporting to show which clubs have the worst-behaved fans by looking at how many fans of each club have banning orders against them. Of course, it shows no such thing - all it shows is how strict the clubs have been in requesting banning orders (which the courts seldom refuse). Cardiff top the table, with Stoke in second and Leeds in third place. Now if they looked at number of people ejected from the ground, arrested in the vicinity of a ground and took that in proportion to the number of fans typically present, these stats might have some meaning: all it currently shows is that a whole bunch of clubs are clearly not doing very much to rid themselves of the undesirable elements among their supporters.

February 17: PSV's Kevin Hofland appears to have a rather high opinion of himself: he's quoted today as saying that he won't move to Manchester United in the summer unless he's guaranteed a first team place whenever he's fit and doesn't want to have any part in a rotation. Sounds like he's been talking to Mr Viduka.

February 17: Leeds Ladies suffered a surprise home defeat today to struggling Southampton Saints. Tanya Panesar put Leeds ahead early in the first half, but the home side were only ahead for two minutes, and a goal for the visitors on the hour sealed the three points.

February 17: Euro round-up time. After yesterday's big win for PSV, the top two both slipped up in Holland with Ajax drawing 0-0 at AZ, and Feyenoord going down 1-2 at home to Sparta (should give Rangers a bit of hope!).

In France, second-placed Lyon are facing PSG this evening, and have a chance to catch up on leaders Lens who could only draw 1-1 with Lorient. L'Estac are down to 7th place after losing 1-2 at home to 4th-placed Auxerre.

In the Bundesliga, Schalke got a good result - drawing 1-1 at leaders Dortmund. Bayer Leverkusen failed to take their chance to go back to the top, drawing 2-2 at 2nd-bottom St Pauli after conceding a last-minute penalty. Kaiserslauten closed the gap in third place with a 2-1 win over Nurnberg, and Bayern are back to winning ways and up a place to 5th after winning 0-2 at SC Freiburg.

Just one point separates the top three in Serie A after this weekend's games. Two goals from Vieri helped Inter see of Verona 0-3, but it's Juve on top after they beat Fiorentina 2-1 yesterday, and Roma could only manage a goalless draw at Brescia. Chievo and Bologna are 8 points adrift of third place, but have a 3 point cushion on AC Milan behind them after a goalless draw at the San Siro saw the home side drop yet more points to Atalanta.

In Spain, Valencia had to come from behind to scrape a 1-1 draw at Villareal- but that was enough to take them a point clear at the top as Real Madrid went down to a surprise 2-1 defeat at Athletic Bilbao. Barca have dragged themselves out of the mire and are now up to third place - equal on points and goal difference with Madrid - after coming from behind twice against Deportivo at the Nou Camp - finally going ahead through Patrick Kluivert with just 3 minutes to go. There's still only 3 points between Valencia at the top and Deportivo in 7th place though, so it looks like it's all to play for in La Liga.

Finally in Turkey, I've not quite got the full story on this but it seems that our good friends from Galatasaray lost 1-0 at Fehnerbahce yesterday (they remain 4 points clear at the top) and managed to have 4 players sent off in the process. No doubt an inquiry will be held and will confirm that it was all the home side's fault and that GS are entirely innocent - in two or three years' time.

February 16: Sven Goran Erickson is still struggling with the Bowyer/Woodgate conundrum as time runs out ahead of the World Cup. Both Lee Bowyer's ban and Jon Woodgate's community service will be done and dusted by the time Italy appear in a friendly at Elland Road - but pressure from within the FA seems to be removing any choice in the matter from the coach. The fact that Bowyer was acquitted of any crime is one of those difficult facts that the FA are having problems to come to terms with - although on his current form there's no way he should be in the side. For Woody, the dilemma is precisely reversed: he was convicted, but his form is better than it has been for a long time (though his injury might just get them out of the hole here). Some people may argue that somebody convicted of any crime should never be allowed to represent their country - but we've not had a problem picking players who have served their sentences in the past, so why should Woodgate be doubly punished now? Realistically, it's unlikely that either of them will go - and Danny Mills' brainless display at St James Park has probably ruled him out and lumbered England with the Neville sisters for the tournament. Qualification for Euro 2004 starts very soon though - and Bowyer, Woodgate and Mills could well be joined by Paul Robinson and Alan Smith to link up with clubmates Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Fowler to provide a Leeds backbone of the squad of the future.

February 16: Full Euro-round-up follows tomorrow - but PSV look to have hit a bit of form ahead of next week's game: after being held 0-0 for the first half they banged in 4 goals in the second half of their game with NEC Nijmegen. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scored 2, with Dennis Rommedahl and Giorgi Gakhokidze getting the others.

February 16: Ian Harte has admitted that Leeds aren't doing as well as they could this season. With the domestic cups gone and the Premiership title looking like wishful thinking, he said: "It's important that we do well in Europe but PSV are a very good side and we expect to be in for a tough tie, but we are determined to do well." And he still thinks that we've got a chance of a top four finish: "Most teams seem to go through a bad patch at some stage of the season and let us hope that we have gone through ours now."

February 16: Michael Bridges is now saying that he might actually return before the end of this season - although strikers are one thing we're not short of. He said: "My inspiration has been to get back playing football again. Watching the lads going training every day is hard and can make you downhearted, but my dream is to be back playing at Elland Road." He added: "I wouldn't like to say a date when I will be back. I did that last time and look what happened."

February 16: Transfer lies and rumours for today: Lee Bowyer to Arsenal for £15 million. A return to London has long been rumoured for Bowyer - and his lack of form, and apparent disagreements with the management might just hasten that move. However it's hard to see how Bowyer would fit in with Arsene Wenger's off-field disciplinary strictures, however much he'd be valued by the Highbury club on the field.

February 15: More reports were doing the rounds in Italy today saying that Olivier Dacourt was more or less a dead cert to sign for Juve sometime soon. To a certain extent this is a rehash of an old story - and Olly is one player we really do need to hang on to: it's no coincidence that the recent decline in form has happened while he's been out injured.

February 15: Apparently someone has told DOL that we are favorites for the UEFA Cup tie with PSV. Now, maybe it's true that the Dutch League is not quite on the same level as the Premiership, but for a team that's taken one point from fifteen to be considered as the most likely to win is a bit surprising. DOL said: "I'm taking no notice of that I've never been involved in a match where being favorites has helped because it doesn't mean you get a goal start or anything."

February 15: A couple of comments in the aftermath of the Ireland game this week. Mick McCarthy was pleased to have Robbie Keane in the side - but issued a warning that the heat and humidity at the World Cup Finals will need Keane to find some more fitness if he is to succeed. McCarthy said: "Robbie can be fitter and sharper, he has not been long back from injury and I'm sure David O'Leary will be delighted he scored and got another game under his belt." Meanwhile one of the whinging Russians who endeared themselves to us so much over the last couple of years was spouting off that it was terrible that Graham Poll had been chosen as ref (he obviously doesn't follow the Premiership or he'd know what a disadvantage it would be to all the Leeds players to have Poll in charge) and that Ian Harte was apparently roughing up their players. Titov said: "Karpin was injured during the match after Harte struck him. I remember this defender from Spartak matches with Leeds. He is a dirty footballer, although his free-kicks are dangerous."

February 15: Seth Johnson spoke out on the difference between the training regimes at Elland Road and Pride Park. He said: "I didn't realise just how unfit I was, until I had been training with Leeds." And we didn't realise how susceptible to injury he was otherwise we might not have bought him in the first place!

February 15: DOL reckons that the team still have the same spirit that carried them to such heights over the last two seasons even though we're not seeing much of it on the pitch. Needless to say, he feels the court case is to blame - but that the corner can be turned and a winning run started. He said: "The players' confidence has been dented but there is a wonderful spirit among them and that spirit now has got to go on the pitch and take them through the difficult times to come."

February 15: Simon Grayson is set to sign on loan at Bradford for a month after being frozen out at Blackburn to stop the club having to fork out a further £200,000 on the transfer deal that took him to Ewood Park - which will kick in the next time he takes the field for Rovers. He said: "It'd be nice to prove Graeme Souness wrong - I only played two games under him and we won them both."

February 15: Paul Robinson has signed a one-year extension to his contract, and is now committed to the club until summer 2006. Club secretary Ian Silvester made it clear that Robbo had a real future with Leeds - with the subtext that he would be the number one sooner rather than later. "We see him as the long-future of the club in that position. While Nigel has the number one jersey at the moment, Paul will one day take over his mantle."

February 14: Peter Ridsdale can't make the FA hearing on March 12 - so Alan Smith and Mark Viduka will now go up before the totally unbiased and wonderfully even-handed FA tribunal on March 14 instead. Unless Leeds are still in the UEFA Cup - in which case it will be put back yet again.

February 14: DOL believes that his side will be in a position to take the Premiership title in the next couple of years. Will that be before or after you go to Old Trafford/Highbury David? With European football restarting next week, DOL is sort of looking forward to it but said: "Unlike Manchester United and Arsenal, we don't have two different sets of players that we can field to suit certain games." Now, call me old and cynical, but a side of: Robinson, Mills, Duberry, Matteo, Harte, Bakke, McPhail, Bowyer, Wilcox, Keane, Smith contains almost none of the team currently playing league games - and yet looks like a side that could win something. The plain fact of the matter is that we were in a position to win the title this year before we screwed it up royally around Christmas. We have the players to do it now and we're unlikely to have a better chance - unless, of course, the other teams continue to play as inconsistently as they have this season. As for this season, DOL wants a little bit more from the team - a push for a Champions League place: "To do that we need more sparkle and a boost to our confidence. We have had a tough time and so the spirit has been dented a little bit, but generally that spirit is wonderful and now it has to go on the pitch and take us through the tough time ahead."

February 13: Milan are apparently now ready to offload Cosmin Contra - the player we were looking at last year when he was playing for CD Alaves. Contra would be available for somewhere north of £5 million - but with Danny Mills and Gary Kelly, we're not exactly short of right backs at the moment and is Contra that much better than either of them?

February 13: Nige and Rio played in tonight's England friendly with Holland in Amsterdam. Nige was just on for the first half, and if being lucky is a quality that Sven needs in his keepers, he's blown his chance: the only shot that the home side had on target took a massive deflection off Sol Campbell and left Nige totally stranded. David James was equally untroubled in the second half. Robbie Fowler's prospects of playing in the World Cup Finals were not set back at all - it was good to see Sven trying a few different strikers but none of them were particularly impressive in the box, so Robbie should find himself very much in the frame. Paul Robinson played for an hour in last night's U-21 game - at least he's not had his international chances blown out by his lack of appearances for Leeds. Robbie Keane and Ian Harte started the game against Russia in Dublin for Ireland, and it was Harte's free kick that gave rise to Ireland's early opener and Keane's superb header that made it 2-0 before half-time. Maybe DOL will give Keane a chance now that he's shown he can score against a decent national side. Or maybe he'll make no changes at all just to be bloody-minded.

February 13: Mark van Bommel and Brett Emerton look to be on the way out of PSV and Feyenoord and both look very likely to come to England. Arsenal are favorites to sign PSV's star midfielder - using a chunk of the cash they're expected to receive for Patrick Vieira in the summer - but Leeds are also interested in the Dutch international. Apparently his agent (who also represents Dennis Bergkamp) has been in touch with some English clubs, but the player is still in the dark on the matter. As for Emerton, Feyenoord won't be selling until the close season and would be looking for £15 million and Leeds will face stiff competition from Newcastle if DOL decides he wants him in.

February 12: Robbie Keane will be starting the game tomorrow night in Dublin - because the manager of the Irish national side seems to have more faith in the young striker than the Irish manager of his club side. Mick McCarthy saw Keane's attempts to salvage something from the Liverpool game, and was sufficiently impressed to pick him for the Russia match. McCarthy said: "I watched the Liverpool game when he came on at a difficult point in the game ... and I was pleased with him." He added: "If Robbie continues to be kept out of the side by Fowler and Viduka, I won't be worried about it, just so long as he is fit."

February 12: Season ticket renewal forms should now have gone out to just about everyone by now - and the club are asking for 5% more this year across the board. That means that tickets will cost from £330 to £550 (cup games aren't included, unlike many other clubs - but they tend to charge more overall anyway), and early renewers will be able to take advantage of interest-free deals to fund their purchase.

February 12: The reserves - who included Alan Smith in their line-up - lost tonight's clash with Bradford City at Elland Road, going down 0-1 to a goal from a French bloke who turned up and asked the Bantams for a game (okay, they took him on a trial, but he might as well have just knocked on the dressing room door before the game).

February 12: Eirik Bakke says he's now back to full fitness (after just one first team game!) and he's looking forward to a solid run in the side through to the end of the season. He's still hopeful that we can get something out of the season, but he's not the first player this week to sound a note of caution: "We are not out of it yet, we know we have the quality to push our way back up the league but it's time we showed it on the pitch."

February 12: Those of you hoping that Mark Viduka will be given a rest from first team duties might have their prayers answered a month from today when he faces the FA over the incident with Martin Keown. From what I've seen on numerous slow-motion replays, he's got nothing to fear - but based on what the morons from Soho Square have dished out so far, he can expect a ban far in excess of the one gamer that the thug Keown got for a far worse offence against Viduka last season.

February 11: A Leeds XI will be playing a friendly against Barrow on May 3 (might be a nice warm-up for the UEFA Cup Final the following Wednesday :-). The game is to mark the centenary of Barrow and will take place at their Holker Street ground.

February 11: If you're unattached, you might be interested in an event on Thursday night - Norman Hunter will be speaking at a Farsley Celtic Sportsman's Dinner. If you're not single, then don't even think about making such plans on February 14 if you want the next two months to be remotely bearable :-)

February 11: The trial in Istanbul was postponed yet again when the defence called for another examination of the crime scene because they said it would show that the main suspect - Ali Umit Demir, who has confessed and was allegedly found with a knife covered in blood which came from at least one of the victims - could not have stabbed them both. The trial - which several of the accused once again failed to attend - was postponed until March 7 when the judge will make a ruling on the latest defence delaying tactic.

February 11: Tomorrow night's reserve game against Bradford will now take place at Elland Road rather than Bootham Crescent.

February 11: Thanks to everyone who's already responded with feedback on what's happening at the club at the moment. It seems I'm not alone in seeing certain problems - and I'm also not the only one who thinks that it's not just the players who need to examine what they're doing if we're to improve. Keep those comments coming.

February 11: I'm not the only one who thinks that our hopes of a Champions League place are being booted into touch by the current poor run. Rio Ferdinand acquitted himself pretty well on Saturday - but was furious with the poor marking that let Boro in late on, and had an apparent dig at Harry Kewell, saying: "Knowing that you have got quality is not the same as producing it on the pitch." Kewell was quoted (direct or via his agent) at the weekend having another go at his lack of on-field minutes, although DOL has hit back and pointed to the far from perfect contribution our Aussie star has made to the last two games. He said: "Harry is not playing the way we know he can and I honestly don't know why." If DOL really doesn't know why the team are failing to deliver collectively or as individuals, then his options for doing something about it appear to be (a) muddle on regardless and hope it starts going right, (b) change things randomly and hope it starts going right, or (c) step aside and allow someone who thinks they understand the problems to give it a crack. Maybe he does know and just doesn't want to say publicly - but after his much-touted literary offering at the turn of the year, his new Trappist approach is not going to win him any friends in the press or on the terraces. There's no obvious replacement waiting in the wings as there was when Wilko and GG left and I wouldn't want to see him go: having spent a large chunk of our cash he deserves the chance to show he can win some silverware with it, but the patience of the fans and the board is not infinite, and with new cracks emerging on and off the field every day, we need to see some urgent remedial action before things get beyond the point of no return.

February 11: With no games lined up this weekend, Alan Smith, Dom Matteo, Jon Woodgate and Mark Viduka will all be giving some publicity to a massively worthwhile cause by giving blood tomorrow. There will be a blood donation session at Leeds' Learning Centre - but even if you're nowhere near Leeds you can check with the National Blood Service and find somewhere near to you and give a pint yourself: it doesn't hurt, it takes less than an hour and you could save someone's life.

February 11: The Turkish court trying the case of Ali Umit Demir and 18 others in connection with the deaths of Kevin Speight and Christopher Loftus meets again in Istanbul today and might actually reach a verdict, nearly 2 years after the murders.

February 10: What's wrong with this team of ours lately? Some folks are pointing the finger at Brian Kidd's presence, as if the fact that he's ex-ManU somehow means he must be the villain. My personal take is that we seem to have too many cooks in charge of the various teams - we see DOL, Eddie Gray, Kidd and Roy Aitken on the bench (and add in Robson and Ritchie working with the kids): who does what? Who sets the strategy, who handles discipline, who coaches, cajoles and acts as the players' friend and mentor and who directs, shouts and kicks the necessary body parts when needed? There seems to be a malaise affecting the management of the side that stems from the circumstances around the trial, and the team no longer seem to be playing for each other and the management. Peter Ridsdale - as chief guardian of the shareholders' and fans' interests - must act soon to help David O'Leary turn this situation around and get the team playing for each other, for us and together take them on to win some silverware. This year that means the UEFA Cup - and next year the title: player for player Leeds have players as good as or better than the top 5 but for some reason the whole is not greater than - or even equal to - the sum of its parts. We need to turn it round or forever accept that we will only be a second-tier side. What do you all think? Drop me an email and let me know.

February 10: European round-up time. Starting in Holland, Feyenoord and Ajax both won this weekend and are now 5 points clear of PSV with a game in hand. Our next opponents didn't play this weekend, but lost 2-1 at RKC midweek. Heerenveen's 0-2 win at AZ leaves them just a point behind PSV and with a better goal difference.

Lens have had their lead cut in France after losing 1-0 at Auxerre in midweek - the home side now looking strong in 4th place and with games in hand on the two teams above them. Lyon cut the gap at the top to four points with a 3-1 win over L'Estac, despite going a goal down to Nicolas Gousse early on. PSG kept up the pressure in 3rd place with a 1-0 win over Bordeaux on Thursday, and despite their defeat L'Estac are doing well in 5th.

A late goal for either side left leaders Borussia Dortmund probably the happier of the two sides in the big game in Germany this weekend: hosts Bayern Munich are in 6th place - 9 points off the lead - and can't really afford to drop many more chances to close the gap. Werder Bremen's 1-0 win over 3rd-placed Kaiserslauten put the home side into 5th place and narrowed the spread at the top, but 2nd-placed Bayer Leverkusen hammered relegation candidates Borussia Moenchengladbach 5-0 to close Dortmund's lead to just two points.

The top 4 all slipped up in Italy: Roma and Juve shared a goalless draw in the Stadio Olimpico, with the visitors reduced to 10 men in the first half, while Inter scored in the 89th minute at Bologna - but the home side's two goals in the second half gave them the points and moved them into 5th place, ahead of AC Milan who could only draw 1-1 at home to Perugia. Chievo failed to take advantage of the top three's failure to bring home the points when they went down 1-2 at home to Udinese.

After playing a full round of matches midweek as well as this weekend, Real Madrid and Valencia are now first and second. Last weekend's leaders Celta Vigo lost at home to Deportivo in midweek, and could only draw 0-0 with Valencia this weekend. Although Real Madrid had succumbed to a very late goal to lose 2-1 at Valladolid in midweek, they came back with a vengeance today with Morientes scoring 5 as Las Palmas were hammered 7-0. Deportivo could have dragged themselves up into second place with a win today - but only managed a goalless draw with Villareal and have to be content with 4th place. Barcelona were equally lax, failing to build on a midweek 2-0 win over Real Sociedad when they drew 0-0 at Mallorca - but it is terribly tight at the top of La Liga with 4 points covering 8 teams.

In Portugal, the league is a two-horse race between Boavista (1 point clear as I write this) and Sporting (in action right now). Maritimo moved up to 8th place with a 0-2 away win at Alverca.

February 09: Clyde Wijnhard made a welcome return to goalscoring form after a long injury absence for Huddersfield today, scoring the winner in their 2-1 home win over Tranmere.

February 09: Nigel Martyn and Rio Ferdinand are in the squad for the game in Amsterdam next week - but there's no place for Robbie Fowler - although SGE says that he's spoken to the players to assure them that this is just because it's such an experimental line-up. With the likes of Gary Neville (nowhere near as good a right-back as Danny Mills), Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Joe Cole (one quarter the players that Lee Bowyer is when he's on form) and Vassell, Ricketts and Phillips (don't even *try* to compare this lot to Smithy) in the side, you can't help but feel that the FA will be shooting themselves in the foot if they continue to pursue their vendetta against Leeds.

February 09: DOL is on the same wavelength as the rest of us now: he's saying that he wouldn't be afraid to face the challenges of the InterToto Cup next summer. "If we do go into the Intertoto Cup, then I fully agree with the chairman, but with 36 points to play for it is a little bit premature to talk about it." He moaned: "I don't think we can get any lower, but some time the tide will turn and we will get a bit of luck going our way." Maybe if he was a bit more proactive about acquiring such luck - like subbing plainly exhausted players - then we might see a slight upturn in our fortunes. Steve McClaren was happier: "In the second half we produced a magnificent performance. We responded well and we could have easily won the game."

February 09: For the second weekend in a row, an entirely pleasant weekend is ruined by the unwelcome intrusion of a football match. With a squad that - player by player - could easily be seen as being better than any of our main rivals for the title, we seem hell-bent on blowing it. An early lead should have been extended on numerous occasions before a freak bounce left Nige stranded, but Robbie Fowler's poacher's instincts got Leeds in front again from a Harte free kick. Then, seconds after Nigel Martyn had cause the whole of the stadium to rise and applaud a great save, we decided not to mark Dean Windass from a corner and the points were gone. Plaudits to Boro for trying, to Olivier Dacourt - man of the match - and Robbie Fowler, who never stopped looking for the ball. Brickbats to Mark Viduka - who was knackered - and DOL who either didn't see this for 20 minutes or chose to leave Robbie Keane on the bench for some bizarre reason of his own. Two more points dropped - InterToto here we come.

February 08: Gordon Strachan's efforts at pulling Southampton away from immediate danger - including wins over Chelsea and Liverpool - have been rewarded with the January Manager of the Month award. The slump starts here...

February 08: "It is going to be hard work for us to get back up there. Our run-in looks OK, we only have to play Manchester United of the big teams, but we also have to play a few sides who are fighting a relegation battle and they can be just as tough." So says Eirik Bakke - and that's a fair and realistic assessment. And although there remain a few battles to be had between the top few teams, we're by no means alone in having an "easy" run-in - and unless one of the 5 teams above us starts to slip, we could find ourselves facing another season of Sunday games thanks to the UEFA Cup. At least Leeds still have a game in hand on some of the other teams - but that game must be won.

February 08: Noel Whelan remains a Leeds fan - but he's hoping to do a favour for his current employers tomorrow. "I am especially excited about it and I have already had to buy 25 tickets for all of my friends and family who are coming across from Leeds." Playing for Leeds was all he really wanted to do in his career - which is why it was such a shame to see him go, although his goal return while at Elland Road wasn't great. He's hit a good run of form lately - including a well-taken opportunity against Manchester United in the Cup: "Some of the Manchester fans were giving me a bit of stick about being an ex-Leeds player so it was good to stick one away against them."

February 08: Eirik Bakke might actually make it into the starting line-up tomorrow, such has been the speed of his recovery and so desperate are we for players. Harry Kewell and Olivier Dacourt look to have shaken off their knocks from last weekend and are set to start. More worryingly, it seems that the ref is Neale Barry - who sent off Alan Smith in the Villa game this season and subsequently made some rather uncomplimentary remarks about Leeds and that game. Interestingly, it's just about the only game he's reffed this season where the home side got a raw deal: in 11 games, he's booked three times as many players from the visiting sides as he has from the home teams. Expect to see the flashing yellow pointed in our direction tomorrow.

February 07: Craig Bellamy has been cautioned by police following accusations of an assault by a student in the north-east. But he will not be banned from the national side for their upcoming friendly and I've no doubt you'll need a microscope to find the headlines about this particular story in tomorrow's papers.

February 07: Transfer facts and fictions. Benito Carbone has agreed to join Boro on loan to the end of the season and could play on Saturday. But then he might change his mind yet again - Beni has been known to have second, third or fourth thoughts on moving before. Michael Duberry has been named as a possible transfer target for Rangers, with Barry Ferguson again mentioned as a player who might be coming in the other direction. Finally Stephen McPhail - whose failure to break into the first team of the current injury- and ban-ridden squad must show him something about his future - has been named yet again as a candidate for a loan move to get some first team football under his belt.

February 07: The friendly match between England and Italy at Elland Road later this year sold out in less than four hours. Of course, it's unlikely that we'll see any Leeds players other than Rio and Nige (and you can bet the FA are injecting David Seaman with all kinds of dodgy substances to speed his return and digging up stories of Rio's nights out on the town in a move to guarantee zero Leeds presence in there pure-as-the-driven-snow World Cup squad).

February 07: Tonight's reserve game against Manchester United at Gigg Lane has been postponed due to the state of Bury's pitch. Eirik Bakke was due to use the game as a step back to match fitness, but with Lee Bowyer now banned he might find himself on the bench for Saturday's game at Boro.

February 07: Former Cardiff player Dai Thomas was sentenced to 60 days in jail for his part in the disturbances at Ninian Park in January. Thomas was also arrested in Charleroi prior to England's Euro 2000 game - for which he had his Cardiff contract cancelled.

February 06: Initial injury news about Boro ahead of this Saturday's game. Robbie Stockdale, Mark Wilson, Ugo Ehiogu, Szilard Nemeth and Alen Boksic are all rated no better than 50-50 for the game with a variety of calf and thigh strains. Leeds side will more or less pick itself - and a lot will depend on the fitness of Olivier Dacourt to anchor the midfield.

February 06: What's going on at the club? Looks like there's a concerted effort to get the fans back on board, because today PR will be reminding the squad just how much they've let down the fans with their indiscipline and lax play. "Too many of our players are missing games through their inability to behave properly and they have been told in no uncertain terms that if that continues then we will have to consider whether they would be better off playing their football elsewhere," he said. Supporters, he said, pay "good money" to watch their club. And this week the season ticket renewals go out if I remember rightly. Is my paranoia seeing connections where there are none?

February 06: DOL is happy that Alex Ferguson is staying on. He said: "It's great for football. People like Alex and Bobby Robson are brilliant for the game." He went on to say: "You might say I'm talking daft, but I admire him a great deal and people like that you can only learn from and want to beat." In other news, a flock of strange-looking birds at a farm owned by Mr Bernard Matthews passed a unanimous resolution eagerly anticipating Christmas.

February 06: Proof that the Leeds stigma follows you around. The Scottish FA declined to tell Hearts that Alan Maybury was due to serve an extra game's suspension in time for it to be spent in a game against Dunfermline. Instead, Hearts' ex-Leeds man Maybury will not be able to play in the game with....Rangers. Meanwhile Danny Granville will be forced to serve a three match ban after being sent off for Palace for a nothing challenge on Cov's Jay Bothroyd by Rob Styles (wasn't he the ref who proved he couldn't count to ten at Tranmere or was that another one?).

February 06: The Youth team went down 0-1 to Spurs at Elland Road tonight, bringing to an end the chase for the FA Youth Cup for another season. Spurs scored in the first half and had the better chances, but Leeds nearly managed an equaliser late on.

February 06: JFH scored Chelsea's first equaliser against West Ham tonight in a 5-goal thriller at Upton Park. John Terry got the winner for the visitors in the third minute of injury time, and in the wake of yesterday's decisions on Lee Bowyer and Danny Mills, it was interesting to see that it appears to be okay to tell the referee to "F*** off! F*** off!" if your name is Joe Cole, or to "F*** off! Get lost!" if your name is Graeme Le Saux and you've just reacted rather petulantly after running into a West Ham player at high speed and then spent two minutes rolling around apparently close to death on the turf. Since the ref was the same one who, on Sunday, deemed it necessary to book Harry Kewell for his reaction after he had been the victim of successive fouls, you can hardly be blamed for thinking that Leeds players seem to Public Enemy number one for our friends in the black.

February 06: Warren Feeney has been called up to the full Northern Ireland squad for next week's friendly. Despite the fact that he had to watch the whole 90 minutes for Radio 5 on Sunday, Mick McCarthy has included Gary Kelly and Ian Harte in his squad for next Wednesday's friendly with Russia. Less surprising is the inclusion of Robbie Keane, but there's no place for Stephen McPhail - no doubt the fact that he's barely made it onto the pitch for Leeds this season is a deciding factor there.

February 05: Old boys news: Mark Ford scored a first minute goal for Darlo tonight as they won 1-3 at Carlisle. Richard Jobson was the surprising name on the scoresheet for Rochdale - not once but twice - as they kept the spectators interested for the full 90 minutes in a 5-4 thriller against York.

February 05: Peter Ridsdale has apologised to fans for the team's recent below-par performances. Quite why I don't know: he doesn't pick the team - although he is responsible for the choice of manager.... "We are all disappointed with the last two defeats and we are indeed sorry that we have let the supporters down over the last few matches," he said. He's asked for fans to put their worries behind them and back the team in the next few crucial games: "Supporters do have a right to criticise when they do not like what they see, but we now need everybody to be pulling in the same direction and working toward one goal - a Champions League spot."

February 05: Eirik Bakke might be making a timely return to fitness: with a bit of luck he could be getting a run in the reserve game on Thursday night. With all the other midfield injuries and suspensions, he'll walk straight back into the first team - even if we sign Brett Emerton first. He was superb in Feyenoord's 5-0 win over Roda JC this weekend - scoring two of the goals himself, and Leeds could do with prying him away from the team that could stand in the way of a third successive European semi-final spot if we beat PSV and they get past Rangers. Leeds face competition from Arsenal - but van Bommel is a more likely target there, with Vieira more or less packed and ready to jump on the first flight to Madrid after he gets back from the World Cup.

February 05: To nobody's great surprise, Danny Mills and Lee Bowyer failed to escape the Wrath of the FA today. Mills has been fined £7,500 and given a two-match ban for directing abusive language to the highly competent, unbiased and totally flawless human being Andy D'Urso, who was taking time off from his regular duties of sending off Leeds players and ignoring showers of missiles by acting as the fourth official at Highbury in August. Bowyer's rather Anglo-Saxon instructions in the same game to the pleasant and witty character that is Jeff Winter have gained him an equal ban, but he's got four more games on top of that for catching Gary McAllister with an elbow in the FA Cup tie with Liverpool last year, and he's been fined a total of £10,000. Ashley Cole - whose cheating was so subtle and inobvious that it was only missed by one of the nearly forty thousand people at Highbury that night (unfortunately it was the one who was carrying a whistle) - has not been punished. And Gary McAllister - who only marginally failed to break Ian Harte's leg in the same game - also walks away scot-free. The FA are also considering requesting Leeds to field all of the players in straitjackets and masks for the next ten years - but they're a bit worried that that nice Craig Bellamy might cut himself on the laces as he bounces off yet another player and collapses in a pained heap on the floor. Remember: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. At least Mills, Bowyer and Smith will all be fresh for the UEFA games...

February 04: UEFA have agreed a format change for the UEFA Cup - probably to start in 2003 or 2004 - turning it into a mini Champions League. For a start the good thing is that there will be no second chance saloon for Champions League dropouts (other than from the initial qualifying matches). There will be 64 teams in a seeded initial knockout tie. From there, the remaining 32 teams will move forward into at least one - possible two - group stages, followed by quarters, semis and the final. Of course it's all about TV money - and this should ensure that at least another dozen of the better clubs guarantee themselves 16 games (and the TV money) a season, and if that includes Leeds - then it's a real downer cos we want to be in the Champions League!

February 04: In a reverse of what happened last year, DOL seems to be taking the negative comments from the stands with a bit more stoicism this year. When the team came in for some stick last term, his toys were scattered all around his pram but when a fan gave Gary Kelly some stick yesterday, DOL brushed it off and suggested that the fan could always leave if he wanted to. "He was just making his opinion about a player. I heard him shout about one of the lads and he is entitled to have his opinion." At least he seems to have figured out that it's nothing particularly personal, and all part of the game: "Fans have their highs and they have their lows. When the team are winning they're happy and when the team lose they're disappointed. That's what being a football fan is all about."

February 04: DOL today went back on the pessimism of Sunday and said that he thought we could still win the title with so many points still to play for. Olivier Dacourt disagrees - he's decided that a CL place is all there is to play for: "I think now it is finished. We are far from the leaders and it will be difficult to reach them. Now I think the target is to take one place in the Champions League and we have to fight to have that."

February 04: Qualify for Europe - or face the chop! That's the message from chairman Peter Ridsdale to the players. He's told the team that the team's budget is based on regular qualification for Europe, and failure to bring in the money from the UEFA Cup or the Champions League will necessitate cuts to the wage bill. Of course, that would happen without him needing to do much anyway, since several players would not be happy without the prospect of a Euro-challenge, so we'd probably see the back of some of the best players anyway. "If we don't then the only option open to us would be to look and see if we can afford to keep all of the players we have got."

February 03: The Youth team have got a big match coming up this week - so get yourself along to Elland Road and see (hopefully) some commitment, skill and a Leeds win for just £3 as they take on Spurs in the cup.

February 03: Leeds Ladies conceded two goals before half-time and then one just a couple of minutes from the end as Arsenal went through to the next round of the FA Cup in this afternoon's re-arranged tie. Arsenal will face Barry Town or Doncaster Belles in the next round.

February 03: The Trans-Europe Express is clanking out of the sidings...will we find ourselves derailed before we get much further?

PSV restarted their season with a good win last week - but this week it was a much closer thing - scraping a 0-1 win at bottom side Fortuna Sittard with an early goal. They're in second place - but would be in third if leaders Ajax and current third-place holders Feyenoord win their games in hand. Ajax picked up a good 1-3 win at Willem II while Feyenoord hammered Roda JC 5-0 at home - Rangers beware! Hold on a minute....we're playing them next assuming we get past PSV.... D'oh!

In France an early goal was enough for Lens to beat Monaco 1-0 and remain top, but second-placed Lyon didn't lose much ground with a 4-1 hammering of second-bottom Metz, despite going a goal behind. L'Estac did themselves no favours with a 1-1 draw with lowly Rennes letting them slip a bit further behind the leaders in fifth place, and champions Nantes are in serious danger of working their way into the top half of the table after a 3-1 win against Marseille. If the Daily Mail was French, it would be splashing on Monday with Bastia's 1-0 win over Lille, with 9 yellow and 2 red cards issued by the busiest ref of the week.

In Germany it's all closed up at the top: Bayern are up into 4th with a 2-0 win over former leaders Bayer Leverkusen, while Dortmund could only draw at Wolfsburg, but that was enough to take them to the top. Kaiserslauten made hard work of it in beating second bottom side Cologne 0-1 and are in third.

In Serie A, Roma came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Fiorentina, and their lead was cut to just a single point when Juve hammered Lecce 3-0 at home. The San Siro saw 6 bookings in the last 12 minutes - but no goals as Inter were held 0-0 by Torino, while Stankovic scored first for his employers as Lazio went 1-0 up against AC Milan, and then for the visitors as they squared the game in the final minute. Chievo remain in 4th - 4 points clear of AC Milan - but failed to pull further clear when they could only manage a 2-2 draw at Piacenza.

Raul's first minute goal would probably have been enough to kill off Leeds in our current form - but Madrid's hosts Espanyol are made of sterner stuff and came back to record a surprise 2-1 win and knock their visitors off the top of La Liga. Celta Vigo's 0-1 win at Mallorca yesterday took them top on goal difference, and Valencia are now just a point away from Real Madrid after beating Bilbao 2-1 tonight. Barca are in patchy form this season - but really hit their stride as Patrick Kluivert bagged 4 and his team-mates two more at bottom club Tenerife. Barca are now 7th - but are only 4 points off the lead and now have a significantly better goal difference than all bar leaders Celta Vigo.

February 03: Old boys round-up from the weekend. JFH is really hitting some form at Chelsea - his two rescued the Blues from defeat at Leicester, helped by a couple of very dubious refereeing decisions. Carlton Palmer scored a late one to give the Stockport fans some brief hope, since visitors Forest had already scored two, but a last-minute own goal left County 14 points behind the next team above them - and Carlton must already be planning for life in Division 2 next year. Warren Feeney scored for Bournemouth - the last of their three in a surprising win over high-flying Stoke - and Jamie Forrester was once again on the goal trail at Swindon - but the home side stopped the Cobblers' recent revival with a 2-1 win.

February 03: Harry Kewell says that he's fed up with his team mates losing it on the pitch. "I probably get tackled more than anyone, but I deal with it without losing my temper. It's the defenders' job. If they didn't tackle me, I'd score every time. They've got to do it. "I get a bit annoyed if they don't do it fairly, but it's part and parcel of the game. I'd like to get up and give my marker a slap sometimes, but I know you can't, so I don't." That would be the same Harry Kewell who kicked his boot within a foot of Graham Poll's face today when he was angry over a tackle this afternoon.

February 03: DOL conceded the title was beyond us after the game today: "The title is out of reach, but realistically our aim at the start of the season was the Champions League and we can still achieve that." He seemed distinctly unhappy during the game - telling one fan who was shouting abuse to "go home".

February 03: Another otherwise enjoyable weekend was ruined by the untimely intrusion of a football match. Leeds played considerably better than on Wednesday night - and the final scoreline flattered Liverpool. Liverpool's first goal came from a very dubious free kick, the second was yards offside and Robbie Fowler had a rock solid claim for a penalty turned down. Okay - so that's the excuses over with. We were outplayed, outpassed and outbattled by a team whose management have a vision of winning the title, and not just qualifying for the Champions League to please the accountants. Maybe DOL really does have the ambition to see us lift some silverware, but that isn't communicating itself to the fans - and the players seem equally disheartened and demotivated. We're 9 points behind the leaders with just 39 more on offer: this isn't a hopeless situation. But unless DOL can get the team back on track and firing on all cylinders in the next 6 days, we can forget about the title - and even the much-coveted Champions League place might be slipping through our fingers.

February 02: Will Robbie Fowler haunt Liverpool tomorrow? Caretaker manager Phil Thompson thinks he might - but his old player won't be feeling any pressure to make a point, and the same will apply to his former team-mates. "Robbie doesn't have to prove anything to anybody There's a lot more at stake than just personal pride. It won't make a difference to our approach. Most of the players know what Robbie's capable of." David O'Leary has been well-pleased with Fowler's performances to date, and gave an interesting hint about what he sees as his best line-up when everyone is fit: "I told him I'd always rated him and that we would create chances for him to score... When we've got attacking players driving forward and we have people like Kewell, Dacourt and Bakke playing behind him, he'll score even more."

February 02: Team news update for tomorrow: Danny Murphy, Steven Gerrard, John Arne Riise and Michael Owen are all expected to start for the visitors, and new signing Abel Xavier is in the squad. For Leeds, the absence of Jon Woodgate means that Dom Matteo will return to centreback and Ian Harte will be recalled at left back. The big question will be over who of the returning players will start: Harry Kewell is likely to be in, but is Olivier Dacourt ready to come back yet? And will DOL use the out-of-the-picture Stephen McPhail on the bench or take a chance on young Harpal Singh who has been impressing with his performances in the reserves?

February 01: DOL thinks that all these video panels have got a bit out of hand: "Where are we going with it all? How far are we going with the video panel? This is a contact sport after all." He's clear that Danny Mills deserved to go at Newcastle but remains adamant that Smithy should not have walked at Cardiff. And now Smithy faces charges relating to the Worthington Cup tie over two months ago. "The Alan Smith one has come completely out of the blue from a game right back in November. I'm for the video panel, but I just don't know where it is going to stop now."

February 01: All eyes are focused on Liverpool old boy Robbie Fowler ahead of this weekend's clash. Leeds legend Mick Jones has this to say: "He has natural ability and that's something you ` cannot coach. He oozes class and his finishing ability is first class." Meanwhile, the man himself was talking about his departure: "Nobody leaves Liverpool lightly but I badly want to go to the World Cup finals and I was not going to do that by sitting on the bench. A lot has been said about arguments with the staff but I left on good terms with everyone."

February 01: I hope he doesn't bite us department. Leeds have given up on the chase for Forest's starlet Jermaine Jenas. The youngster said he wanted first team football - so he's gone to Newcastle where the competition will be a bit less severe now that Kieron Dyer is (once again) on the sidelines with an injury. Forest had turned down a bid of £4 million - but the Newcastle board added an extra million to the pile and Forest had to bite.

February 01: Laughing at others' misfortunes department. Martin "it wasn't me ref honest" Keown apparently fractured his fibula when he fell heavily at Blackburn on Wednesday night. The fact that he should probably have been in the stands with a red card at the time only serves to make his injury even more gratifying.

February 01: Jon Woodgate could be out for up to 6 weeks with the leg injury he picked up at Chelsea - and Seth Johnson's prognosis isn't much better: the latest in a long line of knocks will keep him on the sidelines for a couple of weeks. At least Olly's nearly ready to return and Eirik Bakke is at last getting close to fitness again.

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