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December 31: Eirik Bakke reckons that he has returned from his knee op as fit as he has ever been in his career. As a result of the operation during the summer, he has been concentrating on getting himself back to match fitness without that niggling distraction of having to play games. He said: "I have never been so well trained as I am now. I have sometimes trained for eight hours a day."
December 31: Chief Exec Trevor Birch told The Sun today that he was hoping not to be selling any players in the next month - but Leeds only wanted to keep players who wanted to stay and with the stomach for a relegation battle. He said: "If you have a player who doesn't want to play for the club, he is going to mope around. That can be disruptive." He pointed out the futility of trying to force someone to stay when they want to get out, but said: "I just hope all our players want to stay at Elland Road and help us get out of the situation we are in."
December 30: The transfer window opens in a little over 24 hours - but Eddie Gray is not letting any possible departures from the club concern him. Fans will obviously be concerned that last season's sale of Jon Woodgate is likely to be repeated this year, with Mark Viduka, Alan Smith, James Milner and Paul Robinson all on the hit-list for clubs in a less perilous position. Gray said: "As I said at the start, I am just getting on with the job day to day. I am still enjoying it - although not when we get beat. I am not worried about the transfer window, because you can't do anything about it. We want to keep our players, and I am sure the club will do their utmost to keep them." And he pointed to what chief exec Trevor Birch has said on numerous occasions: "Trevor has said we don't need to sell players, so we will just have to wait and see what happens." A Manchester City bid for Paul Robinson is said to be in the pipeline - but that will be contingent on Kev raising funds through sales over the Pennines, since City's debt is almost as large as Leeds' - but remains slightly more manageable, aided by higher crowds and a lower wage bill. As for any speculation linking Leeds with purchases - forget it (until the takeover happens at any rate). Leeds have options on all of the loan players which must be exercised in January if they aren't to become openly available at a negotiable price, but given that Eddie Gray has frozen pretty much all of them out then it's hard to see those options being exercised, despite the favourable early impressions made by Olembe and Camara in particular.
December 30: David Batty will be available for selection after a one-match ban and will come into contention for the FA Cup tie on Sunday, probably at the expense of Eirik Bakke who looked dead on his feet after an hour - never mind the full 90 minutes - in Sunday's defeat by Wolves. But with the Newcastle game on Wednesday, it might be more sensible to rest the likes of Batty, Bakke and Milner - and give the youngsters and squad players a chance to show what they can do. Much as I'd love to win every game and enjoy a Cup run, I really think we need to view the game as a development opportunity and a chance to rest - or just avoid injuries and bookings for - players who will need all of their energy for the league. So Eddie should pick (but won't): Carson - Richardson, Camara, Kilgallon, Olembe - Morris - Barmby, McMaster, Domi - Bridges, Chapuis, with Wilcox, Keegan, Lennon and McPhail joining Robbo on the bench. Sod the cup, we need the points.
December 30: Matthew Kilgallon wants to keep his place in the side after making his first League start for Leeds against Villa on Boxing Day. His build, position and haircut have resulted in comparisons being made to Jonathan Woodgate (wait for Henry McStay to break through into the first team for a repeat of this) but "Killer" says: "It's nice to be compared with Woody, but I'm my own player. Being compared with him is something I like though because he was a great player here." He's hoping for a run in the side after Lucas Radebe was knocked out with an awful hamstring injury at Man City, and the young defender is revelling in the experience. He said that the more experienced players had helped him through it, but he had enjoyed the challenge of taking on an in-form striker like Villa's Angel. He admitted that it had been a poor performance by the team against Wolves. He said: "We really wanted to win to get us up the table a bit more, but when you come out from half time everyone needs to start off well, you don't want to concede in that crucial ten minute spell after the break, but we did and we got our heads down too much." If he does play on Sunday, let's hope the ref is a little bit more even-handed than the two Killer has had to contend with so far.
December 30: The man everyone was tipping as our new manager a couple of months back appears to be slipping a bit. Almost as soon as Paul Hart's name was linked with Leeds, Forest's good early-season form went to pieces and they are now well out of contention for a promotion spot after a string of poor results. But Hart today denied that this was because he was not giving the job his all because of the Leeds speculation. Hart said: "There is nothing I could have done about the speculation and it had nothing to do with me, although people keep expecting me to comment on it when one comment should be enough. The reason we are not doing well in the league is down to other factors like injuries." And selling one of your best goalscorers to promotion rivals and then seeing him score against you like Marlon Harewood did at the weekend.
December 29: Michael Duberry said today that defeat at Wolves had soured the Christmas celebrations for him and his family this year, despite finding himself on the scoresheet for the second time this season. He said: "It was another goal, but it's sour at the moment. I can't even enjoy it because of the result and that's the really disappointing thing. It's very disappointing to end our good unbeaten run like that. All the lads in the changing room were bitter." He insisted that the team had played with the same attitude and spirit as had been on show in the previous 5 games, but they failed to show that extra sharpness on the day: "We didn't look as tight or as sharp as normal and our passing wasn't as neat as it should have been. But I think it's all things we can put right, not necessarily in training because we can do things perfectly there, but in our next game."
December 29: Trevor Birch has turned down a request from Manchester United to take Mark Viduka on loan, according to today's Mirror. Birch rightly sees no real value to the club in getting Viduka's wages off the books - particularly if he's heading to another Premiership side - so is holding out for a serious offer to buy while doing his best to maintain a strong squad to encourage potential bidders for the club to come out of the woodwork and put their cards on the table. Three weeks to D-Day...
December 29: We may still be shelling out money in Robbie Fowler's direction as we continue to subsidise his wages at Manchester City, but his appearance for the Blues yesterday - netting a late equaliser against Liverpool - has done Leeds a big financial favour. That game marked his 30th outing for City, which means that they must now pay the next £1 million instalment of his fee to Leeds. It's not going to save the club - but it might help keep the wolf from the door for another couple of weeks and enable Trevor Birch to seal a deal with one of the would-be bidders.
December 28: So what can we say about today's result? Not much really - the only good thing that has come out of the Christmas games has been the fact that Spurs, Pompey and Leicester remain in the relegation mire with us, and it will only take a few points to get clear. But first we have to get those points, and a solitary one from a home game with Villa and a visit to Molineux is nowhere near good enough. To a certain extent, this result was a consequence of Eddie Gray's pre-match pronouncements - that the most important thing for us was to stay unbeaten. So when the team was selected, we have James Milner dropped in favour of a barely-fit Eirik Bakke, and Stephen McPhail being asked to do the impossible in replacing David Batty's tigerish midfield workrate. We saw the consequence when Michael Duberry gave us an unexpectedly early lead - "All we have to do is hang on for 85 minutes," said someone behind me - and unfortunately that's exactly what the team did. Smithy will kick himself for his sliced clearance attempt that got Wolves back in the game, but Robbo was by far the busier keeper, and if Smith hadn't gifted them the equaliser, the rest of the team would have found some way to do it. Like we did just after the break for example, when Ian Harte and Stephen McPhail combined to let Wolves have as much time as they needed to pick the perfect cross for Iversen to despatch a tough header. The hopelessly ineffectual McPhail was replaced by Milner, and within 30 seconds he was involved in a break down the left that nearly got us back into the match. There had been a few niggles throughout the game, and although D'Urso had been a bit lop-sided in his free kick calls, there can't be too many complaints about the bookings we received - but it remains a mystery how Paul Ince's dives, late hacks and poking the ref in the chest somehow went unpunished. However Dom Matteo is old and experienced enough to know what you can and can't get away with, and when he went through late on Naylor having already been booked, he didn't bother returning to the pitch, taking our chances with him to the dressing room. Eirik Bakke had looked exhausted from about 60 minutes - but he stayed on, doing what he could with Smithy dropping back into the middle. A decent cameo appearance from Lamine Sakho - he's obviously done enough in training to impress Eddie and he nearly got us back into the game with 10 minutes to go with a cracking shot from the edge of the box that Oakes almost spilled for Viduka. So the "Gray Bubble" has been popped, and we've got Arsenal coming up in the Cup: it might be the time for Gray to give a few loanees and youngsters another run, since the Newcastle game comes up just three days later, and all our efforts must be focused on picking up League points to the exclusion of everything else.
December 28: Dominic Matteo's red card earns him a one-game ban, which means he'll miss the visit to Southampton on January 17. Also absent from that game through suspension (and after today's performance hopefully absent through selection for some time to come) is Stephen McPhail after his card today joined four others received while playing for Forest.
December 28: Eddie Gray made it clear that he doesn't regard Leeds as too good to go down. Stating the bleeding obvious after today really. "Our position in the league says it all. I'm not happy with today's performance. I felt Wolves deserved to win the game. Overall we never passed the ball well, and although I think the boys are working really hard that is something you have to do if you want to stay up." However he remained upbeat about the future: "I would like to think this is just a setback. I hope the players feel like that because that's how I feel. We've got to have the belief to win games and try to climb the table, but every game we play is going to be a battle." Dave Jones was naturally over the moon with the result - which could now allow Wolves to climb off the bottom if they beat Blackburn next week and Leeds lose at Newcastle. Jones said: "If we had come away with anything less than three points then we would have been disappointed. We did our usual start by giving them an early goal, but you earn your luck in this game, and we got a break with their own-goal. After that it was one big wave against them, which we kept going in the second half and we came out of it with another goal. They had their 10 minutes, but we weathered it and I'm delighted for the boys because no-one has let their head go down."
December 28: Nathan Lowndes bagged his fifth goal of the season for Plymouth to keep Paul Sturrock's side clear at the top of Division 2 with a 2-0 win over Brentford. Lee Matthews equalised for Darlo at Carlisle: the on-loan striker finished well when sent clear just before half time as the bottom two clubs in the Football League ended the game all square at 1-1 - a result that does neither team much good. Robbie Fowler has rediscovered his scoring boots of late - he got an equaliser for Man City in the dying seconds of the game against his former club Liverpool to make it 2-2. Finally Alan Smith wasn't the only Leeds player credited with an own goal today - Danny Mills was deemed responsible for Man U's goal against Boro at the Riverside.
December 27: Darren Huckerby's move to Carrow Road happened in the end, despite seeming to break down over Christmas. A fee of around three-quarters of a million is believed to have changed hands for his services, and Nigel Worthington told reporters that the player had taken a pay cut, but the club had also gone as far as they could on his pay package. Huckerby said: "Everybody made concessions, now I'm up for helping Norwich back into the Premier League. I'm happy the speculation is all over, I kept to my word, plenty of other teams were interested but I always wanted to be a Norwich player."
December 27: Robbie Fowler finally found the back of the net for Manchester City - but it was to no avail as he saw his opener at St Andrews cancelled out and then trumped by the home side for a 2-1 win. Bob Taylor scored his 200th career league goal for Cheltenham, taking them to a 2-0 lead over Macclesfield, which turned into a 3-2 win by the end. Jamie Forrester helped get Hull's promotion bid back on track by winning a penalty at York and then scoring from the spot. Also in the Division 3 promotion race, Oxford beat Leyton Orient 2-1 - the visitors losing one-time Leeds Youth left-back Tom Newey to a second yellow card with 15 minutes to go.
December 27: Leeds skipper Dom Matteo is a doubt for tomorrow's key relegation six-pointer at Molineux after limping out of the Boxing Day clash with Villa carrying a thigh strain. David Batty also misses the game through suspension after reaching five yellow cards, so it looks like Stephen McPhail will get another start, although if Matteo fails to make it then Jody Morris might get the nod ahead of Eirik Bakke if Eddie Gray doesn't want to push the Norwegian too hard after such a long injury lay-off.
December 27: Eddie Gray said that his side would be looking for a win at Wolves tomorrow - but the most important thing was to ensure we got at least a point in order to keep the recent unbeaten run on track. He said: "If you look at the table there are six or seven sides fighting it out and anyone can get dragged in. It really is so tight that you have to keep picking up points. A win would be great but it's more important that we pick up something to keep the run going."
December 27: Eirik Bakke has pleaded with Mark Viduka not to throw himself out of the transfer window when it reopens on Thursday. There has been plenty of speculation linking the big striker to a move abroad - and Fergie's presence at the City of Manchester Stadium on Monday night was presumably not a social call - but the Norwegian midfielder said that he was hoping that Viduka would stay and help get the club out of trouble. Bakke said: "I want him to stay and I've told him that many times. All the boys want him to stay and he wants to stay, but we will see what happens. But whoever goes or stays, we just have to get on with it. If Mark does go then we have options with Alan Smith up front. But [Viduka] kept us in the Premiership last season and hopefully he can do that again this season." Bakke also added that Viduka's efforts on the pitch and in training belied the "lazy" tag that some people apply to him - he's just careful how he expends his energy, that's all! Bakke said: "In training he works his socks off. People may get on his back because of his body language, and he sometimes faces unfair criticism, but he always wants to do well and to win." And speaking about his unexpected return to the first team in the Boxing Day game against Villa, Bakke said he had been hoping for a few reserve games to build up his match fitness first, but added: "It was a little bit of a surprise to be on the bench, but Eddie took me to one side and told me he wanted me on the bench. I've trained hard and the physios have done a great job. I am fit, but I just need games."
December 26: Darren Huckerby's move to Norwich looks to be well and truly off, with the player slamming the Canaries for their lack of flexibility and poor faith. After a successful 3-month loan spell at Carrow Road, it looked like a permanent move could be agreed, with both Manchester City and Huckerby prepared to offer Norwich the sort of deal they could afford. But Huckerby revealed that talks had ground to a halt even though he had turned down offers from other clubs in order to negotiate with Norwich. He said: "I have been forced to ask the question: just how much did Norwich want me in the first place?" He went on: "Both myself and my agent understood and accepted what sacrifices I had to make in order for this deal to go through, following our initial meeting with officials from the club... However, it became clear that Norwich were expecting more manoeuvrability from myself and Manchester City than they were prepared to do themselves."
December 26: Despite an amazingly one-eyed interpretation of the laws on shirt-tugging, climbing and shoving, Villa's 12th man failed to swing the game in favour of the visitors today. Ref Steve Bennett's one-man vendetta against Matt Kilgallon was almost enough to give Villa the chance to win the game, but some stout defending - and a sharp-eyed linesman - kept the scores level. Leeds didn't create enough chances, and were denied by a couple of unlucky bounces - one notably bad bounce came for James Milner after brilliant work by Aaron Lennon nearly set up what would have been an almost unbeatable record for the youngest scorer plus assistee (?) in the Premier League. To the management's credit, we didn't try to hang on for a point - bringing on Eirik Bakke for an unexpectedly early return to the fray when Dom Matteo appeared to pick up a knock, and adding Lennon to the mix as the Villa defenders tired. Unfortunately, there were a few good results for teams in the bottom half today, and that makes three points at Wolves on Sunday an absolute necessity.
December 26: DOL praised the Leeds fans for the reception he received after today's game. He said: "I never had any doubts about the reception. I never had any problems with the fans, as everybody knows. It wasn't them who drove me out. During my four years in the job they were fantastic to me and again showed how good they are because the team need their help and they are getting behind them." The Villa boss was happy with the point his side earned, saying: "It was a good point, but I know we can play better, although Leeds are a difficult side to play against now." Eddie Gray was also reasonably happy with the point - more so with the clean sheet. He said: "I didn't think it was a great game but we need points and at the end of the day, a draw was a fair result because neither side had many chances. I would expect us to play better, especially at home, but the boys worked hard for each other and they came up with a clean sheet. Considering we were without Lucas Radebe and we had a centre-back in the side starting his first Premiership game then I was pleased that we never conceded."
December 25: The clock strikes midnight, so that must make it Christmas Day! Happy Christmas to everyone out there - may you and your families all have a fine festive season and a most excellent New Year.
December 25: Not much to say ahead of tomorrow's game on the injury front. Lucas Radebe is out of contention for a couple of months so the big question for Leeds surrounds what Eddie Gray will do to replace him. Matt Kilgallon has got an excellent chance of making his first Premiership start for Leeds alongside Michael Duberry - although some defensive rejigging that switches Gary Kelly to centreback and drafts in Frazer Richardson at right-back is also a possibility. For Villa DOL needs to decide if youngster Stefan Moore should continue up front ahead of the most bizarrely inexplicable England selection since Graham Taylor's days - Darius Vassell. Dion Dublin's switch to defensive duties could continue to keep out Ronny Johnsen.
December 24: Alan Smith's appearance in front of the FA's disciplinary committee has been brought forward by a day to 6 January to avoid a clash with Leeds' trip to Newcastle the following day. Smith was charged with improper conduct after throwing a plastic bottle back into the crowd during the League Cup clash with Manchester United at the end of October.
December 24: David O'Leary reckons that he has nothing to prove when he brings his Villa side to Elland Road on Boxing Day. He points out that nobody associated with his sacking is left on the board, and - since he left anyway - he has never had anything but praise for the Leeds fans and he believes he will get a good reception as memories of what his "babies" achieved on the pitch remain strong, but the off-field indiscipline and poor man-management fade. A few folks have said that he will get a rough ride from the Leeds fans - but the consensus seems to be that those of us who have bothered to buy tickets (still plenty left folks!) will be continuing with what's been going all season - getting behind the team rather than heaping abuse on the visitors.
December 24: The home tie against Manchester City has been put back from a traditional Saturday afternoon kick-off to Monday night after being picked for broadcast by Sky. The game now kicks off at 8 p.m. on Monday 22 March.
December 24: Eddie Gray insists that there's no question of Friday's game being a personal battle between himself and David O'Leary, despite what some have suggested. He played down suggestions that he had anything to prove to O'Leary or the world, despite the fact that DOL sidelined him from coaching duties in favour of Brian Kidd, despite the success that the team had achieved under Gray. Eddie said: "It's Leeds against Aston Villa and it doesn't matter whether it's David and me or whoever in charge. I know my capabilities and what other people think doesn't worry me. I'll just get on with the job and hopefully pick up three more points." Gray added: "It's all about us making it difficult for them and hopefully getting the three points." It's not clear yet who will come in for Lucas Radebe, but strong hints were being dropped that Matthew Kilgallon will be given his chance to shine after returning from his loan spell at West Ham and making his league debut (for approximately 2 minutes) on Monday night.
December 23: James Milner refused to blame Graham Barber for his failure to award a free kick when he was hacked down by David Sommeil last night. Milner said: "I was just about to lift the ball over the keeper and I've felt the defender hit me. The referee obviously thought he was right and you've just got to get on with it. You hope that the decisions even themselves out over a season." And he was very happy with the outcome of last night's game: "It was a good point in the end. They made plenty of chances, but we soaked up the pressure and defended well. We've spent a lot of the game defending and you just hope you can get forward and create something...In the end it's a fantastic point. Every single player was fantastic and you have to be proud to go somewhere like that and come away with a point."
December 23: Has anything really changed with the management of LUFC? The AGM took place this morning - just two days before Christmas on a weekday morning, thus ensuring that as few fans - who own quite a few of the shares - could attend. The Prof was set to face criticism over several aspects of the way he has run the club over the last 9 months - but mainly over his outlandishly large remuneration for such a short spell in charge. Dr Bill Gerrard - football finance expert and perennial doom-monger - said: "There will be a degree of hostility with regard to past mistakes." Most immediately shareholders will be interested in any progress towards selling the club ahead of the January 19 deadline. Dr Bill says that a simple process of elimination seems to point to Allan Leighton as the key man in all of this: the Sheikh's track record at coming up with the money does not bode well for the future, and the Prof's Far East connections have yet to yield anything solid as well, so it's down to Leighton's determination not to be tainted by failure no matter what the business. Gerrard says: "I would like to think that we all come out of the meeting with cautious optimism and hope that our great club will never be taken to the brink of extinction again by executive directors."
December 23: The AGM was described as "stormy" by many who attended, although there were no serious upsets on any of the votes. Eddie Gray got a standing ovation from the floor, and with the panto season in full swing, the Fairy Godmother (Allan Leighton) and the Evil Stepmother (Peter Ridsdale) clearly had too much on their plates to attend. Trevor Birch promised to consider setting up an independent inquiry into how the club had been run over the last five years - but pointed out that such a tribunal would cost money to set up and there were far more pressing concerns. Birch defended his predecessor as chairman: "Shareholders have a right to be angry. But John came in, steadied the club and steered it through turbulent waters. The reality is the ship is still afloat. It may well have sunk if John had not implemented pretty difficult decisions in terms of taking cuts out of the business." It seems that Birch's expertise comes at a high price - at half a million a year he's the highest-paid director in the club's history, out-stripping even the good Prof before him. Birch reassured shareholders that negotiations on the club's future were well underway: "We have to hope they are concluded within the time frame otherwise the alternative is the club falls over, but I am confident something will be done," he said.
December 22: Nigel Martyn has sprung to the defence of his one-time team-mate Rio Ferdinand. After the player's admitted failure to turn up for a drugs test inevitably gave rise to a ban, it's hard to see what there is to say in Ferdinand's defence, but Martyn speaks more of the sentence: "Whatever the situation was and whether he did or did not forget, the punishment does seem a bit harsh. Players that have tested positive for drugs in the past have been handed lesser sentences so it seemed strange." Martyn went on: "Hopefully for Rio, the appeal will go in, the ban is reduced and he is able to compete in Euro 2004 because England need him. He is a quality player. Rio is Rio, he's just an ordinary guy and sometimes forgets things. I'm sure it's a male thing to have short-term memory loss!" Meanwhile, Martyn's new manager David Moyes once again pressed his case for an England recall. Moyes said: "Nigel Martyn has been terrific and I do feel there won't be many goalkeepers better than him playing at the moment." The Everton boss added: "Nigel has been a calming influence for us. Prior to the Portsmouth game, we had eight clean sheets out of 13 since he came into the side which is something we hadn't been doing particularly well. He has done tremendously well for us. He was a top goalkeeper and had nothing to prove. But more importantly Nigel Martyn is a top man, a great individual, and any manager would want him... I can only tell you from my experience and how I've seen him work here that I'll be surprised if there's anyone better than him at the moment."
December 22: Man City's young midfielder Joey Barton said he was relishing the opportunity to face David Batty in tonight's game. Barton's tigerish midfield play have won him much support around Manchester, and he is looking to measure himself against one of the most experienced players in the Premier League. Barton said: "He has been playing at the top level for a number of years. For one or two reasons he has not been playing obviously as much as he would like. But he is a quality player. There are no mugs in this league. I want to show that Joey Barton aims to be as big a player as David Batty has been."
December 22: Kevin Keegan backed Eddie Gray's efforts in turning around Leeds' fortunes - but is hoping that the mini-revival stutters a bit tonight. Keegan said: "I am one of the people who look at Leeds and I think it is a shame what has happened there." He pointed out that Gray knows the players will respect him because of his own long experience at the top level - though Peter Reid wasn't exactly an unsuccessful player, so the argument stumbles a bit there. Keegan said: "Eddie has put all the homegrown players back in. They have worked hard, fought and scrapped and looked good in their last game against Fulham, who are not an easy side against which to play. It has been much easier for Eddie to make wholesale changes. He has been on the outside and I suppose like supporters watching, everyone has their own opinion on the team. I think what Eddie has done has proved to be right because of the results. Whatever he has done is working as they have taken seven points out of the last nine and that is championship form."
22: After the way tonight's game went you've
definitely got to consider this as a point gained rather than two
dropped. Leeds took the lead against the run of play in the first
half when Alan Smith hit a great ball out of defence for James
Milner to run into a promising position, then play a sloppy ball
that should have been easy for David Sommeil to clear. But Sommeil
stumbled, Viduka pounced and it was 0-1. Although Leeds did get
into a couple of half-decent positions, it was City all the way for
much of the rest of the game. Shaun Wright-Phillips against Ian
Harte was always going to be an unequal contest for pace, but the
midfield covered well, and when we did need a bit of luck, the post
provided it from Joey Barton's cracking shot from outside the
December 22: Club captain and man-of-the-match Dominic Matteo reckoned that Leeds deserved the point in tonight's game - but admitted that City's pressure had nearly snatched the points. He said: "It is a good point, you can't fault their effort. Manchester City might feel a bit aggrieved not to have had three points but that's what this league is about - it's a tough league. We play as a team, we stick together, we all look out for each other." Kevin Blackwell was happy that he'd managed to keep Eddie Gray's recovery on course with a point. He said: "I think it was one of those games you set your plan out and try to get something from it and I'm delighted to come out with a draw. I thought it was great fighting spirit out there today - they put their bodies in where it matters." As for the other Kevin, Mr Keegan was understandably a bit unhappy that his players didn't convert possession into more goals, but was happy enough with the commitment from his side after a run of lacklustre games. Keegan said: "We were fighting to get a point and in the end you are happy with a point. But with a bit of luck and bit more composure maybe we would have got three points. The players' attitude was fantastic, their heads didn't go down, they kept going."
December 21: Paul Robinson said that the team could not afford to sit back and relax after producing a couple of good results over the last three games. He said: "Hopefully, we've now turned the corner but we've got to keep it going and we cannot rest on our laurels." He pointed to the way the team bounced back from conceding a late goal against Fulham to grab the winner as evidence of the new spirit: "To get a goal after conceding so late was great." And Robbo is also hoping that the next three weeks bring some improvements off the field as well: "It would be nice to get some stability in the club again, get a manager in and see the financial side of things sorted out. Hopefully, things can go on from there then."
December 21: Leeds head coach Kevin Blackwell today spoke of the rapid learning curve he has faced since he joined Leeds. First up, there was the change of manager: "I didn't know Peter when I first arrived and I was trying to learn from him and get used to his methods, but then he went. Now I'm trying to learn off Eddie." Then of course, there's the uncertainty off the park to contend with: "If new owners come in they might want their own people. That's football and you have to accept that and move on." And although he's coping with the ongoing crisis that is LUFC plc, it's not an experience he necessarily wants to repeat in the future: "Please God, I don't have to come across [these experiences] again in football, but if I do then I will know how to handle it." What happened to that player we were supposed to be lending to Sheffield United this season in part-compensation for Blackwell? Maybe Neil Warnock just decided that the last thing they needed on their books was someone associated with the absymal performances seen at Bramall Lane twice last season.
December 21: The Chief pledged to give Leeds another season if the worst comes to the worst and we go down this summer. After 9 years of dedicated service - interrupted by some chronic knee problems - he wants to do right by the club and help out where he can. He said: "If we go down, the guys on loan won't stay and some will be out of contract - so what are United going to be left with? I'll be happy if that's the case. I can't go anywhere as my heart is with Leeds." Of course he will also be eligible for a testimonial next year - and even if (sorry - when) we stay up, should he decide that the knees can't carry him at the top level any more, the very least the club can do is offer the fans a chance to say thank you and goodbye to a truly great player.
December 21: Our good friends from Old Trafford clearly think we're even more desperate than outward appearances suggest: they've put in an offer of just £3.5 million for Mark Viduka according to reports in today's papers. Needless to say, Trevor Birch has turned them down flat. Now maybe if they treble it we can talk...
December 21: David O'Leary says that Leeds are too good for the drop, and will finish above his Villa side this season. Speaking in the Birmingham Evening Mail he says: "They're a good team. They've got Eirik Bakke to come back and they're a quality team that finished above us last season and should finish above us again this season. I'm firmly of the opinion that Leeds won't go down. Eddie Gray has too good a squad for that, particularly with [Viduka and Smith] up front." Here's hoping we demonstrate our innate superiority over Villa on Boxing Day!
December 20: Rio Ferdinand was banned for 8 months last night by the FA Commission appointed to investigate his failure to take a drugs test last September. Needless to say Man U intend to appeal, although in setting the ban to less than the 2 years demanded by many there seems to be some indication that the testing procedures were not as good as they could be, but equally they shown an intention not to be cowed by ManU's delaying tactics into a shorter ban in order to make sure that Ferdinand was available for Euro 2004. It's a sensible decision in the circumstances, but only serves to further highlight the ridiculously privileged position that footballers continue to enjoy in all aspects of their career: a (non-American) athlete in a similar position would have had no opportunity to avoid the test, would have faced five or six times more tests anyway and would have been banned the second they failed to appear for a test. Maybe now the FA - with support from UEFA and FIFA will finally bring football into line with most of the rest of the sporting world.
December 20: Eddie Gray is worried that Robbie Fowler will haunt Leeds with a goal on Monday night. Gray pointed out that he had struggled to make a mark at Leeds because of injury problems, and that his time at City had been similarly troubled. He said: "I obviously watched Robbie in training and he is as good as any finisher I've ever seen. He has great technical ability and he was very easy to work with. I've not seen enough of him recently to comment on how he has been playing since he left here, but I know he is a top-class player and a great finisher."And he went on: "I'm sure he'll be looking forward to the game - if Kevin Keegan picks him - and I'm also sure he'd like to put one over on us." City look set to welcome back defender Michael Tarnat after a thigh injury, Darren Huckerby is back from a loan spell and the simple fact that he is scoring goals might persuade Keegan to give him a a chance, and Eyal Berkovic is also in contention for a starting place. Lamine Sakho is back in the squad for Leeds after shaking off a rib injury, but Leeds will almost certainly be unchanged at the start anyway.
December 19: Eddie Gray today heaped praise on the way Mark Viduka has taken on the role of sole striker and said how important he has been to the team's recent improvement in form. Gray said: "Since I've come back to the club, he has been terrific. I've never had any problem with Mark, who is a top-class striker. He is certainly a vital member of our team and I was delighted to see him score, because once he starts scoring goals, to go with everything else he has got, he shows how important he is to us." But such form and praise might come at a price: Viduka's revitalisation has reawakened interest from Italy and today's tabloids suggest that Zaccheroni will make a move to take him on loan in January with a view to sealing a permanent move to Inter in the summer.
December 19: According to Xinhua News Agency, one of China's biggest sports papers has said that suggestions of an imminent takeover by multi-millionaire businessman Xu Ming is not on the cards. The paper says that despite reports of his interest in linking up with a European club, he is currently in the throes of taking over a couple of teams back in China and will not have the time or funds to branch out abroad.
December 19: Leeds chief exec Trevor Birch has once again gone on the record to say that there will be no enforced departures from Elland Road in January. Birch refused to say "never" - but made it clear that the club would not accept any opportunistic offers from clubs thinking we had no choice but to say yes. He said: "If you get an absolute knockout offer and somebody comes in and offers £50million for Mark Viduka then you are going to think about it. But the stated objective is to retain our status as a Premier League club and you don't achieve that by selling your players - again!" He pointed out the nonsensical logic in offloading a player for a small short-term gain when such a player could ensure Leeds avoided relegation: "Selling Mark Viduka for, say £5million, and losing £25million if you get relegated -those figures don't really stack up."
December 19: Simon Johnson is set to start his second game of the season tomorrow with Blackpool facing Port Vale. And in many ways he's not unhappy to have a break from Elland Road. He said: "It has been difficult times both on and off the pitch, you can't deny that. Hopefully though the lads back there can make a comeback this season and start to put things right for next year." But he knows what loans are all about, having had a spell at Hull last season and must now get on with developing an understanding with his new team-mates in double-quick time. He's a bit worried about what his absence will do for his chances at Leeds - but can take good heart from the rapid re-integration of Stephen McPhail and Frazer Richardson after their loan spells earlier this season. Johnson said: "The boss at Leeds, Eddie Gray, said it would be a good move for me over the Christmas period and asked me if I'd like to go. As soon as he told me which club it was there was no hesitation." Johnson has looked like a Brian Deane in the making at times - all gangly legs but with a bit of pace and good strength if a bit short of close control. The challenge for him now is to use the opportunity of regular first-team football to sharpen up his skills so that he can make a contribution at the very top level on his return.
December 18: Danny Mills has escaped without any further action by the FA after he appeared to stamp on Paolo di Canio in Saturday's clash between Boro and Charlton. Di Canio came away from the incident with blood streaming from a head wound, but the video evidence was apparently inconclusive, and needless to say both managers didn't see a thing. Amazing how video cameras suddenly go all fuzzy and unclear when you're not wearing a Leeds shirt, isn't it?
December 18: Eddie Gray has told the loanees at the club that they will need to fight for their places and show some spirit if they are to get back into the squad. Gray has dropped all of Peter Reid's loan signings apart from Jermaine Pennant, reverting to a squad that bears some resemblance to the players he worked with when Leeds got through to the Champions League semi-finals, which means that Zoumana Camara, Lamine Sakho, Salomon Olembe, Didier Domi, Cyril Chapuis and Roque Junior are all sitting on the sidelines at the moment - although the Brazilian is carrying an injury after the last batch of World Cup qualifiers. It's a bit hard on Olembe and Camara who had both settled into their positions pretty well, but the caretaker boss said he had reverted to players whose capabilities he understood best, after being turfed out of his coaching role at the end of last season. Gray said: "I can only pick the players I believe will get results, if you don't get them then you start changing things but for the moment while we are picking up results I'm sticking with the players that are tried and tested." And he went on: "I just wanted to do the job that I thought needed to be done, and that's not a criticism of anybody. People have different views and different ideas in the game and I had my views about what needed to be done... I have explained to them that if they get an opportunity while I am still here then they have got to take it, as simple as that."
December 18: With the excellent timing we've come to expect, it seems that Soccer Australia have scheduled a friendly against the mighty Venezuela in February - leaving Mark Viduka to face at least half a day in the air plus jet lag just two days before Leeds visit Old Trafford. Of course it might not be Leeds' problem by then - in fact some rumours suggest it could be a problem for the team in red, with Fergie looking to pick up a non-European-cup-tied striker to lighten the load on Ruud van Horseyface and Vidooks is in the frame. Fergie is also said to be keeping an eye on the position of James Milner - a very close eye in fact since his son Jason is Milner's agent! But Milner hasn't given any hint that he's unhappy at Elland Road, and both the player and his agent will be well aware that he will do much more to boost his profile and earning potential by playing regularly and performing well for Leeds rather than warming the bench and trotting out for reserve and Carling Cup games over the Pennines.
December 18: The home game against Liverpool has been put back by a day due to Liverpool's UEFA Cup commitments. With the Reds due to play on the Thursday night, the game at Elland Road will now kick off at noon on Sunday February 29.
December 18: Eddie Gray hailed the turnaround in the last three games and says that the team can use it as the base to start a climb up the table. He said: "Now the players know we are not adrift and that will give us confidence, but I don't think they will be happy until we are in a position that is comfortable for the club, I know I won't be and I am sure they won't." But he says that there's a lot of hard work ahead both on the training pitch and on matchdays to build on that confidence, adding: "Confidence is what it's all about, if you gain results it comes quickly, but if you're not then it can take a long time. It is only results that do that... If they have the belief in themselves and their team-mates they can start climbing the table."
December 18: Darren Huckerby's agent says that his client still thinks of himself as a Premier League striker and wants the chance to prove what he can do during the remaining 18 months of his contract at Manchester City. Phil Smith said: "Darren has gone back to Manchester City and he wants to give it a go. He would like a chance to play for City again and it will be self-evident over the next couple of weeks whether he will get it or not." Both West Brom and Norwich are interested in him, and as the top two in Division 1 he'd have a good chance of coming straight back into the Premiership as a regular player if he decided to move, but both clubs have made significant transfer moves to strengthen their positions this week, and there won't be too much cash to splash on his Premiership pay packet if he risks a move. In fact with Man City on an eight-game winless streak, there's a high probability of him making an appearance against Leeds on Monday night if he's still there.
December 17: Jody Morris made a short appearance at Leeds Crown Court today in a preparatory hearing. Appearing with co-defendant Kristofer Dickie, Morris was only required to confirm his name as a full hearing was timetabled for March 10. Morris will remain available for selection during the period leading up to the trial, with the club confirming that Morris has reiterated his protestations of innocence.
December 17: Eddie Gray will not be in the dug-out on Monday night for the trip to the City of Manchester Stadium. Natalie - one of his daughters - is getting married on Monday, and there's no way that Eddie could make the wedding and the game. Gray told the YEP: "Of course I'm disappointed about missing the Man City game, but I'd be disappointed if I wasn't there to see Natalie get married. The wedding was fixed up in the summer - I wasn't with Leeds at time - and it would be impossible for me to attend both. It's one of those things that is unavoidable and cannot be helped." Eddie will be available in the run-up to the game, but head coach Kevin Blackwell will pick up the reins from Eddie for the match itself.
December 17: Frazer Richardson is anticipating giving Gary Kelly a run for his money now that he's back from his loan spell at Stoke. The young full-back impressed the management at the Britannia Stadium and they wanted to keep him on for another month, but Eddie Gray wants him back at Leeds, and with Danny Mills out of the way he sees a clear path forward. He said: "I just want to get some games under my belt here and hopefully Eddie can involve me more than I have been. I am the only other right back here and that could bode well in the near future because there are a lot of games coming up over the Christmas period and a few injuries here and there and I might be in there."
December 17: Chesterfield were well and truly hammered in yesterday's practice match. Obviously not being played at full pace - but with the likes of Matt Kilgallon and Frazer Richardson back from loan spells, and Aaron Lennon not being involved in the last few first team games, Eddie Gray took the chance to see how they were getting on and they certainly showed some form: the final score was 7-1 to Leeds!
December 16: Eirik Bakke's recovery from his summer knee op is running ahead of schedule, and he could take some part in a practice match to be played behind closed doors against Chesterfield today. After being the latest in a long line of football players to go under the knife of Dr Richard Steadman, he has been building up to full fitness and now looks ready to get into some real football, and in the absence of any more reserve games this year, today's game is the ideal opportunity. Eddie Gray said: "He's started training again, he's been knocking the ball around and we would expect him to be joining in properly with the first team in a week or so. He's way ahead of schedule at the moment and we may just have to hold him back a little bit."
December 16: West Brom have had an undisclosed offer for Darren Huckerby accepted by Manchester City. Huckerby's loan spell at Norwich has just expired, but his prospects of first team football under Keegan look limited with just one appearance for City this year - against Welsh side TNS in the UEFA Cup. Baggies chairman Jeremy Peace said: "We're pleased Manchester City have accepted our offer but it's not a done deal by any means. We still have to agree personal terms with Darren and his agent and there are other clubs interested in him." Personal terms could be a big issue - since West Brom are run on a very tight budget and he would need to take a big pay cut to fit into their salary scales. Wigan and Sheffield United are also said to be interested in signing him - as are Norwich and after initially appearing to be held up by a lack of funds, it now seems that they too have had a matching bid accepted. Canaries boss Nigel Worthington said: "It was nice to be able to agree a fee with Manchester City. We've now got to be patient and see how it all pans out."
December 16: Jermaine Pennant has had his loan period at Leeds extended by a further month. Arsene Wenger was happy for him to continue to get first team experience at Elland Road, but has put a block on him facing his fellow Gunners for a second time this season when the FA Cup game comes around in January to avoid the possibility of him being cup-tied when he returns to Highbury. Wenger said: "He is looking very good. I am happy for him to play on and get experience. When he comes back he'll fight with Freddie Ljungberg for the position on the right. If he didn't play for us he'd lose three or four weeks of competition which I think is vital at his age."
December 16: Bill Gerrard was on the Prof's back again, describing him as "damaged goods" after his role in the Kewell transfer deal and the furore surrounding his "consultancy" fees paid up to next September. Gerrard said: "He is damaged goods. His reputation precedes him and there is a huge amount of hostility regarding his remuneration in the annual accounts. You have to remember this is a club teetering on the brink of administration and he has been paid up until September 2004. When that was disclosed I think that was the end of Professor McKenzie as a member of the Leeds United board." Gerrard also questioned the chairman's failure to address the bondholders in the six months leading up to Trevor Birch's appointment. But the new chief exec praised the chairman's efforts. Birch said: "John came in at a difficult time and he stabilised the club's position. He took some of the costs out of the business and gave the club breathing space. His efforts have given the club the chance to fight for survival."
December 16: A wire report today named the prime suspect in the Far East behind a move to takeover at Leeds. Xu Ming - who runs a PVC housing materials company and is already chairman of a Chinese first division side - has been linked with teams in Europe, Australia and the US and has said he would like to partner his team with a top European club. Apparently he's China's 14th-richest man - but why he'd want to spend half of his reputed $300 million fortune on Leeds with the club in its current state us a question that remains unanswered.
December 15: Eddie Gray says that he's detecting a new-found confidence in the players after today's win. "When you are near the bottom of the table you are not going to play free-flowing football all the time - you are going to have to battle. It was just a general good performance from the team. There is a bit of confidence back in the side and that's important." He refused to criticise the players for blowing the two-goal lead in the first place, adding: "Every player on the park worked hard and that's important for us in the situation we are in. It gives everybody a boost, we are just delighted that we've picked the three points up today which closes the gap on the rest of the teams and gives the boys something to go for."
December 15: Surprise goalscorer Michael Duberry said that Leeds' recent revival was down to the way that Eddie Gray was bringing out the best in all of the squad. He said: "Our confidence is growing with improved results. We are getting a level of consistency that you need in this league. Things are working well with Eddie in charge." And he added: "Sometimes it can go one of two ways when an old hand takes over. People might not respond to him, but everyone has responded to Eddie. ... We have to keep that going and we'll climb that table."
December 15: David Batty's booking in yesterday's game takes his tally to five for the season, so that means a one-match ban It looks like he'll miss the visit to Molineux on December 28 - which might be for the best if he wants to avoid some unpleasant memories at Christmas: it was during the Division 2 promotion campaign in 1989-90 that we faced Wolves in the league, losing 1-0 and seeing Batty make a hasty exit from the pitch due to a gastric complaint necessitating a quick change of shorts. Wolves will also be without an influential player: Alex Rae picked up his fifth booking of the season in their defeat by Villa and so also faces a one-match ban.
December 15: Speaking after the match yesterday, Sky's Man-of-the-Match Alan Smith said how vital the result was for the club. He said: "We never make it easy for ourselves - once we got the second goal we should have kept the ball and played football. We never do anything by halves." But he pointed to the late comeback after Fulham grabbed an equaliser that looked to have got them a share of the points. "It shows how much the lads wanted it... The main thing is we got three points and everyone worked hard. It is a good day for Leeds."
December 15: Despite Trevor Birch's denials yesterday that John McKenzie was about to leave the board, it was confirmed today that the Prof will not be seeking re-election at the AGM on December 23. In a statement today, the Prof said his over-riding reason was to avoid any possible conflict of interest with parties interested in a takeover. This can be taken to mean either that he is looking to use his Far East contacts to put together a bid of his own, or that the club have had indications that his continuing presence on the board might be seen as an obstacle to a rescue package. The Prof said: "When I was appointed Chairman of Leeds United plc I made it clear my immediate tasks were to stabilise the business; to improve our trading position; and to introduce a strong management team capable of achieving a robust, long term restructuring package." And he went on: "We have cut £20m from our costs on an annualised basis and are now beginning to trade viably. I have been fortunate to recruit in Neil Robson and, more recently, Trevor Birch, our Chief Executive, an outstanding management team." He went on: "I shall spend time over the next few critical weeks seeking to ensure that the best possible levels of funding and the most appropriate form of ownership is secured to take this great club forward."
December 15: The U-19s recorded their best result of the season at the weekend with a 4-0 home thrashing of Derby - Henry McStay, Andy Keogh and Chris Armstrong twice on the scoresheet. The U-17s drew 1-1 away, also against Derby. On Sunday the Ladies completed their 2003 programme with a 2-0 home win against Villa, Lucy Ward picking up both goals. But the win wasn't without cost: Irish midfielder Grianne Kierans suffered a broken leg after going in for a tackle 10 minutes from the end and will be out for some time.
December 15: Paul Madeley will be signing copies of the new biography - Leeds United's Rolls Royce - this week. He'll be appearing at the Leeds United store on Albion Street on Thursday night from 6pm - 7pm (hope he doesn't have to put up with the truly dreadful we-love-Leeds muzak that was playing when I was in there on Sunday), and then next Saturday afternoon he'll be at Elland Road in the club shop from 1.30pm - 2.30pm.
December 15: David O'Leary has come under fire from Michael Duberry, with the big centreback complaining that O'Leary never game him a chance. After splashing out £4.5 million to bring him up to Leeds from Chelsea in 1999, Duberry made just 20 league starts under O'Leary, although in fairness to the manager he did have a few spells out injured. But Duberry said: "I've a manager now who believes in me and that's all I've ever wanted. In being bought for a bit of money, you would think the manager believes in you, but it didn't work out like that." With Dom Matteo shifted into midfield, he now finds himself as part of the first-choice centreback pairing with Lucas Radebe, and he adds: "People say my confidence is high and I look a better player, but I've never had a run of games to compare it to because in the past I've come in for one game and gone out the next. I've always said I just need a run of games and people will see the best of me. If I keep my head down and keep playing then you'll see the player O'Leary paid all that money for."
December 14: Stories in the papers this morning suggested that Professor John McKenzie was on the point of resigning as chairman. He's always said he'd go on a point of principle rather than see Alan Smith sold - but this appears to be because he will be leading a consortium of Chinese and Far-Eastern investors in a takeover bid for the club. Intriguingly, we could see the Prof and his Oriental chums battling it out with Allan Leighton and his Gulf pals for control of the club. Chief Exec Trevor Birch later suggested it would be premature to say that the Prof was leaving - guess it would mean that Birch would be very lonely in that big old boardroom apart from anything else. With news that Diadora are willing to stump up a decent pile of cash for a new shirt deal, and with the recently improved form on the park, the prospects of the club avoiding administration - and indeed relegation - look to be improving every day.
December 14: It's three and a half years since Michael Duberry scored for Leeds - in the 3-1 win over Watford at the back end of the 1999-2000 season. And it's over three years since Dominic Matteo last troubled the scorers, netting that vital goal in the San Siro that remains the object of many chants from the terraces to this day. So it was sort of inevitable that both players would pick the same day to finally find the target again, with Ian Harte's set-piece skills also making a welcome return. An uneven first half had seen Leeds alternately dominate possession and then let Fulham get back into the game before a challenge through the back of Alan Smith (Neale Barry failing once again to produce any sort of card for a dangerous hack on a Leeds player) on the edge of the Fulham box gave Ian Harte the chance to go for goal. Harte's recent performances from set pieces have been abysmal - but today he struck a cracker: van der Sar punched the ball clear but it went straight to Doobs on the edge of the six-yard box. How much intent was involved in what happened next was questionable - but the outcome was a goal-bound effort from the centre-back's knee that gave us the lead just before the break. 60 seconds after the restart, the ground went crazy as Mark Viduka showed what he can do when he is motivated: a well-shielded ball, a little turn to make some space, a powerful run and an unstoppable curler leaving van der Sar flat-footed from 20-odd yards. 2-0 - we're cruising. A minute later, the stadium is silent after we allow Saha a long-distance shot that Robbo came agonisingly close to tipping round the post. 20 minutes to go and all of a sudden we're backing off and allowing them loads of space: Coleman brings on an extra striker to go for broke and it pays off when Robbo again fails to do enough to keep out a fierce shot from the on-form Saha - we've blown 2 points again! Still the crowd upped the noise level again, and with 5 minutes to go, another free kick is awarded to Leeds. Harte looped in a glorious ball from the right, Matteo lost his marker and glided a header just inside the post: the ground erupts and we're right back in it. Okay, so we're still second-bottom after Villa won - but the bottom half of the table is hugely compressed, and just three more points gained ahead of the competition takes us out of the relegation zone, and 5 points takes us nearly into the top half. Man City, Villa, Wolves are up next and we've got to be aiming for 9 points from those games after taking 7 from teams in first, fourth and fifth. It's an amazing turn-around in results and expectations - although the gaping holes in the South and East Stands today continues to indicate a lack of confidence and support from a lot of people who had been attracted to the club in better days.
December 14: Darren Huckerby signed off his loan spell at Norwich with a goal in their 4-1 hammering of Cardiff, closing to just two points off West Brom at the top of Division 1. Now he has to decide whether to take a pay cut in the transfer window to continue to get first team football, or just sit and pick up his pay packet while playing for the reserves at City. Brian Deane didn't actually score for West Ham - but it was his arrival and performance that turned a 0-2 deficit at home to Sunderland into a 3-2 win, with goals coming from the unsettled Jermain Defoe and Ian Pearce. Paul Shepherd opened the scoring for Leigh RMI as they won 1-2 at Dagenham in the Conference.
December 14: Young striker Simon Johnson has gone out on a month's loan to Blackpool, appearing in their 0-1 home defeat to Luton yesterday.
December 13: There will be a public meeting next Wednesday at the Civic Theatre in Leeds to discuss the current situation at Leeds and figure out what fans can do to help move things forward. Due to fire regs, entry will be by invite only - send an email to LUIFA including your phone number to get yourself in. Football finance expert Bill Gerrard will be giving his views on the current state of play - could be an enlightening experience.
December 13: There are apparently a whole pile of tickets still available for tomorrow's game. With Fulham never the biggest draw to Elland Road, and Christmas coming up the part-time (or on-a-budget) fans have been expressing their enthusiasm for the current state of play by staying away in droves, so if you want to see the all-new Eddie-inspired Leeds, Sunday is your chance. Get on to the ticket office and bag your seat today!
December 13: David Batty is the only serious doubt for tomorrow's game, but Stephen McPhail's performance against Chelsea hinted that he could continue in midfield even if Batty has recovered from his ankle injury enough to play. Sylvain Legwinski is suspended and Mark Pembridge is sidelined with a calf injury, but Luis Boa Morte is back from his suspension, and Moritz Volz, Barry Hayles and Facundo Sava are all doubts having been ill/injured over the last week but all travel and could figure in the side.
December 12: Caretaker boss Eddie Gray has told Alan Smith that he's going to have to continue to play out of position for the sake of the club. Not for the first time in the last two years, Smith finds that he's not being used in his customary role as a striker alongside Mark Viduka - but at least this time round he's not being forcibly shifted by the presence of the likes of Harry Kewell, Robbie Fowler and Robbie Keane. Gray said: "I still think Alan Smith is a top-class striker, but at the present time we need to play him in the middle of the park. He has good running power, good energy and with him alongside Dominic Matteo, and those two playing either side of David Batty, it gives us strength and power. Then we've the two young players out wide who also have a lot of energy and can put defenders under pressure, so we'll see how it goes in the next few weeks." Gray also referred to the sudden reinvigoration of Mark Viduka, but didn't take any real credit for the transformation: "I've not said that much to Mark. I just know he can play. I've told the rest of the players to give him that much of the ball that he gets fed up with it!" Eddie's chances of keeping the job long-term and indeed the whole future of the club - from whether we can avoid administration to what sort of buyer we can attract - are up for grabs in the next three weeks with the opportunity to rocket out of trouble with good results against the likes of Man City, Villa and Wolves. The points are there to be had - let's hope Eddie's transformation of the side continues through to the New Year.
December 12: The lack of a firm offer from a potential buyer could have a major impact on the club's ability to retain several senior players. Michael Bridges, David Batty, Lucas Radebe and Jason Wilcox are all out of contract in the summer, and as such are entitled to open talks with other clubs from January 1. Realistically, Wilcox does not seem to have much of a future at the club after being shown up horribly short of pace in his few appearances this season. Batty's 35th birthday a couple of weeks ago marks the deadline he himself set as the point at which he would call it quits - although his return to the first team and some good performances this season might just convince him to give it a go for one more season if Leeds stay in the top flight (or if we end up dropping down a level and ask him to apply his experience to getting Leeds back up to the Premier League). Ditto The Chief: although he has been happily settled in Yorkshire he too has indicated his desire to return home to South Africa at the end of his contract and finally give his much-abused knees a chance to recuperate before they get beyond repair. But a further year might be an enticing prospect for Radebe - particularly if the carrot of a testimonial is dangled in front of him after 10 years' loyal service to the club. Michael Bridges' departure would be the biggest worry if he ever shows that he has regained his form and fitness. Despite Mark Viduka's return to the fold, his tenure at Leeds will almost certainly end in the next 6 months, and a fit Michael Bridges is essential if we are to avoid asking Alan Smith to carry the team's goalscoring threat alone. Despite their age (Batty, Radebe) and infirmity (Radebe, Bridges), all three players would attract interest from Premier League or promotion-chasing Division 1 clubs, and chief exec Trevor Birch needs to move quickly to reassure the players that they have a future at Elland Road to avoid even the vaguest hint of a doubt forming in their minds when the agents come calling.
December 12: Leeds have turned down Stoke's request to extend Frazer Richardson's loan at the Britannia Stadium. Richardson has been there for a month and scored the winner against West Ham midweek, but Eddie Gray wants the young full-back available for selection at Elland Road to provide cover and competition for Gary Kelly.
December 12: The reserve game against Liverpool that was abandoned in midweek has been rescheduled for replay on Tuesday 30 March at Belle Vue.
December 12: One-time Leeds hardman turned actor Vinnie Jones today pleaded guilty to an "air rage" offence at Uxbridge Magistrates Court today. Jones admitted using threatening, abusive or insulting words and to common assault on a male passenger during a flight from Heathrow Airport to Japan on June 1. Jones was drinking in the first class section of the plane when he became "boorish" and lost his temper, struck a passenger and abused the flight crew. He was sentenced to 80 hours of commuity service, fined and ordered to pay costs and compensation.
December 12: Sky have announced their TV games through to the end of March, with the PPV games specified to the end of February - and Leeds are down to appear just once with the visit to Birmingham being televised on Sky Sports 2. After a TV glut in the next few weeks - Fulham, Man City and the Arsenal FA Cup tie are all down to be broadcast live - then Leeds fans look set to go nearly three months without a game before the game at St. Andrews, which will still be played on Saturday 27 March but will now kick off at 1230.
December 11: David O'Leary has come to an agreement with the club to defer the payment of some of his compensation package to help Leeds over the current financial situation. O'Leary has agreed that the remaining 50% of his pay-off can be paid in four six monthly instalments, thus removing some immediate cash-flow problems and allowing the club a little more breathing space. O'Leary said: "I've got a lot of affection for Leeds. I am sorry to see the club is in such a mess financially and am happy to do anything to help." By contrast, Terry Venables and Peter Reid are currently being paid weekly.
December 11: Chief Exec Trevor Birch says that the players are central to a successful sale of the club. He said: "The team's performances are critical. It is vital to show potential investors that they will not be taking over a team at the bottom of the league." With games against Villa, Wolves and Manchester City coming up after the Fulham game this weekend, a few points gained could well see the investors taking over a mid-table side rather than one engaged in a relegation battle. He went on to say: "Our overall objective is to find a buyer for the club at the right price and under the right conditions, to keep the team intact and to avoid relegation at all costs." Birch gave Eddie Gray his backing, quashing rumours that the players and board are about to replace him with Kevin Blackwell. "I can assure you that everybody at the club is very happy with what Eddie has been doing and are behind him 100%. The players are happy with him, so for the time being there is no change."
December 11: Alan Smith's FA hearing over the bottle-throwing incident in the Manchester United game has been deferred. Smith has agreed he is guilty of throwing the bottle but has entered a plea of mitigation and asked for a personal hearing. In typically efficent FA style, Smith's hearing will not take place until January, although he remains free to play in the meantime.
December 11: Coventry boss Gary McAllister is taking a sidestep from managing the first team for "personal reasons". The former Leeds skipper's wife has a serious illness, and he has asked to be temporarily released from club duties in order to spend more time with her. McAllister said: "I believe that I have a responsibility to be with my family at this time."
December 11: There's a new biography of Paul Madeley just on the market for Christmas. Titled "Revie's Rolls-Royce: The Life and Times of Paul Madeley", the book is written by David Saffer, but Madeley's share of the proceeds will be going to the National Heart Research Fund, as suggested by the doctor who operated on him last year when he suffered a heart complaint.
December 10: JFH opened the scoring for Chelsea in their final Champions League group game last night. He struck in the second half of the "away" game against Besiktas, played in Gelsenkirchen in Germany because of security fears over holding the game in Turkey. Meanwhile back in England, Frazer Richardson scored the only goal of the game at Upton Park to give struggling Stoke a win and increase the pressure on West Ham boss Alan Pardew. That was the last game of Richardson's loan spell at Stoke, and he is now due back at Elland Road.
December 10: The board have confirmed that they have opened discussions about a possible takeover with a number of parties. In a statement issued to the Stock Exchange today, the club said: "The Board of Leeds United PLC confirms that it is currently in discussions with a number of interested parties which are at a very early stage and may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company. The board, which is being advised by KBC Peel Hunt, will issue further statements when it is appropriate to do so." So that's clarified things a lot then.
December 10: Tickets for the FA Cup 3rd Round tie against Arsenal will be priced at £20 and concessions £10, it was announced today. Season Ticket holders can take up their seats up until December 15, with Striker members able to purchase their tickets between December 16-18 before seats go on general sale.
December 10: Caretaker boss Eddie Gray praised Stephen McPhail's attitude and ability after an impressive return to the starting line-up against Chelsea last weekend. After seeing his Leeds career hit the buffers under O'Leary, Venables and Reid, McPhail had looked to be on the way out and only Forest's poor financial position stopped them making a bid to take him on permanently when he enjoyed a good run there on loan. But now that he's back, Eddie Gray said: "Stephen hasn't played a lot of matches for us in the past few seasons, but he's never lost faith in his ability. He played at the highest level for us in Europe and I know that he has the ability to make things happen for us." McPhail in turn had praise for his boss: "I know how good a coach he is," he said.
December 10: With his new side teetering on the brink of the drop zone, David O'Leary knows he has to do something to get them back on track - and a transfer or two during the January window is looking likely. And who is he targeting? In today's Daily Star he said: "We have spent lots of money on strikers in recent years and I've got to look to buy somebody who has something proven about him." And that somebody is Mark Viduka apparently - though quite how they will afford him or attract him is a little unclear given their own precarious league position.
December 10: Lee Matthews has joined Darlo on loan from Bristol City for a month. He's only played once for the Robins since September, and with the Quakers' top scorer Barry Conlon out with a three-match ban, Matthews' move is an opportunity to remind the rest of the league what he can do. Darlo boss Dave Hodgson said: "Technically he's a very good player. He has a presence about him on the field and he can score goals."
December 09: Today's Mirror reports that our favorite Sheikh has got two friends lined up to invest in the club. Sheikh Mansour Salah Al-Zamil is involved in the oil, steel, construction and real estate industries and thinks that Leeds could become a huge brand across the Middle East. The third member of Al-Khalifa's consortium is a member of the Saudi Royal Family - Sheikh Fahd bin Muhammed Al-Sudairi. But it's still not clear how much the club would be sold for, and how much would go to shareholders and how much to bondholders. It obviously makes sense for the club - or any buyers - to negotiate a discount on any current liabilities, whether that is to Robbie Fowler in wages, the US bondholders in interest and capital payments, or the shareholders. Realistically, administration would see the shareholders get nothing, the bondholders 10-20 pence in the pound and any other debtors would have to take their chances - and that's a fact that the would-be investors will no doubt be highlighting in their negotiations.
December 09: Nick Barmby today responded to criticism that he missed Saturday's draw with Chelsea in order to watch Hull's home game against Bury. On the official website, he said: "I have been to every first team home game this season, willing the lads to do well and getting behind them. But last Saturday I was at Hull because my son had tickets in a box there and I was there to take him home and everything." He went on to restate his commitment to the club, and his hopes that he would be given a chance to prove his form under Eddie Gray after being frozen out by Peter Reid. He said: "I will keep working hard and doing my best in the reserves to try and get a chance again, I haven't given up and I will keep going."
December 09: David Batty is back in training after his ankle ligament problems turned out to be less serious than was initially feared. The experienced midfielder damaged his ankle last Friday and was forced to miss the Chelsea game, with concerns that he could be out until the New Year. But he's come through the treatment with flying colours and might even be ready to face Fulham in Sunday afternoon's game.
December 09: Far from elbowing the caretaker manager aside in the chase for the permanent position, coach Kevin Blackwell today said how much he admired what Eddie Gray has achieved in the last few weeks. Speaking in today's YEP, Blackwell said: "Eddie's done a great job since he came in. He's steadied the ship and allowed people to do their jobs. He's covered all the angles and his team-talks are tremendous. He leaves people in no doubt what he wants and he's getting a response." Blackwell went on to say that he was embarrassed about the speculation linking him with the "vacant" managerial position, and said that he thought that Gray's performance so far demonstrated that he deserved the job on a permanent basis.
December 09: Danny Mills said that Steve McClaren had made him feel wanted again after Peter Reid elbowed him out at Leeds. He went on to say that it was down to Leeds as to whether or not the move to Boro became permanent, but it was pretty clear that he's now settled at Boro and would like to stay. He said: "But by all accounts Steve McClaren would like me here on a permanent basis. I've just got to sit tight until the offer is made, be it permanently or not." If you want to ask Danny about his future at Leeds - or wherever - you could enter the bidding at eBay where there's an auction running to have a live video-chat with Mills via a "3" video phone - proceeds from the auction go to the ASBAH charity.
December 09: The retrial of five men accused of murdering Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight three and a half years aho was postponed yet again in Istanbul today. Not for the first time, some of the defendants failed to turn up at today's Appeal Court hearing. Only Ali Umit Demir - who has admitted the murders but who could not be forensically linked to the crimes - remains in custody.
December 09: Tonight's reserve game against Liverpool was abandoned halfway through the second half with Belle Vue shrouded in fog. The Pool were 1-2 up at the time - Henry McStay scoring Leeds' goal from the spot when the ref decided that the game had to end since he could no longer see both goals.
December 08: After two performances in which the team suddenly look like a winning side again, Eddie Gray has said he'd like to take the manager's job on a permanent basis. Speaking on Sky Sports News, Gray said: "I've been there before and I would do it again, definitely. It's a great life." And he was backed by club captain Dom Matteo, who said that Gray was getting more out of the players since he took over. Matteo said: "He's got a great feeling for this club and he's told the players that we should play like we want to die for this club."
December 08: The club have denied reports that an official bid has been forthcoming from Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa. He was quoted in Gulf papers saying that he was awaiting a response from the Leeds board, and indicated that the consortium he was fronting consisted of an Asian company and a couple of wealthy businessmen from Saudi Arabia. But the club have insisted that they have yet to receive a formal bid from anyone, although Allan Leighton is also believed to be finalising details for his own bid now that he has left the board.
December 08: With Nike due to pull out of the shirt deal at the end of this season, Leeds are said to be on the point of signing a new deal - and for record money too! The new company have not been named yet, but it's either a huge vote of confidence in the Prof and Trevor Birch and their ability to turn things round, or the company accountant went to the same school of economics as Peter Ridsdale.
December 08: Jermaine Pennant's performance against Chelsea has made a few other clubs sit up and take notice. After a patchy spell in a poorly-performing side at the start of the season, Pennant produced his best game of the season against league-leaders Chelsea on Saturday, and now it seems that a couple of clubs in a more robust financial state than Leeds are considering making a permanent bid for the player in January. Arsenal are understood to be prepared to let Pennant stay on at Elland Road for the rest of the season, but Birmingham are ready to tempt the Gunners with some hard cash in January. Speaking about his goal against Chelsea, he said: "It just opened up for me. I went past a couple, carried on going and just hit it. I was nervous but I can't describe the feeling when it hit the back of net... All I've wanted to do since I came here is score a goal and I'm proud of it." I'm happy too - I was just about to give up on him in my Fantasy League team when he bagged that goal on Saturday!
December 08: To the great surprise of absolutely nobody, the Leeds-Arsenal match in the third round of the FA Cup has been chosen by Sky as their tie of the round, so moves back to a 4:05 kick-off on Sunday 4 January.
December 08: With Internazionale starved of firepower up front since the departure of Hernan Crespo to Chelsea (okay, okay they've got Vieri, but it's all relative) they are said to be looking for a new striker. So we have another early shot across the bows of the January transfer window with Zaccheroni dropping a hint that Alan Smith's good start to the Premier League season could see him being targeted. He said: "I am surprised no Italian side tried to buy Smith in August knowing the financial situation at Leeds."
December 07: Leeds have been drawn to face holders Arsenal at home in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. We've never beaten them at home in this competition before - and the only time we've held them to a draw we've lost the replay at Highbury. The only two occasions when we've actually managed an FA Cup victory over the Gunners was the last time we were drawn together in 1997, when a Rod Wallace goal sealed a 1-0 win at Highbury and of course the famous Allan Clarke header from 1972. The tie will take place sometime around January 3 - although this looks a racing certainty to be moved for TV.
December 07: Leeds Chairman Professor John McKenzie says that the club are worth £60 million - despite the financial difficulties and debts. Speaking to the BBC, he said: "It's worth it. It's a one-club, very prosperous city. We are now trading at break-even." And he went on: "My concern is Leeds having a successful team in the future and being properly financed. I think there is an opportunity for someone and there will be some interest." He made it clear that the club wanted to hang on to its prize assets, and that there would probably be some leeway in the January 19 deadline if a sale looked imminent: "If we were near to completing satisfactory negotiations with somebody just before that period I am sure our creditors would extend the time zones, so I am sure it not quite as defined as that." But I guess the corollary of that is that an absence of a committed purchaser by that point will almost certainly lead to sales prior to the transfer window closing, and you can bet your life savings that any club interested in picking up one of our players will make the most derisory offer imaginable knowing that Leeds would be forced to accept it.
December 07: No real surprises that the Leeds Ladies side were heavily beaten this weekend, since they were facing treble-winning Fulham away from home. Leeds had run them close in the cup earlier this season, but Fulham were 2-0 up by half-time, and although Stacy Daniel reduced the deficit at the start of the second half, it wasn't long before Fulham were back on the scoresheet again, going on to record a 4-1 win.
07: The Euro round-up is back after a week off and
finds Real Madrid back on top of La Liga following their first
league win in the Nou Camp in 20 years. Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo
were on target for Madrid, and althugh Patrick Kluivert pulled a
goal back with 7 minutes to go, the visitors held firm and move to
the top of the pile. Deportivo La Coruna moved into second spot on
Saturday after struggling to see off Malaga at the Riazor - a
Capdevila goal finally separated the two sides. Two goals for
Vicente gave Valencia the points against Bilbao in the Mestalla to
leapfrog Depor into second spot in tonight's game. Osasuna are this
season's surprise package, and their 3-2 win over Champions League
side Celta Vigo sees them up to fourth spot - while their visitors
languish 5 places from the foot of the table. One below Celta Vigo
you'll see last season's championship challengers Real Sociedad, in
the throes of a miserable season, made worse by yesterday's 0-4
hammering by Real Betis.
December 06: Trevor Birch has held meetings with the players to try to put them at ease over the long-term future of the club. The chief executive is an ex-player himself - albeit not quite at the same level as the people he's talking to - and hopefully his footballing experience combined with his obvious financial expertise will have reassured the squad. Alan Smith said: "[Birch] reassured them he is doing everything in his power to make sure we get back on an even keel and that things are okay at the present time." Birch has confirmed that he is expecting several bids for the club, but the big question is whether they will come before or after administration. It's interesting that the "standstill period" with the creditors runs out before the end of the transfer window, although it would still take some time to formally install administrators so it may be a bit of cunning timing to use the closing of the transfer window to avoid any enforced asset sales at the behest of administrators.
December 06: I don't think many people expected anything other than a defeat against Chelsea today, so the 1-1 draw looks like a cracking result and the way the team played was again indicative of the transformation that Eddie Gray is having on the field - so much for his lack of a UEFA badge! Jermaine Pennant's goal was well-taken, but was down to the fact that we are now trying to defend from the front as much as a specific bit of individual brilliance. Paul Robinson made some good saves and despite looking a bit short of pace, the defence coped admirably with - almost - everything that Chelsea could throw at us. Eddie now reckons we are on course to avoid the drop - although there's obviously a long way to go. He said: "We realised before the game that it was going to be difficult, but we stuck to our task very well. All the boys worked hard at their game and I hope it gives a psychological lift that we are now off the bottom." And he gave a few clues about how he is evolving the team's tactics: "I would like us to dominate matches more, but that is not going to happen, so for the time being we are simply going to have to work just as hard and make it difficult for other teams to play." Claudio Ranieri gave Leeds credit for their effort: "Leeds deserved their point, they worked well together, and it meant we had to work just as hard." But the Blues stayed top and Ranieri was happy with that. He said: "We came here top of the league and, of course, it is enjoyable to see that we are still there after the game. But Sir Alex Ferguson is right when he says it's important to be there at the end of the season, rather than now."
December 06: Jermaine Pennant says that he'd like to stay on at Elland Road for a further spell after opening his account with a goal against Chelsea today. He said: "The longer it gets extended for the better; the happier I am. Hopefully I can add something to the team. Playing more games in The Premiership will only help my career take off." And Pennant was happy with the way the team have turned things around in the last couple of weeks: "When you're at the bottom every game is a dog-fight. We've got good quality players. We've got four points from the last two games, if we keep this up we'll move up the table."
December 06: David Batty will probably be out until the New Year after picking up an ankle ligament injury in training this week. Batts has played well and anchored the midfield when he has been available, but he still seems unable to put together a solid run of games without picking up another knock.
December 06: Quite a few goals to report for former Leeds players today, most notably Robbie Keane with a hat-trick in Spurs' 5-2 win over Wolves which allowed Leeds to climb off the foot of the table. Mike Whitlow gave Sheffield United a 1-2 lead with a header on the half hour at Turf Moor, but Burnley came back to win 3-2 after Michael Brown was dismissed for the visitors. Alan Maybury equalised for Hearts at Dunfermline, but that too was to no avail as the home side went on to win 2-1. Bob Taylor scored the third of Cheltenham's goals in their 3-1 FA Cup win over Leyton Orient, and Brian Deane scored a left-foot curler from the edge of the box to give West Ham a rapidly-surrendered lead at The Hawthorns in a game that finished 1-1.
December 05: Alan Smith says that he can't believe what has happened at Elland Road and how far and fast the club has fallen from grace. Smith said: "Something's wrong and we don't know if it's going to be fixed or not. So for the time being we're just waiting and fingers crossed all goes well, it gets turned around and sorted out." He went on: "It's mystifying how can it happen... We've sold good players - and there are good players here - but for the foreseeable future Leeds United is going to be a middle of the road team." And although he has always been happy at the club, and successive senior directors have pledged never to sell him, he appreciates that the financial realities of administration might force the board's hand. "At the minute I'm doing as much as I can on the field and trying the best as I can for Leeds, but what the future holds, I don't think anybody really knows. It's out of my hands."
December 05: If you're free on Monday afternoon and in the Leeds area, you might want to give Tom Edmonds a quick email with your phone number. They're making a programme to go out on BBC1 in the Yorkshire region on Monday night at 2235 (Sky channel 946 if you've got it) and are looking for interested and opinionated voices for the studio audience. Harry Gration will be presenting it, and guests include football finance expert Bill Gerrard and journalist Mihir Bose, who has made a bit of a speciality of digging into the darkest recesses of football finances.
December 05: David Batty is the biggest doubt for Eddie Gray's team for tomorrow's game. He twisted his ankle in training this week and is touch-and-go to be fit enough to start. Eddie Gray said: "It's not what we need at this late stage, but there's still a chance he might be fit in time." Seth Johnson is over the ankle injury that saw him miss the Charlton game, and is the most likely to come into the side in the event of Batty's injury. For Chelsea, they should have a full-strength line-up available, with many of their top stars rested for this week's Carling Cup win at Reading.
December 05: Alan Smith will be appearing on tomorrow's Football Focus on BBC1 at lunchtime, talking about the problems at Leeds and what the team can do to get back on an even keel. And he also reveals himself as another voice in favour of Eddie Gray's long-term appointment. Smith said: "If we keep winning, keep him in charge - I see no reason why not. I just hope the club don't use Eddie, until they find someone else, because of his loyalty." And Smith poured cold water on the suggestion that Gray did not enjoy the support of the team. He says: "But he definitely has the backing of the players. Anyone who questioned that and then saw the game last Saturday will now realise everybody is 100% with him."
December 05: Roque Junior's agent has slammed suggestions that his client may be returning to Italy. After a shaky start at Leeds, compounded by an injury picked up while playing for Brazil, it's hardly surprising that he might want to end his loan spell early, but his agent said: "There are absolutely no negotiations going on for Roque Junior. As it stands Roque Junior will stay at Leeds, unless there are very particular conditions that would facilitate him leaving... At the present time I can completely rule out this hypothesis."
December 04: Bryan Robson's cheeky bid to take Michael Bridges on loan to Bradford City has failed. With Mark Viduka returning to the fold and Bridges still not though to be ready for regular Premier League action, City were looking to take advantage of the desperate financial position at Leeds by getting Bridges off the books for a month or two.
December 04: It is believed that Trevor Birch has reached an agreement with MetLife and Teachers to defer repayments for a couple of months in order to buy the club time to formalise a takeover. Birch is understood to have convinced the institutions that he can flush out a bid from someone with enough financial clout to safeguard their investment rather than face a massive write-down through administration. It has transpired that Sheikh Abdul bin Mubarak Al Khalifa was involved with the club a couple of years ago when Peter Ridsdale was touting the possibility of a new stadium, and it is believed that the Sheikh had indicated that he and his contacts could provide the necessary financing. Although there were other reasons for the failure to get that project underway, the absence of any real financial backing then and the Sheikh's inability to come up with the couple of million promised last month to help stabilise the club have left the board deeply sceptical about the likelihood of a viable bid emerging from that quarter.
December 04: Paul Robinson is the latest player to be linked with a move away from the club as the board struggles to sort out the long-term financial security of the club. Robbo was apparently being touted around Old Trafford and Highbury during the summer but to no avail, before Leeds and Villa agreed a fee for his services only to see the deal founder on personal terms. After Neil Sullivan's departure to Chelsea, Spurs were also considered a possible destination for the young keeper, and although the sale might delay the day when Alan Smith's departure would have to be considered, it would leave Leeds needing to cast around urgently for some experienced goalkeeping cover or consider the promotion of Scott Carson from the youth team to the first team, with no available back-up. Maybe we should see if David Seaman wants to come back to where he started out?
December 04: The board have gone public on their plans for the immediate future of the club after finally getting agreement from the club's major creditors. In the short-term, they have negotiated a "stand-still" agreement which allows the club to use some of the money earmarked for capital and interest repayments to be used as working capital - essentially paying the wages and outstanding bills at the club. In addition, HSBC have agreed to provide improved loan facilities to the club. But in return, the board are expected to effect a sale of the club as a going concern, with the fundamentals of the deal to be in place by January 19. Allan Leighton stepped down from the board to avoid any question of a conflict of interest, since he's likely to be involved with at least one of the bids, and the board also confirmed that they had finally received a formal approach from Sheikh Abdulrahman Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa which might lead to an offer for the business. Interestingly, the board also pointed out that such an offer might "not realize value for the equity at the current share price" - in other words the speculative bubble which has seen the share price double in the last week is not indicative of the likely bid price, and anyone who has bought shares at the current price in the hope of making a fast turn on the buyout is likely to be disappointed. As for who the buyer will be, it's anybody's guess. But a suggestion that a fans consortium might be able to fund such a move can be laughed out of court (unless one of those fans happens to be a billionaire), with bids most likely from ex-insider Allan Leighton and - now that Leighton has left the board - Peter Wilkinson, a long-term Leeds fan with a big pile of cash from successful technology businesses who is understood to have been unwilling to invest in the club as long as Leighton remained on board.
December 03: Despite rumours doing the rounds that Eddie Gray had fallen out with several senior players, he won some public backing from the biggest "malcontent" around. Mark Viduka's relationship with Peter Reid had completely disintegrated, but he's more than happy with the caretaker's work to date. Viduka said: "[The board] should give Eddie the job permanently. The players are working very hard in training, Eddie is a winner as a bloke and is as good as anyone in the Premiership as a manager-coach. Hopefully we can build on the win we achieved at Charlton and remain positive throughout the team." There are suggestions that Eddie's lack of the necessary formal qualifications and the supposed rift with some players might lead to Kevin Blackwell getting the job - but that's probably a decision they will postpone until either a real buyer for the club emerges or until Eddie's three-month grace period from the FAPL and LMA runs out.
December 03: Paul Okon today said that Peter Reid's treatment of Mark Viduka was nothing short of a disgrace. Speaking in today's Sun - and without a hint of sour grapes honest - the Vicenza midfielder said: "To bring the best out of players you need to show them respect - and Reid certainly didn't do that with Mark. He took all the credit for keeping Leeds up last season when in fact it was down to Mark's 14 goals in 10 games and the form of Harry Kewell. Then he repaid Mark by fining him a week's wages for doing nothing wrong and making him the scapegoat for his own failings." However, respect is a two-way street, and Viduka (and his agent) have shown Leeds precious little of that commodity since the end of last season. Nonetheless, Okon continues to dump on Reid for the current plight of the team, seemingly blind to the fact that it was his good chum Terry Venables who was at the helm when the serious on-field decline started and accelerated. But Okon adds: "In the end, [Reid] deserved what he got. I have nothing positive to say about Peter Reid either as a coach or as a man. He's the reason Leeds are in the position they now find themselves in. Now, at least, Leeds have a chance of staying up with Eddie Gray in charge."
December 03: Nearly 24 million Leeds shares changed hands today as the prospect of a takeover continues to tempt traders looking for a swift profit. At one point this morning, the shares were trading close to a 12-month high at 5.375 pence, and closed at 4.62 pence with the markets expecting an imminent announcement on the future of the club. The club issued a statement reiterating that no formal approach had been made. Trevor Birch has been holding further talks with the club's main creditors and it is understood that an agreement has been reached to free up some funds in the short term, allowing the club to trade safely through to January, and giving time for one of the Middle Eastern bidders to come through with a genuine bid for the club. It is rumoured that Allan Leighton's departure from the board is imminent in order for him to take a leading role in such a bid. Keep watching that Bloomberg feed...
December 03: In among all of the bid speculation that has been doing the rounds concerning Alan Smith and Michael Bridges, someone out there has put two and two together to make five. Mark Viduka's availability and Roy Keane's comments at the weekend that ManU needed another striker have come together to suggest that Fergie could be thinking about a January swoop for the big Aussie. Of course, there's also the suggestion that Nicolas Anelka, Louis Saha or Jermain Defoe will be the man to take some of the load off horse-face van Nistelrooy, but Viduka's proven ability in the Premier League and Europe, coupled with the bargain price they will no doubt be able to hammer out of us might just offset his astronomical wage requirements.
December 03: Speaking to BBC Radio Leeds today, the man at the centre of all of the latest bid speculation spoke about his intentions for the club. Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Mubarak al-Khalifa (try fitting that on the back of a shirt!) said: "It is very important that the fans know I have the club at heart, and my intention is to move forward because it looks like the administration is just around the corner." He went on: "At this stage, I cannot say very much more than I said yesterday, that we have the team working, negotiations are ongoing and the consortium is ready if things go according to plan - and that is to hopefully avoid administration." And he insists his intentions are clear and coincide with what the fans want for the club: "I am not a vulture, I am a fan and I have suffered just like all the fans have suffered and I hope to make it work."
December 03: The reserves went down 3-1 to Birmingham at Damson Park last night. Leeds were 2-0 down inside 25 minutes through Motteram, and Clinton Morrision added a third halfway through the second half. Leeds pulled one back through a spot kick, but Steve Agnew's young players couldn't do enough to pull out a draw against an experienced Blues side. There was no sign of Michael Bridges for Leeds - so maybe he'll be considered for the Chelsea game on Saturday after being rested tonight.
December 02: The continued failure of the club to agree a refinancing deal with the main creditors means that administration could be just a few days away. There's only enough money in the bank to pay the bills to around the end of January, with £20 million needed for debt repayments by June. Allan Leighton is still ready to pump in some of his own and his partners' money, but may need to step down from the board in order to avoid breaking various regulations concerning loans from directors.
December 02: Shaun Allaway has had his loan spell at Walsall extended by a month. With Walsall's normal backup keeper still recovering from a broken wrist, Allaway is getting some reserve games in and is hoping that he can build enough of a reputation to stand a chance of securing a new contract elsewhere when his deal at Leeds expires in the summer. Allaway was a regular in the England Youth setup, but was knocked out of contention by a spell of injury and now finds Scott Carson has jumped the queue at Leeds. Allaway said: "I'm really enjoying it here... I'd love to get a chance in the first team here but there's no way I'd wish any misfortune on Jimmy Walker. Even if he doesn't miss any games I'm getting regular reserve-team football, which I wasn't any more at Leeds, and some good coaching which will stand me in good stead for the future."
December 02: Leeds fan Gary Edwards - famous as much for his refusal to use the colour red on his decorating jobs as his attendance at Leeds games - has written a book about his experiences following Leeds over the last 35 years. You can hear him tell some of the stories from Paint it White - and get a signed copy of the book - if you turn up at the Oak Tree, Ruabon Road in Wrexham on Friday week at 7.30. There's a charitable angle to all of this, with a quiz, raffle and other stuff - tickets are available from The Barm Bar, Town Hill, The Oak Tree or ringing Macca on 01978 262267 or Colin on 07939 121282. Get on down there and here some of the stories that I'd say were unbelievable if I didn't know they were true.
December 02: Football finance expert Bill Gerrard reckons that Leeds should take the safe and sensible option of administration if the club is to safeguard its future - and it seems that Chief Exec Trevor Birch agrees with him. Birch is pressing for the club to enter administration in order to finally get the massive debts under control. Gerrard said: "The best thing for this plc to do is admit that it's come to the end of the road and put the business in the hands of the administrators and hope that a consortium, probably from the Middle East, comes in very quickly. From what's coming out of the club today, we are being told that if a buyer doesn't come in over the next two months, it will go into administration - there's clearly payments that they cannot afford that are due. Anyone with the interest of the football club at heart will come in when it's under administration because they will want to put their money into the club and not into the hands of the creditors." However, it's not clear that all of the board favour this strategy, and Allan Leighton has his own Middle Eastern contacts independent of Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al Khalifa who may be set to team up with him and mount their own separate bid for the club. On the positive side, the Sheikh has made it clear that he doesn't want to see further sales. On the BBC website he said: "Alan Smith and all the jewels of the club will not be sold off - they are the heart of Leeds United. I am still hurting over the sale of Jonathan Woodgate." However he might not be in a position to influence such a decision if he waits for the club to enter administration before making an offer. Something must happen soon...
December 01: Trading volumes in Leeds shares hit an all-time high today - over 20 million changed hands as the rumours of the Middle Eastern buyout convinced some folks to take the opportunity to offload and others to take a speculative position in the hope of making a swift profit. After the share price slumped to 2.38 pence last week in the wake of the failing talks with bondholders, it rebounded to close at 3.75 pence today, back to levels not seen since June and not exceeded since the post-Arsenal staying-up euphoria saw them trading at a heady 4.40 pence back in April. It's likely that whoever buys the club will end up taking it private, since the wondrous advantages of a stock market listing which we were told would accrue back in the days when we believed a word the board said are clearly non-existent for a club like Leeds.
December 01: The Leeds board issued a terse but essential statement today to confirm what we already knew to the Stock Exchange. The statement read: The Board of Leeds United PLC notes recent press reports about a potential bid for the Company. The Board wishes to make it clear that it has received no bid or approach from any party and therefore regards the reports as pure speculation. All eyes on Bahrain for the next move...
December 01: James Milner said that he was over the moon to be part of a winning side at Charlton on Saturday. Speaking on the official website, he said: "We knew it was going to be difficult because Charlton are doing so well in the league, but the lads managed to come to a difficult place and get the three points." And he's hoping that it can be the start of a big turn-around for players and fans at Leeds: "It's a difficult time for the club and the fans have been fantastic to us, all the players know that and we just need to give a little back and hopefully we can keep the points coming." Obviously, we've lost a few fans along the way though - there are still 5,000 tickets left for the Chelsea game with less than a week to go.
December 01: Leeds Ladies moved up into third spot in the league with a 2-0 win over bottom side Tranmere at Garforth on Sunday. After a couple of disappointing results lately, Grianne Kierens and Lucy Ward netted for Leeds either side of half-time - but they will have to improve if they are to pick up any points next weekend when they visit champions Fulham.
December 01: The Youth Team lost their FA Youth Cup tie with Ipswich Town tonight, going down 1-2 after extra time at Elland Road.
December 01: There has been a bit of a kerfuffle over some of the figures that appeared in the accounts when it was noticed that the Prof had been paid £300,000 for his work to date: £100,000 before stepping down as chairman and a further £200,000 in "consultancy fees" for a period through to September next year. At a time when cutbacks across the club are the order of the day, this seems both profligate and generally unwise - it will be interesting to see how the club respond.