I'm not online 100% of the time (and even if I were, my bosses would take a dim view of me spending time updating the web pages in real time), so for the absolute latest news, check out the "professional" links.
July 31: Paul Keegan's move to Drogheda was confirmed today. Keegan has U-21 caps for the Republic, but never made it into the first team at Leeds. His only non-reserve games over here have been two sub appearances during a loan spell at Scunthorpe in 2003.
July 31: There's a long interview in today's Observer - online here - in which Ken Bates talks about Chelsea, swears a lot and... well not much else really. Talks a bit about the takeover without revealing anything we didn't already know, and talks up how he's a serial club-saver. For some reason this personal puff-piece passes for news...
July 31: Paul Butler says that promotion is a real possibility this season, and argues that it would be stupid not to consider it: He says: "I don't see any point in settling for less. We've got a good squad, we've got experience, a few internationals and a couple of Premiership players. There's a good nucleus of home-grown kids coming through as well. Quality, in other words." Butler points out the change compared to last season, and talks up the contribution of boss Kevin Blackwell: "This time last year the players hardly knew each other and we were third favourites to go down. We all learned very quickly because we had to. The gaffer had no money, he had to look for players on frees, but he also needed characters strong enough to handle a difficult situation... This guy is here every minute of every day. He is bursting to do his best for Leeds."
July 30: Goals 15 minutes either side of the break gave Leeds a 1-2 win at Oakwell today, with David Healy and Robbie Blake both on target. It was the first choice formation on display - given injuries and the fact that Rui Marques has yet to gain international clearance - and the main question mark for the Millwall game now remains over whether Neil Sullivan or Ian Bennett gets the nod between the sticks: today they got a half apiece. Healy opened the scoring on 29 minutes with a left-footer from the edge of the box, and he made Robbie Blake's goal on the hour with a cross from the right for the new signing to head into the net. The home side 0 which included Stephen McPhail and Jacob Burns - grabbed a goal back 10 minutes later, but Leeds held on for the win.
July 30: The reserves were also in action today, and they ran out 1-4 winners at Stafford Rangers. Clarke Carlisle, Simon Walton, Michael Ricketts, Matthew Spring and Danny Pugh added a lot of first-team experience to the squad, but it was Gavin Rothery who really shone, knocking in three of Leeds' 4 goals - Michael Ricketts bagging the other.
July 29: Michael Ricketts has been offered a free transfer by Leeds - if he can find anothe club that wants him - according to today's Sun. He was told by Kevin Blackwell that he had no future at the club at the end of last season, and despite the injury list already building at Elland Road it seems that's still the case.
July 29: Leeds youngsters Justin Bowler and Brenton Leister - both of whom got squad numbers this season - have already been packed off before the real games have even come close to starting. The pair have gone on a one-month trial at Halifax, where boss Chris Wilder says: "It's their big chance with us and they play in areas of the park where we need strengthening. Brenton is a midfielder and Justin plays on the left wing so we'll just have to see how they perform for us." A permanent move for the pair isn't being ruled out, although more likely at the moment is a season-long loan to give them good first team experience if the trial works out.
July 29: The news Kevin Blackwell really didn't want to hear was confirmed today. With a good start to the new campaign vital both for the team's promotion hopes and in parallel Blackwell's employment prospects, both Rob Hulse and Steve Stone will miss a big chunk of the early part of the season. Stone has gone under the knife to sort out his achilles problem, and it could be October or November before he's ready to start a game. Hulse hasn't made the hoped-for progress to recover from the ankle injury he sustained against Haugesund, and he too will probably not be under starters orders until September at the earliest. Kevin Blackwell said: "We could have waited and waited, but with an operation we know where we are going, and Stoney will be out for between eight and 12 weeks. It's a massive blow to us and Steve is really disappointed, but there's nothing we can do about it." He added: "The loss of Rob Hulse is a blow, but it just goes to prove how important the signing of Robbie Blake was: we finally have the quality in reserve to cover these eventualities."
July 29: The saga of the signing of Rui Marques is almost done. The medical records for the player have finally turned up at Elland Road, and with personal terms agreed, he can sign a two-year contract. However the 27-year-old will still have to wait for the formality of international clearance, so he won't be available for tomorrow's friendly at Barnsley.
July 28: The shell of the old plc was finally put to rest yesterday with the news from the administrators that the last of the company's debts had been settled. When the Krasner group took over in March last year, a whole bunch of people - many small businessmen who had supplied the club with goods and services - were told they'd have to wait and/or sing for their money. After more than a year, the pot secured by the administrators as part of the sale has ensured that all of the small creditors have been paid off, and agreements have been reached with the likes of the Prof, who wangled himself a lucrative consultancy deal despite not seeming to do much and despite the club being in deep financial trouble. Well that's all in the past now, and on the positive side the adminstrators had a hundred grand left to feed back to the club. Some outstanding football debts remain, and the "not a debt really" contingent liabilities that will see the club divert huge wadges of dosh back to the bondholders should we win promotion are understood to still be there, but with the plc now formally wound up, maybe the DTI can dust off that report into the competence of the directors at the time and take action against the men who were at the helm when the club was steered onto the rocks.
July 28: The John Charles Fair Play Exhibition opens next week in Cleckheaton. The project shows the Leeds, Juventus and Wales legend as a positive role model for youngsters today, along with a football academy to work on their on-field skills. The exhibition is at Whitcliffe Mount School and is open Tuesdays to Saturdays (from next Wednesday) from 1000 to 1630.
July 28: After Kevin Blackwell said how pleased he was to see such competition for places in the starting line-up, Matthew Kilgallon today showed just how much that was the case: "We don't know who's in or out yet," he said. He went on: "We have got a good squad here now and everyone is fighting for their place. In training everyone puts 100% in and games are when you have got to impress. Nobody knows who is starting the season but hopefully I will." And am I being paranoid in seeing a hint of a threat in this - he adds: "I am happy at the club. I have a year left on my contract and hopefully I can extend that soon but my thoughts are on playing football and fighting for a place in the team. It all depends how it goes really, the gaffer has everyone buzzing at the moment and if I am playing every week I will be happy to sign up again."
July 28: Tonight's game at Boston was called off after the heavens opened and left the pitch too waterlogged to stage the game. I drove past the ground on my normal journey home at about 1930 tonight, and I can report that even a Premier League pitch with top class drainage would have struggled to cope with what this afternoon's weather threw at it: there were six to nine inch puddles of standing water all over the main roads into and out of the town, and the rain, thunder and lightning were still beating down well past the scheduled kick-off time, so I guess I'll just have to wait a while before seeing Leeds in action on my local pitch.
July 28: Leeds will pay Brighton an initial fee of Â£450,000, split into two tranches, for Dan Harding's services - but that's just the start. There's provision for almost as much again to be paid based on appearances, international honours for the player, and promotion for the club. And if he turns out to be so successful and popular that a bigger club takes him off our hands, Brighton get 20% of that as well. Talk about having your cake and eating it: if they want that profit they should be paying 20% of his wages for the same period if you ask me. The player said: "I'm relieved its all over." Brighton chairman Dick Knight was understandably pleased. He said: "When we look in the context of other players moving while out of contract this compares extremely favourably. We've got a result which is fair to us and in some ways justifies the amount of effort we've put into developing Dan."
July 27: Reports in this morning's Sun indicated that Jon Woodgate's career might be at an end after suffering yet another injury setback while training for the new season with Real Madrid. But the club have denied the claims, with VP Emilio Butragueno saying: "I don't really know how this information about a relapse came out. I spoke to doctor Alfonso Del Corral and [Woodgate] felt good today. We are all very happy with the way he is progressing." Woodgate is yet to make an appearance for the Spanish club since his switch from Newcastle United, but it is now thought that he might be ready to pull on a famous white shirt of a slightly different nature to the one he used to wear when Madrid complete their pre-season programme in Austria.
July 27: A day after Steve Stone said he was hoping to be ready for the start of the season, it was announced that he's due to undergo yet another scan on his achilles after suffering a setback in training. On the positive side, Neil Sullivan returns to full training next week, and Rob Hulse's ankle hasn't got any worse, so he shouldn't miss too many vital games at the start of the season.
July 27: Kevin Blackwell dished out a large chunk of praise for Jermaine Wright, who many fans regarded as a serial underachiever after his performances last season. But Blackwell insists Wright has turned the corner and is starting to deliver the goods. He said: "Jermaine is starting to look like the player I signed from Ipswich. I had a long chat with George Burley about him this summer and George has given me one or two ideas and so far Jamma has done reasonably well... He is receiving the ball better and he's passing it better, he's an intelligent player and with him and Eddie [Lewis] coming in off the line we have got space for the full-backs to come into and the retention of the ball is so much better already than it was last year." Blackwell went on: "He was under massive pressure last season and did not perform as well as he would have liked but he is still recognised as a top class right sided player and he is starting to show that. What a great time to start showing it."
July 27: Lee Bowyer rekindled memories of past European glories tonight with a spectacular vollied goal in the Riazor that brought Newcastle back on level terms in their InterToto Cup game with Deportivo. But the home side bounced back and scored again to take a 2-1 lead into the second leg. If Newcastle get past the Spanish side, they will face Lazio or Marseille - who battled out a 1-1 draw tonight. Less good news for Gordon Strachan: in his first competitive game in charge, Celtic slumped from 1-0 down at half-time to 4-0 down halfway through the second half, and conceded again in injury time to lose 5-0 at Artmedia Bratislava. Failure to produce a spectacular turn-around at Parkhead will see Strachan able to focus on domestic issues from the off, since Champions League losers at this stage of the competition don't get a UEFA Cup lifeline.
July 27: Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell reckons that last night's draw at Grimsby shows just how much things have improved at the club in the last 12 months. He said that the competition for places was making a difference: "Frazer Richardson has put Gary Kelly under pressure, Stephen Crainey has put Dan Harding under pressure, Killa has put the other two centre-halves under pressure, Bennett has put Sullivan under pressure, Jermaine Wright has put Steve Stone under pressure and Michael Ricketts is working very hard. In midfield Gylfi Einarsson did a strong job and he showed he has a role to play at the club and Shaun Derry looked good too, particularly in the first half and we still have the likes of Eirik Bakke to come. And there's Robbie Blake who is getting fitter with every game and whose movement was great tonight. When he gets fit it's going to be exciting." As for the game itself: "I thought it was a good work out and at times we played some great stuff." Many of the "first team" will be in action at York Street against Boston tomorrow night, and with Barnsley on Saturday rounding out the pre-season programme, the manager, players and fans can then start thinking about the season opener against Millwall
July 26: New signing Eddie Lewis reckons that the fans will see plenty of goals this season - despite the relatively poor return seen in the pre-season games so far. Lewis said: "We have done a decent job so far this pre-season but hopefully over the next few weeks we will home in on the corners and free-kicks and get ourselves in a position to use those to our advantage next season." And he's backing himself to lay on plenty of opportunities for the strikers: "I definitely take pride in delivering good service and especially in this division where there are a lot of goals to be scored from set-pieces. Our weakest point at the moment is probably going forward but that's ok because we haven't spent any time on that at the moment. Everyone knows you win from the back and start with clean sheets, so we have to keep them out of the net first." At the risk of sounding more cynical than usual - that's what we did last season if I remember correctly. Started out with some fairly solid defending, then started conceding goals as we tried to play a more expansive game. But Lewis remains positive - he says: "I think we will score plenty of goals."
July 26: Steve Stone says he'll be ready to start by the time Millwall come to town on Sunday week. After missing all of the pre-season games so far, Stone reckons he's making good enough progress with his achilles knock to give Kevin Blackwell an option for the league opener. He said: "There's a bit of tendonitis which will take a couple of weeks to settle down and then I should be fine again. I am just being a little bit careful with how quickly I come back because the ground is very hard at the minute and you find that footballers at this stage of the season have problems with all sorts of joints and tendons. I want to make sure that when I come back I am fit and raring to go as opposed to breaking down again and being out for four or five weeks." Let's hope he's right: tendonitis can be a sod to shake off, and his recent fitness record with Pompey doesn't augur well.
July 26: The pre-season roadshow trundled into Grimsby tonight, and Leeds needed a bit of luck to salvage a draw. With the second-choice back-four of Richardson, Jilgallon, Carlisle and Crainey in operation, this shouldn't necessarily be taken as a bad omen, and David Healy was also missing - having recovered from his ankle knock - due to the arrival of a new baby son (congrats mate!). Leeds went a goal down inside 15 minutes, with Grimsby's Michael Reddy evading the defence and knocking the ball past Ian Bennett. The home side held the lead for just over 10 minutes before Frazer Richardson to come in on an overlap and produce a left-footed curler to equalise. Gylfi Einarsson gave away a penalty just before the hour, but Ian Bennett saved from a spot kick taken by former Leeds youngster Tom Newey. Leeds reserves are due to face Boston on Thursday - but Kevin Blackwell has apparently indicated that a strong side could be on show, maybe giving the first-choice back four another run out together.
July 25: Michael Bridges today completed his move to Bristol City, arriving on a free transfer from Sunderland. Bridges said that former Sunderland team-mate Marcus Stewart had helped to persuade him to drop a division (well, two now that Sunderland are promoted). He said: "Once I came down, met the manager and chairman, and saw the ground I didn't have to give it any more thought. Everything has been completed over the last couple of days and I'm delighted to be here." He reckons he's over his injury nightmare, and adds: "Now I just need regular games and my initial aim is to get into the City first team and stay there. I know the ambition is here to get into the Championship and we'll be giving it a real go this season." City boss Brian Tinnion told BBC Radio Bristol: "He's been fit for the last two years and has been scoring a lot of goals for their reserves so we're pleased to have him. It's an exciting signing because he has proved himself a Premiership player and is still at a very good age."
July 25: Kevin Blackwell says that the Rui Marques deal is all but done - although the club are still waiting on some results from his medical. The player got through the first part of the tests last week after agreeing personal terms, and now both parties are awaiting the final results before inking the deal. Blackwell said he was happy to bring in another player who would be in competiton for a place: "I have got some decent centre-halves; Gregan and Butler were solid against Celtic, Matthew Kilgallon and Clarke Carlisle have not put a foot wrong either and then there's Simon Walton who can also play for me there. so I am blessed in that position. We now have a stronger squad than I ever envisaged a year or even six months ago."
July 25: We appear to be running our of strikers before the season has even started. With Rob Hulse doing his ankle ligaments in Norway and Ian Moore suffering from shin splints, David Healy picked up an ankle injury in the friendly against Celtic. Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell said: "David's foot is in a compression chamber at the moment, he took a nasty whack on it. It's always a worry when a player picks up an ankle injury but we have two weeks left now and hopefully we can get over it." That's right - otherwise it means we have to play Michael Ricketts up front!
July 24: Today's friendly at Parkhead finished goalless, with Gordon Strachan fielding a young Celtic side ahead of their midweek Champions League qualifier. Kevin Blackwell did use all of his 19-man squad - but the starting line-up of (Bennett, Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Harding, Wright, Derry, Bakke, Lewis, Blake, Healy) seems to be settling. The big questions for the opening day of the season are now around the fitness of Neil Sullivan and Steve Stone, and who of Stephen Crainey and Dan Harding will get the nod at left back. No sign of Seth Johnson either: having gone some way to proving his fitness to prospective buyers, it seems that Kev is not going to be using him in the first-team games anymore, as he resigns himself to the constraints of Seth's financially-imposed exile.
July 23: One of the real on-off moves of the summer looks set to turn out positively for Kevin Blackwell with the news that defender Rui Marques is about to sign for Leeds. The Portuguese player had an earlier trial at Leeds before moving to Ipswich to take his chances there, but either the player or the respective managers have come to the conclusion that he'll be at Elland Road next season. After starting out with Benfica, Marques has played for Hertha Berlin, Stuttgart and our two-time UEFA Cup opponents Maritimo. He said: "Leeds is a big club, it's really a Premier League club and I beleive that Leeds will be in the Premiership again. I had some difficult times after Germany, but I think England will be a new start for me. I think it will be very interesting for me to play in England and I believe I have a lot to offer."
July 23: Both players and manager are looking forward to tomorrow's friendly at Parkhead. Kevin Blackwell said: "It's an honour to take part in such a prestigious friendly and it shows how highly this club is rated. The name of Leeds United and the history of the club means a lot and I'm looking forward to taking the team to Celtic." He went on: "There's always something special about England-Scotland games. It may be a friendly match and, as such, an important exercise for us but we're going there to try and get the result." Stephen Crainey is returning to the club where he started his playing career. He said: "I'm really looking forward to it. I've got a lot of family and friends up there and it'sexciting to going back. I spent the majority of my career there and had some good times. I've got a lot of memories and been involved in a few good occasions." On a more general note, Crainey is just happy to be playing after a season of injury nightmares. He said: "It was a weight off my mind knowing that I can play 90 minutes. There was no reaction at all. I was feeling really good on Thursday and, fingers crossed, I hope to build on that now. It's been a tough year but I just want to look forward now."
July 22: It would seem that Bristol City's bid to sign Michael Bridges has hit a problem - probably financial. Although Sunderland were understood to be happy to let the player go on a free transfer, it seems he's still got a year to run on his deal in the north-east and the likelihood is that they've reached an impasse over who should pay off the remainder of his contract. Bristol chairman Steve Lansdown said: "We have been talking to Sunderland in recent days with a view to signing Michael Bridges. Negotiations were going swimmingly at one stage, but now there is a hitch."
July 22: Kevin Blackwell today pronounced himself very happy with Michael Ricketts' performance in scoring two goals at Halifax last night. The big striker had clearly fallen from Blackwell's favour after displaying appalling fitness (and finishing) last season, but Blackwell seems to be prepared to give him a second chance. He said: "I have to say that Michael Ricketts looked as sharp as I have seen him for a long time. I thought he was unfortunate with a few chances he had but it was a great poacher's goal for the first one and he kept his head and showed how to finish with people in front of him for the second one." He went on: "No-one is in and no-one is out of my plans. I really only have 23 players and then some of the youngsters who played tonight to choose from so everyone has got a chance." Right... Now, given what we've seen and heard so far in the pre-season, hands up anyone who doesn't think we'll start with the following line-up (when fit): Sullivan, Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Crainey, Bakke, Lewis, Derry, Stone, Hulse, Healy - with Robbie Blake giving a bit of competition to the front two, or allowing a 4-3-3 formation?
July 22: New signing Daniel Harding is over the moon with what has happened to him since he arrived at Elland Road. He said: "The coaching staff are first class and at the moment I am loving every minute. I think it's everything I expected and a little bit more because I didn't realise the actual size of the club." (praise the boss: tick!). He went on: "The support out in Norway was something that shocked me, a lot of clubs don't have support anywhere near as good as that and I count myself lucky to play at a club with such great support." (praise the fans: tick!). But he knows he can't afford to coast: "You are only as good as your last game so you have got to keep producing the goods and hopefully you will stay in the team."
July 22: Kevin Blackwell says that Leeds are ready to sign more players if the right ones become available. After spending a whole chunk of Ken Bates' cash during the summer on Rob Hulse, Dan Harding and Robbie Blake - plus using his salary budget for the likes of Eddie Lewis and Steve Stone - Blackwell is still keeping his eyes open for more additions to the squad. He said: "We will always keep looking. If something comes up that we think will add a bit more quality to the team we will consider it. We're quite happy with what we've got at the moment and it's building nicely. Things are considerably different now than this time last season... We've signed around six to seven players, it's a big number but the crucial thing is quality of signings incomparable between now and last season. If a good player comes available hopefully we can attract that player. There is no pressure to sell anybody at the moment."
July 22: Kevin Blackwell is ready to appoint a new coach to replace Steve Agnew who has moved on to Hartlepool. The man in question is John Carver, formerly Bobby Robson's assistant at Newcastle. Speaking to BBC Radio Leeds, Carver said: "I'm looking forward to the challenge. The first person I spoke to was my brother-in-law, Peter Haddock who was in the Championship [i.e. the REAL league title, not Division 2] winning side and he said if you get a choice go to Leeds. Newcastle is a great club with passionate supporters but Leeds United is on the same level."
July 21: Yesterday the club announced that Millwall tickets were now on general sale. Today Millwall announce that they won't be taking any of their allocation for the season opener because they disagree with West Yorkshire Police's insistence that all of their fans should travel in organised coaches under escort (exactly the same conditions as apply to us at Cardiff). So just how many tickets in the Kop and East Stand have been sent to Sarf Larndon in the last 24 hours do we reckon?
July 21: Speaking before last night's friendly with Darlington, Sean Gregan says he's not worried about being moved into a defensive role. "It's not new to me playing at the back. During the promotion season when I captained West Brom I probably played forty games there so it's not something that I'm unaccustomed to." He went on: "I don't know how it's going to pan out for me this season, whether it's there or in midfield, but for the minute i'm doing a job at the back and enjoying it." Well he was in that slot against Darlo again, and it's not as if Kev doesn't have options there with Matthew Kilgallon and Clarke Carlisle available - but it's increasingly looking as if the centre of our defence will probably have more "experience" to call on than almost any outfit in the division.
July 21: Michael Bridges may have been the next Alan Shearer a few years ago, but now it seems that his injury problems have made it just too much of a gamble for anyone in the top flight to show any sort of interest. In fact he's now in talks with Bristol City after Sunderland released him at the end of last season. Robins manager Brian Tinnion was hopeful but cautious over the proposed move: "While Michael has had some bad injuries, you are talking about two years ago or more. We would obviously want him to undergo a stringent medical. But he is a quality player and if everything is okay on the fitness front, he could be a very big signing for us. Michael is desperate to prove himself again and has the talent to do so."
July 21: Today's random agent-driven rumour has Olivier Dacourt joining Arsenal to replace Patrick Vieira. Dacourt's current club Roma are in even more financial trouble than most of their fellow Serie A competitors and are desperate to reduce the wage bill, but it's hard to see Arsene Wenger taking a punt on a fringe international like Dacourt when he's already rejected Guti of Real Madrid as a transfer target.
July 21: The club today issued a statement commenting on the fees paid to agents over the last year after Leeds United was highlighted as far and away the top payer in the Championship. Intotal, nigh on Â£2 million went to the leeching bloodsuckers over the last season, although much of this was more or less essential in order to get some high earners off the wage bill. However the club pointed out that only one payment had been made in the second half of the season, and although some more money was being paid out to fund the latest batch of transfers, it wasn't anticipated to be anywhere near as much as the largesse we'd freely thrown around in the past. In short, Ken has sorted it, okay?
July 21: Despite the fact that most observers reckoned he was far and away the fittest player on the park last night, Robbie Blake reckons he's still got some way to go before he'll be at the top of his form. He said: "I was very tired out there, I haven't done much in terms of fitness yet. With the ongoings with Birmingham and not going to Norway I am quite far behind. We didn't come back until the 6th July with Birmingham and I didn't have any games with them.... So I haven't had much training but hopefully with these games I get my fitness up and get me right before the start of the season."
July 21: Leeds United Ladies will be sponsored by EmpireDirect.co.uk for a further two years, it was announced today. The online retailed signed up as shirt sponsor last year and the new deal is thought to be one of the biggest in the women's game. General Manager, Melanie Vauvelle commented: "We are absolutely delighted with the new extended sponsorship agreement with EmpireDirect.co.uk especially as the initial one year deal worked so well. Both parties have put forward a few ideas how we could both benefit each other even more over the coming two years and the sponsorship will ensure that Leeds United Ladies can compete at the highest level in the Women's Premier League."
July 21: Michael Ricketts scored a goal in each half to give the "reserves" a 0-2 win at Halifax tonight. Most of the "first team" players who didn't get much of a run last night were given an outing tonight, with Frazer Richardson, Dan Harding, Simon Walton, Clarke Carlisle, Matthew Kilgallon, Matthew Spring, Michael Ricketts, Gylfi Einarsson and Danny Pugh all getting long stints on the pitch. Ricketts latched on to a through ball from Dan Harding to slot the ball past the home team's keeper on 25 minutes, and doubled the tally just after the hour when he failed to duplicate the open-goal-miss-of-the-century from the Norway trip and knocked in a parried effort from Gavin Rothery. Simon Walton tried to follow up on last season's game against Valencia - not by scoring a penalty but by nearly getting sent off. But with barely a fortnight to go before the big kick-off, the thoughts of Coach Kev are becoming clearer and clearer, and we all now have a good idea what he views as his best line-up.
July 20: After ditching Radio Aire as providers of matchday commentary for the forthcoming season, Leeds have agreed a deal with Radio Leeds to do the honours. However, you'll need to be in their broadcast area to receive it (hey - if you can hear it, why aren't you at the game?) because unlike Radio Aire's service last season, it will not be streamed across the internet. International (or non-local) supporters will still be able to get their fix of commentary via the club's pay-service LUTV, which has been notoriously flaky in the past - leaving people to rely on IRC or SMS messages from friends at the game for updates. For the sake of all of our long-distance supporters, let's hope they've got enough capacity installed.
July 20: The transfer fee tribunal to determine the fee Leeds will pay Brighton for Dan Harding will sit a week tomorrow. Unfortunately, Celtic might just have queered our pitch for a low number, paying £1.5 million for Adam Virgo who had a very similar record to Harding at Brighton.
July 20: With Kevin Blackwell's much-heralded over-abundance of strikers reduced to just David Healy and Robbie Blake by Rob Hulse's ankle ligament injury and Ian Moore's ongoing problem with shin splints, the pair combined well in the opening minutes of tonight's game at Darlington to give Blake the first goal of his Leeds career. Blake latched on to a Healy cross on 5 minutes to score the only goal of the game. Presaging what could be Blackwell's first choice team, we saw Sean Gregan partner Paul Butler at centreback, and the experienced pair came in for a decent challenge from former Leeds players Clyde Wijnhard and Simon Johnson, but allied with some good saves from Ian Bennett they kept a clean sheet.
July 19: Kevin Pressman has found himself a contract for next season - working for his old Sheffield Wednesday mate Carlton Palmer at Mansfield. It looks like he'll be in purely as cover - although you never can tell. Palmer says: "We've had to go back to the drawing board regarding the keeper situation. Kevin will be playing on Friday against Huddersfield. We'll just have to wait and see where we go from here."
July 19: On the day that the club announced this season's squad numbers, Kevin Blackwell told his team that places remained up for grabs in his starting line-up. Blackwell said: "At the moment I have one or two things in mind... It's still too early to finalise formations and starting line-ups - every position is still up for grabs. But the quality and the competition for places is far superior to this time last year and I'm very confident it will all start to come together." The main change to this season's numbers sees Rob Hulse replace Michael Ricketts at 10 - with Ricketts going out to 30 to indicate just how much in Kevin Blackwell's plans he is. Eddie Lewis takes on Eddie Gray's (and more recently Julian Joachim's) 11 shirt. Reserve keeper Ian Bennett unsurprisingly gets 13, with Steve Stone getting 14, Dan Harding 23 and Robbie Blake 28. A few of the youngsters get squad numbers for the first time - although a surprising omission is Gavin Rothery who was on the bench for the last game of last season and scored for the reserves on Saturday.
July 19: To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Harry Kewell will miss the start of the season for Liverpool, going under the knife to sort out an apparent hernia when all the rest of his team-mates are already back and embarking on a defence of the Champions League title won back in May for which Kewell was awarded a medal, despite failing to contribute half a drop of sweat to their entire campaign. A club statement said: "Harry is expected to be playing again in five to six weeks. The injury is unrelated to the abductor tear operation the player underwent following the Champions League final in May." Wonder if Rafa Benitez has asked the surgeons to see if they can find a backbone in there while he's under the knife?
July 19: Rob Hulse's ankle ligament injury will keep him out for longer than the fortnight originally suggested by Kevin Blackwell. Now that they've had time to properly assess the injury back in England, Blackwell says: "It's a little bit worse than we thought. After having a scan on him it showed that the ligament damage is a bit worse, and so he might take a little bit longer to recover than we initially thought. I wouldn't rule him out for the start of the season or anything like that though just yet, but at the same time we won't take any risks and rush him back." Rough translation: "Maybe he'll be ready to play by the start of September." Eddie Lewis is the latest in a long line of players to report a knock picked up during training and is likely to miss tomorrow night's friendly at Darlo.
July 19: Robbie Blake says that he might be taking a step down from the Premiership to joing Leeds - but he doesn't expect it to be a prolonged departure. He said: "I think the play-offs would be the least the players are looking for this season. The gaffer's brought in a few quality players this summer already and now myself, and hopefully we can help make a big difference to the team." He went on: "I was keen when Leeds showed an interest because it's a club that is gearing up for a return to the Premiership. I'm here now, I'm very happy to get everything sorted and I just look forward to playing with my new team-mates. I can't wait to play at Elland Road again. Obviously I've played there as an opposition player and it's been a great atmosphere, and I think it will be even better with all those fans supporting you instead." Okay, you've done the buttering up - now let's have a goal or two. With Rob Hulse likely to miss the start of the season, Blake will have an excellent chance to stake his claim to a regular place.
July 18: Poor old Rio Ferdinand. The central defender who has shown so much loyalty to every club he's played for was the centre of attention at the weekend when Fergie took his team of stars to play Clyde in Scotland for one of their pre-season warm-ups. And although there was a warm reception for most of the visitors from the 8000-strong crowd at Broadwood, Ferdinand came in for rounds of abuse every time he touched the ball, jeered by the ManU fans for his refusal to sign a new contract. Not that I've got much sympathy for the fans of course...
July 18: Kevin Blackwell reckons that the club's pre-season trip to Norway is just what the squad needed ahead of a tough season. He said: "Everything went like clockwork and we achieved everything I was looking to achieve. From the work ethic and the attitude of the players through to the quality of the pitches we trained on, everything was first class and I couldn't have asked for more." He went on: "Our supporters said they could see a massive difference between now and this time last year." Blackwell praised the organisation of the hosts: "The Norwegians have been brilliant in the way they have looked after us - the organisation and hospitality has been tremendous." Hopefully we'll get an idea of the starting XI over the next couple of weeks, and with Neil Sullivan, Steve Stone, Robbie Blake and (hopefully) Rob Hulse also becoming available nobody could say he hasn't been given the tools to do the job this season.
July 18: Angolan striker Freddy Sandos doesn't have a future at the club according to boss Kevin Blackwell. Sandos showed decent pace and dribbling ability on the tour - but the consensus from the fans is that he can't pass and can't finish. It seems that Blackwell concurs: "Freddy is a great lad and he's fitted in really well but he's just not what we are looking for. I wanted him to come with us to have a closer look and I've done that. I wish him all the best."
July 17: The John Charles Fair Play Exhibition arrives in Yorkshire next month, running alongside a football academy allowing young players to get some professional coaching. The exhibition has already visited Wales and Liverpool, and will go on to Turin where the legend of Il Buono Gigante remains strong to this day. The exhibition runs Tuesdays to Saturdays from August 3 to September 3 at Spen Valley Sports College in Liversedge according to the YEP, or it's on now according to the Gentle Giant Trust Website.
July 17: Tuesday week sees the publication of a new book following the fortunes of Leeds United players now that the spotlight is no longer on them. Where Are They Now by Les Rowley launches at The Sports Cafe on the Headrow on next Tuesday night, and can be bought online here. Highly recommended for avid stattos and regular fans alike.
July 17: James Milner produced a delicate lob to score Newcastle's third goal in today's InterToto Cup win over ZTS Dubnica. Could be a pretty short European run though: presuming they hold on to their 1-3 lead in the second leg, they'll be facing Deportivo, Lazio or Marseille further down the road.
July 17: The reserve team kicked off their pre-season yesterday with a 3-2 defeat at Farsley Celtic. More info/match reports when I get them...
July 16: Kevin Blackwell promised that his players would be stepping up their fitness levels with the next few friendlies after a de-rusting exercise against Haugesund during the week. Blackwell said: "The last game was just about giving every player here 45 minutes and getting their match fitness up. We have done the running and that's in the bag, it's that match sharpness that we're looking at now and what we need are the games for that. Some of the guys will get 60 minutes on Saturday and those that don't will have 60 next week. When we get back they will step it up 60 and 70 minutes in the next few weeks and gradually everyone will have hopefully played 90 minutes shortly after that." Althought it's by no means cut and dried as to what the starting line-up will be against Millwall,Blackwell was particularly pleased with the partnership of Eddie Lewis and Dan Harding on the left: "It's a long time since we've had such quality on the left-hand side, working in tandem, and I was really pleased with what I saw from them."
July 16: New signing Eddie Lewis says he's surprised that the supporters seemed concerned about the team's defeat by Haugesund in midweek. "I was a little surprised that the fans were so concerned about the result. You see games like this all the time and in all honesty the result was the last thing we were concerned about." He went on: "In the last couple of friendly games I think results are more important, but given what we were looking for from the first game I think we were quite happy with what we got." Both the manager and players were after the same thing from these games - a bit of match fitness and an increased understanding between the new signings. Lewis said: "Every day has been a big learning process in terms of how the players play, knowing when they move and where they move, particularly the strikers. It's been good just getting time with them and I'm looking forward to the next few games. We'll move more and more towards working on our shape as a team, defensively as well, but I want to try and develop a relationship with the strikers and the left-back and the other midfielders as soon as possible."
July 16: Leeds won the second match of the Norway tour this afternoon, running out 0-2 winners over Stavanger IF. Gary Kelly crossed for Eirik Bakke to open the scoring, with Matthew Spring adding the second. Other highlights according to Usual Suspects Touring Party were Jermaine Wright taking a free kick square in the groin (pictures promised), and Michael Ricketts wrapping up the Mister Sitter of the Century competition: with 95 years still to go, there can only be one winner after today's effort. Still, a confidence-boosting win and no new injuries to report which ultimately is the main thing right now.
July 15: Martin Woods has already opened his account for Sunderland. The ex-Leeds midfielder scored the only goal of the game in Sunderland's 0-1 win over British Columbia All Stars on their pre-season tour.
July 15: Robbie Blake was at Thorp Arch today to undergo a medical ahead of his transfer. Seems like the clubs have finally sorted out terms: maybe Rob Hulse's injury DID concentrate the minds of Ken Bates and Kevin Blackwell after all. Blackwell said: "We've been talking for a week or so now and I'm pleased we've been able to get things sorted. It's been no secret that I was keen to have Robbie on board and, subject to his medical, we've now finalised things. He's got proven ability at this level and his goal-scoring record is second to none. He gives us something different because he can play up front or out wide, left or right, or drop in behind the strikers. Over the past few years he's been proven to be one of the best in this division and I'm pleased we've been able to bring in another top striker."
July 14: The reserves will be in action on Saturday 30 July at Stafford Rangers - the same day that the first team are playing at Barnsley, so if anyone has a helicopter spare, could they please bring it along to Oakwell.
July 14: Rob Hulse will be laid up for at least a fortnight after suffering ankle ligament damage in last night's friendly against Haugesund. Seth Johnson was excused training today after suffering a knock on his knee, but that's not thought to be serious. Meanwhile back home, there's still no date set for Steve Stone's return to action, although Neil Sullivan should be able to get back to match practice when the squad returns from Norway.
July 14: Steve Bruce has pointed the finger of blame at Leeds over the continuing delays to Robbie Blake's transfer. The Blues are also out in Norway, and when Bruce met Kevin Blackwell atthe teams' hotel, he indicated that he expected his Leeds counterpart to push the money men to complete the deal quickly. Bruce said: "It's the old situation. I got the impression that Robbie wanted to go there and we accepted the bid from Leeds. Unfortunately, they are not able to match his personal terms so he's stuck in the middle. They've been chasing him for three weeks, they knew all the circumstances, and you would have thought they'd have made sure he'd got the right deal. I've seen and heard all this stuff that the hold-up is at our end but that's not so - it's up to them." By all accounts, the "personal terms" bit is purely down to how his Brum contract gets settled: understandably, Birmingham are reluctant to pay him off in full, and Leeds aren't willing to fund someone else's contractual screw-up. Maybe now Rob Hulse is injured, the club will feel a bit more urgency to address the issue...?
July 13: Brian Deane has found a new club for himself for the forthcoming season - but it's a long way from his native Leeds. After ending the season with 4 bench appearances at Sunderland, he's joined up with Perth Glory for the new A-League season Down Under, where Steve McMahon is now in charge. McMahon said: "Brian's record speaks for itself and his size and power will prove formidable for defences throughout the A-League. He is an experienced, skillful striker and I believe that he will not only score but create goals for the players around him. I have always said that the striker we signed would be a vital part of the team and I could not be more happy to have secured the services of one of our main targets." Looks like they're not going to be selling that league on the subtlety and skills of the players then...
July 13: The club have decided to seriously limit the number of tickets offered to away fans for the forthcoming season. Ostensibly this is all part of the whole "Sit down or else" thing as the club try to give the impression they're doing things to keep us all safe should somebody - horror of horrors - fail to park their backside on the cruddy piece of plastic that passes for a seat. Sounds like the idea is to only offer the south-east corner to the away fans, and leave the south stand available for home fans where possible.
July 13: The club have a new mascot, and it's even more pathetic than Ellie the bleeding Elephant. It's a "Snow Leopard" - i.e. a bloke dressed in a white spotty cat outfit - and you're being invited to name it. Last time we had something cat-based was when the two lions used to prance around in front of the old family area in the south stand. Not sure what their official name was, but we used to refer to them as "F***" and "Off" since that's what everyone used to chant when they came out. Suggestions for the new mascot's name to the club, where they will be ignored and come up with "Lenny" or something equally innocuous.
July 13: Well it's only taken one match, but the unbeaten record for 2005/06 has gone already. I'm back in the UK, but had plenty of text updates from the Usual Suspects who are out in Norway for the game, and to precis their comments: Lewis and Harding were okay, Ricketts has elevated crap football to a new level during the summer, and Rob Hulse went off injured before half-time. We conceded a goal in the second half, didn't look like we were at the races, and although this is a pre-season game, it's against the sort of opposition we were hitting double figures against a couple of years back. Does nowt to boost anybody's confidence, but maybe it will wake a few people up as to what they will need to do if they want to win games when it gets serious in a few weeks' time.
July 13: In the post-match press conference, manager Kevin Blackwell described former chairman Peter Ridsdale as "a pillock", according to my sources over there. That's what I like about Kev: don't always agree with his team selections, but he says what he thinks!
July 12: Club captain Paul Butler says that he's over the moon to have signed an extended deal at Elland Road. He added: "There is the nucleus of a very good squad here and with a few more additions I think we could be really challenging for the play-offs. We all know that Leeds belong in the Premiership and we are all determined to deliver that next season. There can be no excuses."
July 12: Eirik Bakke today said he'd rather stay and help Leeds win promotion rather than switch to Villa or Birmingham. He said: "There's always going to be speculation, but I'm happy at Leeds and I want to stay at Leeds... I want to stay it doesn't matter which division we are in. I'm paid to play and do a job and I think we've got a chance this season. It'll be tough because there are some good sides, but we've got a good squad. Our squad last season went close but when you look at this squad then we really do have a chance."
July 12: Danny Granville has signed a two-year extension at Crystal Palace. After an anonymous spell at Leeds, Granville has been a regular in Iain Dowie's side, and has opted to stay at Selhurst Park despite being out of contract and the subject of interest from other clubs. Meanwhile one of last season's loanees Marlon King has agreed another temporary switch from Forest - this time joining Watford on loan with a view to a permanent move.
July 11: Keith Gillespie and Zsolt Baranos have been released by the club after a trial during pre-season training at Thorp Arch. However Angolan striker Freddie Santos has been given a bit longer to prove himself, and will travel with the first team squad to Norway. Even more surprising in the travelling party is the inclusion of Seth Johnson - a player who has been told by the chairman that he has no future with the first team. Full squad to travel is: Bennett, Butler, Carlisle, Harding, Crainey, Richardson, Kilgallon, Kelly, Pugh, Walton, Gregan, Derry, Seth Johnson, Spring, Wright, Bakke, Einarsson, Lewis, Hulse, Moore, Ricketts, Healy, Santos.
July 11: Brum striker Robbie Blake is on the point of becoming a Leeds player after the clubs agreed a fee and the player agreed personal terms. He still needs to ink the details of his departure from St Andrews with his current employers, but the 29-year-old could still sort out the formalities in time to join the first team on tour in Norway. Kevin Blackwell said: "He will offer us something different in attack and I am really delighted... The chairman Ken Bates has been absolutely brilliant. It shows how far the club has come."
July 11: Steve Stone will miss the pre-season trip to Norway after picking up an achilles "knock" in training. No surprise to a Pompey-supporting mate of mine who described how the player had spent an entire season pulling up in training and warm-ups for them. Let's hope it's the last of his injury problems for the season. Neil Sullivan also misses the trip as he gets back to full fitness from his shoulder op - so let's also hope that Ian Bennett is wrapped in cotton wool and doesn't pick up any problems otherwise we'll be in deep trouble before the season even kicks off!
July 10: Paul Butler's stay at the club has been extended to the end of the 2006-07, by which time he'll be nearly 35. Surprising in some ways, comforting in others: he's got decent experience which should be enough to get him through at least another year in the Championship. But if we win promotion this season, he's already been judged short of Premiership quality and couldn't realistically expect a place in a top-flight side. So am I just being pessimistic (of course I am) if I ask if the willingness to commit to paying Butler's wages until 2007 says anything about our ambitions for the next two seasons?
July 09: Neil Sullivan has insisted that he will be fit and ready for the start of the season, despite undergoing a shoulder op this summer. He said: "It'll still be a couple of weeks before I do any real goalkeeping, but everyone seems happy with the way things are going so we'll slowly get on with it. It's a case of being ready when I'm ready, but I've no doubts about the stage I'm at. It was always going to be this way. The timescale was always that I would be a couple of weeks away when we came back to pre-season, but we are on course. Everyone is happy and there are no problems at the moment." Sullivan explained that he'd been playing through the pain barrier at the back end of last season: "I had a tear in my shoulder which needed a couple of titanium anchors and was stitched back together. I was getting pain in my shoulder for the last two or three months of the year and was taking anti-inflammatories before the games. It was a case of going out and playing and then taking it easy during the week." Of course, he's got some real competition from Ian Bennett this time round, but he's not complaining: "It's nice to work with different people, and there should be competition for your place. Unfortunately as a keeper you're either in or you're out, but we'll get on, we'll work hard, have a laugh, and see how we go. It's no different to any other club I've been at."
July 09: Leeds Ladies have made a pair of signings to strengthen their squad for next season. Scotland keeper Gemma Fay joins from Hibs, and England U-19 defender Sophie Clough signs from Stockport. Fay has 64 caps for Scotland, while Clough is just 16, but playing well ahead of her age group. Leeds United Ladies manager Julie Chipchase said " I am delighted with these two signings both are quality players and with Sophie being only 16 and Gemma 23 they are young players who can still learn and improve... I wanted to bring in three or four players this summer to strengthen the squad, I would still like a couple more but I only want to bring in players who can improve the squad so it will depend on who becomes available."
July 09: Former youth and reserve team centreback Henry McStay has travelled up to Aberdeen for a trial with the SPL side. He's been at Halifax since leaving Leeds, and is available on a free transfer. Should he succeed in impressing Dons boss Jimmy Calderwood, he'll link up with another former Leeds youngster Jamie Winter who put in some good performances after his switch last season.
July 08: Leeds have made a formal bid to Birmingham for the services of Robbie Blake. Blake cost the Blues £1.25 million in January, but with only two league starts and nine appearances from the bench leading to just one goal, he's hardly been a screaming success at St Andrews. Even so, it seems that they're trying to play hardball and hold out for a little more money before reluctantly ripping our hands off. Steve Bruce said: "We are considering [the offer] and talks are ongoing. Robbie has done well for us but he wants to play more and at Leeds he would probably play every week."
July 08: Jonathan Woodgate might finally get the chance to appear in the white shirt of Real Madrid soon: a year after his transfer, he's finally resumed full training and hopes to have put his injury problems behind him. Meanwhile, his former defensive partner at Elland Road is riling the good people at Old Trafford by refusing to ink an extended deal. Despite having the full backing of the club (including full pay) during his suspension for failing to take a drugs test, it should come as no surprise to the fans of West Ham or Leeds to see that Ferdinand doesn't feel the need to commit himself beyond the current two-year horizon of his contract. Needless to say, the player's agent is doing his best to stir things up, and says that there's no need for a new deal to be negotiated this far in advance. Needless to say, that position will turn into a case of "We're disappointed to see that the club has yet to come forward and offer us a new deal" at a picosecond's notice should Chelsea, Madrid or Juve happen to glance in his direction.
July 08: The game at Millwall is now back to a good old-fashioned 3pm Saturday kick-off, and it's all thanks to Sky. The game was put back to 2pm Sunday on police advice, but good old Rupe can over-rule such sensible decisions if he decides that he'd like to see West Ham vs Man U on the Sunday instead.
July 07: Paul Robinson is either very happy at Spurs or he's agreed to make it a very expensive deal for someone to buy him: he's agreed a seven year deal with the North London club and said: "There has never been any doubt on my part that this is where I want to be. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year here and the chairman showed his commitment to me by signing me in the first place. By signing this new deal I'm repaying that faith."
July 07: Club captain Paul Butler says he's raring to go for the new season - particularly after he was forced to miss the end of the last campaign after a clash of heads with Neil Sullivan ruled him out of the last few games. Butler said: "There's no problem with [the head], I've just had a bit longer break than anybody else so I am chomping at the bit." He went on: "We can't wait to play the pre-season games, especially the Celtic one but that's Leeds United and the attraction of Leeds United. I know we could have played Valencia as well and there were a lot of European clubs who wanted to play us but we just couldn't fit it all in." Butler says that there's only one thing they want this season: "Promotion - as simple as that, that's the only thing we will settle for this season. That's how much we believe in ourselves. We could have got in the play-offs last year and none of the teams that got in there turned us over. We've gone to the next level from Christmas to the end of last season. Now the gaffer has got to find the level after that."
July 07: Kevin Blackwell has the weekend to decide who is going to be in the "first team" squad that will travel to Norway next week and who will be left behind with the reserves. Despite the fact that it's a tough decision to make, Blackwell is happy because it means that there is now real competition for places in his side. He said: "I've not finalised the squad in terms of who is going and who isn't as yet. There is competition for places and it's difficult to look at the list of players and make a decision right now. I'm taking 22 and it's up for grabs... This is what I've wanted and it's what this club has wanted for quite a while... The players have got to earn the right and my selection problems will come at the end of the week."
July 06: It seems that Martin Woods moved on from Leeds for the simple reason that the club offered him a new deal on less money than he was already receiving. Leeds CEO Shaun Harvey said: "We made the player an offer to stay at Leeds for a further year, the terms of which entitled him to claim a free transfer should he so wish. The terms reflected an appropriate payment level for a player of his age and experience." And realistically, at his age he'd have to wait 12 years before being considered for a midfield role under Kevin Blackwell, so it's probably for the best that he's moved on.
July 06: Former Leeds midfield scapegoat Paul Okon has joined Cypriot UEFA Cup qualifiers APOEL FC after being released on a free by KV Oostende of Belgium. Meanwhile rumours are linking Lee Bowyer with a return to his old stamping ground (well, not literally of course) of Charlton: with the Dyer fight continuing to cloud his future at Newcastle, a transfer would seem to be essential if he ever wants to regain his reputation as a footballer rather than a thug.
July 06: The latest addition to Kevin Blackwell's happy band of triallists is Ivory Coast striker Georges Ba. The player is contracted to Nice but spent last season on loan at Montpellier and Le Mans, where he scored seven goals in thirteen games.
July 06: Rob Hulse is understandably happy with some of Kevin Blackwell's close-season signings (apart from being one himself!). The arrival of the likes of Steve Stone and Eddie Lewis should mean that he will get a decent supply from midfield, but will also allow David Healy to finally play in his "real" position and work on a partnership with Hulse. Hulse said: "I think I will just be happy to get the nod and play upfront with whoever that might be. But hopefully me and David can form a good partnership that will cause teams a lot of trouble. My mind was not unsettled over which system we would be playing though, and whatever the gaffer picks we will go with but it's great that we're bringing good players in. It's looking exciting for the season ahead. We have brought in quality and we might bring in a few more yet, but I think we can now push for promotion." Meanwhile, Keith Gillespie was getting out his jar of soft soap as he tries to win a contract: "I've played against Leeds many times and it's a Premiership class club in everything but name. You only have to look at the following to see how fanatical Leeds people are about the club. Even last season they were pulling in big crowds... The manager is bringing a squad together capable of doing that and it would be a nice challenge to be part of that. It's going to be an important season and whether I'm here or not I fully expect them to be challenging." He went on: "I've been here since last Thursday and I'm enjoying my time here. It's a great set up and a fantastic club. I hope something will happen. I'm 30 years old and I'd like to think that the manager knows what I can do."
July 05: Some more fixtures are on the move for all the usual reasons. Sky Sports 1 will be showing the visit of Crystal Palace, so it looks like the date for that game is now definitely Tuesday 30 August, with a 19:45 KO. Sheffield United's trip to Elland Road will also be televised: this will be brought back to Friday 21 October. Police advice is the unsurprising reason behind the shifting of the trip to the New Den: Leeds will now play Millwall on the Sunday 27 November at 2pm rather than the originally-scheduled Saturday at 3pm.
July 05: Young Scottish midfielder Martin Woods has joined Sunderland on a free transfer. Woods made just one substitute appearance for the club - ironically enough against Sunderland on Boxing Day 2004 - and has been a regular for the reserves. Woods said: "Sunderland is a massive club." Errr...yes but not really any bigger than Leeds, Martin. He went on: "I'm delighted to move here and the set-up is fantastic, it's an exciting move for me. My aim right now is to force my way into first-team set-up."
July 05: Leeds have offered club captain Paul Butler an extension to his contract to keep him at Elland Road at least until the end of next season. Butler was signed from Wolves after they doubted his ability to perform consistently at the top level given his age, and after some initially solid performances at the heart of the Leeds defence last season, it looked as if the Molineux outfit had made the right call as the sheer volume of matches started to take its toll on his fitness and (lack of) pace. However there's no questioning his experience, and he led the side well: if he can form a useful partnership with Matthew Kilgallon (Clarke Carlisle looks to be out of the picture after a contretemps with Kevin Blackwell) and if we can make use of the pace of Frazer Richardson and Dan Harding at the back, then there's no reason why he can't continue to operate in the second division. Butler was happy with the offer, and told the YEP: "It's not about money, it's about spending another year at this club. That's what I want to do. I'd like to see my career out at Leeds."
July 04: The Ticket Office has announced that you can now apply for the first batch of away games for the forthcoming season. Ticket requests are being processed now - but only for games up to the trip to Burnley. Due to the large number of returns they had to process last season, this time around they're stopping people from applying for the full season in one chunk, so the next batch of games - Reading to Brighton - goes on sale on September 30, with the remainder of the season available from January 3. Tickets will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and if the supply is limited, home season ticket holders will take priority over people who just hold membership cards. Meanwhile the prices for the Oldham Carling Cup game have been announced: twelve quid for adults, half that for concessions - for seats anywhere in the ground.
July 04: New signing Steve Stone says that he will not settle for anything less than a regular place in the starting line-up. Speaking to the official website, he said: "I don't go anywhere to be a squad player - never have done. I was at Aston Villa where I ended up becoming one and I was just in and out of the team and of all the teams I've played for that was probably my only spell when I was unhappy, and the worst time I've had as a footballer." He went on: "I know I still have the ability and the fitness to be playing every week and I expect that much from myself more than anything."
July 04: Eirik Bakke's agent has pointedly refused to quash speculation linking the player to a move away from Leeds. Rune Hauge was uncharacteristically silent on the rumours that suggest Bakke could be moving to the Midlands, either to link up with former boss David O'Leary at Villa or to bolster Steve Bruce's midfield at St Andrews. The big issue with his departure would be the amount left on the remainder of his contract: Leeds might like a fee but would almost certainly accept a deal that saw the purchasing club pay off the two years of Ridsdale-era pay and shuffle a long-term injury worry off the books. Kevin Blackwell said that the club had turned down a bid from Cardiff for captain Paul Butler, saying: "We've offered Paul a year's extension because I want him to carry on the work that he is doing here. Butts has played a major role in what we are trying to do at this football club and I want him to continue to do so." Finally, the Julian Joachim move to Boston looks seems close to completion: he has apparently had a medical at York Street but will only move if the clubs can agree a deal which doesn't see Leeds liable to pay off the second year of his contract at Elland Road.
July 03: Today's redtops have all the usual transfer tattle, so take the following with a wheelbarrow-load of salt. Nathan Blake is training with the Leeds squad (wow - an actual fact!) with a view to earning a contract. The striker did well in his brief loan spell last season before being ruled out through injury and Kevin Blackwell was sufficiently impressed with his attitude and application to give him a chance to prove his fitness and win a contract as the team goes through its pre-season paces. We're also apparently keeping an eye on the unsettled Robbie Blake at Brum as Sam Ellis's plan to replace the entire squad with ex-Burnley players gathers pace. Slightly more exotically we're being linked (probably by his agent) with Brazilian striker Catanha. Meanwhile Julian Joachim's stated aim to get back into the Leeds side might be diverted by a switch (and a 2-division drop) to my local team Boston United. And our hopes of landing Lee Clark which seemed so strong last week might now be damaged by the interest of Pompey in the former Fulham skipper.
July 03: Kevin Sharp has signed a one-year deal at Shrewsbury after being released by Scunthorpe at the end of last season. The Canadian-born midfielder played for current Shrews assistant Mick Wadsworth at Huddersfield, and manager Gary Peters told their official website: "He's got good experience, a great left foot and will be another good addition to the squad. He's a good professional, and we've taken on three 30-year-olds who will be good role models for the youngsters." Long-serving Rochdale keeper Neil Edwards has declined the offer of a new contract at Spotland and moved up the road to join Bury. He rejoins boss Graham Barrow who originally brought him to Rochdale.
July 03: The Times reports that the Harry Kewell libel case has been settled out of court. After the jury failed to reach a verdict, a retrial looked very likely but Kewell is said to have settled. Given there's no obvious printed apology been issued yet, does this mean that Kewell has accepted a verbal apology for any inference of wrongdoing on his part, while equally accepting that most of what Lineker said was perfectly fair comment against which he had sod all chance of winning a case? Or has Lineker just paid him a token amount to go away? We may never know - all we can say for certain is that the lawyers are richer than they were before thanks to this case.
July 02: New keeper Ian Bennett says he has no intention of sitting back and letting Neil Sullivan hold onto a starting place by default. Bennett said: "The gaffer wants me to add some healthy competition for Neil and that's exactly what I will do. Me and Neil will work together and hopefully whoever is in will help the other one because at the end of the day the aim is promotion. From the club's point of view though you now have two experienced keepers to go into the first team. I know Neil well from playing against him and I know what a hard task it will be against him, but it's one I am looking forward to." He's hoping to be able to put his experience with other clubs to good use at Elland Road: "I have won promotion a few times and been in various finals and that's the experience I can bring to Leeds to help get them back into the Premiership. I played in this division most of my career, I went on loan to Sheffield United and Coventry last season and I know what it takes to get out of the division."
July 02: On-trial Hungarian midfielder Zsolt Baranyos says that he remains keen to sign on permanently at Elland Road. Back at the club for a second trial spell, the out-of-contract international is said to have impressed Kevin Blackwell with his all-round fitness over the last week - so now it's down to what he can do with the ball at his feet as the pre-season training moves on next week. The player says: "I confess that it would be a pleasure for me to play football here. This would be the top moment of my career. The officials, trainers, and players of Leeds are very determined about moving up to The Premiership next year. They do their best to reach this aim."
July 01: Dan Harding and Eddie Lewis officially joined up with the main squad today - a couple of days after the nominal start of their pre-season training on account of them being under contract to their former clubs until June 30. Lewis said: "I know David Healy quite well from our time together at Preston and I'm looking forward to linking up with him again. Sean Gregan had actually left before I got to Preston but by playing against people you get to know a few of them and from what I know, there's a good bunch of guys at the club who get on well together." Harding was one of many players who have been impressed with the facilities. He said: "The training ground is state of the art and it's a great place to go to work. The facilities really are geared up to giving players the best possible preparation and it's like nothing I've ever experienced before. We were here with England under-21's last season and I got a taste of the place then, but I can hardly believe I'll be working there every day now."
July 01: The Zimbabwean keeper who has been linked with Leeds was today identified as Energy Murambadoro. According to the player's agent, the international stopper will have a trial with Leeds next week after being a free agent since leaving Israeli side Bnei Sakhnin last year. The player has 40 caps to his name, and his agent said that Leeds were not alone in taking an interest in his client, adding: "[Leeds] have already brought in a new goalkeeper this summer but if nothing materialises then there are other Championship clubs interested."