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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post


May 31: Kevin Blackwell congratulated Paul Sturrock for leading Sheffield Wednesday into the Championship via a 4-2 play-off over Hartlepool at the weekend. Blackwell said: "It's great for a club like Sheffield Wednesday coming back up and we'll certainly look forward to another derby game next season. Yorkshire derbies are always exciting affairs and next season we'll have a few to play, so it'll be an exciting season in that respect." And using this season's Yorkshire derbies as a form guide, it will only be exciting for the other teams' fans.

May 31: Robbie Keane added to the speculation surrounding his future at White Hart Lane when he talked up his interest in a move to Celtic. Speaking after playing in a testimonial for Jackie McNamara at Celtic Park, Keane praised new Celtic boss Gordon Strachan: "He's the best manager I have worked under. I'm sure he's going to do a tremendous job - he gets the best out of players and knows the game inside out." And Keane added: "I'm a Celtic fan, and I have said that one day I would like to play for them... At the end of the day, I've got one year left at Tottenham, and I am happy there but, if things change, then who knows? If the manager or chairman told me I was no longer wanted at Spurs then I am going to have to consider my future."

May 31: Harry Kewell has followed up his early exit from the Champions League final with an early operation to fix the groin problem which has dogged his time at Liverpool. Kewell said: "It's not going to be a great summer with the rehabilitation but it's been like that for the last six months." He was disappointed with the injury - but over the moon to get a medal at last: "If you'd said to me six months ago that I was going to pull my groin in the European Cup final and I would end up with a winner's medal I'd have taken that. Maybe it's one of the worst things to have happened to me but it's still been the perfect end to the season."

May 31: Eddie Gray's son Nick has been offered a short-term extension to his contract after his current deal ended with the season. Manager Kevin Blackwell clearly reckons the young player has shown enough promise even though he's had a tough time with injuries: "Nick has been unlucky with injuries in the last 18 months and we feel it is only right to give him the chance to show what he can do now he is fit again. He has had a fitness training schedule to follow in the summer and hopefully he will then have the chance to prove himself."

May 31: Former Leeds striker Tony Hackworth has agreed a contract with Scarborough for next season - although it looks like the player will have to "do a Smithy" and drop back into midfield. Scarborough boss Nick Henry said: "We tried Tony in [midfield] at the end of the season and he looked to do well in it. I think he could have a future there."

May 31: Kevin Blackwell has already started talking down the team's prospects for promotion next season - before we've seen a fixture list and with barely a single transfer move complete for us or anyone else. Blackwell said: "I don't think there is too much of a weight of expectation for next season. We've established ourselves as a good mid-table side in this division and we will try our best to build on that. We're building a squad and if we can continue the kind of form we showed in the latter half of last season, when we only lost seven of our last 28 games, then we should be able to push ourselves up into the top half of the table." Oooh! Top half! Watch out Kev, you might get a nose bleed. Of course, it could be that he's being realistic in the knowledge of who will be leaving and who he is likely to be able to bring in as a replacement...

May 31: Three of the players whose reputation for impeccable behaviour in the past has never been called into question were facing the police after a stag night trashed a luxury hotel. Reports today say that Rio Ferdinand, Michael Duberry and Jody Morris were all questioned by police after a guest was allegedly sprayed with a fire extinguisher at the Grove Hotel in Watford. Morris was having a last night of "freedom" before his wedding which went ahead as planned at the weekend.

May 30: Crewe boss Dario Gradi has quashed rumours that his midfielder Kenny Lunt is on the point of switching to Elland Road. The 25-year-old product of Crewe's youth setup is close to the end of his current contract, but Gradi insisted that no approaches had been made for the player - and that he would expect a fee not a free if anybody wanted Lunt's services.

May 29: Transfer tales from the tabs today has Julian Joachim's move to Walsall still on ice because Leeds are sticking fast to their demand for a fee. Kevin Blackwell is keen to offload the striker so that he can free up a chunk of his salary budget for additions to the squad, but with Ken Bates expecting a fee close to a quarter of a million, it looks as if Walsall will have to turn their attention elsewhere. Meanwhile Blackwell is looking at another veteran keeper - Brum's Ian Bennett - to provide backup to Neil Sullivan: obviously Sasa Ilic hasn't cut the mustard for the Leeds boss. Finally, the latest name to be linked with the club for a summer move is Everton's out-of-contract player Steve Watson. The 31-year-old has had an injury nightmare in recent times, but is still interesting promoted clubs Wigan and Sunderland who would surely be able to trump any offer Leeds might be able to put together.

May 28: Alan Smith played the full 90 minutes as England beat USA 1-2 in front of a 45,000 crowd at Soldier Field in Chicago tonight. Two first-half goals from Kieran Richardson secured the win for Sven's makeshift side, which saw David James produce his usual mix of good saves and dubious decisions with Scott Carson watching from the bench.

May 27: Leeds old boys will be back in action on Sunday 12 June in the annual Masters Football tournament. This year Leeds are in the Northern group with Newcastle, Boro and Sunderland, to be played at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Leeds players named in the squad currently include: Chris Kamara, Carl Shutt, Ian Baird, Imre Varadi, Steve Hodge, Andy Williams and Glyn Snodin.

May 27: Micky Adams has signed a 2-year deal at Coventry after steering them clear of relegation this season. The former Leeds player has already demonstrated his managerial credentials at several other clubs, and has quashed speculation that he might move on after just 5 months in charge.

May 27: At long last I've got round to putting up the End of Season Poll. Please take a bit of time to fill in the form and let me know what you thought of the season. Alternatively - or additionally - write me a few paragraphs of coherent and cogent opinion and I'll stick those up on the site!

May 26: So it's come to this. Leeds are being trumped in the transfer race by the mighty Bristol City. Out-of-contract Swindon midfielder Grant Smith was the subject of interest from Leeds - as well as Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham - but has opted for a switch to Ashton Gate instead.

May 26: Lucas Radebe's chosen charities are set to benefit from a second match played to honour The Chief's career. This time it's his national team-mates who will get together for a benefit match in Durban next month. Some big names from across African football should be making up the numbers in this latest charity venture.

May 26: Following the death of physio Bruce Craven in March, the club are launching a charity initiative to raise money and awareness of the disease that killed him. Picking up on the ubiquitous wrist-band concept pioneered by Lance Armstrong, the club are offering Melanoma Awareness bands - green wrist bands that will be available shortly from club shops. The players have paid the setup costs for the programme after being deeply affected by the death of the popular Craven. Speaking to the official site, club captain Paul Butler said: "We were all deeply shocked at how quickly this horrible disease took the life of a very fit young man and since then it has been an issue we are very well aware of. The players and staff of Leeds United are just trying to help in some small way and besides being fashionable, we hope that the bracelets will remind people to watch out for cancers like melanoma."

May 26: Gylfi Einarsson has been called up into Iceland's World Cup Qualifier squad for next month's home ties against Hungary and Malta.

May 25: Ken Bates has rejected out of hand a bid for Frazer Richardson from Sunderland. Bates said: "We've dismissed two offers from Sunderland for Frazer. They were derisory. We've not been actively looking to sell the player." Neither bids came close to half a million quid, so you can understand his point of view. However the failure to secure any departures from the club just yet may put the mockers on Kevin Blackwell's attempts to tie up some early signings: Tommy Miller is out of contract at Ipswich, but Blackwell faces competition from Derby and Sunderland for his signature.

May 25: Rio Ferdinand's absent-minded streak continues. This time he totally forgot what the speed limit is. He was clocked at 105mph on the M6 while overtaking a police car. The player was fined £1,500 and banned from driving for 28 days - his fourth ban since 1997.

May 25: Well, I said that Harry Kewell would never win anything when he went to Anfield, and I cheerfully take off my hat and eat it after tonight's game. Not that Kewell had much to do with either getting the Reds to the Champions League final, nor in the winning of it: having barely played all season, the Australian started the game but hobbled off after 20 minutes with Milan already a goal to the good. 3-0 down at half-time and things looked all over, but a cracking start to the second half saw the scores all square by the hour and Liverpool went on to win the cup for the 5th time after a penalty shootout. Special praise for Jerzy Dudek: fall guy, laughing stock, dropped to the reserves after a series of blunders not so long ago. Two stunning saves in extra time and two stopped penalties tonight. Zero to hero in less than a season.

May 24: Today's redtops carry the latest batch of transfer speculation - add salt to taste. Michael Gray is said to have swallowed his wallet and agreed terms with the club to cement a switch from Blackburn. What that means for Stephen Crainey's future is unclear. And we're also interested in signing Rivaldo. No, not that one - this is Venezia's young Brazilian striker. Hmmm... a striker. Healy, Hulse, Moore.... strikes me that another striker, even a young one, is a luxury at this level: we couldn't even manage to keep four front-men happy when we had Champions League football, never mind Championship!

May 24: Kevin Blackwell says the club are definitely interested in the Paraguayan (not Brazilian as we said yesterday) star Rivaldo. The 17-year-old plays in midfield or up front, and Blackwell confirmed the club's interest - without giving him a ringing endorsement. Speaking to the YEP, he said: "At 17 the boy is clearly a talent and has huge potential. There are a lot of questions to be asked and at the moment we are monitoring his progress."

May 24: Stephen McPhail is out of contract at Barnsley this summer - but he's hoping to be asked to stay on, particularly since nobody else appears interested in signing him. McPhail said: "I have heard nothing from my agent about any other clubs being interested. I am sure that my agent is talking to people but he has not brought anything to me and no names have been mentioned. We will see what comes up but it does not matter because I want to play for Barnsley and am looking forward to next season. I want to sort out a deal." Errr...no Stephen. What you're supposed to say is "I'm very happy at Barnsley and would love to stay on - all they have to do is put a deal on the table? Other clubs? Well, since I'm not interested in a move it's academic whether or not my agent has had any enquiries." Must use the same PR people as Alan Smith.

May 24: Gordon Strachan will become manager of Celtic next week. In a much-trailed press conference today, Martin O'Neill announced he was standing down after five years at Parkhead to spend time caring for his sick wife. Strachan has been out of football for just over a year, having left Southampton saying he needed a bit of time away from the game and away from the pressure. So I guess that's one less threat to Kevin Blackwell's position at Elland Road gone...

May 23: Former Leeds winger Jason Wilcox has been given a one-year contract extension by Leicester City. Wilcox missed much of last season through injury, but Foxes boss Craig Levein said: "He is a model professional and showed a lot of grit and determination. Retirement never crossed his mind. Jason is the kind of player you want in the dressing room and I'll look forward to welcoming him back."

May 23: Kevin Blackwell is setting his sights on Europe to provide him with the raw material to strengthen his squad this summer. With Ken Bates committed to getting good value for his money, Blackwell knows that the sort of wages expected by many of the half-decent British players (and their agents) who are available will rule them out. Blackwell has been in Italy with chief scout Ian McNeill, and trips to Scandanavia and other Mediterranean destinations are on the agenda (it's not a holiday, honest). Obviously the fact that most of the domestic leagues are now over will rather limit what they can observe, but the manager still hopes to see something worthwhile. Blackwell said: "I'm still putting great stall by British players, but we'll see if we can unearth anything while we are away. A lot are players who have been recommended to us and this is a chance now to have a look. We are not going willy-nilly, looking at anybody. We are looking at specific players in specific areas." Rough translation: if an agent offers us a job-lot of players like the batch that were foisted sight-unseen on Peter Reid, it ain't going to happen.

May 23: Jermaine Wright has promised Leeds fans that his performances next season will be much better than the rather unimpressive displays he offered us this time round. Wright had problems uprooting his family from Ipswich and without that stability in the background, the player struggled to deliver on the pitch. Wright said: "Last season did not go too well for me... I have got a clear head now so I feel alright. I know I haven't done it and I have to put faith in the gaffer to give me another chance, he signed me and I have to repay him now. I want to play for Leeds United and I want to get us back in the Premiership." Wright is taking a positive stance on the team's prospects for the next season:"We've had that settling in period and everyone knows each other now and we have got good foundations to build on now. Next season it has to be the top two we aim for and if not, then we just have to accept the play-offs." Kevin Blackwell added: "Jermaine is the first to admit that things haven't gone well but sometimes things happen in your career and the problems all seem to come together at one point... He is a good player and we haven't seen the best of Jermaine and I've told him so."

May 22: Harry Kewell will be returning to Istanbul tomorrow fervently hoping that his new team's fans don't get the same treatment that Leeds United fans were on the end of five years ago. Kewell seems to have regained a measure of fitness just in time to come into contention for a place in Rafa Benitez's side for the Champions League final against Milan. Speaking in the People, Kewell said: "What happened in Istanbul when I was with Leeds was the lowest point of my career. Two supporters died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a terrible tragedy and something I would hate to go through ever again. I will try and put the past behind me when I return to Turkey, but I am sure I will think about the two fans that died and all the bad memories of that time. I know I can never forget that night." Kewell said that he had been in favour of the game being cancelled as a mark of respect for the murdered Leeds fans. He said: "I remember walking out onto the pitch to play Galatasaray and there were riot police shielding us from missiles that were being thrown... It wasn't that we were scared of playing Galatasaray... The best thing we could have done was go out there and win for them, but it was very hard to put what had happened to the back of our minds." As for this week's game he's pretty positive: "This is probably the biggest game of everybody's career, but it's a game we can win. It's going to be very tough because Milan are a top team, but if we go there with the positive attitude that we have shown in the Champions League then we can win. People said we wouldn't beat Juventus or Chelsea, but we did. It has been a disappointing season for me personally because of the injuries. Yet if you had told me at the start that I would get the chance to play in two big cup finals I would have taken it."

May 20: Sean Gregan has come to the same conclusion as many fans, saying that this last year was a season to forget at Elland Road. Speaking to the official website, he said: "It's not been the greatest and I've not really enjoyed it." He was honest enough to admit his own failings: "I've not played well myself, the supporters don't need to tell me that, I know. It's been frustrating but hopefully next season will be a different story." He said: "I think some of the stick I was getting early on was unfair bearing in mind the circumstances when I arrived. I hadn't played all season and I didn't have a pre-season with the team, but these things happen and it's nice to hear supporters backing you now." Believe me Sean, you've got a long way to go before you'll get any backing from several people - me included. True, there was some unjustified slagging of the player early on, but many of us gave him a couple of months to show some sort of form and show some sort of progression towards being able to play for 90 minutes. We saw neither - but what we did see was his amazing ability to be able to instantly apportion the blame for almost every goal we conceded: if his tackling foot had been half as sharp as his pointing finger, we'd have walked the division. But next season will be a fresh start for everyone, and I think it's only fair to give him a chance to prove himself in a settled side which has a clear understanding of its strengths and tactics - and so much depends on Kevin Blackwell's vision and ability to transform the occasional good individual contribution we've seen this season into a consistent, collectively high level of performance, backed up by the ability to concentrate for 90 minutes and stop conceding silly goals. Gregan adds: "I just want to come back next season, get fit and start on a level playing field with everyone else really." Well, you've got it. But please don't get upset if, by the end of August, you look knackered after 60 minutes and the supporters get on your back.

May 19: Ian Harte has been recalled to the Ireland squad by Brian Kerr. After gradually falling out of contention, Harte seemed to have been consigned to international oblivion, but a season at Levante, struggling to stay afloat in La Liga, has seen the former Leeds left-back show enough signs of a return to form to justify a place in the squad for next month's World Cup qualifier double-header against Israel and the Faeroe Islands.

May 19: Michael Ricketts is back at Leeds after Stoke indicated they had no interest in signing him after a less-than-stellar loan spell at the Britannia last season. By contrast, Rohan Ricketts shows no signs of coming to Elland Road, despite being targeted by Kevin Blackwell: he's starting talks with Wolves instead. Another knock-back came from Blackburn's Nils-Eric Johansson with the player saying he wanted to join "the right club". However there are some hopeful noises coming from the direction of Michael Gray, with Mark Hughes happy to release the left-back and the player keen to build on the good impression he made at Elland Road during his brief loan spell this season. Finally, Walsall have been promised first refusal of Julian Joachim - but only if the player is released by Leeds since there's little prospect of a transfer fee or wages matching his current deal being forthcoming from Paul Merson's side.

May 18: Leeds have been warned that promotion next season is an absolute necessity for the future financial wellbeing of the club. With the financial gap between the Premier League and the rest widening every season, and Leeds only having one more year of "parachute" money coming in, a return to the top flight is essential. Even with that money next season, Leeds are competing with Norwich, Southampton and Crystal Palace - who also benefit from the same pool, but whose overall finances remain much healthier than those at Elland Road. Vinay Bedi - football analyst of investment managers Wise Speke - says: "The most critical factor is obviously the drop in revenue, even with the parachute payment. Generally, as a ball-park figure, that is around £15-20m. Sometimes it pays to take the route which Sunderland did, and that took two years to do it. They sold 28 players and rebuilt on a much sounder financial footing." Well we've already done the selling... now for the hard part. Ken Bates is understood to have been approached by some potential investors in the club, but it will be interesting to see just what these people can bring to the table given the history of non-starter takeover attempts over the last two years, and given Bates' undoubted reluctance to cut his share of the profits should they materialise.

May 18: Matthew Kilgallon faces an almost non-existent break this summer, after being selected for the England U-20 side's trip to the Toulon tournament, where they will face Portugal, Tunisia and South Korea in an initial group stage. Kilgallon drove a hinting elbow into the ribs of Kevin Blackwell, commenting: "If I get a couple of games in and England play well it will be something for the gaffer to think about next season. Everyone is fighting for their place here now and it will be good for me to show what I can do on another stage, especially if he brings in a few people over the summer." Kilgallon was chosen as the scapegoat by Blackwell on several occasions last season, when anyone without tunnel vision could see that greater culpability rested on other, more experienced heads, and it would not be too surprising if the young defender chose to engineer a move away from the club rather than face another season of public undermining and irregular selection from the Leeds coach.

May 18: The club have reported an "excellent" response to the call to renew season tickets for the next campaign. With the initial - "cheap" renewal deadline passing at the weekend, the club have extended the window of opportunity for people to renew and retain their existing seats, alnbeit at the higher price. They're putting this forward as if it was some sort of generous gesture, while the reality is understood to be a seriously short-staffed and overworked ticket office trying to buy a bit of breathing space and trying to shake out a little bit more up-front cash from the fans in order to give Uncle Ken some certainty in his cashflow projections. The club say that they've received £5.5m worth of renewals - although a million of that is in deferred payments from folks who sent in three post-dated cheques to stagger the cost. Chairman Ken Bates said: "All the box office staff worked over the weekend and we agreed to allow for yesterday's post in terms of renewals. We've had a positive response in terms of season tickets and corporate sales." Doing the maths, that seems to me to work out at about 10,000 renewals. Not sure how up or down that is on this time last year, but I'd say it doesn't augur that well for the future: most people who are going to renew have done so - there's no percentage in hanging around given the extra cost of late renewal. So unless we have a remarkable recruitment campaign to attract new fans, crowds next season could start to plumb new depths (unless of course we have a good run, in which case the Glory Hunters will be back in force).

May 17: Chairman Ken Bates has made a public stand against agents and players who think they can still get a wallet-bulging payday from Leeds United. Bates made public the fact that the club had pulled out of negotiations with one player due to the excessive demands being made by the agent on the player's behalf. Bates didn't name the player, but said he was asking for £16K a week, plus a £250K promotion bonus plus payment of the agent's fees. This may be a bit of typical Bates bluster - setting a marker for negotiations with players that we're really interested in - but I'm glad to see that we've got someone in charge who won't do another Seth Johnson on us. Bates said: "Everybody rushes around at this time of year, it's like a game of poker. Agents are trying to get a start, but we won't be held to ransom. We have got the bones of a good team here. We've signed six players during the last season, and we have a good nucleus to build on."

May 17: Twelve people were arrested - and ten subsequently charged - with football violence offences connected with the visit of Cardiff City to Elland Road earlier this season. A series of raids involving over 100 police across West Yorkshire netted the dirty dozen at a variety of locations in Leeds and surrounding towns. A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said: "Those involved in the violence know who they are. After four months have passed they probably thought we had let it go. I'm here to tell them that we know who most of them are." Those charged are expected to appear at Leeds Magistrates Court on Wednesday 25 May.

May 17: Kevin Blackwell is said to be looking at 19-year-old Italian Raffaele Schiavi, a 19-year-old defender from Serie B side Salernitana. He'd certainly come cheaper than David Weir - as well as having a bit more pace than the Everton veteran. Leeds are also being linked again with Watford's Icelandic international Heidar Helguson and Crewe midfielder Kenny Lunt. No offence guys, but given that these players are now at teams currently even worse than we are, it doesn't say much about them that they've not been snapped up by anyone better already. Or maybe Kevin Blackwell sees a couple of rough diamonds who will shine when he applies his own particular brand of polish. Finally, Danny Cadamarteri has been linked with a move back to Bradford after failing to make a significant impact at Sheffield United.

May 16: Kevin Blackwell says that he's happy with what he has achieved for the club this season - and wants to be at Elland Road for some time to come. Speaking to the official website he said: "There were so many thing that went on that people said would stand me in good stead for my career, but the truth is I did not really want to experience some of the things that went on this year. I did have a blast at certain people because I felt that if things did not chance quickly we would find ourselves where Nottingham Forest are today. I was very aggressive and maybe a little bit obnoxious towards certain people in charge but I felt things had to be said. I put my job on the line but it wasn't about me, it was about the safety and prosperity of Leeds United Football Club. What it has taught me is that you have to be focused and you have to take criticism and be strong enough to come through it." And he went on: "It is still a learning curve for me, I don't know it all and I hope I keep learning next year on the positive side and not the negative. What I do know is that I love being manager of this football club... Please God things turn out the way I want them to, and if they do I would love to be here for 20-years."

May 16: Michael Bridges has been given a free transfer by Sunderland after failing to make a serious impression on Mick McCarthy's promotion-winning side this season. Bridges scored just twice in nearly 20 appearances - many from the bench - after arriving on a free from Bolton. Possibly turning up at the Stadium of Light could be Danny Mills on a loan from Manchester City after it seems to have become clear that City boss Stuart Pearce is less than impressed with Mills' attitude and commitment.

May 15: Peter Ridsdale is set to take over the day-to-day running of Cardiff City, according to some reports today. With Cardiff struggling to make ends meet as their grand plans for a new ground founder, Ridsdale has been chosen by Sam Hamman as the man to lead them to the promised land. Hamman said: "At Leeds United, he almost achieved the impossible. He came within a whisker of making them the best team in the country. At Cardiff, he has a very wide and far-reaching brief and I believe he's the right person for the job." It's hard to know where to begin commenting on this. Let's just go with the promised land thing and hope that the sea closes on the pair of them.

May 14: The - almost - full schedule of pre-season games for this summer has been announced by the club. As previously trailed, there are games at Haugesund, Stavanger and Grimsby on July 13, 16 and 26 respectively. There's a trip to Darlington lined up for July 20, with a match against Andy Ritchie's Barnsley at Oakwell on July 30 before the league starts up the following week. The second string will play Farsley Celtic, Halifax Town, Boston United (woohoo - nice short trip for me) and Harrogate Town on July 16, 21, 28 and August 2 respectively. There's one final first-team slot to fill on July 23 which should be announced shortly.

May 13: Kevin Blackwell today prepared the ground for some further departures, saying that some of the club's promising youngsters may have to be "sacrificed" for the good of the team. Blackwell said: "Ideally you want to bring your own youngsters into the team but right now our priority is getting back in the Premiership. If I have had a situation last season that was hard, it's been having to play so many youngsters week in and week out. We had 12 games on the trot and one of the youngsters was involved in every goal that went in during that spell. Now you either accept that and stay in a low league position whilst your youngsters are learning, or go for the top, and if that's the case you might have to sacrifice one or two of them." So that's Lennon to Spurs, Richardson to Sunderland - and possibly Walton to Everton - if you believe some of the stories. Blackwell added: "I will be bringing in some experienced players over the summer and hopefully we can keep one or two of the youngsters, but once again it is all down to finances. If we feel we can move the club forward in a quicker time frame then I think all the fans will want that."

May 12: Andy Ritchie is set to be offered the full-time job at Barnsley after doing so well since he took over as caretaker earlier this season. With just 2 defeats in 11 games, the former Leeds player and coach picked up the March Manager of the Month award and is now ready to plan for next season. He said: "I'm due to have talks with the chairman and we will see what can come out of that. I'm very pleased with the way it's gone, we've had a great response from the lads, the board have been great and the fans have been superb. The results have been good. We lost two games but one of those was against Hull, who were promoted, and we should have got something out of that too."

May 12: Leeds chairman Ken Bates says that Kevin Blackwell will be given a decent chance to show what he can do next season - although there's the clear implication that failure will be harshly judged. Bates said: "Within our financial limitations we have supported his judgement and he made sure we were not relegated. If his judgement is bad he will have to go and if his judgement is good he's here for the forseeable future. Kevin is quite happy to be judged by his record and on his results. He did very well this year with very limited resources and now he'll get the chance to start with a level playing field. He now has an excellent opportunity to show how good he is."

May 11: Just a couple of months after seeming to get his career back on the road, Jamie McMaster finds he's looking for another club for next season after Chesterfield released him. Spireites boss Roy McFarland said: "Jamie does not feature in our future plans." Also released was short-term keeper cover Kevin Pressman, who was one of several Coventry players told they wouldn't get to hang their clothes on the pegs of their shiny new stadium.

May 11: Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell says that he's already started working the transfer market to line up new players for next season. He spoke with Ken Bates at the weekend to confirm what sort of budget he would have for the squad, and is now looking to get the new faces signed up as soon as possible. Blackwell said: "We identified the players we were after very early on and we have been able to speak to most of those and see who would be interested in moving here and the response has been very encouraging. Signing Rob Hulse is a great start to our pre-season, it shows the planning that we have in place at least two months earlier than we did last year. If one or two things happen we can move quickly and we'll be able to announce a couple more signings."

May 11: Simon Walton and Ben Parker have been called up for England's U-18 squad to play Norway next month. The game will take place at Port Vale's ground on June 10. Henry McStay is back in the Ireland U-21 squad as they prepare for the European Championship qualifier against Israel next month. Despite being released by Burnley, John Oster is still in demand: John Toshack has called him into a 22-man Wales squad for a training camp in Spain.

May 11: Michael Gray's loan spell at Leeds is now over, and he has returned to Blackburn to undergo an op on some cartilage damage sustained in the game at Leicester. The left-back has one season remaining on his contract with the Premiership club, and although Blackburn would probably let him leave on a free, his wages will be an issue if he is to sign for Leeds.

May 11: Club captain Paul Butler today said a big thank-you to the fans who have stuck with the club through a difficult season. He said: "They've been first class. They've turned up wherever we've been in huge numbers and they always make themselves heard. Even though the football hasn't been the best at times they've kept going and that's kept us going. So I would just like to thank all you fans again and hopefully next season we will give you something to be really proud of."

May 10: Kevin Blackwell says that any speculation linking Dennis Wise to his job as Leeds manager is just that: speculation. Given Wise's decision to walk away from Millwall after falling out with the chairman, and given his closeness to Cuddly Ken, the tongues are wagging but Blackwell said: "There is no doubt the chairman has a close association with Dennis, but when you have friendships like theirs, people tend to put two and two together and come up with five. The chairman has stated on three or four occasions quite categorically that I am the man for him. The chairman has worked with me for four months and has had an opportunity to say he either wants me or he doesn't. He has obviously liked what he has seen and respects what I have done." Blackwell has been more or less unstinting in his praise of Bates since the takeover, and added: "The great thing is I now have a chairman who I can go straight to for an answer. In the 18 months I was here up to January, we didn't have that. Prof John McKenzie was too busy trying to placate the City. Trevor Birch then came in and was only able to deal with the City. As a club, we were concentrating on everything but the football side and Leeds United suffered. The collapse of the Shaun Derry deal typified that. I only found out three hours before the Watford home game that it had been blocked by the board. Shaun had passed the medical and was going to play that night. A football decision had been blocked for reasons other than football, which was wrong."

May 10: With Clarke Carlisle rumoured to be sidelined for disciplinary reasons on Sunday and possibly on his way out of the club, there's clearly room for another centreback or two to keep Matthew Kilgallon and Paul Butler company. And it seems as if Kevin Blackwell has decided that experiences is king: Leeds are being linked with two out-of-contract Premier League defenders - Craig Short of Blackburn (37 in June) and Everton's veteran David Weir (35 today). I'm not 40 yet and I'm a decrepit centreback - maybe I should send in a tape of myself in action!

May 10: Noel Whelan has been released by Aberdeen and is now a free agent. 30-year-old Whelan was their second top scorer this season - albeit with just 5 goals - and is one of six players being released by the Dons.

May 10: New signing Rob Hulse hit out at his former club and said he didn't care whether or not they went down after the way he was treated. He said: "Obviously, I'm disappointed I didn't get a decent chance with Albion in the Premiership. Bryan [Robson] said to me he had not seen a lot of me, and because the club were struggling he couldn't really throw me in. But the chairman explained to me he didn't want to see me in an Albion shirt again, which is fair enough and one of those things. Now I'm not really bothered whether they stay up. It's a part of my career I don't look back on too favourably and I've moved on."Whelan on the move

May 09: Neither manager had much to say about the game after yesterday's goalless draw. Kevin Blackwell focused on Lucas Radebe's final, brief appearance: "It was 200th league game and it meant more than going around in a testimonial. Such is the stature of the man that I felt it was important that I did that for him. It's going to be a long time before you come across a man like Lucas Radebe." There was a nice touch from Gary Kelly when The Chief came on, passing over the armband to the man unceremoniously dumped as club captain by David O'Leary in favour of the over-hyped (but, let's face it, club-savingly-expensive) Rio Ferdinand. Rotherham boss Mick Harford was very happy with the performance of his relegated side: "I thought some of the defending was particularly good and overall we just edged it and probably should have sneaked it at the death. It was the best Rotherham performance since I came here and all credit to the players. They have been relegated and deserve a little accolade to end the season on."

May 09: The final whistle has barely stopped blowing and already we have a new signing for next season. Well, that's "new" as in "much-trailed follow-on from a loan". Rob Hulse has signed for Leeds in a deal that could be worth up to £1.1 million depending on appearances and the club's success, but is believed to be around half of that up front. Hulse has signed a 3-year deal after three months on loan at Elland Road in which he has scored 6 goals in 13 appearances. Hulse said: "I've had a brilliant couple of months here. It was nice to get back into playing again at a fantastic club." Kevin Blackwell was happy to make the deal happen: "Signing Rob Hulse shows that the club is coming out of the terminal decline it was in and we are serious about moving forward." Baggies boss Bryan Robson wished him well and said: "I thought Rob was at the stage where he needed first-team football and I couldn't guarantee him that. He was behind the other four forwards we've got which is why I allowed him to go out on loan."

May 09: Leeds are hoping to line up a pre-season match back in the Mestalla against Valencia - although there's no confirmation as yet from Spain. The game would be sometime at the back-end of July if it happens. More concrete is confirmation of a game at Grimsby Town on July 26, though it's not yet confirmed if this will be a "first team" or "reserves" game (as much as that means anything in the pre-season).

May 09: The big clear-outs have started already. Forest are releasing 12 players and making another 5 - including Marlon King - available for transfers. John Oster is one of eight players released by Steve Cotterill at Burnley. Nathan Blake was one of six players released by Leicester. Expect more to come over the next few days.

May 08: Ken Bates had some typically forthright comments in today's programme - notably informing fans that Eirik Bakke had been added to the list of players who had no future at the club in addition to the not unexpected names of Julian Joachim and Michael Ricketts. Bates said that the club were trying to negotiate a way out of paying Derby their appearance bonus money for Seth Johnson - and confirmed that he would be in the reserves if no deal could be done. More negative news for Radio Aire: Bates has told them that they won't have live coverage next season unless they stump up something closer to what he sees as a commercial rate - bad news for folks around the world who listen on RealAudio. He finishes on a positive note, praising Lucas Radebe on his final appearance for the club and announcing that the new supporters' facility being built in the John Charles stand will be named after The Chief.

May 08: The season ended today with a whimper - and a bit of a damp one at that as the heavens opened for much of the second half. In a rerun of the game at Millmoor, Rotherham's goal came under a lot of pressure, but was saved by a combination of the woodwork, decent keeping and desperate defending. Matthew Spring, Rob Hulse and Ian Moore all had excellent chances to score but failed to provide the killer blow. The second biggest cheer of the day came with just over five minutes to go, when a passage of play that had been going for a couple of minutes without a break finally came to an end with a throw-in. The reason for the throw-in getting a cheer was that, stripped for action and waiting on the bench for a break in play was Lucas Radebe, and his entry into the field drew a standing ovation from the 30K+ in the ground. The Chief duly played out the last five minutes of his Leeds career, the final whistle went and a pitch invasion prevented the promised lap of "honour" by the team.

May 08: Only two games I know, but the May Player of the Month is open for your votes now.

May 08: Kevin Blackwell says that he's hoping to have a busy summer acquiring the players that will make the difference next season. He said: "At the moment we are a halfway top-ten side and I've got to get us towards that step up. I've got to get three or four players into my starting line-up that will turn these nil-nil draws into wins. I now will have to wheel and deal again. The chairman is trying to resolve the financial situation at the club. There has been some black holes appear apparently and once he nails that down, then I will have a fair indication of what I can do." Many people believe we saw the last of Aaron Lennon today, and Blackwell wasn't denying that there could be some departures: "I can't give them Premiership football and it will be a tough, tough job to hold on to every one of them."

May 08: Dennis Wise has parted company with Millwall, citing differences with the chairman over how they could take the club forward. So how long before his old mate Ken offers him a challenging position then?

May 07: Kevin Blackwell has made it clear that his players won't be getting much time off during the summer, and although they'll be away from the club they'll be expected to keep themselves in top shape. Blackwell said: "The players who come back in early will work on a general progression of their fitness. It'll help them towards reaching the right level for when everyone returns a week or so later. It's not a punishment or anything like that, the idea is to help the longer-term injuries and coming back early will help them cope with the extra stress of the build-up to the new season." Vote now for players you think need an extra couple of weeks of fitness training...

May 07: Walsall want to take on Julian Joachim next season - but only if Leeds fork out a large part of his wages. Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell said: "I had an approach about [Joachim] that would have involved us continuing to pay some of his wages, but I'm not prepared to go down that route. We don't want to be sponsoring players for other clubs. We've done that before, out of neccessity, but the only deals we will do this summer will be in the best interests of Leeds United and if they suit the club. We're not a charity, helping fund players for other clubs." Robbie Fowler, Robbie Keane and Danny Mills might disagree... Blackwell said that Joachim wanted a move: "He wants first team football and I can't guarantee him that here. Taking that into account it's in the best interest of both parties if someone comes in who can offer him that opportunity." In the meantime, Blackwell is hoping to complete the formalities of Rob Hulse's signing as soon as possible, and continues to look for a wide player and a couple of others to strengthen the defence, with Hibs' Derek Riordan once again mentioned as a target.

May 07: Kevin Blackwell wants revenge for this season's humiliating defeat at Millmoor - even though he reckons that his team was the better of the two that night: "Managers were coming up to me after that game and saying it had been a long, long time since they'd seen a team dominate another team so much and come away with a 1-0 defeat. Where did we go wrong? We missed chances, hit the bar, their keeper got man of the match and there just seemed to be a real charm around the goal that night and then they got a sloppy goal. That was a complete slap in the face for me and I couldn't come up with any reasons why we'd lost." Here's a clue Kev: Ricketts. Clarke Carlisle's injury didn't help, admittedly. Blackwell is looking for the team to sign off in style tomorrow: "Now we're looking to say goodbye to another difficult season and I want my players to give the fans something to remember... The players still has something to prove to me and anybody that takes it lightly won't be on the pitch for long." Lucas Radebe will make some sort of appearance unless Blackwell is forced to make early substitutions. Michael Gray misses out with the injury that saw him limp off last week. For the visitors, Will Hoskins is out with a broken elbow, the experienced Phil Gilchrist is also sidelined along with Martin Butler, and Chris Swailes faces a late fitness test.

May 06: If you missed out buying the testimonial programme which sold out on Monday - or want to pick up other Radebe-related items, then get yourself into the club shop ahead of the game on Sunday where you can pick up t-shirts and baseball caps that will throw another few quid in the growing pile that will go towards the Chief's testimonial charities.

May 06: 1950's Leeds star Bobby Forrest died peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday, just short of his 74th birthday. Forrest joined Leeds from Retford Town in 1952 and went on to make 121 appearances for Leeds alongside the likes of John Charles and Harold Williams. Our sympathy goes out to his family.

May 06: Former chairman and prime architect of our downfall Peter Ridsdale today praised Ken Bates and said that he was just the man for Leeds in the current situation. Ridsdale said: "Ken knew what the numbers were and has gone into this with his eyes wide open, with a commitment to getting the club back and I think Leeds fans should be looking to a new future. I think there's a whole new mood of optimism at the club, which hasn't been there for a few years now. I understand he wants to consolidate. They are probably not ready for promotion this season, but he'll give them that stability."

May 05: Frank Gray has been named as the new boss of non-league Farnborough Town. The Leeds and Forest legend was formerly in charge at Darlo, and has agreed a two-year deal at the club which has justbeen relegated to the Conference South. Meanwhile Carl Shutt has paid the price for being unable to run Bradford Park Avenue on a shoestring: they were relegated from Conference North and both he and his assistant will be looking elsewhere for work next season.

May 05: Kevin Blackwell has given Matthew Spring a public challenge to earn his place at Elland Road. Sadly, these sort of public upbraidings are becoming an all-too-regular part of Blackwell's management style, and when you consider what he's let pass on the pitch without comment or indeed with praise this season, it's a bit puzzling to see him hammer a player who has had injury and family problems for much of the past year. Blackwell said: "I make it quite clear to Matthew Spring and any other player at this football club that they are damned right they have to impress me. They have to make sure they can play for this football club week in and week out at a very good level because if they can't then you will be leaving this football club. It is nice to know Matthew feels he has a point to prove because I want my players to believe they have a point to prove every week, not just to me but to the 30,000 plus fans at Elland Road who demand success. The players that cannot handle that will be shown the door." Given that Spring had been publicly told by the manager that if he was fit he would start, and then reeled off a whole series of 90 minute outings in the reserves and that his contributions in his few first-team starts have been more than some players have offered all season, it looks like Blackwell is doing his best to whip his players into line ahead of what could be another tough season.

May 04: Olivier Dacourt says that he'd love to come back to Elland Road - if we make it back into the Premiership. After being driven out of the team by Terry Venables, Dacourt left in a bit of a rush and appreciated the chance to say thank you to the fans at Lucas Radebe's testimonial. And although he says he's very happy in Italy for now, he's not ruled out a return to England in the future. He said: "The most difficult league to play in is Italy, but the beautiful one is England. The fans are unbelievable and will even go and see a team in the Third Division. England is the country of the football. But at the present time, I don't want to come back - my life in Italy is beautiful. Though, you never know in life and if Leeds come back to the Premiership, then I could come back. I had three good years at Leeds, I loved it there and still look for their result." Dacourt said how much he had enjoyed his time at Elland Road: "It was a step up for me when I left because Roma are a bigger team compared to Leeds, but at Elland Road we had an amazing spirit. It was the best team I played for because the atmosphere in the team was unbelievable. It was fantastic. It is sad to see where Leeds are now. Five years ago, it was unimaginable that Leeds could be in the First Division. We had all the best young players in the country, we had the money and we went to the Champions League semi-finals. It is crazy what has happened."

May 04: Sunderland are said to be keeping a keen eye on Frazer Richardson and may be interested in capitalising on his dissatisfaction at being picked out of position and the fact that he hasn't really been given a solid run by Kevin Blackwell. With the Black Cats back in the top flight, they will need to strengthen their squad, and with Ken Bates still anxious to cash in on anything not nailed down then a deal could be done. Walsall remain interested in Julian Joachim, but the rumour mill is working overtime connecting David O'Leary with half of his Leeds Champions League side. O'Leary is said to be willing to give Lee Bowyer a final chance to redeem himself after his recent brush with authority looks set to have ended his Newcastle career, and the Villa boss is also interested in acquiring Alan Smith and Robbie Keane, neither of whom are said to be 100% happy with the fact that they're not viewed as first choice players. But most interesting for the club at the moment is the fact that O'Leary is also believed to be willing to take a punt on the fitness of Eirik Bakke to strengthen his midfield. Getting another big earner off the wage bill would be a huge plus for Ken Bates and could free up enough funding to attract three or four good quality Championship players to Elland Road. The deal to sign Rob Hulse permanently is said to be inked and ready to be announced as soon as the season ends - but take nothing for granted.

May 03: The players who turned out for Lucas yesterday were lining up to add their plaudits to the already long list for a great player. Bruce Grobbelaar said: "He is not just revered in Leeds, where he is and deserves to be hugely popular, but throughout the whole of South Africa. For 38,000 people to come and see him speaks volumes for him. The man is an ambassador for football and for South Africa. He will be very proud and will probably want to thank everyone here himself." Gary Speed said: "You just had to see the crowd. That says it all, really. A full house has made it a great occasion for him and I am honoured to have been a part of it." Howard Wilkinson signed Lucas in the dim and distant past - but he shared the credit for the vision that brought the Chief to Leeds: "Credit for Lucas goes to [chief scout] Geoff Sleight. He went to track Phil Masinga but told me 'I think I've found a better player'. He followed him to another game in Australia and we managed to sneak them both out for the same money. It was a good deal." Vinnie Jones, fresh from leading the singing, said:"He's a real gentleman and people have come a long way just for him and that shows the respect people have for him. He has always worn his heart on his sleeve and that's all these fans want. You give them 100% and they'll respect you for it."

May 03: Kevin Blackwell told the press that there is a coaching job on offer for Lucas Radebe at Elland Road if he wants it. Presumably speaking with the blessing of the man who holds the purse strings, Blackwell would love to have Radebe's experience available to pass on to the young players coming through the ranks. Radebe meanwhile hit out at the money-obsessed attitude of many of the players in today's game. He said: "You read in the papers about players making the first move - for instance Rio Ferdinand the other day and Ashley Cole. I don't know if that is true, so I really wouldn't want to say those players are to blame. But money has spoiled the game. Football was a better game ten years ago. Players were honest enough to go out there and give their all - break a leg, if that's what it took to help out your team. Now it's a question of how much money you could lose. It has changed with all the cash that has been pumped into the game. Money causes problems. The more there is, the bigger the problem." They should write that on Peter Ridsdale's tombstone.

May 03: Lucas Radebe thanked the fans who turned out to support his testimonial match - and raise a shedload of cash for charity. Speaking to the official site he said: "Thank you to everyone who was here here today and has supported all the good causes. It was absolutely fantastic to get a standing ovation and to see the respect the crowd has for me. When we first started planning the game I didn't think we would get anywhere near as many people in, but they have shown their commitment to me and I am very honoured. This club gave me my big opportunity and from the fans, players to staff, there are so many people I have to thank and I will never be able to thank them all or enough. There has always been something special about this club but I swear I didn't know the impact I have had at this club until today, and I now know my input has been respected. It was a great afternoon for me and my family and every minute was very special for me. It was very emotional and I had to hold back a little bit because I didn't want to be a big softy! I now join you all as a fan and I am looking forward to seeing Leeds United back in the Premiership."

May 02: Kevin Blackwell was less than impressed with Sunday's showing at Leicester, and he made it clear that he thought that some of the players on show had blown their chances of playing a bigger part in his sides in the future. He said: "The first half was garbage and I let them know that at half time. In the second half we created at least four clear cut chances and to come away without scoring disappoints me. It confirmed in my own mind that I need to change one or two things and bring in different players." He went on: "I have given certain players games to prove themselves and the last few weeks has definitely made my mind up about them. The benchmark has been set and the players who can't reach that won't be around. I don't want to come in at half time and have to give people a rollocking. Every time they put that white shirt on that should be the motivation and if you can't get motivated for that then you are not going to be part of this club."

May 02: Marlon King is claiming that his failure to convert a penalty kick at the weekend was not all down to him. King says that former Forest team-mate Gareth Williams pointed out which way King took his spot-kicks to Leicester keeper Ian Walker. King said: "I heard a rumour that Gareth Williams pointed at the way I was going and obviously being at Forest for a few years with him he knew where I would put it. I didn't think about that and then of course Walker pulled off a great save." As for the future - King wants to stay on beyond the end of his loan spell next week, but says: "The gaffer knows I would like to stay here but I still have three years left at Forest and where I go from there is totally up to them."

May 02: The largest crowd at Elland Road this season saw Lucas Radebe off in style today. 37896 people turned out to pay tribute to a great man - and also have a laugh with some old friends at the same time. Not that it matters much, but the World XI won the match 3-7, with Radebe scoring from the spot after Dermot Gallagher played along to award the obligatory penalty to let the star turn score, but also added a cracking curler from the edge of the box. Bruce Grobelaar enjoyed a bit of banter with the crowd centring around the match-fixing allegations that were levelled at him a while back, and Vinnie Jones led the crowd singing Leeds songs as well as getting up to some of his old tricks on the pitch. Lucy Ward of Leeds United Ladies came on and scored one and played a part in setting up Matthew Kilgallon for another. Hopefully we'll see the Chief for one last time in a Leeds shirt next weekend for the Rotherham game.

May 01: After last year's hammering I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. A goal down from a set play after five minutes, two behind by half time and then a saved penalty in the second half more or less summed up the season. In fairness to Kevin Blackwell's side, Ian Walker did have to make some good saves in the second half, but nothing worked for Leeds. Blackwell said: "I had to remind the players we're not on the beach quite yet even though it was a lovely day here. You cannot give anyone a 45-minute headstart at any level."

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