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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post


September 30: El Tel says that he won't be pressured into picking David Batty - despite the fans chanting the midfielder's name on Saturday. "When I came here I had a look at the squad and spoke to David three or four times. I know he is a legend at this club and I know he has been a great player here and elsewhere: there is no doubt about that. But you also have to respect the fact that, as unpopular as it may be, I must have the right to make the decision on who I choose." You wouldn't expect a manager to say anything else, and the likelihood of Batts getting a game was almost certainly reduced by Saturday's chants. As DOL proved last season when he ignored the calls to get Robbie Keane on, and as countless managers have proven on innumerable occasions, the last thing they are prepared to do is give even the vaguest hint that their judgement is less than perfect.

September 30: Roy Keane might be calling on Alfi Haaland as a witness for his appeal against the two FA charges that he will face next month. The two charges cover the tackle, its motivation and the book. If the FA find that Keane was coldbloodedly out for revenge, he could face a very lengthy ban from the game. The second charge relates to the fact that he has gained financially from the incident after publishing his autobiography. For this a lesser ban is likely - but potentially a bigger fine if the FA find against him. Haaland has said that the tackle wasn't the sole cause of his lengthy lay-off, but that is only likely to prejudice Haaland and City's chance of winning damages from Keane and United: the facts of Haaland's subsequent injury should not have that much influence on the panel's deliberations as they consider the charges before them.

September 29: If you are going out for the game this week you probably won't have too much time to do the usual tourist stuff - but if you do, take a look at the Dnepr City Guide for a few ideas of what you might like to see and do. Some of the site is in English - but not all of it - so using some of my O-Level Russian I've figured out the location of the city map here and even (without wanting to sound too much like the typical England fan abroad) an Irish bar - HREF(The Shamrock,"http://www.shamrock.dp.ua">) - which gets recommended in the city guide and is on Karl Marx Prospect, the main street running parallel to but just below the river. The limited English language version of their site can be seen by clicking on the word "angliski" - just below their address "npocnekt Kapna Mapkca 41" (which is the nearest I can get without throwing Cyrillic at you which your mail clients and browsers will probably reject).

September 29: Home and abroad round-up for Sunday, starting in the sunny climes of Selhurst Park. Danny Granville squared the game at 1-1 for Palace at the start of the second half, and Rod Wallace - starting his first game after an injury-ridden start to his career at Gillingham - provided the header that forced a Palace og to put the visitors back in front. A cracking volley from useful looking teenager Wayne Routledge - who looks worthwhile keeping an eye on - equalised again for the Eagles and that was how it finished.

Onto slightly warmer places - like the Mestalla. Defending champions Valencia went back to the top of the pile tonight with a convincing 3-0 win over Rayo Vallecano thanks to Mista, Baraja and Angulo. Real Madrid were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw at Valladolid after being reduced to 10 men in the first half, then taking the lead anyway just before half time. Barcelona slumped to a shock 3-0 defeat by Real Betis on Saturday night, and Valencia are joined on 10 points from 4 games by Celta Vigo - who blew their chance of going top and their 100% record with a 2-2 draw at home to Malaga - and Real Sociedad, who recorded a 2-3 win at Osasuna.

Internazionale are the only team with a 100% record in Serie A after just 3 games. Two goals from Christian Vieri brought them back from an early 0-1 deficit at home to Chievo, although their day was spoilt by the last minute dismissal of Flavio Conceicao. Yesterday Milan also had a player ordered off in the last minute (Ambrosini) but they dropped their perfect record with a 1-1 draw at Lazio. There were angry scenes as Juve came back from 0-2 down at home to Parma to equalise in the 95th minute after Parma had Lamouchi dismissed with 1 minute to go, and there was a suspicion that Alessandro Del Piero handled the ball as he scored the equaliser. Conspiracy theory anyone? Bologna joined Milan and Juve on 7 points following their 1-0 win over Piacenza.

Bayer Leverkusen's terrible start to the season took a turn for the better! Lucio opened the scoring against Bayern, and although the home side had Thomas Brdaric dismissed after 37 minutes, Daniel Bierofka doubled the lead in the second half and they held the line until the very last minute when Salihamidzic got a consolation goal for the visitors. Bayern still top the table by a clear point with Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund both winning as they head the chasing pack.

In the Eredivisie, PSV shook off their midweek hammering by Arsenal (sympathy from Yorkshire lads - we know how you feel) to dish it out to De Graafschap - 4-0 at the Philipstadion. Ajax were 0-2 down at home to NAC Breda, but came back to draw 2-2 and now trail PSV's perfect record by 2 points. Feyenoord fell flat on their faces when they blew a 0-1 lead at RBC to lose 4-2. Heerenveen lost again, and remain one off the bottom (the equally inept FC Groningen).

Auxerre now top the table in France after a comprehensive 1-4 victory at Nantes. Nice slipped away from the lead with a 1-0 defeat by Sochaux after Aulanier was red-carded for the visitors halfway through the second half. Marseille equalled Nice's 17 points after coming back from a goal down to beat Ajaccio 3-1 on Friday night. Troyes had a creditable 1-1 draw at home to champions Lyon, but they're hovering in the drop zone, just above Le Havre and Rennes.

Ring out the bells - some excitement in the Jupiler League! Club Brugge actually dropped two points - drawing 2-2 with Antwerp. Anderlecht, Lierse and Lokeren all won and now sit 3 points behind the leaders.

In Switzerland, the two-horse race betweem Grasshopper and Basle continues: Grasshoppers' 3-0 win over bottom side Aaruu was no surprise, and Basle's 2-1 victory over 3rd-placed Young Boys just serves to widen the gap between the top two and the pack.

The chasers are proving equally inept in the Gambrinus Liga. Both Sparta Prague and Slavia Prague could only manage goalless draws this weekend - at home to Pribram and away at Synot Stare Mesto respectively - but Slovan Liberec conceded a goal in each half as they lost 0-2 at home to Banik Ostrava. Jablonec could make up some ground if they win at Olomouc tomorrow.

Our midweek opponents had their second 1-1 draw in a row: after last Sunday's 1-1 at Metalurg Donetsk, they went a goal down to Metalurg Mariupol before equalising through Armen Akopyen in yesterday's game.

September 29: Leeds Ladies gained a straightforward 2-4 victory over Lincoln City in the first round of the Premier League Cup.

September 28: Post-match reaction had El Tel downbeat but realistic, and full of praise for the visitors' performance. "We were well beaten today - no doubt about that - by a much better side." he said. "We found it very difficult to get to grips with them." He admitted that his current attempts to find the best combination of his current players was at least partly to blame for the inconsistent performances. "I've said that maybe trying to change things for what I think is best for the team in the long run is my fault. That would be laid at my feet. Maybe I'm trying to do certain things which are slowing us down at the moment, so I've got to rethink that and see where we go from here." Up hopefully Terry. Starting on Thursday with a win in the Ukraine - anything else would be a disaster. Though after today's performance I think that those of us who are stupid/loyal enough to make the trip should receive a decent packet of beer vouchers from the club on arrival as compensation.

September 28: The transfer window might seem like an age away - but we're already sniffing round a few young stars in lower division clubs and former Leeds player and Youth coach Paul Hart tried to warn off the vultures circling his good young Forest side. After a few big sales last year and squad reductions during the summer, Forest appear to be almost on an even keel again and Hart said: "We will be able to keep this team together. We're under no pressure to sell and we're determined to do well. We will see where we are after Christmas, like most clubs will do this season, and we will be making certain decisions then - but we're under no pressure to sell anybody." Which really means they can afford to wait a while until the money on offer gets upped to a sensible level....

September 28: So now that DOL has spent all of our money, it seems that El Tel is being forced to turn back to the source of his predecessor's success: the youth teams! "I think it is important in the long-term success of Leeds United to have a successful Academy," he said. "Everybody needs to get players through the youth scheme but, having said that, the youth players may find it more difficult than ever nowadays because competition is coming from all around the world." He pointed to the recent success of Jamie McMaster - and said that some of the others were starting to get to the same level. Not a moment too soon if today's performance is anything to judge!

September 28: At some point I'll calm down and stop fuming over the single most appalling display I've seen by a Leeds side for several years. Unable to pass the ball to each other, unable to keep their petulance under control (albeit under massive provocation from a hopeless ref), out-run, out-manoeuvred and out-thought for 90 minutes by a classy Arsenal side that look an order of magnitude better than the other team in red that visited Elland Road recently. Sort it out Terry!

September 28: Old boys news from today. Clyde Wijnhard scored in the 1st minute for Oldham as they hosted Huddersfield. He added a second goal after half-time as the home side romped to a 4-0 victory. JFH opened the scoring from the spot for Chelsea - but West Ham came from behind to record a 2-3 win - their first victory of the season.

September 27: With Arsenal coming to Elland Road on the back of a long unbeaten record - and a record-equalling scoring record - it will be a tough game for Leeds to win and it's hard to know if we have a chance until we know which Leeds side will turn up: the confident and solid outfit that beat ManU and Newcastle or the lax and toothless mob that lost to Birmingham and Blackburn. TV said: "We've had some good games and some not so good games. At this stage of the season it's often like that until it finds its level. One day you can't recognise this team from another day, but when that evens out we find out where we are." Venables pointed out that Arsenal's consistency is why they currently top the pile - and pointed to the influence the manager has on the team. "Arsene feels he has an exceptional group of players and he wants to keep stretching them... He already feels he has a squad who will respond if he sets them goals and keeps pushing them higher and higher." And for the rest of the season, Venables reckons - "It's hard to see beyond them winning the championship again."

September 27: The Leeds fan who was hit in the face by the bottle thrown by Fabien Barthez has started legal proceedings against Manchester United and the player. Speaking to the YEP, Colin Richmond wanted to clear up the incorrect story put around by one of the tabloids and said that he would still have taken action even if the bottle had been thrown by a Leeds player. His solicitor said: "Mr Richmond is anxious to make it clear that he would not wish his legal action to be viewed in any way as part of inter-club rivalry."

September 27: Final batch of injury news for tomorrow: Woody pulled a hamstring in training, and with Dom Matteo still not fully over his injury, we could see The Chief alongside Danny Mills at centreback, with Gary Kelly at right back tomorrow. I don't even want to consider who will be playing at the other side of the defence right now. Alan Smith has been reported as still being troubled by his ankle injury but is also said to be ready to start on Saturday. Dennis Bergkamp's achilles problem should eliminate him from the reckoning, and Ray Parlour, Edu and Martin Keown are also expected to be missing. So that just leaves us with Henry, Wiltord, Kanu, Cygan....

September 27: El Tel spoke about what he wanted to do with the squad but cautioned that there were hard times ahead and that there wouldn't be the same open chequebook that had backed DOL. "The club has proved they are prepared to invest to make the shareholders and the supporters happy. But at the moment, and you have seen the figures, times will be difficult. But there's no doubt in my mind that when such times come around and the club can do something about it, then they will" He maintains he doesn't have a balanced squad at present, and said: "Some of the players I had in mind in the summer are some of the players we still need, but not all of them.... From a coach's point of view, everybody wants to strengthen - you've got to."

September 26: Jonathan Foster of Sheffield University wants to know why football fans don't like the team from Old Trafford. "Although it seems to be universally accepted that Manchester United are unpopular, there's very little discussion in the media of exactly what the reasons are for that," he said. Tell him about your least favorite players, incidents and why you don't like the team in red at footballjournalism@sheffield.ac.uk. Hope he's got a big mailbox!

September 26: Injury news ahead of Saturday's visit from Champions Arsenal. Dom Matteo is looking like he'll be ready - which could give El Tel the option to shuffle the defence and omit a certain weak link from the squad. Michael Bridges remains less certain - a bench place is the best that he can hope for and even then that looks an outside bet. Harry Kewell is back from his stomach bug, and Seth Johnson is a contender for a bench place after his return in the reserves the other night. For the opposition, monkey-boy Keown strained his hamstring in Arsenal's 0-4 hammering of PSV last night, and Freddie Ljungberg might be rested as well following his recent return to the squad after a long lay-off from injury.

September 26: After the club's financial results were published, the chairman had a few words to say about the future. First up, he said what we all know: that a rebuild of Elland Road is a possibility - indeed it has now become his "ideal" - rather than moving to a greenfield site. "My ideal would be to stay at Elland Road and rebuild because this is the home of Leeds United Football Club," he said. Meanwhile, he reassured fans - and the manager - that the club's financial position was stable and would not need the sale of another star player: "We set ourselves targets via a cash injection and we have exceeded those targets, post these numbers, by selling Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Keane. There is therefore no further requirement to reduce those players Terry Venables sees as part of his ongoing first-team plans." But what happened to those 4 imminent signings we were promised when Rio left? Barmby, Lucic and Okon are not quite what we were expecting!

September 26: Ladbrokes have announced that Leeds are 7/1 favorites to win the UEFA Cup! Sure, there are some rank outsiders in there, the fact that Lazio have had to sell their best players and that we still don't know which of the Champions League sides will be dropping in, but even so, these are remarkably short odds. If you're desperate for a wager, Celtic at 40/1 or PSG at 20/1 probably represent the best each-way value at the moment.

September 26: To nobody's great surprise, Boro have used the excuse of the annual beer fight at the Riverside to cut Leeds' allocation of tickets to just 2000 for the fixture on October 26. We also committed the heinous crime of standing up during the game, for which we must be punished severely. Why is it that these regs only seem to apply to visiting fans at other grounds - we've never reduced the allocation to Man U, Liverpool or Newcastle just because they happen to be on their feet in the South Stand. Jobsworths!

September 26: Leeds published the plc's financial results today and it doesn't make for pretty reading. Turnover was down by around £5 million at £81.5 million, with a pretax LOSS of £33.9 million - up from "just" £7.6 million last year. Some of that loss is just accountancy - player amortisation and suchlike, but there's a large chunk on the acquistion of Fowler and Johnson - but equally the sale of Ferdinand and Keane isn't included because that came after the June cut-off. Net debt now stands at around £40 million - and we still need to finance a new stadium (although just about nobody really believes we'll be moving anymore). Peter Ridsdale said: "Despite the financial impact of failing to qualify for the Champions League and the levels of both amortisation and interest giving a very disappointing result for the year ended June 2002, we remain convinced that our long-term strategy is not only right but is the only sustainable strategy to deliver long-term shareholder value. Furthermore, the combination of the actions taken since the year end and ongoing actions surrounding the playing squad will help to ensure that we deliver against this strategy." The share price closed at a 3-month low of 5.75p.

September 25: Big disappointment for the Ladies tonight: visitors Doncaster Belles took all three points from their visit to Garforth with a 2-3 win.

September 25: According to various sources today, El Tel is now putting it about that Batts has an ankle injury, which is why he's not being considered. Or a knee injury. Or something which had hitherto not needed to be mentioned until his agent complained about his lack of opportunity in the first team when it's clear that a defensive-minded midfielder is second only to a left back on our list of needful things.

September 25: Manager Terry Venables, chairman Peter Ridsdale and the great man's wife Elsie Revie will represent the club at the Supporters Club dinner on Saturday night. The players have better things to do - going off to watch Ricky Hatton's title fight - rather than meeting the people who pay their wages, but might put in an appearance at a do later in the season.

September 25: The visit of Fulham has been shifted back a day. We were due to play them on Easter Monday - but the game is now scheduled for the following day with a 1945 kick-off. Of course, it could get shifted again if we're still in the UEFA Cup, since the semi-final 2nd leg is played the following Thursday. Optimism time!

September 24: Alan Smith has a good chance of making it into the England squad for the Euro 2004 qualifiers according to Sven. After the Portugal friendly, everyone was impressed with Smith's performance, and the England coach said: "He played very well that game, I think he was maybe our best player so of course he is very interesting for the future. We will see when we pick the squad for Slovenia and Macedonia but I think he will be one of them." SGE also said that he didn't see there being a large number of changes elsewhere in the squad - which probably doesn't bode too well for Lee Bowyer, but Jon Woodgate's continued excellent form must put him in with a shout of making a start in a competitive match alongside former team-mate Rio Ferdinand.

September 24: David Batty's agent says that he can't understand why his man is not even making it into the reserve side (and neither can the rest of us!). Hayden Evans says: "To put things in perspective, David is fully fit and is currently doing what he is paid to do as a paid employee of Leeds United." Rumours have abounded about a split with El Tel, but Evans went on: "There have been no tantrums, no sulks or anything like that. David has made himself available for both reserve team football and first team football. But at the moment it seems, for the first time in his career, he is obviously about fifth choice for a midfield slot." Venables responded almost immediately, saying that Batts was not match fit. "He has been training with us and he has been playing in the reserves, although he did not play last night and that's because he is not fit. His agent should come to me if he wants to discuss anything." How unfit must Batty be to be judged less able to play than permanent crock Seth Johnson? I can't believe that his fitness has degenerated so much in a summer, and the fact that it has taken this long for TV to even mention his name in public speaks volumes about the real cause of Batty's exclusion.

September 23: Dom Matteo looks like he's in the clear with his knee problem with El Tel reporting that he doesn't need surgery. Michael Bridges is also due back in training tomorrow after getting a knock on his (other) knee that kept him out of the game yesterday. And finally, we should expect Harry Kewell back for the Arsenal game - a bout of "stomach" problems ruled him out of the visit to Ewood, obviously wanting to avoid the problem that caused David Batty to leave the field so quickly at Molineux many years ago.

September 23: If it's midnight and I'm exhausted it must be Euro-round-up time!

In Serie A, Roma finished the game a man down and a goal down on promoted Modena, despite taking an early lead through a Totti penalty. Christian Panucci was dismissed for dissent after Emerson conceded a penalty that allowed the visitors to equalise before a 79th minute goal for Sculi left Roma as one of four sides with no points from two games. Inter nearly blew their chance of a 100% record: a 7th minute strike from Christian Vieri was equalised from the spot in the 88th minute by Reggina's Shunsuke Nakamura. The ref played just long enough extra time to allow Alvaro Recoba to bag the decisive goal and keep Inter on points parity with Milan who managed a 3-0 win for the second week in succession to go top on goal difference - Perugia the victims this time. A first half penalty and a second half goal from Del Piero was enough to keep champions Juve on a par with the two Milan teams, and Piacenza - 2-0 winners at home to Udinese - are the only other team with a perfect record.

Ronaldo has yet to make his appearance for Real Madrid but it seems that they don't really need him yet. Two goals from Helguera plus one each from Guti and Raul gave them a convincing 4-1 win over Osasuna (no floodlight problems when you get that sort of result I see). Patrick Kluivert and Luis Enrique were both on the mark as Barca beat city rivals Espanyol 2-0. Valencia suffered a significant slip - finding themselves two goals down at halftime in Malaga, but an early second half goal from Mista was followed by an injury-time effort by Angulo that gave them a share of the points and left them second. The current leaders are Celta Vigo - 0-3 winners at promoted Recreativo Huelva. For the second week running Roy Makaay scored two goals for Deportivo - the only goals of the game as the Riazor saw visiting Valladolid's perfect record knocked down.

Not many surprises at the top of the Bundesliga this weekend: Bayern were a goal down at home to Energie Cottbus before goals from Zickler, Ballack and Elber gave the home side an easy win and put them four points clear of Schalke, Hansa Rostock and Werder Bremen after 6 games. Borussia Dortmund are two points further back following a 0-1 win at Hansa Rostock, but the big shock of the season is the appalling form of ManU's Champions' League opponents Bayer Leverkusen. After going a goal up at Werder Bremen, they conceded 3 goals in 7 minutes and although they got one back they sank to their third defeat of the season and have just 5 points from 6 games.

No real shocks in the Eredivise either: PSV and Ajax both retain 100% records at the top of the pile, and Feyenoord's win kept them just two points away. For the record, it was two goals from Kezman - bracketing one from home side FC Zwolle - with a conclusive goal from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink that kept PSV on top; Ajax did their best to blow a 0-3 lead at RBC - allowing their hosts to score twice in the last 10 minutes but held on for three points and second place; and Pierre van Hooijdonk was on target again for Feyenoord as they beat De Graafschap 2-0. Our friends from Heerenveen aren't having too good a start to their season: a 1-0 reversal at Roda JC left them second bottom with just one point from five games.

In France, Nice went into a 1-0 lead against L'Estac with a first-half penalty - but were immediately reduced to 10 men, clinging on to the three points and top spot. Unless Troyes get their act together it could be some time before we go back: they are third bottom with just 6 points from 8 games. Nice share the lead with Auxerre - 3-1 winners at home to second-bottom Sedan. Sunderland reject Lilian Laslandes opened the scoring for Bastia at PSG, and although the home side equalised, they had to share the points and blew their chance of moving up to third place. Champions Lyon continued their poor start to the season: they'd just pulled visitors Monaco's 0-2 lead back to 1-2 when both sides had a player dismissed, and then conceded another to Souleymane Camara before losing one-time Leeds target Edmilson to another red card in injury time.

Club Brugge could only manage a 1-0 win at home to Gent in the Jupiler League - but that was enough to maintain their 100% record and 5 point gap at the top. St.-Truidense's 5-1 win over Mechelen kept them in second, ahead of Anderlecht on goal difference, after the third-placed side had the better of a 6-3 goalfeast against Excelsior Mouscron tonight.

Grasshoppers continue to let their early lead slip - they only managed a 1-1 draw at home to neighbours FC Zurich this weekend, but second-placed Basle fielded a not-totally full-strength side against Neuchatel Xamax - maybe thinking about this week's visit to Anfield - and only came away with a draw themselves as a result. Grasshoppers lead Basle by 4 points, with Zurich and Young Boys - 3-0 winners at home to Thun - 3 points further back.

The big game between Slavia and Sparta ended in a goalless draw in the Gambrinus Liga, but Liberec's 5-1 hammering of Ceske Budejovice was not quite enough to let them overtake Sparta on goal difference at the top. Jablonec also failed to take full advantage of Slavia's draw: a win at third-bottom Hradec Kralove would have seen them leapfrog Slavia into third place - but that too ended goalless.

As for our UEFA Cup opponents - they were due to play Metalurg Donetsk tonight but I've yet to find out how they got on.

September 23: Terry Venables doesn't want Ian Harte to become a scapegoat for the team's failure. After being instrumental in Blackburn's goal on Sunday, a section of the visiting fans booed his every touch - although there was an equal amount of support and some fairly violent disagreements between the travelling Whites over the rights and wrongs of the matter. Venables said: "I think the criticism he took from a section of our supporters was very unfair. I am disappointed because our fans have been terrific this season. I want patience because we are all in this together." I would agree that it's wrong to jeer the lad: he can't help the fact that his form has evaporated over the last two seasons and yet the managers still select him every week. Harte does his best - but the evidence is plain for all to see that his best is not good enough at the top level at the moment, and he needs time to rebuild his game and his confidence away from a spotlight that focuses mercilessly on his every error. Venables owes it to the player to give him a chance to recover his form - but Sunday's error was just too sharp a reminder to those of us who saw him hand Newcastle three of their four goals at Elland Road last season, beaten for pace and position by Cardiff's winger in the FA Cup and left for dead by Zurich's micro-machine of a sub who nearly turned the home leg around in the last 10 minutes. If he plays and makes a mistake, don't blame the player: blame the man who chose to ignore his past errors and picked him anyway. "Ian has done very well for me and the team this season. I have every confidence in him," said the man in question. And while we're on the subject, what's your opinion on Nick Barmby Mr V?

September 23: The reserves were in action tonight at Gateshead against Newcastle's second string. Nigel Martyn was in goal, and there were full games for Paul Okon, Jamie McMaster and Stephen McPhail, as well as an hour for Seth Johnson on his way back from yet another injury. The home side took the lead early in the first half, and it wasn't until the second half when Seth Johnson opened the scoring for Leeds. It was followed by goals for Harpal Singh and Craig Farrell, and although Joe Kendrick pulled one back for the Magpies, Leeds finished on top with a 87th-minute goal from Jamie Milner.

September 23: The manager thinks that the competition for the keeper's position seems to be having the desired effect. TV said: "Nigel is keeping young Paul on his toes. The standard of our goalkeepers is very high." He went on: "It's great to see them working so hard in training and helping each other despite the keen rivalry. I watched Nigel in the reserves last week and he was sensational." But Robbo is the man in possession, and Nige knows that it will take a mistake or two for him to get his place back: "Robbo has done very well. It's frustrating for me because I've been used to playing all the time, but I'll wait for my chance and take it."

September 23: The Ladies are in action again on Wednesday night after a break in the league programme for the international play-offs against Iceland. Doncaster Belles are the visitors to Garforth - it's only two quid to get in so get along and give them some support!

September 23: El Tel was clearly not too happy with the team's performance on Sunday (not the only one mate!) but didn't spend his time slagging the team off. He said: "I know we can do a lot better than we did at Blackburn, but they were hanging on in the second half and maybe we were a bit unfortunate in the end." And he also claimed that Leeds were a bit unlucky with the goal because Harte was fouled by Gillespie (AFTER Harte fouled him and AFTER Harte failed to do what any half-trained 10-year-old would have done and belted the ball into touch). Debutant Jamie McMaster was picked out for praise from the boss: "Jamie was very positive and he didn't let us down," he said. And Smithy's all-action performance wasn't affected by the missed penalty. The manager said: "I know how he feels. He had a good performance and, hopefully, it won't upset his form. He's a good listener is Alan and he is Leeds through and through. Just by speaking to him you can tell that this club means a lot to him." Comments on Nicky Barmby's performance were as absent as the player himself was on Sunday.

September 22: No time for the usual Sunday night stuff - the Euro update is hereby held over to tomorrow cos it's just taken us 7 hours to get back from Blackburn. The game in a nutshell: terrible. Poll was his usual self and favoured the home side enormously, but Smiffy's penalty was too soft and too close to Friedel, Friedel was on top form to make a bunch of great saves when we should have scored and Ian Harte was back to his old self: after some almost-competent displays at the start of the season our left-back has shown why he is now playing at least two divisions higher than his ability demands. Reserve football for Harte until we can sell him and ANYBODY else at left back for the foreseeable future. Teddy Lucic, a recovered Dom Matteo - or even Danny Mills with Kelly at right back as we saw late on today must be preferable to having the disastrous Harte in the side for one more minute.

September 21: Michael Bridges thanked Leeds fans for his tremendous reception when he came on to the park on Thursday. "I was delighted to be back on Thursday and I would like to thank the fans for the reception they gave me. It was a great night for everybody concerned." He also thanked El Tel for his patience and for giving him a run out: "He hasn't rushed me back... It was great of him to give me a chance. If he wants me for tomorrow then that will again be great." I know I keep banging on about it, but I rate Bridges as the best of all of our strikers and the one we would least want to lose. With a little bit more fitness, another 20-goal season is well within his reach. Even if he's only on the bench tomorrow he's looking forward to the game, and after the wins over Newcastle and Man U said: "Hopefully we will put in the same performance and come out on top tomorrow....We've got to keep things going."

September 21: Lucas Radebe has said that his international career is close to and end and that he will play his last game for South Africa "very soon indeed". He said: "I think I will be cutting off and reducing my games so that I can finish gradually at international level... I have thought about quitting straight away so that I can focus on playing solely for Leeds United, but the difficult part for me is to just one day say 'I am no longer going to be part of the side any more.'

September 20: Blackburn are facing a massive injury crisis among their forwards ahead of Sunday's clash at Ewood Park. Dwight Yorke is almost certainly ruled out and Matt Jansen, Damien Duff and Andy Cole are also doubts with a variety of long and short-term problems. There's only Corrado Grabbi - last season's disastrous signing who seems to be finding his feet at last - of the main strikers who is fully fit and ready to play. For Leeds, Dominic Matteo and Nick Barmby remain doubts with the injuries that kept them out of last night's UEFA Cup tie.

September 20: With Brian Flynn and Kevin Reeves confirmed in charge at Swansea, Flynn's former Leeds team-mate Alan Curtis might have been expecting to be shown the door - but it looks like he'll be retained on the coaching staff. Curtis said: "Brian says titles don't mean anything to them. The three of us will all mix in together, with Brian taking responsibility... Whatever needs doing, we'll do it between us, if it means scouting, coaching whatever. We've really got to mix in and get on with it, I'm just concerned with getting us out of this mess." Swansea are at the bottom of Division 3 - even below Boston who started the season with a points deduction from the league.

September 20: Caretaker boss Oleg Lutkov thinks that the tie is far from over: "I can assure Leeds they will be playing against a really strong team in the Ukraine," he said. "Losing 1-0 is not so bad a result for us and I'm sure our team will be more attacking when we play Leeds at home. It will be a different game to last night - our plan won't be the same." Too right mate - and if nowt else it means that our trip out there won't be to watch an exhibition game: there should be a bit more bite to it than we saw last night.

September 20: El Tel had particular praise for Michael Bridges' performance - his first appearance in a competitive match for nearly two years. "It has been a hard story for him. He must have had times when he was very low, very low. But in the two years he has been out he has worked extremely hard. He has been frustrated because he wanted to get back into the team, but this was a big moment for him tonight and I thought he not only played well but contributed well to the goal. I am very happy for him." Lucas Radebe also saw Bridges return as a positive thing for the club: "He deserves to be back. We knew the quality player he is and he proved that. With him up front I think we'll do better."

September 19: It was a very scrappy game tonight - with the exception of Smithy, few of the Leeds players seemed interested until the last 20 minutes - when (a) it suddenly occurred to them that they might have to try a bit out in the Ukraine and (b) Michael Bridges came on. Bridges' persistence won the ball at the goalline and cut it back for the easiest of tap-ins for Smithy, and he nearly made/scored a couple more. Their keeper had an excellent game (apart from the blatant timewasting) and it was a shame that he got his hands in the way of a screamer of a volley from Lucas Radebe. Still, at least it's a win and no away goals conceded. Now for the return in a fortnight.

September 18: In the other England/Ukraine tie on this week, Newcastle went down 2-0 to Dynamo Kiev in the first Champions League group game. They're in a difficult group and it doesn't bode well for the Magpies' chances of qualifying for the next stage. Still, they said the same about us when Barca caned us 4-0 in the Nou Camp two years ago and look what happened there.

September 18: Our opponents flew in to Leeds/Bradford today looking forward to the biggest night in their team's history. Zaporizhzya President Victor Mezheyko said that it would have been nice to have faced a smaller team so they would have a better chance of getting through, but added: "I have waited a long time for this moment - more than twenty years - but no matter how we do I will count it as a privilege that we have been lucky enough to play this team." Caretaker coach Oleg Lutkov is worried that his players may freeze on the big day. He said: "All of our footballers are capable of playing good football. The only problem is they lack the experience of playing in big games in front of big crowds and on such a big stage." Well, the good people of Leeds are doing their best to help you out on at least one of those counts: despite a slight rush after Saturday's result the crowd is likely to be one of the lowest seen at Elland Road for some time - certainly for a European tie. Here's hoping the Ticket Office notes who those stayaways are and ensures that they are kept at the back of the queue when the opposition is a little bit more prominent and the demand for tickets greater.

September 18: El Tel sounded a note of caution about our UEFA Cup opponents. "I know people will look at the tie and have their expectations, but you can't possibly start under-estimating sides like that," he said. After last season's rather slap-dash approach to the UEFA games which saw Maritimo and Troyes win one of the legs and Zurich come close to getting a win at Elland Road that would have taken them through on away goals, the new manager is aiming for a far tighter approach this time. "It's going to be difficult because they will come here and do their own thing.... At the same time it's important that we get the win. The first leg is at home and the right result could put us in a good position for the return in two weeks time."

September 18: After a 1-0 defeat at Boston tonight that left Swansea on the bottom of Division 3, it looks like there could be a change of management coming - and Leeds old boy Brian Flynn is the man expected to be confirmed in the job tomorrow. He's had a year out of the game after spending a dozen years with Wrexham and will be bringing Kevin Reeves - his assistant at the Racecourse - with him.

September 17: Ticket sales for the Metalurg home game are going slowly - although there has been some pickup since Saturday's morale-boosting win. The game will be televised live on Channel 5 - and comes in the middle of a run of A-category home games plus several long away trips, so the reluctance of people to spend £15 against a team of unknowns - a 25% rise on last year's equivalent tie against Maritimo - is understandable. Let's hope that the expected 20-odd thousand people can make enough noise to remind the team of how they won at the weekend.

September 17: The manager thinks that Olly has done a great job this season (sort of brings into question why he didn't start but...) and said: "We had a problem in that it looked as though Olly was not going to be here at the beginning of the season. But the transfer window closed at the end of August and he was still with us." He went on: "Olly has responded brilliantly since getting his chance. He has shaped his game slightly to suit the needs of the team and, in the two matches with Newcastle and Manchester United, he was very influential." The player himself says he never wanted to leave Leeds anyway! Dacourt said: "It was a case of people speculating because the club needed to bring in some money. I couldn't do anything about that but what I can do now is what I have always done - try and give my best for the team." And he reiterated what he had said earlier: "I am very happy at Leeds because I believe in this team, and we know that when we are right we can win everything. Nothing is impossible for us." So that probably means he's on his way in January then.

September 16: El Tel had some praise for the crowd on Saturday after a game that produced the best atmosphere for several seasons. "The supporters were terrific and the players responded to that. There was a bit of stick flying around, but that was only to be expected. The big thing was that the fans got behind the team. I know everyone was pleased with the way the supporters got behind the lads and they played their part." He also counselled caution after two big wins: "Two weeks ago after we lost to Birmingham and Sunderland I would have been complaining so I'm not going to shout too loudly now. It's still very early days and the time to start judging us is after 15 or 20 games - it means nothing at this stage." It's a marathon not a spring, remember...?

September 16: The reserves beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 at Wakefield tonight with two second half goals from Jamie McMaster sealing the points for Leeds. There were some big names in Leeds' second string - and not just Shane Cansdell-Sherriff! Nigel Martyn, Gary Kelly, Michael Duberry, David Batty, Michael Bridges and Stephen McPhail all played, and Paul Okon also got another 80 minutes under his belt.

September 16: Simon Johnson's loan period at Hull will be extended for a further month after he made a decent impression on Jan Molby, scoring 2 goals in 8 appearances.

September 16: Former Bouffant-of-the-Year and ref Roger Milford thinks that David Beckham was very lucky to escape punishment both on the field - and now off it - for his elbow on Lee Bowyer on Saturday. It seems that Jeff Winter has admitted he didn't have a very good view of the incident but isn't going to review the tape - so the FA won't be taking the matter any further, and Lee Bowyer himself has played the clash down. But Milford said: "My own opinion is that David was very lucky in that Jeff was very lenient in what he saw. It is about time players got cute and realised lots of cameras are at the grounds - they should play cleanly." Meanwhile Thierry Henry faces almost exactly the same charge that saw Alan Smith banned after the Cardiff game - swinging his arm to try to get clear of Charlton's John Robinson and making some contact with the player. Smith was red-carded by hyper-zealous Andy D'Urso for his clash and banned despite his "victim" speaking up for him. But unlike the Beckham incident, the ref didn't see this one, so the FA can take another look and throw the book at him if they wish. One rule for one...

September 16: The Supporters Club Player of the Year dinner will go ahead - without the winner of the award or any of the current players! This rather ridiculous state of affairs came about because Rio - the fans' choice as Player of the Season last year - will not be given his award on the seemingly unquestioned word of the LUSC committee. You wouldn't expect him to turn up to pick it up - but he won it based on his performances last year and just because he's moved on that doesn't invalidate what he did for the club. The LUSC should be big enough to recognise this and send the award to Old Trafford rather than adopting its current toys-out-of-pram attitude. The other players won't be attending because they're now off to watch the Ricky Hatton fight on the same night. Nice to see they know what their priorities are and where meeting Leeds fans ranks on their scale of importance.

September 16: Dominic Matteo's ankle injury was serious enough to drag him off the pitch on Saturday - and it now looks like he could also miss the UEFA Cup tie on Thursday night. Still, better that he misses a couple of games now - that should prove winnable without him - rather than crock himself for the rest of the season. Nick Barmby is also a doubt - but is less of a worry: after a promising start against Man City, he has barely touched the ball in 5 games and there is more than adequate cover in the form of Jason Wilcox, Eirik Bakke and Stephen McPhail.

September 16: Lucas Radebe thinks that the two recent wins over Man U and Newcastle show that Leeds could be challenging for the title this year. "The win over Manchester United showed what we could do and the progress we have made. It showed that if we believe in ourselves and play the way the gaffer wants us to play we will do better, gain in confidence and get more good results.... We can compete for the main prize." And one swallow makes?

September 15: There were quite a few European league games played midweek to catch up on the games missed due to last weekend's Euro 2004 qualifiers - I'll try to cover those here where possible.

Serie A finally got underway this weekend after all the wrangles over TV rights and worries about financial stability. Juve got their title defence underway with a 3-0 win over Atalanta thanks to two goals from Alessandro Del Piero - the third scored at the very end by Salvatore Fresi. A Christian Vieri strike saw Internazionale off to a winning start against Torino, with arch-rivals Milan also picking up three points with a 0-3 win at Modena, two of the goals coming from Inzaghi. Shock of the weekend was Roma's 2-1 defeat at Bologna, where they went in front with a Batistuta penalty just before half time only to concede a goal on the hour and then again in the last minute to Julio Cruz.

In La Liga, only 5 teams have a 100% record after playing two games, and of them only Valencia are realistic title challengers. They warmed up for the visit of Liverpool with a 3-0 win over promoted Recreativo Huelva - but it wasn't as easy as the scoreline makes out, with the home side holding on to a one goal lead until John Carew made it safe and then really sealed the game with a brace in the last 5 minutes. Real Betis were well on the way to pulling off a great result, beating Real Madrid by 1-0 with nearly an hour gone when the floodlights failed and the match had to be abandoned. Goals from Luis Enrique and Saviola gave Barca their first win of the campaign at Bilbao, and two goals in three minutes for Roy Makaay turned Deportivo La Coruna's day at Osasuna around, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 1-2 victory.

Two goals from Michael Ballack gave Bayern Munich a 1-2 win at Nuremberg, and building on their midweek 3-1 win over city rivals 1860, they now sit a point clear at the top of the table. Borussia Dortmund remain unbeaten - but their 1-1 draw at Schalke was their 4th draw in 5 games and they are already 6 points off the lead. Bayer Leverkusen finally managed a win in midweek - 1-3 at second-placed Hansa Rostock - but it was a return to their poor start this weekend as they scored first but then crumbled 1-3 at home to give Hannover 96 their first points of the season.

1-2-3 in the Eredivisie is PSV, Ajax and Feyenoord. PSV followed up their 1-4 midweek win at AZ with a 4-0 home win against RKC - Mateja Kezman adding a hat-trick today to his midweek brace. Feyenoord have been similarly prolific - a 1-5 win at Twente Enschede yesterday adding to their 4-1 win over Excelsior on Tuesday.

Frank Leboeuf scored from the spot - and saw Pauleta miss a penalty for the visitors - as Marseille ran out 2-1 winners over Girondins Bordeaux. This was a bit of an upturn for Marseille who lost 2-0 at leaders Nice midweek. The leaders could only manage a 1-1 draw with third-placed Guingamp, but second-placed Auxerre failed to build on their 1-0 win against Bastia on Wednesday, drawing 1-1 at Sochaux this weekend and so remaining level with Nice on points. Champions Lyon looked to have got their season running on Tuesday with a good 1-0 win at home to Lens, but they slipped up again yesterday, losing 1-0 at Nantes.

There were no slip-ups on Friday 13 for Club Brugge - their 1-2 win at Standard Liege giving them a 100% record and a five point lead. Anderlecht missed the chance to close to just two points when they were surprisingly beaten 2-1 at Antwerp, and Excelsior Mouscron ensured their goals scored column would keep them at the top of the 6 chasing teams with 10 points with hat tricks from Mpenza and Bakadal in their 6-0 win over Charleroi.

In Switzerland, the gap at the top narrowed slightly: Basle's 4-0 win over bottom side Aaruu followed their midweek 7-1 hammering of FC Wil 1900, and they now just lag leaders Grasshopper by 4 points after the Zurich side came from two goals down to win 2-3 at St Gallen midweek but could only scrape a 1-1 draw at that self-same FC Wil yesterday.

Sparta blew their 100% record with a 1-1 draw at home to Blsany, but still top the Gambrinus Liga. Slavia went a man down halfway through the first half but a Dostalek hat-trick was enough to beat Ceske Budejovice 1-3 and keep up the pressure on the leaders. The winner of tomorrow's game between Slovan Liberec and Jablonec will move into second place - barring the mathematical unlikelihood of Liberec winning by more than 5, which would actually take them to the top.

The removal of their head coach has seemed to have done some good to our midweek opponents Zaporizhzya - they got a confidence-boosting 2-1 win in at home to Poligraftekhnika before flying out to the UK.

September 15: Injury update: Robbie Fowler is now back in light training as he recovers from his hip injury and op, but Seth Johnson - who had also started on his comeback trail - has suffered another setback after picking up a knock and will now see a specialist about his knee.

September 15: Lucas Radebe echoed El Tel's praise of Jon Woodgate's performance against ManU - but also had some words of sympathy for Rio. The Chief said: "He's made a great comeback. He had a terrible two years, but I think with Woody's character he was always going to prove himself and be great. You always knew that when he did come back he would come in and make the position his own. That's what he's done - and with a performance like against United you can't fault him." As for Rio, Radebe thought he'd handled the almost pantomime abuse he took from the crowd prett well. "He came in for a lot of stick, but he's a big guy. It was always going to be difficult but he's quality and it won't affect him. Nothing can destabilise quality players."

September 15: David Beckham's wandering elbows should not result in an FA charge - unless ref Jeff Winter sees the TV replays and decides he made a mistake. As we know, refs are infallible, so this is very unlikely to happen, but an FA spokesman said: "Clearly we are awaiting Jeff Winter's report from the game... The only way therefore that a decision can be reversed or looked at further is if the match official advised the FA that he had not dealt with the issue in full."

September 14: On the day we greeted the return of one ex-player with chants of "One Greedy Bastard", one of the previous recipients of that accolade was having a slightly better day. Gary McAllister scored from the spot as Cov beat Grimsby 3-2. Brian Deane scored Leicester's second as they pushed Derby into further trouble with a 3-1 win at the Walker Stadium. Andy Gray scored the only goal of the game for Bradford, as they took the points from Walsall at the Bescot. Down in Division 2 there were still more Leeds old boys having a good day. Lee Matthews was on the mark for Bristol City as they came from 1-0 and 2-1 down to win 2-3 at Cheltenham, and Clyde Wijnhard scored no less than 4 goals (one from the spot) as Oldham hammered Mansfield 6-1. In Division 3 Mark Tinkler wrapped up a good day for Hartlepool, 4-1 winners at home to local rivals Darlo. In the Conference, an 85th minute winner finally gave Carl Shutt's Kettering their first win of the season despite the team being reduced to 10 men after an hour - although visitors Morecambe were similarly afflicted 10 minutes later. In Scotland Derek Lilley scored 5 minutes into the second half for Dundee United, but that wasn't enough to pull back Dunfermline's two goals.

September 14: Post-match reaction had both managers with a typical attack of the didn't-see-its. Neither Fergie nor Tel would comment on Beckham's elbow on Bowyer, and Fergie also declined to say anything about Solskjaer's dreadful late hack on Harry Kewell that nearly started a mass brawl at the end of the game. He obviously had a clear view of the two possible penalty incidents and couldn't believe how Jeff Winter could fail to award them - Fergie reckons refs are now scared to do them any favours. Venables' view of the "penalties" must have been obscured by Fergie, since he didn't have much to say on the subject - other than the fact that even if they deserved the spot kicks, Leeds had already had 3 dead certs denied this season, so things were evening themselves up.

September 14: Speaking of the police, it rather pains me to say it but a few Leeds fans seem to be intent on taking us back to the 1970s. First up, they stoned a double decker carrying ManU fans as it halted at traffic lights on Gelderd Road - but also stoned and bottled another bus that was just a normal double decker. When some other Leeds fans remonstrated with them, they attacked them as well. But the knuckledraggers weren't just in white shirts today: after the match, the ManU fans were let out almost straight away, and after a few minor confrontations, most headed back to the station but a crowd of over 50 headed back up Gelderd Road obviously looking for some trouble. The police seemed initially slow to react, but we soon saw a camera crew, dog vans and unmarked people carriers as well as the usual Transits and horses, shepherding the Stone Island/cap and scarf brigade back up towards the ground where they were searched, photographed and put on a bus and escorted back to the station.

September 14: Fabien Barthez let his temper get the better of him when Leeds scored - it seems he kicked a plastic bottle into the crowd where it hit someone on the head, leaving them needing to have stitches. West Yorkshire Police are investigating.

September 14: Both sides had plenty to complain about with Jeff Winter's performance today. Smithy was unlucky to be booked for the second game in a row, and Beckham was lucky to still be on the field after throwing an elbow at Lee Bowyer: this was the only contact between the new England colleagues, so when the ref awarded a free kick to Leeds, the only thing he could sensibly do next was produce a red card. Needless to say, his book stayed in his pocket. Having said that, we were lucky not to concede a 1st half penalty when Woody rather clumsily barged across Nicky Butt as the midfielder broke into the area. Harte and Woody both produced goal-line clearances, and Harte's right-footed cross for Kewell to score was a peach. If there's a downer from the on-pitch performance it was the injury that kept Dom Matteo in the dressing room at half-time, and the continued anonymity of Nicky Barmby. After a good start against Man City, El Tel's signing now looks increasingly invisible (if that's not a contradiction) and the explanation that it was a "back injury" that saw him replaced at half-time seems a trifle too convenient.

September 14: Getting up at half past five in the morning is worth it for days like today. A fantastic atmosphere at Elland Road and a great result for the team. More details later - I'm off to celebrate some more.

September 13: Danny Mills played down the furore surrounding Rio's transfer with a characteristically pragmatic intervention. He said: "It's one of those things that happen in football. Thirty million is an awful lot of money, a £12m profit over two years. You cannot refuse that sort of money." And he's also on the ball with his thoughts on what El Tel needs to do in the short and medium term: "We looked at the fixtures coming - Newcastle away, Man United, Blackburn away, Arsenal, Aston Villa away, then Liverpool. One win doesn't get us out of that but, if we'd had another disastrous performance at Newcastle, then today would have become a must-win. The pressure would grow and these days you can see managers getting sacked after 10 games." Leeds aren't like that anymore. Yeah, right.

September 13: Rio has said he'll extend the olive branch to Peter Ridsdale despite their recent disagreements: "If I see Peter Ridsdale I'll be happy to shake hands with him. I don't see any point in either of us holding grudges." He went on: "I can understand he was disappointed I wanted to join Manchester United and he wished to make his feelings known. But there are two sides to every story. I've had my say as well and it's time to move on.

September 12: Dom Matteo is a doubt for Saturday's game with the ankle injury that kept him out of Scotland's squad last weekend continuing to trouble him.

September 12: Leeds council are selling the hospitality box at Elland Road that they have held since they sold the ground's freehold back to Leeds United. They'll receive just short of half a million for the 80-year lease on the box, but will continue to take 500 tickets per game, which they distribute to underprivileged children from various areas of Leeds. The council will continue to hold on to the shares it received as part of the deal, but that too is under review and the shares may be placed in a nominee account to ensure there is no conflict of interest with the club when it has to take planning or other decisions. The Leeds United Supporters Trust is asking the council to let it control the shares so that a democratically constituted body with a long-term view can provide the club with input, advice and influence key decisions.

September 12: El Tel is facing up to a hefty run of high-profile games over the next few weeks. "We did well last night and you always enjoy winning. But there's not much time to relax because we're straight back to it again. The games are coming thick and fast now and the most important thing is we're ready to face Manchester United."

September 12: Rio Ferdinand will have an SAS guard for Saturday's clash at Elland Road. Six ex-SAS men will be on the ManU coach when it arrives at Elland Road and will be on the touchline poised to throw themselves in the way should someone try to throw a flat cap at the ferret-faced one.

September 12: Post-match reaction from last night's game has both managers heaping praise on Paul Robinson. El Tel said: "He's an excellent goalkeeper. He knows that, like all goalkeepers, if you come here, you're going to get tested. If you want work, you're going to get it." He knew that Leeds would face a tough test at St James Park: "They throw everything at you with pace and skill, not just pressure, and you've got to be organised and you've got to keep off your goalkeeper and give him a chance. We did that and Robinson did his stuff, and it's great credit to all the team for the way they really worked hard." Sir Bobby Robson pointed out the possession and chances that his team had, and said: "The keeper has played superbly, he looked a great keeper. He kept us at bay, and to be fair to them, they defended the box terrifically and made no mistakes." He made no excuses for the defeat either: "We made one mistake in 70 minutes and got punished for it. We were trying to play for offside and Kewell beat the offside trap. Viduka was offside but walking back, so I don't argue about it really, I think that's fair enough."

September 11: El Tel played down comparisons between Smithy and Shearer today."Shearer and Smith are different players. Shearer is a specialist, while Smithy is capable of doing other things and doing them well," he said. He praised Smith's versatility and willingness to play wherever the team needed him: "It is all about mastering all the skills. Being able to play in different positions will give Alan a better chance of getting into the England squad when a 22-man squad is picked for major championships - and staying there." And Shearer himself thinks that Smith deserves the chance to prove his worth at the top level. "Why can't he be Michael Owen's regular partner? A lot of forwards have been tried by Sven and not done badly, but it's quite a time since someone has made such an impact on me." No doubt Mr Shearer will be redoubling his praise tomorrow :-)

September 11: A cracking away performance from Leeds brought all three points back from St James Park tonight with Paul Robinson the Man of the Match by a mile. An early goal from Vidooks after Harry beat the offside trap was followed by relentless pressure from Newcastle, and Ameobi's header over the bar and Shearer's shot straight at Robbo were both chances that you'd have expected to be buried. They weren't, and Leeds defended the box brilliantly. Danny Mills and Alan Smith were unlucky to be booked for fairly innocuous tackles - when similar challenges from the striped shirts went unpunished. With time running out, Bramble conceded a needless corner, Newcastle failed to clear it properly and Alan Smith rifled a great shot across Given from about 13 yards out to seal the game. Bobby Robson said that Newcastle would play worse than that and win games 2-0 this season - and he's probably right, but they need to toughen up at the back if they hope to be up there challenging for a European place again.

September 11: Danny Mills said that his dismissal at Newcastle earlier this year helped him to focus on what needed to be improved in his game. "After the sending-off I knew that I had to get my head down and concentrate on playing football for Leeds United." He added: "Maybe this was the incident which made me sit up and think about my future a bit more... I missed out on an England international match because of it and without doubt it could have cost me a place in the World Cup." Now it's hard to find many people to disagree that he's the player to have in the right back slot for England for the Euro 2004 qualifiers - and he deserves all the praise that comes his way after the largely unfounded abuse he took at the start of the year.

September 11: Alan Smith knows he's just had a bit of a career highspot but now he's getting back to the day-to-day business of scoring goals for Leeds. "Football's all about highs and lows, you learn that," he said. "It was a great feeling scoring for England, but it's business as usual again tonight and I can't wait to pull on a Leeds shirt again." He's looking forward to the game in a stadium that is a model of what can be done to brilliantly redevelop an existing historic ground. "When you have thousands of Geordies at you it does make for an unbelievable atmosphere, but we need to start getting our league form back."

September 11: The game at West Ham will now be played on the Sunday (November 10) with a 2 pm kick-off and appear on Sky's PPV channel. The Spurs game two weeks later - already scheduled for a 2pm Sunday kick-off - is now also to be shown on Premiership Plus.

September 10: Ex-Leeds players were very much in evidence in tonight's games north and south of the border. Carlton Palmer headed the opening goal of the game as his Stockport County side continued their recent good form with a 1-3 win at Lincoln - helped somewhat by the dismissal of one of the home players with 20 minutes to go. Clyde Wijnhard scored the last goal of the game as Oldham squeezed past Notts Country 3-2, and David Robertson is back on the pitch and on the scoresheet for Montrose - although his goal - which made the game 1-1 in the first half - wasn't enough for Montrose to take anything out of the game, going down 3-2 at Cowdenbeath.

September 10: More scraps of team news, rumour and lies for tomorrow night. Jon Woodgate, Dom Matteo and Lucas Radebe are all said to be over the niggles which have meant they've missed domestic and international games since the start of the season. Teddy Lucic is expected to make it onto the bench where he is expected to be joined by Michael Bridges, and Mark Viduka is still a bit worried over his achilles problems. With the manager dropping hints about the pressure being put on Ian Harte (Jason Wilcox playing at left back for the reserves!), he too could find himself on the edge of things, and Eirik Bakke's recovery from an ankle knock in Norway's draw with Denmark might not be enough to get him into the starting line-up after a couple of poor showings. My - hoped-for - team for tomorrow: Robbo - DMIFB, Woody, The Chief, Dom - Batts, Olly, Bow - H - Smiff, Pieman, with Nige, Kelly, Bakke, Wilcox and Bridges on the bench.

September 10: Security will be extra tight for the "it's not war" game on Saturday when Manchester United and a certain highly-paid defender come to Elland Road. A Leeds spokesman said: "We have a number of matches which we regard as high security and Manchester United is obviously one of them. We have tried and tested measures for these matches and they will be put in force again on Saturday." Paul Scholes will be another ManU player to miss the game after resigning himself to an op on a troublesome knee injury.

September 10: Teddy Lucic says that he was surprised when he was told that Leeds wanted him - but was glad of the opportunity to show what he can do in the Premier League. "I'd like to think this is a league that can suit my game. As to whether I go straight into the first team, that's down to the manager. But I didn't come here just to be a first-team squad player." I guess the main question is where does El Tel see him playing - because the continued lack of pressure does not appear to have encouraged Ian Harte to improve, so something a bit more direct is needed.

September 10: Today's Sun reports that Nike are desperate to sign Smiffy up to a new boot deal following his performance against Portugal. The deal will net the young striker two grand a week - with further performance bonuses available (presumably he gets more if he scores with his boots rather than his head). Alan Shearer is the latest big name to build up Smith after an impressive run of form. Shearer said: "I am surprised that he has not been given a chance earlier with England. He was a big plus to come out of the weekend. He ran his socks off and got the goal he deserved - it was a great header from a great ball by Lee Bowyer." Shearer - who's not exactly known for his laidback temperament on the field himself - also thinks that Smith now appears to have achieved the balance between controlled aggression and directionless anger. "On some occasions he has been harshly treated by referees for what he done in the past.... But he's gone 15 games without a booking, so obviously he has been told to try and channel his aggression in the right direction and he is learning." Speaking from long experience, Shearer said: "His aggression is a decent thing as long as it is used in the right way. You niggle at defenders and you run at them and you give as good as you get. You have to do that or you'll get rolled over."

September 10: Barca did try to make a bid for Harry Kewell two years ago according to their former coach. Stung by the loss of Luis Figo to rivals Madrid, they were looking for a highly talented big name to fill the gap, but nothing came of the initial inquiries.

September 09: Still not had absolute final confirmation, but the latest from Independent Travel is that the Ukraine day trip is on. They need a certain minimum number to make it worth their while - so if you fancy a Grand Day Out, give them a bell on 0161 205 0007 and see if they can add you to the list and make the trip happen.

September 09: Alan Smith is winning praise from other clubs' coaches after his performance on Saturday. Sir Bobby Robson praised his all-round performance and his partnership with Michael Owen - but also spoke warmly of his own player, Hugo Viana, who Leeds will have to watch closely on Monday. Meanwhile Carlos Queiroz picked Smithy out as the main danger to ManU's chances on Saturday. He said: "Alan Smith is a great player. He was very dangerous throughout the match and I'm sure he will be a regular member of the England squad in the very near future."

September 09: Alan Smith warned Rio Ferdinand to expect a bit of a "hammering" from the Leeds fans when he trots out in his red shirt on Saturday. Smithy said: "I don't know exactly how the Leeds fans will react. To be honest, Rio will probably get hammered as soon as he walks onto the pitch." Smithy said he was looking forward to playing against him, and said the fans' reaction would be more or less understandable: "The only reason why people will be giving him stick is because they are disappointed to lose him. Like any good players, we would have liked to keep him." Ferdinand tried to pour oil on the as-yet-untroubled waters: "This is just football remember. It is not a war, it is not a life or death situation." Doesn't he remember the atmosphere at this fixture last year? He went on: "I can understand Leeds fans must be upset with me and they'll want to scream and shout at me when I go back. They pay their money to get into the stadium and let their opinion be heard. I accept that." Let's make sure he gets the bird for the right reasons on Saturday: for making some dreadful mistakes, bringing down Smithy and Vidooks to concede two penalties and scoring an own-goal in the last minute :-)

September 09: Teddy Lucic was finally due in Leeds today to link up with his new teammates after being out in Latvia with Sweden for the Euro 2004 qualifier. He's unlikely to start immediately - but with Dom Matteo still a bit doubtful after missing the Scotland game at the weekend, we could be a bit light at the back for the next couple of games. Michael Bridges is coming close to making it into the squad. El Tel said: "We are all very happy with him, if anything he is very much ahead of schedule," - but an immediate return still looks an outside bet.

September 08: Leeds were eliminated in the knockout stage of the Masters tournament in Manchester tonight. With 8 teams qualified for the final after regional heats throughout the summer, Leeds were drawn against favorites Ipswich and went down 4-2. Andy Ritchie beat the keeper at the near post and Tony Agana got a screamer in, but Ipswich took an early lead and always had enough in hand on United's veterans. Ritchie also missed a sitter from less than a yard out - no doubt the youngsters at Thorp Arch will have something to say about that tomorrow.

September 08: Leeds Ladies were taken to the cleaners at Garforth today, going down 3-6 to champions Arsenal. With the professionals of Fulham threatening to carry all before them (winning 0-6 at Tranmere this weekend), Arsenal served notice that they won't give their title away that easily and were convincing winners.Arsenal's Leanne Champ was red-carded 10 minutes from the end leading to a penalty and a mini-revival for Leeds, but it was too little, too late.

September 08: Rio is hoping that he won't get too hot a reception when he returns to Leeds next Saturday. He said: "I don't honestly know how they are going to treat me when I get back there, but I suppose I have a fair idea. Obviously in an ideal world you would like them to give you a good reception and hope they remember the good times we had together. But I am not naive enough to think that this is going to happen because I will be playing for Manchester United."

September 08: Smithy is keeping his feet firmly on the ground after his much-praised England performance on Saturday. He said: "It was nice to start the game and better to get a goal. Lee Bowyer put a good cross in and I managed to get in front of my marker and get onto the end of it... I should have scored on my debut against Mexico last year and have been kicking myself ever since." And his manager's response: "Sven is a man of few words and he just said 'good goal'." And Smith is looking to the future: "Hopefully I can stay in the squad and stake a claim for the European Championship qualifiers because I really enjoyed myself."

September 07: Old boys round-up from today's league games. One-game wonder Paul Shepherd opened the scoring from the spot for Scarborough as they hammered Carl Shutt's Kettering side 4-1 today. Shutty's boys have yet to win in the Conference and sit just one off the bottom with 3 points from 7 games. Mark Tinkler scored the first goal of the game for Hartlepool at Swansea but the game ended up at 2-2, a result which knocks Hartlepool off the top of the table. David Hopkin was on the mark for his new side Morton, making it 2-0 against St Mirren in the CIS Cup, but the visitors came back to win it 2-3 in extra time.

September 07: In the Euro 2004 qualifiers today, Dom Matteo must have been a bit pleased that he wasn't in the Scotland squad that went 2-0 down to the Faroe Islands - even if they did claw a 2-2 draw out of it. Former Leeds man Gary Speed - playing in an unfamiliar left back slot - set up John Hartson for Wales' opener as they beat on-form Finland 0-2 in Helsinki. Eirik Bakke was part of Norway's side - picking up a first half booking and being subbed towards the end - as the home side squeaked an injury time equaliser to hold Denmark 2-2. JFH came on as a sub and scored with 20 minutes to go as Holland scored a convincing 3-0 win over Belarus at the Philpstadion. Ian Harte was Leeds' only representative in the Ireland squad (now that Robbie Keane is a Spurs player) and he can't have enjoyed his trip to Russia that much after an early goal for the home side set them on the way to a 4-2 win. Let's hope he gets a bit more out of the trip to the Ukraine next month.

September 07: Alan Smith was the star of the show as England drew 1-1 with Portugal at Villa Park this afternoon. Smith was starting a senior match for the first time and sealed the man of the match award with his 40th minute header - scored from a Lee Bowyer cross. Bowyer played mainly down the right for his first England game and had a decent if unspectacular match but it was Smith's all round play - not just the goal that caught the eye. Sven was impressed with what he saw, saying: "Alan Smith showed that he is really ready for the senior team and that is very good for us. You now know that when there are qualification games he is ready. He had a really good game today. He can play in several different positions and he scored a beautiful goal." Danny Mills had another good game at right back and must have done enough by now to hang onto the place even when Gary Neville returns to fitness. A rash of subs in the second half brought on Jon Woodgate to double his tally of caps 3 years after earning his first but there was no chance for Paul Robinson who stayed on the bench as Sven gave David James the full 90 minutes. Bowyer was over the moon to finally make his debut. He said: "I loved every minute of it - and I hope there is more to come. Smithy helped me out by scoring." He added: "It was the biggest game of my life, the first time representing my country at the highest level. It has been a long time waiting for it. I've had a lot of backing. I tried my hardest and I'll keep trying hard for Leeds."

September 07: The away leg of our first round UEFA Cup tie will also be screened live on Channel 5: the Beeb don't seem that interested in these games - they're too busy angling for the bigger fish of next season's Champions League matches leaving the way clear for Channel 5 to pick up the rights to Leeds and Chelsea's matches for a song.

September 06: Paul Robinson today hit out at DOL's decision to drop him after he replaced Nigel Martyn for much of the Champions League run two years ago. "O'Leary said I didn't have enough experience," he said. Now under Venables, that lack of experience appears to be a moot point. "There was a lot of speculation about me playing against Manchester City on the opening day but I wasn't told anything until the Friday morning," he said. He's not fallen out with Martyn over his new number 1 status, and said: "The situation has changed this year but I don't see that affecting our relationship. We get on well and always have done." And he is also over the moon to be in the England squad, noting: "I remembered the nice things Sven said about me last year. I suppose it helped keep me going because it was a frustrating time." Nige said: "We both work very hard in training and naturally I want to win my place back from Paul. I know that will be hard because he is such a good keeper. He has been very patient and I am sure he won't let England down if he plays against Portugal at Villa Park." Robbo is expected to take over from David James at half time in tomorrow's friendly.

September 06: The club today denied that there was any intention to sell Michael Bridges to Newcastle and that any approach would be rebuffed. Now is it me, or did they say exactly the same thing about a certain defender a few months back....

September 06: Peter Ridsdale has come down firmly on Sven's side over the question of players' availability for the friendly matches ahead of the Euro 2004 qualifiers next month. Ridsdale said: "You can't expect Sven to go into the European Championships qualifiers without having played a game. We would all be moaning if he didn't have a good start to the qualifying campaign." Wenger and Houllier have complained about the number of friendlies and Fergie's withdrawal of Paul Scholes - who he then fielded in this week's game against Boro - showed what he thought of the system. Ridsdale said that most players wanted to play for their country come what may: "Most people would have been proud to have been picked for their country and that's certainly how the Leeds players feel." It's certainly how Lucas Radebe feels but that would seem to be another story.

September 05: Teddy Lucic is out of Sweden's squad for the Latvia game this weekend: he's strained a thigh muscle and will undergo further scans tomorrow to see how serious the problem is.

September 05: There will be no official travel to the Ukraine for the away leg on October 3. Leeds had hoped to organise something but it seems that they couldn't put a deal together to get the squad and fans out to Dnepropetrovsk (where the match is taking place due to UEFA ground restrictions ruling out Zaporizhzhya's home stadium). Independent Travel will be announcing their deal tomorrow ("around £300" for a day trip when I spoke to them earlier), and a few other folks are just looking at independent flights to Kiev plus the 8-hours each way train journey to the ground. If you're planning to go, check with your GP that your Diphtheria vaccination is still doing its job: most people in the UK will have had the jab as a child but may need a booster before travelling to a country where the disease is endemic.

September 05: Seems I was a little harsh on the Metalurg management with my comments about the abrupt departure of their coach. Club president Viktor Mezheiko said that Oleg Taran had resigned rather than been fired after a poor start to the league season. He said: "We had to accept it taking into consideration negative results of the team. We are extremely grateful to Mr Taran for his excellent job in bringing UEFA Cup games to Zaporizhzhya." Taran's assistant has also gone, so Oleg Lutkev will coach the team but the club are already in negotiations with several others and hope to have a new man in place before the 1st leg.

September 05: Comments on the England call-ups from the Leeds players involved. Alan Smith and Danny Mills are both delighted that Lee Bowyer and Jon Woodgate will be part of the setup. Smith said: "Everyone at Leeds is proud of their call-up. I just hope that they both play on Saturday and do well." Mills said: "Due to circumstances out of their control, they weren't picked for squads before us but now they are here on footballing merit and they deserve to be." Errr.....the circumstances were rather more in their control than that - all they had to do was not go out and get out of their trees in the middle of the season. Whatever, Mills adds: "I have no doubts that they have the ability to play at this level. Woody played in 1999 and he's older and wiser now, so is a better player for it. They'll fit in well." And Smithy himself is looking forward to the chance to prove himself at the highest level after his temper blew his best chances of working his way into the squad for the World Cup. He said: "I had to stand up to the fact I didn't stay on the field long enough last season, I only had myself to blame. But I'm lucky this happened early in my career and I've got the chance to put it right." Smith paid tribute to the guidance he had received from U-21 boss David Platt. He said: "David Platt put a lot of responsibility on me during the Under-21 European Championships during the summer. He told me I had to be a leader and I wanted to show him and everyone that I could handle that responsibility. I don't want to lose my aggression but it's the silly stuff I have to cut out, like when I elbowed Alpay against Aston Villa last season and got sent off."

September 05: It's been announced that all of Leeds' UEFA Cup home games will be screened live on Channel 5 this season. Looks like the Leeds fans who can't make it to those games will have to buy a set of earplugs - or turn the Jonathan Pearce commentary down and listen to Radio Aire on the webcast instead.

September 05: Rio and PR are engaged in a bout of handbags through the press. After hearing that he was just bought as cover for Jon Woodgate's possible absence, Rio responded: "I just think it was disappointing Mr Ridsdale should say things like that. It's time to let bygones be bygones and for him to get on with his life and me to get on with mine. He knew my feelings and I knew his. I wish he could have just left it at that." Interestingly, Rio then said: "After a lot of soul-searching I felt it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down." But what opportunity was that Rio? Surely you're not saying that you had been made aware of the possibility of Manchester United making a bid for you before you handed in your transfer request? The very thought of such impropriety! "We all know that transfers happen in football and that people move on. It's just part of the game," he said.

September 05: The reserves drew 1-1 at Boro last night with Michael Bridges opening the scoring and boosting his chances of making an appearance against Newcastle next week. Paul Okon also made the full 90 minutes along with David Batty - who is clearly on punishment duty from El Tel despite the fact that the absence of a ballwinning/holding midfielder has been instrumental in our last two defeats.

September 05: The South African FA will be talking to FIFA about Lucas Radebe's absence from their squad this weekend - though they accept it's too late to do anything about it this time. SAFA spokesperson Sithembile Khala said: "We have been given different reasons by his team, but nothing very specific, and that is why we have decided to approach FIFA." He said that there appeared to be different messages coming out of the club and the player about the injury, and added: "We have spoken to Lucas and he has indicated his willingness to come and play, but the club would not release him. This is not the first time it has happened. We were hoping to resolve this at club level, but now FIFA will have to come in."

September 04: Just how dedicated to playing for Leeds is Seth Johnson? One of my correspondents reports that he was errr...more than a little the worse for wear in a pub in Linton last Saturday night. Has the Leeds management and playing staff learned nothing in the last two years? We pay these people 20 grand a week to compensate them for their loss of freedom and inability to go out with their mates and get shedded. If they want to play it this way, there's always Sunday football on the parks.

September 04: Dom Matteo has definitely pulled out of Scotland's Euro 2004 qualifier with the Faroe Islands due to a knee injury.

September 04: The South African FA could be planning to appeal to FIFA about the decision to let Lucas Radebe stay in Leeds for their Nations Cup qualifier this weekend. Despite the fact that he failed to appear against Brum and needs ice packs after every game to keep his knees in shape, they still want him to make the journey. Admin manager Stanley Tshabalala said: "They think we are a third world country so they can do what they like."

September 04: Our UEFA Cup opponents appear to be in turmoil! After a terrible start to their season, a 2-0 defeat at Obolon Kyiv was the final straw for the board so they sacked their manager. Some reward for getting them through to the UEFA Cup for the first time!

September 04: The travel office are yet to announce details of the official trip to the Ukraine: it seems that they'd sorted out most of the details but then noticed that the runway at our intended destination was too short to accommodate the plane they'd hired. So it's parachutes all round folks! More details when I get them.

September 03: PFA chief Gordon Taylor welcomed the selection of Lee Bowyer and Jon Woodgate into the England squad. He said: "My view is the same as society's - if somebody has paid a price for anything he has done wrong he should be given a chance to rehabilitate." Errrr...what exactly has Bowyer done wrong and why weren't you pressing for his recall earlier Gordon? He added: "Football is such a short career that to talk about a longer- term suspension or even no selection at all is going against normal justice. They have got their chance and I hope they can take it."

September 03: Darren Anderton will not be coming to Elland Road - in the near future anyway - according to chairman Peter Ridsdale. Ridsdale said: "We had discussions about Darren. The Robbie Keane deal was done on its own merit and there was no requisite requirement for Darren to come back again, although he is a player that Terry admires." He added: "Were he to be fit in the future it may be a player we go back and talk about but there has been no deal struck." Bearing in mind we were prepared to buy Dom Matteo and Robbie Fowler when neither was fully match fit, that either says something about the changed financial circumstances at the club or the relative desire to sign the player.

September 03: Lucas Radebe will not be playing for South Africa in their Nations Cup qualifier against the Ivory Coast. SAFA requested a medical certificate be produced to excuse him from the game - and when Leeds gave just such a document to FIFA (and bearing in mind the fact that he didn't appear on Saturday) SAFA had no option but to accept their captain's absence. Radebe isn't happy with the situation - he said: "I don't want to upset our new manager Terry Venables because he wants me here, fit and available for the game at Newcastle next week, but South Africa's game against the Ivory Coast is very important. I wanted to play, otherwise people back home might think 'Lucas has played in the World Cup and now he is not interested anymore'. That is just not true."

September 03: The reserves are in action against Boro tomorrow night - and it's possible that Paul Okon might make his first appearance in a Leeds shirt against his former club. With half the squad away on international duties, the game will give Michael Bridges another chance to improve his fitness (even more essential now Robbie Keane has gone) and also give an outside chance to Seth Johnson to see if he is over the worst of his most recent knock.

September 03: Dominic Matteo remains an injury doubt for Berti Vogts' Scotland squad for the first of their Euro 2004 qualifiers in the Faroe Islands on Saturday. Matteo is nursing an ankle problem and although he played in the defeat against Birmingham Leeds will not want him aggravating the injury in what should be a winnable match for the Scots.

September 02: Reaction to the England squad from some of the interested parties. Jon Woodgate said he knew he would have to play well to secure a permanent place in the squad, and added: "I would like to publicly thank the people who have demonstrated their faith in me and supported me through a difficult period, and I hope I can reward their faith." Lee Bowyer said he was aware of the possibility and rumour of selection but had tried to keep his hopes under control to avoid disappointment. "I'm just so glad to finally be given a chance to prove that I can play at this level - that is all I have ever wanted and it's a great feeling to be called up... I think I can rise to the challenge, but I won't really know until I've played." Peter Ridsdale expressed his delight that five Leeds players were in the squad and added: "I still don't understand why Lee wasn't picked for the World Cup. Lee's been one of the best midfielders in the country for some time, and if you look at the players England had in the summer, then Lee should have been out there playing." But if Ridsdale - as a senior member of the FA executive - couldn't influence the kangaroo court that sat in judgement on an innocent man, then nobody could.

September 02: The England squad for next weekend's friendly against Portugal at Villa Park, and as has been much-trailed, Paul Robinson, Jon Woodgate, Lee Bowyer and Alan Smith join Danny Mills in the 20 selected players. David Seaman and Nigel Martyn aren't selected - the former because Sven wants to see other keepers in action and knows what his number one choice can do (screw up high free kicks - ask Nayim, Ronaldinho and Zola) and the latter because Sven says he can't justify picking players who aren't playing regular first team football. No doubt there will be a few people spouting off that it's a disgrace that Woodgate and Bowyer have been picked but Bowyer has done nothing wrong in the eyes of the law, and his behaviour has been no worse than many other current and former England internationals, and Woodgate has now paid his debt to society as required by the judge in addition to his long international suspension. Sven said: "If anyone has served his punishment, that should be it, you can't go on punishing people all their lives just for something they shouldn't have done." Moving onto the footballing side of things he said: "It's a new season, so I have no problems with them. I have seen them a lot. Woodgate played very well at the end of last season, and he's back fit now." And as for the other one: "Lee Bowyer is very talented and it'll be interesting to see them play."

September 02: Teddy Lucic won't actually be turning up at Elland Road until next week due to an international call from Sweden for their game against Latvia in Riga.

September 02: Leeds Ladies did marginally better than their male counterparts on Sunday - managing a 1-1 draw at Birmingham in a Premier League game.

September 01: Here's the European round-up for this weekend.

Serie A might not have started this weekend due to the TV money dispute - but there was still plenty of interesting news in Italy on deadline day. Cash-strapped Lazio were forced to sell Alessandro Nesta and Hernan Crespo to Milan and Internazionale respectively. The sales prompted a violent protest by some Lazio fans who trashed offices, vandalised cars and confronted fans of visiting Juve after a friendly in Rome. Inter were able to spend the money on Crespo because they finally reached a deal with Real Madrid to send Ronaldo to Spain for around £29 million - £22 million cash spread over a couple of years plus the option to pick up one of three of Real's players in December or take £6 million in extra cash if Real don't want to lose that player (so now who doesn't think the Rio sale was good business?).

This was the first weekend of La Liga - and Real Madrid don't start their season until tomorrow night when they take on Espanyol. Of the other fixtures, the shock of the weekend was probably Deportivo's 2-4 home defeat by Real Betis. Valencia got their season off to a winning start with a 0-2 win at Mallorca. Barca were in front twice thanks to Luis Enrique against Atletico at the Nou Camp - but the visitors held on and equalised with just 3 minutes to go. Turn-around of the weekend was at newly-promoted Recreativo Huelva: after just over half an hour they were two goals up against Malaga and 4 of the visitors were in the ref's notebook. 30 minutes later, two more Malaga players had been carded but they'd also registered three goals - all scored by Musampa - and that's the way it stayed.

It was no-contest weekend in Germany: the Bundesliga took a week off for the first round of the German Cup, with the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund facing amateur sides and needless to say winning comfortably.

The top two in France both drew this weekend: Nice took the lead just on the hour at PSG, but the home side came back for a 1-1 draw, and Auxerre had a goalless draw at Marseille. A first-half penalty gave third-placed Lens the points at home to Monaco and last season's champions Lyon stumbled, losing 2-1 at Sochaux. Last season's UEFA Cup opponents Troyes recorded their first win of the season at the 5th attempt: a 4th minute goal being enough to separate them from Ajaccio.

Not all the teams played in the Eredivisie this weekend: PSV and Feyenoord are two of the six sides who finish this round of the league with games on Tuesday. Ajax had an easy 1-3 win at Groningen and return to the top of the table with a 100% record. They leapfrogged over RKC Waalwijk who also have a perfect record this season, and who recorded a 3-2 win over Twente Enschede on Friday night. PSV hold the other 100% record and sit in 3rd, one point clear of Roda JC whose 88th minute goal at home to Willem II gave them the three points instead of making it three draws in a row.

Club Brugge are now two points clear at the top of the Jupiler League: they strolled to a 4-0 win over Mechelen while rivals Anderlecht could only draw 2-2 at home to Genk. St-Truidense are now third after hammering Beveren 6-1 - which included a hat-trick by Boffin (who would never have had the chance to play at this level in England because everyone would have ripped him ragged over his name).

It was a bad weekend for the Zurich clubs: FC Zurich lost 2-1 at Young Boys on Friday night before Basle came from 1-0 and 2-1 down to win 2-3 at Grasshoppers today. Despite that, Grasshoppers still have a 6 point advantage at the top of the table, with a goal difference +12 better than second-placed Basle.

In the Gambrinus Liga, Sparta's 1-2 win at Boby Brno on Saturday cemented their position on top of the pile with a 100% record, thanks partly to a first half dismissal for the home side. Jablonec retained their unbeaten record with a 0-0 draw at Blsany and sit in second, but Slavia are just 1 point behind: their 5-1 win at home to Zlin this weekend wiping out the bad memories of Monday's 1-2 reversal at Pribram. Slovan Liberec can move into second place if they beat second-bottom Teplice tomorrow.

In the Ukraine (got to keep an eye on that now!) there were wins for Arsenal Kyiv (no relation), Volyn Lutsk and Shakhtar Donetsk. Our UEFA Cup opponents Metalurg Zaporizhya visit Obolon Kyiv tomorrow. Speaking of the UEFA Cup game, it seems that when Arsenal visited Shakhtar Donetsk visas were only available to people travelling on the official club trip. Nothing has yet been said about the visa situation for our visit, but this is a bit different to the usual situation where LUFC will tell you there won't be any tickets available but there are - so don't book your independent flights on spec just yet!

September 01: The South African FA are considering a complaint to FIFA over Leeds' refusal to release Lucas Radebe for an African Nations Cup qualifier. Radebe is being wrapped in cotton wool by the coaching staff at Elland Road in a bid to get a final season or two out of his injury-prone knees, but the South African FA are adamant that they want both Radebe and Nomvete of Udinese to travel for the match. We've always had good relations with the Bafana Bafana management in the past and usually picked our fights with Soccer Australia: let's hope El Tel's arrival hasn't swapped that position round.

September 01: Post-match reaction from yesterday's game has Steve Bruce thinking that the Blues might actually achieve the impossible and stay up! He said: "I've got to look back and be satisfied. If we keep maintaining that sort of performance - because that's what it will take - then we could be OK." El Tel maintained a cheerful smile for his former colleagues at ITV but was not happy with the team's workrate in the last two games. "We only played in fits and starts and they got stuck into us," he said. "They set their stall out to unsettle us and you have got to stand up to that before thinking of doing something else. We've got to put our all-round game together all the time."

September 01: TV is eagerly anticipating his return to European football - although if yesterday's performance was anything to go by he'd better make the most of it because it will be a brief experience and not to be repeated next year. "I am looking forward to testing myself on the European circuit again. It looked at one stage as though this club was not going to be in the competition and that would have been a big disappointment to everybody. It is great that we have this opportunity to be there and it shows just how important those last two wins at the end of last season really were. It is very important for a club like Leeds to be in Europe." As boss of Barcelona he took the side to the European Cup Final, but his team stumbled at the last hurdle when Rapid Bucharest beat them on penalties. The manager stressed the importance of the UEFA Cup to Leeds - 10 years after the last time the trophy cabinet needed dusting at Elland Road. "Once the UEFA Cup comes around we will be treating it very seriously indeed. I see it as a great opportunity for us to go out there and battle against some interesting European clubs," he said - but also rightly stressed the importance of continued focus on league form to ensure more European football next year.

September 01: Spurs' Director of Football David Pleat has dropped a hint that Darren Anderton might still become a Leeds player - although he'd have to wait until at least January now that the transfer window is closed. "Leeds have always expressed an interest in Darren. Terry rates him very highly and Darren rates Terry very highly. We will just have to wait to see what happens in the future."

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