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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post


May 31: Leeds will play Scunthorpe as part of the pre-season programme, visiting Glanford Park on Tuesday 25 July, KO 1930. It's not yet confirmed whether this will be a first team squad or the reserves and youth.

May 31: Promotion's one benefit is that Uncle Ken can't ratchet up the ticket prices quite as much as he'd like - but the cost of supporting the club is getting heavier. Revie Stand STs now go for £525 with John Charles and East Lower Central STs costing £726. Family stand adult tickets will set you back £519 apiece, with Revie Stand concessions at £300 and kids in the Family areas at £219.

May 30: Kevin Blackwell says that "old" boy Aaron Lennon could make a big impact in Germany this summer. He said: "I think Aaron will come on later in games and he's a great weapon to bring on. The international stage doesn't yet really know about Aaron just yet." Blackwell also revealed that Lennon had taken a pay cut to go to Spurs - although in reality it was only a cut in potential pay, since his appearance-based contract at Leeds would only have been so lucrative if Lennon was playing and the financial situation at the club meant there was no chance of that ever happening.

May 29: Kevin Blackwell says that he's anticipating some serious changes to the squad over the summer. After spending two years building a team that could challenge for promotion, he now seems set to dismantle quite a bit of what he's built (after all, it was only him and Gary Kelly two summers ago...). Obviously there will be some new arrivals to balance any departures - Blackwell said: "I'll need to be patient, but there will be movement in and out. Assuming we can agree the right deals, we could be looking at eight or nine of the lads moving on." Wonder who he has in mind?

May 28: Danny Pugh has decided not to look for a renewal of his contract after two years at Elland Road. Pugh came from ManU as part of the deal that took Alan Smith to Old Trafford, and after making an initial good impression he clearly found himself out of favour with Kevin Blackwell - which is a shame, because a left back might have come in handy at Cardiff. But after confirming Pugh's departure Blackwell said: "I can't speak highly enough of him, and he's done a good job for us. But he hasn't had too much first-team football here and I'm sure he'll be able to find that elsewhere." In his first season, Pugh started 33 league games and was a sub 5 times, with 5 goals to his name, but with Stephen Crainey fit, Dan Harding also available and wider choice of "midfielders" (well, strikers played out of position anyway) Pugh started just one league game with a further eleven appearances from the bench.

May 27: The reserves will play around half of their home games at York's KitKat Crescent ground ('s funny - could have sworn they were straight). They'll also be playing in a different league: the PL have decided that only Premier League sides can play in the Premier Reserve League, so Leeds' second string will now be playing in the Pontins Holidays League Division 1 Central (phew!). York will keep all of the gate receipts from those matches, and will also benefit from the first confirmed date of Leeds' pre-season which gives the Minstermen a visit from Leeds on August 1 - although it's not absolutely clear if that will be the first team or youth/reserves set of players if the squad are split in the usual way.

May 26: Assistant manager Sam Ellis has left the club after his contract came to an end. There were thanks and mutual consents all round for the former Burnley coach who waspicked by Kevin Blackwell as a steadying influence at a time of upheaval.

May 25: Scott Carson looks as if his summer holiday will have to be postponed: third-string England keeper Robert Green ruptured his groin after coming on as a sub for David James in tonight's B international against Belarus at Reading. Carson replaced Green on the night and is now likely to take his place in the squad for the World Cup. Aaron Lennon played the full match and although he never quite managed to produce a goal or killer pass, his pace left the visitors for dead and saw them reduced to ten men after Lennon was taken out twice in quick succession. Jermaine Jenas gave England the lead but the visitors equalised when Green collapsed as he took a goal kick and offered them a tap-in. With 10 minute remaining the short-handed Belarus side combined well to put Sergey Kornilenko through to beat Carson from a difficult angle and win the match 1-2.

May 24: Robbie Keane, Liam Miller and Ian Harte were all in action for Steve Staunton's Ireland side in a friendly at Lansdowne Road. Ireland faced Chile, losing to the only goal of the game with the second half barely 5 minutes old. Mark Viduka has been named as Australia's new captain in succession to Craig Moore who is still recovering from injury. Viduka won't be accompanied by Harry Kewell tomorrow when the Socceroos take on Greece in a World Cup warm-up: the Liverpool winger is still not fit enough to play after limping out of the FA Cup final.

May 24: Rob Hulse has asked Leeds fans to stick with the players as they aim for promotion next time round after Sunday's disappointment. He said: "I am gutted, we all are but it's time to reflect on it now and show that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We have to come back next year just as determined if not more so because of that defeat... The fans have been great all year and a lot of them stayed right to the end and we appreciate that and we want to repay them next year for it, To lose like we did was massively disappointing, especially for the fans that came down to see us, we won't forget that and I certainly won't forget that today how good they were. They stood with us for 90 minutes and our message right now is don't give up on us because we won't give up on trying to get this club back to the Premiership."

May 23: Shaun Derry says that the team will build on the pain of defeat in Cardiff to come back stronger and ready for promotion. "We are devastated as every loser is when you lose such a big game. It's disappointing for us at the minute be we have just all made a mental note to each other - just remember how much this hurts and take it into next season and make it a positive. It's hard to put into words just how much it does hurt at the moment, I think the shock is still there but the real pain will come in the next two or three weeks when the fixtures are announced and it's Watford not Leeds United who will be playing Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea." He went on: "We will try and avoid having to get promotion this way next season, it seems almost cruel that the whole season comes down to one game, but then that's what makes it such a big game and credit to Watford because they finished third and maybe on that point deserved to go up." Derry said there were no sour grapes over the defeat: "I think on the day the best team won, we have to be blatantly honest about that because Watford thoroughly deserved their victory."

May 22: The Blackwell Out Bugles were blowing before the final whistle at Cardiff - and it's easy to see why some people might take such a harsh view. In the biggest match in the club's recent history, the team's tactics went so blindingly wrong, and there seemed to be little or no direction coming from the bench that Blackwell - in some people's eyes - has blown the goodwill he has built up over the last two years. It's a view I have some sympathy with: given that Watford have bypassed most midfield action all season with the long hoof, fit fast front men and set pieces, a 5-man midfield would not seem to be the best starting point. Equally puzzling was having three left backs on our books plus a bloke who will be filling that position for his country in the World Cup - and when we lost Crainey to suspension, ignoring the rest. Playing David Healy on the wing all season. Saying how much the side would be transformed if Steve Stone were fit - and then leaving him on the bench when it finally looked like he was ready to contribute. You can see the arguments mounting - but from a slightly more balanced point of view: what if Shaun Derry's first half shot had not been deflected by a stray Watford boot? What if the ref or his assistants had used their eyes and awarded Leeds a penalty for Foster's push on Butler, or the throw-in when the Watford player had touch it last in the move that gave them their second? What if Derry's second-half attempt had crept in? Or James Chambers' deflected shot gone an inch further to the right and rolled out for a corner rather than bouncing back off Neil Sullivan for a goal? Blackwell hasn't always made the best decisions in my view but I think he's probably done enough to warrant the chance to follow the Bates plan and win promotion next year. As for the players: well that could be a real test of Blackwell's resolve and ability to admit mistakes on his way to the Premier League. Some of the team at Cardiff should be quietly thanked and told they have played their last game for the club. Others should be kicked up the backside and told to buck their ideas up. And Shaun Derry should be made captain - he gave his all at Cardiff and didn't deserve to end up on the losing side.

May 22: Aidy Boothroyd is already scattering hostages to fortune for next season by insisting that his side will not drop straight back down. He said: "I know we're going to be favourites to go down but that's okay - we won't go down." Kevin Blackwell said that he was happy they'd got this far - although you could tell he was not best pleased with what he'd seen. "I won?t be harsh on the players. Eighteen months ago, we were red-hot favourites to go down, we were haemorrhaging money. To be here shows how far we've come. This isn't as disappointing as dropping out of the Premier League and losing all your money and your players."

May 22: Chairman Ken Bates went into a despondent dressing room at Cardiff on Sunday and told the team that they'd done all they could and that they needed to get over their disappointment and come back for pre-season training ready to win promotion next time round. Bates said: "I thanked them for all their efforts and I repeated what I said to the Chelsea players in 1988. They had given what they had and they had given their best. I said that tomorrow is the first day of our Championship season. They have to get over the disappointment of losing, have a good summer and come back again. Those nursing injuries need their rest and we have a couple going to the World Cup - but they all need to get over the disappointment of what happened and come back fit and raring to go for next season. I also told them not to be late for the first day back in training or we would fine them!" Bates also had a word or two of praise for the Leeds support: "The fans were magnificent. The support they gave the team when we were losing was terrific - and they gave them a great reception after the game."

May 22: Kevin Blackwell was one of the first into the Watford dressing room to congratulate his former assistant Adrian Boothroyd on the Hornets' win. Boothroyd was impressed with Blackwell's magnanimity in defeat: "Kevin came in to say well done to the players, and that takes some doing. I respect him for that. I'm sure they'll bounce back." Let's hope that the Watford boss is as spot on with that prediction as he has been with a few others.

May 20: Ye Olde Kings Head in Santa Monica will be televising the final tomorrow - KO is at 0700 local time with the doors opening just a few minutes beforehand. No venues known, but Sky Sports 1 in NZ will be carrying the game. Several of the Benelux branch of the Supporters Club will no doubt be found in O'Donnell's in Amsterdam on Maria Heinekenplein/Ferdinand Bolstraat 5. In Canada it's on Shaw Cable PPV - at the bargain(!) price of $24.99. In Thailand the game won't be carried live but will be on a 1-hour tape delay on local channels - leaves the locals in a real dilemma as to whether to watch "as-live" or whether to hover on the net trying to keep up.

May 20: Let's hope Aidy Boothroyd has been listening to a bit too much of his own publicity rather than concentrating on the game. The Watford boss says that the board were gobmacked last summer when he told them he was going for promotion after saving them from relegation by the skin of their teeth. He said: "One or two of them fell off their chairs." And he's got big plans for his own future: "My plan is to manage in the Premiership, then Europe and then international level " But his players certainly believe in him - Marlon King has been in the press this week saying how much Boothroyd's approach had improved his game and the experienced Malky Mackay said: "I think he's got a massive future in the game. Aidy has got the coaching and technical ability and is always hungry to learn more. But what sets him apart are his man-management skills. If you get footballers playing for you and pushing themselves that extra 1%, it's a big thing. There aren't many managers who can do that."

May 20: Catastrophes apart, Neil Sullivan will be hoping for a double celebration at Cardiff tomorrow. Sullivan will be starting his 100th game for the club and for just about everyone involved it must be the biggest game they've ever played in. Sullivan said: "If someone had said I would make my 100th Leeds appearance in the Play-off final at Cardiff I'd have taken that. But it's those 90 minutes that will either make it a crap 100th game or an absolutely fantastic 100th game. I want to make sure it's the latter. I want to be able to look back on my 100th game with a great deal of pride and a great fondness." Sullivan went on: "I knew Leeds had a great chance of getting up into Premier League - this is what you come for. Games like this tomorrow are everything you are involved in football for; drama, excitement and days out." And he adds: "Now we've got 90 minutes. It's in our own hands and we'll give it our all."

May 19: Leeds United Ladies are looking for all levels of coaching staff to improve the team, from youngsters to first team. Leeds have some of the best young players in the country and are looking for coaches with a Level 2 or better coaching badge to take training sessions with the U-10s right up to the first team. Send your CV along with "a brief description of your coaching ethos" to leedsunitedladies@hotmail.co.uk. They're also after people to help out with admin, media relations, marketing and fundraising on a spare-time basis: emails to the same address.

May 19: Robbie Blake is desperate to get back into the top flight - although he says he doesn't really want to rub the relegation salt into Steve Bruce's wounds after being sidelined at St Andrews. He said: "If a big club like this did go up, and with the fan base we've got, then I'm pretty sure we could establish ourselves and follow on from what West Ham and Wigan have achieved. Not only does the club as a whole deserve to be back in the Premier League, but the players as well because there's a fantastic set of lads here, and we are close." He added: "What happened at Birmingham was disappointing because I didn't do anything wrong but the manager wanted to bring in new players, and to do that he had to bring in money. He felt he could get most of the money back he paid for me. I've nothing against Steve Bruce. I actually feel sorry for him due to what happened at the club last season. I certainly didn't want them to go down. But circumstances conspired against him. They had a lot of injuries, but he is a good manager and with the quality at the club, I'm sure they'll be back."

May 19: Club captain Paul Butler is rated as no better than a 50-50 chance to make the squad for the play-off final at Cardiff after picking up a calf injury before the Preston games. Coach Kevin Blackwell said: "He is receiving intensive treatment all this week, so we will see what happens."

May 18: Icelandic international Gylfi Einarsson says he's not sure if he has a future at Elland Road. The midfielder was speaking to his local paper, and said: "My future is uncertain. I don't want to stay at the club if the manager continues to ignore me... I'm going to train hard on my own in the summer and return in good shape when pre-season training starts in July."

May 17: Former Leeds captain Brendan Ormsby told the current squad that whatever happens on Sunday they can't afford to take any regrets away from the Millenium Stadium. Ormsby was part of the team pipped for promotion in the play-off replay against Charlton in 1987 - a game that more or less ended his career after picking up an injury when making a tackle. He said: "Make your shoulders stand tall, enjoy it and don't come away with any regrets. You can't afford to be frightened. As a Leeds player, you have that white shirt on, that badge on your chest, and you can think 'we are Leeds - it is them who should be frightened of us'." He went on: "I hope none of the lads on Sunday come off thinking I wish I'd done this or done that. If you go all the way and go and believe in yourselves, you can enjoy the break and come back a Premier League player."

May 17: Assistant boss Sam Ellis insists that Preston's allegation that Leeds trashed the dressing room at Deepdale was just Preston being sore losers and "trouble-making". Ellis said: "The Preston people who showed me around were surprised and said they hadn't known anything about it until yesterday. There was some writing on the wall in the dressing room - we don't condone anything like that - but otherwise it was in pristine condition. The writing could well have been done when the dressing room was cleaned after we had left."

May 17: Olivier Dacourt will join Internazionale next season after failing to agree a new deal with his cash-strapped current club, AS Roma. "I have a good relationship with the club but sometimes you have to make personal choices and sacrifices. We did not find an economic agreement and I simply had other offers and so I evaluated the situation." He went on: "I am leaving Roma because I need a new challenge. As a player, it's important to have a new challenge after three or four seasons so I need a change."

May 17: Peter Ridsdale will be in Cardiff cheering for Leeds on Sunday. The former chairman probably won't be expecting open arms from the Leeds faithful after his leadership nearly wiped the club from the map and left us in the pits for the last two (well, 4 really) years. Ridsdale said: "You don't need to ask who I'll be supporting. It would give me the utmost pleasure to see Leeds back in the Premiership because that's where they ought to be. I'm speaking as a fan, and someone who has followed Leeds since the age of seven. A lot of criticism came my way towards the end of my time as chairman, some of which was justified, but I've never lost my affinity for the club." He explained that he hadn't joined the legendary queue at Elland Road on Wednesday: "I'm deputy chairman of Cardiff so it hasn't been difficult for me to get a ticket. I've no idea whether I'll be in with the Leeds fans, but it should be a great day wherever I'm sitting."

May 17: If you're looking for somewhere carrying Sunday's final in Oz, then Setanta have a nice long list here. I'll pass on the details if anyone else out there is planning a meet in one of their local venues. Meanwhile in Europe, Chris from the Germany Whites tells me that if you're in the JHQ area, the Irish Pub in MG City (Waldhausener Strasse) will be carrying the match: KO is 1600 local time but doors open an hour earlier.

May 16: Former Leeds youngster Martin Woods has been released by Sunderland after their relegation from the Premier League. Woods' only game for Leeds was against the Black Cats, and he switched to Wearside last summer. He made 8 appearances during their record-breakingly bad stay in the Premier League, starting just one game in the League and one in the League Cup..

May 16: If you're in Perth (Western Australia, not Scotland) on Sunday and want to catch the game, it will be carried at Rosie O'Grady's on the corner of James and Milligan Streets in Northbridge.

May 16: After saying that there would be no further sales of tickets, the club announced this morning that they would in fact put the last few tickets on sale to holders of semi-final home ticket stubs with over-the-counter sales only being allowed.

May 16: Kevin Blackwell says that he doesn't mind that Wembley isn't ready for the play-off final - he's happy enough to be going to Cardiff. He said:"This club will get a chance to go to Wembley in the future but this might be the last year Cardiff is used for a showpiece final. We've seen from all the cup finals over the past few years how special a place Cardiff can be, there's a great atmosphere there and the organisation is first class. From our fans point of view, we know they will go down there to enjoy the day and give us fantastic backing. We have worked towards this game all season, players, staff and fans alike so we want to make sure we are the ones celebrating at the end."

May 15: The losers in Sunday's play-off final will carry off a sizeable consolation prize: all of the gate revenue from a game which will be close to a sell-out. The winners of course get the £30m prize of a place in the Premier League, but for the losers a bonus of £1.3m won't go amiss. The gate money is supposed to be split between both clubs, but Ken Bates said: "We've agreed with Watford, as is the tradition. Because the winners get so much money, the team that loses keeps the money from the final." Speaking to the YEP he also got his traditional dig in: "The worst case scenario is that we will walk away with £1.3m and that will be going on ground improvements. This season we budgeted for finishing in mid-table and getting knocked out of both cups. We budgeted to make £50,000 in both cups but we made £540,000. That's how to run the business, not expecting to win the Champions League every year."

May 15: If you're going to be at a loose end in the New York area on Sunday morning then fear not: the holy trinity of beer, football and TV come together at McCormack's Pub on 3rd Ave, between 26th and 27th Street. You'll find several members of the brilliantly-organised North American branch of the Supporters Club there for the 10am start. Other possible venues to check out if you're Stateside and desperate to see the action can be found on the LUSCNA website here - I'll update you with any more precise details/guaranteed screenings when I get them. Thanks to Jane for the pointer.

May 15: Merseyside ref Mike Dean - who was jocked off the FA Cup Final to avoid any possible concern over his allegiances - will blow the whistle at Cardiff on Sunday. Dean has taken charge of two Leeds games this season - both 2-1 wins so maybe there's a good omen there. In fact we've only lost twice under Mr Dean's control in the last 6 seasons - an unsurprising 1-4 hammering by Arsenal in November 2003, and in what again could be seen as a nice bit of symmetry, the 0-1 defeat at Chelsea on the last day of the relegation season.

May 15: Watford have booked into the Vale of Glamorgan hotel - the same place that 29 of the 32 winning teams from the Millenium Stadium have stayed in the last 5 years. However Leeds are booked into the St Davids Hotel - which is where Liverpool stayed before their FA Cup triumph at the weekend, so maybe the luck is balancing itself out on this one.

May 14: Kevin Blackwell has escaped a date in court by the skin of his teeth! Blackwell was summoned for a session of jury service starting on Tuesday - less than a week ahead of the most important game of his career. Because of the rather unique circumstances, he's received a special dispensation from the courts, allowing him a 14-day delay on his call-up. This is the second time he's been called up this year - he got an earlier deferral when his services were requested in the week that the season started. Blackwell said: "Obviously I'm pleased it's all sorted out so I can concentrate on preparing for the game against Watford. When the summons came through it was passed on to the club solicitor who has dealt with it on my behalf... These are the sort of distractions you can do without, but thankfully it's all been sorted out."

May 14: The Ticket Office will be open tomorrow, selling tickets to members only. After the weekend's work, they have processed all the postal applications - so anyone who applied with a valid season ticket or membership card via this route should be okay. There are about 2000 tickets left for sale to members: if they're not all taken by Monday they will not go on general sale since the club has showed it has learned a vital lesson from last Wednesday: saying that they had a couple of hundred tickets left on a first-come first-served basis would have resulted in sheer pandemomium for anyone getting within a mile of the ground.

May 13: Harry Kewell's amazing run of good luck continued in Cardiff today. For the second season in a row, the player was injured in a major final and left the field with his team trailing and seemingly out of the game. And for the second season in a row he picked up a winner's medal thanks to the efforts of his team-mates, some of whom could barely stand up with injuries and exhaustion after a tough 2 hours of play in one of the most entertaining cup finals in years. Australia's opening World Cup game is on June 12: anyone want to offer me odds on how many minutes Kewell will manage in those games (a) if Australia are ahead or level, and (b) if they're a goal or two down? Bottle isn't just a thing to hold Jacob's Creek Harry.

May 13: An old boys XI will run out against Altofts Sports and Social club on May 28. The game will raise funds to improve facilities at the club, and a whole bunch of 80s names will be in action including Scott Sellars, John Hendrie, John McClelland, Neil Aspin, Brendan Ormsby, John Stiles, Nigel Thompson, Neil Parsley and Vince Brockie. KO is at 1100 at the Lock Lane pitch in Altofts, just off J31 of the M62.

May 12: Preston have complained that Leeds trashed their dressing room after Monday night's bad-tempered tie at Deepdale. PNE chief exec Steve Jackson said: "There was some damage to the sinks, vandalism to the cubicle doors and walls, writing on the tiles and some posters were erected on the walls, which is a minor point but nevertheless it is pre-meditated. There's not a lot that can happen. We decided it was best not to bring it to the attention of the media because it could look like sour grapes and that's not the sort of people we are." Strangely enough, photos of the damage appeared in the local press in Lancashire so I'm not sure if he doesn't count them as "media" or if he doesn't view sending photos as "bringing it to the attention" of them. Apparently a sink was broken and there were posters on the walls with abuse directed at Billy Davies, whose arrogant "Job done" comments after the game at Elland Road served as great motivation for the Leeds squad. Leeds say they will investigate the claims of damage.

May 12: The club have announced that they are instituting formal legal proceedings against ex youth team coach Gary Worthington for breach of contract. Worthington left Leeds to take a similar role at Chelsea, and shortly afterwards the Stamford Bridge side poached young stars Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo.

May 12: The club have warned fans not to sell or buy tickets for the play-off final from eBay or similar sources. And a statement released by Leeds hints that season ticket holders could face serious sanctions if they are found to be flogging their spares by this method. The statement said: These tickets must have been purchased by either season ticket holders or members. One of the reasons that the processing of applications took time was that each individual seat detail sold was recorded so that the club could identify the purchaser, if required. The club made two tickets available to season ticket holders in the genuine belief that this would benefit them and the club is seeking the co-operation of both e-bay and West Yorkshire police to identify the tickets that are available so that action can be taken against the purchaser under the relevant laws and/or club rules. Rough translation: you can kiss your ST and membership card goodbye if they catch you.

May 11: Former Leeds striker Clyde Wijnhard has been released by Macclesfield. Wijnhard joined the Silkmen on loan from Darlo in October and made the move permanent when the transfer window opened, though he was only on a monthly contract. Although his loan spell was very successful with 10 goals in 16 appearances, he only made a further 10 appearances all season and scored twice.

May 11: Lions led by donkeys - that's the general opinion of the ticket office staff. After the brain-dead management and non-existent communication plans put into place by senior management at Elland Road it was left to the poor bloody infantry of the ticket office staff to take the pain on Wednesday. The ticket office stayed open until 0330 on Thursday morning to clear everyone who had joined the queue up to 12 hours earlier, and the overwhelming feedback I've received from people in the queue is that the people behind the counters did a great job in the circumstances, maintained a good attitude throughout and deserve a medal for their efforts. As for those above them, that's another story. Sanity finally prevailed on Thursday with the announcement that tickets would be on sale to Season Ticket holders only until after the weekend, thus making it clear what they'd vaguely hinted at up front - that ST holders were actually guaranteed a seat if they wanted it. Nobody from the club has yet offered any hint of an apology for the appalling (lack of) organisation that gave rise to the chaos of Wednesday, and there's no sign of anyone being sacked. The very simple question that the club needs to answer is this: how did you manage to distribute more tickets in a shorter period of time for the home leg of the play-off semi-final? Was the person who arranged that suddenly taken ill and the responsibility passed on to The Magic Robot?

May 11: Kevin Blackwell says that he's happy Adie Boothroyd will not face a touchline ban for the play-off final after an altercation with a Palace player which saw a brawl involving all 22 players in the second leg of their semi-final. Blackwell said: "Obviously the authorities are adamant about cracking down on things and as a manager we have responsibilities for that. I think Aidy regretted it straight way, that he'd maybe got involved in something that was needless, because they were 3-0 up with 10 minutes to go. But as he says 'we do things on a spur and it's from the heart' and he didn't mean any harm by it." And the Leeds boss says that he knows how important the game is to the club - but he's trying not to lay too much responsibility on the players: "All you can do is prepare them in as simple a form as you can and try not to make this game the be all and end all. It's just the last game of our season and I've got to try and keep that as a League game as opposed to saying 'Look it's worth millions, it's worth Premiership status, if you make a cock up or you're at fault for something you could put everybody else down the Swanee.' Doing that would put them under too much pressure, so we'll try and keep it as low key as we can, knowing how big the game is."

May 11: The play-off final will be carried live to Melbourne with the Leeds United Supporters Club of Victoria in attendance at the Charles Dickens Tavern at 290 Collins Street from about 10pm. Coverage starts at 11 and the KO will be at midnight local time. If you're not a member and want to join, you can do so on the night, but there's no compulsion - if you just want to get down there and enjoy the atmosphere with a load of fellow Leeds fans then make a date in your diary now! I'm sure this will be the first of several such notes - so let me know if there's anything scheduled near you and I'll pass it on.

May 11: Eddie Lewis is back in the States for a training camp with the national side ahead of the World Cup. Under FIFA rules, he is supposed to be released to the national coach on May 14, but US boss Bruce Arena has backed Leeds in getting FIFA to allow Lewis's release for the play-off final. The US squad are training in Cleveland, Ohio and Lewis has flown out for a week, but will be back with Leeds next Wednesday. Kevin Blackwell said: "It was part of the agreement with FIFA to secure his release so it's just one of those things. We've just got to get on with it, and hopefully Eddie will come back okay. We're grateful to FIFA and Bruce Arena for Eddie's release and playing for his country in a World Cup is a big, big honour for him."

May 10: Could you organise a drinks party in a brewery? You could? Well in that case, get yourself down to Leeds United and offer your services to the club as a replacement for the genius who came up with the ticketing free-for-all that has clogged the streets around the ground today. People started forming the queue in the early hours of the morning, and if you arrived at 0700 you were lucky to be seen by midday and anyone arriving after 0900 was looking at a 12-hour stretch. The police insisted that the queue be closed to all new arrivals halfway through the afternoon, and feelings were running high when it emerged that people who were only members were being processed much faster than season ticket holders. Given that the game is still over a week away, why on earth did they not open ticket sales to Season Ticket holders only for a day or so, then members, then "new members" if any were left - again, the club screwed up today by taking new membership applications and selling tickets to people whose commitment to the club has been negligible. Meanwhile the club missed a golden opportunity to make some more money by selling food and drink to folks in the queue - people ended up having to get others to save their places so they could grab a snack, then find that they couldn't get back into the queue on their return. So how will they cope when postal applications arrive? Grade A incompetence: Shaun Harvey was blithering on Radio Leeds at 1600, clearly with no idea how to handle the situation. Of course if Uncle Ken hadn't cut the Supporters Club out of ticket distribution, he might have been able to shift a good couple of thousand bodies from that queue and generate less stress all round, but he has instead chosen to redefine the English language and the word "reward" in particular. No doubt season ticket holders will be further rewarded with Category A game surcharges, have their seats shifted with no compensation and anything else he can think of if it adds a single penny to his bank balance.

May 10: Kevin Blackwell said that Preston's arrogance ahead of the play-off semi-final had given his team the boost they needed to win the match. He simply wrote the two words attributed to Billy Davies after the Elland Road leg - "Job Done" - on a poster and let the players show just how "done" it was. Blackwell said. "Preston were jumping up and down, thinking they were in the final. We went to Deepdale to prove them wrong."

May 10: Their will be no appeals allowed against the suspensions of Stephen Crainey and Richard Cresswell from the play-off final: the rules only permit simple cases of mistaken identity to quash bookings - although red cards can be rescinded if the ref decided to take another look.

May 09: The fans, players and manager are all - of course - over the moon with last night's result, although Stephen Crainey and Richard Cresswell are a little bit upset that they'll miss the party in Cardiff. But both players are hopeful that the ref will review his decisions. Crainey said: "The first one I deserved for kicking the ball away. It was stupidness. The second one is harsh and I've asked the referee to have a look and maybe rescind it for the final. I've got my fingers crossed, but I'm just delighted we are there." Cresswell said that he didn't have the foggiest idea what his first yellow card was for: "I don't know what the referee was doing with the first booking. I asked him to look at it and he said he would. I couldn't tell you what it was for. He asked me if he had booked me before and I said 'pardon, I've only just come on'. So he said 'obviously I haven't booked you then' and gave me a yellow card. I didn't know where he was coming from at all. The second one, he said I kicked the ball away. I just hope he looks at the decisions." Rob Hulse said that his opener was the most important goal of his Leeds career.Hulse said: "It was fantastic last night... I'm glad that we did the job. I've been up twice and gone straight up both times. Doing it this way is not good for the nerves." Hulse wasn't counting any chickens though: "It's been a long season with plenty of ups and downs, and we want to end on a high note." Kevin Blackwell summed it up: "I'm very proud of the players. That performance was in the best tradition of Leeds United. It was a battling effort and we had to dig in. We weren't the favourites, but we were very determined to get a result. We knew what we wanted to do and we achieved it. We weren't going to get flustered about it. We went to Preston with a game plan to win the battle and move on and we executed it superbly. There aren't any words I can really use right now because I was so proud of the lads."

May 09: Tickets for the play-off final go on sale tomorrow - to postal or personal applications only so don't bother trying to do it online or over the phone. Season Ticket holders can buy up to 2 tickets per season ticket, with each individual ST holder being allowed to collect the match tickets for up to 3 other ST holders - so that's a maximum of 8 per person in the queue. Leeds are at the south end of the Millenium Stadium with an allocation of 33,000 tickets, priced from £32 to £66 with concessions half-price. One thing to beware of: the stadium does not issue duplicate tickets under any circumstances - a fact thrown into sharp relief today with the news that up to 1600 Liverpool fans will miss out on the final after a mail van containing their tickets was stolen. Consequently the club advise you to turn up in person from tomorrow through to Sunday if you want to guarantee receipt of your match ticket.

May 08: Shaun Derry is a doubt for tonight's big game at Deepdale after limping out of the first leg on Friday night. The midfielder has a calf strain and boss Kevin Blackwell said: "We've got a few other concerns as well as Shaun, but I know that if we have to replace him then whoever comes in will do a good job."

May 08: Robbie Blake, Richard Cresswell and Eddie Lewis are all hoping to get the better of Preston in tonight's winner-takes-all clash. Blake has scored five times in five games against Preston - and as a former Burnley man still carries the intense local rivalry. He said: "I normally score against them when I start. I think last week's game at Deepdale was the first time in a few years that I failed to score against Preston after starting a game. I am desperate to get another goal against them and hopefully that will come on Monday night to put us through." Richard Cresswell says that the home side can't afford to rest on their laurels after celebrating the draw at Elland Road as if they'd just won the Champions League. Cresswell said: "Unfortunately we did not quite get the result we wanted but we are not out of it. It's only half-time in the tie, we're all square and everyone knows we are a good team away from home. I think a lot of Preston fans think they have already won it but we are a very good team away from home and you could argue we play better away from home. We have to take that into the game tonight." Cresswell also indicated that he wanted to get back at the home fans for the abuse he received on his return to action on Friday: "I got a bit of stick off the Preston fans as expected, but I will be going back there hoping I can get the winner. I finished top goalscorer three out of the four years I was at Preston, but their fans didn't give me a very good reception on Friday and I won't be expecting one at Deepdale. I've got a lot of friends there but I'm proud to be a Leeds player now and I'll be putting everything into getting the right result." And Eddie Lewis says that he still thinks Leeds can push on to the final, despite the minor change of plan: "The intention was to try and take a lead to Deepdale. We looked to take the game to them in the second half but they ended up getting a quick goal on us that put us off a bit. We have given ourselves a chance though with the goal. There's still everything left to do and the pressure falls more on Preston now being at home now and we have quite a good away record and I think we will do our best to get the first goal and take it from there. It's still early on in this tie, my goal could prove to be an important goal but hopefully there's still a couple of games left and I hope to be contributing again at some point along the line."

May 08: With a noisy crowd and a finicky ref on their side, Preston had every chance of laying their play-off jinx to rest tonight. But it was Leeds who came out on top thanks to a bit of inspiration from Rob Hulse and hard work from the whole team (apart from Richard Cresswell). Preston were upset early on when Jonathan Douglas broke Brett Ormerod's leg and escaped without a card. Having said that, Preston's defence took up where it had left off on Friday with elbows, knees and boots flying in and never once requiring the ref to sharpen his pencil. Things started to hot up at half-time though: Kilgallon and Nugent picked up a card for an incident before the break, but then a floodlight failure delayed the start of the second half and ratcheted the tension up a notch further. Agyemang replaced Stewart, and instantly North End had a more mobile, dangerous attack. However they were undone by their immobile defence: a Leeds corner saw Hulse leave his markers standing and glance the ball into the net. A couple of minutes later, the lead was doubled when persistent work by the striker left Frazer Richardson with an open goal. The youngster managed to crack it straight at Carlo Nash's arms, but was lucky to see it spill free and into the net. This being Leeds, things then started to get difficult. Stephen Crainey had earlier been booked for expressing his frustration at being hauled back and elbowed by a Preston player, and when Nugent suddenly found half a yard of space, Crainey made a valiant attempt to tackle but lightly clipped the striker's leg. Nugent went down like a sack of potatoes and rolled about 20 yards, then got up and tried to wind Crainey up as he left the field. Richard Cresswell came on as a sub and repeated his performance of Friday in his desperate pursuit of a yellow card: he must have already planned his summer holiday and been upset to find that he had made enough of a recovery to play in these games. Cresswell too picked up a booking for what seemed to be harmless backchat, and having figured that such a sanction must mean he had accidentally stumbled into a rugby match, produced a fine rucking performance on Carlo Nash when the keeper refused to release the ball once tackled and on the ground. Cresswell was shoved off the ball and the cowardly Nash was so hurt that he got straight to his feet, jumped on the prone Leeds striker with both knees before suddenly realising what was going on and remembering he was supposed to be "injured". As a result of all of this, the ref booked Douglas and Kelly - don't ask me or anyone else in the ground why. Preston had the ball in the net when Mears headed in a corner, but the linesman said that the ball had already gone out, and they also came close from another goalmouth scramble, but O'Neil's attempt to tip the airborne Neil Sullivan was spotted by the ref, but once again the home player received no further sanction for such a dangerous foul. With 5 of the 6 added minutes played, Leeds were in the clear and on the way to Cardiff - so Cresswell decided he couldn't jeopardise his plane tickets and so kicked the ball away after the ref had blown for a foul: finally he'd got his second yellow, Kevin Blackwell said something unprintable, and the game was over. Cardiff (and Watford?) here we come!

May 07: After twice losing in the play-offs at Cardiff when wearing a Preston shirt, Richard Cresswell is hoping for a change of fortune now that he's at Elland Road. His early return from injury is a boost to Kevin Blackwell's side but he's unlikely to be able to play the full 90 (or 120) minutes at Deepdale tomorrow due to lack of match fitness. But Cresswell said he's hoping to win promotion anyway: "A club the size of Leeds deserves to be in the Premiership and that's the reason I came here. The chairman has put a lot money into the club and he wants to see some reward for that."

May 06: Kevin Blackwell and Billy Davies both laid into the ref after last night's play-off draw. Blackwell believed that Leeds were due at least three penalties, saying: "I thought the referee was weak all night. He was very poor and that's not sour grapes. This game was too big for him. The magnitude of this match is such you have to have people who can handle it. When we went to Preston last week for a match that was meaningless, we had a Premier League referee. But then lo and behold we have a bigger game the following week and we have this referee put in charge. I'm not saying anything bad about him. He is a great lad, a smashing bloke. The referee's job is a nightmare and I will back them in anyway I can, but common sense has to prevail." Davies added: "I would question his decision making, and I would certainly like to view the video of some of his decisions again." Away goals count for nothing in the play-offs, so it's all down to Monday's game at Deepdale. Blackwell said: "Billy and I would have taken the situation where you go into one game knowing that it can get you to a final, and that's where we are. I am proud of the players because they kept going right to the end. Maybe they could have wilted under the massive expectations of the fans, but I am so proud of them because they didn't do that." Davies was equally pleased to come away on level terms: "This is a very intimidating place, but we have come away with a tremendous result and now we can finish the job on Monday."

May 06: If Leeds manage to overcome Preston and make it to the play-off final in Cardiff, it looks likely that Kevin Blackwell could be facing his former assistant Adie Boothroyd. Boothroyd's Watford side continued a remarkable 13-month turn-around at Selhurst Park today with a 0-3 win over Palace that puts them in pole position with Tuesday's return leg at Vicarage Road to come. Oh, and the two of the three scorers were deemed not good enough for Leeds: Championship top scorer Marlon King grabbed the first, and Matthew Spring sealed the win with a great run and cool finish.

May 05: Eddie Lewis says he will stay with the Leeds squad all the way to the play-off final. Steady on mate - we've got to beat Preston yet! The US international will join his international team-mates a little later than the rest of them to allow him to contribute to every step of Leeds' chase for a Premiership spot. Lewis said: "The plan was to get promoted and go off and enjoy my summer. Winning promotion is a bit more realistic than winning the World Cup! They are both big occasions. But the play-off final last year was an enormous event. There is an extra dimension in terms of excitement. But joining up with the US was never going to be an issue given the circumstances. I'd never jeopardise the chance to get promoted by going back early to train."

May 05: David Healy says that the key to play-off success is not to change the routine that got you into the position in the first place. He said: "It's important you try and keep things as normal as possible. They are two massive games. I suppose if you are away first there is a little less pressure on you, but that all depends on where you play your first game! Everyone says away is best, but look at Preston last season. They won 2-0 at home in the first game and went and drew 0-0 at Derby in the second leg." In 2001, Healy was at Preston when they faced Brum in a penalty shootout, with team-mates Sean Gregan and Ian Bennett key players: "I remember Birmingham missed their first one against us, I scored our second, and they missed again. Greges got our third - he nearly burst the back of the net. I think [Ian Bennett] was off waving at the crowd at the time!" And Healy says that he's hoping for another victory by Monday night: "Losing is a horrible, unpleasant experience - a few of us have tasted that before - and it's not something that I care to look back on. But bearing in mind those defeats, I'm sure it will be a little bit sweeter come Monday night if we do make it through."

May 05: Despite the fact that Leeds failed to come away with a win tonight, the performance wasn't half bad: we created more chances than we have in the last two months and Eddie Lewis's equaliser was class. Unfortunately the shambolic defending that allowed David Nugent to score was also fairly characteristic of the season, with Gregan then Kelly and finally Kilgallon all completely failing to dispossess the Preston striker as he ran 30 yards through the defence. Lewis's free kick was a beauty - even if the "foul" that gave rise to it wouldn't have merited a second glance from many refs. Richard Cresswell's return to the fray was welcome - although given his lack of match fitness, 10 minutes is probably just about the limit of his ability at the moment, and that was nearly curtailed when he barged Davis, saw the Preston defender feign a much more serious incident and found himself at the centre of a 20-man handbags session. Praise for the ref here: he could easily have waved the red card at both players, but restricted himself to a serious talking-to and yellows. So it's still all square and all to play for at Deepdale on Monday night. Bring it on!

May 04: A further update for our Antipodean fans, courtesy of Eddy and Jim. If you're in the Sydney area, Cheers Bar at 561 George Street will be carrying the game, and in Brisbane the Pig and Whistle in Queens Street Mall is the place to go (important: there are two Pig and Whistles - it's the Queens Street one you want). Let's hope you all have cause to sink a stubby or two in celebration.

May 04: So we've sorted the Australians out - now for the West Coast and Laarndon. Ye Olde Kings Head in Santa Monica will be carrying the game - I'm told at 11:45pm, but that doesn't seem quite right unless it's on tape delay. And in London, our old haunt The Rampage in Covent Garden will be the place to be for Leeds fans who couldn't make the long trip back to see the match in person.

May 03: Michael Ricketts has only been back from his loan spell at Burnley for a day but already he's scored two goals. A couple of first-teamers were in action - Dan Harding, Gylfi Einarsson, Joel Griffiths and Simon Walton joining Ricketts. A disappointing first half saw Leeds a goal behind, but Michael Ricketts curled in a free kick just after the restart. Ricketts then gave Leeds the advantage, following up on a rebound from his own header. Wolves got a late equaliser to square the game at 2-2. Maybe Ricketts will get into the play-off squad after all!

May 03: If you can take the early start, the play-off games will be shown live on Setanta Sports in Australia, and the Leeds United Victoria folks will be in te Charles Dickens Tavern on Collins Street - for an 0430 kick-off on Saturday morning. The game on Tuesday morning may be on at the same venue - provided enough people turn up to persuade the management on Friday night/Saturday morning in the first leg. Of course, we'll be so far ahead by then that there'll be almost no point in bothering to watch the game at Deepdale.....

May 03: Club captain Paul Butler will be out for at least the two play-off semi-final games after tearing his calf muscle. Butler has steered clear of injury all season, but now could even miss the play-off final if Leeds make it that far, leaving Sean Gregan to partner Matthew Kilgallon at the back. Butler said: "I am absolutely gutted about it. These are the biggest games of my life as a Leeds United player and I can't play. I am devastated, but I'm focusing on backing the lads and helping them in any way I can. I've always wanted to play for Leeds in front of 38,000 of our own fans hopefully I'll get that chance if we get to the final."

May 03: For the first time since Lucas Radebe's testimonial, the East Stand Upper will be open for a Leeds game on Friday night. Due to high demand for the tickets, the club has decided it is worth the extra expense to open the top deck, charging thirty quid - no concessions - for the best view in the stadium.

May 02: Leeds United Ladies didn't have the best day out at the New Den for the FA Cup Final. They were down by an own goal after three minutes, 0-3 down by half-time and ended up on the wrong end of a 0-5 hammering from Arsenal. In fairness, it would have been an upset if the League Champions had not won, and Leeds did play some decent football but on the day it wasn't quite enough.

May 02: Michael Ricketts is back from his loan spell at Burnley - and he's in action straight away for the reserves at Wolves in tonight's final game of the season. Ricketts scored twice while away on loan, and although he's not necessarily a first choice for Kevin Blackwell, he might come into consideration for a play-off spot if injuries or tactics dictate.

May 02: Kevin Blackwell said that he has no intention of making radical changes to the team that got itself into the play-off picture as the season reaches its climax. "You can't change much for this game, it's a cup competition basically but within the league format. We won't go changing things radically so the players don't know what's coming next. We will keep focused on the job and then all we need now is a bit of luck and to make sure no-one picks up an injury in training." Steve Stone has come through a couple of reserve games, a sub appearance at Elland Road and the full 90 minutes at Deepdale last weekend - but Blackwell does have a couple of players carrying niggles that might keep them out. Preston boss Billy Davies is similarly blessed with a returning star in David Nugent: he might not be quite as far advanced in his attempt to get to full match fitness as Steve Stone, but his return as a sub on Sunday provided a great psychological boost to the side. Davies said: "This lad is such a threat, he's a tremendous goalscorer, a great player to have in the play-offs and we're all delighted to have him on board again."

May 02: Matthew Kilgallon played down the importance of Sunday's defeat at Preston. Kevin Blackwell made 8 changes to the side due to injuries, the need to rest players and in an attempt to give the fringe players a final chance to show what they can do. Kilgallon said: "Some of the lads we put out haven't played for a while but it was a good performance. Preston looked strong, they had a full team out and we know how they play for when we come up against them... We've got nothing to fear. We've got some good Premiership players to come back, I think they'll be fearing us."

May 01: Kevin Blackwell says that he's not too upset after yesterday's defeat at the hands of Preston. He said: "There's no disappointment - I'm not sure it matters either way. Preston got to the final this way last season. That will count for nothing if you get to the final. What will be will be. The season has gone now and this is the start of the biggest mini-season for this club since last time we were in the play-offs 19 years ago. And we've been third or fourth since October so we have had a strong season whatever in terms of our efforts in the league." Blackwell isn't giving any hints as to what his starting eleven will be on Friday night: "The play-off team I have in my mind is fit. I don't have a lot of dilemmas. I haven't shown a strong hand, but I know which way we want to go. I thought we looked competitive on Sunday, and we learned one or two things about them. They were a strong side."

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