I'm not online 100% of the time (and even if I were, my bosses would take a dim view of me spending time updating the web pages in real time), so for the absolute latest news, check out the "professional" links.
May 31: Random rumours sod all substance today. Vidooks to Boro (part 17 of an ongoing series), Ian Harte to Siena (following up their attempted loan signing in January). On the way in, we're interested in out-of-contract Danny Tiatto from City and similarly free Paul Butler of Wolves. Finally Fulham's interest in Dom Matteo could work a little to Leeds' advantage with Barry Hayles and/or cash heading up north in exchange if the deal comes off.
May 30: Kevin Blackwell says that it's going to be a bit strange going back to Bramall Lane after all the time he spent there with Neil Warnock. The new Leeds boss said: "It's a place I've always looked back on with very good memories. I think it's a matter of record what I think of United and the people there. I learned a lot and I like to think we achieved a lot as well. It's a place where I've still got friends and people I have the utmost respect for. It's nice to know that they've got respect for the work I did there and what I've done since." He's going to have a lot of work to do before then though, starting with a big sift through all of the free transfers and player releases from the summer, since he'll have no actual cash to spend on new player signings, although it's understood he'll have enough to bring in 3-4 players on decent Division 1 pay packets. Blackwell said: "There are a lot of players out there who want to come to Leeds United and they are players who would take substantial wage cuts to come to the club. At the moment I'm trying to make some provisional agreements where we can get contracts in place for July 1 when players will be available. I've got a few names and I'll have a few more in place so we can move as and when we need to." And he added: "I'm looking at quality and supplementing that with players who know the division and will be able to do a job. At this stage I don't want to reveal any names because I don't want other clubs knowing where I am looking or who I am looking at. It would be nice to shout it out, but it's important we don't show our hand."
May 30: Michael Duberry's transfer to Wolves is set to happen this week, but it looks like the Ridsdale regime's incompetent contract negotiation skills will mean the benefit to Leeds is pretty small. Wolves might be persuaded to fork out a bit of cash for the centreback's services, but his astronomical wages - which have scared off at least two other suitors in the last couple of seasons - will once again prove a sticking point and Leeds are expected to be forced to pay Wolves a supplement of five or six grand a week to boost his wages to their current level from the salary Wolves are prepared to pay. So once again we will find ourselves paying a player who is appearing for another team that we are directly competing against - unavoidable in the circumstances but further proof if it were needed of the level of financial mismanagement by Ridsdale, Leighton and co.
May 30: Kevin Blackwell is setting expectations low for next season. In today's People he says: "We could be looking at relegation again if we're not careful." There are some close-to-home examples of what could happen to the club. Blackwell says: "It will be a difficult season for us. Look at what's happened to Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford. Look at the struggle Nottingham Forest and Coventry have had. We have to learn from those clubs and make sure relegation doesn't happen again. Of course, I know how big this club is and the expectations that surround it but we have to be realistic." I'd say that he was actually being a bit optimistic there. Unless we make some significant signings in the close season - experienced battlers and hungry young talent - I think we will struggle badly with what we're likely to have left on our books, and the likes of James Milner will find themselves playing the Smithy role: battling their socks off against the odds and looking on in horror as the points slip away. And he spelled out how hard it was going to be for him on the transfer market. He said: "I've got no money at all, only what I raise. I'll be signing players on wages only - Bosmans. There will be zero fees." And to the many people who think he faces insurmountable problems before he even starts, it seems he agrees. He says: "This job is possibly a poisoned chalice. But it was one I had to pick up. I've worked a long time to get to this level. I feel fate has dealt me this hand."
May 30: Paul Hart's credentials as a good judge of a player are seriously called into question again today as it is suggested that he might sign Stephen McPhail to help Barnsley climb out of Division 2. He was a big fan of McPhail when coaching at Leeds, and had him at Forest on a three-month loan where - in truth - he was performing at the absolute limit of his abilities after loan spells at Millwall and Bradford had shown he could barely hack it in Division 1 (just don't get me started again on why Eddie picked him for a Premier League midfield). But in fairness to the lad, maybe Division 2 is a bit below his level, so if he goes to Barnsley he'll make more of an impact than he would as part of a Leeds midfield trying to gain a Division 1 promotion spot. And it will also give our vocal cords and nerves one less thing to get hammered by next season...
May 29: Dominic Matteo would be an asset to many of the defences in the PL, and with Manchester City expressing an early interest, the chase is on for his services for next season, despite the fact that he has suggested he'd like to stay at Leeds in order to help the team regain the top flight. Today's interest comes from Fulham, whose challenge for Europe foundered on a not totally confident back four - but expect there to be more interest before the end of the summer.So currently, our team for next season looks like: Carson - Richardson, Radebe, Kilgallon, Harte - Kelly, Bakke, McPhail, Pugh - Milner, Simon Johnson. No offence guys but that looks like another relegation struggling side.
May 29: Mark Viduka is due to head back to the UK next week after spending time with his family and his sick father in Australia, and that could mean a resolution on his future employment coming soon. Boro remain the only ones realy in the race for his signature though. Leeds FD Melvyn Helme said: "There has been plenty of speculation about Roma and Valencia making bids, but as far as we're concerned it is all television talk. Mark's in Australia at the moment and will fly back next week, so I don't expect anything to happen until then."
May 29: Iain Dowie's credentials as a star coach look to be pretty unimpeachable at the moment, and it's entirely understandable that Steve Parkin wanted to bring him to Elland Road if the latest takeover had gone ahead. Today Dowie's Palace side completed an amazing comeback from relegation candidates at Christmas, to a Premier League side for next season with a 1-0 win over West Ham in the play-off final in Cardiff. Danny Granville was on the winning side, with Brian Deane coming on as a late sub for the Hammers.
May 28: Kevin Blackwell was due to meet with Leeds MD David Richmond today to discuss his scope for improving the squad over the summer. He said: "I am meeting with David Richmond to discuss what wages budget there is going to be available for me to bring in new players. Obviously, until I have an idea of what that budget is I think it is going to be hard to identify what players to target." Next out of the door is likely to be Michael Duberry, who is set to sign for Wolves for around £800,000 - a fifth of what David O'Leary paid for him - next week. Mark Viduka continues to attract interest from a variety of clubs, with Boro expressing a positive interest in signing the striker, but they have another high-profile target in Patrick Kluivert who is free with Barca releasing him but who might think twice before going to the Riverside, and an even more hard-to-capture target in Pompey's Yakubu Aiyegbeni who finished the season with a flourish and nearly cost Harry Redknapp twenty grand when his hatful of goals in their last game of the season left him just one short of the 20-goal target the manager had staked his own cash on the player not reaching. Viduka remains in Australia, but his agent is continuing to look for a club for the player, with an understanding that his current monster pay packet will be hard to match, and saying that Vidooks has "footballing priorities not financial ones". Finally, Michael Bridges - out of contract on June 30 - could be set for a return to the Stadium of Light with Mick McCarthy keen to reinforce his attack for an assault on automatic promotion next season.
May 28: For the second time in three years, the Leeds United Supporters Club look set to demonstrate a belief that the business of football hasn't changed since the 1960s. Alan Smith - like Rio Ferdinand before him - has won the LUSC Player of the Year award this season for his huge efforts to keep the club in the top flight over the past 9 months. But that apparently now means nothing because he has been transferred to Manchester United, so rather than invite him along to the awards dinner and give him the chance to thank the fans for their support over his time at Leeds, it seems that the LUSC want to show once again that they believe that players should be "loyal" to the club (by staying even when the club's very survival depends on the funds from their sale coming in) and should under no circumstances strive to improve their own lot financially and professionally by moving to a bigger club that pays more and gives them the chance to win major honours before their short careers come to an end. A final decision has yet to be made - but I'd be interested to know how they intend to canvass their members' opinion on this (I'm one and was never consulted over the Rio award snub) and would also suggest that nobody on the LUSC Exec should be allowed to vote for it unless they themselves can demonstrate an occasion on which they have turned down personal, professional and financial advancement out of "loyalty" to their colleagues. And if they can't do that, then I'd like to point them towards a dictionary where there are a couple of words between "hypochondriac" and "hypodermic" that they may find apposite to apply to themselves.
May 28: Lucas Radebe will be spending a good part of next season studying for his coaching badge with a view to doing something for his native South Africa when he eventually goes back home. But in the meantime he'll be working with the youngsters at Leeds, trying to pass on some of his experience and knowledge to the club's Academy players next season. He said: "I've already started with my coaching studies and next season I'll be studying for the badge and to get myself familiar with the job I'll be involved in coaching at the academy." New Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell gave the idea a big thumbs up. He said: "Lucas has such a great enthusiastic personality that will makes him so popular with everybody on the training pitch, and if he can get across that wealth of knowledge he has then I have no doubts he will make a fantastic coach and maybe one day a great manager. He should enjoy his experience next season and I think a lot of these youngsters will really sit up and take notice of him."
May 28: Leeds are still well short of their target of 17,000 season ticket holders - well down on last season's 22,000 - as the deadline for renewals approaches. Existing ST holders have until Tuesday to claim the same seat for next season, with a few days allowed after that for transfers to different seats before tickets are put on general sale to anyone mad enough to want to start subjecting themselves to 23 games of Division 1 football. Apparently the club have still not abandoned the 20-year season ticket concept even though only a handful were sold and doubts remain over their long-term validity should the club go into administration or change ownership. Ho hum, my renewal's in the post today... guess I'm too far gone to care or notice.
May 28: According to today's YEP, "fans" of Leeds have been attacking a house they believe is owned by Alan Smith following his transfer to Old Trafford. The only thing is, as well as demonstrating the knuckle-dragging tendencies that we'd hoped were gradually vanishing from Elland Road and which are likely to result in a whole bunch of morning kick-offs next season despite the improvements that have been made, they're also getting it wrong bigtime: the house may have a Leeds club crest on the front gate but it's owned by a long-time fan who has nothing to do with Smith or his family. Andy Eaton said: "No matter how upset people are about Smith's transfer he doesn't deserve this - and I certainly don't." Meanwhile the player has employed a former head of security from Elland Road on a sizeable salary to look after him and try to avoid any unpleasant confrontations if the player continues to live in the Leeds area as he wishes.
May 27: Barnsley boss and former Leeds coach Paul Hart has given the thumbs up to Alan Smith's trans-Pennine switch. Hart worked with Smith as he came through the Academy and always saw the self-belief and commitment in the player. Hart said: "[from the first] day he was outstanding, and he always stood out every time I saw him. He had great ability and he had that edge from a young age too. Even as a boy he had great belief in himself, expected an awful lot from the people around him and was obviously a winner." And Hart echoed the comments of Fergie and Denis Law, who both have him marked down as a great fit in the Old Trafford setup. Hart said: "He fits the bill for United. They like people with a touch of aggression and I'm sure that has attracted Sir Alex Ferguson to him. He's a very committed player, wholehearted in what he does, and I think he's a manager's dream... I think it's probably the best place to go to finish his education. They'll be challenging in Europe and for the league, there will be different pressures but I think it'll suit him down to the ground. "
May 27: Kevin Blackwell today said he had absolutely no idea how much money he will be allowed to spend in order to try to win promotion for Leeds next season. Although several high earners are already due to leave - or have been sold already - and more transfer deals are in the pipeline, Blackwell will be hard-pressed to make much headway down his list of transfer targets until the budgets are firmed up, and that could mean missing out on all of the best buys. Blackwell said: "There's been no guarantees on anything other than the club trying to raise the funds to bring in the necessary players to give us a chance in Division One. There are players already here I would like to keep and I will be speaking to, but the finances will dictate what happens. The first thing I need to do is try to make contact with the players we've identified and hopefully they've not signed any pre-contract agreements so we've a chance to bring them to Elland Road. I've got targets in my mind so we will try to crack on and deal with it. It's at least good to be in a situation where we can bring in some fresh blood and revitalise the squad and have players who really want to play for this football club."
May 27: Leeds MD David Richmond says that the club have made a "brave choice" in selecting the relative inexperience of Kevin Blackwell as the new team manager. Richmond said: "He is a brave choice because he's not a big name but it is the right choice for this club. Kevin will go on to become one of the top bosses in football. He understands Leeds United and all the immense problems this club has at the moment. He knows the set-up and he's got a vision for the entire club right from the youth academy to the first team. His passion, commitment and knowledge are just perfect. Now we have got the manager in place new players will be coming in quickly and we can move forward." Assuming of course that the big earners follow Kev's request today and get their overpaid backsides out of the club sooner rather than later.
May 27: ManU youngster Danny Pugh has signed for Leeds as part of the deal that took Alan Smith in the other direction. Pugh is a left-sided player who can play at fullback or in midfield, and Kevin Blackwell was very pleased to make Pugh his first signing. Blackwell said: "Danny is a young up-and-coming player who I was aware of. He has the hunger to do well that I want to bring to this club. He can play in a number of positions and that could prove very useful to us. I have already mentioned that bringing him in allows us to fill that left-hand side and move James Milner, a right-footed player, to the right wing or even up front." So that's another reprieve for Ian Harte then!
May 27: Mark Viduka could finally get the move to the continent that has been mooted for several years. Both Roma and Valencia are said to be in the running to pick up the big striker's signature - although for the Spanish champions much will depend on the destiny of Rafa Benitez who is being strongly linked with a switch to revive the fortunes of Liverpool. Another obstacle to a quick move is the fact that Viduka has returned home to Australia, and it's unlikely any decision will be made until he returns in a month or so.
May 27: New signing Danny Pugh says he has no regrets about swapping the bright lights of Old Trafford for the day-by-day struggle of life in Division One with Leeds. Pugh said: "I was very impressed with [Blackwell]. He's very enthusiastic and you can tell he wants to take the club forward and that's what I am looking forward to as well. I've had a look around, got a good feel about the place and I'm looking forward to starting here now. But I've no regrets about leaving Manchester United. I had reached a stage where I needed a change and I think this is the perfect place for that change." He added that he was disappointed not to have figured more prominently for ManU, but thought the experience had done him a lot of good. He said: "High standards were expected of me all the time I was at Manchester United and hopefully that's what I can bring here and carry it on." Pugh is hoping that the stigma of being a former Red will not cause him any problems with the fans at Leeds, saying: "It won't matter then who I previously played for. As long as I am doing a job for Leeds United it will all go well. And if I have half the impact of someone like Gordon [Strachan] then I will have had a great start."
May 27: By lucky chance I caught sight of a YTV programme in tonight's schedules which was a bit of a postscript to their "Leeds Leeds Leeds" programmes from earlier this year. There were interviews with many of the major figures at Leeds over the last year - and here's some of what they had to say. Lucas Radebe was brutally honest about what had gone on with the players. He said: "We had some very bad signings - there were a lot of question marks on the signings we made." He appeared to have a bit of sympathy for Peter Reid's position, and again calls into question the attitude of some of the squad - notably Mark Viduka around the time of the Pompey fiasco: "In that side it was up to the manager to be honest, to clamp down, to discipline well... We know the other side of Vidooks - when he's not up for it, when he's dragging his feet to the training ground." Eddie Gray showed a bit of sympathy for the striker - despite his two late-season dismissals sealing the club's fate. Gray also pointed to the David Batty situation, and clearly questioned Batty's genuine commitment to the struggle. He said: "[Batty] wasn't the type of lad who could accept not playing. If he felt he was fit enough to play football at the highest level he would have been asking for a move." Peter Reid continued to show the same honesty about his own performance and the team that he did in the time he was in charge. He pointed to the lack of money coming into the club from the likes of Kewell's sale, and how his plans to sign Patrik Berger and other players were scuppered, forcing him into the loan market at the very end of the summer. But he admitted: "There were many players on a lot of money and I think they didn't perform... There was a malaise about the place - a defeatist attitude and I just couldn't shake it out of them. That was my job and I just couldn't do it." Norman Hunter has watched the season from the sidelines and the commentary box, and described it as "the worst experience I've ever known." He praised the crowd but pointed out that it could be a while before the club make it back into the top flight. He said: "Not once in this season did the crowd turn on anybody. I get a bit disappointed with [players] when they don't roll their sleeves up and do battle... Your Man U's - they've gone. But we'll get them back one day."
May 26: The Chief is back home in South Africa at the moment, and he has hit out at the way the country's Football Association has handled both locally and foreign-based players. He's even suggested he might make an international comeback if things were improved after new coach Stuart Baxter indicated that he would love to see Radebe's experience available to Bafana Bafana again. He said: "I would reconsider if SAFA organise themselves better. If they treat the players better, I will think about it. The politics really spoil this game." He also indicated that he would return home to South Africa some time after his contract with Leeds expires, maybe in 2006 with a view to working on South Africa's bid to host the 2010 World Cup.
May 26: Club and coach today both swallowed their pride and a contract was signed making Kevin Blackwell Leeds' manager for the next two years. He's been with the club since arriving as Peter Reid's coach last summer (what did happen to the deal which was supposed to see a youngster go to Bramall Lane in exchange?) and was caretaker boss for the final game of the season at Chelsea. His playing career was mainly in the lower divisions, with one of the highlights being a penalty save for Boston in the FA Trophy Final, and being part of the Scarborough side that won promotion to the Football League in 1987. Blackwell said: "When I arrived at the club I had my own ideas about how we could move the club forward. But the situation at the club quickly became one where we were having to paper over the cracks, one problem after the other, so what this club needs most is stability. Of course even now despite everything the club has been through I am enthusiastic and confident the future will be better for this club. People always said it was a massive club but until you actually get here, as an outsider you don't realise just how big it is." And he pointedly stated that he was expecting full backing from a divided board. He said: "I had to have a guarantee from everybody that I was the right man in their eyes because it is a big job and a very difficult rebuilding job. Along the way there might be some problems and I needed to know I had their backing, the board have assured me now that I have their full backing of the board and that was the key for me. If the club is to move forward the board has to be stable, it's not necessarily what I am looking for it's what the whole club is looking for and hopefully they can now provide that." Blackwell is looking to recruit an assistant to help with the admin side but intends to continue concentrating on the coaching himself. He said: "I have someone in mind and if that does not come off then I might go for a more younger orientated coaching staff because the club has to go back to quality coaching and developing players." And he is determined that the passion of the supporters needs to be reflected by the players - something that has been sadly lacking this year. He said: "I will tell them they have to play and act as the supporters have supported this football club. They have supported this football club with a passion and we have to match that passion on the pitch, anything less these supporters will not accept."
May 26: Alan Smith today ended his Leeds United career with a move across the Pennines to Manchester United. Despite all the abuse he has received since stating his intention to move, Smith did right by the club at the end, waiving his "signing-on" bonus and completing the deal without involving the huge retinue of agents who seem to have made themselves essential to the simple process of buying a player over the years. The upshot is that Leeds will get £6,000,000 from ManU up front - a figure which will go a long way towards keeping the wolf from the door in the next few months, as well as getting a sizeable pay packet off the monthly bills. It would be churlish not to wish him the very best of luck with his new club: he has done a lot for Leeds United over the years, and although he might have been better advised to keep his mouth shut over the last couple of weeks, his actions in effecting a quick transfer to a high bidder and making sure Leeds got the maximum financial benefit from his sale shine a blinding light on the weaselly activity of Harry Kewell and Bernie Mandic last summer.
May 26: Kevin Blackwell said: "There's no love lost between Man United and Leeds, that's for sure. It would have been harder to swallow if we'd been in the same division as them, but we're not. On a footballing level, I admire his decision. If he wants to go and win things, he would have a great chance there." And he adds: "Alan hasn't always been here and it's always been a great club. We have to develop another Alan Smith." Chairman Gerald Krasner commented: "We are beginning a major programme of rebuilding and restructuring at Leeds and we both believe his immediate future in football lies away from Elland Road. We know the feelings he has for our club and supporters and what it means to him to leave the no 17 shirt behind. We thank him for his service to Leeds and wish him well in his future career." Finally, Smith himself had this to say: "I have grown up at Leeds and spent some wonderful years there I would like to thank everyone associated with the club. Now I feel it's the right time to move on and there could be no better club than Manchester United. To be joining one of the best clubs in the world is fantastic and I'm looking forward to the new challenges. Not a lot of people would have been brave enough to make this step. I know about the cross-Pennine divide and there is a lot of hostility between the supporters. But I am prepared for what comes with that and I can't wait to get started. I want to prove myself here and win the fans over with my performances."
May 25: Kevin Blackwell is said to be furious about the way he has been treated over the manager's job at Leeds and is said to be considering his future, with several Premier League clubs interested in offering him a job as head coach. Blackwell was under the impression he would be unveiled as Leeds' new boss on Monday, with Peter Lorimer telling the press corps to get round to Elland Road for an announcement yesterday afternoon. But after a grilling with director Simon Morris on Monday morning, and with the Parkin takeover still a possibility, no announcement was made and Blackwell was reckoning he was being taken for granted. The big thing this does reveal is the hopeless polarisation on the Leeds board, with chairman Gerald Krasner and MD David Richmond in charge in name only, since majority shareholders Simon Morris and Melvyn Levi are the ones calling the shots. Lorimer meanwhile was left with egg on his face as he tried to explain to members of the press just what was going on, only serving to further increase the impression of a board split down the middle and out of control of the events affecting the club's future.
May 25: Manchester City have had a ridiculous offer to take Dominic Matteo on a one-season loan rejected out of hand. Southampton and Fulham are said to be interested in the Leeds skipper, and both would be prepared to offer a fee to buy the player outright, despite his injury problems over the last couple of seasons. However the Man City option isn't over yet, with Kevin Keegan ready to commit what could be his only spending of the summer unless he manages to offload a couple of players on a man who could do much to shore up one of the worst defences left in the Premier League.
May 25: Lee Chapman is said to be under investigation by the Met for allegations of assaulting his wife, actress Leslie Ash. Ash's sister has accused Chapman of attacking his wife on several occasions, but the couple have denied the accusation and are said to be considering legal action. Ash has been admitted to hospital for certain injuries in recent months, but has offered alternative explanations every time and has refused point blank to press charges against her husband, although the Met can take matters into their own hands in domestics if they choose.
May 25: The bid by Steve Parkin to take control of Leeds United has collapsed, leaving the club facing still further serious financial problems. One of Parkin's backers apparently pulled out, and the state of the club's books were far worse than first suspected, leaving the haulage boss with little option but to walk away. His attempts at siezing control weren't made any easier by the apparent reluctance of certain members of the current board to walk away from the club after being in "power" for just a couple of months. What this does do is throw the club into turmoil, with Jack Petchey's huge loan needing repayment in the near future if punitive interest payments are to be avoided, and with the Revenue and Customs and Excise also chasing down their debts. Even with the sale of Alan Smith and other players, the club's financial position is getting ever more precarious and once again the very real possibility of administration - and with it almost certain relegation to Division 2 at the end of next season - coming round to haunt us. I would say that things can only get better, but at the moment I think I'd be lying.
May 25: I see that lufc.com is no more. The club still has a website on lufc.co.uk but have failed to renew their registration of the .com address - which I know many people use and link to. For want of a few quid, they are losing potentially thousands of eyeballs: yet more mismanagement and false efficiency - or just a cock-up on the renewal front?
May 24: Lucas Radebe's testimonial match has been put back until the end of the season. It had been anticipated that he would be organising a game for this summer, but with the enforced early start to the season after relegation, plus the busy summer for players involved in the Euro 2004 competition, it looks like nothing can be arranged in time so a game will be played at the end of next season, probably against a South Africa XI (Nelson Mandela to kick off anyone?).
May 24: Former Leeds chief exec Trevor Birch has taken up the same role at Everton. Hopefully he won't face the same level of pain at Goodison as he endured at Leeds, but he will need to raise some serious cash for new signings with the finances already tight. After the great job he did keeping Leeds afloat and sorting out many of the serious problems at the club, he deserves our best wishes for his new job.
May 24: Leeds have failed to confirm that Kevin Blackwell will take over as manager, despite what was indicated by the club and leaked to many media sources over the weekend. The club today said that no statement would be made, with hints being dropped that it could be next week before a decision was made. Kevin Blackwell is understood to be far from happy with the situation, although much of the delay is said to be down to the possibility of an imminent takeover rather than any lack of faith in Blackwell's ability by the current board.
May 24: Leeds look set to sign Man U's 21-year-old left-sided midfielder/winger/defender Danny Pugh as part of the deal which will take Alan Smith to OT. Pugh has played 7 games for Fergie, and has been an unused sub twice against Leeds. Smithy will undergo a medical tomorrow or Wednesday, with a formal announcement of the deal to the Stock Exchange sometime on Wednesday according to latest reports.
May 23: Danny Mills' protracted departure from Elland Road is still no closer to being resolved. Today his agent indicated that he would love to stay in the north-east, but maybe as a Newcastle player rather than at the Riverside. Neil Featherby said: "If someone wants to turn speculation into reality we will look at what's put forward. Newcastle are a big club, huge, and any footballer would have to consider any interest from them. But it's just speculation at this stage and there hasn't been any contact from the club. He had a very good season at Boro and loved it there... Danny's never denied that he'd like to make it a permanent move but that wasn't to be. We thought we were very close in January but for one reason or another it didn't happen. It was an issue between the clubs, not us. Now the season's over is that issue, whatever it may be, still the sticking point? Because we are still waiting for them to talk to us." So why aren't Boro keen to make it a permanent move then? Surely not because of his wage demands?
May 22: Didier Domi was one of the few successes in the loan signings that Peter Reid picked up at the start of last season - even if it took him some time to break into the team. Obviously he's now leaving Leeds, but could stay in England with Pompey apparently interested in the former Newcastle full back. His prospects at PSG aren't great, so any sort of offer of first team football is likely to bring a positive response from the player.
May 22: Coach - and managerial prospect - Kevin Blackwell says that both players and fans need to look forwards rather than backwards, and draw a line under last season's disasters in order to move on. He said: "The whole club has to draw a line under what has gone on here over the past two or three years. If you keep looking to the past, you cannot look forward and it's important that we look ahead. There is a new board here which is trying its damnedest to deal with a hell of a lot of problems. And they are problems they have inherited - they didn't bring them on themselves." Not toadying for the job, honest! And he added: "Whoever comes in is facing a complete re-building job. The whole place needs re-organising and a lot of that will be down to the new manager. It's sad, but when a patient needs medicine the medicine is never sweet and that's the situation we have here." Thing is, this patient needs a miracle cure or a lethal injection.
May 22: Leeds have canned half of the Academy coaching staff, with Pop Robson, Warren Joyce and Steve Sutton all getting the boot as the Academy league gets reduced to a single side and Leeds make further cuts to save money. All are on 12-month contracts, so will either be offered a pay-off or will work next season as notice.
May 22: The club today were forced to issue a denial that Alan Smith had already agreed terms to become a Manchester United player. Peter Lorimer said: "We discussed the situation at a board meeting yesterday but as yet no deal has been done. We have offers from other clubs but Alan has said he would like to got to Old Trafford. That is the situation as it is now and with United in the cup final we will look at it again next week. We will see what Monday brings but at present Alan remains our player." ManU are thought likely to offer a player + cash deal, with David Bellion the most likely makeweight (though whether he wants to play in Division 1 isn't clear). Mark Viduka will be targeted by new Spanish champions Valencia as the last weekend of La Liga goes by, and Danny Mills' list of possible destinations now includes Newcastle as Bobby Robson tries to put together a defence that doesn't leak as badly as this season's lineup.
May 21: Talk about cheeky? Galatasaray have swooped from the flock of vultures circling Leeds with a bid to take Mark Viduka on loan for a year - with Leeds offered barely £1.5 million, but having the obvious upside of getting twice that amount off the books in salary. But Leeds have turned the bid down, hoping that the interest from abroad - or indeed from Boro - will turn into a concrete bid and a full sale of the player.
May 21: Leeds continue to excel themselves in news management today, with James Milner's future plans being called into question. Somehow it leaked to a few news sources that Spurs' interest in Milner had been passed on to the player, and although he wanted to remain at Leeds at present, Spurs had been granted an option of first refusal on the player with - get this - a penalty payment to be made to them if we managed to sell him to someone else for a higher price. But a Leeds spokesman later came out and stated bluntly: "That is simply not the case, we have not signed any agreement with Tottenham. We were obliged to pass on the offer from Spurs but made it clear that we wanted James to stay at the club. We were delighted he chose to remain with us and be part of the Club's future plans, and we will be sitting down in the near future to discuss a new contract but there have been no deals with Tottenham or any other club." So why does this reflect badly on Leeds? Well quite simply because several reputable press sources chose to go ahead with the original story because it had a ring of truth and believability to it - that this ridiculous financial arrangement was something that people could believe the current board would sanction. And of course it took a (relative) age to get out an authoritative denial, showing once again how off the ball the club is in its media relations. Meanwhile Smithy's move to ManU looks to be a step or two closer, with a third bid awaited in the next couple of days.
May 21: The board had a long meeting this afternoon in which the possible candidates for the manager's post were discussed - as well as the current state of play on transfers. It's understood that Kevin Blackwell will be offered the job early next week, having impressed the board with his plans for reorganising the club, but particularly because he would be available with no compensation payments dues. But will he actually get his feet under the desk? Further leaks suggest that Steve Parkin's bid is on the point of succeeding and Blackwell is not the first choice of the club's latest would-be saviour. Of course, the current board could go ahead and appoint Blackwell anyway, just to leave Parkin with another mess to sort out if he finally gets to the finishing line...
May 20: So what is happening with the Steve Parkin bid? A week or so ago, strong hints were dropped across the press and other media sources that the Leeds fan and haulage boss was on the point of easing out the Krasner-led consortium and revitalising the club's finances with his own money and that of several wealthy backers. But today we're still seeing Krasner and co talking about player sales and acquisitions and interviewing new managers. Things have got so fevered that chairman Gerald Krasner was forced to issue a statement today, which reads: "Rumours are currently rife in the media that a deal with Steve Parkin has been signed. This is not the case. Yes the Board have spoken to him, as we have with several parties looking to invest in Leeds United, and I would like to reiterate that there is no 'done deal'. Our number one priority, at the moment, is to appoint a team manager who can get Leeds United back in to the Premiership." So that's all clear then...
May 20: It's understood that the board have spoken to Kevin Blackwell about his views on taking over as manager at Elland Road. Two more candidates are believed to be on the board's shortlist - with Ronnie Moore of Rotherham and Huddersfield's Peter Jackson the two main contenders. Paul Jewell has also been linked with the role, but the continuing presence of a Richmond on the board means there's not much of a chance of that happening given what occurred at Bradford. A late contender is also Ipswich's Joe Royle, now out of the playoffs and free to talk. Jackson said: "I really don't want to comment on it. It's very flattering to be linked with such a big club but I just want to enjoy the moment and concentrate on getting us through the play-offs." And Royle was even less commital: "It's all news to me. I don't know where these stories have come from."
May 20: Howard Wilkinson has returned home from China after his initial contract came to an end and he declined to execute a renewal option due to family illness. He has been coaching Chinese champion side Shanghai Shenhua since March, and after thoroughly reorganising their coaching setup, he had been thought likely to sign on for a further year or two. Unfortunately, family illness intervened. Agent Louis Liu said: "He has left his contract before its expiry due to an urgent health situation involving some of his senior family members. It's purely a family issue - their situation is getting worse ... and therefore he can't make a longer commitment to the club." Shanghai won their opening game of the season after Wilko left, running out 2-1 victors over Shandong.
May 20: Typical confusion at the club today, with Peter Lorimer telling the world early on that Everton had made an offer of £7 million for Alan Smith, only for Gerald Krasner to contradict him a couple of hours later. Further confusion in the situation when Everton later announced that they had made a bid - although many people believe that it's just "window-dressing" for the Toffees' fans, with the Goodison outfit unable to afford a fee of half that amount. All of which could be academic anyway - if Smith has set his sights on signing for ManU then all we can do is try to persuade them to pay as much as we can - or structure the deal so that Leeds get as much early cash as possible but also ensure any further advancement in the young striker's career benefits the club as well. David Moyes said: "I can confirm we are making a substantial offer for Alan Smith. My hope is to partner Alan Smith and Wayne Rooney in my Everton side next season." Yeah, well it's my hope to win the lottery and come home to find the scantily-clad blonde triplet daughters of a major brewery owner beating my door down. And I know which of those two hopes is more likely to come to fruition and it ain't Moyes'. Meanwhile it seems that Fulham might be prepared to give Michael Bridges a chance to resurrect his Premier League career after injuries and the form of Bellamy and Ameobi kept him out of the picture at St James Park.
May 19: With Emile Heskey deciding to sign for Brum yesterday, Steve McClaren was said to be ready to renew Boro's interest in signing Mark Viduka. Although he has consistently outscored Alan Smith - who is also of interest to Boro - he will probably end up going for a lower fee since he is on a considerably higher pay package. McClaren is keen to boost Boro's goalscoring potential and wants someone with European experience as they embark on a UEFA Cup run next season, but as well as their ability to fund a Viduka-sized pay packet, what could be of the biggest benefit to McClaren is location with Viduka keen to continue living in Yorkshire. But there's a long way to go yet, and we've not heard from our good chum Andrea D'Amico on this yet so I wouldn't expect a quick decision.
May 19: Leeds chairman Gerald Krasner has indicated that the club now have a shortlist of candidates for the Leeds job and that they expect to get talks underway with the men in question shortly. With the season now over bar the play-off shouting and players being released from Premier League - and Nationwide - clubs, it's important to get the new boss in place as soon as possible so that they can select the right players to take the club back up into the top flight. Kevin Blackwell says: "I would consider all the options. It hasn't been offered to me, so I'm not considering it at the moment, but if something was put on the table then you would look at it." Ronnie Moore's name has also come into the frame, after his undoubted success with limited resources at Rotherham and previous indications that he would consider a move elsewhere. Speaking on BBC local radio, he said: "[Leeds] are a Premier League Club with 40,000 fanatical supporters and are known all over the world. It is a massive, massive job and for me to be linked with it is pleasing as it proves I'm doing something right." He went on: "I think if you were in charge at Leeds you would want someone who knows what the First Division is all about. That's probably why name has being linked with the job." Moore is a 20/1 middle-of-the-pack bet with SkyBet - Blackwell is 6/4 favorite and Iain Dowie and Gordon Strachan the only other candidates to make it to single-digit odds, and you know what they say about the rarity of poor bookies...
May 19: Chairman Gerald Krasner says that there is no rush to shift players out of Leeds just to bring in some extra cash. He's hoping to avoid a repeat of last summer's Kewell fiasco - or the bargain basement departure of Jon Woodgate in January 2003. He said: "What we hope we have made clear is that we are not going to be forced sellers. We will wait for the right bids and then liase with the players and their agents " And - naturally enough - talking up the market, he added: "There has been a lot of interest, and what we have to remember is that we are only two days into the transfer window and we are continuing to talk to a lot of people about Alan and other players. The interest is encouraging, but in my line of work I know money in the bank is a lot better than interest."
May 18: Alan Smith's agent was surprisingly tight-lipped about the suggestion that the player is about to strike a deal with Manchester United. Speaking this morning, Alex Black said that Smith would not be rushed into a decision - although Emile Heskey's switch to Brum would seem to close off one possible move this summer. Black said: "Nothing will be rushed, that is all we can say at this point."
May 18: Rugby League returns to Elland Road for the first time in 7 years. Great Britain are playing NZ and the Aussies in the Tri-Nations tournament - which starts in New Zealand in October. The Kiwis play the Kangaroos on October 16, with a repeat tie at Loftus Road a week later. After group matches at Eastlands, the McAlpine and the JJB, the final will take place at Elland Road on November 27.
May 18: Leeds fans are being invited to join the "shirt amnesty" again, following up on last year's charity collection which saw 25,000 shirts donated for distribution to young footballers in South Aftica. This time, the shirts will go to Nigeria and Kenya, and The Chief is once again backing a good cause. Lucas Radebe said: "It's been a great help to people over there. I know it has helped to encourage children educationally as well, and it shows that people in the outside world are concerned and willing to help." Drop your - washed - shirt in at any Leeds United store or send it to: Locker Freight Ltd, Haleview Road, Huyton, Liverpool, L36 6DD if you want to join in.
May 18: Kevin Blackwell appears to be number one on the club's shortlist for the manager's job at the moment. All of the other candidates are secure in jobs of their own at the moment, and the "challenge" of turning things round at Elland Road clearly doesn't appeal to anybody who isn't dying of thirst in the Sahara. Peter Lorimer was unusually circumspect when questioned, saying: "We have discussed several names and are handling the situation. We're aware of the urgency surrounding the appointment of a new manager, but this is a big decision and must be right for the football club. It's one of the most important decisions the club has ever made because it has to be right for the future." Rough translation: we're amazed nobody has bitten our hands off when we've suggested they might be interested. The only possible alternative to Blackwell appears to be Paul Jewell of Wigan - whose performance at Bradford was hardly stellar. Iain Dowie? You can dream, can't you.
May 18: Danny Mills today reiterated his intention to remain at Elland Road until he was offered a contract which suited him. He's now back on the payroll at Leeds, and insists he won't take the first contract offered unless he's happy with the deal for himself and his family. He said: "I'm going to have to think carefully about what I'm going to do and choose what is best for my career and my family. Leeds have given me a free transfer and it's a case of waiting to see what clubs are interested in taking me." And he added: "I will only make a move if it's right for me and right for my family. I won't be forced out."
May 18: The club have thrown out two bids from Manchester United for the services of Alan Smith. Fergie put in a real joke bid of £3.5 million which was dismissed out of hand, and they then came back with an extra £2 million. But the board were insistent that they wanted more money. A spokesman said: "The offers by Manchester United substantially undervalue Alan Smith's position as a Premiership player. He is worth far more than what Manchester United are prepared to pay for him both offers were rejected immediately." At least that sets a marker - but it looks like it's only a matter of time before he goes now.
May 17: Alan Smith says that he is in no rush to leave Elland Road - despite giving the finger to the fans who abused him on Saturday for his suggestion that a move to Old Trafford could be on the cards. Leeds have yet to receive a bid for the striker, but now that the season is over there could be some movement on that front. But Smith said: "I am not in any rush - I want to make sure that the move I do make is the right one for my career and the right one for Alan Smith. I think that is vital. If you are going to move on from the club you have always been at all your life, the next move is a massive step in your career. I have to see what comes in and who wants me and make my decision from there." He spoke of how much he'd like to try playing abroad, maybe now or maybe in a subsequent move, saying: "I would love to do that, whether it will be at this stage of my career or my next move. If that opportunity came up it would be hard to turn down."
May 17: Scott Carson's name was in lights in all of the match reports for the weekend's game at Chelsea, with many of the reporters praising his composure and command of the box, but most of all his superb reactions for a couple of good Chelsea chances. Kevin Blackwell added his own praise today, saying: "I am very pleased and very proud for the player. For him to come in and perform like that against a side who are second in the Premier League was fantastic. He put on a very good performance and when you think he only turned 18 a few months ago, he's an exception talent." But there was a hint that maybe the club might be on the lookout for a more experienced pair of hands for next season: "What you must not do is crush potential, you must allow it to grow and nurture and we have to do that with Scott Carson. His main attribute is shot stopping and we saw that today, there were two or three fabulous saves and now he has to build on his other attributes; commanding his box, kicking and other things now, it's about putting them all together. He showed great temperament today and if we can unearth people like Scott Carson then the future is bright for Leeds. There is a major talent to come from Scott Carson."
May 17: Paul Robinson walked up the aisle today, with many of his former Leeds team-mates in attendance. Congratulations to him - and no jokes about the problems he's faced this season with shots from outside the box.
May 17: Danny Mills is now formally back with Leeds after completing his season-long loan spell with Boro. But he won't be staying for long - talks are underway with Brum about a move to St Andrews - and Spurs and Man City are also interested, although Keegan has already said that there's almost no money available to improve his squad, and surely any moves in or out of White Hart Lane will need to wait for the new manager to be installed. Juve remain poised to make an offer for Smithy, but late news tonight says that Fergie is also ready to open the cheque book with about £6 million the number being mentioned. Forlan and Solskjaer are set to leave OT, and David Bellion has yet to make any real impact, so if Horseface does leave then Smithy will have a great chance of making the starting line-up alongside Saha.
May 17: Sven announced his team for Portugal today, and there were no great shocks in the 23 and only Robbo with any Leeds connection. Rio is banned, Woody is injured, Danny Mills is out of favour and Alan Smith just missed the cut - though he has been placed on standby in the event of injury. Nigel Martyn was also asked to join the squad, but he made it clear that he didn't want to spend his summer training for an extra two months just to sit on the bench. Unsurprisingly, given his performances, but perhaps surprisingly given their final position, Everton fans voted their keeper in as Player of the Year. Goodison boss David Moyes said: "He has saved us on many occasions this year and when you look at how close we've been to relegation at the end of the season, it is hard to put into words the value of his contribution and what it has meant to have him here. I would say he is one of my best signings as a manager because he came for nothing. He only had one year left on his Leeds contract but we took that over. It meant a big pay cut for him to leave Leeds and sign a two-year deal with us. It has been a great piece of business and although he is 37 he certainly doesn't look ready for the knackers yard yet." Shame that certain other former Premier League managers didn't note the same qualities in him.
May 17: Kevin Blackwell today made it clear there will be no let up for the players, with all of the squad who remain contracted to the club expected to follow a stringent fitness programme so they come into the pre-season training at a decent level that can then be built upon. Blackwell has worked to build up the overall fitness and reduce the team's susceptibility to injury since his arrival, and he said: "There may be a degree of uncertainty over who is staying, but all the players will finish today as Leeds United players and they will be expected to prepare accordingly. Some will move on and what they do then is down to them, but all those that remain will be expected to achieve certain levels of fitness by the time we start pre-season training in July. There are standards that we expect them to reach and they have all been issued with a detailed programme to work on throughout the summer. Any players who fail to reach the standards we expect will face a long hard slog until we are happy that they are up to the levels we require." Sounds like it's back to the Sgt Wilko days - get Catterick Camp booked for the first fortnight of July now!
May 16: Coach Kevin Blackwell says that Leeds might find it difficult to bounce straight back into the top flight and that people needed realistic expectations. He said: "I'm not saying Leeds can't come back. I'm saying with a little bit of luck we can come back, but we've got to be realistic and say this club needs rebuilding. If you need a bit of time it means you might not jump back at the first attempt. It is no good jumping back if we come back with all the same problems that we've gone down with. We have to address all the problems and move the club forward in the right manner." Too right mate - and if we sign the sort of players we can afford - who can get us out of Division 1 - chances are we'll be straight back down because they won't be good enough for the top flight. He went on: "Everybody has got to accept that we might not be immediate promotion contenders. If we have the luck then we can go straight back, but we've got to be sensible and try to build something because for the last three years it has been unravelling. We have to try and parcel it back up again and move it forward as a football club. Any business needs stability and Leeds United is no different. We had three managers who lasted eight months, eight months and six months, so the employees sometimes don't know whether they are coming or going." Sounds like a Wilko-ite five-year planner, but that's no bad thing. Of course, any choice of manager rests on whoever happens to be on the board - and the sooner that's sorted, the better for all of us.
May 16: Club captain Dominic Matteo says that he's keeping his fingers crossed for Alan Smith when Sven announces the squad tomorrow. In today's Sunday Mirror, he said: "Smithy badly wanted to go. I know how much getting into the squad meant to him. I have been hoping to God he was part of Sven's plans. He is so desperate to be on the plane. Alan's attitude is just unbelievable and I think, as a player, he's got the lot. OK, he's been having to come a lot deeper in the Leeds team this year and he has had to play out of position in midfield, especially early on. But despite that, I was really hoping that England would realise he was still a very good player." Well, he's certainly better than Vassell and Heskey, and probably Beattie as well - you may point to a not-great goal count for the striker, but need to take a look at the abysmal service he's received plus the number of games he's played out of position for the good of the club. Unfortunately, I can't see him getting the nod for the final selection - and even if he did make the 23, the likes of Owen, Rooney and even Defoe will be ahead of him in the pecking order and leave him frustrated on the bench.
May 16: So who would be crazy enough to step into the hotseat at Leeds? Well, nobody until the ownership of the club is decided that's for sure. Mickey Adams has been suggested as a possibility, but he's well-in at Leicester and apparently said "No ****ing way!" when someone suggested a switch to Elland Road might be in his interest. Iain Dowie has done wonders at Palace - not just in dragging them up from the drop zone to the play-offs in half a season, but particularly in the motivation and focus of the players as was perfectly illustrated in Friday night's game when they turned over Sunderland 3-2. Gordon Strachan remains intent on completing a year out of the game and studying coaching methods in other sports and countries, and in today's Sunday Mirror an "insider" is quoted as saying: "Gordon would not come back under the present board because he sees it as a shambles. He has been approached by four different groups in the last six months to take over but he will not be making his mind about his future until after Euro 2004." So that's clear then. Sod it - just give the job to Kev - he seems like a decent bloke and a good all-round coach. We could look for a long time to find a worse option.
May 15: Nothing much happened on the pitch today - nowt worth speaking about anyway. For much of the game, it had all the pace and excitement of a training session, with no causes left to die for on either side. Nevertheless, Scott Carson had already made a couple of excellent saves in the opening spell as the home side had more of the play and it wasn't too surprising to see Gronkjaer find himself more or less unchallenged in the area to head the ball home after a break down the right hand side had gone through the usual batch of comedy defending. Once Chelsea were in front, they more or less switched off, and only Jermaine Pennant's free kick onto the post in the dying minutes provoked any sort of reaction. Off the field - well it was a vintage performance from Old Bill. Nigh on 100 were there to meet the GNER train as it pulled in to Kings Cross, riot gear, cameras and all, attempting to pull people out who looked like they might be football fans without tickets. My cunning disguise fooled them and so I jumped on the tube towards Chelsea. Surprisingly enough, there was no police presence at all on Earls Court tube - but I soon found out that they'd all decamped to surround the White Horse in Parsons Green, and were insistent that nobody went in or out of the pub. Well, that is to say not through the front doors anyway - I ambled down to the side entrance and walked in unchallenged. Despite several suggestions that a forced march might be in order, it got to nigh on 2:30 and we were still in the pub. Reluctantly leaving some excellent beer we went outside and were told we would be walked to the stadium straight away. Except they weren't quite ready yet so would we mind waiting over there. When we got "there" we waved a couple of match tickets at someone different and were allowed to walk unescorted to the ground. Got there just in time for kick-off - those who were forced to stay behind and take the scenic route with the Met missed 20 minutes of the game: wonder if they can sue the Met for 20% of the £42 face value of the tickets as a result? Stuck in the usual hole at the Bridge, the party atmosphere of Bolton was long gone and there were a few nasty rifts developing between different groups of Leeds fans. Some folks started slagging off Nick Barmby as soon as he came out to warm up (hardly his fault that Reid and Gray decided not to pick him, is it?), but the abuse being levelled at Alan Smith provoked the biggest ructions. He was told in no uncertain terms by around half of the travelling Whites that a move to Old Trafford would destroy any hope of him receiving a good welcome back in Leeds, and rather depressingly associating him with the same chant levelled at Ridsdale: "We thought you were Leeds - we were wrong." A couple of verbal exchanges escalated and a handful of Leeds fans were ejected - let's hope we've all settled our differences and are together behind the team in time for the new season.
May 15: Denis Irwin today played his 902nd and last game of professional football, signing off a minute before the end of Wolves' game against Spurs at Molineux today. Irwin spoke of how much he'd enjoyed his career at all of the clubs he's played for: "I have huge affection for this club and every one that I've been at. I'm thankful to Leeds for giving me my first chance. I had four great years at Oldham and, obviously, my time at Man United was superb. But I have also had a truly fantastic two years with Wolves. I was a fan as a boy and I've had a great time here. I have no regrets."
May 15: Robbie Keane opened the scoring for Spurs at Wolves today, Jermaine Defoe adding a second to make it 0-2. Derek Lilley was also on the mark for Livingston, scoring their second in a 4-1 hammering of Hibs.
May 15: Coach Kevin Blackwell says that Leeds need as many as 15 new players for next season if they are to have a big enough squad to compete in Division 1. With a number of players already down to leave - and with several having already gone this season - the squad has been down to the bare bones for some time and Blackwell says that a big influx is needed to give us a chance. He said: "Every club that starts the season has the realistic chance of winning the league or getting relegated. Leeds will be no different. They will have a great season or a bad one. If it is to be the former, it is crucial the squad has a full pre-season get together. We have got to sign 14 or 15 players to bring the number up to around 21. Any players who come here must be up for the challenge, but I am sure they will be because the name of Leeds United still has great pulling power. We have got to get lucky with the new signings, but we have also go to bring them on as quickly as we can as there will be no real time to build a team." Well how about Dion Dublin for a start - DOL has just released him at Villa...
May 15: Speaking after the Chelsea game, Kevin Blackwell said that he was proud of the team's performance today. He said: "We came with a system that made us hard to beat. At the end, we were unlucky not to get a result from Pennant's free kick. It was very warm out there. The lads really knuckled down, they weren't going to be part of their party. I think we had to come away today with some pride. I thought the players gave me everything, although I accept Chelsea had the lion's share of the game. We've moved up a place and that's it's worth half a million." He also had particular praise for Scott Carson - definitely the star player on the Leeds side today. Blackwell said: "When you think he only turned 18 a few months ago he's an exception talent. We have the makings of some very good youngsters. Leeds still has a bright future, even though it may not seem that way at the moment."
May 14: Coach Kevin Blackwell says that he's looking forward to his day at the helm of Leeds United, and is calling on the team to put on a good display as they drop out of the top flight. He said: "It's still an important game, both for the players and for the club and it's important we get some sort of response on Saturday. It's our last game in the Premiership - hopefully not for too long - and we would like to leave it with a decent display." Needless to say, there's praise for the fans who have backed the team throughout the season, home and away: "We'll be remembering the fans and the awesome support we've had this season and I'll be telling the players to do it for them. It's a final opportunity to say 'thank you' to the fans. The players are aware of that and we shall certainly be going out and giving it everything we've got." Scott Carson comes in for Paul Robinson - which will mean a bench place for young keeper William Coyles, while James Milner continues up front for Mark Viduka. It's also likely that Jason Wilcox and Salomon Olembe will get a run out before the end of their contract/loan spell.
May 14: The club today announced more pre-season friendlies, this time mainly for the reserve side (though whether or not there will be any distinction between the first team and the stiffs by then is an interesting question). All of the games will be away, with the programmme starting at Farsley Celtic on July 14, followed by a trip to Frickley Athletic on July 22. Things then get a bit more serious with Bury next on the agenda at Gigg Lane on July 28, and finally a visit to relegated York City on August 3. More details to appear later.
May 13: Caretaker boss Kevin Blackwell says that James Milner might still end up leaving Elland Road, despite his decision to turn down Spurs' offer earlier this week. It's understood that there are serious disagreements in the boardroom, with David Richmond and Gerald Krasner intent on hanging onto the young star, but Simon Morris and Melvin Helme keen to maximise the funds coming into the club and getting any sort of price for him. Blackwell said: "I shall discuss the position with James and I shall tell him what I think is best for his future...He is a lad who has a bright future and I think he knows where he is going, he is strong enough to make his own decisions."
May 13: With the Italian season about to close at the weekend, Juventus are said to be on the point of preparing a bid to bring Alan Smith out to Italy. But other sources indicate that the main people saying that are Smithy's connections, keen to rustle up a move abroad. Boro were also said to have upped their bid to something closer to Leeds' valuation of the striker, but later on today they denied that they had made any such approach.
May 14: The club today confirmed that all four loan players - Jermaine Pennant, Didier Domi, Salomon Olembe and Zoumana Camara - would return to their clubs at the end of the season. Also confirmed as leaving were David Batty, Michael Bridges and Jason Wilcox and Shaun Allaway, plus youngsters Larry Farren and Chris Armstrong. Right-back Stewart Edwards has been offered an extension to his deal, and is considering his options.
May 14: Eddie Gray said he completely supported Lucas Radebe's decision to speak out against the complacent attitude in the dressing room that had given rise to the club's slump in form and league position this season. He said: "I think the players worked hard in their own way, but I think it says everything when a player like Lucas comes out and says something like that. I think it was difficult for the players, but I think there were too many excuses at our football club. It's quite easy for players when things are not going right for footballers, and it always happens, to look for excuses. I think that crept in at the club." There's more from Lord Eddie on the official site on LUTV (if you're happy running Microsoft bugware and are lucky enough to have a broadband connection).
May 14: Paul Robinsom said he was delighted to get the chance to switch to Spurs and was hoping to be challenging for a European place next season. Ha! Ha! Ha! Thud! Sorry, just laughed myself off my chair. He only has to complete a medical before he officially becomes a Spurs player next week, but said he was still sad to be leaving Elland Road: "It's a big wrench to leave Leeds because I've been there since I was 14, but they needed me to go and I needed to go to further my career. The decision was taken out of my hands. There has been a lot of uncertainty and I'm glad my future's finally settled. Leeds made it clear that everybody was for sale and if my transfer brings some money into the club it benefits everybody. It was very close to happening in January but I didn't want to leave Leeds in the predicament they were in, so the deal was put on ice until now."
May 14: Kevin Blackwell said he'd have no hesitation in taking on the manager's job at Leeds if he was given the chance. He's impressed everyone with his abilities as a coach, and his plain speaking has won over fans in the various forums he's attended. He's aware of the scale of the problem: from the very start he found that several of the players at Elland Road were scoring some 10% or more worse on various fitness tests compared to his previous charges at Sheffield United - not that that should come as any surprise to anyone who witnessed the League Cup and FA Cup disasters at Bramall Lane last time round. He also spoke about the constant change of management at every level since his arrival: "As a coach, I came here with a good reputation and I wanted to enhance that and try and affect things, but within three or four weeks I realised that had to be put on hold and I've had to sit on my hands at times. The manager went, then Eddie came in and then the chairman went. Whenever you turned round something different was there. It was like a revolving door on a major department store. I've had to accept things - even if I haven't agreed with them - and that they are for a reason, although I've not yet been able to work out what the reason is." And he's even trying to put a positive spin on his experience at the club to date: "With the way football is going, you could well come across financial problems at a club again and knowing how to deal with it is going to be invaluable. From that point of view, it's been a great experience, not one I wanted and not one the fans wanted to see. But hopefully I can use that in years to come and spot the problems early. It might be an advantage to me, and if that's the case, then it's been well worth coming to Leeds." And as for the vacant hot seat? "It's an enviable task for someone to come in, give it new views and ideas and to move the club forward, so in many respects although it's a big challenge, I feel it's one quite a few people would want to take on... It's a chance a lot of experienced, high-profile people would be looking to because Leeds, although they are on a down at the moment, is a big club, well respected and it's one of those clubs that wherever you go, people will follow it. As for me, I would consider all the options. It hasn't been offered to me, so I'm not considering it at the moment, but if something was put on the table then you would look at it."
May 14: Steve Parkin has finally been allowed to perform due diligence on the club's books with a view to a possible takeover after a long-running disagreement with Gerald Krasner and Melvin Helme was finally resolved. It's understood that we might not yet have heard the last of the bad news on the debt mountain - and it's that particular area that could still scupper the bid. Despite the fact that they could be facing serious cashflow problems and could find themselves forced into accepting early, low bids for the likes of Alan Smith, Mark Viduka, Danny Mills and Dominic Matteo, the current board are understood to want to see some return on their very limited personal investments in the club, and coupled with their insistence on Parkin making a huge sum available for player acquisition, that could see the millionaire haulage boss and lifelong Leeds fan walk away and leave the board to face even more prolonged and painful financial nightmares.
May 13: Newcastle have ruled out making an early move to snap up players in the Elland Road exodus - although their failure to make it into the Champions League after yet another set of defensive blunders at Southampton last night doesn't exactly make them an attractive destination. As it is they could miss out on any European football next season, with Villa needing to do at least as well in their game against ManU as Newcastle can manage at Anfield to maintain David O'Leary's excellent record in getting his teams qualified for European competition. Speaking before the game at St Mary's, Newcastle boss Freddy Shepherd said: "The end-of-season meeting with Sir Bobby Robson about players for next season has not even been held yet. There have been no decisions about players for next season because the current season isn't over yet and we are completely focused on our next two matches." Michael Bridges hasn't set the world alight in his loan spell at St James Park, and it's thought unlikely that he'll be offered a long-term contract, although he may be given the opportunity to prove his fitness in the pre-season and get a pay-per-play deal until he manages to convince someone that he won't break down after half a dozen games. He could always come back to Elland Road - he'd be a great striker in Division 1 if we could keep him fit!
May 13: James Milner has been the subject of another bid from Spurs, dubbed "fantastic" by his agent. PFA deputy chief exec Mick McGuire acts for Milner in transfer dealings, and he said: "It is true to say Tottenham Hotspur made a fantastic bid for James and I have discussed the matter with both the Leeds chief executive, David Richmond, and I have also spoken at length with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy. In fairness, the bid was tremendous and the way both clubs have conducted themselves in this matter has been thoroughly professional and at no point did we feel that Leeds were trying to push James out the door." In other words, Leeds accepted the bid and asked Milner if he wanted to move. But Spurs - and the Leeds board, for whom we now realise £6 million represents the "astronomical" fee they said they'd need to see before considering a bid for the young star - have been knocked back by an amazing display of loyalty and commitment to the club from the young midfielder. McGuire said: "James is totally committed to Leeds and wants to stay at Elland Road and he feels that another year with added responsibility can only enhance his ability as a player." Earlier, Milner had denied rumours that he was chasing a new deal and using that as leverage for a move. He said: "I read a report last week that I was supposed to be asking for a new contract, but that's just not true. It was also claimed that I was on £8,000 a week, but I am on much less than that."
May 13: Alan Smith's suggestion that he might move to Old Trafford has won support from an unexpected quarter: Wales and ManU star Ryan Giggs. Giggs is now one of the most experienced players at Old Trafford and he had this to say: "There has been a lot of talk about Alan Smith saying he'd be interested in a move to Manchester United. Any player in the Premiership would want Alan in their team and we are no different. He is a very good player and we would certainly welcome him at Old Trafford... It must be hard for Alan because he is Leeds through and through. But he is an ambitious lad who wants to be playing at the highest level. He is an excellent striker who should be playing in the Premiership and, with Leeds being relegated, he needs a new challenge. We will have to wait and see where he ends up but I know everyone here would be very pleased if it was United." Praise indeed from a class player - wonder how old Horseface and Saha would feel about Smithy muscling in on their patch?
May 13: The club today issued a warning to fans who were intending to travel down to London at the weekend without tickets for the game at Stamford Bridge. The Met passed on a statement, which the club issued: "A great many people will be travelling into London to support their teams this weekend. It is our responsibility to make certain it is safe for everyone to do so. In order to reduce the risks of disorder we will implement more control measures including enforcing the Leeds United Premier Strikers Membership Club conditions. If known trouble makers come into London without match day tickets they will be sent home. Therefore please make certain you have your Striker Card with you and anyone without a ticket is advised not to travel to London. We ask for your assistance in making London a safe place for all." With it being the last game of the season, many Leeds fans had planned to come down anyway - and the fact that we're now facing the drop makes it even more of a draw for the best supporters in the country. It's believed that around six to seven thousand Leeds fans are expected to descend on London on Friday and Saturday - but only 1500 tickets were allocated to the club, less than half the expected amount. So if you're travelling through Kings Cross in the next 48 hours, I suggest you wear a wig if you normally go around shaven/with a number one cut, and under no circumstances have any item of clothing from Burberry or Stone Island on your person unless you want major hassle from Old Bill as you try to go about your lawful business in the capital.
May 13: Paul Robinson's move to Spurs has been sealed (though presumably post-dated to fit into the transfer window). The deal was struck for somewhere between £1.5 million and £2 million, depending on which news source you read, with a little over 10% of that fee going direct from Spurs to Robinson as part of his "loyalty bonus" for leaving Leeds without asking for a transfer. The upshot is that Saturday's game at Stamford Bridge will see Scott Carson once again called into action in one of the tougher arenas in the Premier League, just a couple of months after getting his first start for the club at Old Trafford when Paul Robinson was suspended. Gerald Krasner seemed happy enough with the price the club had obtained, despite the fact that it was considerably lower than the money that apparently was on offer in January for the same move. Krasner said: "We are very pleased with the deal for Paul and we wish him every success at Tottenham. Despite reports to the contrary it was the best offer made for him. None of the top four Premiership clubs were interested or had an opening for him, so the market was very limited regardless of his enormous talents. Paul is the highest paid goalkeeper in England. We have made no secret that the wage bill at the club has to come down." Everton's Steve Simonsen is out of contract at the end of the season and is understood to be one of Eddie Gray's recommendations as a replacement for Robbo who could do well in Division 1 - although whether he'd be any better than Scott Carson is open to question.
May 12: Leeds have resumed negotiations with Spurs for the sale of Paul Robinson. A deal was agreed to sell the keeper back in January, but the Premier League loan limits meant that he would not have been able to return to Leeds for the remainder of the season, so the deal was canned. Now that we're confirmed as a Division 1 side for next season, the race is on to get the move back on. Gerald Krasner said: "We are in advanced talks but nothing is signed, sealed or delivered. Tottenham have expressed an interest, and put forward a figure but we cannot complete any deal at this stage, we hope to do that early next week."
May 12: As expected, Matt Kilgallon has signed on for an extended period with the club. He had earlier ruled out a move away from Elland Road, saying: "I am so pleased to have signed the new deal, Leeds mean so much to me. It is the club where I grew up, the club I have known all my life. The supporters have been superb and this gives me the chance to repay them for everything they have been through this season, and to try to get us back to where we belong. I know that the future here is much brighter than people are saying, we have a lot of good young players and I want to help the club regain its pride."
May 12: Palace boss Iain Dowie has ruled himself out of a switch to Elland Road. He says that he's intent on seeing out the remainder of his contract with Palace after making such a success of the job since his move from Oldham. He said: "When the team's doing well you get interest, that's the way it is. But at times like this it's very important to stay focused." He went on: "You won't see me speculating about my future. All I will do is pay ultimate respect to Crystal Palace Football Club because that's who I am employed by. How that progresses is out of my hands. I am not owner of the club." So a slightly open door there - if someone with a bit of cash should cross the palms of the Palace board with silver, then maybe he might suddenly become available after all...
May 12: Yesterday he was saying how much he would like a move to a big club, and indicating a surprising warmth towards Manchester United. Now it seems that it's the delle Alpi that's beckoning rather than Old Trafford. Alan Smith says that he was a Juve fan as a youngster: "I always liked Italian players, probably because Gazza was over there at that time and Italian football was all the rage when I was a kid." In other news, Mark Viduka's agent has declined to speculate on where his client might move to in the summer, citing the fact that the transfer window is closed at the moment. Proof if you needed it that the Pod People are here and they're serious about taking over the planet (although why they started with Andrea D'Amico is anybody's guess).
May 11: Alan Smith today came out with what will be a painful truth for many Leeds fans out there. He said that he would accept a move to Manchester United if it was offered, saying that you could hardly describe them as Leeds' rivals since they weren't in the same division. He said: "I'm not saying I want to walk out of here and go to Manchester United, but they're a massive club. If you said the same thing to me about Valencia or Juventus, I'd tell you the same answer. At this stage of my career, if I want to win trophies and I want to do well, then I've got to move on. If I were 32 I'd stay here, it's as simple as that. But I'm not, I'm 23, I've got a lot of football in me and I'm an ambitious person." At the moment, the best thing that could happen is for ManU to get interested and maybe help push the price up. As for his point about Leeds not being real rivals for the OT mob - well if only Peter Ridsdale had realised that, and understood that we needed to focus on being better than Liverpool, Newcastle and the pre-Abramovich Chelsea rather than aiming to outdo the well-organised, well-coached, well-financed Arsenal or the mega-money-machine of ManU, then maybe we'd still be up there planning next season's European trips rather than trying to keep a brave face on it while chanting about the imminent Nationwide tour.
May 11: Leeds United Ladies are setting up an Academy - looking to breed the stars of tomorrow for the women's team just as the main Academy has produced the likes of James Milner and Aaron Lennon. Star striker Lucy Ward will provide some of the tuition, and there will be training for the girls who sign up every day. Ward said: "The good thing about Leeds United is that we have actually managed to break the top four so we are the best team outside London at the moment. This academy can only lead to better things in the coming years." She added: "I wish that chance was around when I was 16 or 17. To be able to play everyday and to be coached properly everyday is a tremendous opportunity." Initial trials are due to be held on Saturday week at Boston Spa Sports College - contact Michelle Rushton on 01937 842915 for more info.
May 11: Gerald Krasner has revealed that the board have a shortlist of candidates for the manager's job at Leeds - but no confirmation has yet been issued about the expected timescales for an appointment or indeed who our main target is. Peter Lorimer was once again singing the praises of Gordon Strachan, saying: "We need a positive-thinking manager, and there aren't many of those around, although several names have been mentioned, including Gordon Strachan and he is someone we will be talking about. He has the qualities required and he has proved himself a very, very good manager." If Palace drop out of the play-off race, then Iain Dowie can also expect a call, particularly if Steve Parkin's group take over if the leaks are to be believed.
May 11: Mark Viduka will be allowed to miss the friendly matches against Turkey and the Oceania World Cup group matches at the end of this month. Coach Frank Farina said: "I spoke to Mark last night and we now have the full information regarding his injury. He has been playing with discomfort and needs some time off to recover. I'm still expecting him to come into camp and be involved with the team in some capacity. He's very keen to say hello to the boys and at the same time our medical staff can assist with his recovery."
May 11: Eirik Bakke's agent has indicated that Eirik Bakke might not be leaving the club in the summer after all, despite what had been said a few days ago. Rune Hauge pointed to the player's injury problems and high wages as counting against a possible move. He said: "Eirik Bakke's got a relatively high wage and only one year remaining on his contract. At the same time he has been quite a lot injured this season. I think it will be hard for Leeds to sell Eirik." And ditto Seth Johnson - but with a bit of luck and good management, his wages should be coming from the insurance company at the moment...
May 10: Eddie Gray has been relieved of the manager's job at Leeds after an "amicable" meeting with chairman Gerald Krasner. Krasner said: "We had a very productive meeting with Eddie today and the decision was amicable. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Eddie for his contribution to Leeds United this season - probably one of the hardest on record. But we are delighted Eddie has agreed to stay with us in a consultancy capacity so we can still benefit from his vast experience in the game." Gray's "consultancy" role will not involve any coaching duties. Kevin Blackwell takes charge for the final game of the season against Chelsea on Saturday. The club say that it could take "some weeks" to name the new manager. Well, providing we don't end up with another desperation appointment like El Tel...
May 10: Sven Goran Eriksson said today that Alan Smith's efforts for Leeds had not been unnoticed, despite the team's failure to survive in the Premier League. Eriksson said that his versatility and commitment counted in his favour when it came to selection for the national team: "Alan can do a lot of different positions. He can play first or second striker, he can play to the left or right. He's a strong character on the pitch; sometimes too strong. You know he will fight for you on the pitch." So maybe he will get the nod for the Euro 2004 squad after all...
May 10: Eddie Gray says that he's hoping that Leeds can make a swift return to the top flight and didn't shirk his responsibility for failing to keep Leeds up. He said: "I would not agree that it was an impossible task to keep Leeds up, you have to go on in football, it was difficult but I still enjoyed it and I am sad how it turned out in the end. I just wish the club all the best in the future and hope they bounce back in the future." And he finished off with a thank-you to the fans: "I have also always had a great relationship with the supporters, I can't thank them enough for that and I firmly believe they will be the people who really help the club to bounce back."
May 10: Finance Director Melvin Helme has said that anyone who wants to takeover the club will need to move soon for the good of the team. He said: "Over the next two to three weeks there are a lot of decisions which will be taken. Nobody seriously interested in taking over would want another party making those decisions. If somebody wants to make those decisions themselves then they need to make a move as quickly as possible, otherwise we intend to make them." Why not just pick up the phone and ask Steve Parkin what's going on?
May 10: Lucas Radebe has hit out at some of his - unnamed - teammates for their attitude and contribution to the club's failure this season. He said: "There have been a lot of question marks over some of the players at the club. This season, I have seen a change in the attitude of some of the players during training. The players did not enjoy it as much, and some of them were just coming in to pass the time. I feel that most of the players just gave up and accepted the situation, and some of them knew that they would be going somewhere else at the end of the season." He went on: "It is disappointing when people have that attitude. We have responsibilities, we are not just here to take the money and it is hard to respect those players who were not trying." Looks like the players are taking it in turns to come forward and trash certain people anonymously. I guess when they've all spoken up we can figure out who they mean by some Cluedo-like process of elimination.
May 10: Hull boss Peter Taylor today said that he would love to recruit Nick Barmby to his newly-promoted Hull side, but that his Leeds pay packet was just too big for Hull's budget unless Leeds could be persuaded to step in to help. Taylor said: Taylor said: "If we could afford to bring Nick Barmby to Hull, he's a player I'd obviously love to have here. But he's on a hell of a lot of money at Leeds and that's the problem. If Leeds could pay his contract up we could look at talking but I don't think they are in a position to do that." Barmby would do a good job for Leeds in Division 1 - but on thirty grand a week he's on a pay scale way out of proportion to the market, his ability and the club's newly straitened circumstances.
May 10: The reserves conceded two first-half goals in five minutes to slip to defeat in their last game of the season tonight. They faced Boro at Belle Vue and were two hoals down on 25 minutes. Andy Keogh pulled a goal back for Leeds in the second half, but Leeds couldn't complete the recovery. Jamie Winter and Aaron Lennon did well for a young Leeds side who finished the season in a mid-table position that the senior side would have killed for.
May 09: Mark Viduka will be called into the Australia national squad for the upcoming friendly in Turkey and World Cup qualifier in Adelaide later this month. Despite the injury which Eddie Gray announced would need 4 weeks of rest and rule him out for the rest of the season, Frank Farina will want Viduka in his squad anyway. Farina said: "We received official correspondence from Leeds informing us that Mark Viduka will be released to play for the Socceroos this month. At the same time they informed us that he has been ruled out of their last two matches due to injury. We are in the process of contacting Mark to ascertain the full extent of the injury and until such time as we get a full diagnosis we are still planning to name him in the squad on Wednesday - and we are hopeful he will play." Oh well - if he doesn't turn up and the ASA invoke the FIFA regs again, it looks like it will be another club that suffers rather than us this time.
May 09: Gerald Krasner was in the papers today talking about the task he has been facing since taking over as Leeds chairman a couple of months ago. He said: "We saved this club from going into extinction. But we're not in this for credit. We went into this because we all live here. My late father is buried a mile from Elland Road. He always taught me if things are good in life, put something back." He harks back to the Ridsdale/O'Leary era and points out that - for all the "great European nights", "We never won anything. You get nowt for being second, as we say in Yorkshire. You saw the signings, but you didn't realise the commitments that were being entered into. Looking at it with hindsight, we had to win the Premiership and Champions' League to break even each year. Even Arsenal can't do that. Everyone got carried away by emotion. That's not understandable from hard-headed businessmen. It's not excusable." Looking forward he sees James Milner as replacing Alan Smith as the number one player in the eyes of the fans. "Smithy is the Mr Leeds United of the current era. Before that, it was Billy Bremner. Before that, John Charles. Maybe James Milner will be the new Mr Leeds United." He says he has no intention of selling Milner, but quickly caveats that: "If somebody offered me silly money I'd seriously have to think about it, because the finances of Leeds United are more important than any one player." Speaking in the Independent on Sunday, he is also optimistic about the club's future: "Leeds is a big city and can bounce back straight away."
May 09: Lee Bowyer finally got himself on the scoresheet today, opening his account for Newcastle as they went 1-0 up against Wolves. But their injury-ravaged squad once again failed to deliver the goods in their chase for Champions League football, conceding an equaliser to Ganea that allows Wolves to jump ahead of Leeds, costing us half a million into the bargain unless we can get something out of Chelsea on Saturday. Brian Deane had a significant impact on the Division 1 play-off picture: West Hame were going to be in the final four anyway, but his last-minute equaliser at Wigan meant that Paul Jewell's side missed out on their chance of making the play-offs. At Preston, Andy Gray scored twice for the Blades, but with Preston fighting back to square the game at 3-3 and with other results going against them, they miss out on the play-offs so we'll have a couple of huge local derbies to look forward to next season.
May 09: David O'Leary has told the Leeds board to make up their minds as to who will be managing the club next season as a matter of urgency. O'Leary still has a lot of affection for the club and its fans and hopes that Leeds can bounce straight back - but he says that the board cannot afford to dither on the choice of manager for the new campaign. He said: "Deep down, they know it will not be easy to bounce back but they need to sort out who the manager next season is going to be. Anyone new coming in will need time to shape the club and build it." And he returned to an old theme, praising the supporters for their loyalty to the club and the way they treated him: "The way the supporters have stuck by the club is incredible. The were always brilliant with me and their loyalty is a big plus for Leeds. Leeds is a big city and it needs a good football club. It has the infrastructure to support one but the finances have to be sorted out."
May 09: Alan Smith said he couldn't believe what he was seeing as the crowd invaded the pitch after the end of the Charlton game and made a beeline for him to say thanks and goodbye. "It was unbelievable to be honest. It just shows how much people care about this club, and for myself personally, I care as much as them. It was the perfect send-off. I knew they loved me, but I didn't know it was that much. I was taken aback. I guess people will talk about this day for years. There were mixed emotions because it was a disappointing day in terms of us being relegated. But it is a day I will always remember for the rest of my life. A send-off like that was beyond my wildest dreams." And he reiterated his desire to return at some point in the future: "I'd love to come back. If an opportunity arises I would grab it with open arms. Every message I have received from the fans is, 'please come back', but I've not even gone yet! That kind of support means so much to me."
May 08: Eddie Gray said that Mark Viduka was no villain and shouldn't be blamed for the club's relegation. He said: "He got a bit over-zealous and he knows that. But he has been an excellent player for this club. He will be disappointed he never won anything here because every footballer's aim is to win trophies. Unfortunately that's not happened for him and he has had a couple of disappointments recently." He went on: "What happened at the Reebok upset him a lot but the fans will have fond memories of Mark - like the four goals he scored against Liverpool. His performances when we were in the Champions League were world-class. He is a top player who has not let this club down." Apparently the hamstring injury is genuine - just seems that the convenient timing was purely accidental.
May 08: Charlton boss Alan Curbishley may have a few good ideas about how to manage a club on a shoestring, but he's got sod all idea about history. He's quoted today as saying that Leeds' Champions League semi-final appearance was a bit of a con because it was done with borrowed money. He said: "Perhaps they shouldn't have been in that semi-final because they did it by using borrowed money. If my chairman had given me £100million of money that wasn't his, I'm sure I could have got us into Europe and had some success." Fine words mate - only thing is that the majority of the borrowing and financial screw-ups didn't come until AFTER that season.
May 08: Alan Smith expressed an interest in playing abroad today. In today's Sun, he said: "I would love to play in one of the other top leagues in Europe. I am ready to play abroad. I have to go. I have to do the right thing for my career." He went on: "I never thought I would ever leave Leeds. I thought I would spend my whole career there. What's happened at Leeds is disappointing but, at the same time, I am excited at where the next move could be. I watch the Spanish football on Saturday and Sunday nights and have often dreamed of playing out there. Italy would be a great place to go, too. There is nothing better than testing yourself against the world's best defenders."
May 08: Eddie Gray says that James Milner wants to stay at Elland Road, despite the transfer speculation surrounding the young player. Gray said: "I've spoken to him about it and he's told me he doesn't want to go anywhere. He likes playing for this football club and he feels he is still learning the game. At this stage in his career I feel he would be right to stay with Leeds in Division One. I can see him being a top-class footballer but he is also a sensible lad and he knows he is only learning the game. He has belief in the football club that he will end up playing in the Premiership again."
May 08: Today's game neatly encompassed the problems the team has faced this season. Poor tracking from midfield gave Matt Holland an opportunity which he siezed to crack a great shot past Robbo - yet another outside-the-area strike conceded by the Leeds keeper. But then we suddenly put it together and Matt Kilgallon's tap home was followed by a good run from Jermaine Pennant and all of a sudden we were in front. A ridiculous yank on Doobs in the second half saw Alan Smith grab the ball from Ian Harte and hammer the penalty home in front of the Kop: 3-1 and we were on the way. But then another stupidly conceded pen, this time from Doobs and we were panicking. A bit of Keystone Kops defending saw them grab the equaliser, but at least we held on for the point in the last home game in the Premiership for some time. The final whistle blows and first in ones and twos and then en masse, a huge pitch invasion sees Smithy get mobbed. Game over, season all but over. Let's look forward to the new one.
May 08: Eddie Gray says he's never seen anything like the scenes at Elland Road after the final whistle went today. With hundreds of fans on the pitch mobbing Smithy, Gray said: "Alan's a local hero, a local boy, and you expect that. He will be disappointed we never won the match, adding to the sadness for him in a way. He has been here since he was a kid and everybody knows he believes in the football club. He has been a smashing player and a good lad for Leeds United. His team-mates and the fans will be sorry to see him go." Speaking about the game, Gray said: "We controlled it for long periods, but again we conceded some silly goals and that is something you cannot afford to do in the Premiership. We have done that too many times this season. The boys were quite relaxed going into this game, probably because they realised they were down and the pressure was off. It's a little bit easier when you know your fate. But that's what the top teams do every week. They play when there is something riding on a game but we have not done that often enough this season."
May 07: The curse of Leeds backup keepers has struck again, this time hitting Shaun Allaway. Just about every time Danny Milosevic went somewhere on loan, he'd break a bone or two and lose the chance of a permanent move. Now Shaun Allaway has gone to Blackpool on trial, but he managed to pick up a red card for handling the ball outside the box in his first appearance for their reserve side: not the sort of thing that will impress whoever takes over from Steve McMahon who quit as the Seasiders boss yesterday. Still, you never know, he might get another chance...
May 07: Darren Huckerby surprisingly missed out on being voted into the PFA Nationwide Division 1 Team of the Year - but he has picked up the cumbersomely-titled 1st Division Umbro Isotonic Player of the Season, adding to the fans award he got in the PFA ceremony. He has scored 13 goals and set up many more since he signed for Norwich last Christmas and has been instrumental in their promotion campaign.
May 07: Valencia in for Viduka according to the Sun. Coach Rafa Benitez has clearly only seen the highlights tape and not been shown the evidence from the 50% of games every season which Viduka is too unfit/not bothered enough to play in. But Benitez also has his eyes on Alan Smith - despite the fact that the last live action the Valencia public saw of Smith was when he hacked down one of their players with Leeds 3-0 down in the Champions League semi-final three years ago. Spurs remain interested in taking James Milner off our hands - but the board are adamant that Milner and the other youngsters represent the future of the side and will not be sold. Chairman Gerald Krasner said: "We are fully aware that James has the right to talk about a new deal. We have already discussed that as a board and it is our plan to tie him up because we do not want to lose him. We don't want to sell anyone who has come through our youth academy because they are the future of Leeds United. James is one of five England Under-21 internationals we have here and, with the acquisition of some players in the First Division, we believe we will have a squad that can come straight back up."Matt Kilgallon will sign on the dotted line next week, despite his agent's loudly-voiced concerns about the terms offered. Danny Mills will return to Elland Road at the end of the season, with Man City the latest destination mooted for the right back. Mills' agent Neil Featherby said: "Danny is contracted on loan to Middlesbrough until 15 May, and after that he will return to Leeds. We appreciate the chances of him staying at Leeds are more than slim, so we will be talking to other clubs. Danny will listen to offers that are made but, at the end of the day, he will do what is right for his family."
May 07: Caretaker boss Eddie Gray is pressing the board to make a quick decision on his future - and that of the club as a whole - so that the rebuilding programme can get underway. Gray said: "There will be players looking to go, we accept that in the situation the club are in. That's why it is important the board make the right decisions for whoever is in charge, be it me or somebody else, to ensure we have a chance to take it forward. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this club does not owe me anything, but the board has to make a decision and they have to make it in the right manner. The directors at the club have to make decisions concerning a lot of things at the club, including myself. But whatever decisions they make, they have to make them quickly because the club has to get back on an even keel and look forward and see what direction they are going to go in."
May 07: Nigel Martyn says that he was massively lucky to have been offered an escape route from Leeds last summer, avoiding the pain and humiliation of relegation. Martyn has been a regular in the Toffees side all season with Richard Wright injured and has pulled off some great saves - helping keep Everton just far enough out of trouble. Martyn said: "I have just been lucky to get a chance of another go at the top level. I jumped at the chance to come to Everton, and I was determined to hang onto it. I only had a season left on my contract at Leeds, and if I'd had to sit on the bench for another season I would have been pretty demoralised by the end of it."
May 07: Alan Smith says that his last game at Elland Road in a Leeds shirt will be the most emotional day of his career. He said: "As everyone knows, I love this club and would definitely have stayed if we hadn't been relegated. I think the fans understand that playing for England means a lot to me too and my chances of being picked at international level would be harmed if I was playing in Division One next season." True Smithy - but you didn't have to come out and say so on national TV - and even if you'd offered to take a pay cut and stay we'd still have needed to move you on to raise money. Still, by asking for a move in public I presume that will do the club a favour by writing off any loyalty bonuses that might otherwise be due.
May 07: Hidden away in the middle of the season ticket renewal form is the intriguing new seat price for a couple of blocks in the West Stand - described as "John Charles Executive Seat". The two blocks are priced at nearly £700 - £150 more than any other seats in the stand and appear to offer you...well...nowt extra. Apparently the club are planning on improving the seats - replacing the current plastic ones, but not until 2005 so what exactly are you supposed to be getting for your extra cash? Just the comfortable knowledge that you're doing your bit to help keep the current consortium going by pumping in cash for no discernible benefit.
May 07: Leeds start their warm-ups with a game against Bodens BK of Sweden on July 14, and follow that up with a match with Pitia IF the following Saturday. Coming back to the UK, the team visit Mansfield, Oldham, Darlo and Hibs on July 21, 24, 27, 31 respectively. Quite who will be pulling on a white shirt by that stage is anybody's guess. Might try to get out for the Bodens game but unfortunately te Pitia match conflicts with the IFA's Worldnet 2004 competition at Boddy Hall in Leeds where we will be drinking copious amounts of alcohol, narrowly losing football games and hopefully retaining our unofficial title of "Best Pitchside Bar" for the umpteenth year running.
May 07: Mark Viduka will miss the rest of the season after Eddie Gray today announced he needed a month's rest for a "hamstring injury". Gray said: "Mark Viduka has had a recurrence of his back and hamstring problem and he will not play again this season. He trained yesterday and it's just flared up again." He went on: "If you believe the stories that are in the press then he has probably played his last game for the club, the physio has said he will require four weeks rest at least." It's not neccessarily his last game but it looks that way, I think Mark is used to playing his football in the top flight and he will want to continue to do that." With Steve Caldwell returning to Newcastle, Lucas Radebe or Matt Kilgallon will come in at centreback, and Simon Johnson could get another run up front - although Gray may prefer to go for the experience of Nick Barmby with up to Â£1 million extra prize money on offer for finishing third bottom rather than propping up the pile. Charlton welcome back Mark Fish after a lengthy lay-off following an argument with a glass coffee table, and Shaun Bartlett also returns after a hamstring strain. Striker Carlton Cole and midfielder Claus Jensen are doubtful - let's hope it stays that way: we've already been shafted by one Chelsea loanee this season in Forsell so let's not make it a double with Cole.
May 07: The board are pushing back against the takeover rumours and external critics, with both Steve Parkin and Bill Gerrard getting some stick. Melvyn Helme seems to be on the publicity trail of late, and he was quited today alongside Krasner as saying that Parkin should show them the money - and a considerably larger pile than has apparently been offered or indeed that they have at their disposal right now - or sod off. And the put-up-or-shut-up challenge also goes out to Bill Gerrard, the Leeds fan and academic who has shed much light on the club's dire financial position. Helme said: "Mr Gerrard has an open invitation to come down and meet us and compare what we are doing. Quite how he can comment without seeing the financial situation is a mystery. It's not particularly helpful that he sits on the sidelines carping about what's going on when he doesn't know the full picture. All he is doing is unsettling people when we are trying to move forward."
May 06: Steve Caldwell may have only been at Elland Road on a brief loan, but it still hit him hard when relegation finally became a certainty. He said: "I just felt a sickness in my stomach because I knew deep down it was over then. The three goals [at Bolton] just went so quick. I suppose there was still a glimmer and you hope you can get something, but we were down to 10 men and we never had the ball in the second half." He went on: "It was a horrible feeling. It's the first time I've felt it and I hope I never have to feel anything like that again." He pointed to the numerous bits of bad luck that have hit Leeds, from injuries to bizarre and unexpected results like Pompey beating ManU and Newcastle being turned over by City. But he adds: "That's not an excuse though, because we should still have been professional enough to deal with the situation... When I came I couldn't believe that Leeds were where they were in the table. Even now I'm still shocked. We never had a lot of continuity and that may have been a problem." Caldwell insists that he did what he could to stop the rot, and added his voice to the chorus of praise for the Leeds fans. He said: "I think I gave everything I could, but it just wasn't meant to be... The fans are just unbelievable, amazing. I never realised just how good the Leeds United fans are. They were superb at Elland Road and away from home they were something else. It's a shame we couldn't do it for them because they deserved it."
May 06: Lee Bowyer has yet to score since he left Leeds and has been distinctly unimpressive in his spells at West Ham and Newcastle, but David O'Leary has the midfielder on his list of possible summer targets. He was signed on a free by Newcastle and would probably be allowed to leave on similar terms even though his contract still has some time to run, with Bobby Robson unimpressed with Bowyer's performances on the training ground and the pitch and the player equally unhappy on Tyneside.
May 06: Noel Whelan is set to have a trial with Sheffield United with a view to sealing a move to Bramall Lane next season. After being released by Boro at the start of the season, Whelan had a spell with Millwall before terminating his contract and moving back up north for family reasons, and spending a couple of months with Derby County. Whelan scored 8 times in 58 appearances for Leeds before moving to Coventry for £2 million and had been touted as a possible returnee to Elland Road to help the fight for promotion next season.
May 06: Despite the fact that it will be the last Premier League game at Elland Road for at least a year, there are still around plenty of tickets available for Saturday's clash with Charlton. Come on you lot - get down there and cheer the supporters (and the players who deserve it) on Saturday - it's not as if there's going to be anything better to see at ER for some time!
May 06: Jermaine Pennant says that the board should cut their deliberations short and give Eddie Gray the manager's job for next season. David Richmond says that it could be nearly a fortnight before they make the call, but Pennant says that Gray has done a great job and could pull the club back up. Pennant said: "The club was struggling and it was a hard time when he came in. It was difficult for him to pick the club up at that time. He is Leeds through and through and a great manager. He would be perfect for the job. He is a great manager and loves the club. He says we will definitely bounce back from this and if he gets the job it will be good for Leeds and the fans."
May 06: Matthew Kilgallon is out of contract at the end of the season - but Leeds are hoping he will sign an extension. His agent gave the impression that he would move on unless Leeds improved the terms on offer, but with Division 1 wages a good deal lower than Premier League pay, it's hard to see how Leeds could match those expectations now. Nevertheless, Peter Lorimer is confident he will sign up: "We don't foresee any problems, as is normal we are trying to make everybody happy in the deal; the lad has got to make sure his future is secure and we have to ensure the best interests of the club are met. We need to get the future of this club signed up, fortunately a lot of our younger players are already on long contracts or have signed recently, so Matthew is our top priority. The board realise that [the young players] are the future of this football club, so we need them happy and in the right frame of mind.
May 06: Danny Mills is interesting Kevin Keegan as his season-long loan at the Riverside comes to a close. He's still under contract to Leeds until 2008, and Leeds will not want a repeat of this season with the club paying his wages while he turns out for another team - but equally the player won't want to take a pay cut if he moves on. A move over the border to Scotland is also a possibility with Rangers desperate for experienced players to overturn Celtic's dominance of the domestic scene. Meanwhile Jody Morris has indicated he could stay on at Millmoor after a successful spell with the club this season. He said: "I was happy to come here and everyone made me feel so welcome. I have really enjoyed playing for Rotherham United and I certainly haven't ruled out staying here. I will just have to wait and see what happens at the end of the season but I would have no qualms about being here next season."
May 05: Leeds chairman Gerald Krasner reckons that the club will have the playing resources and confidence to bounce right back into the Premiership, despite the inevitable player sales. He said: "We have to retain players to make sure we have the nucleus of a team to come back, there is no point selling all your players and having no team. The board is completely united as the fans are, they have been wonderful all season and especially against Bolton on Sunday. I believe with the team we have a chance to come back at the first opportunity." He pointed out: "Even though we are selling players we will be buying some to replace numbers and, let's be honest, buying players in the First Division is not as costly as in the Premiership." Of course, if you buy Division 1 players, then you need to spend again if you get promoted...
May 05: Leeds MD David Richmond joined with Finance Director Melvin Helme to ask for clarity and proof of the much-rumoured Parkin takeover bid. Richmond said: "There is someone who is supposed to be interested, but once again we have not seen any money or how he is going to do it differently to us. Once we have seen it that is fine - then we can commence serious talks, but until we have seen it there is nothing we can do." Helme said: "We have said we would gladly step aside for anyone wanting to invest in the club with more money than we have, but they must satisfy three conditions. Firstly they must agree that all discussions are held confidentially, secondly plans for the club show a better scheme than we are proposing and that would mean injection of at least £20-25 million or new players, and thirdly they have to prove they have the money. So far nobody has complied with those conditions."
May 05: Wigan boss Paul Jewell could be the front-runner to take over as manager for the new season if the current board remain in control. Iain Dowie - who has done a great job at Palace - and Stoke manager Tony Pulis are also said to be in the running. Jewell has obvious connections with the Richmonds from their time at Bradford - not the most auspicious of relationships it must be said. But it's still by no means clear as to whether or not there will be a vacancy to fill or if Eddie Gray will be asked to continue as manager for next season. Director Melvyn Helme was quoted it today's YEP saying: "There have been no approaches made by this club and no-one else should be speaking with other managers unless they are in a position to do so. The speculation about Iain Dowie is most unhelpful to us as a football club and to Eddie Gray. If someone else wants to appoint the manager of this football club they should be in control because as far as we are concerned we have a manager."
May 05: Former Leeds young hopeful Andy Gray has capped his excellent season at Sheffield United with a call back into the Scotland squad. Berti Vogts has a visit to Estonia plus a home match against Trinidad and Tobago lined up for the end of May, and a second cap would be just reward for Gray who has netted thirteen times this season. Steve Caldwell is also in the squad.
May 05: Shaun Allaway is to get a trial with Blackpool now that his contract is due to run out at the end of the season. Looks like it will be Scott Carson between the sticks with Lucas Radebe as backup cover next season.
May 04: So we're down barring a miracle and now the real off-field action starts. Liverpool were the latest to set off in hot pursuit of Alan Smith: Michael Owen's future at the club remains subject to contract negotiations (and probably Champions League qualification), and Emile Heskey looks set to depart Anfield, maybe heading towards Brum. But Djibril Cisse is set to arrive in the summer, so if Owen stays Smithy could face a serious fight for his place. Mark Viduka's future is certain to be away from Elland Road, but today's news that his representatives had already held talks with Boro before Sunday's debacle at the Reebok throws a very unflattering light on the striker's performance, and could lead to a serious backlash against him if Eddie Gray decides to pick Viduka for the final two games against Charlton and Chelsea. Michael Duberry is the target of fellow relegatees Wolves - but at least they're said to be offering a million or so: a quarter of what we paid but still more than we'd expect to receive to get his wages off the books.
May 04: On-loan defender Steve Caldwell has returned to Newcastle after failing to help Leeds stay up, and with the Magpies' defence in disarray through injury. Caldwell scored once in thirteen games for Leeds, but never played in a Leeds side that kept a clean sheet.
May 04: Steve Parkin's group would like Gordon Strachan to return to Elland Road as manager if they succeed in taking the club over. Despite Leeds facing the drop, Parkin remains interested with a bid of a bit less than Â£30 million on the table - enough to pay off Petchey, sort out the more immediate and serious short-term debt (Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise) and clear any loans and cover the expenses of the Krasner consortium after their short stay in charge. Player sales would still be needed - but would go towards buying new players and financing their salaries for the season, with the wage bill still set to be twice the desirable level. Director Melvin Helme stressed this point: "You can't afford to pay Premiership wages in the First Division. A lot of rebuilding needs doing and obviously the team we have had this season has not been good enough."
May 04: Alan Smith today asked supporters not to take their anger out on Mark Viduka after the striker's red card on Sunday was instrumental in condemning Leeds to the drop. He said: "I feel sorry for Mark. A lot of people have said a lot of bad things about him but against Bolton you saw how much it meant to him. He has pride in his performance. He has done a lot for us this season and throughout the time he has been here." And he went on: "He was disappointed after the game but I am not going to blame him for anything. Nobody had a go at Mark in the dressing room for what happened. I know what it is like when the red mist comes down. It happens to every player in the situation we are in. Everybody wants to do well and everybody wants to win. Unfortunately that resulted in Mark getting sent off. That is gone now though and hopefully people will remember him for all the positive things he has done for Leeds." Smithy certainly knows all about that sort of situation - but the difference is that he's worked on his temper and grown out of the problem: Viduka has far more experience and after his dismissal against Leicester should have been even more aware of the need to keep a level head.
May 04: Jermaine Pennant will be returning to Highbury in the summer, hoping to fight for his palce in the Arsenal side. But he's still shocked by what has happened to Leeds where he has enjoyed his season-long stay. Pennant said: "This is the first time I've been with a relegated club and I don't want it to happen again. It was a must-win game at Bolton on Sunday and maybe the pressure got to some of the boys. Leeds are a massive club and this is a massive shock."
May 04: The board carefully set up another hostage to fortune today, insisting that James Milner's future at the club was assured and that they would fight to keep him. David Richmond said: "James Milner is part and parcel of the affordable future of Leeds football club. He is a young player with a fantastic future." And he went on: "We will not be doing any panic sales. We will not be going into administration. We are not wealthy, but we are financially secure."
May 04: After today's board meeting, Leeds MD David Richmond said that Eddie Gray still had a future at the club under the present ownership - but didn't make it clear if he would stay on as manager if he wanted to. Richmond said: "I am meeting him on Wednesday and probably again on Friday. He has been at this club longer than I have been alive, so Eddie has got a future here and a good one. Whether it is as manager or something else, no-one on this planet can say." So there you have it: conclusive proof that the current owners are from a different planet to the rest of us.
May 03: Leeds MD David Richmond said that he had been shocked by what he had seen on the pitch in the last two games, as the players blew their best chance to save the club. He said: "To go down in that manner is not what we were hoping for at all and I have got to say that I will work every hour possible, night and day, to re-build this football club. It is not going to be easy because we don't have a lot of money but we have to do what we can for those wonderful supporters. We have got the backing of the best fans in the country and they deserve a lot better than what they have got." He insisted that the board would strive to put together a team of hard-working, passionate players, and acknowledged that would mean the departure of some important players. He said: "This football club is in such a mess in every single way that we will need to completely re-build in the summer." And Richmond pointed to a key problem with the current squad (for all DOL's protestations about the value of what he left behind): "Nobody wants our players because of their wages, some of which are beyond belief, but I will get rid of those players we need to as quickly as possible to give us the best possible chance of coming back stronger next season."
May 03: Mark Viduka's dismissal yesterday brings him a one-match ban because it was for two yellows rather than a straight red - but it's unlikely he will serve the ban with Leeds. Suspensions start a fortnight after the incident in question - which means the day after the Chelsea game so it looks like he'll be banned from the first game for his new club if he leaves in the summer as expected. Eddie Gray was not happy with the striker's dismissal yesterday, saying: "With only 10 men for the second half it was always going to be very tough. Our season is over because we have nothing to fight for." It will be interesting to see if Viduka is in the squad for the Charlton and Chelsea games: although finishing at the top of the relegation pile is worth around a million more than finishing rock bottom, the betrayal of the fans and his team-mates with his casual and thoughtless actions against Leicester and Bolton might just mean that Eddie Gray decides to start looking to the future before the end of the season.
May 03: Leeds legend and current director Peter Lorimer says that Leeds' impending relegation has seen a lot of interest in members of the current squad, despite the reflection on their abilities that the drop must surely bring. Speaking on Sky Sports, he said: "There has been lots of interest in lots of our players but we haven't discussed anything yet - that will be discussed at our meeting tomorrow. However, just because we have been relegated does not mean they can steal our players." Lorimer also had a swipe at Viduka for his dismissal yesterday: "At certain times he lets himself down with his temperament. At 1-0 up and against a good Bolton side it was always going to be difficult down to 10 men. Mark should know better than to get sent off in those situations."
May 03: Eirik Bakke's agent says it's still too early to determine whether or not his client will still be at Leeds next season. After an injury-ridden season - and no guarantee he'll be fit in time for the new term - Bakke hasn't exactly put himself in the shop window this year. Speaking to the Norwegian press, Bakke's agent said: "Eirik Bakke has got three years remaining on his contract. He loves the club above everything, but it's too early to say something."
May 03: Nigel Worthington's reward for taking Norwich back up into the Premier League is the April Manager of the Month award: sure he's had Delia's cash backing him but he's put together a solid squad of players who work for each other and score some attractive goals and deserves the plaudits. Meanwhile Eric Black's tenure at Coventry is at an end, despite taking them to the edge of the play-off zone since he picked up the reins from Gary McAllister. Due to take over for next season....step forward Peter Reid!
May 03: Steve Parkin's bid for the club will almost certainly be the key agenda item for tomorrow's board meeting (not much point talking about anything else if they're going to sell up, is there). His offer of around £20 million will clear the short-term debts but will still require the sale of some big names to reduce the wage bill and get it closer to the sub-£10 million Division 1 average rather than the current astronomical level. Mark Viduka, Alan Smith, Paul Robinson, James Milner and Dominic Matteo are the club's most saleable assets - i.e. the only players to have really done anything to convince the other Premier League clubs that they weren't the prime causes of relegation - with a few more players helping out by conveniently getting to the ends of their contracts this summer and being forced to move on.
May 02: Bolton boss Sam Allardyce looks set to name the same line-up that turned over Saints last week in this afternoon's gane. Mark Viduka returns from suspension, but Dominic Matteo remains a slight doubt with his hip problem - although Eddie Gray's big decision will be what midfield line-up he should go with, now that three points are an absolute essential if we want to stay up.
May 02: Dominic Matteo said that he had no complaints about the club's current league position: "The League table doesn't lie and we've only got ourselves to blame for where we are. We've not been good enough and not consistent enough. I think it came from last season as well. The disappointing thing for me is some of the players we've lost. Woody who's been playing fantastic for Newcastle, Olivier Dacourt, playing very well for Roma, Robbie Keane, who scored against us for Spurs." He went on: "We had such a good squad together and it's been really disappointing to see it break up." He went on: "People keep saying we are using all the off-field stuff as an excuse, and I don't think that's true. We've still got as good players as some of the teams above us, but maybe they're more organised or have got more desire." He can't believe that Elland Road is no longer the fortress it once was. He said: "When I was a Liverpool player, it was always a hard place to come to, and I just felt we were becoming an easy touch. We've just lost too many home games this year. Two years ago I wouldn't expect any team to come to Elland Road and get an easy game. We were a hard team to play against, nobody liked playing against us and we had the right work ethic. Everyone worked for each other. For some reason we became an easy touch and it's not nice that, for me, it's so disappointing." And although it seems inevitable that Alan Smith and Mark Viduka will be on their way in the summer, he seems to indicate that he might end up staying: "If the worst did happen, I'd hate to see the club get rid of everyone and not bring players in and have a go at getting straight back up. I hope to God we'd stay in the Premiership, but if we don't I'd hope a few of us would stick together and try to get back up."
May 02: No surprises in anything that happened today. Poor refereeing decisions, no midfield creativity + defensive cock-ups from Leeds, massive support from the fans. Smithy won a dubious penalty - dubious only in that the it looked like it happened outside the box - but Steve Bennett bottled the decision as per usual, allowing Emerson Thome to stay on the field and influence subsequent events when he was the last man and had to go if the ref deemed the contact deliberate. An off-the-ball tangle between Thome and Viduka saw the Australian booked, when both players could easily have been carded, reducing Bolton to ten men. But Viduka then let his feelings get the better of him and gave Bennett the opportunity to give the home side the advantage: when you've just been booked and warned, the last thing you want to do is lead with your arm in a challenge for the ball 90 seconds later. The Bolton player didn't need a second invitation to collapse in a crumpled heap, and off went Viduka, effectively taking Leeds' chances of survival with him. The one thing we had to do in the second half was get off to a solid start and hold on to the one-goal lead for as long as possible. Two minutes in, and that was all changing with Okocha setting up Djorkaeff to square the match. Five minutes later, Robbo could only parry Hunt's shot into the path of Djorkaeff - 2-1 and we're heading down. Almost immediately we let them get at us down their left, cross the ball and watch as Ian Harte gets unlucky and deflects a deflection into his own net to make the game safe for Bolton and seal Leeds' fate. Caldwell was more culpable for the final goal - totally failing to stay with Nolan's run onto an Okocha pass and it was all over. By the end even Smithy's head was down: James Milner had been replaced by Jason Wilcox, Jermaine Pennant still had the energy left to get at them down the flanks and through the middle but there was to be no consolation goal. "Ridsdale are you happy now?" asked the Leeds fans. The fourth official held up the board showing one minute of added time when the ninety were up. "Down in a minute - we're going down in a minute," sang the travelling Whites. It was actually about two minutes before the final whistle blew, and when it did the reaction from the players gave some indication as to their impact and affection for the club and what might be happening in the summer. Jason Wilcox couldn't get down the tunnel fast enough, Doobs had switched himself to centre forward for the last five minutes and made a point of applauding the away support, but it was Milner, Matteo, Robinson and most of all Alan Smith who stayed the longest and looked the most upset at the result and its implications for the club. "We're down but we'll be back," was the chant as we left the ground, with applause and sympathy coming from the home fans: "Best support I've seen - you don't deserve a team like that."
May 02: Eddie Gray said that Leeds couldn't cope with the fight to avoid the drop. He said: "This is as bad a day as I have had, but over the season we weren't good enough. I am bitterly disappointed but I don't regret stepping in to take the job. There's a lot of disappointed players in the dressing room, but the club will survive and I am sure we will return although it may not happen overnight." He partially defended the previous board, citing their "ambition" as essential to competition in the game. His subsequent comments on the radio seemed to indicate a bit of a detachment from the club's future plans, but since it's hardly clear who will own the club by the end of the week never mind the start of next season, I guess that's not too surprising. He said: "We will have to wait and see what happens. The board will have to take a look at it and decide which way they are going to go."
May 02: David O'Leary says he's saddened and surprised at the speed and depth of the fall from grace at Elland Road. "There is far too much quality in that side for Leeds to be relegated," he said. But don't worry folks, he won't be part of the flock of vultures circling the squad. He said: "There are players at Leeds I admire and I would love to have but I wouldn't be bidding - I haven't got that kind of money." Once again he spoke of his sadness at leaving the club and the great relationship he enjoyed with the fans. He said: "It's a sad day for the fans because they have been fantastic all season. Let's hope Leeds get back up as soon as possible."
May 02: Alan Smith was asked if he intended to play in the Nationwide League as he left the field today. His answer won't surprise many given what he's said before: No, I'm not a first division player. I've got an international career to think about and hopefully the Leeds United fans understand that." He paid tribute to the support and left a hope in the air that he might one day return to Elland Road: "[The fans] have been unbelievable all season. I have always tried my best and they have taken to me. I can't thank them enough and hopefully, in years to come, it will not be the last time they see me in a Leeds shirt."
May 01: Head of the Leeds United Disabled Organisation (LUDO) Nicky Chapman has been honoured for her work in ensuring wider access to education, employment and entertainment facilities for disabled people. She becomes Baroness Chapman of Leeds - the first ever life peer with a congenital disability - and will sit in the House of Lords as a non-political working peer.
May 01: Steve Parkin's bid for Leeds may succeed after all. It is understood that Parkin's £20 million offer for the club - which split the board last week - is still under active consideration with the current Krasner-led consortium in a bit of a fix as to how to proceed now that relegation looks more likely than not, with the stadium leaseback deal kiboshed by a huge discrepancy between their value of it and the surveyors' valuation and the failure of the 20-year season-ticket deal to pull in more than 100 punters. Parkin's offer - backed by several prominent but as yet anonymous other businessmen - could very well be the only game in town if Jack Petchey and other creditors are to receive their due amounts during the summer, although some members of the current board have come out trying to put a positive gloss on their current position, saying they will only sell out if the next owners can guarantee funds for player purchases and contracts. Expect some movement on this in the next few days - maybe that board meeting planned for next Tuesday to notionally discuss the plans for a relegated Leeds United will see the next Big Decision being made.
May 01: If the current - or new - owners of Leeds want to take advantage of anything that administration offers, they need to be quick about it. A meeting of the Nationwide League clubs has voted to changed their rules so that any club going into administration in the close season will automatically be docked 10 points, thus dragging Leeds into that net should the club be relegated. However, there is still the possibility that, should it be needed, the club could go into administration before the end of the season, reorganise and come out ready for the future. But hey, we're going to get all 9 points on offer and stay up, so this is purely academic, isn't it?
May 01: Former Leeds coach Brian Kidd has gone under the knife to deal with prostate cancer. The England assistant coach is still hoping to be fit enough to travel out to Portugal for Euro 2004. An FA spokesman said: "We are aware that Brian has undergone a serious operation. We all look forward to him making a speedy recovery."
May 01: Boro boss Steve McClaren today said that he was a big admirer of Alan Smith - but that the club might not be able to afford him should he come onto the market. He said: "Of course we tried to get Mark Viduka. And it's a hefty price for Smith but we need to bring in quality... Being in Europe now is a great advantage for us when we look at players. We've got a lot to offer now."
May 01: Nathan Lowndes was on the scoresheet again, putting Plymouth in front as they came from behind to win at Hartlepool. Misery for another ex-Leeds boy in that game: Mark Tinkler scored an own goal at the start of the second half to make it 1-3 to Plymouth. In Division 1, Darren Huckerby was once again on the mark for Nigel Worthington's boys, scoring the final goal of the game to give Norwich all the points in their 3-2 win over Preston. Leeds remain under serious pressure: Man City's win over Newcastle was a little bit surprising despite the absence of Jon Woodgate (now definitely out of Euro 2004 as a result of his injury), but the three points for Keegan's mob means that defeat tomorrow will send us down with Leicester and Wolves. If we do end up going down, let's hope the least we can do is follow the examples of Micky Adams' and Dave Jones' sides: Leicester came back for a 2-2 draw at the Valley and Wolves also turned it around to win 2-1 at home to Everton with fine fighting displays.
May 01: Caretaker boss Eddie Gray is clearly unhappy with the board's appointment of Philip Morrison to tout his squad around the Premiership. Gray said "It's something that shouldn't have happened, but it has. The stories are nothing new at this football club. They've been happening all season, but the players have become used to them over the last season or so. There was some disappointment at this latest story, and also a few laughs, but they just have to get on with the job of playing football." He went on: "What has happened has not made my job any easier, but realistically we've had a long time to get out of trouble and we've not done it. It's not as if it's come upon us with three games to go. We're in the same position and we've now got to go and perform on the football field."