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February 28: Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell pronounced himself delighted with the impact his half-time talk had on the team on Saturday. He said: "We talked at half time about Rob Hulse hitting that near post area and sure enough it went in. It's great to be able to say something at half time and see it come off and then we've worked on the midfield players breaking into the box and Shaun Derry took it very well and finished with some style. I have seen many a striker miss that and he showed some real cool to finish it off. A late run from a midfield player into the box is the hardest run to pick up and they're the runs that get you into scoring positions. Once he got there he finished it brilliantly." Blackwell said that the win over West Ham had helped to erase some of the bad memories from the previous weekend: "Last week at Wigan the lads were thoroughly disappointed and they felt they had let a massive following down. I was looking for a response this week and they trained well and today for 60 minutes we were clearly on top and should maybe have finished the game off but didn't take it... For 60 of the 90 minutes we looked a very good side and then when we had to dig deep and throw bodies in we did. We made some mistakes but we got away with it. Overall I am proud of the players."
February 28: Matthew Spring has been granted a week's compassionate leave after the death of his baby son Jacob, who was born prematurely last week. My own son was born 7 weeks early, and although we had a few obvious worries at first, so far we've been lucky enough and he's now at home keeping us awake like a regular baby - and I can barely begin to think what Matt and his partner Victoria are going through right now. The club also announced that one of the club's physios - Bruce Craven - died at the weekend, and that tonight's reserve game against Birmingham had been called off as a mark of respect. Our thoughts are with both families.
February 28: Leeds matchwinner Shaun Derry today revealed that the secret of his success on Saturday was... baked beans! Derry said: "Every footballer has got their own pre-match routine and mine's pasta, beans, chicken and scrambled egg. But me and my girlfriend are in a hotel at the moment and when I rang down to reception they wouldn't do the meal for me so we had to take a walk into town and ended up in a greasy spoon cafe near Leeds market. I was sat there thinking 'if I score today we will have to come here every week!' I had my beans on toast, scrambled egg and probably about 10 Lambert & Butler too with all the smoke!" Wonder which hotel is now kicking itself for its appalling lack of customer service - and just which greasy spoon will be branded the new Flying Pizza? Derry added: "I was doing cartwheels at the end because it was a dream come true to score on your home debut. I was just delighted that I kept the composure that was needed in the final minutes. I don't score a lot of goals but we've done a lot of work in training with me and Simon Walton trying to get on the end of things and finishing them off. It paid off on Saturday."
February 28: Peter Ridsdale has a stalker! Tonight's YEP announces that the former Leeds chairman has been inundated with emails from a middle-aged woman who is a big Barnsley fan. The innumerate club-wrecker made a complaint to his local police in Lancashire, and as a result South Yorkshire Police paid the 45-year-old woman a visit to warn her off.
February 28: Tonight's YEP carries an interview with Jacob Adler - the man who bought Elland Road. He explains that he's just a property investor, and saw the deal continuing as a long-term lease, not as a property development play on Elland Road. He also rubbished suggestions that he had done the deal because of his close ties to a former member of the Leeds board. Adler said: "I want the club to survive, I want the club to improve - if I didn't, then I wouldn't have done the deal." He went on: "I had never met Mr Krasner before, I had never dealt with him before. Categorically, I had no connection with anyone at Leeds United. [The deal] came about through a property agent who knew that Leeds were looking to sell and I might be interested in buying." He has been understandably reticent to come forward given the degree of publicity and antagonism that seems to come with any association with power at Elland Road, but said: "There are some things I have wanted to get across, and I hope the people of Leeds will look on this as a deal in their favour."
February 27: The Sunday Mirror (why aren't I surprised) today published the allegations against Simon Morris we mentioned a couple of days ago. The paper has sworn statements from sacked Leeds employee Chris Middleton, an unnamed Leeds businessman who was said to be fronting a consortium interested in buying the club (Steve Parkin maybe?), and from Paul Garland who was acting for the loaded-with-cash-and-ready-to-go-honest Nova consortium. Simon Morris dismissed the allegations as "outrageous", and said: "The claims are unsubstantiated, and the people making them are using a rogue former employee who has grievances. I believe people are being used as pawns by others, and we deny the accusations that are being made against us." He went on: "We did a good job at that club. It wouldn't be here now if we hadn't put our necks on the line. We never looked to gain any remuneration from it. You now have these people who are trying to upset the supporters and the football club. This has happened to us all the way through from the day we took over on March 19 last year. Now we are out of it, and it continues to happen. We just want to know when it will stop." So do we, Mr Morris. So do we.
February 26: David Healy knows that he will be getting the bird from the West Ham fans today after his controversial last-minute tumble at Upton Park that won Leeds a late equalising penalty. Alan Pardew accused him of diving (ignoring, of course, similar actions by his own players) and Martin Lomas attempted to confront Healy to demand an apology. Healy said: "I'm probably not West Ham's favourite player, but I'm probably not Preston's either. What happened at Upton Park, they wont forget it. But if someone fouls you, you go down. I felt that night that Steve Lomas fouled me and it won us a penalty." He pointed out that things had evened themselves up: "A couple of minutes before there was a handball and there was a more definite penalty in the first half with Danny Pugh. The referee didn't give either, but the law of averages say you will get one and luckily for us it was in the 93rd minute." He's not expecting an easy ride from the players: "Their gaffer said I dived so he'll probably mention it in his team-talk about giving me a wake-up call early on - but I'll be ready for that and whatever happens, happens."
February 26: The man who was named yesterday as trying to offer what seemed to be an under-the-counter deal to Simon Morris to derail the Ken Bates takeover has denied that he was doing anything wrong. Stuart Levin said yesterday: "It is true that I did, on behalf of the consortium I represented, which consisted of die-hard Leeds United supporters and businessmen, offer Simon Morris an incentive to hold back on any other deal as I knew our funds were 24 hours away. He said he was very interested and asked how the incentive would be paid. I said that upon completion of our deal that he should provide a bona-fide invoice so everything would be above board. I never heard from him again about this matter." And he made it clear he held no grudge against the successful bidder: "Speaking as a Leeds United supporter of 48 years standing, I think Ken Bates is doing an excellent job and I wish him all the best."
February 26: Leeds got a deserved three points against West Ham this afternoon - but not before putting the fans through the wringer once again. Rob Hulse put Leeds in front after excellent work by Aaron Lennon, but Gavin Williams' - possibly deflected - shot got the Hammers back on level terms on 68 minutes. It needed a very good finish from Shaun Derry with just 3 minutes remaining to bag all the points for Kevin Blackwell's side: the midfielder burst into the area to pick up a flick-on from David Healy and knock the ball past Stephen Bywater.
February 26: Robbie Keane came off the bench to help seal Spurs' 2-0 win over Fulham, picking up a pass from Michael Carrick in injury time and taking the ball around Fulham keeper Edwin van der Sar to tap home. Nick Barmby kept up Hull's promotion challenge with his 8th goal of the season, scoring just past the half-hour to make it 2-0 against Colchester. Lee Matthews saw his penalty attempt saved, but followed up to finish off the scoring and give relegation-threatened Port Vale a surprising 3-1 win over leaders Luton. Stephen McPhail opened the scoring for Barnsley as they went on to beat Torquay 4-1 at Oakwell. Warren Feeney's first-half header made it three in three games for the striker - and since it was the only goal of the game, it provided an equally surprising result for the bottom side against play-off candidates Hartlepool. Tony Hackworth equalised just before half-time for Scarborough against Crawley Town: another goal for each side in the second half saw the game finish 2-2.
February 26: Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell is happy that his side have finally got enough points to stave off the threat of relegation. He said: "For 60 minutes we dominated the game, scored a goal and then sat back a bit. To be fair to West Ham they put us under pressure but we showed great tenacity to keep defending. The players have done the club proud, not just because they beat West Ham, but because we got to 50 points which is the first hurdle. We had to make sure we got there because we were favourites to go down." He went on: "Everybody thought the club would implode financially. We were written off as a Barnsley or a Sheffield Wednesday but the lads have shown that's not the case. The players have had to deal with a lot but now we have to move forward on and off the pitch which we'll do now between the end of the season." Hammers boss Alan Pardew thought his side deserved a draw: "We're obviously very disappointed with the result because there only looked like being one winner and that was us. We dug in for the first half and in the second half we played well. We had two or three fantastic opportunities, we're disappointed to concede a late goal. We played a team hurt from the Wigan game but we're kicking ourselves that we haven't got three points, let alone none. But it is always a tough agenda coming here, they've got stronger as the season has progressed."
February 25: West Ham have Hayden Mullins, Mark Noble and Sergei Rebrov all doubtful for tomorrow's tie at Elland Road after the trio missed the midweek victory at Gillingham. Gavin Williams returned as a second-half sub and should be available, but otherwise Alan Pardew has a full-strength side available. The West Ham boss has been under pressure after some off-key performances dropped the Hammers out of the play-off places, but they've rediscovered their winning form of late (FA Cup notwithstanding) - although Pardew warned his players against complacency: "It's a really difficult game for us. Elland Road is never an easy place to go and we'll need to massage a few bodies to try to get them up to Leeds." For Leeds, Gylfi Einarsson remains out of the picture with a rib injury, and Brian Deane's 200th first-team outing could be put on hold with a foot problem. Kevin Blackwell has also hinted that certain players might be losing their places after the poor showing at Wigan - and it's the midfielders who should be most worried, with Seth Johnson returning to full fitness and youngsters Simon Walton and Frazer Richardson also pressing for a recall. Blackwell said: "I will make changes because I wasn't happy with a number of players last week. It's also a warning shot across the bows of a number of players that if they let their standards slip they won't be playing." He added: "I want every player at this club to have to fight to hang on to their shirt. If you want to keep hold of it then great, but first you have to show me and our supporters that you deserve it. I want to see fight and desire. I have told big name players at this club that their name means nothing to me. What matters most is performances out on the pitch, and if you're not doing it, I don't care how much you earn... you'll not play."
February 25: Just over a month ago, when Scott Carson was sold to Liverpool, I said that it "leaves Kevin Blackwell with a big headache over cover for Neil Sullivan: expect to see a free/loan move for an experienced (i.e. aging) understudy for Neil Sullivan. Kevin Pressman anyone?" Well today who should turn up as a new non-contract signing but... Kevin Pressman! With Paul Harrison sent back to Anfield, Pressman will provide useful cover for Neil Sullivan - but suggestions that he will go straight into the squad for the weekend's game would suggest that Sullivan is carrying some sort of injury - which is worrying...
February 25: Kevin Blackwell has told the troops that it's make-or-break time for this season's play-off ambitions. With West Ham and Millwall up next and games running out, Blackwell knows that the team need two wins to stay in contention to bounce straight back into the Premier League. Blackwell said: "They are two massive games for us, and they will shape our season in terms of whether or not we will be challenging for the play-offs. We've got to try and get two results to sneak us in there." He went on: "These next two games will shape what we do in terms of forward planning and more experimenting. To be talking about the play-offs at this stage is nothing short of a miracle, but we can't look a gift horse in the mouth and while we are in with a shout we have to go for it." Rough translation: we can expect the same old stagers and no hope of the youngsters getting a real look-in for the next month - unless we lose these two and drop right out of contention.
February 25: Tonight's YEP runs an interesting story on the front page, which seems to have been precipitated by the alleged planned publication of damaging statements by a former employee of the club in this Sunday's papers. The allegations are said to revolve around plans to get rid of the club's two highest-paid players (Gary Kelly, Michael Duberry) by means of a beating and a failed drugs test, and also - even more incredibly - about plans to spike Peter Reid's food or drink ahead of a match. Tonight's YEP seeks to rebut those allegations before they get made: it's noted that the person who has been doing the leaks was sacked for gross misconduct, and also notes Sebastien Sainsbury's re-emergence with a "statement" made to the SFO (wonder if that "statement" includes details of who has now got all of that money he promised to spend?). There's a transcript of a taped phone call to Simon Morris, in which the other party claims to be representing an unnamed consortium (not Bates or Stubbs) and wants the takeover delayed by 48 hours - promising Morris a quarter of a million quid if he can make it happen. I guess it's not much of a surprise that - after such a rancorous takeover battle, with disinformation spread by all parties - that we find ourselves in the news for the wrong reasons all over again, and for once I find myself agreeing with the YEP's Paul Dews and wish that these people would just crawl back into the woodwork and let Ken Bates get on with his attempts to resurrect the club. I'm still not the greatest cheerleader for the bewhiskered one, but right now we need to let the smoke clear and get a bit of stability back into the club - and another shouting match is not going to help the team's already limited chances of making the play-offs at all.
February 24: The reserves were in action last night in freezing cold Wakefield with snow in the air throughout the game. Seth Johnson played for a full half again, and Newcastle keeper Adam Bartlett kept a clean sheet. Danny Pugh and Frazer Richardson both got an hour apiece, with Michael Duberry playing the full 90 minutes. One absent first-teamer was Matthew Spring after the early birth of his first child: we wish them all well, and hope for as positive an outcome as we've had with young Lucas, who's now been home for a week and I'm happy to say is making a wonderful job of ruining our sleep patterns. The game finished goalless, and Leeds remain bottom of the table. The reserves home fixture with Everton has been shifted back a day: it will now take place on Wednesday 13 April.
February 23: Simon Johnson is heading out on loan yet again, and once again he's bound for South Yorkshire. This time, however, it's Barnsley rather than Doncaster that's his destination: he's staying at Oakwell for the rest of the season in an attempt to get some first-team football and win himself a new contract somewhere. Meanwhile reserve team striker Damian Reeves has joined Scarborough on a one-month loan.
February 23: With snow and ice sweeping across the north, Seth Johnson's latest step back to full fitness could be delayed as the reserve team game against Blackburn might be called off due to the weather conditions. Kevin Blackwell explained why Johnson hadn't yet been given a first-team run: "We didn't play Seth in the reserves last week because with it being on the Thursday night we felt it was too close to the game at the weekend. We didn't know at that stage if we would need him to play but I didn't think it was the game for him to come back in anyway." Blackwell will also take a look at Newcastle keeper Adam Bartlett after Paul Harrison's loan spell was more or less rendered irrelevant when Blackwell decided not to select a sub keeper for the first-team games.
February 22: Michael Ricketts has gone on a one-month loan to Stoke City. With the arrival of Rob Hulse, Ricketts has dropped down the pecking order at Elland Road after dragging himself back into contention. It's not clear just how much of his wages will be paid by Leeds and how much by Stoke, but Ken Bates' determination to cut as many costs as possible and reduce the club's operating loss has surely played a part in the move. Ricketts dropped off the radar after an appalling performance at Rotherham, but looked to have lost a bit of weight and regained some motivation, and has made 4 sub appearances and 1 start since the turn of the year. Ricketts goes straight into the Potters' squad for tonight's game against Leicester.
February 22: Rob Hulse says that Saturday's contretemps between Gary Kelly and Sean Gregan was nothing to be concerned about - and happened all the time in the professional game. He said: "I know tempers flared a little but that was just one of those things. We all need to be able to take constructive criticism but there's a fine line between having a go at your team-mates and overstepping the mark." Not surprising then that Sean Gregan was involved: notwithstanding his improvements in form and fitness, a constant this season has been his willingness to point the finger of blame on-field after watching the opposition stroll through a frequently unprotected defence to score. Hulse didn't make any excuses for the defeat though, despite having an excellent penalty claim denied by the ref: "We just have to take this one on the chin and get on with it. We got beaten by a much better team."
February 22: Sean Gregan has thrown a bucket of cold water on any lingering expectations the fans might have about challenging for a play-off spot this season. Speaking on the official website, he said: "After everything that's happened this season with so many new players coming in, all those debuts, the lack of money and so on, we are not going to get too high when we win or too low when we lose. We'll keep on an even keel because it's a learning year." He went on: "I think the supporters realised that a couple of wins last week did not make us title contenders. I think early on it was difficult for them and all the frustration came out, but now they realise the players are doing their best and football in this league is different. We are going to have off days along the way." Interesting contrast with the manager's comments: if you take Kevin Blackwell's word as gospel we've turned so many corners we should probably find ourselves whizzing past the Swimming Pool Complex and heading to the finish line of the Monaco Grand Prix. So what's this season's target? "We have brought some good players in of late but earlier this season we were struggling for confidence and player-wise. With everything that has happened on and off the pitch a top ten finish would be a great achievement."
February 22: Over several seasons, I must admit I had a real go at our good friends Down Under, and Socceroos' coach Frank Farina in particular, over what - to this naturally paranoid Leeds fan - appeared to be victimisation and unfair treatment of Leeds United when it came to our Australian players. But in fairness to them, it seems they feel they have the right to tell the employers of Australian players what to do no matter which club happens to be paying their wages. Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has been on the end of some "advice" over how the Reds should be treating Harry Kewell. Benitez said: "I'm not happy with people around Harry not doing the right thing for him. We control and train him. His agent, Farina, a lot of people have said things. We pay him, we know him. The medical department know what to do. If those others are not happy, then we do not want to hear from them. We just want to see the best of Harry, no more. Anything else from anyone does not matter." Soccer Australia has - of course - wonderful medical staff and fantastic advice to offer: no doubt they'll be suggesting that Kewell spends 2 days on a plane flying out and back to see them just to confirm he has a niggling injury needing regular physiotherapy because his presence watching his team-mates hammer twenty-odd goals past some Pacific island whose population would barely fill the East Stand at Elland Road is absolutely vital to the Socceroos' chances of qualifying for the next World Cup. Farina tried to play down the squabble with the club: "Liverpool have control over Harry. They are his employer and pay his wages, I have no problem with that. If he needs an operation, it is for him to decide. Whatever is best for the player." Okay, now my paranoia is kicking in again: maybe it WAS us after all...
February 21: Kevin Blackwell has said a big sorry to the five thousand plus Leeds fans who saw his side taken apart by a far superior Wigan outfit. He said: "I felt for the fans on Saturday. It's always the same isn't it? You bring your biggest crowd and something like that happens. Wigan were magnificent and Saturday wasn't the time for ranting and raving. We were back in today and we'll move on. I'd just like to apologise to the fans for not putting something on, but I won't criticise the players because these lads have put us where we are now." Any chance of a bit of self-criticism over the team selection Kev? Unlikely, I know. But the players are getting a bit of punishment: they've been told to come in to watch a video of the game this morning. Boy I bet that's tough on them. Blackwell said: "They were coming in to watch the full 90 minutes on video today because if we had to suffer it on Saturday then they can suffer it too. No-one comes to a top side and expects not to have to defend, but the goals we gave away were elementary." Now, is it just me or have I heard this line before? And if we keep on conceding goals with the same elementary errors, then surely the blame either lies with the coaching staff for failing to point out and clear up those errors or a manager who keeps on selecting players who can't stop making those errors. Not to excuse the players, but this season has been a whole series of one-step-forwards-one-step-back and I'm beginning to lose patience with the excuses that get trotted out every time.
February 20: A few ex-Leeds goalscorers to report yesterday - even if the current ones didn't trouble the scorers. Andy Gray took a nerveless penalty in the last minute at Highbury to give Sheffield United a deserved draw in the cup against Arsenal. Noel Whelan returned from injury for Aberdeen to double the Dons' lead and give them a 2-0 win over Livingston. Andy Keogh scored the only goal of the game for Scunthorpe with a sharp left-footed volley after coming on as a sub against Leyton Orient. Harpal Singh crossed to make Stockport's opener, and Warren Feeney's header on the hour made it 0-2 at Oldham; they held on to take the points despite the home side pulling a goal back 10 minutes later.
February 19: Kevin Blackwell talked up the prospects of his latest signing, Shaun Derry: "His track record for Portsmouth and Crystal Palace has been impressive, and his experience in the middle of the park will go a long way to strengthen our squad." He added: "He's been involved in this division for a few years now and is a battler. He is a fierce competitor, while he is also powerful, strong and at 27, he is coming up to the right age for a midfielder." Derry pointed to the experience that he was bringing to the club - and that Blackwell had already recruited - as being important for a promotion push: "It is important there are people here who have been on a run before and who have the experience of being up there in the old First Division and, what is now, the Championship. They know what it is like to be in the top part of this league and that is vital. The players at Leeds are among the best in this division and hopefully they can take us on to bigger and better things... The experience I bring alongside that of the likes of Sean Gregan and David Healy, who have played a lot of games in this division, can hopefully take us to the next level."
February 19: No complaints about today's hammering by Wigan: but for some less than sharp finishing by them and good keeping by Neil Sullivan we could have been out of sight by half-time. Kevin Blackwell had no complaints about the scoreline - or about the on-pitch (and dressing room) shouting match between Gary Kelly and Sean Gregan. Blackwell said: "They want to give everything they can for this football club. I want players to nail other players if they are not doing it. I don't think it should always be left to the manager and coaches to do that kind of thing. You need players to do that sometimes." Blackwell praised the home side: "I take my hat off to Wigan. They were better than us and thoroughly deserved to win the game. As much as it hurts me to say it they were a cut above. But I said before the game that we were coming here to see how far we had come in the last six months. We now know we have a long way to go because Wigan have set a benchmark we now have to attain."
February 18: Shaun Derry - one of Kevin Blackwell's targets earlier in the season - has become Leeds' first permanent signing for the club under the Ken Bates regime. The fee is undisclosed, and Derry has already been at Thorp Arch to train with his team-mates ahead of tomorrow's trip to Wigan. Derry started life at Notts County, and went on to have spells at Sheffield United and Pompey before landing at Selhurst Park in 2002. He's played a couple of times for the Eagles this season but is clearly surplus to requirements in Iain Dowie's eyes, and was halfway through a loan spell at struggling Nottingham Forest when the offer from Leeds was accepted.
February 18: Harpal Singh has joined Stockport on a one-month loan and will go into their squad for their local derby against Oldham tomorrow. Singh is coming to the end of his contract at Elland Road and will be hoping for a chance to get in some first-team action in order to secure himself a contract somewhere next season. Meanwhile Jamie McMaster's position at Peterborough is unclear: Posh boss Barry Fry says that he has asked for an extension to the player's one-month loan, but there is said to be other teams interested in the player, and anyone who can make a better financial offer is likely to be given preference and drag him away from Peterborough's fight against relegation.
February 17: It's been confirmed that Eirik Bakke will miss another month's action after his recent knee op. They've - hopefully - cleaned up all the remaining debris in there, so if he recovers well then there's still a possibility he will be able to take part in some of the games on the run-in, but realistically, any chance of him returning to full match fitness this season has now gone out of the window.
February 17: Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell has been hugely impressed with Icelandic signing Gylfi Einarsson. "It's difficult for any player to come into a team half-way through the season and look to do well straight away. Gylfi's problem was that he's come from another country so he has to get used to the language, the pace and physical side of the game as well as trying to settle in with his new team-mates and everything else. With all that in mind, he's done very well." Fellow midfielder Sean Gregan also talked up the recent acquisition: "I think we've seen a bit more of him in the last two games and his ratio for goals is like that of a striker. I don't know what the standard is like in Norway compared to the Championship but he's one goal now in three games. He's one of those you don't want to play against in training because he's all over you like a rash and you just want to give him a dig." Einarsson has certainly improved the attacking qualities of the Leeds midfield - and with Rob Hulse and David Healy looking good up front, it's just the sort of thing that could form the start of a serious run to the play-offs.
February 17: Leeds have confirmed that they will play a friendly over in Gary Kelly's home town of Drogheda on Sunday 20 March. It will be a noon kick-off at United Park, and a large contingent of Leeds fans are expected to be making their way over to Ireland for the game: with no European trips for two years, and a very out-of-the-way trip to Sweden for the pre-season, there's plenty of travelling Whites with itchy feet who will be looking to make a long weekend of it.
February 17: With Leeds set to take nigh on 5000 fans to the JJB this weekend, Kevin Blackwell praised the numbers and commitment of the supporters who have stuck by the club despite relegation and near extinction. Speaking in today's YEP, Blackwell said: "I've talked about the fans in team-talks on many occasions this season because they are such a massive influence. We've travelled to all parts of the country and they are there in numbers. At Burnley a couple of weeks ago the away stand was above our dressing room and the singing at half-time was awesome. We went in there and it was difficult to make yourself heard because of the noise." In the Champions League and UEFA Cup, Leeds regularly surprised many European cities with the huge and vocal following that turned up with the team, and despite the far less glamorous and interesting destinations on offer this season, the support has remained loyal and vocal. Blackwell added: "After the cup game against Birmingham I know their directors were eulogising about our away support. They couldn't believe what they had seen, and they aren't alone. I know a lot of people in the game who have been impressed by the loyalty and dedication shown by our supporters. A lot was said about them last season because they just kept singing for us during games. When we conceded another goal they just started singing louder and louder." He went on: "It was similar at Bolton when the fans knew it was all over. I would have expected the team to get stick at times last season, but I can't remember one occasion when the players were booed off. I've tried to put together a team of honest players, young and senior, without any big names, and the fans have been superb with them. When players pull on a white shirt what matters is that they show the same commitment as the fans... The players really do appreciate the fans at this club, and away from home they are just phenomenal. This season they have sang us home in games and we want to give them something to shout about again on Saturday."
February 17: After playing 90 minutes at walking pace in the tsunami game in Barcelona earlier this week, Lucas Radebe was down for 45 minutes of almost-competitive football for the reserves against Man U tonight. Unfortunately, he left the field earlier than planned after falling in a tackle just before half-time and had to depart the action with a limp. It's not yet clear if this is just a minor tweak or a more serious setback. Leeds had several early chances, but a combination of weak finishing and good keeping meant the scores were level when The Chief was subbed, but Man U then took the lead a minute before the break. Matthew Kilgallon was the only Leeds player with any first-team experience, making his way back from an injury lay-off, and although the home side had barely any recognisable names, they had the better of the play and scored twice more early in the second half to seal the win.
February 16: Young midfielder Rob Constable has had his loan spell with Conference side York ended after picking up an ankle injury. He has played just twice for the club, and was left out of the side that drew 1-1 with Forest Green at the weekend.
February 16: Eirik Bakke should be training with the squad again from the start of next week. The Norwegian went under the knife to sort out a bit of debris in his knee after breaking down in training last week, but this latest setback shouldn't keep him out of the fray for too long.
February 16: Midfielder Sean Gregan has been singing the praises of his former West Brom team-mate Rob Hulse after the latter's stunning debut on Saturday. Gregan said: "Rob is a major asset for us now. I just can't believe we managed to get him on loan for one, especially with all the clubs after him but when Leeds United come after you it turns heads. He's a great signing because he was West Brom's top scorer last season... He's a big strong powerful lad and will be a great signing for us." And he continued on an upbeat note: "The squad is growing stronger all the time, it's looking more positive and everyone is really pleased."
February 16: Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell has started to sound a few positive notes about our prospects for the first time this season. After a couple of false dawns in the past, he now thinks we might have finally turned the corner. He said: "At the start of February we thought our next five games were heavy but we've seen off Burnley and Reading, and they are two good sides. Coming on the back of that we've no reason to fear anybody. That's not arrogance, it's all about performing at this level and having a belief in what we are doing." He added: "We're in the thick of it now. I felt a win on Saturday could turn our season much the same way as the win at Preston did back in November... We have shown since then that we are good enough to be up there and we have the points tally to prove that."
February 15: Today's Sun reports that Michael Duberry might get some first team games soon - but with West Ham rather than Leeds. Christian Dailly became the latest addition to under-pressure boss Alan Pardew's injury list, and the suggestion is that he wants an experienced centreback by the weekend, and Doobs could just fit the bill!
February 15: Lucas Radebe will be playing in tonight's "Football for Hope" tsunami charity match at the Nou Camp. He's been out since August with an Achilles injury, and although it won't be a massively competitive game, it should give him a gentle 10-15 minute run out in public to show if he's close to being ready for training and reserve match action. The game is live on ITV2 tonight at 7.30.
February 14: With seemingly no hope of a place in Newcastle's squad after his summer transfer, Leeds have tried to get James Milner back to Elland Road on loan. However Newcastle still have a UEFA Cup and FA Cup run to think of and will need a full set of players available should injuries or suspensions hit, so for the moment, Graeme Souness has turned down Kevin Blackwell's requests. But there's no denying it would be good for the player, his old team and ultimately his new team if he got more first team games, so maybe we might see some movement later in the season as the Magpies inevitably crash out of the cups.
February 14: The BBC are running a poll to identify the cult heroes at each club in the country - and now it's the turn of LUFC. Full details here - basically it's a text vote for one of Billy Bremner, Gordon Strachan or Tony Yeboah. Now I'm not going to run any of those guys down - but if this is supposed to be "cult" heroes, then surely someone a bit more offbeat would be in the frame: this just seems to be a "Greatest Player" popularity contest. Whatever - vote for your choice with a quick SMS now.
February 14: Rob Hulse can't believe just how good a debut he had on Saturday. After a season of frustration at The Hawthorns, Hulse felt he had a lot of catching up today when he took the field against Reading. He said: "It's nice to be playing again and things couldn't have gone any better. I was just so pleased to be out there and even if I hadn't scored and we'd won I'd have been delighted, but for two to go in like that was really pleasing. " He went on: "It's been tough, but I always had belief in myself. The people around me, my friends and family, have kept me going... There was a lot of aggression and frustration because I've been waiting for nine months to get playing again." Hulse is happy that he already seems to have developed a good understanding with David Healy. He said: "I've had two training sessions and seen a bit of David. He's a clever player and I hope we can forge a good partnership together." Two goals don't make a striker - but it was the impressive performance as well as the goals that earned him a standing ovation when he was subbed, and if he can deliver more of the same then maybe a playoff place isn't such an outlandish suggestion after all.
February 14: Jermaine Wright says that he reckons Leeds could make the playoffs after all - and recent results show that it's not an idle dream. He said: "Every one of us, including myself, wants to take Leeds back to the Premiership - that's why we came here and we want to do it as soon as possible and that means this season. A few months ago it didn't look like it could happen but a few results have gone our way and we are creeping back up there." He went on: "We are quietly confident we can do it but we're not going to go shouting from the roof-tops about it. It has always been in the back of our minds and it's only when you look at the table and you're on the first page of Teletext you start to look at it."
February 13: Robbie Keane scored from the spot to give Spurs an - at the time - undeserved equaliser in their Cup replay against West Brom. Keane was withdrawn at half-time and Spurs cruised to an easy win in the second half. Nathan Lowndes opened the scoring for Port Vale at Stockport, knocking in an easy chance after a defensive cock-up: Vale ran out 1-2 winners in the end. Jacob Burns levelled the scores for Barnsley at Swindon with a shot from just inside 10 yards, but it was to no avail as the home side went on to win 2-1. John Oster might not have had the greatest games for Burnley against us, but he opened the scoring for his new club at Coventry - and saw the visitors through to a 0-2 win. In this afternoon's Cup replay, Andy Gray scored the first of the shoot-out penalties that saw Sheffield United edge past West Ham.
February 13: Leeds assistant coach Sam Ellis was full of praise for Rob Hulse's debut performance yesterday. But he jokingly cautioned: "He's got a lot to live up to. They'll expect that every week now!" He went on: "We knew he was a good player, but that's better than a dream - you cannot make it up. He could have had a hat-trick, but it was a great save - it kept them in the game that one."
February 13: Today's Sunday Times reports that a file on Leeds' transfer dealings and the general operation of the club in the run-up to the financial meltdown of the last few years has been passed to the Serious Fraud Office for further investigation. The transfers of Robbie Fowler and Rio Ferdinand in particular - and the associated payments to agents - have been specifically mentioned. Ridsdale said that he was unaware of this particular development, but said: "I am more than happy to co-operate with any investigation. While I was there, it was run properly. I have no problem with that at all. That which I have knowledge of, was done properly."
February 12: Leeds striker David Healy has said he's happy to finally get the chance to play as a centre-forward at Elland Road. The arrival of Michael Gray and the gradual return to fitness of other players means that he might at last be selected in the position at which he plays best. He sais: "As everyone knows I am a striker and I want to play as a striker. But in the first game we played against Preston we ended up winning 4-2 and from there on we've picked up an average of two points every game. So it's not as if the formation has let us down." He went on: "I didn't imagine I would play so many games out there but the gaffer has asked me to stay out and do a job and I feel I have done that. But as a striker you feel that if you're not scoring in every game you're not doing your job properly. So hopefully if I do get the chance to play upfront I will get the chances to score more goals."
February 12: Ken Bates has said that - alongside everything else that needs doing - he won't be ignoring the increasingly poor state of the pitch at Elland Road. The Krasner regime was so strapped for cash that they could not afford to pay for normal maintenance during the summer, and the weather and recent rugby league games have taken their toll. In today's programme he says: "I believe that change and savings should start at the top so champagne is out at boardroom level and a simple pre-match meal is being served. The money saved is going towards our head groundsman's budget for the pitch this summer. A good team requires a good playing surface and there are some things we cannot afford to scrimp on... Similarly, our stadium manager, Harry Stokey has been authorized to bring back two members of his maintenance staff who we previously let go. We simply cannot afford to let Elland Road deteriorate. That would be penny wise and pound foolish." Funny how the previous board - who, let's face it, were the OWNERS of the pitch at the time, were happy to let it rot.
February 12: Rob Hulse became the twenty-third player to make his debut for Leeds this season, and then became the fourteenth to score his first goal for the club as he showed the fans just what he can do. Aaron Lennon had set up David Healy for the opener with ten minutes of the first half remaining. Healy then combined with Jermaine Wright to set up Hulse for a cracker from the edge of the box, and Healy again set Hulse free to score from 25 yards when under pressure from the defence. But Leeds couldn't complete the job with a clean sheet: sloppy defending from a corner allowed Lloyd Owusu to pull one back for the visitors in the final minute.
February 11: The trial of the man accused of murdering Leeds fans Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight has been delayed yet again. Nearly five years after the pair were killed while out in Istanbul supporting Leeds in the UEFA Cup semi-final against Galatasarary, the latest instalment of the trial of Ali Umit Demir was halted when it became clear that the forensic reports linking Demir's knife with the killings had not been properly signed by the scientists involved. It's yet another slap in the face to the families of Chris and Kevin, with the accused allowed out on bail pending the conclusion of the trial - although the authorities are understood to be keeping a close eye on him. The trial is now likely to finish in April or May.
February 11: Andy Keogh has completed his transfer to Scunthorpe, signing a three-year deal at Glanford Park. He's still away on international duty, so will miss tonight's game against Southend but should be available thereafter. Irons boss Brian Laws said: "Hopefully, [he] will come for a medical on Monday and we'll get it all done and dusted." Kevin Blackwell wished the player well for the future: "I couldn't guarantee Andy first team football at the present time. We sat down and had a chat and both parties felt it would be better, certainly in the short term, for the player to get first team experience elsewhere. We wish him all the best for the future and hope he enjoys a successful career and we will always keep track of him." Keogh's first-team career for Leeds comprised just 5 minutes in this season's League Cup defeat at Pompey.
February 11: Leeds midfielder Sean Gregan says he can't understand why Leeds keep on conceding late goals.He said: "We seem to go though these late lapses though and it's cost us a lot of points this season. We went through a stage where we had them just after half-time but we seem to have that sorted now. We played well last week and dominated the game bar the last ten minutes when they had a bit of pressure on us and obviously we conceded the penalty. It probably made the game look closer than it was but anyone who saw it knows we were deserved winners. But it's silly having to score two or three goals away from home just to hang on. It's something we have to concentrate on and we'll keep trying until we get it right." Gregan admits that the club's home form has left something to be desired, and that the reaction from the terraces is understandable, but is still affecting some of the younger players: "The lads have said among themselves that three or four years of frustration is seeping out this season. Players like myself, Paul Butler and Michael Gray have played in front of big crowds for a lot of years and it's water off a duck's back for us but for some of the young kids it's difficult." Gregan also reckons that he is now performing closer to his best, and that's reflected in the improved reaction he is getting from the fans: "Things have got better for me. I said from day one when I arrived that I wasn't fit and the manager threw me in without a life jacket. I was happy to do that. I was also playing in a team with a lot of young lads and there was no confidence in the side. I feel I am getting there I am nearly up to scratch and the performances are a lot better. It would have been nice to come in fit and started off like this rather than going through what I did and have to win people over."
February 11: Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell has called on his players to pull out all the stops and give their all to push for the play-offs. Despite the fact that Leeds have now played two games more than everyone else but are still outside the play-off spots, Blackwell thinks he has seen the signs of a newly-motivated and well-organised side with fears of relegation now evaporated: "I want to now look to win games - we have got to the time of year when I have to have a bit of a gamble. People have said I am ultra-cautious but I am going to go for it and if we can bang in some results quickly then we are in for an exciting end to the season... We have worked that hard to put ourselves in a good position that we have to go for it now and let's just see where we end up." But Blackwell is not pinning all of his hopes on an immediate return to the top flight, and points out that the club's current planning should see things improve next season: "I believe that my players are starting to come to the fore and if we can finish strongly it augers well for next season. We have become acclimatised to this division and there are a lot of positives now.
February 11: Loanee winger Leandre Griffit has returned to Southampton at the end of his one-month loan. Griffit played for just 25 minutes for the first team in the match at Pride Park, but failed to convince Kevin Blackwell to give him any more of a run in the Championship.
February 10: A process of elimination should soon leave it clear in which football club Peter Ridsdale is interested in taking a stake. Today he's busy denying that he has any interest in Darlington after being seen with Darlo boss Stewart Davies. But Davies insists that it was just a meeting between friends. A Darlo spokesman said: "Mr Davies and Mr Ridsdale have been friends for many years. Mr Ridsdale accepted an invitation for lunch with Mr Davies on Monday. There is no truth to the rumour that he'll be chief executive. Anything suggesting that Mr Ridsdale is going to get involved is idle speculation."
February 10: Kevin Blackwell says that he thinks he can switch to a different formation now that he has captured Michael Gray and Rob Hulse. He insists that a lack of natural wingers has forced him to play 4-3-3. Aaron Lennon, John Oster and more recently Leandre Griffit anyone? Whatever, at least this could mean that our best striker will finally play as a centre forward. But Blackwell pointed to the recent improvement in form to talk up his tactics: "As a manager and coach you want to be able to adopt systems that you feel can get you results and I have had to change from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 to get us results with the personnel we have got." He went on: "Now with Michael and Rob coming in it definitely does open up the situation for me to go 4-4-2, and that's the first time such an option has been allowed to me since Stephen Crainey got injured five months ago. I have had to go 4-3-3 because of the situation but with Michael in it will allow me to push Danny Pugh further up and release David Healy." Blackwell added: "I am not blessed with any creative wide players, therefore David Healy has had to go an sit in that role, Frazer Richardson has had to play at left-back for part of the season, then as a right-back he's played on the right wing, whilst Simon Walton has played midfield. Now if you can get the players in that you want and play the systems you want then it's great, and that's what I am looking at doing." I think the players will be only marginally less confused than the fans.
February 10: Matthew Kilgallon returns to the squad this weekend for the visit of Reading after missing a couple of games with an ankle injury. Kevin Blackwell said: "Killa's back in training now. I didn't put him on the bench last weekend because I didn't want to push him back too early, and I was also trying to be positive in our approach to get an away win. He's champing at the bit to play again and it's been tough to hold him back, but the big thing is that he will now be available for the most important part of the season." Blackwell was happy to be forced to make a difficult selection decision - but pointed out that was one area where the team hasn't been too thin this season: "We've had good competition at centre-back all season. Clarke has done well and Killa was admirable when he filled in at left-back earlier in the season. It's good competition like this that keeps players on their toes because they know if they don't hit the standards there is someone else who can step in."
February 09: The club finally confirmed today that they had captured West Brom striker Rob Hulse on a three-month loan. He's likely to go straight into the side for the Reading game on Saturday, and speaking to the official website he said: "I see this as the ideal opportunity to get me playing football again. I'm under no illusions, I need to be playing football and I see Leeds United as the best place to be. I know that my match fitness is down, but I've looked after myself and I've worked extremely hard in the gym and after training. I know I'm fit, it's just a case now of getting match fitness under my belt and hopefully that won't take too long." Uh-oh. At the risk of sounding the alarm unnecessarily, could this be another Ricketts/Gregan situation? But at least the player is keen to come: "It didn't take much selling, it's Leeds United! You come to the training ground and there's everything here to make a footballer get better, get stronger, get fitter, so this should be ideal for me."
February 09: Eirik Bakke is waiting for the results of a scan on his knee as it seems that his latest setback might be more serious than first thought. There has been some swelling in his knee after training sessions and recent reserve games, and he has been to see a specialist to determine if it's a recurrence of his cruciate problem or something less serious.
February 09: David Healy had a couple of great chances but failed to take them tonight as Northern Ireland lost 0-1 at home to 10-man Canada. Paul Robinson was between the sticks for the entire game as England had a 0-0 bore draw with Holland, and for Ireland Robbie Keane played for most of the game with Alan Maybury sitting on the bench as they beat Portugal 1-0. Scott Carson had to pick the ball out of the net twice last night - not that he could do much about it - as Peter Taylor lost his unbeaten record as England U-21 coach as the side went down 1-2 to the Dutch.
February 09: Kevin Blackwell is very happy to have finally bagged the services of Rob Hulse. He said: "There was a lot of interest in Rob. They were all top clubs at the right end of the Championship and I think that shows the player he is. I know there's been a lot of people surprised that he hasn't been playing at West Brom, and this is chance for him now." And Blackwell also had praise for Ken Bates: "The chairman has been very positive since he came in. think two signings of this quality in the space of a couple of weeks show his intentions for the club. I'm absolutely delighted, and hopefully people are seeing Leeds as a club that is taking a lead. I think they are two signings that make a statement that we are a club that is building for the future."
February 08: Leeds' latest hope Gylfi Einarsson says that he hopes that his goal at Burnley is the first of many for the club. His goalscoring record from midfield was one of the things that stood out when an Icelandic Leeds fan drew Kevin Blackwell's attention towards him. Gylfi said: "I scored many goals in Norway last year. It's difficult for defenders to mark a midfielder making a run to the box so I hope to grab some more goals." And speaking about his goal against Burnley, he said: "It was also a fantastic cross. Aaron just put it in the right place for me and I did the rest. The fans were fantastic too. You get goosebumps when you hear them and when I scored it was unbelievable. I'm just very happy to be here." The player reckons there's more to come too: "My form is getting better. I'm not 100 per cent yet, so I hope my form will improve and so will my game. I'm still not happy with myself and I'll be working on what I think I can improve on on the training ground and hopefully become a better player for Leeds United."
February 08: If you're free to get to London on Monday 7 March, then you could be picked to appear in a line-up of fans from each of the 72 teams in the Coca-Cola Football League. They're after one fan from each team to take part in the line-up - just put yourself forward (remembering to state that you're a Leeds fan!) by sending your name and phone number to: Then send your name, telephone number, indicating you are a Leeds fan to: Coca-Cola Promotion, M&C Saatchi, 36 Golden Square, London, W1F 9EE. Alternatively, if you think you're Leeds' number one away fan, drop me a line and I'll pass your details onto the good folks at Sky who are making a programme about passionate footy fans (ooo-er!).
February 08: Kevin Blackwell says that he will be gambling on Neil Sullivan avoiding any in-match injuries for the rest of the season: just as he did on Saturday, he intends to pick a bench without a substitute keeper. Obviously if Sullivan were to get injured in a training session then Liverpool loanee Paul Harrison could come into the team for Saturday, but otherwise it means some lucky outfield player having to pull on the green jersey. He said: "It's something we'll look at and take by the game. It's very rare that you lose a goalkeeper during a game, but I don't want to tempt fate by saying that. The stats show you have to change your keeper once in 35 games, so with that in mind you can look at other options." He pointed out that it was a regular choice for his former boss Neil Warnock at Sheffield United: "Phil [Jagielka] did take over on occasions, but on the whole it allowed us to be more flexible. It could mean an extra attacker or an extra defender on the bench, and you have that extra option to change things to suit the game."
February 08: Former Leeds chief exec Trevor Birch says that Ken Bates' focus will be to improve the facilities at Elland Road and hope that everything else will follow. Birch worked with Bates at Chelsea and reckons that Leeds United will be the centre of Bates' life. Birch said: "He hates to fail; he will have one objection in mind which is to return the club to the Premier League, and knowing him, he will want to redevelop the stadium. Stamford Bridge is testament to that. The biggest mistake that was made was in not redeveloping the ground. In 2005, Leeds being the city it is, should have a football team with football ground that is state-of-the-art and defines the city. It seems to me a lost opportunity. When you come up on the train from London and look across it is an eyesore." And Birch reckons that - whatever Bates' intentions are - it can only be good for the club: "At 73, Ken has not done this as a means of getting rich. It's all about him having one last project, which will be to return Leeds to its rightful position ultimately."
February 08: Wolves reserves turned over Leeds' second string 3-1 at Telford tonight. Matthew Spring, Simon Walton, Michael Duberry, Seth Johnson and Simon Johnson were all in the side, but the experienced Dean Sturridge scored twice for the home side to give them a 3-0 lead before a late goal for Duberry provided a bit of consolation for Steve Agnew's team.
February 07: Simon Johnson's loan spell at Doncaster Rovers has ended one month earlier than expected. Johnson initially had a regular place in the starting line-up but since the arrival of another loanee - Andy Campbell from Cardiff - Johnson has been increasingly sidelined. Rovers boss Dave Penney said: "He wants first-team football instead of being on the bench so we decided not to extend the loan." Johnson scored three times - including a late consolation goal on Saturday - in 8 starts and 3 bench appearances since his move at the start of December.
February 07: Once again the powers that be are doing their best to turn football grounds into theatres, with everyone sitting meekly and quietly in their seats and paying through the nose for the privilege. The club are coming under pressure from the licensing authorities to explain why so many Leeds fans keep standing at the games. The "problem" seems to be confined to the Kop and the NE corner - and there are very few people in there who have any complaints about it. The stewards long ago gave up telling us to sit down - and know that it's futile to ask people near the back to park their backsides when the row in front of them are stood up. Almost everyone who comes to Elland Road knows that if you want to watch the game from a seat, then you should buy a ticket in the East or West Stands. But the club has to be seen to be doing something about this "problem", and so they've now decided to make the NE corner season-ticket only for the Reading game to see if it's the season ticket holders or the casuals who are standing all the time. Without wishing to belittle what happened at Hillsborough, that was an accident waiting to happen: poor ground design, appalling crowd control and policing and fencing designed to keep supporters off the pitch that resulted instead in people having no escape route in the event of a problem. There never used to be any crushing problems on the Kop, and the terrace was sensibly split to avoid the sort of heavy overcrowding that made Leppings Lane a deathtrap, and one thing that is very evident is that the seats are a positive hazard when it comes to clearing the stadium in the event of an emergency: what used to be a 2-minute squeeze out of the gates is now a 10-minute wait on the stairs as the choke points clog up when the whistle blows. Get rid of the seats, let us stand in the Kop and give us back our game.
February 07: The Rob Hulse loan deal has still not been done. Hulse was said to be sitting in the stands at Turf Moor having a good chuckle when Brian Deane's volley from the penalty spot ended up going out for a throw close to the halfway line, prompting chants of "Deano for England" from both sets of fans.
February 07: Scunthorpe boss Brian Laws says that Andy Keogh's agent is holding up the deal to make the Leeds youngster an Iron. Laws said: "I've heard people saying 'why haven't we signed him' before Saturday. Simple reason - the agent didn't want to rush things. We want to make sure that we've got a player that comes to Glanford Park because he wants to be. I'm not going to rush a player into making a decision he might regret."
February 06: Nick Barmby scored a cracking volley for Hull to give them a 1-0 lead at home to Bristol City yesterday, but a late equaliser from the visitors kept Hull off the top of the table. Simon Grayson scrambled home the only goal of the game for Blackpool as they beat Colchester 0-1 at Layer Road. Robbie Keane came off the bench to add to a brace from Mido and seal the points for Spurs in a 3-1 win over Pompey. Tony Hackworth got a consolation goal for Scarborough at Accrington Stanley. There was a similar story for Simon Johnson who had an easy finish with three minutes to go, but Doncaster Rovers still lost 2-1 at Torquay.
February 06: Kevin Blackwell today revealed that he ended up acquiring Gylfi Einarsson not through the usual channels of scouting and agents, but because a fan phoned him up to give him the tip-off. Blackwell said: "There are a lot of Leeds fans in Scandinavia and you get loads of phone calls. You put one or two aside but on this occasion we checked the name. He'd already scored 16 goals in Norway so we thought he was maybe worth a little look. He did rather well in two or three games so when his contract ended in November we brought him over. We had three games to get over and have a look at him and he showed he'd got something about him. He fitted the wage bill and he fitted the transfer fee so we brought him over."
February 05: Rob Hulse's loan signing hasn't been called off after all. Chief exec Shaun Harvey said that it has just been delayed - speaking on Radio Leeds he said: "We have been unable to do the deal in time for Saturday's game at Burnley. But we anticipate that it will be concluded in the early part of next week." Would that be dependent on any further departures one wonders?
February 05: Lucas Radebe will fly back home to South Africa next week as part of a delegation from Leeds carrying medical equipment and supplies. Leeds is twinned with Durban, and a specific appeal to help AIDS victims out there has raised a sizeable sum. The Chief said: "I am touched that people in my adopted home of Leeds are prepared to help those people in my true home in South Africa. My country faces many challenges today, and both the care kits and the farming project will make real differences to people's lives."
February 05: Despite a useful away win taking Leeds within touching distance of a playoff spot, Kevin Blackwell remains unhappy with his team's inability to finish the opposition off. It took a penalty save from Neil Sullivan to guarantee the three points today and it was a very tight finish despite the fact that Burnley spent the last quarter of an hour playing with ten men after Frank Sinclair's red card. Blackwell said: "It was three deserved points. I'm just slightly annoyed that we didn't finish the game off and, my word, we had some chances to finish the game off. If you don't finish teams off when you have the chance to do so it can also come back to bite you and that nearly happened. For 80 minutes we were a different class and the last 10 minutes was a little bit of backs to the wall." Burnley manager Steve Cotterill had no complaints about Frank Sinclair's red card, and had praise for Neil Sullivan as well: "Moore missed the penalty but that can happen to anymore, there is no fault attached to Ian Moore at all... That happens. He is human and he is going to make mistakes but it was also a good save from Neil Sullivan."
February 05: Fixture congestion and the 2006 World Cup finals are conspiring to shift the traditional end-of-season position of the FA Cup Final. With the Premier League unlikely to shift the end date of their season, and with UEFA demanding that all domestic games are done before the middle of May, the suggestion is that the new Wembley's first major game could be played on a Wednesday night. Not that it is likely to affect Leeds fans at all, but you might want to give the good people at the Football Fans Census your opinion.
February 04: Seth Johnson insisted that he will be out to prove himself to the Leeds fans after his high-cost transfer and huge salary has translated into 4 years of injury hell. He said: "The first target for me is the Burnley game and I'll wait to see what the gaffer wants to do. If I'm included then I feel like I'm ready for it but, if not, I'll carry on preparing for our next match. I'm crossing my fingers and I'm desperate to be involved again." He went on: "It's been stop-start for me ever since I came to Leeds because I've had so many injuries. All I want is a decent run in the side to show what I'm capable of. I know that the fans haven't seen the best of me yet but I hope they will soon." In fairness to the player, he wasn't the one holding out for a huge salary, and you can't knock his commitment to get himself back well ahead of schedule when it would be easy for him to sit on the sidelines and draw a huge pay cheque. He said: "The frustrating thing is that I played week-in, week-out with both Derby and Crewe and the only time I ever missed a game was when I was suspended. Obviously I had the odd injury as well, but they were always minor... The club paid a big fee and there was quite a lot of pressure on me to produce the goods but it hasn't happened. I really need to put it all behind me now."
February 04: Eirik Bakke is said to have pulled up in training with further knee problems after appearing for just 2 minutes last Saturday against Brighton. It's not yet known how serious the injury is but Bakke now looks very unlikely to be in the squad for Saturday.
February 04: Kevin Blackwell repeated his earlier criticism of his frontmen today, and called on them to start taking their chances when they face Burnley tomorrow. He said: "I was critical of the finishing last week. I wasn't critical earlier in the season because I felt the club was very fragile. To criticise people was not the right thing to do when there were so many new people to the club and we were in the process of rebuilding it. The lads hadn't any close friends at the club so if someone had given them a rocket who would they have turned to? Now I think they are a lot closer now as a unit and they know what I want from them. So I felt for the first time on Saturday that I could really nail my front strikers and people who were given jobs to get in the box." Doesn't your heart just go out to these poor shrinking violets? "We've known it's been a problem from day one, that's why I've wanted a wide left player and a striker. The Chairman has come in and he's going to try and help me do that." Funny. I could have sworn we started the season with a wide left player called Danny Pugh making all sorts of chances. And then we signed someone who was apparently one of the best marksmen in the division - but have since played him out on the wings rather than up front.
February 04: The move to sign Rob Hulse appears to be in limbo today. The problem seems to be that Leeds don't want to buy him outright just yet - and Michael Duberry's refusal to go to Forest might have something to do with that - and West Brom don't want to loan him out when they've already had a decent offer to buy him from Stoke. Either way it will be a miracle if he plays at Turf Moor tomorrow.
February 04: New loan signing Michael Gray says he's relishing the prospect of starting regular games again. He said: "Sitting in the stand is not nice, all the way through my career I've been playing every week and more or less been an everpresent, so to find myself not playing over the last couple of months has been frustrating. The first thing I did was to speak to Mark Hughes and tell him that I needed games and then the next thing Leeds were in for me. I did hesitate about going out on loan before, I had a couple of chances but didn't think they were right for me. I have been at big clubs all my career and I didn't want that to stop now at my age... This is a fantastic club with facilities second to none and it's a team that definitely deserves to be in the Premiership." And he'll be facing former Leeds loanee John Oster as well. Gray said: "I know what abilities he's got and the Leeds fans know that as well, so it will be a tough test but I'm looking forward to it already." Kevin Blackwell also mentioned Gray's former Sunderland colleague: "John is a capable player, that's why I signed him. He knows how to keep the ball and use people. He is an intelligent player who has the ability to hurt teams, but the one advantage is we know about him after working with him. We have plenty of information and we should be able to cope. He was a sad loss to us but he broke the disciplinary code at the club and the club has to look forward now and make sure we are on the football field for the right reasons. John had to go."
February 04: Michael Gray looks set to start and Seth Johnson to make it onto the bench for Leeds at Burnley tomorrow. Eirik Bakke will definitely be rested with a knee injury, and Brian Deane will have to struggle through the pain of a shoulder injury to play. Matthew Kilgallon's ankle should have recovered enough for him to come into contention, and Jermaine Wright's personal issues are behind him as he is once again available. The man who has been Burnley's best player for most of the season - Richard Chaplow - has gone to West Brom and is likely to be replaced by Lee Roche or Jean-Louis Valois. Danny Coyne also comes back into contention for Burnley, but Michael Duff is a doubt at the back with a calf problem.
February 03: In today's Telegraph, Ken Bates generously grants an interview in which he says... well not much really. He did cause a bit of confusion when he indicated that Andy Keogh had been sold to Bury - he's just on loan at the moment although he could be on his way soon. Bates revealed that Kevin Blackwell had got rid of "five kids" to save money: I can see how Jamie Winter comes into that equation, and it's widely expected that the likes of Jamie McMaster and Harpal Singh will be released at the end of their contracts this summer, but I've not seen any news of these cuts elsewhere. Bates spends much of the interview doing his best to appeal to frugal Yorkies by pointing out all the good deals he does along the way - a "Take care of the pennies" attitude. But I guess that we're in the mess we are due to Ridsdale's "Sod the pounds" approach we should be grateful.
February 03: Blackburn's former Sunderland stalwart Michael Gray has arrived on loan for pretty much all of the rest of the season. He's a left back - so I guess that's more or less admitting that (a) Stephen Crainey is nowhere near close to a return, (b) playing centrebacks and right backs at left back can only take you so far and (c) maybe Danny Pugh's future does lie in midfield after all. Gray has three England caps, and after 400+ appearances for the Black Cats, has made just 23 appearances for Blackburn since his switch just over a year ago. Kevin Blackwell said:"We have had a shortage at left-back since Stephen Crainey's been out, but it's not been that much of a problem because we've had Frazer Richardson, Danny Pugh and even Matthew Kilgallon able to play there. But I think now is the time to get some experience in there, one or two of the youngsters are looking tired and they can get a rest now and provide competition in other areas." He went on: "Michael at 30-years of age is still the right age for us, he's very competitive and is very fit. He's here for three months so he will get plenty of opportunities and have time to settle in."
February 03: Baggies striker Rob Hulse today arrived at Thorp Arch with a loan move set to be sealed tomorrow. Despite topping the scoring charts for West Brom last season, Hulse has been on the fringes of the action this year and after failing to secure a move to a Premier League club during the transfer window, has taken on a move to Leeds as the next best thing. If the formalities are completed in time, he will go straight into the squad for the Burnley game on Saturday.
February 03: Michael Duberry has turned down a move to Nottingham Forest. Leeds had allowed Gary Megson to talk to the defender, but he could not get a deal agreed - despite being seemingly flush with cash after losing Michael Dawson and Andy Reid to Spurs.
February 03: Andy Keogh's switch to Scunthorpe United moved a step closer today as Brian Laws admitted that the club had agreed a fee with Leeds and he was now just waiting for the player to return from international duty so they could have a chance to conclude the deal. Laws said: "I can confirm that we have agreed a fee with Leeds United for Andy Keogh and we will be holding negotiations with the player over the next few days. I don't envisage the deal being completed before Saturday's match simply because he is away on an international call-up over the weekend. We don't want to rush anything either, we have had a bid accepted and we will now take it from there. Nothing is guaranteed yet, but Leeds have confirmed in writing that they have accepted the financial package we offered."
February 03: Leeds' new chief scout has been named as Ian McNeil. If you think you might have heard of him before, you might be right: he unearthed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink from the Portugese league and worked for George Graham during his spell at Elland Road. McNeil also spent many years at Chelsea where he enjoyed similar success - and it's the Chelsea/Ken Bates connection that has brought McNeil in. Kevin Blackwell was happy to be working with him. Blackwell said: "He will be straight on with player acquisitions, he will start as soon as possible because we are looking for another big striker, a wide left player, another midfielder and we have to look at the goalkeeper situation. There are four places to fill that are critical, we will also evaluate who will leave at the end of the season. I think four players between now and the end of the season will give us a much stronger squad and the players I bring in will have to be first team players."
February 02: Dane Thomas Lindrup's trial at Elland Road has not proved successful - though he wasn't too surprised. He said: "I don't expect anything from them and it's hard to judge a player in just two training sessions." Whatever happened to those Hungarians and the Guatemalan and...? I guess we could take a positive view that we're casting our net so widely. Or equally we could say we clearly are just thrashing around in the dark in the hope of landing a winner. Maybe the new chief scout will improve things...
February 02: Out-of-favour Baggies striker Rob Hulse hopes that the rumours of a move to Leeds will turn into reality. His hopes of a Premiership switch have been dashed by the closing of the transfer window, so now he's considering a step down - although it's hard to see where Leeds would find the million-plus required to sign him. Hulse's agent said he had ambitions: "He would want to join a club of that size with that quality of players, but above all he wants to play football. He's not getting that chance with West Brom even though he was their top scorer last season."
February 02: Stephen Crainey has not gone under the knife after all - despite being knocked out since the trip to Cardiff in October. Although it looked like all hope of a non-surgical solution had been abandoned, Crainey has now started making some progress back towards fitness and might just manage to make it into contention for a place by Easter if he doesn't have any more setbacks. Kevin Blackwell said: "We've got to give it another couple of weeks though and take it from there. If we can get Stephen back playing again this season it will be a bonus for him and the team because we always need bodies."
February 02: The reserves missed a penalty and blew a 1-0 lead tonight as they went down 1-2 at home to Bolton. Young striker Barry Corr pinged a third-minute penalty off the bar - but was on target just before 20 minutes to make it 1-0. But Bolton were back on terms just after half-time when they scored from the spot after loan keeper Paul Harrison had brought down their striker. A header from a corner ten minutes later made it 1-2 and that's how it ended. More significantly for Leeds, Seth Johnson completed the full 90 minutes - although Eirik Bakke was subbed, presumably to rest him for Saturday. Matthew Spring also provided some experience for the side - although didn't do enough to suggest he will change Kevin Blackwell's mind about selecting him for the first team.
February 02: The transfer window may be closed for Europe and the Premier League - but there's still plenty of time for lower-division clubs to do some dealing. And it seems that reserve striker Andy Keogh could be on for a move: rumours suggest that Scunthorpe boss Brian Laws wants to bring him to Glanford Park on a permanent basis after a good loan spell earlier this season, although Laws would only confirm that the club currently had a bid outstanding for an unnamed player at an unnamed side. Meanwhile Stockport boss Chris Turner says he's keen to hang on to Warren Feeney - but Division 1 leaders Luton are keen on signing the Northern Irish striker. Turner said: "I want to keep him and the club want to keep him. The difficulty is, clubs higher in this division are trying to lure him away... At the moment Warren wants to stay, and I'm trying to keep him here."
February 01: Young winger Aaron Lennon today said that he wants to make himself a permanent fixture in the side for the remainder of the season. He thinks he can maintain his fitness levels - despite tiring a little towards the end of the Brighton game. He said: "It was good for me to play 80 minutes and get my fitness back up because I had missed the game in midweek with a niggling little injury. Hopefully I will be flying for 90 minutes next time... Now I want to try and play every game now until the end of the season. I only really came into the team after Christmas so I feel I can keep going until the end of the season." He's certainly been one of the brighter spots of this season so far - but you can't help feeling that a change of target man might just help his confidence if he found someone converting more of the chances he creates.
February 01: Seth Johnson is hoping to follow Eirik Bakke by returning to the first team squad this weekend. Leeds travel to Burnley for a lunchtime kick-off and the midfielder reckons he has done enough to rebuild his fitness levels to make a contribution, but first will make an appearance in this week's reserve match at home to Bolton. Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, he said: "I'm almost there now and I'd like to think I've got a chance for Saturday. I played 90 minutes for the reserves last week which did me a lot of good and I'm desperate to be involved again."
February 01: Jermaine Pennant today pleaded guilty to drink-driving and driving while disqualified after crashing his car and failing a breath test just over a week ago. He was three weeks away from the end of his previous driving ban - which he picked up when he was at Elland Road. He will be back in court for sentencing in a month and has been told that he could face a prison sentence.
February 01: Former Leeds youth player Chris Armstrong scored his first league goal for Stockport tonight, firing home from six yards to make it 1-1 in their home game with Bournemouth. Stockport went ahead with 12 minutes to go but were soon pegged back as the game finished 2-2. Bob Taylor scored a 25-yard screamer for Tamworth, pulling them back to 1-1 at Burton in the Conference tonight, and that's how the game ended.