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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post


January 31: After Trevor Birch announced that his latest round of negotiations with the club's creditors had been successful, Eddie Gray called on everyone involved in the club to focus on the most important matter in hand: staying in the Premiership. He said: "I think the club needs the fans now more than they've ever needed them. I can understand how the supporters feel, but I'd urge them to get behind the players as much as possible. I think they will." He went on: "I keep trying to impress on the players that the most important thing to us is the football because that is probably the biggest single thing that can help the club pull away from the trouble it's in... If we go out and play with the belief and confidence as individuals and have that belief in each other, then I believe we can start to string a few wins together." Too right Eddie, and that - more than anything else - will get the fans off the players' backs.

January 31: Danny Milosevic's trial with Celtic has evidently been a success - he's been signed up by Martin O'Neill to the end of the season with the Parkhead outfit needing good goalkeeping cover after offloading Magnus Hedman to Ancona. As I said yesterday, here's hoping he gets more of a look-in - and has more luck - in Scotland than he did down here.

January 31: Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson yesterday confirmed that he was "in discussions" with Leeds over Mark Viduka - the money on offer is said to be in the order of £3-4 million - but the negotiations are obviously being complicated by the fact that the Aussie striker is still back home with his sick father. Another sticking point - as with Danny Mills - will be the issue of wages. Viduka would understandably not want a cut in his £65,000 a week package, while Danny Mills remarkably thinks that the fact that he has gone from being an England starter to barely making Sven's squad would justify a £10,000 a week rise to £40,000 for a new deal - some hope! Meanwhile some papers are reporting that Michael Bridges has signed - or is on the point of signing - a loan deal that will take him to Newcastle until the end of the season when he will be out of contract and free to negotiate a deal with whoever he wants. If we do end up offloading Viduka and Bridges, it's pretty clear that Trevor Birch - if not Eddie Gray - has accepted that relegation is inevitable and we might as well realise some cash from our assets now rather than wait for relegation and administration in the summer.

January 31: Leeds skipper Dominic Matteo says he wants everyone to pull together and focus on the relegation fight. He said: "Things have been said about the players but it's time to pull together. What happened in the last two weeks is finished with now. The fans have been fantastic all season and we want them to get behind us against Boro." The motivation for the silent protest has now gone with the players accepting the wage deferral to keep the club going, so let's hope that - for once this season - the level of support and commitment from the stands is matched by the skill and finishing on the pitch.

January 31: That's the end of January - so it must be time to get your votes in for the Player of the Month. Not a lot to celebrate this month admittedly, but there have been a few bright spots and some decent individual performances worth noting, so vote now here or drop me an email with your choice.

January 31: Is this the nadir of the season? Maybe - but that doesn't mean things can get any better. In many ways the performance and the result typified what we've seen this season - lots of honest endeavour, a couple of horrendous defensive mistakes, no real midfield creativity plus a combination of bad luck and bad finishing. Boro had the better of the first half but somehow their abysmal finishing combined with some good keeping from Robbo kept the scores level to half time. Leeds came out much more positively after the break, but a little lapse in concentration saw the defence split open, Zenden went clear and we were a goal down. Heads never really dropped, but the desperation level increased. Jermaine Pennant continued to get into good positions but rarely produced a telling cross, but in the middle of the park there was just not enough creativity and support for Alan Smith. Another break, another goal and it was all over. Can't complain about Robbo's dismissal (not seen the video to make the call on that yet) but I've whinged often enough about refs bottling these decisions: far too often they call for a penalty but then don't red card the offender, when they really should do both or do neither. Today Graham Poll made a consistent decision so we can't complain. Scott Carson didn't have to do much more than pick the ball out of the net - and if I count the days right, Robbo's suspension means that the youngster will be making his first ever first team start in a fortnight at Old Trafford.

January 31: Eddie Gray says that there's still hope for the club - but not if the players continue to turn in performances like they did today. He sounded furious when interviewed by the BBC after the match, saying: "We didn't really create a chance and we made mistakes, which was very disappointing because I expected a lot more. I don't have any excuses and that's what I've said to the players, but they have to accept their responsibility because I know I accept mine. Whenever you are down at the bottom, It's not easy but we are not going to get out of this if we continue to perform like that." Steve McClaren was naturally happy with his side's performance: "We've been threatening to do that all season and today, this was a complete performance because we defended well, kept a clean sheet, scored goals and could have had more. But I'm taking nothing away from Leeds. For the position they are in, the players' spirit and attitude was very good and even at 3-0, they kept going. But we played very well." Last word to Eddie: "I've got to hope they can turn the corner, but that's not going to happen if we keep playing like this. It's now becoming very difficult for us, although it's always been difficult but the games are running out."

January 31: Lots of old boys in goalscoring action today, but let's start off with a clean sheet. Nigel Martyn took the plaudits in today's Merseyside derby - although Dudek also had an excellent game. Martyn made a number of brilliant saves, and once again the question of why he's not in the England squad - if not first choice ahead of Calamity James - was raised. Darren Huckerby might not have scored for Norwich - but he made their goal in the top-of-the-table clash with Sheffield United: if he keeps this up we won't be visiting Carrow Road next season. We may get to see Nathan Lowndes in action: the former Leeds Youth player scored a consolation goal for Paul Sturrock's Plymouth side in tonight's televised game at Brighton, but they continue to lead Division 2 by 5 points despite a 2-1 defeat. Brian Deane scored West Ham's opener against Rotherham as the Hammers resurrected their play-off hopes with a 2-1 win, and Robbie Keane won and scored a penalty for Spurs at Fulham, but Chris Coleman's side came from behind to win 2-1. Gary Speed scored a 35-yard screamer for Newcastle at St Andrews, but Newcastle conceded two points in the last minute when they allowed Stern John to bag an equaliser. Jamie McMaster scored Chesterfield's equaliser at home to QPR before they went on to win 4-2, and Danny Granville cracked one in from the edge of the box to restore Palace's lead against Wimbledon, with the Eagles adding another goal in the last minute to make it 3-1.

January 30: Danny Milosevic is still looking for a club after being released by Leeds earlier this season - but he could be about to take a significant step upwards with a trial at Celtic. He said: "Football is a game of opinions and luckily Celtic have given me the chance to come up and train. I had two world-class goalkeepers in front of me at Leeds and I knew I had a mountain to climb. I thought I would give it a crack and see what would happen. I went there at 21 and I wanted to learn in England." And Milosevic is sure he can convince Martin O'Neill to give him a chance at Parkhead. He said: "I am positive about it. I would not come here if I didn't think I could do a job. It's an opportunity of a lifetime for any player to come here." We wish him luck - let's hope he doesn't fall victim to the injury jinx that followed him whenever we loaned him out down in England.

January 30: In today's Guardian there's an interview with Mark Hovell, an accountant who grew up supporting Leeds but now works as head of insolvency for an accountancy firm employed by the PFA. Leeds is not the first club in trouble he's had to deal with, but he has had a free run over the accounts and was part of the team that convinced the players to accept a deferral yesterday. Despite the financial devastation at the club, he can't see anyone ever getting brought to book over the mismanagement - unless the unthinkable happens and Leeds were to go into administration or - worse still - liquidation. He explains: "Once you're in administration you're effectively appointing an accountant to run the club. The board are still there for certain duties but the accountants run the club and they can do one of three things - reorganise the company and hand it back, carve out part of the business and sell it, or, thirdly, break it up and liquidate it, but try to get a better return than a normal liquidation. What you are trying to do then is to flog off as many players as you can, get as much money as you can, then close it down." And he continues: "There's never really any accountability. Without liquidation there's no liquidator to look at what the directors have actually done and the financial mismanagement. If the club don't go into liquidation the previous board will get off Scot-free. Nobody will ever come after them and they're free to go off and do other things. If there's a liquidation you could get into some of the old directors who may have basically breached the Companies Act and the Insolvency Act. You're talking about wrongful trading and a breach of general duties to the company. But bad directors get away with it."

January 30: The CPS today announced that they would be taking no further action against Jody Morris and his friend Kristofer Dickie over the alleged sexual assault on a young woman last year. A CPS spokesman said that he thought it had been the right decision to go for a prosecution, but after new evidence came to light, the case was discontinued as there was no realistic chance of securing a convinction.

January 30: Zoumana Camara could be set to link up with Cyril Chapuis again. Reports today say that he is in talks with Strasbourg after a move to Bastia appeared to break down and the player was similarly uninterested in offers from Wolves or Bolton. Meanwhile Lamine Sakho - who Leeds have not be actively trying to offload - is said to be attracting some interest from Spanish clubs Racing Santander and Real Zaragoza. Sakho is out in Tunisia for the African Nations Cup at the moment, and the transfer deadline is barely a day away so someone is going to have to move fast if this switch is going to happen.

January 30: Maybe it's a mistranslation, but Eirik Bakke's comments that the club's financial problems are "boring" won't win him any friends. Speaking on TV2 in Norway he said: "This is a boring situation. All the players here are willing to sacrifice a bit if we are forced to go that way. It's no fun at all when more and more players are leaving." You sort of know what he means - but with Eddie Gray and Trevor Birch making calls for a show of unity and renewed purpose, this isn't exactly helpful.

January 30: The club issued a statement to the Stock Exchange late on Friday, saying: "The Board of Leeds United plc announces that it has met the financial and other covenants (described in its announcements on 19 and 26 January 2004) and as a result the standstill period now extends to 6 February 2004." So it looks like Trevor Birch has managed to secure the necessary funds to keep us going to the end of the season - or at least until a serious takeover materialises - well done that man!

January 29: Football finance expert Dr Bill Gerrard reckons that Trevor Birch's efforts - not least including the early payment of the Rio cash - will give the club a "reasonable shot" at avoiding administration. "Clearly that £1.5million goes at least a third of the way towards what Trevor Birch needs by Friday to be able to go back to the creditors and be able to say he can keep the company trading until the end of the season." He went on: "It certainly looks as if Trevor Birch, between this deal and maybe Danny Mills going to Middlesbrough... now has a reasonable shot by Friday of putting a package together to keep them trading until the end of the season."

January 29: Gerald Krasner - spokesman for the mystery consortium - says that Trevor Birch has received a written offer for the club and that the mystery men are now waiting for a response. He later confirmed that funds were in place to back that offer: "I am pleased to announce that earlier today our solicitors, Walker Morris, have informed Leeds United Football Club's advisors that we have an eight-figure sum in a solicitors' client's account to do this deal." So that's more than £10 million then - but it's thought to be considerably less than £20 million and hinges on a property play on the ground, as well as requiring some of the club's highest earners to either take a cut or take a hike in order to rationalise the cost base.

January 29: Leeds have escaped from the immediate threat of a Premier League points deduction should they be forced into administration. A meeting of the FAPL chairmen in London today agreed that a 9-point penalty would apply to all clubs that go into administration, but that the rule would only take effect from June 3 - so Leeds are in the clear for the moment. Former Spurs chairman Alan Sugar was pretty blunt that he did not want to see clubs using administration as a means to get an unfair advantage over the competition as Leicester did last season. He said: "If [Leeds] go into administration, and if someone comes along and buys them for two bob off the receiver and starts again on Saturday, that would be a travesty. The FA need to say: 'Get out, you're now down in the fourth division - start from scratch.'"

January 29: Generally positive news from the treatment table ahead of this weekend's crucial game with Boro. David Batty's ankle injury is well on the way to clearing up and he could be fit enough to take the field, with the return from suspension of Dominic Matteo and Stephen McPhail increasing Eddie Gray's midfield options. In defence, Lucas Radebe has returned to full training, and it would be typical of The Chief to put his own long-term fitness to one side in order to make a welcome return alongside Matthew Kilgallon at the heart of the defence. Michael Duberry is also close to a comeback after he limped off at the end of the Spurs game.

January 29: The FAPL announced that there will be a slight extension to the transfer window - to 5pm on Monday rather than the back end of Saturday. No doubt someone somewhere will be hoping that Trevor Birch won't have been able to persuade the creditors to give Leeds enough cashflow to keep going until the end of the season and so force a cheap sale out of the chief exec, but things are looking pretty positive on that front.

January 29: After a meeting with Finance Director Neil Robson and the PFA this afternoon, the players have agreed to take a deferral of their wages - said to be in the region of 25%, although some reports put the number at around half that level, dependent on the sale or otherwise of Danny Mills. PFA head mouth Gordon Taylor said that the players were truly wonderful and could not have done a nobler thing: "They were unanimous in agreeing a wage deferral that will go a considerable way towards making sure Leeds United stay in business until the end of the season. It's a large amount of money which runs into millions. It's more than we've had deferred from players at other clubs in all the experience we've had." I guess that means that the planned silent protest is off then - the players have done their bit on the financial side. Now if they can deliver on the footballing side as well, they might regain our respect rather than our support - which they've never lost.

January 29: Man City are understood to be unhappy over Leeds' move to slash the ten grand a week being paid to Robbie Fowler. Part of the deal when Fowler moved to City for barely half what DOL paid for him was that Leeds would continue to subsidise his inflated salary for the first two years of his stay at City, but it is understood that this has been suspended as part of Trevor Birch's cost-cutting measures.

January 29: Danny Mills' move to Boro is not being held up by the player's demands, according to his agent Neil Featherby. There is some discrepancy between what Boro want to pay and what Trevor Birch is prepared to take, but if the clubs could agree a fee, then there should be no problem with the player, despite what leaks to the press have suggested. Featherby said: "With regard to Danny's so-called inflated demands in danger of scuppering a permanent move to Middlesbrough, this is absolute rubbish and a long way from the truth. Whether it be Middlesbrough - or any other club for that matter - who have made inquiries, they are well aware as to the details of his present contract with Leeds. For anyone to suggest he is now looking to hold anyone to ransom by asking for monies which far exceed these current personal terms is total fabrication. Danny's main objectives among all of this are to secure his and his family's future - as well as being in a position to play and maintain the high standards he sets himself as a professional footballer."

January 28: Mark Viduka will not be back in time for Saturday's game against Boro, leaving Eddie Gray desperately short of attacking options in the first of three must-win games. Viduka is still with his seriously-ill father back in Australia after leaving the Spurs game at half-time just over two weeks ago.

January 28: ManU have done us a little bit of a favour - while simultaneously helping themselves over the Rio Ferdinand deal. After two initial payments of £15 million and £14.3 million, ManU were liable for payments of up to £3.25 million, depending on their success, Rio's appearances and the phase of the moon, but they've agreed with Leeds that they will pay £1.5 million tomorrow in full and final settlement of the deal.

January 28: Danny Mills' permanent switch to Boro is in doubt as the clubs remain far apart on the fee to be paid. Leeds are understood to want £1.5 million for the player who did so well for England in the 2002 World Cup - which is still barely a third of what Charlton received when he joined Leeds - but Boro are hoping to force Trevor Birch into accepting a joke offer of around £500,000. We'll see how desperate we are by Friday I guess...

January 28: David Batty has hit back at reports that he is more concerned about his bank balance than the fate of the club after last week's meeting with the club and the PFA. He is the team's PFA rep, but was painted as the ringleader of the refuseniks as the players asked Trevor Birch to try to find some way of saving the club other than deferring their pay. He said: "I want you to know that me, in particular, and Leeds players would never risk the future of Leeds United, least of all for personal gain." And he went on: "I can assure you of my best efforts at all times. I have never given any less than 100 per cent for Leeds United and none of the players have said they would not take a wage deferral." But once again we're onto presentational issues I'm afraid, and "none..would not" is a long way short of the "all have volunteered" that we'd have preferred to see, particularly in the light of the numerous pledges of financial and organisational support that have flooded in from fans around the world. We don't expect players to be martyrs to the cause, we don't expect loyalty to the shirt - because that's not how the game is organised any more. But what would be nice is (a) committed performances from every player for 90 minutes, (b) seeing fully fit players who are not subject to being embarrassingly beaten for pace and fitness in the last 20 minutes of a game, and (c) seeing the team learn from its mistakes, not repeat them. If we thought we'd had any sort of value out of the team this season, the players would not have found themselves on the receiving end of half the criticism they saw - but we've been paying Premiership money for a Division 1 (and mid-table at that) product. Address that problem and all the others will melt away.

January 28: It looks like we might even have some competition to take Zoumana Camara off our hands - which should enable him to make a dignified exit and Trevor Birch to chip a little bit more off the wage bill. Both Bolton and Wolves are interested in the big centreback, although a possible move to France is off after his agent Willie McKay said that Bastia could not afford him. McKay said: "Camara is keen to stay in England as he has enjoyed his experience in The Premiership. I am hopeful of getting a deal agreed before the close of the transfer window."

January 28: Sky have obviously done the same calculations that I did the other day: the Leicester game has been moved back to the Monday night - April 5 - as a PPV offering, with the clear subtitle of "Loser gets relegated".

January 28: Harry Kewell has said how sorry he is to see his former team-mates and fans suffering back at Leeds. Speaking to the Australian press, he said: "It makes me sad to see the state the club is in. You could never have imagined it coming to this. People all have their theories on what's gone wrong and why but it's not for me to blame anybody. I just feel for the players and supporters because I had a lot of great years there with plenty of happy memories." And he had plenty of praise for caretaker boss Eddie Gray - both as a manager and as a player. Kewell said: "If anybody can keep Leeds in the Premiership it's Eddie Gray. If I can become half of what he was as a player then I'll have done well in my career. I also rate him as a coach. He worked closely with me in my years at the club and was a great influence. I believe he can motivate the players and get them going again. He has the respect of everybody around the place."

January 27: The first person to actually claim to have anything to do with the mystery Yorkshire consortium stepped into the light today. Gerald Krasner - a corporate recovery and insolvency specialist - has given little away, but said that although he was representing the consortium in some negotiations, he was hoping to keep the club well clear of administration. He said: "I can confirm there's a consortium that I have been asked to represent, but we've signed all sorts of confidentiality agreements. However, I can state we are in serious negotiations with both the club and the bondholders which will be ongoing throughout the day. Our objective is to avoid administration at all costs. I don't think the public realise just what administration would mean for Leeds United." So who else is involved? Despite his denials, the name of Geoffrey Richmond keeps cropping up, but the well-known Ziff family (Merrion Centre developers from waaayyy back) have also played down suggestions they would get involved. Yet another name being mentioned is that of ex-Cov chairman Bryan Richardson, whose success at handling football clubs doesn't quite put him on the same lofty peak as Ridsdale and Richmond but neither does it make the heart leap like a gazelle at the prospect. A final batch of three names are Melvyn Levy, property developer Simon Morris and Terry Fisher who was involved in an attempt to take over Huddersfield recently. Fisher issued a statement later on in the day, denying the suggestion that he was a big Leeds fan, but admitted keeping an eye out for Leeds since they were the only Yorkshire club in the top flight. He added: "I do miss being involved in football and, if I was asked in future, I would consider helping out at Leeds, but I am not involved in this consortium and I am - and always will be - a staunch Huddersfield Town fan."

January 27: Roque Junior was confirmed as a Siena player until the end of the season today. Milan have agreed to loan him out to the recently-promoted side, and his Brazilian team-mate Junior will be joining him there on a 6-month loan from Parma, who are set to face a financial disaster of their own as a result of the Parmalat scandal.

January 27: The PFA are getting ready to stick their ever so helpful paddles into Leeds' business again as it looks likely that Trevor Birch will be returning to the players to ask them to take a smaller wage deferral than was initially suggested - maybe about 10-15% this time. Will the PFA sanction it? Or are they sharpening their face-spiting knives in preparation for a quick bit of nasal amputation? Deputy chief executive Mick McGuire said: "We did promise the players last week we would go back in. A week later we need to look again at the situation because things are happening. It would just really be an update and to re-evaluate. We will certainly be looking to speak to the club, and if we've got anything then we will be looking to speak to the players. If there's a need to help then we'll be looking to see what the players' response will be, although they've already said in a statement if it's absolutely necessary, they will support the club." Is it just me, or could all of the division and dissension that their earlier intervention produced have been avoided if they'd taken a pragmatic approach last week? All the players had to do was to go a step further from saying what they did - that 30-35% was too much of a deferral to take up front - by offering unconditionally to take a 10% deferral then and there. Result: fans don't get on the players' backs calling them greedy b******s, the press don't start painting individual players as ringleaders, moneygrabbing or out to line their own pockets at the expense of everybody else, and Trevor Birch has a positive story he can sell to the creditors to show that there's a degree of co-operation in the camp. Even if they now end up holding off picking up 15% of their dues until the end of the season, the damage has been done and the players should be asking serious questions of their agents and PR people and demand to know how they can justify their fees when the world and his dog now believe the players to be unconcerned with the fate of the club.

January 27: Leeds' reserves went down to a 0-2 home defeat to West Brom at Belle Vue tonight. Aaron Lennon, Frazer Richardson and Simon Johnson were the only three players on show with first team experience at Leeds, but Georgi Kinkladze played the whole game in front of the watching Eddie Gray as he tries to win a short-term deal at Elland Road.

January 27: The British Film Institute has just made a newsreel film clip available online that shows that financial problems at Elland Road are nothing new. In 1924, Leeds needed to find £35,000 to pay off the departing chairman, so they set up a "lend us a fiver" campaign to stay in business. Anyone know what that means in "modern day money" - what inflation between then and now is?

January 26: Every time you check the news feeds, another well-connected Yorkshire millionaire is distancing themselves from a bid for Leeds. Paul Sykes (Planet Online), Peter Wilkinson (Freeserve, Planet) and Geoffrey Richmond (who was at the helm when Bradford embarked on their own financially disastrous strategy) have all been mooted as possible saviours, but all have denied that they are part of this mysterious consortium that is currently exercising the back pages. A group of local businessmen are said to wish to remain anonymous, and so are conducting all meetings via their solicitors. Their grand plan appears to be to offer the creditors the freehold of the ground in exchange for writing off the debts, and then lease the ground for around £1 million a year. Those of us with long memories will recall one of the previous financial crises which left Leeds Council owning the ground and took nigh on 10 years to unravel, and such a move must be seen as a last resort. The most credible name associated with the mystery consortium is Jeremy Fenn, who was chief exec prior to Peter Ridsdale and was understood to have been the voice of reason and conservatism on the board at the time, and whose departure precipitated the loosening of the purse strings for David O'Leary.

January 26: Although I know a few people whose devotion to the club started when they came from various parts of the country to study at Leeds University, I know quite a few more former Leeds students who flinch at the very name of Leeds United having had a dodgy experience or two at the hands of some of our more errr.. exuberant and forthcoming supporters while out for a Saturday night in the city centre. But things are desperate at Elland Road, and with the prospect of a sub-30,000 crowd for the midweek relegation battle against Wolves next month, the club are offering students the chance to see the game for just £15, with the added attraction of a half-time penalty contest between the Uni and the Poly (sorry, I mean "Metropolitan University"). And there are still loads of tickets available for next weekend's Boro game as well - unless a few more people put their hands in their pockets then we will have a pretty easy time in organising a silent protest against the players' unco-operative attitude.

January 26: Shaun Allaway's loan period at Walsall has come to an end, and he still seems no closer to any sort of first team football anywhere. The young keeper was signed amid great fanfare a few years back, but with first Paul Robinson and now Scott Carson coming through the ranks, he's not even had much of an opportunity to appear for Leeds' reserves, never mind make it to the dizzying heights of the first team bench. Allaway said: "I'm pretty much resigned to leaving Leeds in the summer when I'll be out of contract. It's pretty obvious I'll be going because no one has mentioned anything about a new contract... But I've been able to get regular reserve games at Walsall which I haven't had at Leeds, so it should have put me in the shop window."

January 26: Caretaker boss Eddie Gray isn't yet reduced to counting the points to Premiership survival - he knows it's a bit of an inexact science - but he does know that we've got to go all out for three points in all of our remaining games. He said: "We just have to look at the games we have left and every game we play we have to try and win, pick up as many points as possible regardless of what the situation is at the end of the season or how many points we will need to survive. But we have got to go out there and perform now. It is no good me worrying about how many points we need to survive if we are not picking points up." Okay, so let me count 'em for you Eddie. We can win against Boro, Villa, Wolves, Man City, Leicester, Blackburn, Pompey, Everton and Charlton. We can scrape a point against Fulham, Brum, Bolton. We should expect nowt from ManU, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea. I make that an absolute best case of 30 points from the remaining 48 which would give us an excellent chance of staying up with 47 points. But let's be realistic for a second: if we continue to accumulate points at the same rate we've done so far then we'll only get 12-13 points; if we achieve the same results as we did in the reverse fixtures of the remaining games we'll only get 14 points; and looking at last season, West Ham went down with 42 points - some 25 more than we've got at the moment. The long and short of it is that if we draw rather than win in just three of those "winnable" games, we're as good as down, so anything less than 100% from the next three games and I reckon we could be having our "mathematical certainty" party if we fail to beat Leicester on April 3. Hmmm... I need an optimism pill...

January 26: Trevor Birch could find himself able to chip a little bit more off the club's cost base with Didier Domi possibly ready to pack his bags. French Ligue 1 side Bastia - from whom we got Pierre Laurent all those years ago - are interested in picking up a new fullback, and Domi might just fit the bill since there aren't many others available and the transfer window closes on Saturday.

January 26: Trevor Birch has secured yet another extension to the standstill agreement with creditors, this time through to Friday evening as the four-man mystery Yorkshire consortium appear to be making substantive progress in their bid to drag the club out of the financial mire. A further extension into February is possible, but it's thought likely that the consortium will either insist on a firm financial offer being in place by the weekend, or else Birch will be forced into selling one or two players in order to make good on the financial covenants required. Expect Spurs and Newcastle to be hovering in the wings and waiting to pounce with joke offers for Milner, Smith and Robinson if the money doesn't materialise.

January 26: Middlesbrough have confirmed that they are ready to make Leeds an offer to make Danny Mills' move to The Riverside a permanent one. On the Boro website, chairman Steve Gibson said: "We've had discussions with Danny Mills and his agent this week and those discussions are ongoing. Leeds have got complex difficulties and time is running out. We would hope to sign him permanently before the end of the week but we might not. But Danny is with us until the end of the season. If not now, then we expect a permanent deal to happen at the end of the season. We want him to stay, the fans have taken to him and I think he wants to stay."

January 25: Tales from the tabs today say that James Milner is ready to split with his agent to clear the way for a move to ManU. He's represented by someone on Fergie's son's agency - and that was being used last week as one of the reasons he might be snaffled by ManU rather than something that was keeping him away. Meanwhile the poor bloody infantry (i.e. the fans) come in for yet more sympathy, this time from Jonathan Pearce in the Mirror. He says: "The players are furious that they have been painted as mean-minded money-grabbers and that information has been leaked about their meetings with the club and PFA last week. I understand their angst, but hang on a minute boys. The PFA was only too happy to talk about the meetings. Furthermore, had certain players actually earned every penny of their vast fortunes, then Leeds wouldn't have plummeted from top spot in the Premiership to bottom in two years... Perhaps more thought should go to the office workers, matchday staff and fans at Elland Road should the club go into administration. Real jobs will be lost. Mortgages will be foreclosed. Lives will collapse. The dream will have gone for ever for many. I understand the players' argument. But don't ask me to feel sorry for them." Elsewhere in red-top-land, the sale of Elland Road will be the keystone of a local consortium's attempt to take over the club. The redevelopment value of the land (which, incidentally is zero unless the council can be persuaded to rezone the area against most residents' wishes) would help clear Leeds' debts and fund a new stadium well out of town.

January 25: No sooner have I scrawled down something about the possibility of the ground being sold when Leeds rush out another denial. Trevor Birch said: "I am not sure what game is being played by Town and Country Developments Ltd... but I can categorically deny that I have had a meeting with Mr Goldhill or any other representative from that company and neither have I ever met or spoken to them. Mr Goldhill's statement... that he had a meeting with me on Thursday night is totally untrue and I will be filing my complaint with the Press Complaints Commission and considering further action against Mr Goldhill in due course." He went on: "Apparently Town and Country Developments were one of a number of institutions that a broker assisting a local consortium is talking to regarding financing a potential purchase of Leeds United and that was the reason for his presence at Walker Morris, solicitors acting for a local consortium. The consortium's solicitor has confirmed to me that they have no intention of moving away from Elland Road." So that's all clear then...

January 25: Yet another Monday comes round that could mean life or death to the football club. Trevor Birch will want to be able to go to the creditors and show that the initial financial guarantees are in place to gain a final two week extension to the standstill agreement. After waving goodbye to Roque Junior (and failing to lose Domi and Camara) and seeming to get agreement from Terry Venables, David O'Leary and Peter Reid to help out, Birch will still need to go back to the players to get them to agree to some pay deferral - but it's likely to be less than the 30-35% mooted last week, and after the hammering they've taken in the press in the last few days, the players might finally come on board. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy left another angle open to Birch, insisting that the offer to pay for Paul Robinson and James Milner in the next week but to allow them to stay at Leeds until the end of the season remained open. Let's hope it's an offer that Birch does not need to take up.

January 25: Very very brief Eurotour tonight with just a few highlights. Today's round of games in Italy saw Juve held 3-3 at Empoli - with Tommaso Rocchi scoring a hat-trick for the home side and David Trezeguet replying in kind for the visitors. Milan scored five unanswered goals in the last 25 minutes to demolish Ancona, and now trail Roma by a point with a game in hand after they let a 1-0 lead go to an equaliser from Udinese's Jankulovski with 2 minutes remaining. Real Madrid are back on top in Spain - their 2-1 win over Villareal last night taking them above Valencia and staying there after a Pellegrino own goal saw the former leaders slump to a 0-1 defeat in the Mestalla to Osasuna. Deportivo failed to close the gap on Valencia in tonight's TV game, going down 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao.

Ajax and PSV won in Holland and lead the league by a mile (yawn), Anderlecht won in Belgium and are similarly untroubled. The game with everything this weekend was Excelsior Mouscron against Mons: the home side had a player sent off, scored two through Luigi Pieroni, had another player dismissed, saw Pieroni complete his hat-trick, and just when they thought they were cruising to victory, conceded twice in the last two minutes to set up a nailbiting ending.

Probably the biggest story across the continent this weekend was the death of Benfica's Hungarian international striker Miklos Feher during their game against Vitoria Guimaraes. The 24-year-old player suffered a heart attack on the pitch, and despite lengthy attempts to revive him, he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

January 24: David Batty's role in the players' refusal to offer to defer some of their pay has again come under fire, with Jimmy Greaves launching a broadside against him in today's Sun. It's not clear whether or not there was much disagreement or discussion when the players met, nor is it absolutely clear which of them might have been for or against the deferral, but Greavsie points out: "As the PFA representative and most senior of the Leeds figures, he had the power to bang his fist on the table and demand all players made this gesture. If he had set the example others would have followed." Greaves has a lot of sympathy for the Leeds fans in all of this: "Treated with contempt, they are victims of one of sport's great betrayals. Yet I wonder now to what or who they owe their allegiance. Is the club there any more, the real essence of the club? The players don't care. The board members have been happy to use it as a plaything - the soul has gone."

January 24: David O'Leary has responded positively to suggestions that he might hold off on taking the next instalment of his settlement from Leeds. He said: "The bottom line is I'll do anything to help save the club." Terry Venables was equally forthcoming in his offer to help: "My attitude from day one was always that I would be prepared to accept deferred payments... I've not got long left before I'm paid up in full, but I would certainly agree to further deferrals if that helped the club." Trevor Birch is also understood to be pursuing the Prof to persuade him to hand back a large chunk of his "advance consultancy fees" - for work notionally stretching to the end of this year - that he has already received. The Prof did quite a bit of good behind the scenes while he was in charge - but did make a few major mistakes and the least he can do, given that the consortium he was supposedly putting together has not materialised - is give his successor the ammo to shame the players into following suit.

January 24: With just a week to go before the transfer window closes again, here's the latest from the rumour mill. Danny Mills could be set to complete a permanent move to Boro for just £1 million if the Riverside outfit can persuade Leeds to take a ridiculously low offer, albeit for a player who would be unlikely to return to the club anyway. After being knocked back over Alan Smith, Newcastle are still interested in picking up a Leeds player, but this time it would be Michael Bridges on loan until the summer in exchange for out-of-favour defender Andy Griffin. Finally, Ian Harte is the subject of some interest from Siena in Italy - their goals-against numbers could make interesting reading if they succeed in capturing both Harte and Roque Junior!

January 24: The Leeds United Fans World Wide organisation has now got a call centre lined up for the next crucial couple of days to take your pledges of cash to help save the club. Remember, they don't want any money now - just a promise that you will deliver on your contribution if they have to execute their plan for saving the club if Trevor Birch finds himself forced to sell off the family silver at knockdown prices. Call them from the UK on 0113 387 6710 (or internationally on +44 113 387 6710) on Sunday or Monday from 1000-1700 GMT.

January 24: Warren Feeney pounced on a defensive mistake to score the only goal of the game for Bournemouth against QPR today. Mark Tinkler was also on the scoresheet, heading home and equaliser for Hartlepool at home to Bristol City - but the visitors scored again to take all three points.

January 23: Roque Junior's departure now seems imminent with the player now considering alternative offers, and if Sam Allardyce's interest in Zoumana Camara amounts to anything solid, then he too will agree to tear up his Leeds contract. But the agent representing Camara and Didier Domi was threatening legal action on behalf of his clients. "Under [Birch's] instructions, he sent in Eddie Gray and the club's secretary Ian Silvester to ask them to sign papers releasing them from their contracts. They refused because if a club takes a player on loan for a season then they should have him for that season. There was no guarantee if they had signed the papers that Paris St-Germain or Lens would have taken them back and paid them. I admit that neither player has pulled up trees at Leeds this season, but then who has? We could take this to the French Football Federation, the Football Association and Fifa if we wanted. These are international transfers and they are Leeds United players this year. They have an obligation to pay them like everybody else. It's all very messy and it smacks of desperation."

January 23: PFA chief Gordon Taylor has been spouting more nonsense on his organisation's website, saying how he was "dismayed" to hear Leeds fans accusing the players of being greedy and selfish. But he once again totally misses the point, describing players' contracts as "sacrosanct" and asking fans to put themselves in the position of the players, who he portrays as the innocent victims of the club's financial plight and being forced to take pay cuts. "As in all walks of life, if you sign a contract you expect it to be honoured by your employers - whether you are earning £500 a week or £5,000," he says. But he's clearly not been out in the real world for a long time, because on the planet on which I live, if you fail to deliver the services required of you by your contract then that contract gets terminated with minimal compensation. Taylor further makes out that the club's financial mess is nothing to do with the players. Now it's true that Peter Ridsdale's incompetent management set the club on the road to ruin, but if these poor, hard-done-by, just-about-getting-by players had produced the sort of performances that their inflated wage packets demand, then we wouldn't be propping up the rest of the division, we'd have more money coming in from Sky and UEFA and Trevor Birch and Allan Leighton would have been in a position to manage a controlled recovery rather than the current tightrope act.

January 23: Ron Atkinson's Guardian column today tells the Leeds squad to get their acts together and accept the wage deferral. He says: "It strikes me it needs someone to spell all this out to the squad. They seem to think there's a market for them because they're Premiership players and they'll get a good deal elsewhere if it all goes wrong at Leeds. But it needs to be drummed into them that it's not as simple as that. A lot of those players should stop and think that Aston Villa pulled out of a deal for Robinson last summer because they couldn't afford his personal terms. And he's one of those that clubs will go out on a limb for and isn't the highest earner at Elland Road."

January 23: Trevor Birch was making it clear today that he wasn't going to be forced into a cut-price sale of players in order to raise some short-term cash. Spurs had offered £5 million for James Milner and Paul Robinson - and even said that the players could stay with Leeds for the rest of the season - but that offer was rejected as undervaluing the two stars. Spurs are understood to be ready to come back in with a better offer for Robinson alone. Meanwhile Newcastle's £5 million bid for Alan Smith - with £3.5 million up front - has also been thrown out.

January 23: Roque Junior today said he thought that Leeds would look to sell players to clear some of the club's debts. The Brazilian has agreed to cancel his contract with Leeds, andis now considering where to go. Despite not getting much of a look-in this season, and being seen by some as a huge mistake, he's not unhappy with his brief stay in Yorkshire. He said: "For me, I do not regret coming here at all. It was a big experience on and off the pitch. Unfortunately, it was not possible to stay."

January 23: Leeds are approaching all of the former players and managers who are currently still being paid by the club with a view to rescheduling or reducing their payments. Robbie Fowler, Robbie Keane, Danny Mills, Paul Okon and Olivier Dacourt are all receiving some cash from Leeds still, while Terry Venables, Peter Reid and David O'Leary are also still to receive some of their pay-offs. It is understood that the payments to these people were seen as one of the big stumbling blocks in the path of getting the current players to agree to a deferral, so it would be a big win for Trevor Birch if he could get an extension from this group. Peter Reid said: Reid said: "If Leeds United want to defer any payments then I am happy with that. As long as I would eventually get what I am owed then I don't have a problem with it." And David O'Leary's representative also indicated that the former boss would be happy to see his repayments rescheduled for a second time. Michael Kennedy said: "There has been no formal approach as yet, although doubtless there will be and if there is I am sure it will be looked upon favourably by David."

January 23: Mark Viduka will return from Australia this weekend and rejoin the squad, giving the team a huge boost in the battle against relegation. His agent has indicated that he still wants to play Champions League football, but no immediate move seems to be on the cards, particularly after Manchester United splashed the cash on Louis Saha.

January 23: James Milner is in the England U-19 squad to face Holland in Harderwijk next month. The game takes place on February 17 - maybe we can arrange some travelling support having missed out on the Euro-jollies this season?

January 23: Lamine Sakho's hopes of making his full international debut for Senegal have been dashed after he picked up an injury and has yet to complete a training session with his new international team-mates. He will miss Senegal's opener against Burkina Faso on Sunday, but hopes to be fit in time for the game against Kenya next Friday. If you've got Sky Digital, Freeview or cable, you should be able to catch quite a few of the games from the tournament on BBC3 - check out the schedule for more details.

January 23: The club today issued a statement - as it was more or less required under LSE rules - distancing itself from the pledge-raising activity on various websites. The club said: "Whilst fully appreciative of the support given in these difficult circumstances, Leeds United Football Club has not set up an official site to receive donations. The position will be kept under review, but in the meantime we cannot sanction any of the promises made on any of these sites." Of course the club can barely sanction the promises made to the players under their contracts! The bandwagon keeps on rolling though - the Leeds United Fans World Wide website has attracted considerable attention, and I know that several people associated with it are spending a huge amount of time working on a scheme to help save Leeds United. They're not asking for any money up front, just a pledge that you would be prepared to offer some financial support should their scheme need to be activated to save the club. If you think you can spare something to further the cause, let them know asap.

January 23: Salomon Olembe - probably the most impressive of all of our loan signings - has given the club a huge boost by insisting that he wants to stay on at Elland Road and has no intention of switching to Blackburn as his agent had hinted. He's out in Tunisia for the African Nations Cup at the moment, but speaking to SkySports.com he said: "I have instructed my agent Willie McKay not to pursue any options of leaving Leeds. I know some clubs have enquired about me going on loan elsewhere in the Premier League, but I want to stay at Leeds." He's still likely to return to Marseille at the end of the season, but for the moment he said: "I have settled in Leeds and my wife has just given birth to a baby boy and we are both happy here. I am only thinking of staying at Leeds and helping them avoid relegation as I have loved my time so far at the club." Good on you mate - now maybe Eddie Gray will reward that sort of loyalty by giving you few starts when you get back.

January 22: Newcastle offloaded Carl Cort to Wolves last night, freeing up some funds for a move to take Alan Smith away from Leeds. Smith doesn't want a move, but it seems that his colleagues are less upset about the prospect of playing the remainder of the season without his commitment to the cause. Spurs have just raised some money from their investors and plan to spend some of it on players. David Pleat's targets are said to be Paul Robinson and Eirik Bakke or James Milner for a combined £5 million. Spurs later denied any interest in Bakke, but Robinson and Milner continue to be the subject of transfer rumours.

January 22: It has been suggested that David Batty was the ringleader responsible for the senior players' refusal to countenance deferring a portion of their pay - but his agent today said that was not the case. Hayden Evams shifted the blame onto the PFA, suggesting that the Leeds players were just following their recommendations. Evans said: "The players went into the meeting with an open mind, but what has happened now is their union has become involved. They have stepped in and the players are being guided by them."

January 22: West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchcliff today recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on Kevin Speight and Christopher Loftus. In his summing up, he described the attacks on Leeds fans as being "organised" and heavily criticised the Turkish police for both their planning and their response, saying that they were "out of control". He said: "The police gave the impression they were targeting the Leeds supporters. Many were struck with batons, many were taken to the police station notwithstanding the fact that they were injured and needed hospital treatment." He also pointed to their refusal to co-operate with English officers ahead of the game and said that he would be writing to the FA and UEFA to recommend the introduction of a formal framework for managing the policing of fans attending matches in a foreign country.

January 22: Looks like Jermaine Pennant could be the only loan signing we've got left by the end of the month. Roque Junior has agreed to tear up his contract with Leeds - the only thing stopping him from moving on loan to another club is for Leeds to agree settlement details with Milan. Trevor Birch wants Zoumana Camara and Didier Domi to do the same - but according to the agent who brokered their arrival, they've refused to do so. Willie Mackay said: "They were asked to sign a paper releasing them from their contract, but they have refused to sign." Mackay also confirmed that Salomon Olembe and Lamine Sakho had been the subject of interest from other Premiership clubs - Olembe from Blackburn and Sakho from Pompey - and only their presence in Tunisia had delayed the finalisation of the paperwork on that deal.

January 22: After the tidal wave of adverse criticism that has swamped the players following their refusal to initially countenance a pay deferral, they today issued a new statement reiterating their support for the club. They said: "We wish to make it clear that we are fully behind the club and are working with Trevor Birch and the Professional Footballers Association in the hope of solving the problems," read the statement. Some of the reports we have read in the newspapers are wrong. We are together as a team and no decision has yet been made one way or the other on whether to defer a percentage of our wages. We have said that we will be prepared to support the club, should it be required." No problem lads, I'm sure it was all a simple misunderstanding. Someone else suggested it - and I think it's a decent idea if we can get everyone to do it - that the crowd at the Boro game on Saturday week should defer a third of its support for the team. For the first 30 minutes, keep absolutely silent whenever a Leeds player - has the ball. Maybe exempt the youngsters (who weren't at the meeting), plus Matteo, Bakke and Smithy (if he's still there) on the grounds that they were in favour - but just do something to show that after we've supported the team while the players get charged with assault, rape, drink-driving, turn up in court as witnesses and find themselves struggling to explain their own boorish behaviour, and all the while coming under frequent assaults from the likes of Sheffield United and Cardiff fans (encouraged by inaction from the criminally negligent police in those areas), we've seen our support taken for granted once too often.

January 21: Nearly four years after the event, the English inquest is finally underway into the deaths of Christoper Loftus and Kevin Speight in Istanbul in April 2000. Yesterday the coroner heard evidence from Leeds fans at the scene who spoke of an "organised ambush" by a gang of Turkish thugs. One fan testified how he had been hit and kicked by the Turks as he tried to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Christopher Loftus. The hearing continues.

January 21: Assuming we're still in business by then, the club have announced that there are more tickets available for the trip to Villa Park on Saturday 7 February after they received an extra batch from DOL's team. Get in there now and support what's left of the team while you still can!

January 21: The players' refusal to accept a wage deferral was widely condemned in the press by fans and commentators alike today. It's hardly surprising that the apparent mood of co-operation from the first team, evident after David Batty and Dom Matteo organised an initial meeting with the PFA last week, evaporated as soon as the self-serving mealy-mouthed apologist for drug cheats Gordon Taylor became involved. Taylor insisted that the players were upset because they had been given to understand their pay would not be affected. Now I know it's a sweeping generalisation that footballers aren't always the most up-to-date on current affairs and financial matters, but you'd have to be living under a stone on Mars not to have read or heard that further savings at the club were needed by the end of the month. Taylor will be worried that his own massive contract could be badly affected over the next few years as more and more clubs discard the "here's a barrowload of cash" options on players' contracts and ensure that all new deals are heavily incentivised with guaranteed reductions for relegation: if the players (and agents) have to start tightening their own belts a bit more, they might start to question just why their relatively tiny trade union needs to be run by several people on six-figure salaries. Adopting the same strategy as he did in the Riogate affair, Taylor said that the players weren't to blame for this "sudden" change of heart - it was all down to the chief exec. He said: "Suddenly they are being asked to help provide the money to keep the club going, and we're talking £3.5-5million, which is no small change." Errr....yes it is, when spread over 15 players on the most lucrative deals, but going back to my earlier point it seems that Taylor must have been one of the players for whom the generalisation held some truth. He went on: "I hope you can understand that as Premiership players they had every right to expect that when they were offered their contracts, they would be fulfilled." And I hope that he and they realise that the management - and the supporters - have every right to expect Premiership - and more to the point top half of the Premiership and European-qualifying - performances for such money. If they can show us in the next three months that sort of form, then the club should have no problems in finding the money to pay them because Premiership survival will be guaranteed. Unfortunately, the transfer window will be all but closed by the time the team next take the field, and they might just find that the solid backing they've received from the stands all season has turned into serious abuse if number 17 is not on the teamsheet as a result of their failures to perform on the pitch and to see the wider picture off it.

January 21: Peter Lorimer was one of the few voices to offer any sort of sympathy to the players' refusal to offer to take a wage deferral. He said: "They will have commitments and mortgages, with their money committed up to what they are earning. I can appreciate that when you are earning as much money as they are earning, and it's not their fault they are are being paid those amounts of money, it may be difficult for people to understand the problem. But when you are earning that amount for five, six or seven years, you have to think of your future." But once again - we're talking about a deferral for 4 months here - not a failure to pay. I utterly refuse to believe that a bunch of individuals whose mobile phones hold the numbers of the local Ferrari and Mercedes dealerships do not have enough cash put by that they don't find themselves impoverished by receiving only a mini-skip full of cash rather the full-sized one they normally have delivered. Lorimer went on: "At the end of the day they might give something back to the club, but when you are in this situation, then the players will have their own reasons as to why they have taken the stance they have."

January 21: Roque Junior's agent says that his client will be leaving Elland Road as soon as Leeds and Milan can agree the terms for ending the deal. His agent told skysports.com: "At this point, I can't say that the contract with Leeds has been annulled, but we are negotiating to that end. His reasons for leaving are twofold: Leeds are in deep financial trouble and also they are bottom of the league. We can't move until the situation unlocks. It is a straightforward problem. Leeds have no intention of giving Milan the money agreed before." Lucci went on to confirm that Siena and Perugia in Serie A were interested in taking the player on, but Hamburg remain favorites.

January 21: A website has been set up to try to co-ordinate a financial response from fans across the world trying to save Leeds. Basically they're hoping that enough people out there can pledge enough money to keep the club going in the short-term, with various benefits and services in return - provided the club stays in business. They say they've been in touch with various would-be bidders and I wish them good luck in their efforts, but with Monday's new deadline looming and the players' intransigence out in the open, I think that their hopes to get the finances together in time to stop Alan Smith's sale might be a bit of wishful thinking.

January 21: Memories may be the only thing we've got in a week's time, but why not take a look back at the glory days right now with the Leeds Memorabilia Pack? It contains 16 assorted reproductions of programmes, tickets, newspaper cuttings and trading cards from the Don Revie Years at Leeds. Cup Final programmes from the 1968 and 1971 Fairs Cup, 1968 League Cup and 1972 FA Cup are included, printed on considerably better quality paper than the originals. If you've got some Christmas cash left over or are scratching your head about what to get the Leeds fan in your life for their birthday, click on the link above or take a look in your local WH Smiths: at a penny shy of £16 it's pretty good value - there's no way you'd get the original programmes for three times that amount on eBay.

January 20: So who will be sold to balance the books this time round? Paul Robinson is in the frame for a move, with David Pleat looking to take him to White Hart Lane for around £2.5 million. Freddy Shepherd is also understood to be ready to pounce with a slightly improved - but still ridiculously under-priced - offer of £3 million for Alan Smith.

January 20: John Sheridan's spell in charge of Oldhan since Iain Dowie was tempted away has seen the Latics climb away from the drop zone, and with only one defeat in the last six games, including an impressive 2-1 win over high-flying QPR. His reward is the offer of a 5-match extension to his managerial reign, with a clear incentive of the permanent job if the improvement continues.

January 20: Reports in the press today suggest that the club's principal creditors were most unhappy with the initial suggestion from Allan Leighton's consortium that they should be granted preferred creditor status if they provided the short-term finance necessary to take the club through to the end of the season. The club appear to have completely run out of patience with the Sheikh, who has yet to come up with any concrete offers or proof of available funds, despite a flurry of press leaks. The PFA were getting ready to meet with the players again to discuss any concrete proposals on wage deferral from the club, with some of those who are not on seven-figure deals not totally happy about the proposed 30% deferral - although Trevor Birch has said that he is happy to be included in any such measures as a show of solidarity and belief in the club.

January 20: Tonight's reserve game against Boro was postponed as a result of their involvement in the Carling Cup semi-final against Arsenal. Consequently there's no chance for Eddie Gray to have another look at on-trial midfielder Georgi Kinkladze, with the next reserve game not for another week - although Eddie Gray has got the players working hard in training all week rather than give them a break with a blank FA Cup weekend coming up. The Boro reserve match will now take place on April 14.

January 20: Trevor Birch met with the players and their PFA representatives this evening to discuss the situation at the club and suggest a way forward. After the meeting, the club issued a very brief statement giving few details of what had been agreed - it read: "There has been a positive meeting between the players, the club and the PFA. The players are now fully aware of the financial position of the club and are prepared to offer support should it be required." In practice, the outcome appears to have been much less positive. PFA chief Gordon Taylor came out of the meeting and said: "The players are very much aware of the seriousness of the situation but they're just waiting to see if it's totally necessary to defer. They want to see how things pan out and, given that there are a number of options still to be explored, they believe the picture will be clearer by the end of the month. Then, if necessary, they are prepared to accept some kind of wage deferral." So in a nutshell, they're hoping something will turn up in the next week or so that will make a deferral unnecessary - and the only thing that is likely to do that is the departure of one or more of their team-mates. Nice to see some solidarity and understanding from people who earn more in a week than most of the people whose contributions pay their wages do in a year. This could be the final straw for the creditors, since the extension to the standstill agreement was conditional on several financial guarantees. I'll bet that Newcastle are downwardly revising their bid for Alan Smith even now.

January 19: There's a fairly extensive interview with Peter Ridsdale in today's Guardian in which he reiterates his position that the board decisions made during his reign were collective rather than his alone, and he points the finger at David O'Leary and Terry Venables for their failure to deliver Champions League football, despite having more or less the same players that got to the semi-final against Valencia. He mentions that he has been threatened and abused when he has been out on the streets of Leeds, and says: "Football is emotional, and so I have to accept that people believe they have a right to do this. But I wonder if they think they're doing it to an inanimate object. I want to say to them: 'I'm still a human being. What do you think this is doing to me? I haven't deliberately hurt anyone.' It's a strange experience when people want you destroyed as an individual." And as for what he's doing now, he shrugs off suggestions that he shouldn't be allowed to have anything to do with a football club after the disaster he brought to Leeds. "People say how dare I come back into the game? But at no stage did I do anything dishonest. I just tried to do my job. Someone else's track record at Leeds will have to be judged."

January 19: Fenerbahce chief Baskan Aziz Yldirim says he is on the point of signing Mark Viduka from Leeds. "Viduka is a player that we are following with a lot of conviction, because he's the man who can help us to fill the gap with Besiktas, who are the strongest team in the league right now," he said. He said that the Turkish club had offered 7 million euros for Viduka's services - considerably less than Viduka's contract is mortgaged for. Leeds ilater rubbished suggestions that Viduka was on his way to Turkey - it might get £3 million a year in salary off the books, but would leave us without our best striker and still owing money to the finance company anyway.

January 19: Whether or not he'd keep his place in the side after falling over the ball for one goal and not exactly doing much to help his centreback partner out for the other is unclear, but Zoumana Camara's booking at Southampton means that he's now reached 5 for the season - 4 in first team games plus one for the reserves - so will miss the Boro game in a fortnight.

January 19: Jermaine Pennant's loan period with Leeds has been extended for a further month - and he could even stay at Elland Road until the end of the season. He's now due to stay at Leeds until February 19 - the Boro, Villa and Wolves games - but there is still an outside chance he could move on if Arsenal receive a firm offer to buy him during the transfer window.

January 19: Leeds' young Academy side gave Wolves a real chasing at the weekend, smashing in five unanswered goals. Sam Hird with a brace, Gavin Rothery, Kevin Smith and Jason Flint were on target for Leeds.

January 19: Roque Junior's advisers are said to have been in talks with SV Hamburg with a view to arranging a switch to the Bundesliga for the Brazilian World Cup winner. He's been injured and/or out of favour for most of his time at Leeds, but is surplus to requirements at Milan as well. Hamburg are in the top half of the table in Germany - which should be a nice change for him - but they've conceded more goals than the bottom side - so he should feel right at home!

January 19: The club released the following statement after the Stock Exchange closed tonight:

The Board of Leeds United PLC announces that the Company's principal finance creditors have today agreed to extend the standstill period (announced on 4 December 2003) by a week, to midnight on 26 January 2004.

This agreement also provides for a further two week extension to 6 February 2004, conditional on achievement of certain financial and other covenants.

So what exactly do we need to deliver in the next seven days? From what has been said so far, it looks like some or all of: agreement to a salary deferral by the players; cash injection from the directors or external sources (i.e. Allan Leighton or the Sheikh); profits from a transfer deal. And it's the last point that will cause a lot of heartache: only Alan Smith and Paul Robinson could be sold right now to bring in a seven-figure sum up front. James Milner, Aaron Lennon, Frazer Richardson, Matt Kilgallon are all great prospects, but with the possible exception of Milner, nobody has seen enough of what they can do to justify a major fee - and a multi-million fee could be what we need to see us through.

January 19: Trevor Birch is hoping to persuade the squad to defer 30% of their wages in order to ensure the club's survival to the end of the season. Unless the club can make further cuts to its daily running costs, player sales in the next fortnight are inevitable if administration is to be avoided. Caretaker boss Eddie Gray said: "In the situation we are in I would expect other teams to come in and have a look at our players. We will have to wait and see what happens but it will not make it any easier for anybody at the club if we end up having to sell our remaining best players. The most important thing to me is the survival of Leeds United and we must do all we can to ensure that happens." And Gray hasn't given up hope about turning things around on the field either: "We are bottom of the table and it is not nice to be there but the players are the only people who can turn that around. I think there is ability within the club to win matches but it is going to be difficult. They are bound to feel bad about the position we are in.

January 19: Eddie Gray had a few words of praise for Alan Smith's restraint at St Mary's on Saturday. Last season, an abysmal performance by the team saw the striker lose it in frustration and pick up two yellow cards in quick succession, but this year he kept his head. Gray said: "Alan is a very important member of this side and we need him to be out there playing and battling for the cause. There were a few times when he could have jumped in, but he resisted doing that." He went on: "I was pleased from the point of view that although we were down he kept control of his emotions and got on with playing the game."

January 18: Chief Exec Trevor Birch has revived Peter Ridsdale's dream of creating a new stadium for Leeds, and once again it seems he feels that a move away from Elland Road would be inevitable in the circumstances. He said: "It's true we are exploring every option and the possibility is that one day in the future the site will be redeveloped. We need to have a new stadium, whether it's at Elland Road or elsewhere, to have the revenue needed to compete at the highest level. It's a simple fact of life in the Premiership." So no need to consider any changes for the next four or five years then. He went on: "Redevelopment for the stadium will, at some stage, be the goal but it's a long way down the line. I think it will happen. It's in a prime industrial area and would be an ideal site for somewhere like an Asda. It's worth a great deal of money." Hmmmm... Asda....now who do we know who could get us in with them?

January 18: Trevor Birch today slammed an article in today's Sunday People in which it suggested that the club was planning to go for a groundshare with Barnsley after selling Elland Road. Leaving aside the likelihood of Leeds fans accepting any involvement with Peter Ridsdale ever again, Birch said that the plan was "a complete nonsense", as was the suggestion that Eddie Gray was on the point of being shown the door for the second time in 12 months.

January 18: It is widely expected that the club will make an announcement when the Stock Exchange opens tomorrow, stating that a further two-week extension to the standstill agreement has been granted by the major creditors. Chief exec Trevor Birch said: "We're close to an agreement with the principle creditors. It will give us an extension of at least a week and that will enable us to put the funds in place to fund the club for the rest of the season. We have some certainty then, we are either still in the Premier league or relegated and both scenarios provide different solutions." It's not clear where the money will come from - but it would appear that Birch doesn't believe there's much hope of the Sheikh having anything to do with it. Speaking on Sky Sports News, Birch said: "I'm certainly getting fed up of reading what he's about to do in the papers, it's really a time to show us the colour of his money, to put up or shut up. I think it's done nobody any favours. It just raises expectations and leads to people being upset when those deadlines aren't reached. It's quite clear that nobody is out there wanting to take the risk on relegation because it brings with it a big trading loss. Anybody buying at this stage is taking a risk they will be on the hook for that next year."

January 18: Not much change at the top in Serie A this weekend: Roma maintain their lead, but had a shock against Sampdoria when they found themselves 0-1 down to a Bazzani goal on 6 minutes. John Carew got the leaders back on level terms in pretty short order, and a brace from Totti secured the points. Milan kept up the chase with a 0-1 win at Brescia, but they were made to work for it and had to wait until the 81st minute before a Pancaro strike secured the points. Juve moved into second spot on goals scored after strolling to a 4-2 win over Siena - Del Piero scoring two from the spot and a third in open play, with David Trezeguet also on target. Internazionale are abandoning their chase early this season - a 0-1 home defeat by Empoli leaving them well off the pace. Lazio and Parma - who find themselves in a financial mess as a result of the Parmalat scandal - also slipped back from the leading three with draws at Modena and Udinese respectively.

It's a three-horse race in La Liga as well - but the front two both stumbled this weekend. Valencia were held to a goalless draw at Valladolid on Saturday, and Real Madrid needed to call on Ronaldo to grab them an equaliser to share the points with Real Betis tonight. A point separates those two, with Deportivo La Coruna now just three points back after a 4-1 win over Real Zaragoza in the Riazor. Diego Tristan equalized an early strike for the visitors, with Juan Valeron, Tristan again and finally Sergio ensuring a home win.

AS Monaco continue to hold a commanding lead in France, despite a goalless draw at Bastia this weekend. PSG are seven points adrift in second spot - and they too could only manage a goalless draw with lowly Metz. Lyon and Auxerre kept up the pressure on PSG with wins at Montpelier and Strasbourg - no sign of Cyril Chapuis making an immediate impact there then.

Anderlecht came back from their winter break and immediately extended their lead at the top in Belgium by two points to ten. They had a 0-2 win at Antwerp today, while closest rivals Standard Liege needed goals in the last two minutes from Turaci and Mpenza to salvage a home point against Excelsior Mouscron

January 17: It was too good to last. Saints hit the post early on, but for the first half hour, Leeds played the best and most creative football we've seen in a month. Alan Smith was lively up front, linking up well with Jermaine Pennant and James Milner and actually requiring Niemi to make a save. The travelling support taunted the almost silent home fans with a chorus of "Strachan's coming home" and saw a tiny glimmer of hope on the field. And then we blew it. A good pass set Ormerod just goalside of Kilgallon, the young defender did his best to hold him up, ending up on his backside. Unfortunately neither Zoumana Camara nor Ian Harte had taken advantage of the brief delay that Kilgallon had won, and having done the hard work, Ormerod had an easy shot to take the lead. Still, only a goal down and hope remained until Camara took his eye off the ball, fell over and allowed Kevin Phillips an easy run on Robinson to end his personal goal drought just before half time. Matt Kilgallon scored his first senior goal for the club with a header from a corner, and although Robinson went up for the final corners Leeds couldn't get the equaliser. With Wolves winning at home to ManU at lunchtime, we're now firmly anchored to the foot of the table, and could be cut adrift if they follow that result up with points against Liverpool midweek. We keep on doing a lot of the right things, the players have shown pretty good spirit in the circumstances and we've not had a lot of luck. But in the end, the table does not lie, and we're where we deserve. Make your plans for the Nationwide next season - assuming we're still in business by then.

January 17: Eddie Gray said he was happy with the spirit the team had shown after going two goals down at Southampton today. He said: "Above all we need to win matches and you can't do that without spirit. But I thought we showed commitment and desire all the way through and it might have got us something." He admitted that the two Saints goals were both down to defensive mistakes: "They were bad mistakes, bad goals for us. When you make mistakes in the Premiership, you get punished. I just hope the players learn, particularly the younger players." He has no idea what is happening off the pitch - Trevor Birch is dealing with that side of things. "I don't know anything about the financial position at the club except that it is serious. I'm just going to go in on Monday, like the players will, and see what is being said. I don't know what is going to happen. I don't know if there is an investor in the background."

January 17: Robbie Keane won and scored a penalty for Spurs against Liverpool at White Hart Lane today. After Postiga had extended the lead, Harry Kewell finally showed something like his old form with a great run and strike to pull it back to 2-1, but Keane came out on the winning side. Darren Huckerby won and scored from the spot to give Norwich the lead just before half-time at Rotherham, but there was some suspicion that he didn't exactly experience much contact and there was a bad-tempered altercation in the tunnel which ended up with a red card for Rotherham. Despite being a man down, Rotherham came back to take a 4-3 lead and it needed a last-minute equaliser for Norwich to share the points. Finally, Tom Newey got himself on the scoresheet, giving Leyton Orient a 2-1 lead at home to Mansfield as they went on to win 3-1.

January 16: Depending on which paper you picked up this morning, you'll believe either that the Sheikh is on the point of buying the club for fifteen-twenty million and making a similar amount available for new player purchases, or you'll be thinking that the end is nigh because we're listening to offers for all and sundry, with Alan Smith, Paul Robinson and Mark Viduka earmarked to (a) raise some funds to keep us going and (b) reduce the wage bill. Well, the official position was made clear by the club in an official statement this morning, which read:

The Directors of Leeds United note this mornings press coverage regarding Sheikh Abdulrahman Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa. The Directors reconfirm that they are in continuing, constructive discussions with a number of parties regarding proposals to purchase the Company's business and assets or to inject funds. However, none of these interested parties' proposals contemplates an offer for the Company's shares. In addition they confirm that, to date, the Company has not received any satisfactory evidence from Sheikh Al Khalifa that funds exist to fulfil any proposal currently under discussion between him and the Company. The Directors further confirm that they are continuing discussions with the Company's principal finance creditors with a view to extending the Standstill (as defined in the Company's announcement of 4 December 2003) beyond 19 January 2004. The Board will issue a further statement as soon as practicably possible when the outcome of such discussions are known.

The Sheikh's PR machine is certainly talking up his chances, but if Trevor Birch has yet to see the colour of his money and the notional deadline for sorting something out is Monday, this hardly inspires confidence that a solution is at hand.

January 16: Mark Viduka is an obvious absentee from tomorrow's game at St Mary's, stuck on the other side of the world with his sick father. Dom Matteo and Stephen McPhail are suspended, David Batty, Michael Duberry and Lucas Radebe are injured and Lamine Sakho and Salomon Olembe are in Tunisia for the African Nations Cup. So what does that leave us with? Zoumana Camara, Jody Morris and Seth Johnson come into contention, but it's hard to see Roque Junior coming straight back into the starting line-up after just one reserve outing, and if Michael Bridges played the full 90 minutes for the reserves, it's hard to see him doing the same for the first team this week. I guess we end up with: Robinson - Kelly, Kilgallon, Camara, Harte - Bakke, Milner, Johnson, Pennant - Barmby, Smith as the starting line-up, with Carson, Richardson, Lennon, Bridges and Morris (or even Paul Keegan or Martin Woods) on the bench. Gordon Strachan has to do without Claus Lundekvam with a hamstring, Matt Oakley is a long-term absentee with a cruciate problem and Graeme Le Saux is also sidelined with a foot injury,

January 16: Dom Matteo says that he'd be happy to defer his pay if it helped save the club. The club captain misses the Saints game through suspension, but he said: "If I am going to get a wage loss but I am still playing football, I am not particularly bothered about that to be truthful. Maybe some people are but I am not, personally." And PFA deputy chief exec Mick McGuire says that previous experience has shown that pay deferral might actually help improve the team's performance. "It has happened before at Leicester and it actually had a galvanising effect on performances," he said.

January 16: The plc's share price was on a roller-coaster again today after this morning's rumours of the Sheikh's impending takeover got things moving. Over 10% of the shares on issue changed hands, and the price spiked to a 40% rise on the day early in the morning before closing at a mere(!) 20% premium.

January 15: Georgi Kinkladze played for the full 90 minutes as the reserves beat Wolves 2-0 at Telford's ground last night. Young midfielder Paul Keegan was set up by Michael Bridges to open the scoring, and Bridges himself got on the scoresheet with a last-minute header. Also appearing for Leeds was Roque Junior, playing his first game of any sort for Leeds since returning from international duty with an injury. Despite his disastrous contributions so far this season, the Brazilian defender hasn't been ruled out of contention for a place by caretaker boss Eddie Gray. Gray said: "You don't play for Brazil at the World Cup if you can't play. It took some of the best players in the Premiership time to adapt to the English game. Roque Junior has looked good in training and is working on building up his fitness."

January 15: Dr Bill Gerrard suggested that the club's creditors might be prepared to offer Trevor Birch an extension of the standstill agreement in order to allow possible bidders a longer timescale - and for some certainty to develop about the status of the club for next season. He said: "I still think that the new investors and creditors see administration as the worst case scenario and that will push them towards getting some sort of agreement." The club could expect to be in the region of £15-20 million worse off even with the parachute payments offered to relegated clubs, and there is a serious danger that Leeds could end up doing a Sheffield Wednesday and dropping down to Division 2.

January 15: In today's YEP a number of former players and others associated with the club speak out against what has been going on at the club. John Lukic was positive: "I think they can survive, but I don't think it's going to be easy. The big problem when you're at that end of the table is confidence - if you can get any into the team then you have half a chance." Coach Kevin Blackwell was adamant that the football club must go on - whatever happened to the plc: "Leeds United can't die. This is a big city and we have to be the catalyst. We are a focal point and when things are going well there is a buzz. Leeds is known for Leeds United. It's not about individuals or people's careers. I would walk away tomorrow if it meant the club was saved. This club must continue." A number of the old players were angry with the way the board had taken the club to the brink and got away without any penalties. Gordon McQueen says: "Don Revie will be turning in his grave after all the hard work he put in. The people who put the club in this mess should never be allowed to work in football again. Living the dream they said, well the nightmare is going to be a lot longer."

January 15: Eddie Gray reckons that his players would take a pay cut or wage deferral if it meant survival for the club. There's little hope of a PFA loan to cover player payments given the size of the Leeds wage bill - they may have managed it for the odd lower division side, but there's no chance of them doing it for Leeds. Gray said: "It's up to the acting chairman and players and I'm sure they'll be in discussions together and we will wait and see what happens."

January 15: Newcastle apparently put in a joke bid for Alan Smith - which was immediately turned down but Freddie Shepherd reckons he might be on to a steal on the scale of the Woodgate sale if he hangs around for a week. Newcastle, Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester City all seem keen to take Michael Bridges on loan, generously helping us reduce our wage bill by taking one of our two available recognised strikers off our hands. And Danny Mills says he wants to stay at the Riverside - but that any move is out of his hands. He said: "I have settled in well and the fans have been fantastic and the players and staff great. I hear the club are making an effort to sign me permanently but I'll just have to wait and see what happens."

January 15: Mark Viduka is still in Australia at his father's bedside as Viduka Senior undergoes a series of tests for a serious heart problem. Eddie Gray appreciates that he can't drag the player back to England in the circumstances, however dire Leeds' need. He said: "I spoke to him this morning and his father is having some tests, so it will be up to Mark when he comes back. I don't know how long it will be. It depends on how his father is, so I can't say when he will return. He will come back when everything is all right with his family."

January 14: Leeds have apparently been approaching other Premier League clubs in secret, suggesting that they might like to put in a bid for Paul Robinson. Robinson's contract is not mortgaged so any funds from the sale would come straight to the club (after we've paid 50% to three agents, a bloke who once met Peter Ridsdale in Tesco and the drivers of the matchday R2 buses), but it's unlikely Leeds would realise more than a couple of million for England's second-choice keeper. It had been assumed that Robinson was heading for Manchester City with Danny Tiatto and some cash coming back over the Pennines, but City today sealed the signature of David James. Scott Carson is an undoubted talent - but is he ready to shoulder the burden of being Leeds' only keeper right now? And what do we do for backup - find out where Danny Milosevic has got to and ask him to come back to Elland Road? Get Lucas Radebe to cover? Madness - and a sign of how desperate things are getting at Elland Road.

January 14: Noel Whelan has been offered a trial at Derby by County boss George Burley. Whelan is Millwall's second-top scorer this season with four goals, but has been out with a torn hamstring for over a month and is now available. Burley said: "He's a free agent and as a youngster he was a top-class player so he's definitely worth having a look at."

January 14: Lee Matthews' return to Bristol City has been exceedingly brief. Having returned to the Robins after a loan spell at Darlington, he has moved to arch-rivals Bristol Rovers. He said: "I knew I didn't have a chance at City because the players [at City] are doing so well at the moment. With my contract up at the end of the season, from a professional footballer's point of view, I have got to take this chance."

January 14: Peter Lorimer says that Eddie Gray faces an impossible task in saving Leeds - unless he can sign at least three new players this month. Lorimer pointed to the fact that the mini-recovery under Gray had occurred when most of the experienced players were in the side. He said: "We've had to fall back on lads like Lucas Radebe and David Batty, who have been great servants to the club, but you cannot expect them to play 40 games a season, not with the way the game is played nowadays. If you could keep them fit, along with Dominic Matteo, then they would have a fighting chance. But age and injury problems are major problems Eddie has faced and it's made things difficult." And with Mark Viduka now down in Australia with his sick father indefinitely, the side has been further weakened. Lorimer said: "If you haven't got the personnel then you are in trouble. It's why Eddie needs at least three players - a centre-back, a quality midfielder and another striker because you can't keep asking Mark to play on his own up front - to come in and give Leeds a chance."

January 14: The Premier League have yet to clarify what administration might mean to a club - and with just two working days to go before the creditors' deadline of January 19, that leaves Trevor Birch with one huge area of uncertainty in his plans for the club. A Premier League spokesman said: "We don't have any hard and fast policy but we do have a range of options. Administration can be a complex business and what happens to Leeds if or when they enter it depends on the nature and extent of administration." They could order a points deduction, or - in theory - expulsion from the Premier League, but the chairmen will be aware that although they might not want to do Leeds any favours, several other clubs are sailing perilously close to the wind, and if they set a precedent with Leeds which they then fail to follow with other clubs, whatever is left of LUFC plc or the club's creditors would almost certainly take legal action against the PL. The PL denied that any decision on what to do had already been taken. They said: "[Leeds] will be required to come and present the situation to the Premier League and give us some comfort regards how they intend to exit administration. They will have to let us know whether they intend to do so by attracting investors or if they have a business plan in place. The course of action will then be dictated by the level of comfort we receive from them. It could be in the form of giving Leeds a certain amount of time to exit administration or we'll give them a set amount of time with what we deem a viable exit strategy." Rough translation - show us the money and we might give you a bit of breathing space, but unless you can offer a certain path forward then you're in BIG trouble. Let's hope it doesn't come to that...

January 13: Lee Matthews has ended his loan spell at Darlington after scoring once in six games for the Quakers. Although Darlo boss David Hodgson wanted to extend his loan, the fact that they are in administration means that they can't guarantee to pay him. It seems as if he doesn't feature in Bristol City's long-term plans though - manager Danny Wilson said: "One or two other clubs have expressed interest in him and I'll be having a chat with him about that."

January 13: John Charles was in a critical condition in hospital in Italy today after needing a second operation after initial surgery to remove a blood clot on his leg. He was wheeled in for emergency surgery after developing complications while recovering from the heart op he underwent last week. His wife, Glenda, said: "It's a case of waiting to see how he pulls through. I'm touched by the response of people back home."

January 13: Chris Waddle said that Michael Bridges needed toughening up if he was to regain his form as a Premiership striker - and he knows just how to do it. Waddle said: "Eddie should get David Batty to give Michael a couple of kicks in training so Bridgey will be confident he can withstand those kind of challenges." The alternative was to loan him out to a lower division side since it's clear he needs regular first team football to progress after seeming to plateau in his recovery with just reserve games to challenge him. Waddle said: "That should help him because he was a top striker before his injury and he has lots of talent." But Eddie Gray knows that the current crisis at the club means that there's no chance of us sending away a proven goalscorer - however unfit - with Mark Viduka on the other side of the world. Gray said: "Michael needs to play games to get his sharpness back. In the situation we are in we need him."

January 13: Lamine Sakho is hoping to use the African Nations Cup in Tunisia to boost his chances of regular first-team football back in England. He's been a bit-part player for most of this season after blowing everyone away with his performance in the pre-season game against Villa, and there has been interest from La Liga club Espanyol, who are in a similarly dire position in the league to Leeds but would probably give him a regular start. Speaking to the offical website, he said: "If I can't play for Leeds it is not good for me... If I go with Senegal I can play and that's better for me because after the year I have to go back to Marseille and I don't want to go back and play for them after this." He went on: "I like Leeds and I want to stay in the Premiership, so if I can stay it will be good, but if I am not playing regularly then Leeds will not let me stay here and it will not be possible." There has also been interest in Sakho from Pompey, but it doesn't look like he will be switching during this transfer window.

January 13: Peter Reid today revealed how he had nearly managed to sign up four relatively big names during the summer - but the club's inability to fund their wages had put the kibosh on the deals. Patrik Berger, Henning Berg, Paolo di Canio and Markus Babbel had all held serious talks with Reid and had agreed in principle to join Leeds before the Kewell fiasco failed to yield the expected cash for the club thus derailing the deals. As a result, Reid was left with no option but to pull in the foreign loan signings as the only way to freshen up the squad. Reid added: "I'm just hoping that Leeds can stay up. The fans are different class at Leeds. I will always remember them for their support and they deserve a Premiership football club."

January 13: Sky Sports are turning the spotlight on Elland Road in the countdown to the financial deadline day next Monday, and today they've got a couple of quotes from Howard Wilkinson. The former Leeds manager says that player sales look almost inevitable unless a Jack Walker or Roman Abramovich turns up before the weekend. And he has plenty of sympathy for the impossible job that Eddie Gray is facing. Wilko said: "You would get to the state where you think: Sod it! I have no control at all over what's going on out there. So long as I am doing my job to the best of my ability and so long as the players are doing their job to the best of their ability, that's all we can do."

January 13: The Professional Footballers' Association today met the Leeds players to outline what might happen to them if the club go into administration. After helping their members at several Nationwide clubs, the PFA are now well-versed in what goes on when a club is forced to throw in the financial towel. Deputy chief executive Mick McGuire and former Leeds player Richard Jobson spoke to the squad at Elland Road, indicating the sort of financial options they may be asked to help out with if Trevor Birch decides that there is no alternative to administration. PFA chief exec Gordon Taylor said: "They were apparently excellent in their response. They want to hold the club together and they want to stay together to keep Leeds in the Premiership because they know that would be the best way for somebody to come in and save them. A number of options were discussed with a view to keeping the club alive and to avoid administration, with one of those options being a deferral of wages. The players were very responsive, which was to be expected because that's what we have encountered at other clubs in the past." And he added: "Sometimes people do not appreciate just what players want to do for their club in terms of staying solid and together and doing it for the fans."

January 12: The hamstring injury Michael Duberry sustained in the Spurs game is set to keep him out for at least a fortnight and could lead to a recall for out-of-favour loanee Zoumana Camara. Camara had not looked too bad in defence, particularly when paired with Lucas Radebe, and was unlucky to be dropped when Eddie Gray took over - but he could face a big challenge at the weekend operating alongside youngster Matthew Kilgallon. David Batty's ankle injury is improving faster than expected, and he could be asked to play through the pain in order to bolster the midfield.

January 12: Simon Johnson's loan spell with Blackpool has come to an end, and he is back with Leeds. Blackpool did want to extend his loan, in which he's scored once in five games, but Johnson decided it would be better for him to return to Leeds after discussing it with his advisers.

January 12: Gary McAllister is cutting his ties with Coventry after several weeks away from the club to spend time with his seriously ill wife while she undergoes a course of treatment. McAllister said: "I have reached the decision that it would be better to sever all ties with Coventry City at this time so the club can clearly focus on the future. I would like to express my gratitude to the club, the players, the staff and all the fans for their support and wish Coventry City every success in the future." He has been in charge at Highfield Road since April 2002.

January 12: After hitting the dizzying heights of 7.38 pence a week before Christmas, the share price is back down to 3.38 pence - not far off where it was when all this bid speculation started. One of the main institutional investors - Schroders - is understood to have unloaded a sizeable proportion of its holding, no doubt taking a book profit on a stock that had long been written down to zero value on its balance sheet. Meanwhile the club issued a statement to the Stock Exchange this morning, stating that there were prospective bidders interested in a takeover or providing additional funds, but it went on: "None of these interested parties' proposals contemplates an offer for the company's shares." The Sheikh, Xu Ming and Allan Leighton must now consider whether or not it's worth their while stumping up a huge premium to have a controlling interest in a Premier League side when that side's tenure in the top flight looks certain to be no more than 17 games long.

January 12: Tonight the good word is that a short-term rescue package is almost in place to keep the club going to the end of the season. Basically, the creditors will be offered a "take it or leave it" deal that will see them lose most of their investment if they refuse and the club ends up in administration. Of course, they could just decide to cut their losses. A fans group is working towards a solution - but this is no Lincoln City/Bury - and the creditors are a lot more hard-nosed than the Inland Revenue.

January 11: Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa has come out and said that he is finally ready to mobilise his consortium to take over at Elland Road. He is believed to be fronting for an Asian company and a couple of Saudi Arabian businessmen and has spent a fortnight in London trying to sort out further financial backing. He said: "There are signs of hope. The more talks I have, the more optimistic I become about a solution." The Sheikh is a long-time Leeds fan, dating back to the 1970 FA Cup Final. He said: "It was fated that I should love the club. Whether that fate will determine that I can save them 30 years later, I don't know."

January 11: The U-19 Academy side showed the senior team a thing or two with a 1-5 hammering of Newcastle this weekend. Amazingly enough, the first half was goalless, but two minutes into the second period Damian Reeves headed Leeds in front, then scored four more in the space of seven minutes through Chris Jones, Jamie Winter, Reeves again and another from Winter. Newcastle's consolation goal came 13 minutes from the end, but the game was long gone by then. Now why can't the seniors play like that?

January 11: Eddie Gray said that the fans had every right to jeer the side during yesterday's lacklustre defeat by Spurs. He said: "That's the first time the crowd have had a go and they were within their rights to do so. The players must take responsibility - if they don't then the crowd will justifiably have a go at them." The caretaker boss said that lack of confidence rather than work-rate was the main problem affecting the team. He added: "The problem now is a gap has developed and that's very disappointing and when you look at the table you cannot be confident. But I still have the belief that we have players who are capable here and that we will get out of it." And unlike some of the previous incumbents, Gray is at one with the fans on the real problem at the moment: "We're also not creating chances, which is a big concern. To win games you need to score goals and since I came back to the club we've not created enough chances and you've got to have quality to do that."

For Spurs, Leeds old boy Robbie Keane said that Leeds faced a tough task to escape the drop - but like Gary Speed before him he thinks it's not beyond Eddie Gray and his team. Keane said :"It's going to be tough for them - it would be tough for anyone - but they still have quality players and with the table so close, I don't see any reason they cannot be right up there if they get a few results. If they get a few back-to-back results, as we have, then they will shoot back up there and I really hope they do." Keane's trademark somersault goal celebration was not on show yesterday, despite his excellent run and finish to win the game. He said: "I've a lot of friends here and a lot of respect for people, especially for Eddie Gray who was someone I could always have a chat with when I was here."

January 11: One-time Leeds right back David Kerslake has linked up with former Spurs colleague Colin Calderwood at Northampton Town. Kerslake has been working with the youngsters at Spurs for the last five years (obviously done a lot for their defence!) and will become reserve team coach for the Cobblers.

January 11: The Sunday Euro Round-up returns, albeit in truncated form and helped by the fact that most of Europe is still on a winter break but mainly because I've finally got through a weekend where I find myself free an entire hour before midnight rather than the got-to-get-up-for-work-in-five-hours rush that has been the norm for the last month or so.

They're still playing in Italy and Spain, so taking a quick look at Serie A we find AS Roma with a 3-point lead at the top of the pile. This weekend they squeaked a 0-1 win at Perugia with Mancini scoring in the first minute to maintain their advantage over Juve, who won 1-2 at Sampdoria courtesy of Camoranesi and Conte. Third-placed Milan have a game in hand but had a shock today when they found themselves trailing to a Stefano Torrisi goal after just one minute's play against Reggina in the San Siro. They soon recovered their composure, equalising within five minutes through Kaka and taking the lead early in the second half through the same player before a Pirlo penalty sealed the points.

Valencia top La Liga, but they had to struggle to a 0-1 win at Alabcete yesterday - Lopez scoring from the spot. A second-half strike from Karpin gave Real Sociedad a 1-0 win over Real Madrid - a bit of an upset considering how poorly last season's long-time leaders have been playing this season. Deportivo La Coruna failed to take full advantage of Madrid's slip, allowing Santander's Javi Guerrero to equalise Luque's first-half strike in the Riazor. In the battle at the bottom, Espanyol and Murcia are well adrift of safety so their match today was more a relegation pride mini-league rather than six-pointer. As it was Espanyol ran out 0-1 winners - a first half goal from Maxi helped when the hosts were reduced to 10 men with 20 minutes of the first period remaining.

January 10: Leeds boss Eddie Gray says that his side need to start winning at home as soon as possible if there is to be any hope of avoiding relegation. He said: "We need to start going into games without that fear of losing but that is difficult at a club in our position, with the expectation levels. The boys have got to overcome that, have the courage and confidence to try things because that's what wins matches. I don't want any player coming in after a game with something still left in the tank. That is what happens with the top teams, they have top players who can go out and change the course of games and I'm confident we've got players in the side that can do that." He pointed out that the players were desperate to turn things around - and that desperation was showing in the way they played. A win against Spurs is essential.

January 10: Despite the insistence of both Gordon Strachan and Rupert Lowe that the Wee Man intends to take a complete break from football next season, stories persist linking him with the Leeds job. Allan Leighton is said to be ready to offer Strachan serious financial incentives to come to Leeds - but that's dependent on the takeover happening and Leeds still being in the Premier League. In the short term, this means that Eddie Gray will remain in charge until the end of this season, provided the creditors see enough real movement towards a takeover not to close us down first!

January 10: The day after Paul Robinson complained that the persistent chatter about the club's financial position and uncertainty about the future was affecting the players, Eddie Gray said that they needed to concentrate on what was going on on the field and ignore the rest of the situation. He said: "It's something for the people who run the club financially to deal with. I just get on with my job and concentrate on getting the players in the right frame of mind. The players are bound to be curious about what will happen, but they've got their own jobs to do and that's the most important thing as far as I'm concerned."

January 10: It's one thing to lose to a slightly below-par side at St James Park. It's another thing entirely to fail to trouble the Spurs keeper once over 90 minutes at Elland Road. This was a poor performance by the entire side - only Kilgallon and Duberry emerging with any credit over the full match, although Lamine Sakho and James Milner were bright when they finally came on. The surprise return of Barmby to the side basically meant we were a man down before we even started, and Ian Harte's woeful and wasteful form with the dead ball must surely call into question Eddie Gray's judgement in persisting with him. Mark Viduka departed at half-time having looked vaguely interested - but was seldom supplied with a decent ball. Michael Bridges - on as Viduka's half-time replacement - strove in vain to make a difference but is still clearly short of match fitness and sharpness. Olembe started well but after seeing a series of decent passes wasted by the Leeds attack, and finding himself with nobody else in midfield to pass to, he drifted out of the game. Dom Matteo's personal qualities and leadership ability can't be questioned, but his passing skills appear to have vanished, and too many times we lost possession through his poor pass selection and execution. Robbie Keane's celebrations when he scored were muted - he's still got some affection and good memories for Leeds - but he didn't let the fact that we're still paying his wages stop him from finishing clinically when he outpaced Duberry and outfoxed Robinson.

Where do we go from here? Quite simple - we go down. We're now 5 points away from safety (realistically 6 with our dreadful goal difference) and we've not created a single goal-scoring opportunity from our play since the Fulham game. We still have the players capable of turning this around, but we need everyone to pull their weight from the manager down. It's not good enough to play for a point anymore - particularly at home! We must go for a win, and Eddie Gray's selection and substitution policy over the last couple of games has raised plenty of eyebrows but has not produced any points.

For Saints next week we're going to face a huge challenge: Matteo suspended, Olembe and Sakho in Tunisia, Batty still an injury doubt - and no news on Duberry yet - and Viduka probably still on the other side of the world and any attempt at selecting a squad has so many either/ors in there that it becomes incomprehensible. But here's a start: if Doobs is out, switch Kelly to centreback and play Richardson at RB; Bakke as defensive midfield in place of Matteo; Domi or Seth Johnson in for Harte; Smith and Bridges up front; Milner, Pennant and Johnson as the midfield trio.

January 10: Mark Viduka's departure at half-time was nothing to do with a hamstring injury as first suspected but was in fact caused by his desire to get back to Australia to be with a close relative who is seriously ill. Eddie Gray said: "Mark has a personal problem back home with one of his family who is ill. He has been up all night for the last two nights and he almost flew back last night. But he decided to give it a go, however it was clear his mind was not really on it. I had a chat with him at half time and now he's going to go back home tonight." It's not clear when he will be back in England - but it looks unlikely that he'll be back and fit to play for next Saturday if he has to spend at least 2 days in the air between now and then.

January 10: Georgi Kinkladze has not been shown the door, despite what we were told yesterday when it was suggested his lack of fitness had resulted in a quick termination of his trial. Eddie Gray wants to see what he can do in a reserve game next week - but it's also clear that his wage expectations appear to be set at levels more consistent with 2-3 years ago before the great transfer market/ITV-Digital slump began, so he'll also need to be convinced that making a contribution to a relegation-fighting team will have a positive benefit on his career that might outweigh any shortfall in his pay expectations.

January 09: Gordon Strachan will leave Southampton when his contract expires at the end of this season. In a statement from the club in response to rising speculation on the manager's future, Southampton said that Strachan had decided to have "a break from the demands and pressures that are associated with being a Premier League football manager." Saints chairman Rupert Lowe once again denied any suggestions of a rift between himself and the fiery Scot. "Gordon and I have fully discussed the situation and are comfortable with his decision," said Lowe. "Despite the fact that we may appear an unlikely partnership, I have very much enjoyed working with Gordon over the past two and a half years... Gordon has assured me that he will give 110% for the balance of this season in order to capitalise on our current position in the league. Our fans will be sad to see a man, whose passion matched theirs, taking time out of the game."

January 09: Paul Robinson today spoke out about the problems at the club, and pointed to the way the board had gone through four managers - with big pay-offs for O'Leary, Venables and Reid - in the space of 18 months as one of the root causes of the current problems. Robinson said: "In today's market that kind of money could have rebuilt our team." And he went on to point out how the turnover of managers had made it difficult for the players to get a consistent approach to each game. He said: "We try to block out what is happening off the pitch and concentrate on the football. But it probably has had a massive bearing on our performances."

January 09: Louis Saha may be extremely unhappy at Fulham's refusal to countenance his sale to Manchester United, but if Chris Coleman and Al Fayed are prepared to put up with him sulking through the rest of the season and turn down Fergie's latest offer then the Old Trafford wallet could be opening in our direction. A striker is a major priority for Ferguson - and one able to play in the Champions League would be a big bonus, so it's no surprise that a bid for Viduka is on the way. Price is likely to be the major sticking point, with the canny Scot looking to drive a hard bargain and take advantage of Leeds' precarious financial position.

January 09: Eddie Gray's options in midfield are about to be seriously stretched with the news that David Batty has damaged his ankle ligaments and could be out for a month. Eirik Bakke is still not ready to play 90 minutes twice a week, Salomon Olembe and Lamine Sakho are Tunisia-bound, and Dominic Matteo is suspended for the Saints game next week, so it looks like Gray will need to turn to a combination of the youngsters plus the players whose performances have been less than stellar so far this season. At least Smithy will be back for the Southampton game next week - but he needs to remember not to produce the muppet-like performance he gave us last year, picking up two stupid yellow cards and another ban. For Spurs, Mauricio Taricco returns from suspension and Anthony Gardner is back from a thigh strain, but Dean Richards, Jamie Redknapp and Christian Ziege are all highly doubtful with knee injuries and new signing Michael Brown still has one match of his suspension to serve before he can make his debut.

January 09: Not too long ago, Allan Leighton was linked with retail mogul Philip Green as part of a possible bid for Safeway. Now it seems, they are set to join forces again with Green ready to make a bid for Leeds. With the deadline for bids barely a week away, there have been few developments from the Gulf or the Far East, and potential bidders are obviously concerned by the renewed slump in form. Green is a no-nonsense businessman who has made a bit of a habit of buying large, underperforming stores, restoring their profitability and taking a sizeable cut of the resulting profits. Do we want someone like that at Leeds? Unquestionably yes! After the abysmal level of financial control under Ridsdale, we need somebody who knows about turning a profit and also with the sort of reputation at the negotiating table that will make the creditors listen and agree to refinancing suggestions. The big question of course is why would Green want to get involved with Leeds? The debt that Ridsdale's board saddled the club with means that there's not likely to be much return on capital invested in the short term, but if a sensible refinancing package is put together, the club could be in a position to restore its fortunes on and off the field and would also offer a reasonably healthy cashflow to the buyer after the Prof's cost-cutting over the last 9 months. Green doesn't need the money - he paid himself over £200 million last year with a dividend from BhS - but if he can take this on as a bit of an image-enhancer, as a favour (to be called in at some future date) to Allan Leighton, and offering possible retail rewards should the ground ever be redeveloped, then it might just be enough to persuade him to put his hand in his pocket. For the sake of everyone at Elland Road, let's hope Allan Leighton can persuade him to do just that.

January 09: Tickets will be on sale right up to kick-off for tomorrow's game with Spurs. Sounds like it's going to be another well-below-capacity crowd. Get down there and get behind the team!

January 09: Georgi Kinkladze's trial at Elland Road came to an abrupt halt today when the club told him he wasn't fit enough to consider for a spell in the Premier League. Given the level of fitness we've seen from some players so far this season, that's a very worrying concept - he must be carrying more flab than a tanker full of beef dripping if he can't even persuade us to give him a crack in a reserve match!

January 08: Bobby Robson had positive and negative things to say about Leeds after last night's game. He praised Leeds' performance and workrate, but also said he thought Robbo should have been dismissed when he collided with Dyer outside the area. Robson said: "I think their 'keeper should have been sent off - he has taken Kieron out, outside the box, and then Kieron has lobbed it over him, when he shoudn't have been there, and just missed." And of course the veteran Magpies striker came in for some praise too: "Shearer was inspirational. A great example, it was tough match and he was in the mix of it all the time." Gary Speed reckons that Leeds will get out of trouble if the team keeps on playing like they did last night. He said: "I've seen them a couple of times recently, and if they keep carrying on like that, they will win more than they lose and they will get out of trouble. It is a fantastic club. I will always have a place in my heart for Leeds and it would be disastrous for everyone at the club if they went down." Meanwhile Eddie Gray was less than happy, although he still thinks there's enough self-belief in the team to turn things around. He said: "You try to instil as much belief as you can but the players have got to have that belief as well. I have confidence and belief in them but they have got to have the belief that they can get out of trouble. I don't think that belief is waning. I still think the players feel they'vegot a chance to pull away."

January 08: John Charles was recovering in hospital today after undergoing emergency cardiac surgery last night. He was out in Italy, about to appear on TV with his old strike partner Omar Sivori when he suffered a burst blood vessel and was rushed to hospital. "Il Bon Gigante" was said to be awake and in good spirits after the op by his doctor. Dr Piergiorgio Settembrini said: "I had a chat with him this morning, and he is smiling. He asked me about the Serie A football results, which shows that he is in good spirits. He is strong and he can resist the pain well." The 72-year-old Charles - who has had a cancer scare and been battling Alzheimer's Disease in the last couple of years - now faces one to two weeks recuperating in hospital in Italy before any thought can be given to returning him to England.

January 08: With Alan Smith already ruled out of this weekend's game through suspension, Eddie Gray must now also reorganise the midfield without the services of David Batty. Batty was helped off the pitch with an ankle injury after just half an hour last night, and now looks likely to miss at least a week. Eddie Gray said: "David turned his ankle and we will assess him. But I don't think he will play at the weekend. We will have to wait and see how long he will be out for."

January 08: Hull chairman Adam Pearson has emphatically ruled out a move for Nick Barmby. Barmby is a Hull lad and has been seen at one of their games, but Pearson said there was no way the club could afford to take him on. He said: "I had a chat with Nick about it and it's not in his plans. He's got two-and-a-half years left of a fantastic contract at Leeds and he's not going to walk away from that. He's only 29 and probably sees himself playing at the highest level for a number of years yet. His contract is way out of what this club can afford."

January 07: I mentioned a while back that Mel Sterland was putting his medals up for sale in order to get out of a bit of a financial hole he's found himself in. Well, the first one is now up there on eBay - take a look and get a bid in if you've got the cash spare: a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own a Leeds United Division 1 Winners medal.

January 07: With no apparent movement imminent from the thousands of parties clamouring to take the club over, Allan Leighton now seems to be trying to sort out some short-term financing to keep the club solvent through to the end of the season. The Sheikh's bid seems to be on ice, and with no signs of a concrete bid from other quarters, some of the creditors are understood to be somewhat restive at the prospect of the status quo continuing to the end of the season - although a few solid league results leading to a climb out of the drop zone might just calm those fears if it looks like we'll be staying up. 11 days to go and counting...

January 07: Eddie Gray says that he'd have no qualms about making Jon Woodgate England's first-choice centreback, never mind a replacement for Rio or Sol Campbell. With Ferdinand set to miss Euro 2004 under suspension, and Campbell having all the pace and agility of an oil tanker, Woodgate's commanding performances as Newcastle have climbed up the table cannot have gone unnoticed by Sven. Gray said: "Bobby Robson was quoted as saying that if Rio was worth £30million then they got Jonathan quite cheap. I agree with him there - they did get him cheap." Gray added: "You don't get that many centre-backs who can play like he can on the ball, like a Rio Ferdinand. He is also quick, good in the air and still young for a centre-back because they don't usually reach their peak until their late 20s. He will get better and better."

January 07: Alan Maybury - rejected by David O'Leary as Leeds went on the Champions League run - made the first goal and scored the winner for Hearts in their 2-1 win over Dundee last night. Maybury's cross gave Hearts the Leeds when Mark de Vries headed it home at the start of the second half, and then he smashed home a left-foot shot seven minutes from time, just three minutes after Dundee had equalised.

January 07: Leeds have taken former Derby midfielder Georgi Kinkladze on trial with a view to offering him a contract through to the end of the season. Midfield creativity has been sorely lacking from the team since the departure of Olivier Dacourt, and Kinkladze is a free agent after leaving Derby in the summer. He is likely to play in next week's reserve game against Wolves after training with the squad.

January 07: Jamie McMaster has been shipped out to Chesterfield on a month's loan after failing to make an impression on Eddie Gray, despite the sorry state of recent performances and the imminent departures of Lamine Sakho and Salomon Olembe to Tunisia on African Nations Cup duties. McMaster's move was helped by a consortium of fans and local businessmen who will pay his wages at Saltergate - where they're in desperate need of a boost after last weekend's 7-0 hammering at Plymouth. McMaster will almost certainly play in this weekend's game against Wrexham. Spireites boss Roy McFarland said that they had been keeping an eye on the player since he scored a cracking goal against them during the pre-season friendly.

January 07: Cyril Chapuis's departure has been confirmed, and after returning to Olympique Marseille he's been loaned out straight away to RC Strasbourg. "I found myself with Sakho, Olembe and Domi in the reserve team," he told L'Equipe. RC Strasbourg boss Marc Keller said: "Chapuis is a young and dynamic player who is eager to bounce back."

January 07: It's getting to be a bit of a joke when we face Newcastle. Every time that we play them, Alan Shearer seems to score - that's now twenty goals he's scored against us over the years. Shearer latched on to a good through ball with just three minutes on the clock, grabbed the goal and at that point we might as well all have gone home. Neither side made many more chances, the famously passionate fans at St James Park seemed to have left their voices at home for the night, and without Alan Smith to raise the temperature, the game just drifted away. Smithy has apparently decided against appealing over his suspension, which means that after the Spurs game on Saturday, he'll be available for the - hopefully more winnable - games against Southampton, Boro and Villa, which I'm sure is the thinking behind this. With Spurs winning well tonight, getting all three points at the weekend becomes even more essential.

January 06: Alan Smith will not face any further pain over the alleged incident in the tunnel at half-time on Sunday. Ref Rob Styles said that he had seen what had gone on as the players left the field and had not deemed it worthy of inclusion in his report. Styles said: "I saw Patrick Vieira and Alan Smith talking to each other. It was a very short exchange of views in the mouth of the tunnel and going a few yards into it. I was on the scene quite quickly and walked with the lads up the tunnel. I saw what I needed to see and I managed it at the time."

January 06: Cyril Chapuis is set to cut short his loan spell at Leeds and return to France with RC Strasbourg. Strasbourg are on the point of offloading Yugoslavian striker Danijel Ljuboja to PSG. Chapuis appeared in both League Cup games, but has only made one substitute appearance in the league this season, and with Eddie Gray's bias in favour of the permanent players combining with the club's desire to reduce overheads wherever possible, Leeds are understood to be happy for the player to return to France. Chapuis is formally a Marseille player and it's not clear whether or not he would just switch on loan for the remainder of the season or make a permanent move now.

January 06: Eirik Bakke says that the team want to make sure the two-match losing streak comes to an end tomorrow at St James Park. He said: "We've lost two in a row now and we don't want to lose any more. We'll give it our all and more tomorrow. Newcastle is a good place to go if you win, but it's the worst if you lose." A repeat of last season's battling performance, with a goal coming at either end of the game to grab the points will do just fine! Bakke said that the team were disappointed with the end result against Arsenal - but described them as the best team in the country and said that Leeds were unlucky to come away without a replay. But now the focus is back on the league. Bakke said: "We've got two big games coming up with Newcastle and then Tottenham. We have to keep our heads. It's very important that we do that. If we play like we did against Arsenal we can do it, because we won't play teams of their quality every week. Survival is the focus now and we've got the players here to do it."

January 06: Michael Bridges is the subject of a loan move from Newcastle according to the latest transfer-window mutterings - but with Alan Smith on the point of missing several games through the yellow-card totting-up procedure, never mind the spiteful FA ban, then Leeds are unlikely to accede to the request, even though it would take Bridges off the payroll when he isn't playing much. And in other news, fellow strugglers Spurs would like Paul Robinson to join their battle for survival. Of course they would! But they need a new midfield and defence before it's worth spending any money on a keeper!

January 06: Alan Smith has been banned for two matches by the FA following the "bottle" incident in the Carling Cup tie with Man U on October 28. That's a whole month after Rio failed to take his drug test and he's still playing - but it's unlikely Smith will drag everything out with an appeal, despite the fact that the club think he has been treated harshly. A statement read: "The Club are disappointed, as is Alan. Leeds United feel the player has been very harshly treated over the whole matter." Smith will miss the Boro and Villa games at the end of this month/start of next month. No sign of any FA action against the Villa player who blasted the ball into the crowd on Boxing Day when it was already well into touch, narrowly missing several of the wheelchair users at Elland Road. But hey, a football hitting your head at high speed is hardly the same as being clipped on the ear by a gently lobbed plastic bottle, is it?

January 06: Craig Bellamy and Lee Bowyer are both still out of contention for the Newcastle team tomorrow - so that should make for a much more even-tempered game for a start! All we need now is for Shearer to develop a sudden bout of flu and we might even keep the bookings in single figures! Jermaine Pennant will return for Leeds - possibly at the expense of Eirik Bakke who has looked exhausted by the 60-minute mark in the games he's played since his return. Gary Kelly's foot injury might have healed sufficiently to enable him to come back into the side in place of Frazer Richardson, despite the youngster's assured performance on Sunday.

January 05: Alan Smith was apparently involved in a clash with Arsenal's swallow-diving Brazilian Edu at half-time in yesterday's game. Edu approached the ref as the players walked off, and when Smith moved to respond, the players apparently clashed. It's not clear if the ref will be reporting the incident - but with Smithy facing an FA board tomorrow over the bottle-throwing incident and now just one yellow card away from a further ban under the totting-up procedure, it will only give the FA another excuse to ban him for the rest of the season or until Leeds get relegated.

January 05: Peter Reid today revealed that the club had tried to persuade him to quit so that they wouldn't have to pay him off. Reid always made it clear in public that he wouldn't walk away, and he reiterated the point. He said: "I would never quit and those who know me will agree. That's the number one rule as football manager." He said he wasn't happy with the way that the club handled the situation, but surprisingly had a few words to say in praise of Mark Viduka. Reid said: "It's been well documented that me and Viduka had a couple of rucks - but that happens. I would recommend him to anything. He can play at any level and if I was at a big club, I'd go and get him."

January 05: Whether it's just wishful thinking and the hope that he'll have another easy ride next season or whether it's genuine praise, it's nice to hear that Thierry Henry has come out backing Leeds to avoid the drop. After yesterday's game he said: "I think Leeds will survive in the Premiership. They put Manchester United in a lot of trouble in the league game at Elland Road and were only beaten when they lost the ball in their own penalty box and Roy Keane scored the winner. The way they started against us, they put us under pressure and scored. We managed to come back and win, but I don't see how Leeds are going to go down. They don't deserve to be relegated. They are a great club with great fans and a great stadium." Another nice touch from the French player yesterday came at the final whistle, when he picked out birthday boy James Milner and handed him his shirt as a souvenir.

January 05: To the great surprise of absolutely nobody, Leeds' trip to Old Trafford has had its kick-off time brought forward to a 1230 start - which is now more of a tradition in this fixture than the 3 o'clock start.

January 05: After being called up into the team when Gary Kelly was ruled out with a hairline fracture of his ankle, Frazer Richardson is determined to hang on to his place and get a decent run in the side. Richardson has played in the England Youth and U-20 teams, and made a brief appearance in Italy for the match against Hapoel Tel-Aviv last season and another brief bench appearance against Saints at the start of this season, but his main first-team experience has come in two loan spells at Stoke. Richardson said: "I feel very confident that I can do a job now. At the age of 16 I first got told to be patient and this is my chance to show what I can do. I hope to grab that chance with both hands.

January 05: Harry "whoops that was a big blade of grass" Kewell has taken a pop at Mark Viduka and David O'Leary in the current edition of FourFourTwo. He first had a whinge at Viduka over the Leeds striker's suggestion that Kewell's agent had tried to persuade Socceroos boss Frank Farina to select Kewell as the next national team captain. "Until [Viduka] actually apologises for saying those things I'm not going to go out of my way to be nice to him," said Kewell. And Kewell also revealed that he wasn't unhappy to see the back of David O'Leary 18 months ago. He said: "When he first took over he was a good man but then something happened. I don't know whether it was him, the club or the players. My relationship with David O'Leary was iffy to say the least. I did enjoy working with him but that faded away because things happened. I had conversations with him that left me bamboozled. He was saying things that I didn't understand. I was left gobsmacked half the time. I would just shake my head and think, 'What?'" In tomorrow's news, DOL says how he loved his time at Leeds, never "lost" the dressing room and had the full support of all the players. Again.

January 05: Wolves' late equaliser against Kidderminster at the weekend means that the Reserves game in the Midlands has been switched to Wednesday 14 January, with a 1900 KO at Telford United's ground.

January 05: Alan Smith said that the team were not totally downhearted after yesterday's Cup defeat by Arsenal. "We would rather play well and get beat 4-1 than play like we did against Wolves, that was unacceptable," he said. "We started off in first 20 minutes really well, but you know with their quality that they are always going to create chances... For long periods in the second half we pushed on and created a few chances for ourselves. We've done as much as we can today as a team."

January 05: Leeds Ladies suffered a similar fate to the first team on Sunday afternoon, going a goal up at Doncaster Belles but then finding themselves eliminated from the FA Cup as the Belles came back to win the match 2-1. Tania Panesar scored for Leeds, and keeper Andrea Worrall saved a penalty, but after Leeds had gone a goal up right at the start of the second half, but two goals in five minutes sent Doncaster through to the semis. So it's back to the League programme for the Ladies, aiming to finish in the top three or four but with two games against Arsenal, plus the visits of Charlton and Fulham to Wheatley Park still to come it won't be easy. Leeds Ladies visit Bristol Rovers next Sunday for their next league match.

January 05: Gary Kelly has not suffered a broken bone in his foot as was first feared. He took a knock in training and was forced to miss the FA Cup tie against Arsenal yesterday, but after X-rays and MRI scans today it seems that he's just for some soft tissue damage and should be ready to resume training within the next seven days.

January 04: There's an interview with James Milner in today's Independent here. He talks about what's been happening to him over the last year or so, and how he sees his career developing. Among other things, he says: "I'm a massive Leeds fan and I've still got a T-shirt celebrating that day [the 1992 Championship]. I was about six and with my dad, who's a season-ticket holder. I remember dad saying, 'Remember this day; it may not happen again'." He talks about the comparisons with Wayne Rooney - and how in many ways he has benefited from not being the centre of attention despite making his first Premier League appearance and scoring his first Premier League goal at an earlier stage to the "Goodison Genius". And unlike Rooney, he's firmly focused on what's happening on the pitch: "At the moment, I'm just concentrating on my football. I'm not going out there looking for agents and commercial deals. The main thing in my life is trying to get in the side here. The other side of football can wait."

January 04: United Chief Exec Trevor Birch warned of "dire consequences" should Leeds go into administration. Birch has a fortnight left to find a buyer for the club before the standstill agreement with creditors expires on January 19, but as yet there are no obvious candidates forming a disorderly queue to slap their wallets on the table. Birch said: "Hopefully we'll be somewhere along the road to salvation [by Jan 19] but if no-one comes forward administration is still a possibility. It doesn't seem there is much of an appetite for our football and not many potential investors. There is uncertainty about what might happen to a Premiership club going into administration. We're aware there could be dire consequences with the Premier League if that happened. The issue would probably go to a general meeting." And he made it clear that he didn't regard administration as an acceptable solution. He finished: "We're trying to avoid it at all costs. Much depends on finding a buyer."

January 04: The scoreline in today's game was, of course, the same as when the two sides met at Elland Road in November, but the performance from the Leeds side was much more heartening. David Batty had a massive game in midfield, Mark Viduka looked genuinely up for the game and James Milner caused the Arsenal defence many problems. Frazer Richardson made a good impression on his first start at right back after Gary Kelly picked up a foot injury, and despite being occasionally shown up by the pace and experience of Thierry Henry, Matt Kilgallon had another good game alongside Michael Duberry. When Viduka charged down Lehmann's pathetic clearance to give Leeds the opener, things briefly looked a bit brighter, but once Henry had orchestrated the dissection of the Leeds defence twice in a handful of minutes, the result was never in doubt and Arsenal never really needed to find top gear. Things might have been a little different (by which I mean maybe we'd have ended up losing by the odd goal in seven rather than by a three-goal margin) if Rob Styles had applied the laws of the game correctly and consistently. Eirik Bakke and Alan Smith made no/very little contact with Vieira and Edu, but both were booked. Smith was on the receiving end of at least three challenges far worse than the one he was carded for, but Styles kept his cards in his pocket this time. James Milner was clearly pulled back three feet from the end of Styles' nose - an automatic yellow card offence unless you're wearing an Arsenal shirt according to the idiot with the whistle. Yep, it's Jabba whinging at the ref again, but if I did my full-time job half as incompetently as this moron, I would be on the streets scrabbling in the gutter for pennies within weeks. Kick him out now before he has the chance to make the sort of decision that sends a team down.

January 04: Arsene Wenger was understandably pleased with the game today - and wasn't placing too much blame on Jens Lehmann for Mark Viduka's opener for Leeds. Wenger said: "Every goalkeeper is under threat with this kind of goal because he decided to control it and Viduka reacted quickly and cleverly. We ask our goalkeepers to take chances playing out from the back, so you have to accept mistakes might happen." And he was generous in victory to Eddie Gray's team - he said: "It was never completely relaxing. Leeds were always dangerous; they gave absolutely everything and went for every ball." Eddie Gray was disappointed to see the side lose heavily, but pointed to the two late goals as putting a flattering sheen on the scoreline. He said: "The ability Arsenal have got in the side can create things from nothing. They've got players all over the pitch." But he is now firmly focused on the two big Premier League games coming up - a difficult trip to Newcastle followed by a relegation 6-pointer at home to Spurs, which has become another must-win game now that Spurs are in the drop zone. He said: "We've got to show the commitment and courage to go out and play. There are a lot of games left in the league - but if the players can show that endeavour and commitment to the cause we've got a chance."

January 03: Leeds boss Eddie Gray said that there were no "mopers" at Elland Road, and joined with chief exec Trevor Birch to insist that Birch's earlier remarks had been misinterpreted. Birch had said that only those players clearly committed to the cause would be retained by Leeds, and some papers stirred up rumours of a split between the management and Alan Smith and other senior players as a result of Birch's comments. But Gray said: "There's been nobody moping about here. Not at all. They're all working very hard and there's no indication from any of them they want to leave." Gray confirmed that he was kept informed of any transfer developments by Birch - but as yet no approaches had been made. And Birch said: "I never accused any individual of moping around. My comments were taken totally out of context. It's absolute nonsense to suggest there has been a bust-up between myself and Alan Smith, or anyone else for that matter. The only time I've spoken to any player is to wish them a happy new year."

January 03: Eddie Gray insisted that Leeds had to hang on to the club's best players if he was to stand a chance of steering the side clear of relegation. He said: "The most important thing to me is the survival of the club in the Premiership, or in general, the survival of Leeds United. You hope to have your players with you and we have those players just now. That's the only way I can look at it. We're certainly not in a position where we can afford to lose players, especially your big players." With the transfer window opening, he knows that it will be hard to avoid the rumours and counter-rumours from agents, other clubs and bored journalists insinuating that the top performers are about to leave. Gray said: "There's always going to be speculation regarding footballers if they are not playing for one of the top sides. You look at the league at the present time and the three teams at the top of the table and they're being linked with a host of top-class players."

January 03: Nathan Lowndes continued his recent run of scoring form with two of Plymouth's unanswered seven (yes, SEVEN) goals against Chesterfield as Paul Sturrock's side reinforce their position at the top of Division 2. Andy Gray scored a consolation goal from the spot for Bradford as they slumped to a 1-2 home defeat by Luton. Gareth Evans had a miserable day at Pompey: having just seen Pompey take a last-minute 2-1 lead against Blackpool in the FA Cup Round 3 tie at Fratton Park, the former Leeds player picked up his second yellow card.

January 03: Eddie Gray praised Thierry Henry, and agreed that he was worthy of his position in the World and European player of the year polls. But the Leeds boss insists that Arsenal are not a one-man band, and points out that they can threaten from all over the pitch. Speaking to the official website, he said: "There's no doubt he's a terrific player. But they've a lot of good players at Arsenal, not just Thierry Henry... there's Ljungberg, Pires, Bergkamp. They are just as good and all in all they are a really strong squad." He's obviously watched the tape of the Gunners' visit to Elland Road earlier this season, saying: "They've tremendous pace in the side, they do hit you quickly on the break. If you give them time and space to run at you then they are going to hurt you at some point in the game." But he's not writing off Leeds' chances of pulling off a surprise result tomorrow. He finishes: "We've got to go with the belief that if we play to our potential and to our best, we can match them."

January 02: Eddie Gray faces a few difficult decisions ahead of Sunday's FA Cup clash with Arsenal. Jermaine Pennant has been refused permission to face his Highbury team-mates to avoid him being cup-tied if Arsene Wenger needs his services later in the competition. David Batty was suspended and James Milner was rested for the Wolves game - with disastrous results and some non-enforced changes to the midfield are expected, although Matt Kilgallon would seem to be a dead cert to continue at centreback alongside Michael Duberry in the absence of Lucas Radebe. Gray said that he was trying to ensure that the young midfield star would not be too exhausted to play after a hectic start to the season and some tough battles still to come. He said: "I just felt James needed a rest after the draw with Aston Villa and so pulled him out of the game at Wolves. He has performed very well for us since he broke back into the side but I do not want to play him into the ground. He will be back on Sunday, however, and he will be playing." The biggest decision will centre on tactics though - with the hammering Leeds received by the Gunners earlier in the season serving as a perfect example of what strategy managers shouldn't employ against Thierry Henry. Will Gray revert to the 4-5-1 line-up, with Alan Smith back in midfield and helping to provide a much deeper defensive wall against the opposition's pace, or will he go for a more attack-minded formation and try to take advantage of the lack of pace in the centre of Arsenal's defence? Tune in to Sky Sports on Sunday to find out - or better still phone the Leeds ticket office now, because there are still loads of tickets available for the game.

January 02: Former Leeds player Nigel Worthington starts the New Year looking down on the pack chasing his Canaries at the top of Division 1 - and their excellent run of four wins and one draw in December has won him the Manager of the Month award. He said: "I am delighted we have won the award and that we are in our current position going into the new year. The first half of the season has been exceptional and we have given ourselves a wonderful platform." Beware the curse of the MotM award Nigel - the slump starts here! Interesting that there was relatively little speculation linking Worthington with the Leeds job, but Paul Hart - whose Forest side have been dropping like a stone of late - was regarded as the front-runner. Paul Sturrock of Plymouth - another name linked with the Leeds job when Peter Reid was kicked out - has also picked up a divisional award as his team top the Second Division.

January 02: Those of you whose long-term memories aren't as shot as mine will remember a couple of excellent opinion pieces written by Bucky on the state of the club last season, including a great write-up of one of the "Ridsdale meets the fans" sessions. Well, he's just dashed off a few more words for your consumption so take a look and let me know what you think yourselves: leeds-fans.org.uk isn't just me speaking my brains at the world, it can be your platform too!

January 02: Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour warned Leeds that the Gunners have developed a winning habit that they have no intention of breaking as they go into this weekend's tie unbeaten in domestic competition this season. Parlour said: "When we go into a game now, we are confident we won't lose. Winning is a habit. We remember the feeling of losing games and we don't want that feeling again. We have got a good run going now and hopefully we can keep it going."

January 02: Lamine Sakho and Salomon Olember will be out for six weeks after both players were selected for the African Nations Cup tournament. Sakho is in the Senegalese squad and Olembe in the Cameroun side for the tournament in Tunisia which starts later on this month - although both players will join up with their respective squads for a pre-tournament training camp after the Spurs game on Saturday week.

January 01: The most surprising name yet to be linked with a move for Mark Viduka emerged last night. David O'Leary is hoping to succeed with a cheeky bid for the Aussie striker - although he'll need to sell the recently-returned-to-form Juan Pablo Angel if the bid is to succeed, and the arrival of a player whose current salary is three times Villa's wage cap might provoke some interesting dressing room debate.

January 01: The Prof isn't exactly putting his money where his mouth is: he sold half a million shares in the club yesterday, realising a £15,000 profit after the recent speculative rise in the share price. He still owns 3,500,000 shares - which makes the partial sale all the more strange: either he believes administration will come and the shareholders will get nothing, or he believes that a takeover will happen, but at a discount to the current share price - in which case why has he only sold a small portion of his holding. Or maybe he just needed the cash for a new car!

January 01: Football finance expert and voice of doom on all things Leeds Dr Bill Gerrard has said that he has been impressed with the way that Trevor Birch has handled the situation at Leeds, and that he now viewed the future with "cautious optimism". Gerrard said: "My hope for the new year is the money will be on the table by the 19th so Trevor Birch can get a deal done." Speaking about chief exec Birch, Gerrard said: "His whole manner gives me the impression that, although he knows it's a difficult task he faces, he believes he can get something done in terms of a rescue... Obviously, my big fear is that the money does not materialise. But I don't think that will happen because I think Allan Leighton will come through with the money."

January 01: Trevor Birch today indicated that there could be some arrivals at Leeds during the transfer window after all - but loan deals are all that we can hope for. Despite the lack of apparent success - or managerial trust - in the current batch of seven loanees, Birch is prepared to back Eddie Gray's judgement in acquiring additional players. He said: "The loans we already have at the club will stay for the remainder of the season but there is a chance that Eddie Gray might be able to look at bringing in one or two more loan players. That, unfortunately, would be the extent of it though, there would be no money to spend on buying players unless the white knight we have been looking for rides in with his millions." Gray was happy that he wasn't being totally tied down in the transfer window, but he refused to pick up bodies for the sake of it, saying: "I will only bring in players who I feel will do us a decent turn, players who can add to what we already have and there are few of them available at the moment."

January 01: Michael Duberry said that Leeds should give the FA Cup their full attention on Sunday, and not treat it as a distraction from the League. He said: "It's a good opportunity to start winning again. Whether it's in the cup or not we need to get into the habit of winning."

January 01: Thirty-seven years on from the day he first pulled on the white shirt, Eddie Gray is still associated with Leeds United. Speaking to the YEP today, he said that his New Year's Day debut against Wednesday in 1966 stuck in his mind for one particular reason: "Our Frank had come down to spend Christmas with us and he was there to watch me make my debut. My mum and dad couldn't make it, but it was nice to have him there. He was only 10 at the time and there's a great picture of us both sat together the day after the game." Gray scored on his debut - he said: "It was nothing special, just a shot, but it was a nice way to start." And all these years down the line, he's still happy to be at Elland Road: "It is a great football club no matter what anyone says and I'm pleased and proud that I'm still here and doing what I'm doing."

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