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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post

July 31: Here is the transfer un-news. We like Emerton, really we do - but the manager is being non-commital on the whole deal "I'm not going to say we're going to sign him because at this moment we don't know. I've had a chat with the chairman to see what we can and cannot do. It may well be one or two players come into the squad, but I'm not prepared to say who they are." He might not be prepared - but the papers are. Atletico Paranaense are strapped for cash, so that might clear the way for Leeds to pick up Brazil's World Cup midfielder Kleberson for around £4 million - and on relatively light wages too. Alternatively we may want to rob Villa of Alpay - though the £6 million mentioned received exceeding short shrift from Graham Taylor: "They have just sold a player who was not in the World Cup Select XI for £30m and are now being linked with a player who was in that XI at a fraction of the price. The figures don't add up." Meanwhile, Julien Escude of Rennes - who has been vaguely mentioned before - is now said to be the focus of Fergie's next swoop, so maybe that will allow us to pick up Sorin of Lazio for a song (he's been linked with a move to ManU to pay off the Stam transfer).

July 31: It seems that the ref in the game against the Bangkok XI told El Tel to take Smiffy off before he was sent off. Smith was the victim of a couple of dodgy challenges before producing a typically thunderous lunge in response, but - unlike our previous manager - Venables is not making a song and dance about it. In fact, he's positively praising the lad: "Alan Smith cares, and you can see that he is Leeds through and through." He went on: "All players find that the higher they go, the harder it gets physically and as well as being able to play, they also have to protect themselves.... The guys that don't ever get booked get appreciated by the press and the supporters - and yet a lot of players would say that those players don't care as much as the ones that do get into trouble." And he pointed out: "Teams that do well, such as Manchester United, have players like that."

July 30: The tour is finally over - and the boss and players all reckon it was worthwhile, despite the distances travelled. Venables said: "If you can get all the players together on a tour like this, then it is good. It has familiarised us all with each other." Smithy was upbeat about the prospects for the forthcoming season, and there was a subtle dig at DOL when he said: "Originally you don't want to talk about being fourth or fifth. You have got to go for the top in everything." His upbeat message was pretty simple: "We know we are good enough to win things. People can say what they want, but we know we are capable of winning matches." But can we win some silverware Alan?

July 30: Robbie Keane has restated his intentions to stay at Leeds and fight for a starting place, despite the constant speculation linking him with a move to just about every other club in the Premiership. "The interest is always flattering, but I'm happy at Leeds....I just want to stay, and that's no snub to Peter Reid whom I respect as a great manager." He's taken the opportunity of the tour to have a chat to El Tel about where he will be playing and what he can do for Leeds: another sign that he's spelling out his intentions to the management and fans. Unlike some other players we could mention...

July 30: According to the papers today, we're looking to revive the career of Nick Barmby - El Tel remaining impressed from his Spurs days despite the fact that he's made little impact at Anfield - because we can use him on the left wing and free up Harry Kewell to take on a more central role. And the Emerton saga might be getting close to a conclusion too: Feyenoord aren't in too bad a financial position and are demanding £12 million - but Newcastle and Liverpool have backed off (Newcastle are set to sign Sicknote so that's another load off our minds) so Leeds' offer of £8 million for the young Aussie might just be enough to tempt them.

July 30: Paul Robinson put in a top quality performance against the Bangkok XI that largely consisted of the Thailand U-23 team today. First half goals from Eirik Bakke and Robbie Keane put Leeds into a two goal lead, but Robbo was finally beaten just before the break. With 11 substitutions made in the second half, the game went off the boil a bit and that's how it finished. Now Leeds will play Barnsley on Saturday - with the Oakwell side possibly including Clyde Wijnhard on trial after he failed to agree terms with Preston for the new season.

July 29: New captain Dominic Matteo has told Olivier Dacourt and Lee Bowyer to stay at the club and win some silverware. "They are two of our best players and you want your best players to stay. It would be nice if they could sort things out." And he's also picked out his defensive partner Jon Woodgate for great things in the future. "From what I've seen of him, he's a class act and I'm sure he'll live up to his potential. I'm also sure one day Rio and Woody will play together for England." And Danny Mills also reckons that we will still be able to challenge for honours even without Rio. "We've got four or five very good centre-halves that can do as good a job. It's a squad game anyway....We have some fantastic individuals. There's no reason why we can't challenge again this season."

July 29: Several outlets today carry the story of the Leeds fan with a small problem: his car's registration spells out MUFC! Og, and it's red as well. Aravindan Chinnaraja bought the BMW some three months ago and now reports that he has had his car scratched, people have tried to rip off the number plate and he's been honked at and tailed by angry people. Mebbe if he just got Gary Edwards to give it a coat of white gloss that might just make people think it was more of an accident. He's now looking to get rid of the plate - maybe to a ManU fan and hopefully for the same sort of inflated fee that LUFC got for Rio :-)

July 29: We're being linked with Sicknote again - but it seems that Spurs management team of David Pleat and Glenn Hoddle are split on whether to get in for Robbie Keane. Spurs aren't prepared to spend money they don't have (Tim Sherwood attacked his manager for not standing up to the board and demanding a transfer kitty to allow the club to compete at a higher level) and Hoddle acknowledged that he might have to let some players go if he wanted to bring in new talent at White Hart Lane. "Darren's a wonderful player and I wouldn't want him to leave, but with circumstances as they are you don't know.... Most clubs are now looking at swap deals rather than just spending cash. We've got to work towards that."

July 29: Leeds touched down in Thailand ahead of tomorrow's game with a Bangkok Select XI. Lee Bowyer has a minor ankle injury and is the only doubt for the game - which kicks off at noon UK time, after which the team will fly back to England, arriving home on Wednesday.

July 29: Robbie Fowler is to return early from the Far East tour after suffering a recurrence of the hip injury that kept him out of action for part of last season. Fowler had a scan in Australia that didn't show up any serious damage, but will see a surgeon and physio and possibly have a further scan in Leeds tomorrow.

July 28: It's been just too hot and sticky in the UK this weekend and even the hacks appear to be taking it easy: with all that cash in the bank, the best rumour they can come up with this weekend is to resurrect the story that we're about to offer Boro one seventh of a Rio for Gareth Southgate. Maybe I'm being harsh: it could be that the sports pages have been cleared to carry real sports news like Robbie McEwen's great sprint up the Champs Elysee to take the green jersey, Paula Radcliffe finally breaking her major championship duck with a magnificent run to gold in Manchester or the surprising news from Lords that England are about to win a Test. Or maybe they're all down the pub, recovering from their exhausting campaign to talk Rio out of Elland Road...

July 28: Rio made his debut for Man U in a 2-3 win at Dean Court yesterday. Warren Feeney set up the opening goal for the home side, but by the time Rio came on with 15 minutes to go, the visitors had equalised and gone ahead.

July 28: Looks like forgiveness of Rio could be a while in coming. Take a look at this banner seen at the Colonial Stadium yesterday!

July 27: Andy Ritchie saw his U-16 side triumph in the final of the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland today, beating Panathanaikos 4-0 in the final. The Greek side had earlier put out Manchester United's youngsters and it's a great victory, but don't read too much into performances at this level. Remember the 1993 Youth Cup winning side - only Noel Whelan went on to top flight success, while the opposition in the two-legged final fielded the likes of the Nevilles, Paul Scholes, David Beckham....

July 27: El Tel has told his former international colleagues at Soccer Australia to go easy when it comes to selecting his players for Socceroos games. He said: "I understand that the Australians will be needed for international duty but I cannot just allow them to fly around the world at a moment's notice. They will be needed with us in the Premiership. It is about time the Australians brought their international matches into line with any European international fixtures so there will be no trouble in us releasing them for duty."

July 27: Leeds old boy Steve Hodge was reported to be training with Dr Martens Western Division side Gresley Rovers last week. When I looked up some info to check the story out, I see that they are now being managed by yet another ex-Leeds man: Jon Newsome is taking his first steps in management - playing only in emergencies - following his injury-enforced retirement from the top level.

July 27: A 39th minute Harry Kewell goal gave Leeds a 1-0 victory over Chilean side Colo Colo in the Colonial Stadium in Melbourne today. The back four (Mills/Harte/Woodgate/Matteo) and Paul Robinson played the full game - but it was a half each for just about everybody else, with Michael Duberry, Lucas Radebe and Jamie McMaster the only outfield players to miss out on action. Lee Bowyer played the first half and Michael Bridges appears to be close to full fitness again after his terrible injury problems.

July 26: Lee Bowyer continues to refuse to go public with a straight answer on his Leeds future - because he says he doesn't know himself what he wants to do. "You know why I have not signed," he said. "I have spoken to the manager and the chairman and they know the situation. Things have happened behind closed doors that nobody knows about." But if he is selected by the manager then he will continue to give his all: "I go out to give 100% each game I play. The boss knows that, and the supporters and other players know that." So he's not happy with the way he's been treated, but can't make up his mind if he really wants to go - but he's certain that the Liverpool move was a bad idea. "With hindsight that it is in the best interest of both parties. Now I am back playing with people I love playing with and working with, so I am delighted."

July 26: Vidooks is raring to go ahead of tomorrow's game in the Colonial Stadium in his hometown of Melbourne. "I don't quite know if I'm a hero down here, maybe I wouldn't go that far, but they know who I am and where I'm from. I would imagine, and hope, that they come out and support us. Leeds is very popular here thanks to the club having so many Australians and the football fans down here would like to come and see us play." He knows that Leeds need to improve if they are to mount a challenge next season: "We need to be a bit more consistent. That is what wins you trophies in this game and we need to take a leaf out of Arsenal's book. We had some great one- off results last season but we lost too many games and that has to be put right."

July 26: There's another Lee on trial on the North Sea coast this week - but it's Lee Sharpe and he's having his footballing skills rather than his integrity and honesty examined in Grimsby as he looks to find a club for the new season.

July 26: Dominic Matteo has been confirmed by Terry Venables as Leeds' captain for the forthcoming season. It was a fairly straightforward choice for the manager to make: you want someone who will play 90 minutes for every game, who is committed but levelheaded. With the numerous attacking options, the likelihood of Robbie Fowler getting it were small, Batts is unlikely to be used in every game, Bowyer and Olly don't give the impression of being 100% committed to the club, Woody remains a muppet and Smiffy and DMIFB need to convince everyone they've reformed and calmed down a bit - so Dom found himself number one in a field of one, but I'm sure he'll do a great job.

July 26: Leeds *are* interested in William Gallas, according to that ever reliable source of information, the player's agent. Wille McKay said: "I know Leeds have got him high up on their list of possible Rio Ferdinand replacements." Gallas could leave Stamford Bridge if someone comes in with a bid of £7.5 million - mere small change by today's standards!

July 26: Nige hasn't fallen out with El Tel - but the manager said that Paul Robinson had the chance to prove himself on the Far East tour and could do enough to claim the starting keepers position when the real stuff kicks off. Venables said: "I spoke to Nigel and he said he is exhausted. It won't be helpful for Nigel because he has a player who is competing with him...but we have not had a bust-up. He knows where I stand."

July 25: Robbie Fowler picked up a calf injury - either in the game against Green Town or outside the training ground dodging the fleet of pie trucks keeping one of the other strikers well-supplied. He'll probably miss Saturday's game against Colo Colo but it doesn't sound too serious.

July 25: Transfer lies and rumours update: Spurs will offer us Sick Note plus £3 million plus the world's largest BUPA policy in exchange for Robbie Keane according to the papers today. William Gallas is still piquing our interest according to some papers (violently denied by the club), Arsenal haven't given up on signing Lee Bowyer and Feyenoord would dearly love to cash in on Brett Emerton but Arsenal, Leeds and Liverpool have not been forthcoming with the £8 million plus they want as compensation.

July 25: Brick Lane provided my third curry in three nights, so it's just as well there's no real news around today. Our old friends in the Mirror tried to stir the brown smelly stuff when they said that Nige's decision to remain in England with his family had caused a rift with El Tel and instantly demoted him behind Paul Robinson. Both club and player were swift in denying this - Nige said: "I told Terry Venables that, after playing in all of the Leeds games last season and then joining England for the World Cup, my body would be in better condition if I stayed behind and trained here in England - to which he was understanding." He added: "My commitment to the club has not been questioned, and I expect to be number one goalkeeper when the season starts."

July 24: The squad are now safely arrived in Australia - where Lee Bowyer has linked up with them. The midfielder will have talks with El Tel about his future, but it looks like he'll be chopping off his nose to spite his face and refusing to sign a contract extension that would double his wages (but reduce the amount of money he might get in a Bosman at the end of next season). Bearing in mind he owes Leeds a sizeable chunk of cash for legal expenses, he's a brave man going for jam tomorrow.

July 24: 5-second transfer round-up: Robbie Keane is the player Spurs want to replace unsettled striker Sergei Rebrov (or not: Glenda was very coy when questioned about his transfer targets). Blackburn are also interested in Keano - unless their strange idea of reuniting Dwight "Film Star" Yorke with Andy Cole ever comes off. Leeds old boy Dennis Irwin has finally turned his back on ManU after over 500 games: he joins Wolves on a free hoping to give the Molineux outfit the defensive solidity that might finally bring them promotion. And we're interested in signing Chelsea's William Gallas. Hello? We don't need to buy another centreback just because we've sold one?

July 24: Peter Ridsdale revealed today that he'd turned down the chance to sign Rivaldo! "I got a telephone call from an agent acting on behalf of Barcelona who wanted to know if we would be interested in signing him, but we said that we didn't want him. The situation regarding his wages was an issue, but you also have to consider whether or not he would be suited to the team and English football."

July 24: The U-17 side are through to the semi-finals of the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland with a 2-1 win over Crewe. They face Preston North End in the next stage.

July 23: The subtle and not-so-subtle digs against our naive young ex-manager continue. Today Peter Ridsdale revealed that - despite his extremely public protestations - DOL had agreed with the plc that a significant bid for Rio could not be turned down. Ridsdale said: "David O'Leary told the plc board that if we received a bid of £30m or more he would recommend that we took it because you could not turn down a bid of that magnitude for any player. David then said that he would be as one with the board in making that a public statement. Regrettably he has never done that publicly since that board meeting."

July 23: The next captain of Australia could be that loud and demonstrative bloke who we all know and love....Harry Kewell! Yep, H is seen by Frank Farina as the leader of the future for the Socceroos: "He's a quiet lad who leads by his deeds on the field rather than by barking instructions. He has the respect and admiration of the rest of the boys and has the makings of a leader. I think he'd enjoy the job."

July 23: Arsene Wenger - who has picked up some bargains in the past - said that he believes ManU paid £10 million too much for Rio. The record-breaking centreback trained with his new teammates for the first time today and looks set to make his debut in next week's Ajax tournament.

July 23: Season ticket sales are creeping up to the 27K limit - although Leeds' deadline for purchase has notionally passed the fact that some remain available shows how desperate they are to shift them. Maybe a new signing or two might inspire a final spurt of sales...

July 23: Leeds won the opening game of their Far East tour by five goals to one against Green Town. Every player on tour got a run out, as Leeds sprang to an Aussie-driven 2-0 lead at half-time with goals from Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka. Second half pots from Robbie Fowler, Danny Mills and Robbie Keane completed Leeds' goals, and the home side only managed to score from the spot following a dubious penalty award against Lucas Radebe.

July 22: Lee Bowyer will now fly out to join the Far East tour - but will go straight out to Melbourne for the second game of the trip against Colo Colo of Chile.

July 22: John Charles - who knows a few things about defending - saw the Rio sale as being good for the club. "Alex Ferguson is a past master at buying the best, what you must remember is we at Leeds have someone in Jonathan Woodgate who can be as good as Rio if he gets his head right. He has got to get better and better with the experience of playing in the Premiership week in week out." Which - based on what we saw last season - is dead on what we saw: after the trial, Woody was definitely more confident and composed than Rio on the pitch - before his off-field self-destruct button got pushed again. So all El Tel needs to do is keep him on the leash, and we're cruising!

July 22: So, now the money is burning a hole in our pockets, who are we going to spend it on??? Jaap Stam is a popular choice among the press - though not with the player himself it seems. Stam has said he's committed to Lazio, although we know how fast these things can change. Roberto Ayala continues to be mentioned in connection with a Premiership move, and Brett Emerton's name tirelessly floats to the top of the pile. More worrying is the presence of Sicknote Anderton on the list - the last thing we need after the last couple of seasons is someone who'll spend most of his time looking at the ceiling of the physio's office. On the totally outlandish front, we could range from the sublime - Rivaldo is on his way on a free from Barca after they took Mendieta from Lazio (though he could well move in the opposite direction and would cost nearly a tenth of a Rio in annual wages) - to the ridiculous - Dennis Wise and Matt Elliott have been released by Leicester, and we could really do with another midfielder and centreback. Maybe Gareth Southgate from Boro is a more realistic option (though there's still no mention of a new left back - has Ian Harte come back from the World Cup clutching a bag and triumphantly announcing that he's found his pace again?).

July 22: Four members of Leeds' Academy side were reportedly injured in a crash while on their way to Thorpe Arch. Rumours that they were knocked off the road by Chairman Pete heading to the bank at high speed with a big bag of cash and cackling to himself have not yet been denied. The players were not named and were taken to hospital - although none of the injuries are said to be serious.

July 22: Dominic Matteo will captain Leeds in tomorrow's game against Green Town in China. The game kicks off at lunchtime - and maybe the armband choice is a hint for the future?

July 22: So, farewell then, Rio Ferdinand. Unveiled at an Old Trafford press conference today, he said it had been a tough decision to leave Leeds. "I'm leaving a great club in Leeds United, but I made this decision with my friends and family and am happy to be here now." He said that the massive fee wouldn't weigh too heavily on his shoulders (he's already been through the most expensive defender in the world routine when Leeds snatched him from West Ham) and was looking forward to fulfilling his potential and winning trophies. The financial details are that Leeds get £14.9 million now (bye bye debt) plus £14.2 million this time next year. A further £4 million is performance related - at the risk of sounding unlike a Yorkshireman, let's hope that portion of the money stays firmly lodged on the other side of the Pennines.

July 21: So Lee Bowyer's staying now, so it seems. He never wanted to go on the transfer list (though how that equates with refusing to sign a new contract and saying he wanted to further his career puzzles me) and had "reservations" about the move to Liverpool. Yeah - reservations that they wouldn't pay him what he wanted and that they might insist on some outrageous clause in his contract saying he'll stay out of nightclubs. And, of course, the clinching factor: "The arrival of Terry Venables was also a major factor in my thinking that this was not the right time to be leaving Elland Road. With the players we have and with Venables as manager I genuinely believe we have an excellent chance of winning something this season." As if by magic, it's "we" again - and the chat with the new manager that El Tel thought ended up with Bowyer saying that nothing had changed also didn't happen. I suppose we should be grateful we've got such a good player for another season - and if he does end up leaving on a free next summer, he might just give us his best performances as he tries to persuade other clubs out there that he's worth the massive pay packet he'll be requesting.

July 21: Fallout and comment from the Rio sale (assuming of course he doesn't have a last minute u-turn like Lee Bowyer). Peter Ridsdale made it clear he wasn't happy that Rio wanted out - but he had no real choice but to follow the player's wishes. "I'm satisfied I've done the best job for Leeds United. If you invest £18 million and get £30 million you've done a good job - especially if the player says he doesn't want to play for you again." The chairman also said that Leeds would now look to use the excess in the transfer pot to bring in new faces. "Terry and I have agreed a list in the last few hours and I'll be working on bringing them in later in the week." And with Lee Bowyer and Olivier Dacourt now looking like they'll be staying for another year, we don't actually look as weak as we feared and could challenge for real honours next season.

July 21: Just after 2pm today, Leeds and ManU announced that they had agreed a fee of £30 million for Rio Ferdinand's move to Old Trafford. All that remains is for the defender to agree personal terms with the OT management - something that I'm sure they won't have any problems doing.

July 21: The noon deadline for ManU to do something about Rio's transfer has been scrapped because negotiations are ongoing. In the Great Transfer Staring Match, Leeds are once again the first to blink.

July 21: Liverpool have cancelled the Bowyer deal! The Anfield side issued a statement just before lunchtime today saying: "Liverpool Football Club have decided not to go ahead with the proposed transfer of Lee Bowyer for a variety of reasons. Manager Gerard Houllier was not convinced the player had either the hunger or desire to play for the club, qualities which are essential for any Liverpool player." You can't help but admire Houllier for sticking to his principles and not paying over the odds or being held to ransom - first by Anelka and now Bowyer - even if it could mean that Bowyer will now leave Leeds for free at the end of next season.

July 20: Apparently all this transfer speculation has left Rio too ill to play or travel - poor love! Peter Ridsdale has given ManU a deadline of noon on Sunday to sort out a meaningful offer for the defender or else he'll be staying at Leeds. Nigel Martyn also failed to travel for "family reasons" - but other than those already reported, it was a full squad that flew out today.

July 20: In the end there was a grand total of three Leeds fans at Rockingham Road this afternoon (plus the Kettering barman in a blue Admiral shirt). We had a good chat with Shutty, talked to the chairman and had a cracking time all round - much credit to the good folks of Kettering Town (and Shepshed too) for making us feel so welcome, and we look forward to returning next summer when Leeds have promised to bring a full squad down for a pre-season game - if not sooner! In related news, Scott Sellars has agreed terms with Mansfield - who he helped to promotion last season - so he's back playing League football for another year.

July 20: Our naive young ex-manager is being linked with a move to Juve where he'll work under - and then take over from - Marcello Lippi according to press reports today.

July 19: Sam Allardyce has confirmed that Bolton are making a move to sign Leeds other want-away centreback Michael Duberry. Allardyce said:"I think it's a case of finding a valuation price that Leeds will accept." Doobs cost Leeds £4 million 3 years ago - but it's highly unlikely that Bolton (or anyone else) would pay much more than half of that for a player who has been out of action due to injury for quite a while and who couldn't even command a regular bench seat at Leeds.

July 19: David Batty will continue to avoid flying and stays at home for the pre-season tour to the Far East. Batts has never been a great fan, and after September 11 has firmly jumped into the Dennis Bergkamp camp, refusing to fly unless it is absolutely necessary. Seth Johnson also remains behind to rest a troublesome Achilles problem, as does Gary Kelly, also for injury worries. Obviously Lee Bowyer won't be going - but will Rio be on the plane on Saturday?

July 19: Liverpool have flown off to France for more pre-season work - but Lee Bowyer has been left back in England. However the deal now seems to be up and running again, and Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale expects the ink to be dry on the contract by Monday. "As far as we're concerned, the deal is done between the two clubs. We've given him a passport out of Leeds and wished him well." Liverpool move on to Switzerland for more pre-season work after a friendly at Le Havre.

July 19: Manchester United came back with a second bid for Rio - believed to be around £29 million - but Leeds turned it down after it failed to meet their valuation of the player. Rio says he wants to move for the good of his career: "The chance to get back in the Champions League is too good to miss. It is a natural progression in a footballer's career to want to play at the top in Europe." They're not home and dry yet Rio - if they fail in the qualifying round you'll have to console yourself with boring old UEFA Cup games and the sorry prospect of 10 grand a day to assuage your sorrows.

July 19: Remember how they promised us no more than one new kit a year and a lifespan of at least two years for all kits? Well you can chuck your 1-year-old away shirts in the drawer and fork out for the all new and exciting yellow away shirts for next season - available soon from all good stockists. Maybe the club have just decided that the only way to keep players like Rio is to shaft the fans with regular kit changes just like the Old Trafford club. Bring back the white rose badge (don't forget Yorkshire Day on August 1) and the old Top Man kit.

July 19: Just heard that Kettering have announced that Leeds have cancelled their visit to Rockingham Road at the very last minute. With the U-17 side off to play in the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland and the main squad due to fly off to the Far East late Saturday, they suddenly realised that they didn't really want to play the game. Maybe the Lards could provide some low-grade opposition for Kettering instead? The Poppies have lined up the mighty Shepshed Dynamo as alternative opponents - we've already booked our train tickets and have nowt better to do, so I guess we'll be there anyway.

July 18: September 14 will be the day: if Rio dares to return to Elland Road in a red shirt he had better have a long chat with Gordon McQueen and Eric Cantona first if he wonders what sort of reception he'll get. I sympathised with my Spurs-supporting mates when Sol Campbell spouted off about wanting to improve his game and ended up playing it safe by joining a club with better players but in the same league - and sure enough he's gone backwards by virtue of facing an easier challenge week in week out. And it's the same for Rio: he should come out and say he's doing it for precisely one reason and that's the money. At least then we'll be able to admire his honesty. Unless, of course, he's been told by Sir Alex that they won't be signing any more players at OT, in which case I'm sure he will have to improve because he'd find himself playing in a far inferior defensive unit in Salford than the one that he is currently contracted to lead. Of course, he could go the whole hog and sign for West Brom if he really wanted to challenge his abilities to the extreme while staying in England, but somehow I doubt he's got the guts.

July 18: I'm glad you lot don't shoot the messenger! More transfer news today and it's all about people leaving. Rio and a meeting with Publicity Pete today: it was "amicable" according to our chairman, even if it can't have lasted more than 30 minutes. PR stressed that we'd had no offers coming remotely close to our valuation of Rio, and Rio made it known that he'd be happy to continue playing at Leeds for next season if the situation didn't change. Meanwhile Arsene Wenger said it was all Leeds' fault for "hesitating" about the transfer and thus losing the player, and Fergie said that something had better happen soon (they wouldn't want their player dragged out to the Far East) - but it's all down to Sir Alex and the OT board. ¨35 million will secure Rio's services: £5 million less might just leave them in a staring match with PR waiting to see who blinks first. Olly also seems to be hinting at a move - something he's previously left to his agent - although he too has said that something needs to happen soon (by Saturday) other wise he'll stay at Leeds for another season. At least he's honest about it. Finally Lee Bowyer's transfer is in motion again - both clubs seem to think it will be resolved by the weekend.

July 17: Peter Lorimer says that the world won't come to an end for Leeds if we sell Rio, and points out: "If a player wants to go there isn't a lot of point in stopping them because the player's mind isn't on it and he doesn't want to be at the club." And a crucial point: "In this case there is quite a lot of money coming in and the club will make some money available to Terry to strengthen the squad." And therein I think lies the heart of the problem. Do we want to sell our star player to our bitterest rivals (again)? Put another way how would we like to earn a massive transfer profit on a player who could break his leg tomorrow, cashing in at the absolute peak of the transfer market rather than waiting a year and seeing prices collapse as global recession and renegotiated TV deals leave even the biggest clubs scrimping on every penny of expenditure? That's the dilemma facing Peter Ridsdale as chairman: the sale of one player now could leave Leeds very well set up financially and in a position to take advantage of fire sales by other clubs over the next year or so, and in Dom Matteo and Jon Woodgate (who many of us thought was playing better than Rio after the trial finally ended) we have an excellent pairing. So what do we do? I'd say bow to the inevitable and sell - but make sure that we've got Real Madrid, Barca and Juve in the room before the bidding finishes: we want to screw the buyer for as much as we can.

July 17: So who will replace Rio if he leaves? Roberto Ayala's agent is in England and issued a pretty open request to the Leeds board to come and talk to him. Ayala - like Ferdinand - says he happy at the Mestalla but would be open to an offer that improved his wages and gave him wider experience. Of course, Michael Duberry could just step up into the Rio-void....if he wanted to stay. Doobs is still attracting interest from Bolton - although Blackburn have backed away. Everton and Celtic remain possible destinations. Other outlandish rumours concern a staged deal with Juve that takes Olly there this summer and gives them first refusal on Rio next summer (the departure of Thuram is also a factor in all of this - ManU are said to be considering him as an alternative to Rio) - playing for the Old Lady in Serie A would be the real way for him to improve his game, increase his reputation and challenge for top honours if the truth be told.

July 17: At around 10am this morning, Rio (or his agent) faxed a transfer request to Peter Ridsdale - who is currently on holiday. In a manner strangely reminiscent of his departure from Upton Park, Rio said: "For the past three days I have been torn apart. I love Leeds and the people of Leeds." He added: "The club took a huge risk on me and I will never forget that." The transfer request was instantly turned down by the club - Peter Ridsdale said that no offer worthy of consideration had been received and added: "Rio has four years remaining on his current contract and I expect him to respect that contractual obligation." Ferdinand's agent Pinhas Zahavi said that Rio was entitled to leave for £25 million next summer (albeit not to an English club) but he hoped the club would release him "just" a year earlier. The agent also hinted that ManU might have made another approach to Leeds, and the papers all seem to know that a bid of £30 million would be enough to secure his services.

July 17: Walsall are trialling a former Leeds youngster who never quite made it to the first team. Just a week after signing Danny Hay, they are looking at Jason Lanns, a right-sided player who spent a year at Rochdale after leaving Leeds two years ago, but who is now in non-league football.

July 17: Lee Bowyer's transfer appears to be hitting a little snag or two - and it seems to be centred around Bowyer (or his agent) and their estimation of the player's worth. Leeds had offered a contract understood to be around 40 grand a week to the midfielder, but some of that would have gone to repay the £1 million plus he owes Leeds for his legal fees. He's looking for a similar wodge at Liverpool, but the Anfield club are sticking at £35,000 a week and there seems to be an impasse. So FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS A DAY is not enough for a player who, despite his obvious talent, has yet to play for England and who is carrying some serious baggage. I'm not sure what planet he's living on, but I wouldn't mind a day trip there! His agent will probably make him see sense: the Scousers face Le Havre in a pre-season friendly on Friday night and will hope to unveil their new signing ahead of that game.

July 16: Lee Bowyer's move is still not in the can, but the final details are now being hammered out and Ian Rush - who joined Leeds at about the same time as Bowyer - thinks that a move to Anfield will do Lee some good because he'll be working with a solid manager who knows how to handle young players - just like Wilko. Rush said: "Howard was great with younger players and Lee stayed out of trouble under his management. His problems in the past have stemmed from being in the wrong company more than anything, which have led to him doing stupid things. But that won't be a problem at Anfield because he will be in good company there and that will ensure he only makes the papers for what he does on the pitch."

July 16: Smart-aleck editors across the web had great fun today announcing that a Leeds centre-back wanted away from Elland Road. But it's not Rio they're talking about - it's Doobs who has reversed his decision of last season, which could be viewed as strange or hopeful. Strange if Rio is to move on cos he'd have an excellent chance of getting into contention, and hopeful if it means that Rio is going nowhere. Which, despite his promise to El Tel to let him know inside 48 hours what was going on, we're none the wiser about. Harry Redknapp - who has known Rio for nearly 10 years and guided his early days at West Ham - was convinced that Rio would move as were most of the tabloids, but there was no word from the man who matters most. As for other moves, Gary Kelly could still find himself playing at Elland Road on the first day of the season with a number two on his back - but wearing the blue of City rather than the White of Leeds. Kev has still not allocated the right-back shirt at Maine Road and Kelly has been mentioned several times as a target. Finally, Olly's move to Italy is still likely to happen - several Italian sources indicate that it's more or less a fait accompli (whatever the Italian equivalent is anyway) - but the indications from over here are that it needs to happen before the players fly out at the weekend on the Far East tour.

July 16: Peter Ridsdale made it clear that the board intended to reject any offers for Rio and seemed surprised at the captain's comments that he might consider a move. The chairman said: "He is going nowhere. Where does he think he is going? Into thin air? We've had no offers for Rio Ferdinand whatsoever so it amazes me how he has a choice to make." More than that Peter - surely someone who can't come right out and say he's staying shouldn't be wearing the armband for next season. Give it to Smiffy or DMIFB - you can guarantee it will be worn with a bit of pride and commitment that way. For the legal eagles out there, the FIFA regs introduced last year will make some interesting reading: they clearly state that a player of Rio's age must honour his contractual commitments of up to three years, so it would be 18 months before he would be entitled to walk away from the contract. Any club found to encourage him to do so or which tried to sign him up prior to that would face possible points deductions as well as financial penalties - so it wouldn't be an inviting prospect for potential employers.

July 16: Doing owt on Saturday? No? Then why not come along to Rockingham Road in Kettering where a Leeds XI (probably mainly the Yoof) will be playing Shutty's team in a friendly. Scott Sellars is on trial for Kettering, so there's a chance you'll get to see one of the sweetest left feet ever to play for Leeds in action. Drop me a line if you're interested - it's only 15 quid return and 60 minutes each way on the train from London and might not be a bad way of spending the day.

July 15: Lee Bowyer was seen at Liverpool's Melwood training ground today as he discussed personal terms with the Reds. Confirmation of the move is expected within the next couple of days - unless Ray Parlour (who had apparently more or less put pen to paper on a deal to bring him to Leeds before DOL was sacked) can be used by Arsenal as a bargaining chip and Bowyer can be persuaded that he'll have a good chance of playing the sort of game he prefers for the champions. Bowyer was down to have a medical today, and - unless he's reverted to his substance abuse problems from the old days - should find no obstacle to him being unveiled at Anfield before the weekend.

July 15: Rio promised TV to make a decision on his future within 48 hours and after discussing it with his family when he met the new manager yesterday. Being naive and straightforward, I'm not sure what there is to think about. Surely those paragons of probity at Old Trafford have made no attempt whatsoever to communicate with a player under contract to another club, so he can have no idea as to the financial rewards on offer. And last season, ManU won exactly the same number of pots as Leeds managed, and realistically need more than just one signing to rectify their defensive frailties and give them a chance of a sustained challenge in Europe as well as at home - so the prospect of silverware this season is not that different on the wrong side of the Pennines as it is at Elland Road. One way or another, we should know tomorrow whether Leeds need to consider selling another player or two - or whether the rush for the door should Rio leave will leave the bank balance swelling and a bottom-half squad on the pitch. Rio said: "He is a persuasive character, with a track record to back him up. He reiterated to me his plans for the club, how he saw the future and was very enthusiastic about everything. As a person and a coach he's up there among the best of them...I do feel that Leeds will achieve things with him in charge."

July 15: Leeds' Aaron Lennon and James Milner combined to score England's goal in a 1-1 draw with Brazil for the U-17 side at the weekend - both players putting up a pretty good showing in the tournament. Leeds U-17s are due to travel to Northern Ireland next week to appear in the annual Milk Cup tournament.

July 14: Is the party final over for football's hyper-expensive superstars? In a move that should set a few alarm bells ringing for agents and accountants, Ronaldo, Christian Vieri and Alvaro Recoba have all agreed to take a 10% cut in their pay packets to help Inter save money. Although Inter aren't necessarily on the point of going out of business, they are facing up to the same financial pressures that have canned the transfer market in Italy this summer. Ronaldo and Vieri pocket 80 grand a week and Recoba earns over 100 grand for 7 days of his time so they're not exactly going to be in the poor house after the pay cut - but it will sound a warning to some of the lesser lights in the game whose estimation of their own value has been fuelled by large dollops of Murdoch's millions.

July 14: Our new manager was due to talk to Rio in person today to clear up any lingering doubts around the club's intentions to keep him and press for top honours. Venables said: "This is a great club, a huge club - that's underlined by the reception I've received this week and I do not want him to go anywhere else." And he pointed out the advantages of being in at the start of a winning streak for a club: "If a player joins a club that's constantly winning things, it's like latching on to someone else's achievements. Rio has a chance here of being involved in something that's new, and that's far more exciting - shaping the entire future of this club." Sensible and inspiring words - and once again you're forced to ask why the previous incumbent failed to deliver them in such a public way.

July 14: Peter Ridsdale echoed the thoughts of many of us when he said today that his job would be on the line if El Tel failed to deliver the goods. "I am no more immune to being held accountable to our performances than anyone else in the game and whether Terry works out will affect my future," he said. "Since 1974 we have won only one major trophy - for a club of this size, we have to try to redress that balance as soon as possible."

July 14: Will Olly move or will he stay? That's the question today with Juve's general manager publicly denying all knowledge of a £15 million deal to take the French midfielder to Italy. Dacourt's agent is being even more circumspect these days, saying how much his client loves the club and the city and would be quite happy to stay. Arsenal remain a possible destination, and they could do with some back-up if - as expected - Freddy Ljungberg and Robert Pires are not fit for the start of the season.

July 13: Very quick round-up of today's news since I'm just back from the Worldnet tournament in Leeds. The mighty Lards crashed badly in their group due to age, infirmity and the other teams taking it far too seriously and not drinking enough before and during the matches. Honour was restored in the afternoon when Lards once again triumphed in a friendly with Cov.

July 13: Leeds Ladies will play their home games at Garforth Town next season as they try to build on their excellent 4th place finish last time. The season kicks off on August 18 with a visit to Everton, and the first home game is a week later when Charlton will come to Wheatley Park.

July 13: Transfer blah: Brett Emerton is back on as a target for former Socceroos boss TV, and another midfield possible is Brazil's Gilberto Silva who impressed Venables during the World Cup.

July 13: Lee Bowyer is reported to be "in two minds" over a move to Anfield. Since that's at least 1.5 more than he's displayed in the past I suppose it should be welcomed - it's just a shame it's taken a transfer to bring about the improvement.

July 12: Fergie is beginning to consider alternatives to signing Rio to shore up his flaky defence for next season. It's public knowledge that Man U made an approach but Leeds declined their offer, and Rio is still publicly committing himself to Leeds, so Fergie is being very diplomatic about the situation. He said: "It is not our job to antagonise people and there'll be no war of words but Leeds have said themselves that we are the club that has talked to them about Rio so it is no secret. If he's available then we'd be interested. But it is not clear cut. We will work away and we have alternatives and other thoughts." Thuram and Ayala are the two names most frequently connected with OT - it will be interesting to see what comes to pass.

July 12: The reserves move to West Yorkshire for next season, setting up shop at Wakefield Trinity...errr...Wildcats Belle Vue ground for their home games. The reserves had played at Bootham Crescent for two years, but there was some concern over the state of the pitch (so playing on a rugby ground that will be used for 12 months of the year helps how?) and declining attendances - as well as the obvious worries about York's financial health (but Wakefield have been sailing pretty close to the wind themselves).

July 12: The Strange Case Of The Invisible Midfield: Mr Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street was today called in to investigate the spontaneous evaporation of the Leeds United midfield. With a fee of £9 million agreed with Liverpool for Lee Bowyer and just personal terms to sort out (Houllier will probably insist on a "if you're seen out on the beer you're out on your ear" clause if he's got any sense), and Arsene Wenger trying to divert Olivier Dacourt from Italy to Highbury as a short-term replacement for the injured Ljungberg and a long-term replacement for the Bosman-waiting Vieira , El Tel will have some serious thinking to do about what happens between the back four and front two. Batts has got one season left in him (he has said that he'd retire at 34), Eirik Bakke would have been classed as the disappointment of last season were it not for the disastrous dip in Stephen McPhail's form, and Harry Kewell sees himself more as a striker than a midfielder. Which I think leaves us with Seth Johnson (when he's not injured) and Jason Wilcox as our midfield. Probably just as well we've got so many strikers, cos we're going to have to play 4-2-4 next season at this rate!

July 11: If we do qualify for the Champions League next season, we face a slightly less arduous (and therefore cheaper) route to the final stages. UEFA have decided that the second league stage of the Champions League will be scrapped, so after the initial league stage of 8 groups of 4 teams it will be straight knockout football to the final, with the winners only playing 12 games instead of 16 as at present. Hmmm... that means I'll only need to take 15 of my 25 days a year off for the Euro games....might even be able to spare some holiday for a pre-season trip next time round!

July 11: Lee Bowyer will sign for Liverpool within the next 24 hours - according to the same sources that predicted El Tel's arrival before it was officially announced. Maybe Liverpool intend Bowyer as a replacement for some of the older players in the squad - or maybe Steven Gerrard's doctors have finally shrugged their shoulders and given up on the injury-ridden star.

July 11: The new manager has spent the last couple of days talking to the players at Thorpe Arch, getting to know them and letting them get a few things off their chests. Harry Kewell seems pleased to hear that Venables sees him as a striker rather than just a winger as DOL was tending to employ him, and Lee Bowyer had a positive meeting with Venables - although his problems seem to be with the chairman and board rather than the team management. Rio is still away on holiday, but TV was pleased with what he'd heard indirectly from the captain so far: "He's been saying the kind of things I want to hear. You have to remember he's still got a long way to go on his contract." However, Rio can forget about getting even more money: Peter Ridsdale was adamant that Ferdinand was very well paid (and he was in line for rises as part of his current contract) and the contract was not about to be renegotiated just because the press were spreading rumours about a move. The team will fly out to the Far East without Venables who has a couple of outstanding business commitments to fulfil, but he will be linking up with the squad in Australia.

July 11: Transfer lies and rumours of the day. Sunderland will redouble their efforts to sign Robbie Keane and Gary Kelly as well. Although the board agreed previously to the fee for Keane, the player refused to go so it's hard to see what they will offer this time to convince him otherwise. As bait, Sunderland are dangling left-back Michael Gray plus a big pile of cash - thus enabling Leeds to release Ian Harte to a team that wins lots of free kicks but doesn't seem to be too bothered about defending. Maybe that was why Kevin Keegan was seen at Elland Road last week then....

July 10: The Man Himself was presented at a press conference today, and said that he hoped to keep the squad together - although he accepted that there would have to be some sales in the short term. "I think Leeds United have the potential to go right to the top. Potential is one thing and making it a reality is another. We have the drive in the squad and the club to go right to the top." He confirmed that he wanted to keep a hold on Rio and was backed up again by the chairman. Eddie Gray and Brian Kidd have been confirmed in their positions for the moment. That's a big relief since rumours of the impending arrival of Bryan Robson as El Tel's number 2 must have been put round by ManU wind-up merchants: they know that there is no way in a million years the Leeds fans would have accepted the dyed-in-the-wool ManU man in any position.

July 10: Season ticket sales are reckoned to have picked up a bit now that El Tel is in charge - but are still well down on last year, and call into question Peter Ridsdale's ambitious plans for a new stadium. From Australia I hear that despite the Socceroos connection, ticket sales for the game against Colo Colo in Melbourne are also very slow: if Leeds are hoping for a moneymaking bonanza from this tour they could be very disappointed.

July 10: Lucas Radebe will be 37 when the World Cup comes round again in 2006 in Germany - but he's still hopeful of playing some part in the South African side. He reckons his knee problems are now well and truly behind him, and that he can focus on a few more seasons of club football and continuing to play for the national side as well. "I'm yearning for more time in the Bafana shirt," he told the Cape Times.

July 10: Liverpool coach Phil Thompson is saying that the Reds are in talks with Lee Bowyer over a possible move to Anfield. With Bowyer's relationship with the chairman seemingly irrevocably broken, a move away from Elland Road looks a racing cert, but Ridsdale said that no bid had been received, adding: "Whatever Phil Thompson has been saying, it would have been nice if he had told me first!"

July 10: Danny Hay - who was released by Leeds in May - has been picked up by Walsall. Hay played just 6 first team games for Leeds and suffered from a long-term injury which fortunately now seems to have cleared up.

July 09: Interesting words from our new manager. With only one offer in for Lee Bowyer (possibly not from one of the clubs he'd like to move to), Terry Venables made it clear that he expected a certain standard of behaviour from his highly-paid stars. "Footballers should not drink to excess and now [Bowyer]'s in the last-chance saloon. If partying, drinking and dancing is your thing then play your football over the park," he said. "Those seeking their fortune at the top levels have to be dedicated to diet and fitness." And hinting at the 4-week fine that the club inflicted on the wayward midfielder, he said: "If there are certain places they cannot go, then clubs should inflict harsh penalties for ignoring it. You give up your rights to fall about in the street when you become a pro. You cannot let your guard drop in public." Now why didn't the previous manager say something like that when he took over?

July 09: Keeping Rio is Venables' top priority. PR spoke with Rio's agent in London yesterday to reassure him of the club's ambition and financial stability. TV said: "Clearly there is a situation where the club has to move some players on but I want to keep the ones that can make the club better. I want to keep Rio."

July 09: Managers were queuing up to praise Peter Ridsdale's choice of El Tel as the new manager. Wilko reckoned that Venables was ideal for the job and said: "There are young players who were there when I was at the club and they have come on tremendously well. David deserves credit for bringing them on." George Graham had this to say: "They need somebody with great experience - with a big personality - who can pull the players together again and take Leeds where they should be. Leeds have the quality, they have a lot of good players and I think this is one of the few jobs Terry would have taken." Finally, Frank Farina - the Socceroos coach - also gave a thumbs-up to the appointment. He said: "I think it is a wonderful choice, Terry is a great coach and a great manager and there is no doubt about that....I am sure Leeds will do very well under Terry's guidance."

July 09: Barnsley's ex-Leeds lad Kevin Dixon was facing a make or break decision on his future today as he went in for a check on the leg he broke a year ago but which has not yet healed. After such a long time it's going to be very hard for him to break into the first team again - or even play as a professional - but we wish him luck.

July 09: Rangers have initially allocated just 1000 tickets to Leeds fans for the pre-season friendly next month - so get in touch with the Leeds ticket office if you want to go! There's the possibility of more tickets being made available, but Leeds have to tell Rangers by July 17, and it will be first come first served for a game that is sure to be popular.

July 08: Dredging back through my records I see that we've not had too great a run against El Tel's teams in the past. In fact, in 7 games we've only scored 2 goals (Kevin Hird's winner against Palace and Robbie Keane's pen against Boro) and we've lost four, drawn two and the only victory was that 1-0 at Elland Road 23 years ago. Let's hope he organises the Leeds teams as well as he did the opposition.

July 08: So what does it all mean then? El Tel may be descending from the heavens on a silver chariot and preceded by fanfares and angelic choirs, but he's going to be brought down to earth very quickly with the pressing need to persuade Rio to stay. He might even manage to convince Lee Bowyer that a spell under his management might be beneficial to his career - although it does look as if Bowyer has burnt too many bridges to return to Elland Road. Meanwhile in London, Chas and Dave were reported to be preparing an album of Ronnie Hilton cover versions, and an East End bidding war is underway to win the contract for the lucrative jellied eel stalls that will replace the current catering facilities at Elland Road.

July 08: In a statement to the Stock Exchange just after 0700 this morning Terry Venables was announced as the new manager of Leeds United. He'll be presented at a press conference on Wednesday. He was bought out of the remainder of his ITV contract - for which the club thanked the company - and has signed a 2 year deal with an option for a 2 year extension. Peter Ridsdale flew out to Venables' Spanish home at the weekend to seal the deal. Venables said: "The whole business had been conducted like a whirlwind. It was irresistible - that's how it has seemed to me. I can hardly believe it has been finalised so quickly." Peter Ridsdale was happy about landing such a high-profile manager: "The one name which jumped out was Terry Venables. You talk to anybody in the game, the players, the managers, the coaches, and they are almost unanimous in their verdict that Terry is the best coach and manager in the game." Peter Lorimer reckons that he will energise the players and that he could be an inspired choice - but he added: "Venables has been out of football by choice; now it's time to get out of the armchair and get on with it. We need to bring some silverware to Elland Road." And that, ultimately, will be how Venables will be judged: a trophy - any trophy - will be a necessity, even if he manages to get Leeds back into the Champions League and feeding at the top table of European football, an absence of silverware will ultimately do for him just as it did for DOL.

July 07: An anagram of Terry Venables is "bravely enters". Nuff said.

July 07: Just about every press outlet in the land is trumpeting the fact that Terry Venables will be announced as Leeds' new manager tomorrow. With Martin O'Neill committing himself to seeing out at least the remaining year on his contract and Steve McClaren making it clear from his family holiday in Spain that he is intent on completing the rebuilding work at the Riverside, all eye turn to the former England coach whose experience and all-round nous on the footballing side would make him an automatic favorite for any vacancy - provided it was in London. If Peter Ridsdale has persuaded Venables to give Leeds a chance and he manages to achieve something with a squad that seemed demotivated and lacklustre under DOL, then the world will say what an inspired move it was. If the little cockney sparrah wings his way back down the M1 after 6 months having done nowt, there will be a lot of people at the chairman's door telling him they told him so. Let's hope it works out better than our last old-school London manager.

July 07: Rio is on holiday in Las Vegas, larging it with England team-mates Kieron Dyer and Ashley Cole in the casinos and shopping malls of the desert city and spending money like water according to yesterday's YEP. Wonder what odds - if any - Vegas's famously prescient bookmakers are offering on the managerial vacancy at Elland Road?

July 07: Peter Ridsdale entered the lions' den today as he visited the AGM of the Leeds United Supporters Club. Questioned almost incessantly about the identity of the new manager, he maintained that it was likely that their target would be in place very soon. Late Sunday night, speculation about El Tel was once again on the increase as Steve McClaren's agent and Boro both denied that any approach had been made to the Riverside chief.

July 07: Transfer facts, fictions and wild rumours. First up the facts: in the middle of the World Cup, it went unnoticed but left back David Robertson - who we thought had been forced to quit the game - formally signed on the dotted line for Montrose as player-coach: it will be interesting to see whether or not he manages to make it onto the field at all, or whether he's just signed player papers as emergency cover. Rod Wallace moved down a level to sign on a free for Gillingham as Bolton try to reduce their wage bill in a move described by Gills' chairman Paul Scally as "the biggest acquisition the club has ever made." Finally on the factual front, one-time Leeds youth player Nathan Lowndes has joined Plymouth from Livingston on a free. Vaguely substantiated rumours suggest Ray Parlour might be offered along with £25 million or so to compensate Leeds for Rio with cash and cover for the departing Bowyer, and Roberto Ayala claims that Leeds have made an offer for him: he's keen to play in England, but Man U have been named as his destination in the past (when they've not been simultaneously signing Rio and Thuram for a complete defensive refit). Finally into rumourland, and we find David Hopkin considering a move back north of the border to join Dunfermline in the SPL after apparently falling out of favour with Eagles boss and noted Leeds-hater Trevor Francis.

July 07: DOL wants to come back as Leeds manager one day - to finish the job he started! Despite the not-totally-friendly split with the club it hadn't soured his overall experience at Elland Road: "My time there was fantastic - an incredible adventure, a real rollercoaster ride." And as for coming back? "If that sounds crazy, then people don't understand just how much Leeds meant and still means to me," he said. "I haven't said goodbye to the Leeds fans because I hope - under different circumstances - I'll come back." And he had a word of warning for his successor: "He'll have to do better than me. I thought I did more than okay under the circumstances of horrendous off-field problems at the club, but if my record is going to get the sack then the next guy in had better have some record!"

July 06: The season got underway today for the first English club in the InterToto. Fulham drew 0-0 with FC Haka of Finland - and if they're interested in unloading the 3rd choice keeper they had on show, someone will bite their hands off! Superb performance that kept a strong Fulham side goalless despite numerous attempts.

July 06: As we hit the sack tonight the word is that Steve McClaren has always been a front-runner - but that the Leeds board were prepared to wait and see if Martin O'Neill indicated he'd be interested in a move. El Tel was involved in all of this - possibly on a short-term caretaker basis until MON became free, but the money tonight is on Steve McClaren being offered the job early next week and being in place to take the team on the pre-season tour of the Far East once Boro are squared on compensation for the remaining three years of his contract.

July 06: Steve McClaren is the new front-runner for the Leeds managers job according to the papers today. He's not on great terms with the top management there, and it could be a great boost to Leeds' chance of retaining some of the England squad with McClaren in charge. And in France, L'Equipe took time off from concentrating on the greatest sporting event in the world (Le Tour starts this afternoon) to mention that Leeds had been in touch with Roger Lemerre to explore the possibilities of the Frenchman taking over at Elland Road.

July 05: Maybe Rio won't be moving to Man U after all. Today's news has Arsenal keeping a close eye on proceedings and getting ready to smash the British transfer record to split up the England defensive partnership of the future - Rio and Woody - by bringing Rio in alongside the plodding and error-prone Sol Campbell in the hope that Rio's style and positional sense will rub off on their defensive relic from a past age. Obviously Rio is a London lad and might find the prospect of returning to the capital attractive, but it would take a pretty impressive bid from the champions to make it happen.

July 05: Danny Mills is winning friends and influencing people, and his latest admirer is rival right back Gary Neville. Neville was looking a dead cert for the number two shirt in the World Cup until a broken bone in his foot ruled him out, and he praised his replacement and the rest of the defence out in Japan. "Danny Mills did very well, but I thought all of them - David Seaman, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, Danny and Ashley Cole - did brilliantly," he said. With the Euro 2004 qualifiers coming up early in the season, Neville will have to turn in some outstanding performances if he is to replace Mills in the England side - although the game at Elland Road on September 14 could be a crucial factor in Sven's team choices, with Jon Woodgate (and maybe even Lee Bowyer) having a big chance to press their claims for inclusion at the top level.

July 05: Maybe there's another candidate for the board to consider for the managerial vacancy. Roger Lemerre was sacked as French national coach today after their poor performance in the Far East. Lemerre remains on the books of the French FA as Technical Director (Wilko's counterpart) but the challenge of management will surely be tempting and the success over here of fellow countrymen Gerard Houllier and Arsene Wenger may prove equally tempting both for Lemerre and a Leeds board desperate for success.

July 05: The secret of great comedy is timing - so sacking DOL just as his book came out in paperback must be seen as a bit of a chortle. However someone else might be laughing soon: it seems that the putative TV drama about the incidents around the assault on Sarfraz Najeib and the subsequent court case (which does *not* have the working title of "I could murder an Indian" as has been suggested in some places) now appears to be back on the agenda. Granada are keen to press on with making the programme and have already spoken to the Najeib family and want to have a chat to DOL to get his input - which could be very enlightening in the circumstances. Of course, with a civil action pending, they won't be transmitting it for a while and just what they say in the programme will be scrutinized in great depth by a large number of lawyers.

July 05: Was it just another dodgy geezer with a perm - or was it Kevin Keegan seen at Elland Road today? Maybe he was just there to sort out a couple of things for the first game of the season or just maybe he was inquiring about the vacancy at Elland Road.

July 05: So it's definitely not Martin O'Neill then. The Celtic manager told a lunch crowd in Dublin that he fully intended to see out at least the remaining year on his contract with the Parkhead club. "If Celtic do not sack me I intend to see out my contract," he said.

July 04: Sunderland boss Peter Reid is still hopeful of persuading Robbie Keane to move to the Stadium of Light. Reid has been in touch with Keane's agent while the player is on holiday and will hope to persuade Keane that a regular place in the starting line-up in the north-east will do more for him than a bench seat at Elland Road.

July 04: Danny Milosevic could be on the move: Gary McAllister is a bit shy of keepers with the imminent departure of Magnus Hedman and his failure to sign Tim Flowers. If he goes let's hope he has more success than he did on his jaunt to the Midlands last season when a training ground injury ruled him out of Wolves' side before he'd even had the chance to warm the bench.

July 04: Several people were injured in the massed rush of potential managers for the exit today. Trappatoni said that he was committed to continuing to manage the Italian national side (probably just as well unless you want to look back on the GG days as ones of total football and all-out attack), Hiddink seems to be still committed to PSV, and we absolutely definitely didn't interview El Tel. Leeds have confirmed that there will be no caretaker manager appointed for now, so it's down to Eddie Gray and Brian Kidd to take pre-season training from Monday and also to take the team out to the Far East in a couple of weeks.

July 03: It's reported that PR interviewed El Tel for the post yesterday. With his recent stellar management record (Pompey, Palace and the admittedly impressive feat of saving Boro from relegation) he wouldn't spring to mind as the ideal candidate for a club chasing European honours - but maybe he could provide some useful help and consultancy to the eventual choice.

July 03: We could still lose some players before a new manager is signed. Peter Ridsdale indicated that the board's agreement to sell Keane was based on discussions with DOL and the coaching staff and that a number of fringe players - or even more experienced ones - could be on their way. Bowyer remains listed and it would be a big (but pleasant) surprise to see Olivier Dacourt still in white at the start of next season. Gary Kelly and Michael Duberry could both find homes in the Premiership with the likes of Bolton or Sunderland, but Stephen McPhail might need to step down a level if he wants first team football. However we'll be leaving the purchasing decisions to the new man. The chairman said: "The issue of incoming players is different, however, given that I don't chose which players we sign, that is the job of the new manager." Assuming that any decent player is still available by the time the new man is in the driving seat...

July 03: And suddenly it all went quiet. Guus Hiddink is now said to be interested in the chance to take over at Leeds - but PSV seem convinced they have a deal wrapped up and waiting to be signed as soon as Hiddink returns from hero worship in Korea.

July 02: Late news on the manager front: Peter Ridsdale confirmed that Leeds had not yet approached any other club over a replacement for DOL and said that no announcement would be made tomorrow - but there might be something by the end of the week. He also revealed that he'd been contacted by three other people who had not been considered for the job: "The quality of some of these candidates is such that we did not think they would be remotely interested in the vacancy."

July 02: Robbie Keane was sold to Sunderland today - as far as the club was concerned anyway. The board agreed an undisclosed fee with the Mackems (having publicly stated that they didn't want to sell Keane at a loss but reconciled to Sunderland being unable to afford that sort of brass). However, when it came to talking to the player, Keane was having none of it. He said: "I am happy at Leeds and am confident that I can impress any new manager with my ability and commitment." Good on you son - it's nice to see that sort of attitude from a player. Before DOL was sacked, I'd have advocated selling him on the grounds that Keane was unlikely to get in ahead of Fowler, Viduka and Smith - and probably Bridges too - and with his stock running high after the World Cup he'd fetch a decent price. Now maybe we should just hang on to him - and the other players - until a new manager is in place so he can make his own decisions on who to sell and who to keep.

July 02: An announcement on the Leeds managerial vacancy is expected tomorrow and despite a massive weight of rumour pointing towards Celtic's Martin O'Neill, the Bhoys' manager returned to Parkhead to take the first pre-season training session this morning and said that he was looking forward to leading Celtic into their attempt to qualify for the main Champions League. Other rumours say that Roy Keane has been approached to take up a player-manager role for the Glasgow club and that O'Neill has privately agreed to join Leeds but is unwilling to be seen as breaking his contract. O'Neill said: "I have had a chat with our chief executive Ian McLeod about a number of things - as you would expect - and I understand from him that there has been no approach from Leeds, or any other club for that matter, so the speculation continues to be simply that." Meanwhile DOL was being touted as a possibility to take over the coaching job at Parma, but the Italian club laughed off the rumour as wildly inaccurate - particularly considering it's only two months since Cesare Prandelli was appointed to the job.

July 02: Far be it from me to use the traditional stereotype of the Scouser, but who do Liverpool think they're trying to rob with a laughable bid of just £7 million for Lee Bowyer. That will do as a down-payment lads - but we'd be better off keeping him in the stiffs for a season and then seeing how well he does on a Bosman rather than gifting him to one of our rivals!

July 02: The initial schedule for Sky's PPV games was announced today. The visit to the Hawthorns on August 24 will still take place on the Saturday - but with a 1730 kick-off. The midweek haul up to Newcastle now makes me stop and think if it's worth the hassle as that too will be on PPV with a 2000 kick-off on September 11. Finally (for the moment) the home game against Liverpool will kick off at noon on October 19 to accommodate the cameras. That means that we're likely to have just 4 Saturday 3pm games between the start of the season and the end of November. Call me an old traditionalist, but I think this really is going a bit far.

July 01: To be taken with a pinch of salt department. Lee Bowyer is reported to have sold his house in Yorkshire in preparation for a move to Anfield or Highbury, and he's discussed the Liverpool option with team-mates Robbie Fowler and Dominic Matteo. House rumours usually have about as much truth as the "X is learning Italian/Spanish" rumours - Sol Campbell would own half of Cheadle, Fowler would have moved in next door to Lennox Lewis in Hadley Wood and Patrick Vieira would be putting his feet up in a villa overlooking Madrid if all of the genuine stories from friends of friends who work for estate agents/solicitors/accountants were true.

July 01: Guus Hiddinck has confirmed his desire to take over at PSV - despite saying that he'd be interested in the challenge of a Premiership job. It's believed that Leeds' 3 man shortlist has Martin O'Neill right at the top, with Mick McCarthy and Terry Venables as the other two. As I said before, the 200 mile gap between Leeds and El Tel's stamping ground will almost certainly rule him out and Celtic are determined to keep O'Neill although it will probably cost them a much improved contract and a pot of transfer money if they do persuade him to stay on. However the bookies have stopped taking money on who the next man in charge will be, believing that he has been approached and indicated he won't decline - so does that mean that it will actually be McCarthy despite all the O'Neill rumours?

July 01: Mark Viduka is now a married man after a surprise hitching in Croatia to his long-time girlfriend. Maybe he'll decide to settle down in Yorkshire rather than drag his new bride and unborn child to some far corner of Europe...

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