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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post


September 30: Kevin Nicholls says that the team are looking to build on the win over Brum with a repeat performance at fellow strugglers West Brom. He said: "Of course it will be tough but nothing that we haven't been used to in the past. We had a great win last Saturday and it is up to us to get a result and we are raring to go. I would like to think that we can cause West Brom problems just as we did Birmingham City. West Brom is a hard and intimidating place to go but we'll go there looking for a win and if we don't get it but come away with a point it will still be a good result."

September 30: Former Leeds Youth player Nick (son of Eddie) Gray has signed for Halifax Town. The 20-year-old midfielder was a regular in the reserves but never made the breakthrough to the first team squad while at Elland Road.

September 30: This week's Private Eye has a small article that attempts to see through the smoke and mirrors surrounding the ownership of Leeds United. It's never been clear whether or not Ken Bates has put a single penny of his own money into the club: when Krasner and co sold 50% of the club (to fully sell up would have brought the creditors running for more cash), a company which Uncle Ken subsequently renamed "Roman's Heavies" - whose main shareholder was the Swiss-based Forward Sports Fund - took over. The article says that Roman's Heavies was wound up in June following an unknown creditor filing a petition in April, and another shareholder - Sports Investments (Leeds) - is about to be struck off the companies register. So, as many of us asked at the time - trying to shout through the euphoria of being "saved" by KB - just who does actually own Leeds United?

September 30: John Carver is paying no attention to rumours that Tinkerman Claudio Ranieri is top of Ken Bates' managerial shopping list. Carver said: "I am not listening to any distractions on the outside with regards who is being linked with the job. All I am doing is staying totally focused on the job. I am a strong character and have my own beliefs. If I believe in something, then I just get on with it and whatever is happening outside does not concern me. I do not want to even talk about it. The chairman has given me a job and a responsibility to look after the team. That is all I am concerned about." Ranieri meanwhile was quoted as saying: "Ken knows me very well. If Ken wants Claudio, he should phone Claudio. If he wants to strike a good deal with me and then wants Leeds back in the Premiership, I am the man for the job. I am ambitious and Mr Bates is too. I could take Leeds back into the Premiership. But my target would be to take them back into Europe too, at least in the UEFA Cup. I worked under Ken Bates for three years at Chelsea and, if he wants these things for Leeds, my message is 'no problem, call me'."

September 29: Many of the betting exchanges have closed the next-Leeds-manager markets in the last couple of days. However the destination of the "inside money" is still unclear and depending on who you speak to, Uncle Ken is going togive John Carver the rest of the season to make a go of it, or Claudio Ranieri is about to take up the biggest challenge of his career after being definitely seen at Elland Road on umpteen occasions (or was it his doppelganger Thirkers), or maybe Gary McAllister is preparing to ignore the inevitable chorus of knuckledragging boo-boys and return to the club that decided that they'd win more trophies with Lee Bowyer in midfield and not someone who would go on to pick up a MOTM award in a European final. With the international break coming up, many people clearly think the decision has already been taken and is waiting to be rolled out at a press conference very soon.

September 28: Polish triallist Bartosz Karwan is on his way back home after John Carver decided that he didn't want to take the club's interest further following a practice match against Doncaster Rovers. With Mark Wilberforce set to be released by the club at the end of his contract this week and Tony Warner only in on loan, keepers remain a precious commodity, so Martin Hodge will continue to keep an eye on the progress of England semi-professional international Shwan Jalal as he returns to Conference football with Woking.

September 28: Matthew Kilgallon is back in the England U-21 side as the national team face a crucial European Championship play-off with Germany next month. The young centreback will join the squad for the first leg at Coventry in a week's time, with the return leg scheduled for Leverkusen on Tuesday week.

September 28: Chairman Ken will not face an FA charge after all. Bates was facing a misconduct rap after Chelsea whinged about his comments about the Blues and the way they behaved in poaching young players. However the FA today decided that the chairman did nothing actionable.

September 27: Former Ireland boss Brian Kerr was the recipient of much support on the betting market for the post of new Leeds manager today. At the start of the day you could have got 20/1 on Ken Bates giving Kerr the nod: rumours and momentum soon put paid to that and now 3/1 is the best price you're likely to see. Until the next rumour starts...

September 27: Richard Cresswell came through half a game today as a mix of crocks, youth and experience drew 1-1 with Doncaster in a practice match at Thorp Arch. Caretaker boss John Carver said: "I was delighted with his fitness, his attitude and his willingness to run. He did some good things and he got 45 minutes in which was very important. I had a chat with him afterwards and he's feeling good."

September 27: We've got another player winging in on trial - although "winging" is not quite the right term since he probably just jumped on a train. Woking keeper Shwan Jalal is being given a chance to impress John Carver after building a decent reputation in the Conference and winning an England semi-pro cap.

September 26: Seven months after suffering a horrendous leg break against Liverpool, Alan Smith returned to first team action tonight. The former Leeds striker came on for the last 5 minutes of ManU's 0-1 win at Benfica in tonight's Champions League match. I know there's a sizeable section of the Leeds support who cheered when they saw him get injured, but I'm more than pleased to see a genuine, hard-working and committed player back in action after what would have been a career-ending injury just a few years ago. Just a shame he's playing for that lot from Old Trafford...

September 26: If it's international break time that must be the signal for hopeful players from all over Europe to jump on the next plane to Leeds/Bradford and hitch a ride to Thorp Arch for a trial for Leeds United. First out of the traps this time round is experienced Polish midfielder Bartosz Karwan: he's 30, has 24 caps and is a free agent as his former club - Legia Warsaw - have cut their playing staff and more expensive earners to save a bit of money. Caretaker manager John Carver told the official website: "He's here as a trialist for a couple of days and we'll have a look at him in training and see how he goes." The next Steve Stone maybe?

September 26: Jonathan Douglas has been called into the Ireland squad for their forthcoming Euro qualifiers against Cyprus and the Czech Republic at the start of next month.

September 25: Although the departure of Kevin Blackwell may do something to slow the freefall in crowd numbers, there's a broad concern that despite the odd cheap-ticket initiative for lower-league Carling Cup games, the club is losing touch with the next generation of supporters - the kids of today. The Leeds United Supporters Trust are running a survey and are hoping to gather your views on how tickets are priced and what sort of level you think is value for money. Hopefully this will provide some useful input for Uncle Ken for next season.

September 25: Clyde Wijnhard has signed a 3-month deal with Brentford after a successful trial for the Bees. Manager Leroy Rosenior said: "It's good news on the playing side and because [Wijnhard + Kevin O'Connor] are senior players, whose experience should be invaluable."

September 23: The Carling Cup draw has been made and it sees Leeds pitted against Southend United at Elland Road. The ties will be played in the week of October 23. What price a Ricketts winner?

September 22: Ken Bates says that Kevin Blackwell was a bit surprised by his dismissal - gobsmacked in fact - and that he had not been banned from the ground. Bates said that his original thinking concurred with what many fans had in their minds. Speaking to the Yorkshire Post he said: "I had actually decided that I would take a view at the end of September when we had played 10 games. That would still leave 36 to go. But let's just say things conspired against Kevin and I made an early decision. The entire board - Peter Lorimer, Yvonne Todd, Jayne McGuinnes, Mark Taylor, Shaun Harvey and myself - were then unanimous. So that was it." He went on: "At the end of the day, you stand or fall by your results. Kevin did a good job. But maybe, for whatever reason, he had taken the club as far as he could. Maybe it was time for a change." Bates said that Blackwell could have no complaints about the players: "Kevin stood or fell with the team he bought. The entire team apart from Gary Kelly, Matthew Kilgallon and Frazer Richardson were Kevin's purchases. The sales were Kevin's sales. So he cannot complain - not that he has done, I hasten to add. I only ever refused to buy one player for him and that was David Nugent because it was silly bloody money." Bates knocked the rumours that there was any bad feelings: "It was an amicable split. Kevin was gobsmacked because he didn't see it coming, though he must have wondered how long it could carry on. But when he had finished packing in his office, he called me in and we shook hands. I said 'my advice is to get in your car, get on the motorway and turn your mobile off - we won't put the announcement out until I know you are on the motorway'."

September 21: Kevin Blackwell has been banned from Elland Road and Thorp Arch after being sacked yesterday. Blackwell was not given the chance to say goodbye to the players who were given a day off after their triumphant 3-1 hammering of mighty Barnet.

September 21: The reserves went down 4-1 at Forest last night - although it looked a little like a case of men against boys as Forest fielded some experienced players, with only Jonny Howson and Jermaine Beckford having any first team experience. Howson scored a free kick to halve Leeds' deficit just before half-time but otherwise the youngsters suffered a bit.

September 21: Assistant boss John Carver has stepped in as caretaker manager following the departure of Kevin Blackwell. Carver will be assisted by Dave Geddis who runs the reserve team squad, along with Gwyn Williams who is now described as the club's "technical director". Don't take any bets on this appointment lasting much beyond the next two games.

September 20: I'm not going to rejoice in the announcement that someone else has joined the dole queue, but for the greater success of the club it's probably for the best that that person is Kevin Blackwell. A club statement issued late this afternoon indicated that Blackwell had been sacked and added: "The club would like to place on record its thanks to Kevin for the work he has put in over the past three-and-a-half years, the past two and a half of which were as manager." As I've said before: he made a decent job of the thankless task of stabilising us, and he wasn't helped by the ongoing financial uncertainty at the club. But ultimately the one thing he was able to influence - the deployment, performance and commitment of the players under his control - was proving to be not good enough to make a serious challenge for promotion. And in this results-oriented industry - and particularly working for a certain chairman - that can only lead to one outcome.

September 19: Ian Moore finally broke his 34-game run from his arrival at Leeds with two goals against Barnet in the Carling Cup. After Robbie Blake gave Leeds a great start after just 6 minutes, Moore came off the bench to replace Geoff Horsfield at the end of the first half, and after just 10 minutes of the second period had more or less sealed the win for Leeds. Needless to say we couldn't keep a clean sheet - but that's life: we've avoided a major banana skin and can look forward to the draw for the next round.

September 18: Clyde Wijnhard has moved on from his trial spell at Walsall and is now at Brentford as he tries to find a new club for the season.

September 18: Young attacking midfielder Jonny Howson has been given a 3-year deal as the club continues its efforts to protect its investments in the youth setup. Kevin Blackwell said: "Jonny is an exciting prospect, and there's been significant interest from other clubs. He's been involved with the first team, and it won't be long before we see him in there."

September 15: Even though Leeds once again failed to muster a goal, there's plenty of old boys who haven't lost the skill. Andy Gray struck after just 35 seconds to give Burnley a win with the only goal of the game at Stoke. At the opposite end of the watch, Andy Keogh scored in the final minute after coming off the bench to snatch the points for Scunthorpe against Cheltenham. Danny Pugh earned Preston a point when he brought them level at Derby barely a minute after the home side had taken the lead as half-time beckoned. Simon Walton had a shot deflected in for Ipswich but they could only draw 2-2 at 10-man Birmingham. Rob Hulse got what proved to be a consolation goal as Sheffield United lost 1-2 at home to Reading and Neil Warnock now finds his side in the same relative position as his one-time protege: second bottom (albeit a division higher). Derek Lilley headed Morton in front at home to Stirling Albion but an injury-time penalty gave the visitors a share of the points.

September 15: Sean Gregan started the game in midfield today: the selection decision of a man who knows the game is up as far as many in the crowd were concerned. Gregan was pulled at half-time with the team already a goal down courtesy of some wayward defending, and although I'm not young Sean's greatest fan I'm not going to have a dig at him. The team preparation, selection, tactics and substitutions are a joke. The players have almost no heart and don't seem prepared to dig deep for the manager or fans. It's time for Ken Bates to act: sod waiting for the international break - at this rate we'll not get past Barnet on Tuesday!

September 14: Veteran striker Bob Taylor has joined Kidderminster Harriers in the Conference on a non-contract basis. He's now 39 and looked like he was finally hanging up his boots after spending the last two seasons at Tamworth, but he's back again and you wouldn't bet against him picking up a goal or two in the coming weeks. Meanwhile Danny Mills' slump continues: from England full back to Manchester City and now about to join Hull on a two-month loan. If things get any worse for the still-on-the-payroll slaphead he could even be forced to rejoin Leeds!

September 14: Remarkably enough, Kevin Blackwell still has the key to the manager's office 24 hours after the capitulation to Sunderland. With the bookies making Coventry odds-on to win at the weekend, it will need the players to suddenly remember why they're being paid so much money and turning out their second decent performance in 6 months to give Blackwell any chance of saving his job. There's talk of Alan Curbishley (hurray!), Dennis Wise (boo!), Glenn Hoddle (you're joking) or Dave Penney (now there's a gamble...) - and the forthcoming international break could be the time that Ken makes the switch. Of course we will now play brilliantly and win 3-0 on Saturday and we'll all be frightfully happy with Kev for the rest of the season. However he's not helping himself by wheeling out his usual special pleading: "The squad is paper thin and we've been trying to bring in loan signings, but the chairman says the finances at the moment are quite tight. Two years ago, we didn't have a team to start with and we haven't been afforded the finances to develop the club as I would like it to. As a manager, it frustrates me - and it's very difficult to accept - but you have to. This isn't about Kevin Blackwell; this is about the safety of Leeds United. That's what I did when I came in, was to save the club. But we haven't been able to strengthen in the areas that we knew we needed to because we have a financial burden." Leaving aside the likes of Danny Mills and Paul Okon who are still being paid, the Leeds wage bill is by no means the smallest in the division, and apart from the current Premiership Parachute recipients, you'd be hard-pressed to find a manager who's spent more net transfer cash in the last two years. Would it help if he held up his hand and admitted that at least part of the responsibility was his? In the long-term probably not - but in the short term it would certainly win him a little bit of grudging admiration from a section of the fans, and maybe a stay of execution from Ken. I guess we can only wait and see....

September 13: At least we've got out of the habit of conceding goals in the last minute. Now we concede two before half-time. Okay, Sunderland were on a bounce as a result of the arrival of new boss Roy Keane and Sunday's performance merited better than zero points - but the unavoidable fact is that Kevin Blackwell's side has scored precisely one league goal at Elland Road in 360 minutes of football this season - and that came from the penalty spot. Sure, some players are injured - but (apart from Gary Kelly of course) every single player in the squad has been selected by Blackwell, coached by Blackwell, given strategy and direction by Blackwell - and those players have taken us into the relegation zone rather than the play-off zone. The season is not yet over and it is, of course, a marathon not a sprint. But with the crowds slumping (the only reason 23K attended tonight was thanks to over 5K Mackems) and those remaining becoming increasingly hostile to the players and the manager, it can only be a matter of time before Uncle Ken finally brings Kevin Blackwell's reign to an end. Blackwell's a decent honest bloke who has done a good job in stabilising a club in freefall. But I don't think I'm alone in saying that he's not convinced me he's the man who can win us promotion - and that's the killer blow. Thanks for everything Kev - good luck for the future. But that future now looks certain to be away from Elland Road.

September 12: Kevin Nicholls - who was expected to take some part in Sunday's game against Wolves - has broken down again. The former Luton player is currently on course to emulate Steve Stone's feats last season, sustaining a thigh injury in training. It's not yet known how long he will be out for.

September 11: Steve Stone will be going under the knife after all. The midfielder is booked in for an operation on his hernia early next month during the next international break but will play through the pain until then. Kevin Blackwell said: "We didn't want both Steve and Shaun Derry out at the same time and, hopefully, Shaun will be back by the time Steve goes in." So that means that Stone will face five more games before getting treatment: the odds on Kevin Blackwell being around to see Stone recuperate are lengthening every day.

September 11: Youth Cup winner Mark Ford is back in action in local football in Yorkshire. It's a couple of years now since he was a full-time pro, and will be playing for Tadcaster Albion in Northern Counties East League One when his work commitments permit.

September 11: The club have issued an apology to fans who were seriously delayed at the ticket office on Sunday after the computer system failed. Many fans were not admitted until the match was well underway and the club issued a statement saying: "The club wishes to apologise to those supporters who had to be patient before Sunday's game with Wolves. Engineers are already on site to ensure that there is no repeat of the difficulties for Wednesday's game with Sunderland, which looks certain to be the highest crowd of the season to date." Now all they need to do is apologise for the increasingly officious stewards, the high ticket prices, the poor results....

September 11: Harry Kewell is still suffering from the injury that knocked him out of the World Cup, and has returned to Australia for treatment. He said: "We have got to a point where we are trying Australia because it has got the best surgeons in the world." Sixty-odd grand a week for the player, the club pulling in how many million from 40K+ crowds and Champions League TV money and they don't START with the best surgeons in the world? Maybe they'll be able to locate the spine that started dissolving a few years back too. Meanwhile Mark Viduka says he'll play on for the Socceroos and will lead their 2007 Asian Cup campaign. Aged 30, he had initially indicated that he would retire from the international scene but now says that he'll rejoin the squad once his wife has given birth, missing what should be a couple of straightforward qualifying games against Kuwait.

September 10: Kevin Blackwell says that the club is now nearly free of debt - and will be all but in the clear inside 12 months. He said: "We have had to deal with that millstone around our necks and still try to win games - and despite having lost so many players. But this time next year the club will not be in any debt whatsoever." Danny Mills and Paul Okon are understood to be the last of the ex-players still on the payroll, and Blackwell was looking forward to putting that part of the Ridsdale era behind him: "We have not invested in players this year but that has helped to pay the players - seven of them - who are not at this football club anymore. That situation ends at the end of the season and the club will move on quite quickly and have actually dealt with its debts... My understanding is that this time next year the club will be well off in terms of finances - in the top six or seven clubs in the country."

September 09: Julian Joachim scored twice in three minutes for Darlo at Peterborough to give the visitors a 0-3 lead just over halfway through the first half: the home side got a goal back but no more. JFH cracked home a left-footer 10 minutes after the interval to put Charlton back on level terms with Chelsea - but the Blues dug deep and found a winner through Ricardo Carvalho 10 minutes later. Simon Walton stepped up to take the penalty which brought Ipswich back level with Southampton at Portman Road, and the home side added a second to take all three points later on. Dave Livermore scored what proved to be a consolation goal for Hull as they went down 2-1 at Brum. Andy Gray similarly got an unrewarded goal two minutes from time as Burnley went down 1-2 at home to Colchester. Finally it looks like Aaron Lennon could face a long spell on the sidelines: he broke down in training ahead of Spurs' game against ManU and could have ligament and/or cartilage damage.

September 07: Hero of the San Siro Dominic Matteo is being lined up for a surprise return to Elland Road. Kevin Blackwell said that he had discussed the possibility of a loan move with the Blackburn player, but that the deal would hinge on Blackburn continuing to pay some of his wages. Blackwell said: "Me and Dominic have had a chat and I will have to weigh up my options. He is someone that interests me but I have a wishlist in my heart that I cannot always get. We have to remember Dom left here not because of anything, but his money. The players earning big money in the Premiership had to go." And he added: "We are all desperate to get back to where we want to be, but it is important that desire is mixed with a reality check. The club is in a very good position and it is just going to take that little bit of patience now for one or two things to click into place. This season has been a reality check for a lot of people because of the parachute payment ending and us having to raise finances to see us through this final season of the big contract."

September 06: David Healy once again found himself the toast of Northern Ireland tonight as he bagged a hat-trick at Windsor Park to help Lawrie Sanchez's side to twice come from behind and record a 3-2 win over Spain in the Euro 2008 qualifier. Healy stabbed home a close-range shot on 20 minutes, connected with a Sammy Clingan free kick on 52 minutes and finally lobbed Casillas with 10 minutes to go to seal the win.

September 06: So, how are our broken midfielders doing today? Well, Shaun Derry is back in England after having an op on his hernia in Stuttgart and is aiming to return for the start of next month. Steve Stone is back training with the main squad after some major sessions with the physio over the last couple of weeks and should be available for Sunday's game against Wolves. Kevin Nicholls is also back in training and could be in contention for his first start for the club since his arrival in the summer. Less good news for Gylfi Einarsson who has gone under the knife to clean up some loose debris in his hip and will miss a few games while he recuperates.

September 05: Eirik Bakke says that he was never offered any opportunity to renegotiate his contract in order to stay at Elland Road - he was just told that he had no future with the club. Speaking from Norway he said: "Perhaps if they had come to me and talked about dropping my wages we could have sorted something out, but that never happened. I think they'd decided they wanted me to go... I had a good pre-season and in some ways I wish Leeds had told me then that they wanted me to leave. It would have given me more time to sort something out, and perhaps I would have found another club in England. I know Leeds are struggling with money, and I do understand their point of view, but if they'd wanted to keep me then they'd have come and spoken to me. By the time the transfer deadline came round, the move to Brann was the best option." And he added: "I'm leaving with so many memories. The strongest for me will be the UEFA Cup games against Galatasaray, and especially the night when the two Leeds fans died - nights like that stay with you forever. I know that I played a part in a big period of the club's history, and some of the things we achieved, people will always remember. I'm very proud of that."

September 04: Seth Johnson was close to coming full circle last week as Dario Gradi tried to persuade Derby's former Leeds midfielder to return to the club where he made his reputation from 1994-99. Gradi said: "We did speak to Seth, but he said he wanted to stay at Derby and fight for his place. That was fine by me and that's where we left it. I'm the same as several managers in that I've got some money to spend, but I can't find the players to spend it on."

September 04: Harpal Singh scored twice for his new club Sligo Rovers as they beat Longford Town 0-2 in a league fixture. The former Leeds winger scored a free kick from the edge of the box in the first half and followed that up with a 35-yard lob in the second period to take his tally to four goals this season.

September 01: So here's the news that emerged from deadline day after I hit the sack last night. Stephan Andersen's loan has been cancelled after Leeds could not agree to a recall clause mirroring the one Charlton have had to accept on former Leeds keeper Scott Carson for his loan from Liverpool. Tony Warner has returned on loan until January as a result of all these shenanigans. Michael Bridges' slow climb back up the league ladder continues: he moved from Carlisle to Hull for £350,000 - less than a tenth of what Leeds paid all those years ago. The "next Roy Keane" - Liam Miller - has gone to join the original on a free to Sunderland.

September 01: Paul Okon has lost none of his skills: playing for Newcastle against Queensland he scored an OG, and fellow Leeds exile Joel Griffiths copped for an early bath when he picked up two yellow cards. Jamie McMaster is also settling back into life in his home town in Oz, playing for Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.

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