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31: To nobody's great surprise, Peter Ridsdale
tendered his resignation as chairman of the plc and football club
when the half-year results were published this morning. After five
and a half years as chairman he will continue as a non-executive
director, but it seems that his statements of the last couple of
weeks telling the world he was going to stay to pull Leeds out of
the mire have had no more substance than his broken promises that
the player sales would halt after Rio, Robbie K and Robbie F.
Ridsdale said he was going as a result of the intense personal
criticism which was affecting both him and his family. "The
intensity of personal criticism has led me to conclude that the
best decision for myself, my family and the company is that I step
down as chairman of the plc and football club and relinquish all
executive responsibilities." I can't say I don't feel for him at
least a little: he's had to take some serious abuse along with
valid criticism, but despite the listening exercise he undertook
with various fans, the impression he's given over the last couple
of weeks has been one of almost papal belief in his own
infallibility (second only to DOL's similar self-regard), and it
seemed that every time he opened his mouth he was on an offensive
defence of his position.
March 31: The club released its half-year figures to the Stock Exchange this morning - and they made grim reading. The bottom line is that - as at the end of December - the club was carrying a net debt of some £78.9 million, up a million on the June year-end figures. Even more worrying than that is the fact that the club had an operating loss of over £17 million. Financial expert Dr Bill Gerrard - who has done some work with the club before - said: "The figures are absolutely appalling. I had a catastrophe projection in my mind of an operating loss of around £7.5million - it has even exceeded that." He went on: "These figures are a damning indictment of the senior management of the club." Gerrard pointed to the club's stress on the team's failure to achieve Champions League qualification, but said that this was being used as a catch-all excuse to avoid answering other difficult questions. He said: "You can't go on about that forever and it doesn't explain why, even after that, the club still spent £18million on new players and increased the wage bill by £10million. Decisions were made which will hang over the club and its supporters for the next 20 years and, without significant investment, it is difficult to see how Leeds will be anything other than a selling club for the foreseeable future." Okay, so a net debt of two times turnover is not out of this world in financial terms - and the club will receive further payments on Robbie Keane, Rio Ferdinand, Jon Woodgate and Robbie Fowler in the next year and have a commensurately lower wage bill with those players off the books along with Olivier Dacourt and Lee Bowyer. But not included in the figures are the cost of the settlement with David O'Leary, the cost of terminating Terry Venables' £2 million a year contract and any bonuses due to Peter Reid. Interest payments on the bond payable at around 8.75% when bank base rates are at an historic low will be another factor sucking cash out of the club, when Sky payments for appearances and league position are likely to be reducing. There are a few indications that the club have decided to take the pain early on some of these numbers - player amortizations brought forward ahead of time so that any money we accrue on their sale in the next reporting period will make the accounts look good, so the figures look horrendous now but may only look pretty bad by the time the full year numbers come out in June. But make no mistake - financial results of this sort cannot continue for very long before administration or extinction will be knocking on the door.
March 30: Leeds Ladies suffered a 3-1 reverse at Doncaster today as the Belles closed the gap on Fulham at the top of the table while Fulham were taking the League Cup on penalties at Swindon. Former Leeds player Lucy Ward netted once in each half for the home side to give the Belles a deserved victory.
March 30: DOL has hit out at the way he is being touted around various clubs by agents who claim to represent him. "I can't do anything about it," he said. I have one man who represents me and that's Michael Kennedy who has done that for 28 years." He went on: "There is no way we would lower ourselves to go in while managers were still there and offer our services for a job." DOL is front-runner for the Fulham job, where Jean Tigana will not have his contract renewed in the summer - but O'Leary insists he knows nothing about it. But after a year out of the game he's looking to make a comeback in the summer, saying: "Ideally, I'd love to get back into the Premiership because that's where I've managed for four years and I thought I did a good job there."
March 30: Tomorrow is the big day for Leeds on the financial front. The latest set of figures will be released to the Stock Exchange, and unless there is a serious dent in the level of debt at the club then Peter Ridsdale will find himself on the end of some difficult questions from both fans and shareholders (who - let's remember folks - are in the main the same people. despite the large chunks of shares held by three or four specific institutions). ManU's interims were released last week and showed a big drop in profits, largely attributed to the purchase of Rio Ferdinand - although the latest tranche of payments on the previous year's signings and the necessary write-downs on the likes of Veron and van Nistelrooy would also have been significant. Leeds Sporting will not be showing any sort of profit - but need to show significant progress in eliminating operating loss and controlling the cost base if the chairman's claims of restoring the club to a sound financial footing are to be believed. The numbers will not, of course, reflect any settlement with Terry Venables or bonus payable to Peter Reid, since that costly decision was made after the end of the latest reporting period.
March 29: The banks can breathe a sigh of relief: Olivier Dacourt says he has no intentions of returning to Leeds, so it looks like we'll get our money. "I have found everything a player needs to have success," he said. Although the financial situation at Roma might still cause a problem, he's hopeful he has done enough to convince the management and fans that he will make a long-term contribution to the club: "I want to stay bit this does not depend only on me, but Roma as well. What can I do? Continue to play well until the end of the season. Capello and the management believed in me from the beginning and I hope it can be like this in the future. I would like to stay to show all my capabilities."
March 29: No place in today's England side for Robbo or Danny Mills. David James did an adequate job and wasn't under heavy pressure from Liechtenstein, but you can't help worry what bungles lie in wait when England face Turkey midweek. Other internationals in action today included Gary Speed, captaining Wales to a 4-0 win over Azerbaijan and scoring a goal into the bargain.
March 28: Harry Kewell says that El Tel is "the best manager" he has played for and that our former boss is one of the reasons his form has improved this season. He said: "Terry has done wonders for me. I was going through a bad patch, but he picked up my game and brought me back out of it." And rather pointedly he added: "All the time he has known me, he has always picked me up front - and I appreciate that. I love playing up front. I always thought I could do a job there and he gave me the go-ahead to do it." Peter Reid has obviously seen him miss as many simple chances as the rest of us and has decided that at the moment he'd be better off playing a Ryan Giggs role mainly on the left wing but with license to roam and attack when the opportunity arises. Kewell has still not signed a new contract.
March 28: Bad news/Good news department. Paul Robinson has been spotted house-hunting in North London. But he's said he's just looking at a couple of properties as an investment rather than somewhere to live. Of course it is just a coincidence that rumours of his summer departure to Arsenal have been swimming round the ether for some time...
March 27: Is the Olly deal really done and dusted? It was understood when Dacourt went to Roma in January that the loan move was the precursor to an agreed 7m Euro deal to move permanently during the summer. But will he actually complete the move? Peter Ridsdale didn't sound 100% confident that he would stay: "At the moment they have done a deal to sign him in the summer should they wish to pursue that." He went on: "Clearly Olivier had suggested to us for some time that Italy was somewhere he wanted to play, and we'll have to find out if that's on a permanent basis or not." Prepare yourselves for the worst folks. Olly comes back in the summer, we have to sell someone else to cover the money we don't receive for him for the second summer in a row and Paul Robinson finds his England prospects advanced by virtue of a new berth between the sticks at Highbury.
March 27: Raul Bravo - who has alternated impressive tackling and good runs with totally clueless fecklessness - is hopeful that his first team run at Leeds will have brought him into contention for a place in the Spanish side to face the Ukraine. He said: "I feel a bit better physically than I did at Madrid and a bit closer to the pace you need in competitive matches. I was lucky enough to be picked even when I wasn't getting a game and now that I am playing every weekend it is better both for me and for the Spain team." And he also reckons that Leeds can win two of the remaining games to finally put to bed those relegation concerns. So that's okay then...
March 27: Peter Reid is making no secret of the fact that he would like the Leeds job in the long term. "Leeds is an outstanding football club and the training facilities are second-to-none. It would be a great football club to manage permanently." And he's asking for some backing from the home crowd after a terrible season at Elland Road. He said: "We've hardly won at home and that isn't good enough. We've seven games to go and whatever's gone on has gone on. We can't change that. I'd ask the fans to get behind us."
March 27: Must have been looking the other way - or packing - at the time, but I see Noel Whelan went to Palace on loan from Boro earlier this month.
March 27: Tom Newey - who previously had a loan spell at Cambridge - has gone to Darlo on loan until the end of the season. Today is deadline day for the Nationwide clubs and there have been a whole pile of moves - but mainly frees and loans: other than the £900K move of Hermann Hreidarsson from cash-strapped Ipswich to Charlton, less than £200K changed hands for the 70+ moves.
26: In the past I've sometimes been accused of having
a grudge against Leeds' media director David Walker: I've always
said that's not the case, but I've struggled to see how he's
remained in that lofty position despite an almost total collapse of
control and relationships with both print and TV journalists over
the last couple of years. And in today's Times, Martin Samuel
points to these words from Saturday's Daily Express:
March 26: Harry Kewell's agent has said that negotiations really are underway to keep the Australian at Elland Road, and that he expected a positive outcome. "We're in the process of discussing the future, things are going well and we'll have something sorted within the next few weeks," he said. Mandic stressed that Kewell would repay the loyalty - and continually improving contract terms - that Leeds had offered him over the last few years by signing on now, and said he remained very happy at Leeds. Mandic said: "Football's a funny thing and what seems to be a disaster one day can be turned around. Don't get me wrong, Harry is not happy not winning matches and not playing in Europe, but that sort of stuff can happen in football. Too often people make short-term decisions - Harry's not in to that and neither am I. I don't think the chairman is either."
March 26: Peter Reid is taking an office closer to the training pitches at Thorp Arch so he can be more hands-on with the team and keep a closer eye on the training sessions. He said: "I want to be in the thick of the action with the players. We are all in this together and I want us to spend as much time together as we can." And he set out how he is going to approach the last few games of the season: "I don't want to complicate things because football is a simple game. You defend as a unit and make things difficult for the opposition. You must shut down, get the ball and when you've got it, you have to be positive going into the final third... There's no point in going into the whys and wherefores of 4-3-3 and 5-3-2. You've got to get down to the basics. It takes time at a football club to get certain principles, but when you've only got seven games you've got to do it quicker."
March 26: Mohammed al Fayed has confirmed that Jean Tigana's contract at Fulham won't be renewed - and at the top of the bookies' lists for the race to fill his shoes is David O'Leary. Funny - I thought he wanted to come back to Leeds!
March 26: Bradford's one-time Leeds starlet Andy Gray has had his recent run of goalscoring form recognised with a call-up into the full Scotland squad for the forthcoming Euro 2004 qualifiers. Gray had impressed for the Future Scotland squad before, and gets his chance after an injury to Scott Dobie.
March 25: Not that we needed much proof, but the court case currently underway in Leeds for an indecent assault and attempted rape shows just how little the players and by implication the club have learned from the events that led to the Bowyer/Woodgate trial. Although nobody connected with LUFC has actually been charged in this case, the victim stated in earlier evidence that she had been groped by Michael Duberry and threatened by Rio Ferdinand while in a club before the alleged assault took place. The manager of the club said: "We were keeping an eye on them because Rio Ferdinand was quite drunk at the time and making a fool of himself. Mr Duberry was a little more in control," and gave evidence that a number of his customers had complained about their behaviour. After they had left the club, Rio was caught on CCTV jumping up onto the top of a 4x4 parked nearby. All of this was in January last year - right in the middle of the season. It's a shame Ferdinand is not at Elland Road anymore so we can't dock his ridiculous wages for being the latest in a long line of Leeds players to let the club down by their public behaviour.
March 25: Leeds old boys in action tonight included Jason Blunt, first on the scoresheet in Doncaster's 3-1 win over Margate in the Conference. Andy Gray sealed Bradford's 0-2 win at Burnley with an 89th minute strike, and in the news for the wrong reasons was Danny Granville, dismissed halfway through the second period in the grudge match between Brighton and Palace which ended goalless.
March 25: Peter Reid is being paid on a pounds-per-points basis. Peter Ridsdale said: "His track record is fantastic in terms of short-term impact when he joins a club, and we need points - and Peter is being paid on how many points he gets." He went on: "I sincerely hope we're paying him a lot of money, but that will be down to success and nothing else." Even if Reid takes Leeds to a storming finish, there's no guarantee that will win him the job for the next season - though with our current situation we should be grateful there's someone out there who wants it!
March 25: The plc issued a statement to the Stock Exchange today reiterating - yet again - that an investigation into the club's recent transfer dealings had revealed no impropriety, no lack of financial controls and that all required internal and external procedures had been followed. There has been continued speculation that Peter Ridsdale would be investigated by the FA as a result of the massive payments made to agent Rune Hauge for the Rio deal, but the FA and the club's auditors and Audit Committee are satisfied that there is no case for the chairman to answer.
March 25: Ian Harte has joined his uncle Gary Kelly in pulling out of the Ireland squad for the two Euro 2004 qualifiers, withdrawing from Brian Kerr's squad for "family reasons" - the birth of his baby daughter Kaia. As a result of Harte - and several other players - being unavailable, Kerr has called Stephen McPhail into the squad for the two games against Georgia and Albania. Raul Bravo, Eirik Bakke and Teddy Lucic will also be away on international duty.
March 25: Sam Allardyce - who knows a bit about relegation dogfights - warns us that we could be sliding down into the drop zone. After last night's last-minute penalty gave Bolton the three points at home to Spurs, he said: "We're on a bit of a roll now having lost just once in six matches, as are West Ham and Birmingham. It is Leeds who look vulnerable." And on current form, he's not wrong. At least we've only got Arsenal out of the the serious crew left to play.
March 24: Peter Reid had David Batty on the bench yesterday, but said: "David hasn't played that many games of late but hopefully we can get him fit and see what fitness level he's at, and then I'll make a decision." Well, the first of those opportunities came tonight with the reserves playing Liverpool at Chester's Deva Stadium. Unfortunately, Batty only lasted 15 minutes before sustaining a dead leg that forced his replacement. Patrik Berger opened the scoring for Liverpool, but Simon Johnson produced an excellent lob to equalise just past the hour mark, and Jamie McMaster converted a spot kick after being fouled himself with 20 minutes to go. Batts hopes the injury won't stop his comeback - and has been grateful for the support he has received over the last year. He said: "The fans have been brilliant and kept me going through the bad times. Having them chant my name during matches meant a lot to me and when that happens it gives you some hope." And he went on: "I always felt that my chance would come if a new manager came in and now that has happened I am going to make the most of this opportunity. It was fantastic to be in the squad against Liverpool; now I just want to be treated like everybody else and be considered for selection."
March 24: Peter Ridsdale and Peter Reid both moved to quash the latest malicious rumours suggesting Alan Smith may be about to leave Elland Road. Ridsdale said: "If people carry on as they are carrying on then you might have to ask somebody else that question. But if I'm chairman I fully expect Alan Smith to be a Leeds United footballer for next season and for many seasons to come. The fact is Alan Smith is not for sale. He is a player that has just signed a new five-year contract and he is Leeds through and through." And Woody and Fowler were under contract for how long? Note the "someone else would be worse than me" line - a new approach for the chairman as he struggles to hold on to his position amid a collapse of support from all quarters.
March 24: David Robertson has taken charge of Elgin City in Scotland, ending his time as a coach at Montrose. Robertson takes over from caretaker boss Harry McFadden at the struggling Scottish Third Division side. He's looking to next season rather than planning on making wholesale changes straight away: "I'm glad I have the next six to eight weeks to assess what we have got and what we need, but I don't want to come in and rip the whole thing apart, so it's up to the guys who are here to show me what they can do." And he had particular praise for someone back at Elland Road: "I've worked under some of the leading managers in the country, including Graeme Souness, Alex Ferguson, Alex Smith, Walter Smith and David O'Leary, but one of the best has got to be Leeds United coach Eddie Gray. He made training so enjoyable, yet you were working hard all the time. If I'm half as successful in my management career as any of them I'll be absolutely delighted." Robertson will be notionally a part-timer, like the rest of the staff at Borough Briggs, but with no other work at the moment will be putting all his efforts into his new club.
23: Round Europe in record time. The Spanish title is
now Real Madrid's for the taking: after Sociedad could only manager
a 2-2 draw with Villareal today, goals from Zidane and Ronaldo
either side of half-time were complemented by a great performance
in goal from Iker Casillas to down 4th-placed Deportivo at the
Bernabeu. Valencia failed to advance after a dismal 1-1 draw with
Espanyol, but Barca's revival under Raddy Antic continues with a
6-1 hammering of Santander.
March 23: Leeds Ladies went a goal down just before half time, but managed to equalise 20 minutes from the end against relegation strugglers Southampton at Garforth this afternoon.
March 23: Peter Reid was typically forthright in his assessment of his new side's performance today. "I think they're feeling sorry for themselves." he said. "A lot has been talked about Leeds's plight this season - with losing players and how difficult it must be for the ones still here - but I don't know about that. They're paid to play football." He went on: "Okay, you don't want to lose the Woodgates, the Ferdinands or the Fowlers of this world, but you don't make an excuse out of it." Speaking specifically about today's game he said: "We gave the ball away so cheaply and, let's be honest, our defending was very poor. It drives you mad; you're just talking about basic defending here. We left ourselves with a mountain to climb and even when we got a foothold in the game in the second half we didn't create much. It wasn't good." Observers of the directors' box say that the chairman was as animated as the new manager - Ridsdale muttered and shouted at the game like the tortured fan he is - how much more of this double stress will he take?
March 23: Peter Ridsdale has hit back at some of Terry Venables claims around his sacking. He points out that Venables was informed about Jon Woodgate's sale - which Venables has cited as more or less the final straw in his relationship with the board. Ridsdale said: "I object strongly if he said he wasn't consulted. He was told on numerous occasions that might have to happen if a bid of a certain magnitude came in and we didn't get bids for other players. Did he want to sell him? No. Did I want to sell him? No. But don't tell me he wasn't consulted. He is being disingenuous there." And he also moved to quash the rumours doing the rounds - and mentioned by Venables - that Leeds might have to sell yet again: "I don't understand that. We've already said we have taken a difficult decision reducing the overheads of the squad." And Ridsdale rolled out the old "long-term" defence again: "It's easy for football managers to say I want a squad of 36 players but we have to pay their salaries and pay the bills. It's my responsibility to make sure this football club is still here in 10 years' time and is able to afford to have the best players at the club."
23: Gary Kelly is unsurprisingly out of the Ireland
squad for their qualifiers against Georgia and Albania. Robbo and
Danny Mills have been picked by Sven for the Liechtenstein and
Turkey games - Smithy is suspended so misses out.
March 23: Peter Reid was as good as his word in recalling David Batty to the Leeds squad - although he was only on the bench since he's a bit short of match fitness. Harry Kewell's "back problem" hasn't recovered, no doubt suffering a relapse after hearing that Reid believes he should play on the left wing. Gary Kelly also failed to make a recovery.
March 23: With today's papers full of the suggestions that Leeds will be forced to sell again in the summer - despite Peter Ridsdale's protestations to the contrary - AS Roma could be renewing their interest in Mark Viduka. The Giallorossi have received a knockback from their main target - Ajax's Zlatan Ibrahimovic - so they could look to renew the interest they expressed in Vidooks during Leeds' Champions League campaign. But don't expect them to stump up anything like the £15-20 million that was being suggested as the going rate at the time.
March 23: None of the problems at Leeds were Terry Venables' fault - according to Terry Venables. On ITV's Premiership programme he said: "The team was stretched to the limit all season and when you sell £55m worth of talent, you can't expect to get brilliant results. Ridsdale felt we should be doing better, but we had sold six top class players and had another six or seven injured. It was a whirlwind period. Day in, day out, something happened and it was difficult for everyone to work to the best of their ability in those circumstances." But like the Grolsch, he's not bitter: "As an experience, I would have to give that one out of ten but I wouldn't have swapped it. These things happen in life and you get used to it, but I'm not bitter."
March 23: Bad news for Sven, maybe good news for Robbo. David Seaman is almost certain to miss the Euro 2004 qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Turkey. He misses today's game against Everton with a hamstring injury and is also a doubt for the Gunners' quarter-final replay on Tuesday. Arsene Wenger said: "If he doesn't play against Chelsea it's hard to imagine he'll be fit for at least the first England match. With the choice reduced to Calamity James, Robbo or Richard Wright the decision should be an obvious one, though Sven's tendency to value experience over ability might open the door for the West Ham keeper.
March 23: Darren Huckerby was on the scoresheet yet again for Forest - doing his bit to keep Paul Hart's name in the headlines as the search for Leeds' long-term replacement for TV goes on. Huckerby scored Forest's opener as they hammered Norwich 4-0 - that's 5 defeats in 7 for Nigel Worthington's side, whose hopes of a play-off spot are now long gone. JFH opened the scoring for Chelsea as they routed Manchester City 5-0, and Paul Shepherd equalised from the spot for Scarborough at home to Stevenage, but it was to no avail as the visitors scored again to win 1-2 and increase their chances of beating the drop.
March 23: El Tel says he should have been given the chance to "finish the job" at Leeds, and that Peter Ridsdale and the board have made a mistake in sacking him and should bear some of the responsibility for the team's poor performances. Venables said: "Peter Ridsdale feels he has a reason to let me go. But I also have my opinion about his behaviour this season, and I think he has got this wrong. The directors should have given me the chance to finish the job." He went on: "The board sold players I didn't think should be sold. OK, that is their right. But having taken the decision I think they should then take their share of the responsibility for the problems the team had as a result."
March 22: PR has explained why he felt the need to get rid of El Tel. "From my perspective we had got to the stage where we could not risk the next eight matches to put us into a situation where we got close to relegation, so we believed it was time for a change. We are sitting on 34 points, we've eight games to go, and if you look back over the last eight games we haven't accumulated many points in the Premiership. What we have to do is take the right steps to make sure we don't get sucked into the relegation battle because the people who pretend they are not in it are more likely to get sucked into it." And of course by appointing a manager who was responsible for the plight of one of the other relegation-threatened teams that will help. Ridsdale said that there was no antagonism around this split: "It's been a difficult year for Leeds United and I would like to thank Terry for all his efforts. Looking back over the past year neither he nor I would have expected to have the rollercoaster ride we've had." And he added: "What we have to do is to make sure we've got the right football management, players who are motivated and players who can deliver points, and with this decision we believe we've a good chance of doing that." I've heard some specious rubbish in my time but this is scraping the barrel.
March 22: Peter Reid is looking forward to the challenge and opportunities presented by his stint at Elland Road. "With some of the players that are here I think you can get results. It's a fantastic opportunity and it doesn't scare me - it excites me," he said. The obligatory buttering-up of the supporters: "The fans are a massive influence. Leeds fans are among the most vociferous and passionate and they can help you get results." And of the rest of the coaching staff: "Eddie Gray and Brian are experienced football people and I know them well." Harry Kewell and Gary Kelly are expected to return, and if Reid's midfield nous as a player is anything to go by we can expect to see Paul Okon and Nick Barmby consigned to the bench and David Batty starting the game if fit.
March 22: Mr Saliva aka El Hadji Diouf is expected to return to the Liverpool side tomorrow after his enforced absence from their UEFA Cup defeat to Celtic with Smicer the one to make way. Otherwise, it's down to Leeds to beware Steven Gerrard's rediscovery of form, and on previous encounters Emile Heskey will also have to be watched either for a sudden remembrance of where the goal is, or - as has more usually been the case - for the remarkably localised effects of gravity on the cheating git's body, frequently after he has elbowed or pulled back a defender.
March 21: Some of the numbers coming out of Tel's sacking look totally horrendous. By making the call now "rather than risk relegation" and terminating Venables' contract ahead of the one-year break point, it will cost us £1.5 million. And Reid will be paid 10 grand a week with a half million bonus if Leeds stay up according to reports in the papers today. If Mr Ridsdale wants to give me a call I've got some old rope he might like to take off my hands in exchange for a wheelbarrow load of cash.
March 21: The Arsenal game has been put back to the Sunday and will be screened live on Sky Sports - no doubt because that's when they are expected to win the title. The game will now be played on Sunday May 4 with a 4:05pm kick-off.
March 21: It's two years since David Rocastle died of cancer, and the fight against the disease goes on. One of the many distributed computing efforts out there (systems that use your screensaver time to do something useful) is the Grid.org anti-cancer effort, and there's a team who are contributing their CPU cycles in Rocky's memory. Take a look at this and think about doing something useful with the electricity your computer is burning.
March 21: PR2 (as we will now abbreviate our new manager) knows a thing or two about getting the fans onside. In the press conference today he said: "if David Batty is fit he will be in the squad for Sunday". Though to be honest, if Reid was fit he could do a better job in the middle of the park than we seen in the last few games.
March 21: Ipswich have been given special dispensation to sell players outside the transfer window as they struggle to survive with a debt of Leeds-like proportions. The East Anglian club are collapsing under the weight of a £60 million debt, and despite various pay cuts they have too big a squad on more or less Premier League money with no play-off chances this season. How soon before Leeds ask for the same dispensation?
March 21: Peter ****ing Reid? Far be it from me to condemn the man before he's got his feet under the table, but the appointment of Reid for the remaining 8 games of the season is beyond belief. If we see him as the long-term choice for the future, it's so worrying it's incredible. Reid is a passionate bloke who has always been brutally honest about what he's seen on the pitch: not for him the Wenger/Ferguson "just couldn't quite see the incident" approach. But his wallpaper-stripping performances in the dressing room don't seem likely to be the sort of thing to coax great performances from the likes of Kewell and Viduka, and Venables' ties with the antipodean players combined with 2 months of Reid's tender mercies might just be enough to elicit the odd summer transfer request. His record is a little hard to judge: Sunderland haven't been a top echelon club for many years, but until last season he seemed to be doing okay with fairly limited resources. His summer transfer spree and the form that doomed them to the drop this year can't be overlooked. Is he just a temporary manager because Eddie Gray and Brian Kidd didn't want the job - or is he in with a view to taking over next season and battling against relegation, failing, but then bringing us back the season after? Of course, 8 wins out of 8 starting on Sunday might just convince me otherwise...
March 21: El Tel was sacked according to chairman Peter Ridsdale. He said: "We had a discussion yesterday and it was the club's decision to make a change as manager at this point in time... I am disappointed that we are sitting here even having to look over our shoulder with eight games to go. We got to stage where we could not risk the next eight games putting us into a situation where we got closer to relegation and we believed it was now time for a change." And remind us why he was free for work again..
March 21: Very late breaking news on Friday morning from Radio 5 says that El Tel has in fact gone and we'll have Eddie Gray in charge at least until the summer. More on this soon.
March 20: Terry Venables was said to be "considering his future" after yet more ructions between him and the board over player sales and how much money will be made available to him if he stays through the summer. Rumours of a manager looking for a return to the Premiership being the man to come in and replace him worryingly point to John Gregory. The Liverpool game won't be the one to decide the fate of TV but the board are understood to be very unhappy with the team's progress and lack of cohesion and do consider relegation a possibility. After today's meetings, our third manager in 12 months looks a step closer.
March 20: Leeds are expected to complete the signing of Teddy Lucic on a permanent deal in the summer. The absence of willingness in anyone else to come to Leeds has been the driving factor, and although Lucic has had sme reasonably solid games he looks no better than Michael Duberry and will continue to struggle in the Premiership with his lack of pace and one-footed play.
March 20: The Leeds Ladies side face Southampton Saints at Garforth's Wheatley Park this Sunday. Kick-off is at midday - so if you're not going to Anfield why not get yourself over to this one - you'll still have time to get to the pub afterwards and bag yourself a seat to watch Leeds take on Liverpool.
March 20: On the official web site, Peter Ridsdale stresses that the moves to build a new stadium for the club had not yet completely expired. He said: "We always said we would only build a new stadium with new money. The site we had chosen off the A1/M1 link road has become problematic for planning reasons and we would only be able to build there if we had a partner who was going to build some out of town retailing." Though from what I've heard from more than one source the biggest question was what sort of planning permission would be obtainable for the Elland Road site - with the council's restrictions blowing out some of the larger retailed who might have been able to pay the sort of money Leeds are looking for. PR went on: "We are now looking to see if we can build a world class stadium where we are," and added: "The one thing we do have to do to compete is to have an income level from our attendances, not just the number of seats but also the facilities we offer which attract a broader cross-section of people and and as many people as is practical." This from the person who rubbished 10,000 season ticket holders as being of less value to the club than Jon Woodgate. Mixed messages again...
March 20: The reserves ended a winless streak with a 3-0 victory over Bradford with goals from Stephen McPhail, Jacob Burns and Simon Johnson with a penalty.
March 19: Team news ahead of Sunday's big game at Anfield sees Harry Kewell due to make a welcome return to the side, with Gary Kelly and Michael Duberry also likely to be fit. Dom Matteo has still not quite recovered enough to take his place against his former club.
March 19: Leeds' cost-cutting continues. A statement released yesterday says: "Today we have entered into a formal consultation process with 17 employees which may lead to them being declared redundant." Rough translation - "Get your coats and go now." Various folks from the retail side have been selected for the bullet this time, with senior folks from IT and Marketing also being made to walk the plank. It's understood that PR spent some time sympathising with the demoralised and concerned members of staff who are left behind - after the redundancies last summer, plus these plus the general uncertainty around the club's future the poor bloody infantry remaining might be relieved to have been passed by the Grim Reaper this time round but know it's only a matter of time before he comes calling again.
March 17: Lee Sharpe's long-awaited return to football will be with Icelandic side Grindavik. "He will link up with us at our training camp in Spain on 5 April," said their boss Ingvar Gudjonsson. "I think he can still do the business, otherwise we wouldn't have offered him a contract." Sharpe has been doing not very much since Exeter released him last summer.
March 17: DOL must be desperate for a job - or realises that we'll be desperate for a manager in the summer. He said today that he'd not ruled out managing Leeds again. "I've a long time to go now in football and I'll have no qualms going back. I'd be proud to go back to Leeds United at some time if the situation is right. I think the crowd would have me back so I haven't ruled it out in any way by the time I finish management." Obviously he's been involved in litigation with Leeds over his terminated contract - but there have been plenty of vacancies in the last 9 months and he's still out there in the pundit's seat rather than on the bench, so I wonder what he's got lined up for the summer?
March 17: Young left back/midfielder Tom Newey has returned from his loan spell at Cambridge. After they lost at home to Kidderminster on Saturday their chances of reaching the play-offs are now almost zero, so financial restrictions mean they'll let him return to Leeds. U's boss John Taylor said: "We've spoken to him and his agent, he understands the situation and so does his father, and we'll keep an eye on him because I think he's done particularly well when he's played on the left side of midfield. He's enjoyed it here, he's out of contract at Leeds at the end of the season and we'll obviously keep tabs on him in case that window of opportunity opens again in the summer."
March 17: Peter Ridsdale's position seems to be hardening day by day. He was confronted by angry fans at half time on Saturday and watched the second half from the board room rather than come back out and be "a distraction". But I think he's still missing the point when he says: "If the supporters want a scapegoat, I can only ask what that will achieve. If I was driven out, what then? I have no intention of running away." For everyone I've spoken to, it's quite simply a question of trust now. Peter Ridsdale and the board allowed their business judgement to be clouded to such an extent that they made decisions that put the club's existence in danger. But many people in football made similar mistakes over the last few years with the vast sums of TV money flying around. What many fans can't stomach is the fact that they perceive that they were lied to by the chairman over the seemingly continuous stream of departures over the last 8 months. PR is making an admirable effort to get his message over to the fans, but his reaction to Saturday's incident suggests that he's not picked up on what we have tried to say to him. "I do understand," he say. "I feel the same as the supporters - but we're working to put it right." And in a vague hint of what what we can expect in the summer he also pointed out that he neither picked the team, the tactics nor appeared on the pitch. Make of it what you will...
16: Very quick Euro roundup today (see above for why).
I think I owe Valencia an apology for jinxing them: the two
one-minute chunks of tonight's televised game I managed to see
first saw them have a penalty saved and 20 seconds later Athletic
Bilbao were up the other end scoring through Joseba Etxeberria, and
then in the second half I flicked the TV on to see Mista pick up
his second yellow card of the game for the heinous crime of taking
a free kick too quickly. The game finished 1-0 to Bilbao - not
great preparation for the champions as they get ready to face
Arsenal in a crucial Champions League game this week. Valencia now
sit in 4th place - 8 points adrift of Real Madrid who required a
very late goal from Ivan Helguera to finally break the deadlock at
Villareal. Real Sociedad kept up the pressure with a 1-2 victory at
Racing Santander after conceding an early goal, and Deportivo La
Coruna are third after their 2-0 win over struggling Rayo
March 16: Our cheery cheeky cockney chappy is not letting things get him down despite our abysmal run of form. El Tel says he was impressed with the way the team performed in the second half yesterday: "I was concerned we wouldn't get our heads down after the break, but to be fair we fought for the whole of the second half and I thought we would get the equalising goal. I felt we deserved a draw." And he went on: "If we keep that attitude and keep moving the ball quickly like we did then we will be fine." Okay, who's spiked his drinks and given him rose-coloured contact lenses?
March 16: In yesterday's Football Focus, Smithy sounded quietly determined to stick with it at Leeds and do whatever he can to help the manager turn things around. But he's under no illusion as to the scale of the rebuilding task: "If any team in the country had lost six or seven of their best players, they would have struggled. We probably had the best two centre backs in England at the start of the season and they've both gone - which is the most disappointing thing for a club which has built for three or four years."
March 15: A defensive cock-up of mammoth proportions allowed Mark Viduka the chance to give Leeds a 1-0 lead this afternoon after Boro had nearly scored from the kick-off. Boro equalised in the first half from the sport after Lucas Radebe escaped with just a yellow card for bringing down Maccarone as the young Italian burst into the box. In first half injury time, Leeds failed to close down Juninho and his shot from the edge of the area left Robbo with no chance. Leeds just fell apart in the second half with the midfield once again performing abysmally, and when Geremi lobbed Robbo when the keeper was just a couple of yards off his line the game was over. "Ridsdale what's the score?" chanted the home fans. The crowd were roused a bit when another goalkeeping cock-up saw Schwarzer drop Milner's shot and Vidooks tap the ball home, but by the end of the game it was sullen silence all around the ground.
March 15: Old boy news today sees Caleb Folan on the scoresheet as Chesterfield went 0-1 up at Notts County, but Mark Stallard equalised for the home side, denying the Spireites their first away win since Christmas. Rod Wallace is in a good run of form of late - and that continued today when he scored the Gills equaliser to make it 1-1 at home to Rotherham. That was the way it finished, despite the visitors losing a player with 10 minutes to go. Kevin Sharp got his marching orders for foul and abusive language in the first half, making life difficult for Huddersfield at Colchester. Sharp's team-mates held out until 15 minutes from the end, but conceded two quick goals to blow the points. Craig Farrell opened the scoring with a second half penalty for Carlisle at Swansea as fans broke advertising hoardings to protest the decision. The game ended in a 1-2 win for Carlisle despite the visitors' late comeback. In tonight's game, Brian Deane scored either side of half-time to over-turn Preston's one goal lead and give Leicester the three points they need to stay clear of the play-off pack.
March 15: Peter Ridsdale sounded pretty combative on Radio 5 this morning. He refused to be drawn on El Tel's future - basically saying that it was down to the manager to sit down with him in the summer and decide what he wanted to do. "I can't answer that question today and you would need both of us to have a conversation to easily answer it properly," he said. Ridsdale was very diplomatic about the future of some of the players, but reiterated that we'd not had offers for the players we'd be happier to sell and that Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka had indicated they wanted to stay: "To the best of my belief, both of those players wish to be at Leeds United next season. They've said they're keen to stay," he said. He carefully avoided criticising the players, but made it clear that he wasn't impressed with the underperformance of some very well paid players.
March 14: Seth Johnson has been ruled out of tomorrow's game - and the rest of the season - after the player and the club doctors decided he had to go under the knife to sort out his persistent knee injury once and for all. El Tel said: "Seth's been playing with it for quite a few games and he's done pretty well, but now it's caught up with him and the decision has had to be made. If we get it done now then it's out of the way and he can get himself ready for next season, otherwise you leave it and leave it and he will get to pre-season and you don't know if he will be right." At least we're being a bit more sensible about managing his injury than we have been in the past - remember Kewell, JFH and Tony Yeboah all carrying injuries that we hoped would clear up during the summer and then deciding in August that they needed an op anyway. But this is a dreadful blow to Johnson who has only just started putting together a run in the team after an injury-riddled start to his Leeds career. Let's hope that the start of next season brings a change of luck for him - and the rest of us.
March 14: I know I've been plugging it mercilessly, but there's now yet another reason to get yourself along to Belle Vue on Sunday afternoon. David Batty will be appearing in a Leeds shirt for just about the only time this season in the match between Peter Lorimer's Leeds Legends side and Imre Varadi's Sheffield Wednesday XI. Kick-off is at 2pm and it's in aid of cancer charities and local woman Jane Tomlinson so get down there if you can.
March 14: Squad news for tomorrow is not at all good. Harry Kewell's back injury will probably keep him out, and hamstring problems sideline Dom Matteo, Michael Duberry and Gary Kelly. Jason Wilcox may return after suffering from flu - so it looks like we'll be relying on another couple of recent physio-troublers - Eirik Bakke and Nick Barmby - to make up the numbers in midfield. Venables says that it's wrong to say our season is over - there are still 9 games to play after all! Franck Queudrue misses out for Boro and Michael Ricketts is unlikely to have the chance to break his goalscoring duck after missing training all week. Malcolm Christie returns to the squad after a bout of flu, but it's the dangerous Juninho we'll have to watch: he's carrying an ankle injury and will have a late test. It will be interesting to see how George Boateng and Nick Barmby get on after the fracas at The Riverside earlier in the season, which was also where Alan Smith was dismissed for an accidental collision with Gareth Southgate. David Elleray is the man with the whistle tomorrow, so it's harsh-but-fair time - which is a vast improvement on what we've been handed all year.
March 14: Brown-nose time from Alan Smith and Eirik Bakke. Smithy says that we shouldn't blame Peter Ridsdale for the decisions he's been forced to make this season. "He's had to do it to survive and I can't blame him for that. He loves Leeds United just as much as any other fan." And Eirik Bakke can't stress enough how happy he is to be playing at Leeds and he has no desire to leave in the summer. "I can only speak for myself about my commitment to the club. As you know I've been playing recently as a striker for Leeds, which has been interesting." Very much so - particularly since we've been playing Smithy out of position - much to the player's concern - in midfield rather than up front. Smithy will be on Football Focus on BBC1 tomorrow (1210 - 1300), and Peter Ridsdale will be appearing on Peter Lorimer's BBC Radio Leeds show at about 1310.
March 14: The season ticket renewals haven't gone out yet - but when they do it seems the board have had an attack of common sense and realised that the lynch mob would turn up baying for blood if they dared to raise prices. Peter Ridsdale told the YEP today that prices would be frozen for next year. "It's been a disappointing season and this is our chance to pay the supporters back for their loyalty. We need as many of our supporters as possible to come back next season and we're hoping that they realise the ambition here is still strong." Quite a few folks have said they will wait and see what happens in the summer - will we manage to hang on to the crown jewels, who can we attract to improve the squad or will we see further departures? If they don't renew it could become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom as the club decides not to fund transfers or improved contract terms due to uncertainty around cashflow, players leave and we slide further down the slippery slope to the Nationwide.
March 14: In court in Leeds yesterday, a woman who was sexually assaulted gave evidence that - on the night of the attack - she was groped by Michael Duberry and threatened with violence by Rio Ferdinand. She said: "[Duberry] came up to me and he put his hand up my skirt and touched me. I pushed him away and went to walk off. Then Rio Ferdinand came up to me and said: 'If I don't slap you up I will get someone else to'." She said that she hadn't recognised the players at the time but had later seen their pictures and had made a formal complaint to Leeds United, but no further action was taken.
March 13: Matthew Kilgallon has been invited to join the U19 squad for their in-season training session next week in recognition of the progress he's made this year and his possibilities for the future,
March 13: In what is described as a "boost" to our fortunes it seems that Nick Barmby and Eirik Bakke are close to a return to the side and could start on Saturday. Call me an old cynic, but that would be the same N Barmby who turned out for the club last week? I'll leave you all to judge for yourselves on that one for the moment but I'd be hard-pressed to see how he can be considered one of the frontline players after the season he's had.
March 13: Aaron Lennon was in action for the England U17 side against the Czech Republic last night and was one of the stars of the show as his side went on to win 2-0. Lennon is just 15 but is impressing all who see him - let's hope he'snot other one of those players who look brilliant as youngsters but fail to make it into the bigtime. Lennon and his team mates will be in action again at Bolton on Friday where they face Slovakua, Tickets are just £3 for adults in advance so get on down there if you can.
March 12: Bury will not be making a move for Harpal Singh, despite some rumours doing the rounds. Bury have serious financial constraints and would be stretched to take on any new players at the moment, and with the upheaval due to happen at Elland Road, Singh must be hopeful of a chance to get his talents on show in the Premiership.
March 12: Good news everyone! Harry Kewell is staying. Or at least that's what his agent tells us. Bernie Mandic says that Harry wants to stay at Leeds despite the absence of European football next season. He is also aware that any deal he is offered is unlikely to have a massive basic pay increase - but may allow for more incentive-based payments. Kewell and his people are due to talk with the club next week in a bid to clear up the situation now, although there are plenty of rumours around that other agents - unconnected with Mandic - are talking to the top clubs on the continent touting Harry's availability. A deciding factor for Kewell might be Terry Venables' decision to stay or go: Kewell is known to enjoy working with Venables and the manager's presence might just keep Harry at Elland Road for a little bit longer.
March 11: I've got an exclusive match report of a slightly different nature for you all. Last week Bucky went up to meet Peter Ridsdale as part of the chairman's efforts to get the message across direct to the fans out there as to what's going on. We'll have a full transcript and answers to some of the questions posed shortly, but in the meantime you can read the excellent piece from Bucky detailing his thoughts on the meeting and the gist of what PR had to say here. Let me know if you're web-challenged and want a copy emailed to you directly - it's a bit long to go out with the daily news and stats mail.
March 11: There are a few more names to add to the Leeds Legends side due to take part in the charity match for Jane Tomlinson's appeal at the weekend. Peter Lorimer's team will include Eddie Gray, Andy Ritchie, Noel Blake, John Hendrie, John Stiles, Brendan Ormsby, Gary Williams, John Mclelland and Ian Snodin - as well as John Sheridan and Peter Lorimer himself as I said yesterday. Also playing could be.... you! LUFC have an auction up on their website for the chance to take part in the game alongside all these great names from the past. Read more on the official site here - I don't normally plug them but it's in a very good cause.
March 11: The reserves went down 3-2 at the Bescot Stadium against Villa tonight. Stephen McPhail opened the scoring, but Leeds were 2-1 down with 10 minutes to go when sub Simon Johnson equalised. Unfortunately Leeds failed to hold on and conceded a goal to Stephen Cooke with just two minutes to go. Leeds's squad consisted mainly of the second-line first team players plus all of the "promising youngsters" - Kilgallon, Cansdell-Sherriff, Milner, McMaster, Singh - who can expect a chance of first team action by the end of the season.
March 11: Peter Ridsdale was quoted in the press today saying that he will not be walking away from the club and that he sees it as a challenge to him and all at the club to get us back into Europe and competing at the top of the table again. "If every management team in the first period of difficulty walked away, you'd have management leaving every day of the week. You'd see turmoil and changeover in clubs throughout the country, the like of which you'd never seen before. My challenge, and that of my colleagues, is to try to put us back to where we were, to prove that I can now manage in difficult times as well as good times."
March 11: We might still get European football at Elland Road next season after all! Leeds are one of seven Premiership clubs to have put themselves forward to stage next season's UEFA Cup Final. But since Liverpool, Newcastle and Villa are among the others and since this season's Champions League Final is at Old Trafford, it would be a very long shot for us to get it any time soon.
March 11: Eirik Bakke was up before the beak today after his arrest in Alwoodley on January 14. He denied charges of drink driving, driving without a licence and driving without insurance. The case was adjourned for trial at Wetherby Magistrates Court on May 8.
March 11: Rio Ferdinand faces a 6 month ban - but only from driving. He was clocked at over 90mph on the M1 (there but for the grace of G*d go a lot of folks) and was convicted although he denied the offence. The case was adjourned for sentencing with District Judge Roy Anderson telling the player he could expect a ban of up to 6 months.
March 10: It gets better and better: Dom Matteo - who was supposed to be nearly ready to return for Bramall Lane will now be out until April. TV said: "Dom has had a setback and is almost back to square one. I estimate he will be out for at least another two weeks. It's a great pity because he is so keen to get back playing."
March 10: We've been given to believe that the club now has a budget based on a midtable finish, no European football and early elimination from both cups - but we've still got to realise around £15 million in sales in the summer. Olly will bring in around £5 million of that if he maintains his form and helps drag Roma into contention for a UEFA Cup place at least, and Harry Kewell should be worth the rest - and hopefully more to release some money for acquisitions. But with the players we have left, mid-table would be the height of our aspirations, and one or two more significant departures or injuries would leave us staring relegation in the face. And what would that do to all of our nice new balanced budgets? We need a wholesale clearout of players and coaching staff if we are to have even the vaguest chance of a UEFA place next season - and it needs to start now and not in 2 months. It's probably easier to say who we want to keep rather than who we should sell. Realistically, our first choice team next season will probably look like this: Robbo - Kelly, Mills, Matteo/Duberry, Matteo/Lucic - Milner, Johnson, Bakke, Wilcox - Smith, Viduka. Michael Bridges might recover, we might get a few more games from Lucas's dodgy knees, and we might start to see Kilgallon, Richardson and Cansdell-Sherriff come through. But it looks as if the Premier League is just one or two rungs too high for Singh, McMaster, McPhail and Burns. So that's a few sales, take the option on signing Lucic and work like madmen for mid-table mediocrioty. Focus on developing the Academy - maybe with Lucas's involvement setting up a feeder system from South Africa since Arsenal and Liverpool appear to have the French-speaking part of the continent sorted. Look to pick up a couple of experienced but not aged bargains from the second tier Italian and Spanish clubs, work on a cup run and get in to Europe via the InterToto next season. Within 2-3 years we might just be in a position to aim for a top-4 finish again, probably helped by the defection of ManU and Arsenal to a European league by then. We have blown our best chance of long-term success in just 18 months: we're back where we were in the early 1990s when Wilko's league champions were breaking up and we're faced with a financial playing field that is even less level than it was then - and we're at the wrong end of it. Season ticket sales will be off by 10-20% this year, and Sky money will be seriously reduced next season as well - as much as we complain about playing all these stupid kick-off times on Saturdays or being shifted to Sunday, that's all money in the bank for the club. As for the new stadium? Dream on - but if the crowd drops a bit they could always take advantage and redevelop the West Stand while the stay-aways sulk and wait for the team's fortunes to improve. Despite all this, I'll probably see the same number of games next time round as I did this year. And although the team's European run has come to an end, a few of us are thinking about keeping in practice and adopting a team close to a Ryanair/Easyjet destination for the odd midweek beer-and-strange-food trip next season. You never know - we might even get to see a decent game of football every now and then!
March 10: Feyenoord's Brett Emerton has beaten Harry Kewell in the vote for the Oceania Player of the Year by 17 votes. Mark Schwarzer of Boro was third.
March 10: Howard Wilkinson and his assistant Steve Cotterill have been given the boot by doomed Sunderland after failing to turn Peter Reid's misfits into a winning side. Faced with underperforming players and no money to improve the squad it was always going to be tough for Wilko to keep them up, but after a run of bad luck and poor form they're now racing certainties for the drop and chairman Bob Murray reckons he'll have someone lined up to take over by the weekend. Wonder if Mr Venables fancies a real challenge?
March 10: Frazer Richardson will not be going back on loan to Stoke where he has been operating mainly as a wing-back and having some success. Stoke boss Tony Pulis was keen to extend his loan spell, but with the current injury situation at Leeds - and the clearout which will now start crystalizing with nothing but pride to play for this season (and if yesterday was anything to go by there's not much of that around) Richardson will have a chance to stake a claim to a regular squad place if not as a starter.
March 09: At least we had one winning Leeds team this weekend: the Ladies beat Southampton Saints 0-2 this afternoon.
March 09: After the game, the TV cameras saw Peter Ridsdale smiling and gladhanding Neil Warnock and his team in the dressing room. It was a very sporting gesture by the chairman - but one which shows how far removed from the emotions of the normal fan he now is. He could have done the same thing behind closed doors but most of the 4,400 travelling fans at the ground would have preferred him to be in the Leeds dressing room, throwing crockery and stripping the paint off the walls with his condemnation of such a lacklustre performance from his highly-paid employees. Neil Warnock did appreciate the gesture, saying: "I think he was very sincere, something all the players appreciated, along with Terry's gesture as he also shook my hand and said 'well done'." Warnock described the Blades' victory as his "finest hour", and said: "Everybody died for the cause today." The other thing missing presumed dead is the Leeds team spirit and the hope and self-belief that took us to two European semi-finals - before the chairman and then manager deluded each other into believing we were invincible and could do no wrong. As for El Tel, he says that he will be "professional" for the remainder of the season - such as it is. "By the end of the week we have got to be up and we've got to start to try and be consistent and improve our performances in the league... But what has to happen is a reassessment of the whole season to make sure the club improves for the following season." He can start by throwing in the likes of Kilgallon, Milner, Cansdell-Sherriff, Richardson, McMaster and Singh. If they're going to be good enough to make it in the Premier League we should see something now in real competitive games. If they're not then shake their hands and let them go to a lower division side and concentrate on the next batch. But in the meantime it should be time for Tel to use his salesman's instincts and get a few non-performing assets in the shop window now so we can realise some funds during the summer to start rebuilding from the ground up.
09: No Europe for us, but that won't stop the
irresistible force that is the Sunday Euro-Round-Up!
March 09: So that's it then. No Europe next season, no silverware this year. And probably goodbye to El Tel, Harry Kewell and another big name or two (not that we have many left) during the summer. No complaints whatsoever about the result. Harry Kewell blazed a golden opportunity high and wide (hopefully he didn't grin as broadly as he did when he blew a similar chance against Gillingham), Smithy should have taken a pot with his left foot when he had his one clear opportunity - but otherwise we never did enough to make Paddy Kenny earn his money this week. In the other goal, Robbo had to make a couple of good saves but was rarely troubled, but the craven capitulation of the midfield was an absolute disgrace. Paul Okon may have been the best midfielder that Terry Venables had ever seen 6 or 7 years ago - but after today's performance, nobody will be able to convince me that what he has to offer could possibly be better than the aging and out of favour talents of David Batty. But it would be unfair to pick on Okon, because with the possible exceptions of Robbo, Teddy and The Chief, none of the team had a great day today. Vidooks and Smithy did what they could with the scraps they got, but the midfield was pathetic. When the enforced half-time change brought Bakke on we thought some common sense might be applied and we'd see a 4-4-2 formation and stop the midfield being bypassed. No such luck - Bakke played up front. Okon and Harte - who had been booked in the 9th minute - were having 'mares and should have been replaced ages before they were. Danny Mills had the opportunity to win us a replay when the clueless Steve Bennett tried to send him off for a second yellow card offence, neglecting to notice that he'd not booked him beforehand - but Mills protested, and the clue supply arrived at Bennett's brain just in time. But even if we'd been given a replay due to refereeing incompetence we probably wouldn't have won it. I've been trying to think of a bright side to this since we marched out of the ground at full-time, but I'm clean out of ideas - just like the manager, the team and the chairman. If we play like this next season, we will be laughed out of the Premiership.
March 09: Sometimes you can be too honest. We all knew that the stewards would be making a serious point of checking Striker Cards at the gates today - but maybe if you could produce a season ticket and a sob story you would have a chance of getting in despite lacking the necessary bit of plastic. Just in front of me at the turnstile, one Leeds fan was trying just that. "I don't have my card," he said. "So you can't come in then. Why haven't you got your card?" "It was taken from me on Wednesday night." "Why was it taken from you on Wednesday night?" inquired the steward. "Because I was thrown out of Old Trafford."
March 09: As well as training for a charity run in the London Marathon, Imre Varadi has organised a benefit match for Jane Tomlinson, who has been diagnosed with incurable cancer but continues distance running despite her illness. She's nominated four charities who will benefit from all of the fund-raising that's being done (The Sunday Times have been doing a lot of the co-ordination). The match will take place next Sunday at Belle Vue - where the reserves play their games - between Varadi's Sheffield Wednesday XI and Peter Lorimer's Leeds XI. The likes of Tony Dorigo, John Sheridan and Chris Waddle will be taking part - and at a fiver apiece for entry, that's only a quid more than the rip-off programmes cost at Bramall Lane today and in aid of a far worthier cause. Get there if you can - KO at 2pm.
March 09: Old boy news from yesterday was pretty thin on the ground - although we did see one-time reserve keeper Paul Evans pull off a total air shot to allow an own goal as Sheffield Wednesday blew a surprising 0-1 lead at Leicester.
March 08: Both Terry Venables and Neil Warnock are asking the fans tomorrow to not go over the top whatever happens. After the problems at the Worthington Cup tie, it's being built up as a massive hooliclash, but Venables said: "It's a derby, which means it will be fierce and everybody wants to win. The fans can scream and cheer as loud as they want, but as long as they stay sensible."
March 08: Eddie Gray thinks this could end up being Leeds' year despite all the problems we've had. But he warned: "There's a long way to go yet - although there's no reason why if we play to our capabilities we shouldn't get there." Gray respects our opponents but was happy with the draw we got, and added: "They will be looking forward to this tie as well. It's another home draw for them - and because they have turned us over once at Bramall Lane they will be looking forward to doing it again."
March 08: Alan Smith told The Sun that he thinks Leeds can win the FA Cup! He said: "I am so positive about that, even though I know there are still some very good teams left in the competition. But I am also convinced that, on our day, we are good enough to beat anybody." And he wants to "set the record straight" after the Worthington Cup defeat. And with Leeds deciding not to enter the InterToto, he's also aware of what it means for next season: "The FA Cup has become a lot more important for us this season than it has been over the past few years. That is because we have qualified for the UEFA Cup or Champions League by finishing in the top six in the Premiership.But, right now, we are mid-table and there is not much going on for us in the league." And he also revealed his long-term ambition - that one day he will captain the club - though he knows he'll face a battle to wrest the armband from Dom Matteo.
March 07: It looks likely that Dom and Doobs will both be out of contention for Sunday's game at Bramall Lane. Lucas Radebe's knee remains dodgy but he will almost certainly play. Harry Kewell is back after a ban, Jason Wilcox will also be in contention after the flu, and Gary Kelly faces a late fitness test on his hamstring.
March 07: We've not yet seen the back of the FA and their compliance officer after Peter Ridsdale and the board answered the FA's questions surrounding payments to agents in the Rio transfer deal. Graham Bean plans to speak to several other people after it emerged that Rune Hauge got a cut, Pini Zahavi - Rio's main representative - took a percentage, and Harry Redknapp also received some money, although that was ostensibly a bonus from the West Ham board. Quite what Hauge did to merit a massive £1.75 million fee in the transfers of Ferdinand, Eirik Bakke and another player is unclear.
March 07: The boardroom shake-ups have started at Elland Road. Operations Director David Spencer has parted company with the club after 8 years with Leeds. The club have said he won't be replaced, indicating perhaps that the club will at last split the roles of chairman and chief executive, appointing a Managing Director to take on some of the roles previously undertaken by Spencer, and moving Peter Ridsdale away from his current seat of absolute power/sole messenger boy for the institutional shareholders (depending on your point of view). Some of Allan Leighton's retail chums appear to be in the frame as does Jeremy Fenn who previously served on the board as MD and Finance Director after the Caspian takeover. It's possible that Peter Ridsdale may remain as club chairman, but there will be a new appointment of a separate plc chairman, leaving Ridsdale as a figurehead on the football side but maintaining a far more financially-driven approach to the commercial and marketing side. In a Stock Market announcement the club also said that Leeds would seek to achieve a reduction of £3 million per year in overheads and admin costs - sounds like a further round of job cuts for the poor bloody infantry who were decimated last summer to me.
March 07: South Yorkshire police are gearing up for trouble on Sunday. They expect at least 250 "troublemakers" to come down from Leeds, with more aggro coming from a bunch of Leeds fans based in Doncaster plus the Sheff U fans whose behaviour has prompted the gate restrictions at Bramall Lane. I'm tempted to ask why these couple of hundred known troublemakers have been sold tickets by the club, but that's obviously a stupid question so I'll just shut up.
March 07: Jacob Burns will be heading off to Holland shortly for a trial with Feyenoord. The Dutch club already have an Australian midfielder - Brett Emerton - on their books, but it now looks unlikely that his much-rumoured move to Leeds will happen. But Burns may find the chance to get his career kick-started out in the Eredivisie with Feyenoord after failing to make the breakthrough at Leeds, but may first be tried out with their feeder club, Excelsior.
March 07: TV acknowledged that the Blades have a decent squad and that Leeds will find the local derby atmosphere tough on Sunday. But he's clearly got half an eye on the final, whatever he says. "This match coming up is a massive game and if we don't get through then anything else is purely academic....Neil Warnock's got a good squad and it looks as though something is going right at Bramall Lane." He pointed out that Leeds is now a much more settled club than when we visited Bramall Lane in the Worthington Cup earlier this season. "In the first part of the season we had bad results and didn't play well, but we've become accustomed to the circumstances at the club now and we know we can't do anything about them. The players have had a really difficult time this season and we haven't been able to rest a lot of them when I knew I should have done. But we've come through it and you do that by getting to know each other and knowing what we are all trying to achieve."
March 06: Sheffield United are understood to be treating their pitch with a massive injection of sand to improve the drainage ahead of Sunday's game. There was a massive hoo-ha after Chelsea did the same thing before facing Charlton at Stamford Bridge - but unlike that case, Sheffield United have made it clear to Leeds what is happening, and the coaching staff will get plenty of opportunity to examine the state of the pitch and decide what tactics and footwear will be needed for the game.
March 06: The reserves blew a 2-0 lead tonight and went down 2-3 to Bolton at Belle Vue. Shane Cansdell-Sherriff put Leeds ahead after just three minutes, and Jamie McMaster added to that halfway through the first half. Bolton got a goal back through ex-Spurs striker Chris Armstrong before half-time, and Armstrong was on the mark again just on the hour to square the game. With around 10 minutes remaining, Gareth Farrelly hammered home the winner for the visitors. James Milner and Stephen McPhail played for the first hour but were then withdrawn to rest them ahead of Sunday's massive tie at Bramall Lane.
March 06: Carl Shutt may have marched his Kettering Town side straight back into the Conference last year after the side were relegated shortly after he took over - but it looks like they're going back down again, well adrift at the foot of the table. They're also in a bit of trouble financially - not quite on the same scale as Leeds and without the same recriminations between managers, board and fans, but they could still do with a helping hand. And here's your chance to give them a bit of a boost: they are holding an auction of a variety of footy memorabilia at the end of the month, with a Leeds shirt signed by the current squad, plus Shutty's Masters shirt signed by the Masters squad on offer. Full details are on their website.
March 06: El Tel says that Graham Poll bottled it last night when he declined to break a 3-year run of refs failing to award the opposition a penalty at Old Trafford. He said: "I think the referee felt it was a penalty but then changed his mind for some reason." And Mark Viduka was gobsmacked that he was penalised for a "handball" that clearly struck his chest. He said: "It was a definite penalty. There was no way it was a handball. You can look at it any way you want to, but we should have had a penalty." Which is all true - but cunningly avoids the fact that we conceded two very soft goals and let them have far too much of the possession. We would have been very flattered by a win last night, but a draw would have been reasonable and eminently achievable if we hadn't given away such a pointless free kick and then switched off while they went ahead.
March 06: The South African FA are reacting exactly as expected following the decision of Lucas Radebe, Mark Fish and Shaun Bartlett to skip a training camp last month. Coach Shakes Mashaba said: "I have spoken to the Safa chief operations officer and explained that those players have been given enough chance by myself and the technical staff." That's right - Lucas was offered the chance of an 8-hour flight a couple of days after picking up an injury that kept him out of the Leeds side at a time when we were desperate for defensive cover. Although some of that argument took a bit of a knock when Radebe pitched up at the opening ceremony for the Cricket World Cup. Radebe has already said that Leeds come first, and although he's managed more games this season he still looks fragile, so anything that reduces the number of games he's involved in must be good from a purely selfish Leeds-centric point of view.
March 06: Mark Viduka disagrees with manager Terry Venables that the title race is over. He thinks that ManU will still run Arsenal close over the last few games. "You can never rule out Manchester United. They have such good players and seem to create chances whenever they want." He went on: "I know Arsenal have a five-point lead but if they ease off in any way, Manchester United can take advantage."
March 06: The reserves face Bolton at Belle Vue tonight hoping to break their recent slump in form. It's a pretty young side, with Nigel Martyn the only "old head" in the side. Stephen McPhail will also get a good run, as will James Milner - though it will be interesting to see if he plays the full game ahead of Sunday's big game.
March 05: A disappointing result after a poor start to the game tonight. When ManU opened the scoring it had been coming for a long time, but after that Leeds came back into the game more and Smithy was denied by an excellent save by Barthez. Ian Harte's best free kick of the season met Mark Viduka's head and we were level and even hoped for a win. But a stupidly conceded free kick was followed by some totally lax play from the defence as Beckham floated a quickly taken kick into the area where Silvestre gave Robbo no chance. El Tel reckons we should have had a penalty when Vidooks was brought down - looked like it to us in the stand too - and I thought Graham Poll was very harsh on Leeds - booking Smithy for having his legs taken away - and easy on ManU - not booking Neville for the cynical hack on Smith on the edge of the area that led to Leeds' equaliser. The manager seems to agree - Venables said: "I don't know whether that is right or not but we certainly didn't get the good end of the decisions. It is not normally something I complain about but I feel angry about [the penalty]." Fergie gave Leeds a bit of a positive send-off. He said: "We had to baton down the hatches at the end but you have to give Leeds credit for that."
March 05: El Tel has given ManU a bit of a dig in the ribs by suggesting that Arsenal have the title as good as won - but he does add that he thinks they will be focusing on the Champions League where they have a great chance of success. "They had their problems earlier in the season, and they have done well to get where they are, but Arsenal have been so strong I can't see them letting it go." And he is expecting a bit of a backlash from Sunday's Worthington Cup defeat by Liverpool: "Every team that loses a game I would expect them to react, but losing a game of that magnitude - then they will be very hurt." Other than the obvious injury worries, his main concern tonight is to get the Leeds players to focus on the game in hand rather than Sunday's cup tie. "This game has to be the most important and so you cannot afford to look beyond it." And he is hoping to secure a long-awaited double over ManU following the great win at Elland Road earlier this season: "You could see what a wonderful day it was for everybody, particularly for the fans because they had waited a long while to get that win... but they will now be looking to turn us over."
March 05: Peter Ridsdale has dropped more hints that Leeds could be in line to make some signings in the summer following the departure of so many big names. But he says we aren't going to sign just anyone: "Most supporters only want to see who's coming in they don't want to see players going out, but life is not like that and what we hope in the summer is that the gaps that Terry has identified in his squad can be filled by players who will add quality to the squad and achieve what we want to do next season." Sounds remarkably like what was said in August, but I'm sure he's sincere about it. And although he's been under fire from press and supporters alike lately, he says that he is sticking to his guns. "I am paid to be chairman of the football club, I am paid to make tough decisions along with my board colleagues, we have done that to the extent that criticism has come and it is also my job to listen to what people have said, take it on board and explain what we have done." One of the questions we will be putting to him tomorrow is to ask why it has taken such a crisis for the club to start worrying about what the fans think - and what he intends to do to ensure that our opinions get heard on a regular basis in the future.
March 04: Darren Huckerby scored a cracking volley for Forest in the second game of his loan spell, and followed that up with another well-taken goal as Paul Hart's promotion-chasing team went 0-2 up at Gillingham after a quarter of an hour. Huckerby set up Forest's third just 10 seconds into the second half, and although Rod Wallace got a consolation for Gillingham late on, Forest had scored again before that. The win takes them into third place in Division 1 and looking pretty solid for a play-off place. Warren Feeney scored Bournemouth's equaliser at Rushden just before half-time, but it was in vain as they conceded a late penalty to allow Rushden to cement their second place and close the gap on Hartlepool who suffered a surprising 3-0 reverse at Lincoln.
March 04: More injury doubts than we thought for tomorrow's game. Gary Kelly has picked up a hamstring injury as has Michael Duberry, and it looks like Dom Matteo won't be back after all. Lucas Radebe will be back - so it looks like him alongside Teddy Lucic with Danny Mills at right back if El Tel decides not to risk skipper Matteo and save him for Sunday's cup clash. Jason Wilcox also has the flu just to make life even more difficult. For Man U, Wes Brown and Mikael Silvestre are both doubts with hamstring and knee problems respectively. Quinton Fortune may be needed after a long layoff with a broken leg. Graham Poll is set to be the ref for the game - he's not quite Dermot Gallagher but I guess it could be worse.
March 04: Peter Ridsdale thinks that El Tel will decide to put this season's problems behind him and stay on for another year. Ridsdale said: "Terry has had his say, he's said that he's now put that behind us and he's now concentrating on the rest of the season." He went on: "We've got some very important games and need to make sure we get the points under our belts to make sure we're safe in the Premiership and we've got a very important Cup tie this week."
March 04: Rochdale have failed in their attempt to take Shane Cansdell-Sherriff on a further month's loan. He was over at Spotland earlier this season, but the current rash of defensive injuries and illnesses mean that El Tel is unwilling to let anyone go on loan at the moment.
March 04: El Tel says that we couldn't have made an application to enter the InterToto because we wouldn't be able to field enough players! Our Aussie contingent will be playing until mid-June, and the England boys will also be required for games beyond the end of the league season. Since players are entitled to a month off contractually, to play the first game on July 5 would have been out of the question - even if they were to go in with no pre-season preparation at all. Venables said: "We would have had just seven or eight players and really it would have been physically impossible." Be interesting to see where we end up going to do our pre-season this year after the knackering Far East jaunt last season. Leeds did promise Kettering a strong squad for a pre-season game after pulling out of another game at the last minute this summer - but otherwise it will probably be back to Scandinavia.
March 04: Leeds will be receiving another batch of tickets for Sunday's game after the local safety committee decided that the lower tier of the Bramall Lane stand would be open - with a reduced capacity - to accommodate away fans but insisted that two blocks in the Arnold Laver Stand remain shut after recent problems caused by Sheffield United fans. The club said: "This should be a salutary lesson to all Sheffield United supporters who believe that the instances of misbehaviour which have given major concern to the police and authorities will not be overlooked."
March 03: Skipper Dom Matteo could give Leeds' squad a boost and be fit enough to face Manchester United on Wednesday following his torn hamstring in the West Ham game just over three weeks ago. Lucas Radebe will also be back after getting over his knee injury, but Harry Kewell will be out due to a suspension so Smithy will play alongside the returning Mark Viduka up front. Diego Forlan is set to return for ManU, who will no doubt be smarting from their Worthington Cup defeat on Sunday. At least we won't have to face them gloating and parading the trophy around OT I suppose.
March 03: Euro-update after tonight's game: Slavia are now top of the Czech Gambrinus Liga, but left it late against FK Marila Pribram. A goal for each side in two first half minutes looked like being the end of it before Karel Pitak put Slavia in front with 3 minutes to go, and a frantic final minute saw the visitors reduced to ten men and Slavia extend their lead to 3-1 through their Brazilian striker Evandro da Silva.
March 03: El Tel has said how pleased he is with the way that most of the players have reacted to the pressure and off-field stress this season. "I think the squad have shown what terrific personalities they have this season, particularly during difficult times," he said. "People like Gary Kelly who haven't taken much part before, but now they've had a terrific run and are doing well for themselves and the team too." Errr...apart from over 350 games in more than 10 years at the club, that's right, Kelly hasn't taken much part. Eddie Gray was equally fulsome in his praise of the rejuvenated Irishman: "He shows a great attitude to the game and his enthusiasm for the game is rubbing off on the other players as well." I'm sure he didn't mean it this way, but it seems that Michael Duberry gets rather faint praise for his efforts: "He played exceptionally well the other week at Palace and that's the standard that we know he can play to." So he can play well against a lower division attack. And that helps us how exactly? I'm not knocking Doobs that much: he's an old-fashioned centreback without a huge amount of pace but he gives 100% and does time his tackles well - but if we are to hope to return to Europe and compete in the league he needs to be more poised and distribute the ball much better if he is going to be seen as Leeds' first choice CB.
March 03: Peter Ridsdale told supporters that Leeds would build again - despite the "painful" decisions that the club has had to take. He made some references to the financial situation, but in pointing out that all of the transfer activity has only actually reduced the squad size by two players does rather point to the fact that Leeds' problem appears to be the operating loss that the club is making rather than the total debt in itself. He also pointed out that although Leeds could control who was bought, they couldn't necessarily make other clubs buy Leeds players and refill our coffers. He said: "It is incumbent on me and my fellow directors, to ensure that we are financially viable. Yes we agreed to spend the money. We also made it clear that we had to recoup money in the transfer market." Unfortunately, it seems that the board temporarily overlooked that problem while David O'Leary was in charge, leaving Terry Venables to inherit a disaster zone this season. He's still positive about the future though: "Our ambition is undiminished. Our commitment to our supporters is unaltered. We have done the right things to protect the future. We will regroup and go for it again, I know that we owe that to all Leeds supporters. I remain one of the staunchest Leeds supporters."
March 03: Leeds Ladies lost 0-3 at home to leaders Fulham yesterday - not a terrible result in the circumstances, but one which leaves the side sitting just above the drop zone with only 4 wins this season.
March 02: Grimsby are set to offer a trial to 19-year-old Leeds player Michael Ward. Ward is a Northern Irish youngster who hasn't really made it into contention and must be looking to find his future elsewhere as the next generation of young players comes through.
02: La Liga is starting to come to the boil, and Real
Madrid bubbled to the top on Saturday with Ronaldo's hat-trick and
a pair from Raul taking them there as they hammered Alaves 1-5.
Real Sociedad failed to restore their lead today after being
shocked to find themselves 2-0 down after 7 minutes at Valladolid,
eventually succumbing 3-0. Valencia could have made it into second
place if they'd managed to win at 6th-placed Celta Vigo, but they
held their 7th minute lead for just two minutes - and that was the
end of the scoring and they now trail Madrid by two points and
Sociedad by one. Deportivo are a further point back in fourth place
with a 1-2 win at Santander. Malaga may have made it to the last
eight of the UEFA Cup but they're now one of four teams sitting
just 3 points ahead of the relegation zone after a 2-1 defeat at
Atletico Madrid, with both sides having a player dismissed. Bottom
side Recreativo Huelva were three up after less than 20 minutes at
Athletic Bilbao - but it was very tight at the end as they hung on
to win 2-3.
March 01: Old boy news today sees JFH getting on the scoresheet - but for the wrong reason as his headed OG gave Newcastle the lead against Chelsea, with the Magpies eventually winning 2-1. Darren Huckerby marked his debut for Forest with a second half equaliser against Watford to keep them firmly in contention for a play-off place. Warren Feeney opened the scoring for Bournemouth at Bury after 10 minutes, but Bury equalised just past the half-hour and then sneaked a winner with 5 minutes to go that pulls them to within 3 points of third-placed Bournemouth, but it's still very tight in the chase for the play-off slots. Hull were already 0-2 up at Carlisle when Jamie Forrester made it 0-3 in first half injury time. The visitors had scored two more in the second half before Craig Farrell got a consolation for the home side with 20 seconds of normal time remaining. Brian Deane marked his return from an injury lay-off with the opening goal in the big Midlands derby tonight, and for a long time it looked to be the winner before an injury time strike from Craig Burley gave Derby a point and dented Leicester's chances of being promoted as champions - although it will take a Wolves-like collapse for Mickey Adams' side to miss out on automatic promotion now.
March 01: El Tel has once again heaped praise on Paul Okon - a player he has described as one of the best midfielders he's ever seen (when Okon was playing in Italy). "In Australia, they speak as highly of him as they do of anyone. He was made the captain but then he had one or two bad injuries." Obviously Okon is back in contention with the Socceroos now, and will be hoping that Soccer Australia's decision to set up a London base and play a handful of games in Europe every year will give him the chance to establish himself as the team's natural leader. Venables went on: "He's done very well, but he was the same when I went in as manager at Middlesbrough... His movement of the ball early is excellent. He's got a picture when the ball comes to him and he knows what he wants to do which is important."
March 01: Eddie Gray thinks that European qualification might still be a possibility, despite Leeds declining to enter the InterToto. "I know we've the FA Cup to come, but we've still got to look at our league position and see how far we can go there. When there's games to play, you never rule out qualifying for the UEFA Cup via the league, regardless of who you are playing. However, we've still a lot of the top teams to play, so it will be difficult." Now that's what I call optimistic! If we are to qualify through league placing we have 10 games in which we need to gain 9 points more than all of Liverpool, Spurs, Blackburn, Southampton, Man City, Villa and Boro. With the best will in the world, that's not going to happen so it's down to winning at least our next two matches in the cup: win three and we've won the cup and qualified, win two but lose the final to Arsenal, Chelsea - or possibly Southampton if their league form improves - and we'll be in Europe for the sixth season in a row.