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April 30: There's an understandably strong African presence in the line-ups announced for Lucas Radebe's testimonial teams for Monday's game. Jay-Jay Okocha, Mark Fish, Doctor Camardo, Tony Yeboah and Bruce Grobbelaar are all down to play for Sam Allardyce's World XI side alongside a bunch of current Premier League stars drawn primarily from Boro and Villa. There's still a suggestion that Alan Smith could make an appearance, with the number 10 shirt in the Leeds XI vacant. David Wetherall, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Chris Kamara join the Championship-winning midfield of Strachan, McAllister, Batty and Speed, but - Lucas apart - the biggest cheer of the day will almost certainly be reserved for Vinnie Jones, and we can no doubt expect a few of his acting skills to be on display when he lines up between the sticks for a half-time penalty shoot-out.
April 30: With Paul Butler still ruled out with the after-effects of concussion, and Simon Walton's strained hamstring ending his season to add to the existing injury list, Martin Woods is added to the squad to ensure Kevin Blackwell can field 16 fit players. Nikos Dabizas returns from a two-match ban for the Foxes, but former Leeds loanee Nathan Blake has a hamstring pull and joins Mark de Vries and Lee Morris on the sidelines. Kevin Blackwell hopes that his team can win and push on for a top ten finish: "We were tipped to go down with Gillingham and Rotherham in some quarters, they got Rotherham right and nearly Gillingham right but I am proud that they haven't got Leeds right. If we can finish in the top ten this will have been a magnificent season."
April 30: Not many goals to report from the old boys today. Jody Morris scored from the edge of the box after just five minutes to give Millwall the only goal of the game at Bramall Lane. Julian Joachim was once again on target for Walsall - scoring from 25 yards out to give them a 0-2 lead on the way to a 1-3 win at Hartlepool, although Joachim didn't even last the first half before going off injured. Finally, Robbie Fowler scored from a free-kick from just outside the box to give Man City a 2-0 lead over Pompey with barely 15 minutes gone - and that's the way it stayed until full time.
April 29: Seth Johnson is said to be disappointed with the remarks made by Ken Bates on his future at the club. Johnson was publicly told he could rot in the reserves next season since the club weren't about to blow another quarter of a million paying Derby the next time he runs out in a Leeds shirt. Johnson's "advisers" are quoted as saying: "Seth is most disappointed Mr Bates has chosen to put the matter into the public domain in this manner. Seth suffered an horrific injury in snapping his cruciate ligament and has undergone a number of operations, missing a huge chunk of his career as a result. Thankfully, Seth is now fit and eager to play for Leeds United." Obviously we don't know all the facts here: have the club tabled a half-decent extension offer that gives them some cashflow benefits while guaranteeing Johnson considerably better money than he could expect anywhere else and been knocked back? Or have they just told him they want him to leave with no compensation? His injury problems don't make him the most attractive transfer prospect, but if he remained fit I'm convinced he could cut it in a mid-table Premiership side, and stands head and shoulders above the other players available to Kevin Blackwell if he stayed in the Championship.
April 29: The Leeds United Ladies team will no longer be supported by the club after being identified by Ken Bates as another cost reduction opportunity. In a statement that was unsurprisingly chauvinistic but surprisingly innumerate, Bates said: "We have had an agonising reappraisal of what we can do and what we can afford when we are bankrupt. We have reluctantly decided, therefore that we cannot continue to support the ladies team. That may sound harsh, but it's costing us £35,000 a year which we don't have. Put in context, that's around 400 season tickets. And after all the ladies are playing for the fun of it." Taking issue with the first part of that statement, the Ladies' General Manager Melanie Vauvelle says: "Given his comments about "playing for fun", I dont think the Ladies players see it that way when they are travelling five hours each time to training three times a week and getting back at midnight for nothing more than expenses on top of having a full time job to play for Leeds United Ladies Team in the Women's Premier League. Women's football is largest particapated female sport in the country." However she did point out that the club weren't totally cutting support from the team: "I have had discussions with the club and they are looking to assist in other ways. We will still be using the fantastic training facilities of the club. Leeds United Ladies have achieved a high positive profile within Ladies football playing in the Women's Premier League for the past four season and have some of the best youth players in the country including many first team International players who have stuck by the Ladies team through the cuts over the past couple of years." Empire Direct will continue to sponsor the team, which had a very creditable mid-table finish this season after a couple of real hammerings at the start of the season. The second point Bates makes is more interesting. Four hundred season tickets = thirty-five grand. Whereabouts can I get one of these £87 season tickets? I didn't see a tick box on my renewal form marked "Fantastic Bargain", but would be more than interested in buying three or four at that price.
April 29: Lucas Radebe is hoping that his appearance in his testimonial on Monday won't be his final appearance in a Leeds shirt: he's looking for a place in the squad for the final game of the season against Rotherham. He said: "I am hoping that after Monday I will still be fit enough to knock on the gaffer's door and see the team list for the last game. I'll put my name down on the list if it's not there! It would be nice to go out on a high and that gives me another chance to say goodbye to my team-mates and the supporters." Given the fact that Blackwell is more or less at the point where injuries, loans and sales have left him needing youth team players to make up a squad of 16, let's hope he does give Lucas a final chance to add to his 199 league appearances for the club.
April 28: Aaron Lennon says that he wants to be talking to the club about a new contract - but is realistic enough to know that his future may be elsewhere. Lennon said: "We haven't sat down yet to discuss a new deal but the time for that is not far away. The point about it is that very often with players the situation is reached where it is out of your hands. It becomes a matter between your agent and the club representatives. All I can say is that I would dearly love to be in the Premiership with Leeds United with a good contract in hand."
April 28: Tickets for Lucas Radebe's testimonial match on Monday are selling well, and it looks like the ground could be at full capacity (albeit with the corners closed) for the game. All proceeds from the game go to The Chief's charities: there are 8 in total in the UK and Africa, focusing mainly on working with children. Radebe is working on his coaching badges, and there have been suggestions from several quarters that he could be the coach for the home side in the 2010 World Cup. He said: "I know I'll get involved in football when I go home because that's what I know best. I want to give back something I've gained; and to keep the ball rolling in producing players who could come to Europe like me - that would be great for football in South Africa." And as for Leeds? Well, he's sad to leave, and not too pessimistic for the future: "Leeds will rise again. Things are improving financially. First we need stability, then success will follow. I've always found it sad to be leaving Leeds United at the end of the season, imagine leaving forever."
April 28: Kevin Blackwell will not take a chance on using club captain Paul Butler in the two remaining games of the season. Blackwell said: "Paul still isn't 100%. He's still suffering with headaches and I'm not willing to risk him again by throwing him straight back in. Everyone knows what Paul is like and he is the type of player who is desperate to play in every game, but we only have two games left and I would rather him rest up properly. If we were pushing for the play-offs or there was something of major importance at stake then it might be different and we would re-assess things but, as it stands, we don't want to take uneccessary risks."
April 28: Ken Bates has been surprisingly outspoken about Seth Johnson's prospects for next season. The diplomatic "wait-and-see" approach of last week has been chucked out of the window. Bates said: "He can play for Leeds next season - as captain of the reserves. And if he's injured for a reserve fixture he will be made to turn up and sit in the stand offering moral support and being a second-team talisman." So it looks like he'll be on his way - and we'll still end up paying his contract for the rest of the season. Shame really - he could have done brilliantly for us at this level.
April 27: Kevin Blackwell says that he's hoping to go out and more or less buy a new team of players in the summer. With transfer speculation starting to hot up - the latest link being with Millwall's Paul Ifill - Blackwell says that he is getting things organised for a serious, early blitz once the season is over to ensure he has a good-sized squad ready for the start of pre-season training. He said: "We have been linked with a lot of big players in the last week or so and I can't dispute that we are interested in the players. We are making concerted efforts to talk to certain people but our name will be banded around in the press by agents to either drive up someone's bargaining power or just to make other clubs aware and bring out their interest in the players." He wants to strengthen the left wing/left midfield area - a position which Danny Pugh seemed well-capable of filling at the start of the season but which he now seems second or third choice for behind out-of-position strikers David Healy and Ian Moore. Blackwell said: "I think we already know this is a mid-table squad but if I can sort out the problem of the left hand side, then I think it would give us the options of more goals and that will give us more points. I would like to get the right signings that will give us another 12 points at this stage next season and if that's the case then we'll be in and around the top six. And he pointed out that he needs strength in depth if the club is to challenge for promotion: "It would be silly of me with the new transfer window system if I wasn't looking at all departments because when that window comes in and they don't allow any loans, which we suspect they won't, I will have to go from the 31st of August to the 31st of December - 24 games - with a squad that will have to be strong enough to handle that. I am going to have to bring in another eight or nine players because we will probably need at least 26 to 28 quality players for next season."
April 27: Kevin Blackwell today failed to quell speculation that Aaron Lennon was on the point of leaving in the summer - with Simon Walton another possible leaver. Blackwell said: "Everton did enquire in January about Walton, but there was nothing concrete and I'm sure there are clubs interested in Aaron. All I can say at this stage is that I can't rule anything in or anything out. I'll sit down with the chairman at the end of the season and if there have been offers for any players, we'll decide what is in the best interests of Leeds United." Probably a very honest answer - but there are times when obscurity is better than clarity and I think this is one of them.
April 26: Kevin Blackwell had some words of comfort for crocked youngster Simon Walton. Walton sustained a hamstring tear after less than a minute when he came on as a sub on Saturday and is now out for the rest of the season. Speaking to the official website, Blackwell said: "He's had a tremendous season and he is my young player of the year by a mile. It was his first full season and he's made over 30 appearances - that's a phenomenal amount for a 17-year-old. We asked him to play in midfield for the first time against Valencia in pre-season and he showed us energy and determination, and he's given us that throughout the season. There are times when I've had to take him out of the firing line for his own good but that's to be expected... I can't wait to see him next season because Simon's got a massive future at this club."
April 25: With a string of penalty saves to his name, and with several other great saves and praise from opposition managers ringing in his ears all season, you'd have thought Neil Sullivan would be a shoo-in for the number 1 shirt in the PFA Championship Team of the Season. But for some reason (let's call it good old-fashioned anti-Leeds bias), the award has gone to Kelvin Davies of Ipswich. Less surprisingly, there were no Leeds players in the XI. Kevin Blackwell was surprised, saying: "Sully can't have been far away. For me he would be in there, but he's my goalkeeper so I suppose I'm bound to say that. Sully has been magnificent for me this season and he couldn't have given any more."
April 25: Matthew Spring hopes that his goal against Ipswich on Saturday will signal the real start of his career at Elland Road. After a season in which he has been beset by injury problems followed by the tragic death of his premature baby, Spring's undoubted promise has never been given a chance in the first team. He said: "I've had to wait my time and train hard. It's been a case of waiting for the opportunity, but thankfully it's come along and I've got on the scoresheet which is good... I've waited a long time to play at Elland Road, but I enjoyed it." He went on: "There are a lot of people in this situation and some can go the other way, but you've got to keep working and wait for your chance. When that comes you have to take it, and hopefully I've done that. I think I did well enough to stay in the team so, hopefully, I'll play in the next two games."
April 25: The Leeds defence has set Kevin Blackwell a bit of a poser over skipper Paul Butler. Since the club captain went off with concussion and found himself ruled out of the squad on medical advice, the team are unbeaten and Matthew Kilgallon and Clarke Carlisle seem to be developing a good understanding. Butler has now gone through the mandatory lay-off period, and could be available if the quacks give the all-clear. But Blackwell said: "We're going to sit down and have a chat with the doctors, just to make sure... [Carlisle and Kilgallon] have certainly given me a selection headache and it's one we'll be giving our consideration this week."
April 25: The club have confirmed that this summer's pre-season trip will be to Norway, with games at Haugesund on Wednesday 13 July, followed by a slightly tougher match against Stavanger on Saturday 16 July. The club will also play the usual batch of friendlies back in England and said there could be another foreign trip on the cards (Dublin anyone?).
April 25: Walsall player-manager Paul Merson is worried that Julian Joachim's success at the club could be pricing him out of reach of a permanent move to the Bescot in the summer. Joachim bagged the first hat-trick of his career at the weekend, and Merson said: "He's done us no favours scoring a hat-trick. It probably puts a few more zeroes on the fee."
April 24: Julian Joachim today said that he'd be quite interested in a permanent move to Walsall after scoring his first ever hat-trick against Hull yesterday. Joachim said: "I don't know what my future at Leeds is, but I would be interested in joining Walsall permanently. I have enjoyed it at the club, playing regular football, which is what I need. That's the most important thing. Before coming on loan to Walsall I was out for eight or nine weeks with a hamstring and then played only a couple of reserve games."
April 24: Today's tabloids are once again knocking on about Aaron Lennon and an imminent move to White Hart Lane. Seeing the Young Player of the Year and one of the star men of the season stuck on the bench while Frazer Richardson and Ian Moore struggled to make any sort of impact (okay, Frazer supplied the cross for the equaliser but not much else) has given rise to a general suspicion that a move is imminent for the young winger. Spurs were interested in the January window but were knocked back then. Now, with Lennon about to enter the last year of his contract and reportedly not keen on signing a new deal, the board might just decide to cash in early.
April 24: Kevin Blackwell says that he was surprised by the positive attitude his players showed against Ipswich yesterday given that there was so little to play for. He said: "I think people thought we would have our towels on the beach by now. But the lads have shown a great attitude and I am proud of them, particularly as we knew Ipswich would take a gamble and come at us." But didn't you tell them they were playing for a starting place next season Kev? Or did we imagine that....?
April 23: Two former Leeds players were on target in a significant match in the Championship today. Alan Maybury gave Leicester the lead at the Stadium of Light, but after 30 minutes of play that Mick McCarthy described as abominable, Sunderland came back to square the game through Marcus Stewart and guaranteed themselves promotion back to the Premiership with a Steve Caldwell header on the hour. Gary Speed scored his first Premiership goal for Bolton, heading home to square the game 1-1 at Villa Park after the visitors had gone behind to an early own goal by Fernando Hierro. Julian Joachim scored an unanswered hat-trick for Walsall against visitors Hull, taking the Saddlers into the realms of mathematical safety and also guaranteeing that Hull can only finish second in the league. Simon Grayson drove home a loose clearance to score the only goal of the game and give Blackpool a 1-0 win over Chesterfield in a largely meaningless nothing-to-play-for game at the bottom end of Division 1. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored the second of Boro's four unanswered goals as Bryan Robson endured a painful return to the Riverside with the Baggies. Darlo kept up their push for a play-off spot with two goals in five minutes - both from the spot - for Clyde Wijnhard as they beat struggling Rushden. Finally, in the Conference Jason Blunt opened the scoring for Halifax as they went on to beat Woking 3-1.
April 23: Today's performance barely warrants a word of writing home, but here goes. Blackwell continued with his policy of having a lone striker, even for a home game, so yet again Rob Hulse spent much of the game chasing a lost cause. Ipswich scored after Gary Kelly failed to stand up a midfield runner and Kuqi had an easy shot past Sullivan, but the Whites bounced right back when Matt Spring knocked home a header from a Frazer Richardson cross. Leeds did manage one more effort vaguely on target - halfway through the second half - and enjoyed the bulk of possession, although Ipswich did create the better chances and should have won it at the death when Darren Currie sidefooted wide. Simon Walton was on the field for barely a minute - coming on as a sub, getting injured and then leaving the field two minutes later to become the first Leeds sub to be replaced since Mark Viduka on 24 November 2002, and only the 13th ever. Frazer Richardson did put in a decent cross for Spring's equaliser but was otherwise totally anonymous - almost as much as Ian Moore. Probably the most interesting thing about this game was the fact that Aaron Lennon was an unused sub: looks like we're getting ready to sell him in summer and don't want him to pick up a nasty injury which might affect his value. Back to the game: a fair result, neither side had many real chances, and for once I find myself agreeing with Kevin Blackwell's comments that the gulf between the play-offs and where we are is not that large.
April 22: Results from last night's Player of the Year dinner are as follows: Goal of the Season: David Healy vs Plymouth; Young Player of the Year: Aaron Lennon; Players Player of the Year, Fans Player of the Year: Neil Sullivan; Contribution to the Community, Lifetime Achievement: Lucas Radebe. Neil Sullivan was the unanimous choice of his fellow players. He said: "I've enjoyed every single game of the season. To be player of the year at a club like Leeds is just fantastic and to be the player choice as well is just as good because they are a great bunch of lads." And he went on: "We will keep working hard, I am sure there are a few things we can still work on and hopefully we'll be able to get ourselves up next season." Aaron Lennon just pipped Simon Walton to the Young Player award. He said: "I didn't expect it because I've only started playing since after Christmas. I thought someone like Simon Walton, Danny Pugh or Matthew Kilgallon would win it. All of them have done something to deserve the award too. I think I've come in and done alright this season and what helped was the good run we went on after Christmas. The whole team really gelled together and that helped me to fit in."
April 22: Chairman Ken Bates says that Kevin Blackwell will be in charge for a promotion push next season. Speaking at last night's Player of the Year dinner, Bates said: "We had a scrap team - youngsters, free signings and players on loan - all put together by Kevin Blackwell and they have been fantastic. At half time on Boxing Day we were actually in the relegation zone and since that time we have scored enough points to be in the play-offs. That augurs well for next season. I have great confidence in Kevin Blackwell, he took over as manager and had very little to play with and the job he has done this season has been outstanding. He deserves the opportunity to start next season with a level playing field. Kevin Blackwell has my unqualified support, I told the players that on the first home game since I took over and that remains unchanged."
April 22: Seth Johnson will play no further part in Leeds' season after the club revealed that he would not be available for selection by Kevin Blackwell to avoid triggering a further transfer payment to Derby. Johnson has made 59 appearances for the club - 12 of those from the bench - and one more game would mean a cheque for a cool quarter of a million quid heading down to Pride Park. With the club safe from the drop and out of range of the play-offs, Ken Bates clearly sees there not being any value in releasing that sort of money until we know whether or not he really has a future at the club. Does it presage a summer departure? Hard to say: we'd probably have to pay a large chunk of his contract off, and if we are dishing out enough cash to fund 7-8 decent Championship players, we might as well make use of his services. But in the meantime this is a sensible decision: no point in leaking that sort of money from the club when there's only minor places to play for.
April 21: David Healy is highly unlikely to figure in this weekend's visit of Ipswich - and might even be out for the rest of the season after damaging his ankle ligaments at Watford. Kevin Blackwell said: "It is touch and go whether he will play again this season but I am not going to rush him anyway. He is an integral part of the team and right now the situation is that I don't have to risk anybody. I want to protect what I have got because the beginning of next season is crucial to me and making sure that everyone has a good pre-season is key." Meanwhile, Kevin Blackwell also ruled out Paul Butler's chances for Saturday: "Paul has only just started heading the ball today so he's not ready yet. He's very doubtful for the game, but if I lose anybody else he might have to play some role but he won't be starting the game. He's been a stalwart of the season and we have three games left where we can't go up or down so I think it would be stupid to risk a player."
April 21: Leeds were today fined £3,000 by the FA for "failing to control their players" after the brawl in the Gillingham game. Strangely enough, Gillingham walked away scot-free, despite the appalling tackle by their player Darius Henderson being the catalyst for the whole incident. Only surprising thing is that they weren't awarded a medal or bonus points into the bargain given that it's an FA vs Leeds incident.
April 21: The club today revealed another new sponsor for the team. National Car Rental are the "Official Car Rental Partner" of the club for the next five years. Ken Bates indicated that, as well as bringing in money for the club, the deal would offer some benefits to Leeds fans who use the company's services. If only they could strike a similar deal with Tetleys.
April 21: Kevin Blackwell says that he must expand the squad if Leeds are to hope to compete next season. Hard to see how much bigger the squad could have beengiven the number of players to have pulled on a white shirt this season, but Blackwell said: "I have stripped the club right back and as we speak there are 19 players registered from the first team down to the youth. Now all of a sudden I now have to find a squad of 26 or 27 to cover us for the first four months of the season at least because with injuries and suspensions during those four months you tend to use around 25 players and over a season it averages out for most clubs at about 35 players. I have somehow got to find another eight to ten players to handle those suspensions and injuries because if we talk about how many people we had out last week for example, we had Lucas Radebe, Paul Butler, David Healy, Stephen Crainey and Eirik Bakke all out and they are five major players." And he pointed out that loan deals - while offering some benefits - had several problems given the transfer windows: "You can normally only sign a player for three months and that means if you sign someone in August you cant get through to the next transfer window on a three month loan. You could find yourself going into the last month and Christmas without your loan signings and your squad down to the bare bones again. When you are not in the Premier League with the financial backing that provides, you are left having to juggle your finances and this window will be a real test for a lot of clubs. It is the first time this has happened to us and it will take some planning." Latest on the list of targets is out-of-favour Blackburn defender Nils-Eric Johansson: obviously the Everton boys might just want to stay at Goodison if Champions League football is on offer!
April 20: Kevin Blackwell has told Gylfi Einarsson that he has a big chance to stake a claim for a regular place in the side. Blackwell said: "I changed things around at QPR last week because I want to see more of Gylfi. It's the perfect opportunity to test him out a bit more and I think he will get better with more games. He's come from abroad and got injured early on, so it hasn't been ideal for him. If he can show us a bit more between now and the end of the season that will be good for both of us." The man himself is hoping to live up to the manager's expectations: "I will get better, I know that much. With more games I will grow more confident and if I can stay in the team now until the end of the season that will be great."
April 20: Kevin Blackwell says that he's expecting his squad to be back from their summer holidays earlier than normal this year in order to get a head start on the opposition and raise the players' fitness levels to something a bit more respectable than the waddling slowcoach performances that have been on show far too often over the last couple of years. The players will be summoned back to Thorp Arch for weight and fitness checks mid-June, be assigned various targets for their formal return a fortnight later and then head out on the pre-season tour after a week or so getting back into the swing of things. Blackwell said: "We have plans in place that will see certain players and some others come in on the 14th June. I want to make sure that we are strong, well drilled and organised for what I think will be a long and big season for us." He went on: "I know it is a dangerous thing for me to put up goals that high but now is the time to aim high because we have a decent squad that is starting to develop nicely... I am signalling our intent, we won't shout about it though but we will start to work very, very hard and pre-season for us started at Watford the other week." Leeds are believed to be heading out to Norway this summer with games in Stavanger and Haugesund lined up for mid-July.
April 19: Yet more of the current batch of youngsters are being released from Elland Road as the management decides they aren't going to make it into the first team and to focus on the next generation of promising players. Barry Corr has signed for Sheffield Wednesday on a two-year contract. The big Irish striker never even made it to the bench of the first team at Leeds, but was a regular for the reserves. Speaking on the Owls' website, manager Paul Sturrock said: "Barry has fantastic potential - he is 6ft 3in, has a great touch and is an exciting talent to be developed. He is a type of player we don't have and I hope he will be a valuable addition to our squad." Meanwhile Paul Keegan - who has made two sub appearances while on loan at Scunthorpe, but whose sole piece of first-team action for Leeds has been a single game benchwarming in last season's 1-4 defeat at St Andrews - is on trial at Bournemouth and is likely to feature in their reserve fixture against Plymouth this week. Also on trial at Dean Court is midfielder Chris Jones who has made a few appearances for the reserves but hasn't looked like making further progress.
April 19: Ashley Timms is the latest in a long line of keepers to have a trial at Elland Road. The former Man City reserve has had trials at Bolton and Oldham, and is likely to be given tonight's reserve game against Everton as a chance to show what he can do and maybe claim a spot in Kevin Blackwell's squad for next season. Meanwhile Everton's experienced defenders David Weir and Gary Naysmith are said to have already had discussions with Leeds over a move during the summer when both become available on Bosmans. Meanwhile the silly season is starting, with every other half-decent lower-league player, or aging/injured Premier League star giving their agent a dig in the ribs and suggesting they might like to give Uncle Ken a call. Think I might try to set up some sort of Bingo game or run a sweep on frequency of mentions in the summer transfer speculation: sod all that gets rumoured will come to pass so we might as well make some use of the forests that will be sacrificed in order to convey the stories.
April 19: Seth Johnson reckons he's getting back close to his best after his long injury layoff - but now finds that the end of the season is coming up too quickly just as he's getting into his stride. He said: "I feel stronger with every game and I was speaking to Sam Ellis after the QPR game and he says I'm looking stronger too. The end of the season has come at the wrong time for me but the lads have battled hard through the season and they need a rest but I am ready to kick on. I've not had a pre-season for a long time, I've always had little niggly injuries or a serious one that's not allowed me to travel overseas to the training camps, but hopefully - fingers crossed - I will get a good pre-season under my belt this time and push on." It will be interesting to see if that pre-season is with Leeds though: any offer to take the player off our hands will almost certainly find a ready audience in the chairman's office with Johnson's salary sucking around two million a year from an already-stretched budget. Seth was particularly happy with his cracking strike that gave Leeds a 0-1 advantage on Saturday: "Scoring is a rare thing for me with any foot, but with the right foot I think I've only ever scored one other goal before and that was a yard out. I'll take it though, I was well happy with that one... Unfortunately it didn't get us the three points but under the circumstances with just ten men I think a point is ok."
April 19: Bob Taylor has signed on for a further season at Tamworth. The former Leeds, West Brom, Bolton and Bristol City striker has enjoyed a successful spell at the Conference side this year, scoring 18 times and has agreed a one-year extension to his contract at the ripe old age of 38.
April 19: The reserves ended their season with a 1-1 draw at Everton tonight. Triallist Ashley Timms made some good saves, but couldn't do much to stop a close-range effort in the second half that equalised Nick Gray's opener.
April 18: Running in the wake of Paula Radcliffe and co yesterday was Leeds legend Eddie Gray. The 55-year-old was running for charity - Melanoma Research - andcame in just over the 4 hour mark. Also running from the club was head physio Dave Hancock who set the standard with a time of 3h37, fitness coach Dean Riddle and kit man Sean Hardy.
April 18: Shaun Derry remains confused as to why the ref chose to interpret his gesture towards Kevin Gallen as violent conduct. He said: "The passage of play stopped. I was stood next to Kevin in front of the referee. I literally just put my hand up and caught his face. There was no intent and I think their players, combined with the bench, got me sent off. I felt the referee was a little bit swayed by that. I was shocked when he pulled out the red card. I've known Kevin for a number of years and there are no hard feelings for me. I'm just hoping he will pay half my fine!" He's expecting a club fine - particularly in the light of Kevin Blackwell's comments that the red card cost Leeds the three points, but he's resigned to the fact that there's no point appealing to the FA, and that the upshot is that his season is now over with a three-match ban ruling him out for the remaining games.
April 18: Paul Merson says he wants to keep Julian Joachim at Walsall for next season. The striker is on loan for the remainder of this term, and has scored twice in five appearances. Merson said: "Julian has shown he's a top class player and with his pace he will always score goals. I said when I signed him that he's too good for this league and I'll be trying my hardest to keep him because our success depends upon it. I'd rather keep a player like Julian and sacrifice two average players any time. If he had been here six months earlier then who knows what we may have achieved this season."
April 17: Robbie Keane put aside his recent disagreements with the Spurs management team to give his side a 1-2 lead against Liverpool yesterday, although the Reds came back to square the match 2-2. Brett Ormerod scored both of Wigan's goals in a 0-2 win over Leicester, taking them another step closer to automatic promotion. Simon Johnson scored twice for Barnsley at Oakwell, his goals coming either side of a pair for visitors Oldham, with the game ending all square at 2-2. Clyde Wijnhard gave Darlo the lead at Mansfield only to see it cancelled out with an equaliser in the third minute of stoppage time. Derek Lilley opened the scoring for Livingston in their 0-3 win at Hibs - although they stay bottom of the SPL.
April 16: Simon Walton may have been dropped like a stone from the squad after being picked as the scapegoat for recent poor defensive form despite some more obvious targets, but Kevin Blackwell still has a few good words for him. In fact he thinks the youngster is the player of the season for the club! He says: "Simon had a tough game after doing okay against Wolves. He didn't play well against Sheffield United and I made the decision to take him out for his own good. He's had a tremendous season and he is my young player of the year by a mile. Simon's got a massive future at this club and I'm glad I'm now able to give him a rest."
April 16: We saw the proverbial game of two halves today - although neither keeper had that much to do all afternoon. First half saw Leeds have more possession but QPR created the best chance early on, with Clarke Carlisle heading the ball off the line after the first of many moves started by Rangers knocking the ball into the gaping crevasse where any normal team would have had a right-back. But with the first period just past the halfway mark, Leeds won a corner and made a complete hash of taking it: the ball was played nowhere near a blue shirt, instead finding a crowd of QPR players, one of whom had a free header to take the ball out of the area. Unfortunately for Rangers, the ball dropped straight to Seth Johnson who hammered the ball home from 20 yards. So, 0-1 at half-time and the only indication of things to come was the final warning delivered by the ref to Rob Hulse, telling him that he had to do more to stop being jumped on by the Rangers centreback. Judging from the way the second half started, Kevin Blackwell's half-time teamtalk went something along the lines of: "Right lads, we're a goal up. So let's run round like headless chickens for a bit." The tactic soon paid off, and for much of the next 20 minutes, the ball was once again at the far end of the pitch as Rangers pushed for an equaliser. Then the incident that changed the game. A Rangers defender took the ball full-force in the face, staggered on for a step or two and then went down. Leeds put the ball out to allow the player to receive treatment. It looked as if Rangers were going to break convention and not throw the ball back to Leeds, and a quick bout of handbags erupted between Shaun Derry and Mark Bircham. Bircham was laughing all over his face at Derry's back as the Leeds player was dismissed by a ref who had previously deemed it okay for one of the Rangers strikers to leave his foot in on Neil Sullivan when the keeper was clearly in control of the ball. A couple of minutes later, Rob Hulse won the ball close to the centre of the park and looked to lay it off, only to be pulled up by the ref and told he was being booked for persistently winning the ball fairly from the home defence whenever they jumped on him. The fat linesman called Hulse offside twice in a row when there was a Rangers player closer to the goal and barely a yard away from the Leeds man. The inevitable finally happened with 5 minutes to go: Sean Gregan had a mixed game at centreback, making some good tackles but getting away with a blatant shove in the six-yard box and one wild hack that was so late that its bedtime cocoa had gone stone cold by the time it reached the Rangers player. Not for the first time this season he was beaten for pace, but with no protection behind him a goal looked certain as Rangers burst into the box. Neil Sullivan made an excellent save but Kevin Gallen was there to snap up the rebound. Having evened the scores up, the ref seemed happy: he ignored one huge shout for a penalty from Bircham for a flying triple tuck somersault as Gary Kelly exhaled too close to him, and another from the Rangers fans in the second half and finally allowed himself to believe that Rob Hulse wasn't the aggressor when the Leeds striker had his legs taken late and from behind as the clock ran down, dishing out a second yellow card to Adam Miller. Four minutes of injury time seemed to stretch for an eternity, but the ref finally blew to put us out of our misery, and seal what was in the end a fair division of the points. So all in all, a typical day at the office: scrappy football, one-eyed officials and a bit of silly behaviour and careless defending to blow the win for Leeds - the season in microcosm.
April 16: Kevin Blackwell says that he didn't see Shaun Derry do anything that would have warranted a card (now there's a surprise). "The decision to send Derry off changed the game. We put the ball out so one of their players could get treatment and then it all kicked off. I don't know what the QPR players were complaining about." But Ian Holloway said: "Bircham swears he was brought down and it looked that way." Blackwell praised Neil Sullivan's late save from Kevin Gallen that kept the game all-square: "That was a world class save and typified Neil's performances for us. He is an example to all young keepers. He had little to do but then had the concentration to pull off a point-earning save."
April 15: Kevin Blackwell today said that he's keen to make Michael Gray's loan move into a permanent deal - but only if the left-back understands that he won't be getting Premier League wages anymore. Blackwell said: "It's no coincidence when Micky plays that we are decidedly stronger on the left hand side." But he added: "We cannot and will not pay the wages that Mickey is on at Blackburn. We have been down that road before and the club is being run much more prudently now. If there is a chance we can bring him here it will have to be within a wage structure that we can handle." Of course the big question this raises is over the future of Stephen Crainey. Crainey was one of the few players Blackwell has spent any money on acquiring, and either he's had a change of heart over the Scotsman's prospects, or the prognosis for his injury is not that good.
April 15: Paul Butler and David Healy remain sidelined for tomorrow's trip to Loftus Road - Butler with the after-effects of concussion and Healy with his ankle ligament problem. That means Clarke Carlisle will continue at the heart of the defence, facing his old club. Carlisle said: "I've got loads of fond memories of QPR and playing at Loftus Road. I have a lot of time and respect for the club because they helped me magnificently and I have fond memories of my time there... If I did score the celebrations would be unbelievably more muted but I might manage a smile!" Up front, Marlon King and Ian Moore are pressing for place alongside Rob Hulse, but Moore could be absent since his wife is due to give birth in the next few days. The home side have a number of enforced changes, with Andrew Davies and George Santos suspended, and Luton keeper Simon Royce's loan spell terminated. Chris Day comes into the side between the sticks, but Ian Holloway faces some more uncertainty in the outfield with Martin Rowlands, Gareth Ainsworth, Dean Sturridge and Matt Rose all struggling for fitness.
April 15: Brett Ormerod's loan spell at Wigan has been extended for a further month. Speaking to their official website, Latics boss Paul Jewell said: "Brett's got bags of energy and enthusiasm and has done well for us," and added: "Harry Redknapp's done us a big favour and allowed Brett to stay with us for another month."
April 14: Kevin Blackwell has had a nice little working holiday in Italy for the last few days, checking out the training methods in use at Juventus ahead of their Champions League exit at the hand of Liverpool. Blackwell also spoke with Fabio Capello and reckons both he and the Italian gained from the experience. He said: "It's alright having bright new ideas but football is a simple game and you are trying to find little edges to move it on. He was very receptive and I had a chat with him and the fitness coach about the attitude of the Juve players and it was a real education." Blackwell also saw the Milan game that has had UEFA in a spin for the last couple of days since the AC Milan keeper Dida was hit by a flare thrown by Inter supporters. Blackwell said: "It's never nice to be in a situation where things are volatile and I think Italian football does have a problem with crowd trouble and that was not just an isolated incident. I hope that violence and the hooligan element is not rising its ugly head again in football because it just ruins a great game." With the Champions League final set to be played in Istanbul, that's a hope that could be sorely tested next month.
April 14: The World XI side for Lucas Radebe's testimonial looks like it will be missing some of the bigger names promised - particularly now the Spanish season is set to be a chase to the wire for Barca and Real Madrid. Instead, the opposition looks like being drawn from Bolton, Villa and Boro's international stars. The Leeds side has a few more names to cheer though, with Sky pundit Chris Kamara and goal king Tony Yeboah joining many of the Championship-winning side. Olivier Dacourt will also take part, with his AS Roma team-mate Mancini.
April 13: Rob Hulse is looking for some indication that he will be given a permanent deal at Leeds after being told that he has no future at West Brom. Despite his success for West Brom last season and his achievements at Elland Road since his arrival on loan, it seems that the Baggies reckon they can do without him, even if they get relegated. Hulse said: "This club feels right for me and I can see next season being really exciting. I want to be part of that, but we have to wait and see what happens. I hope we can come to some agreement because I know I've not got a future with West Brom." It's widely believed that the deal is all but done - although another couple of goals could persuade a top-flight team to make him an offer. Hulse said: "I don't know which club I'll be with next season, but I've really enjoyed my experience here at Leeds. Kevin Blackwell and his staff have shown faith in me when others have doubted me, especially having been out for so long at West Brom."
April 13: Vinnie Jones was today confirmed as one of the many former Leeds players to return to support Lucas Radebe's testimonial next month. Jones said: "I'm looking forward to it. It will be my first time back since I stopped playing. It'll be like old times going to Elland Road and seeing a lot of old faces again." He added: "I've always respected people who want to do well for Leeds United and Lucas Radebe is like that. He has always worn his heart on his sleeve and he's given his all for the club - I respect that."
April 13: Ken Bates has settled his lawsuit with Chelsea following his acrimonious departure from the club. After the Abramovich takeover, Bates looked set to stay on at Stamford Bridge but fell out with the new regime and sued for breach of contract. Chelsea issued a statement saying: "This settlement has been agreed by Chelsea to avoid wasting more management time and to avoid incurring ever increasing legal fees as a result of the forthcoming trial. In reaching this settlement, Chelsea has not admitted any liability."
April 13: The reserves won their last home match of the season with a 3-0 win over Everton at Wakefield last night. Jonathan Howson, Martin Woods and Kevin Smith were on target for another very young Leeds side.
April 12: Despite taking the lead courtesy of an own goal, the reserves went down 3-1 at Birmingham last night. They now face Everton at Wakefield on Wednesday night.
April 12: David Healy reckons that his ankle might not be as bad as was first feared - although his prospects for a return this season still look limited as the weeks run out. Healy remains hopeful that he will be available for the Northern Ireland international against Germany. He said: "It does feel quite a bit better now than it did on Saturday and although there were fears I may miss the rest of the season I don't think that will happen... I don't like missing games and hopefully I will only miss one, maybe two for Leeds. International-wise I should be fine for the Germany game. It is a big one for Northern Ireland and I'd hate to miss it." Meanwhile Paul Butler has not yet been passed fit to resume training after sustaining a head injury against Sheffield United.
April 12: Club Secretary Ian Silvester became the latest victim of Ken Bates' cost-cutting measures, leaving Elland Road after more than six years with the club. He said: "It is with much sadness that I find myself leaving this great club and whilst disappointed at the Board's decision, I fully understand their reasons and hope that given my experience it will not be too long before I am back in the game." Shaun Harvey, the CEO who arrived under Krasner and so is presumably on a much lower-paid contract than the likes of Silvester, said: "The financial difficulties that follow relegation from The FA Premier League are well documented, as are those of Leeds United specifically. A staff restructuring programme throughout the company has been undertaken since relegation which has led to Ian's departure along with other staff during the last 10 months. We wish him well in the future and are sure it will not be too long before Ian finds new employment within football."
April 11: David Healy left the ground on crutches on Saturday after picking up an ankle knock against Watford. Although it doesn't seem as bad as was first feared, it still looks like some sort of ligament damage, and depending on the results of a scan today will mean two to six weeks of rest for the frontman. With Rob Hulse, Marlon King and Ian Moore all available in that position it's not a massive selection problem for Kevin Blackwell, and it's not as if we're still in the hunt with a genuine shout at the play-offs: it's still mathematically possible until Derby and Reading gain two more points but in reality the chance went a long time ago.
April 11: Alan Smith will be returning to Elland Road today with somewhat less of a fuss being kicked up than was stirred over his proposed appearance in Lucas Radebe's testimonial. Smith will be attending a charity function in memory of Bruce Craven, the Leeds physio who recently died of cancer. Dave Hancock said: "It stunned me that we have all this medical science and we spend all our time trying to knock weeks off players' recovery times, but there was nothing we could do for one of my team. Money was not an issue. We could have gone anywhere, but there was nothing. It puts things in perspective." Craven died from a skin cancer - something which it seems that footballers are more prone to, presumably due to the amount of time they spend outside, and the club had all of its players screened last week. Lucas Radebe - who of necessity had spent a great deal of time with Craven over the last couple of years - said: "Bruce was a great help to me, but mostly he was a gentleman and we all miss him." For more info on skin cancer and how to avoid and detect it, take a look here.
April 11: Kevin Blackwell was pleased with the individual and team effort on show on Saturday after the drubbing by Sheffield United last week. He said: "I asked them for a response and I got it. I let my feelings be known at half time. It was a sloppy goal to give them because we were on top and it was one way traffic, but we let them back in and I had to let a few people know what I think." Shame you didn't ask the same question at half-time against the Blades! He went on: "I demanded a response and I said to the lads that if they want to be part of things here next season then when the chips are down they have to show me they have the tenacity and mental capacity to hang in there I am disappointed the fans did not have three or four more goals to cheer, I would have loved to have sent them back up the motorway with a three or four-one win."
April 11: The Reserves are in action for the first of two matches this week, travelling to Damson Park to take on Birmingham City's second string. Simon Walton will play at centreback - his notional position but one which he's rarely occupied for the first team - and Sasa Ilic will be between the sticks, but otherwise it's an inexperienced line-up. Another batch of Blues - Everton - are the visitors to Wakefield on Wednesday night.
April 10: Clyde Wijnhard gave Darlo an early lead at all-but-relegated Cambridge yesterday. But the home side kept their faint hopes of survival alive with three unanswered goals, dragging Darlo down to the tail of the play-off pack. Andy Gray kept Sheffield United's play-off chances alive, converting a disputed last-minute penalty to give the Blades a 3-2 win at Bramall Lane. In today's game, Nick Barmby took Hull a step closer to automatic promotion: his second-half goal at Bradford made it 0-2 to Peter Taylor's Tigers and takes them 10 points clear of third place.
April 10: Kevin Blackwell expressed sympathy for his former colleague and new Watford boss Adie Boothroyd - not that he was complaining about the result though. Blackwell said: "I really feel for Adrian, but it is my job to look after Leeds United and I asked my players not to give Watford the lift that they needed. I am proud of the way that they have turned the season around." Meanwhile, the scale of his achievements just seems to grow and grow. He added: "I've given debuts to 28 players this season and it takes time for them to gel. Hopefully we will be able to go for the playoffs at least next season." Not sure who the extra 2 are, cos all the stats indicate that 26 players have made their first start for Leeds this term: maybe he's counting some of the players like Aaron Lennon, Frazer Richardson and Matt Kilgallon whom he always overlooks when he trots out the old standby that only him and Gary Kelly were at the club in June.
April 09: It seems like a long time since we last had an away win - two months in fact since we squeaked the three points at Turf Moor, and almost as long since we won at home. But against relegation candidates Watford, still struggling to find some form and shape for new manager Adie Boothroyd, Leeds put together a workmanlike performance and grabbed the victory. Yet another strike for Rob Hulse - that's 6 in 9 appearances - and Clarke Carlisle's header from Matt Kilgallon's cross saw the three points heading back up the M1 with Kevin Blackwell's team. Now all we need is to do the same again next week...
April 08: Kevin Blackwell will have Michael Gray back from suspension and Sean Gregan ready to start on Saturday, and defensive cover should be more than adequate with the recovery from tonilsilitis and hamstring problems of Gary Kelly and Frazer Richardson respectively. Clarke Carlisle is likely to partner Matt Kilgallon at the back. Danny Pugh and Simon Walton are the most likely victims of Blackwell's cuts after being publicly scapegoated by the manager after the Blades defeat. Watford's ex-Leeds boss Adie Boothroyd is unlikely to make many changes to his team, apart from the possible recall of Danny Cullip after an injury absence.
April 08: Random player musings ahead of this weekend's game. Michael Gray was unhappy with himself for the reaction to Darius Henderson's appalling tackle that left him with a 3-match ban - just when he looked to be making a decent contribution to an improving Leeds side. He said: "It's been very frustrating to miss those games but as I said at the time it was probably brought on by myself in the first place. I should have been a little bit more professional but when you're in those kind of instances your mind is working overtime and you get frustrated. I have paid the penalty and am raring to go now... I came here to play games in the first place and when you find yourself in the stands because you're on a suspension it's not very nice. I felt as if before that game I had gelled in really well with the players and had been doing well. So I have just got to get back to that now." Sean Gregan is thinking about next season - and what we can still achieve this time round to get us off to a flyer in August. He said: "We have to keep a good level of results and performances, and make sure we finish the season on a high. It's all about starting to build for next season now. There'll probably be players coming in and players going out, so a lot of us are playing for next season whether we will be in the manager's plans or not. You don't want to finish in the bottom half of the table - we've got to be looking at 10th or above. If we can finish in the top 10 after everything that has gone on then it will be important." Finally, Gylfi Einarsson was hoping for a game - but warned his team-mates about fellow Iceland international Heidar Helguson. He said: "I think Heidar would do well in the Premiership. He is a good header of the ball and is really aggressive in the box, so he is good enough. It is very difficult to defend against him, he never gives you any time and he chases everything. And he loves a tackle. He will be their main threat. He is the sort of player who is difficult to mark and we'll have to keep an eye on him."
April 07: The final away game of the season at Leicester has been shifted yet again. It had been put back from the Saturday to Sunday 1 May to avoid a clash with the local egg-chasers, but now the local plod have had a choking fit at the prospect of Leeds fans having all of Sunday lunchtime to spend in the local hostelries before the game, so now we've been told that the game will kick-off at 1.30pm in a (futile) attempt to avoid any "unpleasantness".
April 07: Leeds Reserves pulled off a surprising away win against Liverpool at Wrexham last night. Not many famous names on either side - it had been hoped that Harry Kewell would be making an appearance as he makes a valiant effort to get fit before the end of the season - although Liverpool did field Xabi Alonso for the second half, returning after three months off with a broken ankle. Although Sasa Ilic was the busier of the two keepers, the only goal of the game was scored by Chris Jones just before the half hour, curling a shot home from the edge of the area past one-time Leeds loanee Paul Harrison.
April 07: The Grimsby Whites are making a few tickets generally available for a Dinner Dance on 22 April in Cleethorpes in aid of Lucas Radebe's testimonial. Allan Clarke, Brendan Ormsby and Peter Swan will also be there, and obviously The Chief will be the star attraction. Tickets are twenty quid for adults, a tenner for kids, and as well as the food and dancing, there will be an auction and raffle of football memorabilia. Full details on the Grimsby Whites website.
April 07: David Healy has asked the Leeds fans to continue to get behind them for the last five games of the season, despite the team's appalling performance against Sheffield United. He says that he understands the frustrations of the fans: "It means a lot more to the supporters. They've paid a lot of money out for two games in three days and we didn't perform to the standards we can as individuals and as a team, so we are deeply disappointed with ourselves. The punters have probably gone home disillusioned, but there have been lots of ins and outs at Leeds United this season and I just hope during the summer that we get it together and get everybody together as a team and improve on what's gone on lately." He went on: "Get behind the players because we need their support, stick with us and hopefully we will come back from the summer refreshed and ready to have a charge at promotion."
April 07: Alan Smith is said to be the main summer transfer target of David O'Leary as Villa chairman Doug Ellis looks set to finally loosen the purse strings. Villa would probably have to match what ManU paid for the striker, who remains third or fourth choice behind Rooney, van Nistelrooy and Saha - despite the relatively poor form and fitness of the latter two this season and the fact that Smith's performances and scoring record have not been at all bad. Villa are remaining understandably coy about any transfer moves at the moment, but with the end of the season fast approaching, it can't be long before the back pages are once again filled with rumours, statements from agents and hints from close friends.
April 07: Spurs boss Martin Jol was at Elland Road for the Sheffield United game, and the strong rumour doing the rounds is that he was taking a final look at Aaron Lennon for himself before authorising a renewed bid for the young player. Leeds deflected interest from Spurs in Lennon and Simon Walton in the January transfer window, but with just one year left on his contract, Leeds may be tempted to cash in on any sensible offer for the winger rather than risk a tribunal's valuation should he leave on a Bosman.
April 06: Paul Butler was released from hospital this morning after being detained overnight because he was knocked unconscious during the Sheffield United game. He's had X-rays and scans to check that there's no lasting damage, but although he's being allowed home he won't be available for the Watford game at the weekend and will need to get the all-clear from a neurosurgeon before he resumes full training.
April 06: Kevin Blackwell today said sorry to the fans on behalf of the team for last night's shambolic display. He said: "I apologise on the behalf of every player and the manager because we were not good enough tonight." At least he has the good grace to drag himself into that apology: after the game yesterday he was quoted as saying that it was the youngsters who were at fault (let's dump on Simon Walton for doing his best when played out of position yet again) and that the only difference between the teams was the goals. Well duh! Blackwell's much-vaunted thoughts about what he had in the summer (one player - Gary Kelly; and Scott Carson, Frazer Richardson, Matt Kilgallon, Aaron Lennon, Eirik Bakke, Lucas Radebe, Seth Johnson, Danny Pugh and Simon Walton if I'm not mistaken) and our "play-off" form since Christmas (27 points from 17 games - and that weighted somewhat by the holiday victories over Sunderland and Plymouth) and his continued willingness to slag off his own young players in public have finally convinced me that he's not the man who can win us promotion. I'll happily eat my hat if I'm proved wrong, and although he's shown a good eye for the players (I don't think anyone would complain about the signings of Sullivan, Hulse, Healy, Derry and Gray at least) I've not seen much evidence of a team being formed, and like last season, the fitness levels of the players are appalling when compared to other clubs at the same level. Can Ken persuade Gordon Strachan to try to repeat as a manager what he did as a player? I'm not sure - but the only thing stopping me from carrying a "Blackwell out" banner right now is the absence of any sensible - and most importantly available - alternatives.
April 06: Following the widespread furore surrounding the mishandled season ticket renewals, the club has moved some way towards addressing one of the major issues. Many people complained that the lack of a pay-by-instalments plan, coupled with the very close deadline for renewal meant that they would not be able to afford to renew their seats. Today Shaun Harvey announced that the club would take three post-dated cheques from you, dated 15 May, 15 June and 15 July as payment for the season tickets at no extra cost. Seems like a reasonable compromise and some evidence that they realise just how badly they misjudged the fans' opinions. Now all they have to do is get past the chants of "You can stick your Chelsea prices up your..." and "Price increase - you're having a laugh" which were widely sung by the disgruntled punters last night.
April 06: With Simon Walton - a centreback who has been playing in midfield - and Shaun Derry - far and away our best midfield threat going forward - being used as emergency right-back cover in the absence of Frazer Richardson (hamstring) and Gary Kelly (tonsilitis), it's no surprise to learn that we're shipping out another RB. Youth/reserve team right-back Stuart Edwards looks like he won't be given a new deal by the club this summer, so he's now over at Port Vale having a trial for Martin Foyle's side.
April 05: Kevin Blackwell and Neil Warnock alternately stirred and calmed the waters today ahead of tonight's clash between their respective clubs at Elland Road. Blackwell has a long association with Warnock, dating back to 1986, but now they are rivals in the same league they've barely spoken in a year. Warnock started the wind-ups by being the latest in a long line of managers to point to the number of signings Blackwell has made as some sort of evidence of riches at Elland Road. Warnock said: "To spend one million on Hulse - which I have been told is a definite deal - 400K on Sean Gregan, nearly one million on David Healy - he has spent the best part of three million with Stephen Crainey as well. For a club that is losing money, they have really given him support. To say where they are, I think they will be disappointed that they are not almost on a par with us in the table. Four weeks ago, when I looked at their squad, I thought they would be closer. They have drawn a few games they should have won. They should have been right in there but it is still wide open." But Blackwell countered: "Neil is one of the best at winding people up and I refuse to be drawn into that. Neil knows that this club has been rebuilt from a shattering experience, not just relegation but financial implosion that has left us trying to bring a lot of players in. Ian Moore was the 27th debut this season and 27 people making their debut at any club, let alone Leeds United, is a phenomenal situation." And he added: "Neil gets on with his own job and I get on with mine. The great thing about Neil was that he allowed me to do the job at Sheffield United but we never socialised at all. It was a purely working relationship but there was a healthy respect there for each other. We don't speak very often and he knows he is in direct competition with me, and I am with him, so being professional we leave it that way."
April 05: Club captain Paul Butler says that the team want to turn over Sheffield United tonight to wipe out the memories of an appalling performance at Bramall Lane earlier this season. He said: "We owe them one after the way we lost there at the beginning of the season and we need a big performance, not only for the fans but also for the gaffer as well. It was one of the worst games back in August and you don't want to touch those lows. I'm a fan myself and I know the supporters desperately want us to win this one." And Butler pointed to the importance of coming out top in a local derby: "We want to finish as the top team in Yorkshire too. Warnock will have them fired up and there'll be a big crowd. They're only bringing 1,700 and with the noise our fans make it should be a cracking atmosphere."
April 05: New signing Ian Moore says that he's quite happy to play anywhere for the club - provided he gets a game. Given Kevin Blackwell's record on playing people out of position so far this season, that could be viewed as dangerous talk! Moore said: "Through the season I played a bit [on the wing] for Burnley, obviously Sam Ellis has seen me play there a few times but it's just another position I am capable of playing in. Preferably I would like to play striker but if that's the only place I am going to play then I'll play there. We've got a lot of good strikers here and I'm not going to say I'm going to play every week but if I keep working hard I am sure I will stake my claim for a place."
April 05: Andy Gray will play at Elland Road for the first time since leaving the club in 1998 - and hopes to leave with a smile on his face. He was a young bit-part player at the time, and is best-remembered for being one of the few bright sparks in the side on that dreadful afternoon at Wembley for the Coca-Cola Cup Final in 1996. At one point it looked like he would drift out of the game as he fell out of favour at Forest and found himself farmed out to Preston and Oldham on loan. But the switch to Bradford in 2002 kick-started his career as he bagged 15 goals in 46 games and he returns as the Blades' top-scorer this season. Gray said: Sheffield United versus Leeds is always a massive game and it should be a fantastic atmosphere. "I'm looking forward to heading back to Leeds and Elland Road, where I started my career, and hopefully we'll be able to celebrate three points and a couple of goals on Tuesday."
April 05: There's an interview in today's YEP with Ken Bates in which he tries to set the record straight over the furore that has sprung up around the season ticket price rises. He admits: "[The news] may have been delivered in a more appropriate way, but those shortcomings are something to learn from next time. We have inherited an old system." He doesn't seem too concerned about the renewal rate, indeed he's very happy to have banked over £100K in renewals already. Bates points out that the club still has (at least) £13 million in debt that needs to be repaid over the next couple of years, and has to fund an annual wage and rent bill of at least that amount. He asks: "My question is simple: how would you solve the problem. It is not acceptable to say there must be some other way. Tell us what it is. All constructive suggestions will be welcome and given serious consideration, although I suspect they will be few and far between. I have been encouraged by the response of our corporate members and sponsors. Many who, for whatever reason, were reluctant to support the previous regime are coming back in droves." Bates is unabashed when it comes to the worst of the price rises in what was the Family Stand: he points out that the concession there was always intended to be to allow Mum and Dad to bring their youngsters along to the game at a reasonable price, but many of the youngsters were now adults or had stopped coming, and what was really happening was a crackdown on these "abuses" of the system combined with a desire to maximise revenue from the best seats in the house. And much as I hate to admit it, I think he's got a decent point to make here. There's still no clear evidence of what, if any, money he himself is actually putting into the club, and it's clear he's using the fans' money to improve cashflow while waiting to take 100% of any upside for himself. But the price rises aren't that terrible in themselves in most cases, and people who were prepared to stump up this time round probably won't be put off at forking out again given the reduced level of uncertainty. Will I renew my season ticket? Honest answer is I'm not sure yet. There used to be a dozen or so of us in Row W of the Kop. For most of this season that's been down to three or four, and a combination of work and the new arrival chez Jabba have meant that I've missed a whole bunch of games as well. When I go to a game I prefer to sit with my mates, and if those mates are a bit more choosy about which games they attend and buy tickets on a match-by-match basis, then I might end up doing the same. Add to that the financial side: when there's a bunch of you going regularly together, if you miss the odd game then you can usually recoup the cost by leaving your ticket with the bunch and getting a tenner or two from a friend of friend making up the numbers. Without that critical mass of people, you'll end up out of pocket and lose the financial benefit of having a ST in the first place. So I guess I'm sitting on the fence at the moment - but there's only a month to go to make up my mind. Big Decision time for me and a lot of other folks...
April 05: Kevin Blackwell held his hands up and apologised to Leeds fans after tonight's craven capitulation to Sheffield United at Elland Road. He said: "I will apologise to the fans because this is not good enough. This hurts. Sometimes you wake up in a morning and you know it's going to be a great day, but this ended up being a dark night. But that happens. I've got to accept it and move on, although our inexperience showed at the back." To make matters worse, Paul Butler was taken to hospital after colliding with Neil Sullivan and swallowing his tongue.
April 05: Alan Maybury bagged a rare goal for Leicester tonight, giving them the lead with about 20 minutes to go against Wolves, Unfortunately they failed to hold out, conceding an equaliser on 88 minutes. Scott Carson can't possibly imagined that he'd have been playing in the Champions League this season - but tonight he was between the sticks at Anfield as Liverpool took on Juve. On the whole he did pretty well - making one particularly good save from Del Piero - but he should have done better with his attempt to save a Cannavaro header which gave the visitors a vital away goal in a 2-1 defeat.
April 04: Leeds assistant boss Sam Ellis praised Shaun Derry's efforts on Saturday as the midfielder walked away with his second man-of-the-match award in four starts for Leeds. Ellis said: "I thought he was first class all throughout the game and you wouldn't know he had been out for as long he's been out. He's a true professional and not only that, he's a damned good player. I think you can see why the gaffer waited so long for him when the first move fell through. We are just pleased he was patient enough to wait for us and I think it's paying dividends now." However it seems that Derry has forsaken the greasy spoon that gave him his initial does of good luck at the club. The player said: "I didn't go to the cafe this week, it was just the normal pre-match routine at home and I am just delighted that I managed to get on the scoresheet again. I think that's equalled my highest for a season so I am really happy."
April 04: Lee Bowyer has been fined a club record six weeks' wages - thought to be around £200,000 - by Newcastle United after the on-pitch brawl with Kieron Dyer on Saturday that saw both players dismissed. The two shook hands and were all smiles today - although it's clear the club sees Dyer as the victim since they're supporting his appeal against the red card and doing nothing about Bowyer's dismissal. Both players are currently down to miss three games - although the FA could choose to increase that substantially. It seems that Bowyer's beef was that Dyer continually refused to pass the ball to him - and the stats do seem to bear that our, with barely 5% of Dyer's completed passes finding his midfield colleague. Even so, it's a bit of an extreme reaction: wonder what Bowyer would have done if Dyer had nipped in front of him to get a foot to a ball that was goalbound at the time?
April 04: There's a benefit game for Leeds legend John Sheridan to be held at Boundary Park, featuring two teams representing Oldham and Sheffield Wednesday where he also enjoyed long spells. Unfortunately the date clashes with Leeds' rescheduled trip to Leicester on May 1 - but if you haven't got a ticket for that game, why not go and support Shez: funds will go towards an op on his football-ruined knee. Leeds old boys Andy Ritchie and Denis Irwin - who also both played for Oldham - will also be turning out to support the man who was a hero to many on the terraces at Elland Road right through the dark days of the mid-80s.
April 04: Mark Aizlewood has had his contract as Ian Rush's number two at Chester City terminated. The club aren't playing well and are facing financial problems, and also want to get rid of boss Ian Rush, but his legal team aren't playing ball.
April 04: Sean Gregan is expected to return to the midfield after suspension for tomorrow's game against Sheffield United. Gary Kelly still has the tonsilitis that kept him out of Saturday's game, and the knock that caused Rob Hulse to be subbed might be serious enough to affect his participation tomorrow night. For the visitors the main decisions Neil Warnock will have to make about his lineup are all up front: Andy Liddell is nearly fully fit again, and on-loan Danny Webber is also pushing for a start ahead of Steve Kabba.
April 03: Irish U21 international Henry McStay has returned to Halifax Town on loan to the end of the season - his second spell there. Reserve team keeper William Coyles has joined Carlisle United on loan for a month with a view to making the deal permanent in the summer.
April 03: Robbie Fowler put Man City into the lead at Charlton yesterday, tapping in from six yards just before half-time to make it 1-2. But Charlton never gave up and City failed to finish them off, and with two minutes of injury time gone, Chris Perry squared the match. Darren Huckerby gave Norwich a bit of hope on the half hour, pulling a goal back at Highbury. But the Canaries had already conceded two Thierry Henry strikes, and the Frenchman completed his hat-trick after Freddy Ljungberg had restored the Gunners' two-goal advantage. Lee Bowyer was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons (again): with Newcastle trailing 0-3 at home to Villa and already a man down, Bowyer got into a fight with Kieron Dyer, and it needed Villa's Gareth Barry to try to keep the team-mates apart. Bowyer and Dyer were both red-carded, leaving the Magpies to struggle on with 8 men for the last ten minutes. Clyde Wijnhard struck from the spot in the second half of Darlo's game with Chester: it was the only goal of the game and drags the Quakers back into play-off contention. Super Bob Taylor once again found the net for Tamworth - opening the scoring after half an hour at Forest Green despite the fact that the visitors had been reduced to ten men after just two minutes. Forest Green looked to be down and out but snatched a point in the last minute from the penalty spot.
April 03: Andy Ritchie should be made the permanent boss at Barnsley - where he's currently caretaker - according to Hull manager Peter Taylor. Taylor's high-flying team beat the Tykes 2-1 on Saturday, but he praised what Ritchie had done with the side in such a short time: "Their team are playing really well - I think they are desperate to try and get him the job. The way his team are playing, if I were a Barnsley director I'd give him the job tomorrow. They can cause you problems, so it took some character for us to bounce back after Barnsley got an equaliser." Since Ritchie took over, they've won three and drawn twice before Saturday's defeat - but that was somewhat inevitable since the previous performances had netted him the March Manager of the Month award.
April 02: Leeds were rescued from an embarrassing home defeat today when a blunder from Wolves keeper Scott Oakes gave the home side a barely-deserved equaliser in a dreadful game. Oakes punched Shaun Derry's curled shot into the roof of his own net - but Glenn Hoddle didn't condemn him for the mistake: "Michael will be disappointed with the way the goal had gone in but he has been magnificent for us in recent matches. He has been playing very consistently but unfortunately his mistake today cost us two points. But I have told him mistakes happen and it is how you react to them. He kept a cool head after that and he has a good temperament and will bounce back from it." Leeds assistant manager Sam Ellis indicated that now Kevin Blackwell would finally give up on any play-off aspirations and use the remainder of the season to build for the future: "[The play-offs] were always a hope rather than an expectation, but we will still be trying to win games and still trying to see what we can do. We could have done with a couple of wins from our last few matches, and with this result it would appear as if both clubs have been eliminated. There are six games to go, and although we don't want to look too far forward, you do have to plan."
April 01: Kevin Blackwell faces a few enforced changes to his squad for tomorrow's game against Wolves after injuries have ruled out a few regulars. Frazer Richardson hasn't recovered from the hamstring problem that saw him stretchered off at Forest, and both Simon Walton and Matthew Kilgallon have been taking it easy this week to avoid aggravating injuries. Sean Gregan and Michael Gray are both ruled out through suspension, and Gary Kelly has gone down with a bout of tonsilitis. Gylfi Einarsson and David Healy were the last to rejoin the squad after the international break, and Ian Moore is available to start his first game for the club up front. Blackwell is hoping for a win to break the run of three draws - but also acknowledges that three points from the match will restrict his options for the rest of the season as he feels compelled to keep the play-off dream alive while there is still a mathematical chance of qualification. Blackwell said: "A win on Saturday and we are on the periphery of the play-offs again again and we have to go for it. Experimentation means you accept that you might lose and I can't afford to lose just yet because we are still there or thereabouts." Glenn Hoddle will take a look at the fitness of South Korean striker Ki-Hyeon Seol who has had a longer trip than most on international duty this week, and is further boosted by the possible return of long-time absentee George Ndah.
April 01: Club captain Paul Butler says that his team must take all of their remaining chances if they are to keep the play-off dream alive. He said: "We've spoken about the play-offs for a long time but we're in a position now where our football has to do the talking. We need results and we need points. From where I'm standing we can't afford any defeats, and even a draw might cost us at the end of the season. We have to be ambitious and look to win 21 points - and even that might not be enough." With his former club coming to Elland Road tomorrow, he's hoping to put one over on them: "Wolves aren't out of it either and tomorrow will be some match. A lot of clubs come to Elland Road looking for a draw but they need a win and I think you'll see both teams going for the jugular. That's the way it has to be between now and the end of the season."
April 01: New signing Ian Moore says that he relishes the situation that Leeds face, with the pressure really on now to not drop another point this season. He said: "I love this type of situation and playing under pressure brings the best out of you. Things were getting comfortable at Burnley - they're heading for mid-table and have nothing much to play for - and the last week has really lifted my appetite. There's nothing worse than seeing your season fizzle out with six or seven games remaining. I said when I came here that promotion was a long-shot this season and my opinion hasn't changed. But it's not impossible either and a couple of good wins would jangle a few nerves." Not sure what the long-suffering Burnley fans will make of all that though...