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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post

June 30: The old boys were in action tonight in the Yorkshire Masters at Sheffield Arena. With a squad comprising Phil Hughes, Neil Aspin, Glynn Snodin, Brendan Ormsby, Gunnar Halle, Vince Hilaire, Carl Shutt, Scott Sellars, Chris Kamara and Andy Ritchie and playing against teams from Bradford and both Sheffield clubs which included John Pemberton, Paul Beesley, John Sheridan, Imre Varadi and Mel Sterland, Leeds got off to a good start with a 2-1 victory over the Owls, However they had to play the next game against the Blades immediately after and tiredness started to take its toll as they lost 3-0. Despite the loss of Vince Hilaire and Brendan Ormsby to hamstring injuries, the team came back to hammer Bradford 4-0 and make it through to the final. Leeds were in front three times with two goals from Chris Kamara and one from Andy Ritchie, but the Blades equalised every time - the last time with just 30 seconds to go - to take the final into a penalty shoot-out. Both keepers made a save, but both Beesley and Pemberton missed the target for Tony Currie's side, so Leeds won the Yorkshire Masters for the second successive year and qualify for the final in September. Last season they got well and truly gubbed in the finals as the players who were still playing couldn't make it - and it looks like Peter Lorimer will have to get on the phone this year if he is to make up for the likely absence of Halle, Sellars and Shutt.

June 30: Peter Ridsdale confirmed that Terry Venables was on the shortlist for the vacant manager's job. He said: "I have always been an admirer of Terry Venables as a coach and he is on my list." Ridsdale went on to state that despite Leeds' much publicised financial condition, there would be full backing for a new manager both to sign him up and to let him sign new players. Remind me again how far Leeds is from El Tel's beloved Laaarndon?

June 30: Martin O'Neill turned up on the BBC's World Cup Final coverage despite the rumours of yesterday - but that's rumour for you!

June 29: In completely unrelated news, Martin O'Neill is reported to have cancelled his flight to Japan where he was due to work as a pundit for the BBC on the World Cup Final.

June 29: Peter Ridsdale has a shortlist of six candidates to replace DOL (at a wild stab: O'Neill, McCarthy, Curbishley, McClaren, Hiddinck and - shudder - John Gregory or worse still Peter Taylor) and has arranged a board meeting for tomorrow to pick the preferred candidate and start pursuing him. Ridsdale spoke further on the decision to sack O'Leary: "As soon as the season ended we had to discuss our future. We had to decide whether to change things. We have decided a fresh approach was required. We need to be playing regularly in the Champions League and we need to be competing for domestic honours. Unfortunately under David we failed to do that last season despite the board backing him fully financially." The chairman also made it clear that there would be money available for the new man to spend: "There is no financial crisis here and we will be able to back our new man with the funds he requires to take us to the next level." He added: "All clubs have to bring in new players and top teams are always looking to strengthen their squads. We are no different. Everything is in place to ensure that we can continue to do so."

June 28: If you read nothing else about David O'Leary's departure, take a gander at this article in the YEP by Phil Rostron. Rostron took over as the main voice on LUFC in the YEP after the departure of Don Warters, and DOL's attitude to him and the paper do seem to reflect the self-centred and arrogant view of the man that people only now seem willing to set down on paper. And while you're at it, how about this one in which the paper's regular match report writer Matt Reeder says that DOL had lost the players' confidence - and the book seems to bear quite a bit of the blame. If you're web-challenged, drop me a line and I'll send you a plaintext copy. Of course, not all the players were against him, and Dom Matteo was said to be very surprised by the sacking and felt that the team should hold some of the responsibility: "Results were very bad for us and we know that it was not good enough. If those results have ultimately cost David his job, then on behalf of the players all I can do is apologise to him. We are now waiting to see who takes over and it will be a huge change for all of us, but to be honest my thoughts at the moment are with David and his family."

June 28: Former players seem a little split on the DOL legacy: Allan Clarke remains a Leeds fan despite the sad circumstances of his final split with the club. Today he said: "The board have given him a hell of a lot of money and backed him to the hilt, but that can only go on for so long because the fans deserve trophies. There are better managers than David who have been sacked for achieving more - even without spending the money he's spent." Mel Sterland was surprised about the sacking - but like many of us thought that DOL had no more than 6 months to show some solid progress towards winning some silverware. "Zico" said: "Everything about him made you think he had good potential to go into management. But people's attitudes change when they get in that position and they can go the other way. It's strange, but I haven't been in that position." Peter Lorimer was one of many attributing the beginning of the end to DOL's book: "I think he lost a lot of fans and a lot of the players when he wrote the book. Whoever got behind him to do that, it was bad advice because he criticised some of the players and things around the club. It was downhill from then. Everything dipped. I don't think it's any coincidence that in the first six weeks of the new year form completely dipped and they only won one game in about nine. It was all down to this, the breakdown of the spirit around the club."

June 28: Danny Hay might not have to go too far for his next club if things work out: Terry Yorath is considering him as a possible backup move if other signings for the cash-strapped Owls don't come off. Hay has had numerous injury problems and was released from his contract 6 weeks ago - but will be allowed to continue to train with Leeds while he tries to find a new club.

June 28: Martin O'Neill is the man on whom the money is riding - he was odds on when I last checked the odds, with Alan Curbishley and Mick McCarthy also strong contenders. However the two front runners' clubs appear to be falling over themselves to get out pledges of undying love and devotion between club and manager and ruling out the vaguest possibility of any change in that situation. With the World Cup coming to an end and the close-season transfer moves about to get underway, they would say that, wouldn't they: the last thing they want is a bunch of players wondering who they'll be working for next season, and no new player willing to join a club in flux. Just as well we're a selling club then, isn't it?

June 28: DOL jetted off on holiday to Sardinia, saying that he was hurt but would stay silent over the circumstances around his dismissal - unless the club "spin doctor" started briefing against him. He said: "The part that concerns me is the spin that's been put on it. I've been given the sack, and if anyone puts a spin on it to say otherwise, I'll have plenty to say." So who would the spin doctor be? Don Warters in the press office, who has reported on Leeds for as long as I can remember? Very unlikely. David Walker, with whom he wrote the book that is believed to have done much to seal his fate? Probably not. How about the man they call "Publicity Pete" in today's Guardian? "...his obsession with the club - and himself - being seen in a positive light"? Hmmmm...

June 28: At least Leeds are signing some players up - even if it is for the Ladies team. England keeper Leanne Hall has joined from Doncaster Belles, and Everton's left back Chantel Woodhead has come back to her home town to link up with her sister in Mark Hodgson's team.

June 28: Lee Bowyer's adviser had two interesting things to say today. The first is that DOL's departure will make no difference to Bowyer's intention to move on, and the second is that he has not yet been contacted by anybody about a move for Lee's services for next season. Maybe he will start out at Elland Road after all! David Geiss said: "Lee was very surprised by the news of the manager's sacking on Thursday. He has always got on very well with David."

June 28: The plot thickens, the mystery deepens.... It is reported today that the chairman consulted some of the senior players before coming to the decision to sack DOL - and that none of them would give him unequivocal backing and a couple made it clear that they would be looking for a move if he stayed. Rio was either left out of that bunch to spare him the embarrassment - or he wasn't being strictly accurate when he said he knew nothing of O'Leary's departure. If the above *is* true, it would seem to bear out what many of us could see demonstrated on the pitch in the second half of the season: that the relationship between O'Leary and the team had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer motivate them or they no longer wished to motivate themselves for him. Of course, this is a bunch of players on 20 grand a week we're talking about here - that should be all the motivation they need.

June 27: In late news tonight, Peter Ridsdale contradicted David O'Leary's assertion that a replacement was already lined up. He also made it clear that ultimately O'Leary had paid the price for spending a large pile of cash and not producing any silverware in return. "I understand the shock but most Leeds United fans have told me they want to see silverware and after £100 million investment we have failed to achieve that," he said. "After some of the diversions and everything else it was time for a change, I felt the pressures from everything had taken its toll on David." He added: "It was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make and had to convey to someone. He took the news with dignity and I hope we will remain friends." Finally, he paid tribute to DOL's contribution to the club: "What he has done is that he has taken us a long way and we have thanked him for what has happened, but we need trophies and Champions League football."

June 27: The club's shares were traded a bit more than usual today - and headed down again. They're now worth just 5.5p, valuing the club at £20 million - considerably less than the net asset value of the players and ground. If someone lends me the 20 million or so, I could always try to buy the club, flog the players and bank a very large pile of cash. Or at least I wouldn't - but somebody who was more interested in cash than the club might just try it.

June 27: The man himself had the following to say about his sudden departure from Elland Road. "To the fans I say thanks for everything because you have been fantastic." (Would that include those of us who dared to question his decisions by the way?) He added: "I wish the club well, I wish them all the success they deserve. I tried to give them my best at all times and I think under the circumstances, with what we've had to deal with off the field, we've done a good job." He's going to look to return to the game after a short holiday (what price number 2 at Arsenal for a season before taking over from Wenger?). He said: "I love the job, I love living here and being here, and I love the supporters. Whoever now gets the job I wish them well."

June 27: Rio was contacted by the media for his comments on O'Leary's departure. He said: "It's a massive shock, and I'm disappointed to see this happen. He's been with the club through good and bad. He paid a lot of money to sign me and he's been brilliant for me, first-class." Reaction from others associated with the club was swift. George Graham said that he thought O'Leary would return to management after a rest and do well. "I think he is going to be a top manager and I think he will be back better than ever. If you consider he was only under my wing for a couple of years, he took over the team and every year he finished in the top six and qualified for Europe." Graham - who should know something about these things - said: "When a club sacks a manager they already have a shortlist of one or two names who are ready to take over. I am sure they have already got their man in mind. They will be looking for a quality manager - someone with experience."

June 27: It only took 90 minutes or so before "mutual consent" became "I was sacked" became "we asked him to leave due to 'off-the-field' factors". DOL claims that he has a good idea of who the board will aim to get in as his successor but isn't saying. The bookies are making it pretty clear though: Martin O'Neill is nearly down to odds-on - though what makes them think that a man whose side are in the Champions League, head and shoulders above the opposition in Scotland and in pole position to take over at Old Trafford when Fergie goes and who has already turned down the chance to manage Leeds when he was at Leicester is anybody's guess - insider knowledge anyone? Mick McCarthy is also mentioned - and the FAI have said that they wouldn't stand in his way - although he's understood to be happy managing Ireland. Guus Hiddinck is due to return to Europe from Korea, and Alan Curbishley is also up there - but then he is for any vacancy that comes up.

June 27: Pausing only to aim at the other foot, the Leeds United board today announced that David O'Leary had parted company with the club "by mutual consent" - i.e. he'd been sacked. This followed a meeting this morning about which dozens of rumours and conspiracy theories have abounded. There's the "Sell Rio and I go" theory, the "You've blabbed in public one too many times" theory, and the "I just can't take the pressure of not being the public's favorite manager anymore" theory. No doubt some stories will emerge in the next few days, and based on DOL's record of getting his viewpoint made public I'm sure we'll have at least one side of the story very soon. 10% of these stories will be 95% true, 14% of the stories will be 65% true, 35% of the stories will be 5% true, and all the rest will be...put out by the Leeds United Press Office. Personally I go for the "Hey Roosta - I just had this really hoopy idea" theory.

June 27: Transfer lies and rumours for the day: we'll pick up Valencia's Roberto Ayala (yeah right) and sell Nigel Martyn to West Ham for around £4 million - which would rather presuppose David James moving somewhere, because Nige is still better than most of the other keepers in the Premiership, even if Paul Robinson deserves/needs a chance at Elland Road now.

June 26: Maybe the Rio gossip will now die down for a bit - he flew out on holiday today after a meeting with Peter Ridsdale. DOL is said to have "begged" the money men behind Leeds to not sell Rio - and maybe if Boro or Sunderland can be persuaded to part with £12 million or more for Robbie Keane, that might just be possible.

June 25: Following up on yesterday's news about redundancies off the field at Leeds, I've had an email which confirms some of the rumours I'd heard last week about how it was done, and how the club wanted the job cuts (which have already happened) to be kept quiet. Funding for various community and fan projects is also "under review" if I can use the appropriate euphemism. Without wanting to belittle the plight of the people laid off, it does give some cause for concern that the club seem to be trimming the lean with the fat, and that an annual cut of half a million - barely 2% of turnover - will make that much of a difference to the club's real financial state of health. It's to be hoped the top brass at the club will face similar cuts - after all, from a purely financial side they have presided over a share price that has fallen to 25% of its value of 2 years ago, which is down 40% on the start of the year and which is underperforming the FTSE 100 by nearly 30%. The board *have* taken some pain themselves - Allan Leighton and Peter Ridsdale were among the directors who bought a sizeable chunk of shares at around 10p a share in September: the current close price of 6.25p leaves them all with a substantial paper loss.

June 25: DOL has made it clear that he doesn't want to sell Rio - but again stressed that he's as much an employee of the plc as Rio, and although he gets on well with the board he'd have to do what they tell him. Speaking on Sky Sports, DOL said: "I'm trying to build a team for the fans and put a squad together for the future of this football club and like any hopefully good manager, you don't want to lose your good players because that makes your job even harder. I was proud that Rio left London�to come to Leeds: he's a wonderful person to deal with and I brought him here to make Leeds a better team and him a better player."

June 25: Transfer news continues to revolve around Rio. Jaap Stam was allegedly lined up as a £10 million replacement for Rio if he were to move - but Leeds denied the first part of that rumour, although the second bit gained more momentum today as Juve were linked with a double swoop for Rio and Olivier Dacourt. An Italian agent said: "Ferdinand's displays have made people in Italy sit up and take notice. We now know why Manchester United are keen on Ferdinand and we intend to look at whether Juventus can sign him instead." My understanding is that there isn't much actual money to be spent in Italy this summer - a series of swaps and loans will swing into action soon for some very good players, but with the Agnelli family laying off a very large number of Fiat workers, even the devotion of Turin to the Old Lady will be tested if Juve start splashing large amounts of money on foreign players.

June 25: Leeds old boy Gunnar Halle will be back in his native Norway next month after being one of the many players released by Bradford at the end of the season. He'll join up with Lillestrom - for whom he played prior to joining Oldham in 1990. Looks like they'll need his help: they're currently 10th in the Tippeligaen and well adrift of a European place for next season, although they are in the coming season's Champions League and will face a 2nd Qualifying Round tie on July 31 and August 7.

June 25: Quick batch of fixture changes: Sunderland at home moves back a day because the police will be so busy through to the Monday with the test match at Headingley (what - they think it will last 5 days?) so they now visit Leeds on Wednesday August 28. As expected, Blackburn away has been confirmed as Sunday 22 September because of the UEFA Cup match - and for some reason the Spurs away game moves back to a 1400 Sunday kick-off, so that's now on 24 November. Finally, Fulham's visit to Elland Road will now take place on Tuesday 22 April rather than the Monday as originally planned. Once we get the PPV games sorted next week, we should finally be able to start booking a few train tickets with some degree of confidence.

June 24: Nigel Martyn has said that Leeds should do whatever they could to retain Rio's services for next season. The keeper said: "Rio had a tremendous World Cup. He's got himself a bigger reputation so I hope Leeds will be able to hang on to him. It's important that we do and I hope we can." Interestingly, his reputation seems to have dropped a notch, despite not doing anything wrong against Brazil. He finds himself out of the FIFA All Star list, but David Beckham - who was consistently below par thanks to his injury - and Sol Campbell - who was solid but nowhere near as impressive as Ferdinand - remain in the side along with Michael Owen.

June 24: Manchester United's chief executive Peter Kenyon said that they had in fact asked about the availability of Rio before the World Cup - but that they had been told he was not available. Which puts the statement the clubs issued on May 30 into some context: "No deal has been strick between the clubs..." and "[Man U] have not made an illegal approach [to Rio]". Which means exactly what it says on the paper: nothing had been signed and by asking the Leeds board rather than Rio, they had not actually approached the player. As for the player himself, he's back from the World Cup and looking to get in a quick break before the pre-season games get underway - and after his experiences with leaving West Ham he knows exactly what to say to keep the fans behind him but without closing any doors. He said: "I've heard all the speculation about me possibly leaving and as far as I'm concerned it's up to Leeds. If they want to keep me I will be staying, if they decide to sell me that's different. I'm planning to go on my holidays and just intend to relax."

June 24: It's not that we're running out of cash but...department. The club have announced that they will be reducing the headcount of the non-playing staff by nearly 10% in order to save about half a million quid a year. A spokesman said: "We have been looking critically at our structure, looking at the best way we can operate and we have come to the conclusion we can be leaner and more efficient. We are a public company with an obligation to make profits if we can. We don't have the kind of money we would receive from the Champions League this year, unless we have a really good run in the UEFA Cup." If possible the 19 jobs will go through natural wastage, not filling open positions or resignations and existing staff will be redeployed where possible - but compulsory redundancies can't be ruled out and the staff have been told their positions are under review as required by employment law.

June 24: Sky have announced their choice of "normal" - i.e. not the PPV games - for the first half of the season, and Leeds are barely on the radar with only 3 appearances scheduled before the New Year. The home games against Man U and Arsenal on September 14 and 28 will remain on the Saturday but kick off at midday, and the visit to Bolton is now down as a Monday night game with an 8pm kick-off. Since that game would - hopefully - have moved back at least to the Sunday provided Leeds haven't fallen at the first UEFA hurdle, I suppose it's not a bad thing but for us southern-based fans facing the Bolton game, Sunderland on Boxing Day, Newcastle midweek plus the UEFA and Worthington Cup games, it's time to dig deep into the days off pule this season.

June 23: Other transfer bits from the weekend: Robbie Keane is said to be close to a move to Sunderland for the bargain basement price of just £7 million. If he goes, some serious sanity questioning needs to take place: Keane might not have had a great domestic season last time, but the World Cup went a long way to restoring his reputation, as Mackems boss Peter Reid pointed out: "Robbie has had a great World Cup and it will be the makings of him in the Premiership next season." He went on: "Robbie will stroll around with his chest out and his head held high after the World Cup. He scored goals for fun against some of the best defenders in the world and he will take the Premiership by storm now." So why would we contemplate selling him at a 30% loss then? Arsenal are said to be sniffing around Danny Mills for the bargain basement price of £7 million: again, Mills has had a good World Cup, silenced most of his critics and must have done enough to hang on to the number 2 shirt for England as the Euro 2004 qualification matches get underway. Of course this would mean that we would be able to play Gary Kelly again, but that's hardly a reason for getting rid of another good player.

June 23: In an astonishingly frank and uninspiring column in the Sunday People, our manager went public on the Rio transfer issue, seeming to undermine the club's earlier statements on the likelihood of a move or the strict clauses in his contract ruling out a transfer to another English club. O'Leary says he'll be aiming to have talks with the defender to clarify what he really wants to do. "The bottom line is that if Rio tells me he thinks that Manchester United are a bigger club and that he wants to go on to another level, then what can you do? Keep an unhappy player - and an unhappy £30 million rated player at that?" Well why not just buy him a train ticket to Manchester then David? Like it or not they ARE a bigger club than Leeds, but surely the manager needs to be persuading the players and the fans that he knows what to do to narrow the gap. Maybe I'm being unfair here and O'Leary will be doing just that, but I'd hope that he'd try to balance his newspaper columns with those sort of thoughts as well. However, most of the rest of the column just talks about how far-sighted he was in staking his job on buying Rio and other players, and how much more they're all worth now compared to when he bought them. And underlining the apparent confusion and overall uncertainty at the club, he adds: "It's not easy planning for the new season, because I'm not sure who will be playing for us! We have to sell some players and we'll see how that turns out." Man U's chairman Martin Edwards said that "Ferdinand was a great player who would certainly improve our squad". He added: "Whether Leeds are prepared to sell him is another matter," - which probably means we've just not agreed a price yet, or that they've not determined who from their current squad will have to be offloaded - or offered in exchange to smash the £28 million record they paid for Veron last summer.

June 20: I'm away for the weekend - the world famous Internet Lards will be playing in a veterans tournament in Pussay, just south of Paris, so yours truly will be out there along with a few of the other elderly Lards luminaries. If you're vaguely in the area, come along and cheer us on - kick off is at 16h00 on Saturday, and with two World Cup quarter-finals to watch beforehand (come on Korea!) it's probably fair to say that the majority of the participants might just have a few balance problems :-) Normal service resumes Sunday night.

June 20: There's some sort of international game on tomorrow or so I'm told. Robbie Fowler looks set to miss out as Michael Owen rises from the physio table to reclaim his place in the starting line-up. And realistically he'll only get on the pitch if England are in trouble and need to start throwing the ball into the box and hoping someone can poach a goal - unless Owen breaks down again which, despite my keenness for a Leeds player to play a starring role against Brazil, I don't really want to see.

June 20: Lucas Radebe has made a full recovery from the injury he suffered in SA's final World Cup game. Radebe was substituted with just 10 minutes remaining against Spain, but he reports that he's now back to full strength and is raring to get on with the pre-season games.

June 20: Good news to report on the contract front at last: Dominic Matteo has signed an extension to his contract that now binds him to Leeds for the next 5 years - a 2 year extension to the 5 year deal he signed when he joined, Matteo has been a great buy - solid in the centre of defence and offering an alternative at left back for games in which defending is more important than scoring free kicks.

June 20: Leeds have been seeded 4th for the UEFA Cup this year - behind Lazio, Parma and - wait for it - Chelsea! The Blues Cup Winners Cup win in 1998 still counts for something (but only for 1 more year I think) so they are remarkably drawn ahead of a team that has finished ahead of them and done better in Europe since then. This means that Leeds will be drawn against the unseeded/lower-ranked teams for the first two rounds and will not be drawn against the Champions League failures when they join in Round 3.

June 20: The Daily Mail is fast catching the Mirror as Leeds fans least favorite paper. Today's back page mendacity has Rio's move to Old Trafford done and dusted for somewhat less than £30 million. If we need the money that badly, we should just close the club down now. Peter Ridsdale was adamant that Leeds would not be a breeding ground for other clubs and that Rio would not be moving. Today's YEP reports that Rio has a clause in his contract that rules out any move to another English club - although that does leave the door open to a possible move abroad, and once he's there he could always do a JFH and return. But realistically if he plays well against Ronaldo and Rivaldo tomorrow, he could probably name his price in Italy or Spain, and Leeds might well find themselves with an offer that would be just too tempting to refuse, however much the club want to hang on to him. In other transfer news, Villa are now reported to be interested in giving Jason Wilcox a more regular first team place.

June 19: Tickets are now on sale in Melbourne for the match between Leeds and Colo Colo of Chile. The promoters have got Leeds and the Chileans to agree to bring a squad of their best 20 players - which will include Kewell and Viduka as a draw to the local crowd. Melbourne manager Ricky Nixon said: "There's a long-term business plan we are discussing with Leeds, which involves everything from future games, merchandise and opportunities for players." Proceeds from the game will go to charity and Leeds will look to do a bit of image building out in what could be a very lucrative market.

June 19: Robbie Keane was overwhelmed by the reception the Ireland squad received on their return to Dublin last night. Somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people gathered in Phoenix Park to cheer their heroes - and cop for a free concert at the same time. He said: "It was great to see the fans out here as the lads didn't expect such a turn out but the fans have been great since I've been in the squad." He added: "First and foremost I'm very proud how the team played. It's been a great tournament and who knows had we beaten the Spaniards we could have gone on a lot further." A girl in the crowd held up a banner saying: "ROBBIE, I'M PREGNANT". If he managed to have anything to do with that while playing in the World Cup he really is something special!

June 19: Robbie Fowler is raring to get on the pitch as the countdown to the Brazil game ticks away. With Michael Owen still an injury doubt, Fowler said: "I have to be aware that I might be needed at any time. Against Denmark, Michael was carrying a niggle and it was best to get him off and get him right for the other games coming up." Referring to his 45 minutes against Denmark he said: "Denmark still defended deeply and made life hard for us," but he thought he'd done okay. As for Friday: "There will be a massive worldwide audience watching it and just to get on at some stage if I don't start will be magnificent - and maybe even to score the golden goal winner."

June 19: A Leeds old boy - and veteran of the last England Brazil World Cup game praised Rio in today's YEP. Terry Cooper said: "Rio could be a world great. He's still got a bit to do to catch Bobby but he's got every attribute needed. I like him and with experience he could be in that sort of class." And TC thinks it's key that our injured star striker can make it for the quarter-final: "The Brazilians ARE scared of Owen. His pace frightens them to death and they also defend deep which is to our advantage." He added: "I don't think Brazil are that strong at the back and he could do some damage with that space. If there's ever a game to play well then this is it for Michael Owen."

June 19: Leeds nearly found themselves playing 2 games in 48 hours - but an equally challenging prospect for the Baggies has left things as is: Sky wanted to screen the game at the Hawthorns as a Monday night game, forcing Leeds to push the Sunderland game back by a day, but the prospect of playing Leeds and Arsenal in an equally compressed timeframe has made the Baggies turn down the Sky money. Sounds like Mr Murdoch's mob are getting on with picking out their fixtures for the first half of the season - I'll carry a full list of alterations as and when they're announced.

June 19: I hear from one of my longstanding correspondents that the Marching on Together website is no more - time pressures having finally caused its demise. However it lives on in part at Dr Gary's website where the lively MoT chat forum is now hosted. Take a look and leave a message!

June 19: A quick note to all my readers on the other side of the pond. With such a thrilling season in prospect (okay, who slipped the happy pills into my tea?) you might want to consider joining the Leeds United Supporters Club over there. The North American branch of LUSC will celebrate its tenth anniversary next season and new features of membership will include a revamped video list, two new t-shirts and our first membership badge. There are also plans for three regional get togethers during the season to commemorate the tenth anniversary. Anyone interested in joining please drop a line to Mike Bellwood with your street address. The LUSC is a great way to get in touch with fellow Leeds fans from all over the place - or in your neighbourhood - and if you ever make the pilgrimage to Elland Road then Mike's world-renowned ability to sort out match tickets might just come in handy for you.

June 18: Danny Mills won't be holding back from the challenges on Friday morning - despite the yellow card hanging over him and threatening to leave him suspended for the semi if he picks up another. "You can't think about missing the semi-final when there is still a quarter-final to be won against Brazil," he said. He also mentioned that he thought the card was a little harsh since - as I said at the time and TV replays clearly show - he had been pushed and tripped as he was running and couldn't do much to avoid the Danish player. Looking forward he said: "People talk about Brazil's players, and rightly so because they are fantastic players, but we have got players like Michael Owen, David Beckham and Paul Scholes who should not be under-estimated." Interesting that he mentions the three players who are the biggest injury doubts, but he adds: "Brazil are not invincible. We have to be focused and concentrate, especially against Brazil because it has been proved in this World Cup that you can't switch off for a second against anyone." But he saw many positives in Brazil's win over Belgium: "It gives us great heart to see the Belgians performing like they did. It just goes to show that if you work hard and you are well organised then you have a great chance."

June 18: Peter Ridsdale was quoted in the papers today reiterating the point he made a couple of months ago that the squad size would need to be reduced by 3 or 4 players. He also said that the board were aiming to get a reduction in the club's debt of around £15 million - but they did not want to see Rio leave. The chairman said: "If we sold three peripheral players, that might well be enough to reduce our targeted debt," and speaking about that "target", he stressed: "It is a target we have independently set ourselves and no one is calling in the debt." Obviously Lee Bowyer looks like a prime candidate to depart, and it would be a bit surprising to see Olivier Dacourt start the season with Leeds. Jason Wilcox and Gary Kelly are also frequently mentioned as likely departures - Man City for Wilcox and Sunderland/Bolton for Kelly - and if we are to lose a striker then surely it makes most sense to try to offload Robbie Keane and take a profit after he's had such a good World Cup rather than letting him rot for another season on the bench.

June 17: Ray Parlour - who has been frequently connected with Leeds over the last couple of years and is clearly not really Wenger's first choice at Arsenal - could be on the move, but AS Monaco are said to be interested in picking him up. Talking of right-sided midfielders, Eirik Bakke has agreed (or signed, depending on who you talk to) an extension to his existing deal at Elland Road.

June 17: Michael Bridges has taken the next step in his return to fitness as he kicks off his training programme to make him ready for the real pre-season training in July. He said: "I have a programme designed for the summer to help build my fitness. I intend to stick to it and hopefully that will see me ready for the start of the season." But where will he be playing? I'm told that someone well-connected with Newcastle has indicated that a return to the north-east - but in black and white rather than red and white this time - is on the cards this summer. It would be a massive pity to lose him - from what we saw when he was fully fit, he's as good - and has the potential to be better than - any of the current strike force.

June 17: Danny Mills wouldn't have believed it possible that he could be looking forward to starting for England in the quarter-finals of the World Cup - but solid performances from the squad have put England in that position and Mills says: "This team can only get better and better." He points out that the team is growing together through every game and practice session and that "all" that the team need to do is win three more games. "We will not get over confident but we know how close we are and we do not want to blow it now."

June 17: Rio is looking forward to playing the boys from Rio on Friday. After Brazil's slightly lucky win against Belgium today, England will face the tournament favorites in the Finals for the first time since Gordon Banks produced his wonder save in Mexico in 1970. Rio was particularly looking forward to testing himself against the reborn Ronaldo. Rio said: "It would be brilliant to take him on. You like playing against the people you look up to and he is definitely in that category. Five or six years ago I would never have thought it possible - the same with Gabriel Batistuta." And of course it would click the old transfer fee ratchet round a notch or two as well if he keeps Ronaldo and Rivaldo in his pocket as well as he did against Batistuta. He's also played down the prospect of a summer move - with AC Milan now mentioned as interested bidders. "I'm a Leeds United player and I'm very happy at the moment and I'm not looking to move."

June 16: Boro are the latest side mentioned as being interested in picking up one of our surplus strikers - and it's Robbie Keane whose name seems to be top of the list. His performances in the Far East have certainly restored some of the reputation that had been slipping a bit last season and if he is sold we shouldn't have too much problem recouping our outlay.

June 16: Two penalties by Robbie Keane - one in the last minute of normal time and one in the shoot out - weren't enough to keep Ireland's World Cup hopes alive. After conceding a soft goal to Spain early on they had a lot of possession and made some decent chances, but never quite managed to take them until Niall Quinn came on and Damien Duff switched to the wing. It was Duff's run that won Ireland a penalty - but Ian Harte's soft shot was blocked and Kevin Kilbane's attempt to net the rebound was even worse than the spot kick. With the fulltime whistle approaching, Spain's Hierro decided to try to exchange shirts with Niall Quinn a bit too soon, and the ref awarded a second penalty which Keane hammered home. A goalless extra time was followed by a shoot out, and although Keane again found the net, the next three Irish penalties missed or were saved. Two misses from Spain meant that it went to the last kick, and although Steve Finnan gave Ireland a chance by bagging his, Gaizka Mendieta hit the target to give the Spanish a 3-2 win. Gary Kelly looked none too happy when he was subbed in the second half, but the team spirit shown by the Irish was great and their attitude throughout the tournament has been a great example to the other teams.

June 16: England's first goal yesterday has been formally credited to Rio Ferdinand - despite the fact that the defender's header didn't look goalbound before Sorensen swiped it over the line. Still, Rio's not complaining - and neither I'm sure will the Elland Road beancounters as his valuation continues to increase.

June 15: Peter Ridsdale says that he feels immense pride that so many Leeds players are making such an impact on the World Cup Finals. "I'm proud for both the football club and the supporters because who would have believed that we would have so many players involved in a competition of this magnitude," he said. Only Nigel Martyn has yet to play any part, and Lucas Radebe is now out, but the contribution of Ian Harte, Gary Kelly, Robbie Fowler, Danny Mills and most significantly Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Keane reflects well on the club. He added: "I think the fact we have so many players involved in the World Cup shows how far we have come as a football club. It shows that - despite what some people may think - we have invested wisely."

June 15: Robbie Keane had to sit out a training session thanks to a groin strain - but is pretty hopeful that he'll be fit enough to start tomorrow's crunch second round game against Spain. Gary Kelly is set to continue on the right side of midfield, but Kevin Kilbane may replace Ian Harte at left back for a game in which defensive solidity will be crucial.

June 15: Rio had another decent game today, with his header forcing a mistake from Sunderland and Denmark keeper Sorensen that gave England the lead after just 5 minutes. Two more first half goals wrapped it up, and an injury to Michael Owen even gave Robbie Fowler 45 minutes on the field - shame that he barely saw any of the ball. Danny Mills had a solid game and was unlucky to be booked by the German ref when he caught a Danish player in the head with his forearm after being tripped and pushed - he's going to have to watch himself now, because another booking will mean a one match suspension (with the fairly major assumption that England manage to get past the winners of Belgium and Brazil next Friday morning of course!).

June 15: Just a quick pointer to a full fixture list for next season for those of you who requested it. Due to the writ-wielding we-can-copyright-the-very-air-you-breathe merchants at the FA, I'm not allowed to give you a full list myself, but the BBC has the initial list on its website - although they've not yet factored in the inevitable shifts for UEFA Cup fixtures (the trips to Blackburn and Villa at least will be put back to the Sunday) and Sky have yet to announce which games they will favour with their presence.

June 14: Eirik Bakke is close to signing a 5 year extension to his existing deal - despite a disappointing season last time and hints that he might be on his way.

June 14: The fixture list for next season was published yesterday, and although Leeds go through August with what looks like some very winnable games against each of the promoted teams, the season - and maybe even a few people's futures - seems to turn on mid-September to mid-October when the UEFA Cup fixtures coincide with visits to St James Park and Ewood Park, and Elland Road matches against Arsenal, Man U and Liverpool. There's not too bad a run-in through April, but the last two games could be tough with a visit to Highbury on May 3 and Villa at Elland Road rounding off the season on May 11.

June 14: Fenerbahce's Croatian midfielder Milan Rapaic could be on his way to Parma. The Turkish club are hinting that Leeds refused to stump up the asking price of just under £7 million but the Italians were sufficiently impressed by his performances in the Far East to dig deep and will sign him shortly.

June 14: So here I am, back a day early from a nice relaxing break that involved fresh air, (vaguely) decent weather and a surprisingly large number of Good Beer Guide listed establishments, and what's changed? Well, not much really. World Cup stuff first: Lucas Radebe scored an equaliser for South Africa against Spain - only his second international goal in a decade - but let Raul get ahead of him in the box to knock SA out of the competition - and he also picked up a worrying knock on his knee, although it now appears to be less serious than was first imagined. Robbie Keane's early goal for the Republic saw them through to the next stage, although not before Ian Harte had a few more defensive worries. Gary Kelly continued to make a decent contribution on the right side of midfield, and Sam Allardyce is keen to pick up the right back after the World Cup finishes (although Bolton can't afford the £4 million or so it would cost to take him on). Finally on the World Cup front, Danny Mills and Rio Ferdinand have been solid (Mills) and outstanding (Rio) in their appearances to date. Mills has done enough to silence the doubters and with a bit of confidence behind him should be able to hang on to the number 2 shirt even when everyone else is fit, but Rio's performances have been truly world class, and the TV pundits seem to be treating his departure from Elland Road as an imminent inevitability rather than a distant possibility. If he does go, we can certainly expect a bumper profit on the massive investment, but the insistence from the club that we aren't in the business of selling will need to be backed up by some very tough decisions over the next month or so.

June 08: Service break notice: I'm not going to be around for much of the next week - normal service will resume next Saturday. Here's hoping that all of the Leeds players involved in the World Cup will still be interested by then.

June 08: Lucas Radebe got his wish with an early goal today - and South Africa held on to beat Slovenia 1-0 and retain hopes of qualifying for the next phase.

June 07: With the magnificent new stadia on display in the World Cup - all built for a fraction of the cost of the proposed new stadium at Wembley - you might want to make your voice heard - there's a website here which is looking for votes on where you think it should be (of course it's all down to whose back gets scratched and which pockets the brown envelopes end up in). Should it be Birmingham, should it be Wembley or nowhere at all - just use existing large club grounds like Old Trafford, St James Park, Anfield, Arsenal's new ground or maybe even the new Leeds ground (things have gone very quiet again) for England games and continue to use the Millenium Stadium for cup finals?

June 07: Danny Mills and Rio Ferdinand were in the starting line-up for England's crucial World Cup tie against Argentina this afternoon. The whole defence played well as England came under siege in the last 15 minutes, holding on to a 1-0 lead from a penalty by David Beckham just before half time. The result now means that all England need is a draw with Nigeria in their final game to guarantee qualification for the next phase.

June 07: Results from the end of season poll are finally collated - you can read them here. Thanks for all your votes.

June 07: Lucas Radebe knows what his team need to do against Slovenia on Saturday. After coming back from 2-0 down against Paraguay and facing group favorites Spain in their final game, Radebe said that South Africa must score first. "There will be no margin of error. This time round we would also not be able to afford giving Slovenia the lead," he said. He also knows that a lot of responsibility rests on him and his fellow defenders: "Our defensive lines must ensure that we keep Slovenia out, because we have excellent attacking players who could give us the victory. With players like Benni McCarthy and Sibusiso Zuma we would always be in with a chance."

June 07: The knockout format of the UEFA Cup is "an unsatisfactory product in a declining market" according to a UEFA club meeting. From 2003-04, it's proposed to offer a league-based competition, but one that doesn't mirror directly the Champions League or any previous format. On the positive side, there will no longer be a second chance for eliminated Champions League teams. However the plan talks of having qualifying round(s) leading to eight groups of five teams with each team playing two home and two away ties. That would remove the home-and-away balance that has been in European competition since the start, and from a fan's point of view it would mean that we wouldn't be able to set up the sort of reciprocal meetings and friendships that were such a feature of the Grasshoppers and Eindhoven games this year. Nothing is finalised yet - but it is a given that there will be a group stage introduced from the season after next - and you can bet your life that UEFA will do their utmost to sell the competition as a package to broadcasters rather than allowing each club to negotiate TV rights as at present.

June 07: There's a pretty decent crowd at Elland Road this morning for the launch of the new home kit. There's a Nike-sponsored "Funday" for the young fans and the chance to watch England against Argentina on the big screen.

June 06: Leeds have issued an official statement in reply to Lee Bowyer's comments yesterday that he was being forced out. The club made the point that Bowyer was not being victimised, and that listing any player who refused an extension with just a year to go on their contract was club policy. The statement continued: "Lee's departure is not linked to any policy of reducing debt at the club. He decided to reject a new five-year contract. Given his current agreement expires in the summer of 2003, we had no option but to place him on the transfer list and seek offers for his services. That is the sole reason for him being transfer-listed." The statement also pointed out the support - both moral and financial that the club had given him during the two trials, and said that bridges had not yet been burned: "If he changes his mind and decides to sign the new deal we will be delighted for him to stay. This is the avenue we have been exploring in recent days."

June 06: Celtic have surprisingly said that John Hartson would be for sale at the right price - and Leeds and Boro are both being mentioned as possible buyers. Hartson's goal in the Gary Kelly testimonial will certainly have caused a few Leeds fans to modify their impression of Hartson, but it would take the departure of Mark Viduka for such a move to make any sense, and for Boro the impending arrival of Empoli's Italian U=21 star Massimo Maccarone for just under £7 million makes the likelihood of Hartson turning up at the Riverside pretty dim.

June 06: Stephen McPhail has hailed Robbie Keane's goal against Germany yesterday, saying that Keane's name was now "etched in Irish footballing history." Jack Charlton and team-mate Ian Harte also praised his cool head, persistence and finishing in such an important game. Today's 1-0 win for Cameroon over Saudi Arabia means that Ireland need to beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 to be certain of a place in the next round.

June 05: Rio Ferdinand is doing just fine according to Uncle Sven. The England coach said: "[Rio and Sol] came out of this match very well indeed with this performance. You know they had a lot of work to do because the Swedish players were coming at them from all angles. It was very difficult for them but they performed very well and really kept us in the game." Meanwhile Nigel Martyn is resigned to spending another competition on the bench. He said: "Of course it is very disappointing because you come all the way out here and you want to play for your country in the World Cup. But it has not worked out that way and I just have to be ready and waiting if ever called upon. There is no point in sulking about it. I am a member of the squad and I have to make sure that if there is ever a problem with David then I can simply step up and take over."

June 05: Former Leeds youngster Andy Gray is linked with a move to Peterborough after being released by financially-strapped Nottingham Forest this summer. Gray played in the Coca Cola Cup Final just 6 years ago - it's a long way down in a very short time for a player who seemed to have such promise.

June 05: The season ticket renewal cycle gets into its next phase this week as existing holders who want to switch seats will be accommodated before people on the waiting list will be offered a chance to buy a season ticket. This year only 20,000 out of the existing 27,000 holders have renewed so far, so there will be plenty of chance for the thousand odd believed to be on the waiting list to get one for themselves. Last season, Leeds claimed to have shifted 26,000 by mid-July - it will be interesting to see how that compares this summer.

June 05: DOL might want to keep Lee Bowyer - but Bowyer's representative says that he's made his mind up to leave. O'Leary had said: "Lee has to go and do a lot of thinking. There are a lot of rumours around at the moment and it will be interesting days ahead." However David Geiss said: "He's made his decision and nothing has changed. He certainly doesn't look like signing a new contract, put it that way." Lee Bowyer was later quoted as saying he was being forced out. "I have no problem with the manager, the staff, my team-mates or the supporters, who have been the ones who have really stayed behind me throughout my time at Leeds," he said. "I know I will be fortunate to get such support elsewhere, but I feel I am being pushed out and was not surprised to hear that the chairman was placing me on the transfer list again." He pointed the finger at the chairman and his attitude, saying that: "[Peter Ridsdale's] attitude seems to have changed over the past six months and I can only guess why that is."

June 05: Robbie Keane equalised for Ireland in the 93rd minute of their World Cup group game against Germany this afternoon. Gary Kelly and Ian Harte both started the game but were simultaneously subbed in the second half as Mick McCarthy's men strove for an equaliser. It looked like Oliver Kahn's brilliant goalkeeping had been enough to hold on to a lead that his team had gained in the first half after Ian Harte let Miroslav Klose get goalside to head home, but Keane latched on to a Niall Quinn knockdown to slip the ball in off the keeper with 45 seconds of injury time remaining. Cameroon are expected to beat Saudi Arabia, but it would be a surprise if they get anything against Germany - so Ireland will just need to take three points in the final game against Saudi Arabia to progress to the next phase.

June 04: Despite the thrills and excitement of the World Cup, there's not much to say about Leeds today. Gary Kelly, Ian Harte and Robbie Keane are all fit and raring to go in the biggest game of the tournament against Germany tomorrow lunchtime. Steve Staunton will win his 100th cap for Ireland in a game that will almost certainly determine their chances of qualifying for the next phase.

June 04: Of course it wouldn't be the summer if we couldn't rustle up a rumour - and for today's link it seems all you have to do is score a WC goal to get approached by Leeds: Peter van Heyden's well-taken goal for Belgium has started some tongues wagging about the Bruges defender's future, and Leeds are mentioned as a possible destination. Yawn.

June 03: Sven doesn't seem to be blaming Danny Mills too much for Sweden's equaliser - and Mills himself isn't letting the pressure get to him. He said: "The goal didn't knock my confidence. You've got to put it at the back of your mind. We all make mistakes - you can't let it affect you. You've got to get on with it." Rio meanwhile is upbeat about playing Argentina. "We're not scared of anybody," he said. "All the players in our squad have played on the big stage before - things like the Champions League, and they have proved themselves on that stage. The defeat against Argentina four years ago was a bad feeling because we went out of the competition, but now we want to put things right."

June 03: Transfer rubbish from the weekend: Jason Wilcox to move to Wearside as Peter Reid tries to build a team that looks less susceptible to relegation, Feyenoord deny all knowledge of a Newcastle bid for Brett Emerton and DOL had a quick but public drool over the possibility of acquiring Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich. Much as I love Leeds, at the moment you just can't see someone holding down a regular place in a team that makes a habit of getting a long way in Europe jacking it all in to join us.

June 03: Unless you've been living under a rock you'll know that England drew with Sweden 1-1 on Sunday, and that Danny Mills and Rio both played for the full match. Mills made some decent runs forward but was hurried into a mistake which - thanks to equally lax play from Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole - led to Sweden's equaliser in a second half in which England just switched off. Rio didn't play badly - but was lucky not to give away a penalty after tangling with a Swedish player who got goal-side of him chasing a long ball. Meanwhile Lucas Radebe became South Africa's most capped player as his side came from behind to draw 2-2 with Paraguay.

June 01: Robert Molenaar is looking to stay in England and find himself a new club at the top level if he possibly can. After being handed his cards along with 18 others by the administrators of Bradford, Molenaar said that he and his family were intending to stay on this side of the channel for another two years. He said: "I'm fighting fit to play at the highest level and if the opportunity arose, I'm sure I could do a good job in the Premiership."

June 01: Despite the concerted campaign against Danny Mills being waged by most of the London-based press, Sven doesn't have a problem with Mills or his attitude. He said: "I have never had to talk to Danny Mills about his good or bad discipline. Whenever I have had him in the squad he has performed well for me and there have no problems. He has never let me or the country down so why should I bring up the subject?"

June 01: Ian Harte, Gary Kelly and Robbie Keane all started for Ireland in this morning's World Cup tie against Cameroon. Harte had to be subbed towards the end of the match after suffering from cramp, and Kelly ended up playing in 3 positions, starting out at rightback, moving forward into midfield when Jason McAteer was replaced and finally replacing his nephew in the left back slot. Robbie Keane had a cracking shot come back off the post, and Mick McCarthy's team were probably a bit unlucky to only come away with a 1-1 draw by the end.

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