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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post


March 31: Even if we do manage to stay up - which I now believe is a genuine possibility after taking 3 points I thought we wouldn't get from Preston - David Healy's continued stay at the club must remain in some doubt. And speaking to the Scottish press, Healy did nothing to stop such rumours, noting the presence of Rangers' Walter Smith and Ian Durrant at Windsor Park midweek. Healy said: "Ian is a hero of mine from when I was young and it is flattering to be linked with a club such as Rangers."

March 30: The win that finally dragged Leeds off the bottom of the table and injected a glimmer of hope into the campaign to stay up was understandably well-received by management and fans. Dennis Wise said: "It was a massive win and we deserved it. On the chances we had in the first half, the performance, we deserved to win." And Wise revealed that he had been riding a hunch that Healy might carry his fine form for his country into the league: "I said to him I wasn't going to take him off, I don't know why but me and Gus just fancied him to score. He's really tired and so is Kish. He's another one who's worked extremely hard and was fantastic for us as well. People expect so much of Healy because of what he's done for Northern Ireland. This is what happens when you score at international level and perform very well. Everyone expects you to do it week in, week out. Unfortunately with us he's hit crossbars, he's hit posts, he's hit everything possible and it's not fallen for him at club level. But it has now in the last two matches as he got one at Southend."

March 29: David Healy hit two goals for Northern Ireland - one a stunner from the edge of the box - as he inspired the home side to fight back from a goal down to a 2-1 win over Sweden at Windsor Park. "Are you watching Dennis Wise?" was the question posed to the Leeds manager who was indeed in the stands observing his player jump to the top of the Euro 2008 qualifier scoring charts.

March 27: One of the most experienced reserve line-ups seen for some time drew 1-1 at Bradford yesterday. Graham Stack, Gary Kelly, Hayden Foxe, Rui Marques, Stephen Crainey, Jemal Johnson and Ian Moore all featured in a game that could have been specifically arranged to showcase the talents of the Leeds physios. Jemal Johnson scored for Leeds just before the break but Bradford equalised halfway through the second period. Kelly, Crainey and Marques all seemed to come through the game unscathed - which can only be good news for Dennis Wise's fight against the drop.

March 27: Former Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell has been appointed manager at Luton Town as they struggle against their own relegation problems. Blackwell said: "There is nothing like starting a job in a hard fashion, and it certainly will be like that at Luton. There are six clubs in the mire, we are one of them, and we are going to go out and give it everything we have got for the seven games. They are massive cup finals but the attitude of the players and myself will be to go and get the club out of the trouble they are in. I'm looking forward to a solid future at the football club starting with a very tough challenge which is the next seven games, and if we can overcome this it will stand the boys in good stead in their careers." Looks like he could end up being responsible for the relegation of two sides from the same division in the same season - must be a record!

March 25: In Saturday's internationals, David Healy once again showed that he can score goals when wearing a green shirt - bagging a hat-trick as Northern Ireland ran out 1-4 winners over Liechtenstein in Vaduz. Okay, it's not exactly Premier League opposition but... Meanwhile Robbie Keane set up the only goal of the game for Stephen Ireland as theRepublic turned over Wales 1-0 at Croke Park: Jonathan Douglas played for most of the match and Ian Harte and Andy Keogh were unused subs. As for England's bore draw in Israel - well I guess it's a positive thing that old boys Robbo and Rio kept a clean sheet, and Aaron Lennon's first start saw him use his pace to decent effect despite the total lack of a finishing edge anywhere in the team.

March 23: Former Leeds centreback Robert Molenaar has said that he'll be hanging up his boots at the end of the season. The 38-year-old has been playing for RBC Roosendaal in the Netherlands since leaving Bradford in 2003 and will join the club's coaching staff.

March 23: Gus Poyet today said he was hopeful that a bunch of the experienced players who have been clogging up the treatment room will be available for selection again soon, with the battle for relegation coming down to the wire. Gary Kelly's 4-month layoff with ankle and back problems could be over as he finally returned to training, and loan signing Tore Andre Flo is nearly ready to do the same after breaking a bone in his foot. Alan Thompson's previous return resulted in him leaving the subs bench against Leicester only to return a few minutes later and he too could be ready to rejoin the fray.

March 22: Jemal Johnson's loan has been extended to the end of the season. Michael Gray has returned to the club for a second loan spell. The left back arrives from Blackburn for a month with an option to extend to the end of the season (unless, presumably we're already down by then). Gray played 10 times for the club when he came in on a 3-month loan in February 2005 and there was much talk at the time of the move becoming permanent for the following season, but he decided to stay at Blackburn and take his chances there, One other deadline day move involved the former (very-briefly) Leeds player Craig Hignett signing on with Hartlepool: he has been without a professional deal since leaving Darlington at the end of last season and could make his first appearance against his former club at the weekend.

March 20: Goalkeeping legend Nigel Martyn will be back at Elland Road on Thursday for the latest "Lorimer's Bar" night in the Banqueting Suite. He'll be joined by Shaun Derry, Jonny Howson and John Pearson to have a general chat and answer questions from the assembled masses. Tickets are a tenner each including food.

March 20: Dennis Wise faces a second appearance in front of the FA on a charge of improper conduct following his dismissal at the weekend. Wise was already due to answer a charge arising from the fracas in the West Brom game, and will now have to explain why he stepped over the line with his protest at ref Nigel Miller's failure to award Leeds a late penalty.

March 20: Dennis Wise's increasingly desperate search for a player who can save the club from the drop continues tonight with the reserve team debut of Benedict Akwuegbu. The 32-year-old was a member of the Nigerian World Cup squad in 2002 and has 35 caps to his name.

March 18: Former Leeds player Andy Keogh has been called up into the Ireland squad for their Euro 2008 qualifiers against Wales and Slovakia - ironically after ex-Leeds Youth player Caleb Folan dropped out after picking up an injury. Ian Harte and Robbie Keane join Jonathan Douglas in Steve Staunton's squad.

March 18: Spurs ex-Leeds keeper Paul Robinson doubled his goal tally at the weekend. Robinson got off the mark while at Leeds, heading in a late equaliser in a League Cup tie against Swindon. His latest effort was a little less frantic: a long punt aimed at Mido bounced between the Watford defence and Hornets keeper Ben Foster. One rather large bounce later, an embarrassed Foster was picking the ball out of the net.

March 17: Southend boss Steve Tilson tried to provide an excuse for the ref after the controversial end to today's game: he admitted that his player had fairly blatantly handled the ball in his own area, but said he'd been pushed in the back. Dennis Wise was having none of it, and looks likely to end up in even more hot water with the FA after being sent to the stands for his comments at the time. Wise said: "You only need to look at the reaction of the Southend players, they all had their hands on their heads. I've had problems with [referee Miller] before. I told him I don't want him to referee for me again."

March 17: Gary Speed scored an 87th-minute penalty for Bolton at Old Trafford - unfortunately they were 4-0 down at the time, with Alan Smith getting a 20-minute run and setting up Wayne Rooney for the home side's fourth goal. Jermaine Beckford scored a great solo goal just past the hour to give Scunthorpe the lead at Brighton, but the hosts squared the game shortly afterwards. Andy Keogh started to repay some of his transfer fee with a last-minute equaliser for Wolves at Sheffield Wednesday after the hosts had been reduced to 10 men. Darren Huckerby followed up his midweek winner against Brum with the only goal of the game against Stoke as Norwich climbed to midtable mediocrity (oh that we were that good!).

March 16: Former (briefly) Leeds player Danny Cadamarteri has gone on loan to Doncaster Rovers for a month. The striker has made 7 sub appearances with just 1 goal for Leicester since joining them from Grays.

March 16: Former Leeds striker and youth coach Andy Ritchie could be the next manager at Huddersfield according to some reports today. Ritchie split from Barnsley after falling out with the board over transfer fees and the general running of the club, and although it looks as if they could follow promotion under Ritchie with relegation this season, his achievements haven't gone unnoticed and the vacant seat at Huddersfield could soon be his. Unless, of course, they decide to award the job to the most qualified coach in Europe - Kevin Blackwell is back and looking for a new challenge and would be happy to take on a lower-league side to showcase his coaching ability.

March 14: Leeds United are once again approaching the council for assistance in repurchasing Elland Road. It only seems like yesterday that we were trumpeting the fact that we'd bought the ground back from the council after the problems of the 80s - but a lot of water has gone under the bridge and chairmen through the boardroom since then. CEO Shaun Harvey said: "We have approached the council with a request they assist us by providing a mortgage so we are able to re-purchase both the stadium and Thorp Arch. The mortgage sought by from the council would be comfortably covered by security in the form of a charge over the stadium and Thorp Arch, and also a personal guarantee from a prominent Leeds businessman." And Harvey indicated that the proposed Leeds Arena leisure development could very well land in LS11: "It would enable the club to play a full part in the redevelopment of the Elland Road area and create income streams to support the club on days other than matchdays."

March 12: Penalty hero Casper Ankergren says that he'd like to stay on at the club next season - and his late spot-kick save on Saturday could go a long way to making that wish come true. "I was not looking at it that way at the time but I now know how important it was. I saw the taker was a bit nervous because it was so near the end, but I got lucky. It would have been so disappointing had they scored because we should have been three up at half-time and maybe won even 5-0." He went on: "The supporters here are just fantastic. I have not played for a crowd like that before. Brondby have the best supporters in Denmark, but here in Leeds it is even more crazy. I just love it here and would really like to stay."

March 12: The cheap ticket promotion that saw huge increases in the crowds for QPR and Luton will be repeated when Plymouth visit on April 7. Tickets will be available from fifteen quid - but as with the no-frills airlines, there won't be an inexhaustible supply at that price, and if youleave booking yours until the last minute you're unlikely to get one for so little cash. CEO Shaun Harvey said he appreciated that this devalued the discount that made buying a season ticket worthwhile: "We would also like to thank our loyal season ticket holders for their unstinting support, particularly with our decision to offer reduced prices in the hope of attracting bigger crowds to Elland Road at what is a crucial time for the club." Harvey said that he was hoping that the extra 10,000 or so who were tempted by the promotions might just come again and pay full price. Wishful thinking by the CEO - but let's not discourage him if the offers continue and the ground gets full enough to recreate the old "Fortress Elland Road" atmosphere again.

March 11: Ken Bates used his column in yesterday's match programme to have another go at Melvyn Levi, hitting back at accusations of anti-semitism and accusing Levi of scaring off potential investors - including a mystery man with a hundred million quid burning a hole in his pocket. However Bates' remarks obviously scared the club lawyer since all 8,500 programmes that were printed had to be edited, with a black marker pen used to obscure Bates' comment that Levi's number was in the phone book - interpreted as an invitation to fans to phone the former director and express their disappointment. Meanwhile the two men have finally met - in the Flying Pizza last week. Levi says he was there to meet someone else when he saw Bates at a table and went over to approach him. After a few random exchanges of unpleasantries, Levi was lead away by the restaurant owner.

March 11: A statement was issued at the weekend by the club - essentially coming from Ken Bates' lawyer Mark Taylor and setting out the Official version of the last takeover and subsequent financial shenanigans. Bates is described as the UK representative of the Forward Sports Fund - a Cayman Islands black hole so we don't know who the beneficial owners are. Speaking about the core issue of the current dispute - the rights issue which followed the Krasner group's failure to allow FSF to exercise an option to take complete control - the statement says: "The real reason why the consortium refused to honour its obligations arises out of a dispute between Mr Levi and Mr Bates. He led most of the negotiations with Bates. During negotiations it was suggested that Levi may retain his position as a director of the club following the "Bates" takeover. However, the whole board felt his behaviour was such that he was an inappropriate person to have on the board." So it sounds like Bates is painting this as a Levi ego trip thing. Will we ever hear the real and full tale?

March 09: Dennis Wise has added yet another loanee to the squad: 23-year-old Slovakian international defender Lubomir Michalik joins on loan from Bolton for a month and goes straight into the squad for the Luton game. Michalik has yet to make an appearance for Bolton after signing near the end of the transfer window - but did score when he made his sole international appearance. It's not clear if this is squad strengthening or as a result of an injury picked up by one of the other defenders: Saturday's teamsheet might yield a clue.

March 09: Assistant manager Gus Poyet is not letting the recent problems with Kevin Nicholls get on top of him as the team continues to attempt to escape the drop. He said: "Football is crazy. You come in one morning and everything is alright - then you turn around and your captain wants to go to a team who you are playing on Saturday? I have to pinch myself sometimes to see if I am dreaming because that cannot be real. Do I feel under pressure now? No. What happened there shows I don't know what is going to happen in the next five minutes, so why worry about Saturday? Too many things can happen." Poyet says that the fact that we're only losing by one goal these days rather than the two or three goal defeats before Christmas marks an improvement in form. "You could see then something was missing and I would be really worried if it was the same situation now. But from 1 January onwards we have only lost games by one goal - so it is there for us to see - we are close. We just have not scored at the right time - one goal can change not only those games but the whole season. That is why we keep believing and are still really positive. "

March 07: Shaun Derry says he's desperately frustrated being sidelined as his team-mates battle against relegation. Derry has been out with an achilles problem since the end of last year. He said: "I tried playing against West Brom and realised then it wasn't going to happen in such pain. I tried the natural remedy to let it heal, relax and heal naturally, but six weeks down the line it wasn't going to be. So I went in for the operation a few weeks ago and hopefully it's going to be okay now. I'm just coming out of that two-week rest period. Hopefully that's going be it." He went on: "I've been quite lucky because I haven't had many major injuries in my career, and this has been frustrating more than anything else. This was quite sore, but I'm hoping now I can fly on."

March 07: The Times today reports that Gary Kelly's Leeds career is at an end. The paper says that Dennis Wise has told Kelly that he is 4th choice at right back (Sa, Richardson, Kishishev/Foxe?) and even if he regains his fitness he's not going to be adding to his 531 appearances for the club before his contract expires in the summer.

March 06: Leeds chairman Ken Bates says that Dennis Wise will be the one who decides what to do with want-away former skipper Kevin Nicholls. Bates said: "It's a disappointing situation. I'm very surprised by it. But it's a managerial matter, and one that the manager will deal with. It's only right that I leave it to him." Jonathan Douglas will take the armband for the remainder of the season.

March 06: Leeds reserves drew 3-3 with Barnsley - with Tresor Kandol grabbing a hat-trick into the bargain. Demoted skipper Kevin Nicholls played the whole game, but other than Kandol only Gylfi Einarsson had any real first-team experience.

March 05: Leeds Ladies were pipped for the Premier League Cup on Sunday when Arsenal grabbed the only goal of the game in the 89th minute at Glanford Park. Leeds had dominated the early part of the game but failed to make the most of their chances. Disappointed Leeds manager Julie Chipchase said: "I'm absolutely gutted. We had a defensive strategy and it worked fantastically well for 91 minutes but we showed we've come a long way since Arsenal beat us in the FA Cup final. This performance will be a big confidence booster for us to take back into the League."

March 05: Ian Moore has laid into ex-club captain Kevin Nicholls for his decision to attempt to abandon a sinking ship and return to (the equally sinking) Luton. Moore said: "If the captain isn't pulling in the same direction as the rest you're in massive trouble. I've never known anything like it, as captain it's part of your job to rally the players together." Moore went on: "The timing could not be any worse as Luton are down there with us. I'm sure the fans won't be happy when they find out and I just can't understand his motives. I thought he was settling in but obviously it's not right." And Moore echoed whay many Leeds fans have been thinking - surely there's nothing else to go wrong for us? He said: "There are just so many things going wrong and it seems to be snowballing. The club is going through some of the worst days it probably ever has done and things don't look good at the moment."

March 05: Chairman Ken Bates is once again in the spotlight after comments he made in Saturday's programme. He returned to the attack on former director Melvyn Levi, with whom he is in dispute over a rights issue that sidelined the former board and cemented Bates' control. Bates claimed that Levi had put off potential investors and described him as an "enemy within", adding: "Perhaps you would like to ask him to justify his behaviour, which is damaging to Leeds' prospects of advancement." ...and then printed Levi's address. Levi has reported this to the police, saying: "I will not allow Bates to get away with what he did. He is encouraging fans to come around to my house after describing me in the worst possible terms. It's totally disgraceful. I can't understand why he's singling me out. I haven't spoken to him for more than a year. "He should concentrate on sorting out the many problems within the club, rather that persecute me in language that the Nazis would have used." Now it's true I don't have much sympathy for the Krasner board - who blew our one real chance of financial survival with their own under-financed attempt to make a killing - but I've got to say I'm on Levi's side here: sad to say there are a few "fans" out there who wouldn't need much incitement to fight Uncle Ken's battles for him and this is one step too far. Not that Bates thinks so - he said: "Levi is lucky I didn't put in his telephone number. I'm still waiting for his writ. If he's got a problem, he should speak to me direct."

March 04: Leeds boss Dennis Wise said that he'd rather have the fans chanting for his sacking than going for the team. Speaking after "Wise out" chants rang out as his side saw the 10 men of Wednesday increase their lead from two to three goals, Wise said: "It's better that the fans have a go at me. Bring it on. Have a go at me. They have got to be disappointed with the position we're in, but have a go at me, don't put my players under more pressure. It's not fair to say the players are not giving me everything." Would that include a certain K Nicholls then Dennis? Many people have been surprised at his continued presence in the side given what he'd delivered on the pitch - and this weekend's revelations were not the massive surprise that they should have been.

March 03: Club captain Kevin Nicholls is in limbo after deciding he doesn't have the stomach for the relegation fight at Elland Road. Luton boss Mike Newell contacted Dennis Wise on Wednesday to see if Wise would be prepared to let him return to Luton on loan - but that was the first Wise had heard about it. Wise said: "I'm gobsmacked that he wants to go back to Luton. I wasn't interested at all in letting him go but he has made his mind up. He feels he made a mistake joining us." He went on: I'm very disappointed in him, they're a team fighting us for relegation. I asked whether it was me and Gus that was the problem, he said 'no'." Wise made it clear that he had expected more honorable behaviour from the club captain: "He was the captain of this football club and you expect him to dig in like the rest and get us out of this mess and not jack it in. This really, really disappoints me and this is just some of the things you have to put up with." Wise immediately stripped him of the captaincy and dropped him from the squad for the Sheffield Wednesday game: he wouldn't be drawn on whether or not Nicholls would be picked again but said that Leeds would be looking to get back the 700K paid for the player in the summer if he chose to leave.

March 02: Charlton's Bulgarian midfielder Radostin Kishishev has signed on a one-month loan as Dennis Wise struggles to make up the numbers for Saturday's must-win game against Sheffield Wednesday. Kishishev has made 200 appearances in over 6 years at Charlton - scoring just twice in the process, so I don't think we've signed him to help fix our inability to find the net.

March 01: Leeds boss Dennis Wise is running out of players. With the treatment room already packed with long-term absentees Derry, Kelly and Flo, and Alan Thompson also suffering, Wise gave the latest updates: "Now Ian Westlake needs to see a specialist about his groin problem. We are hoping an injection is all is needed, rather than surgery. Then, I send on Armando Sa as a substitute against Birmingham and he pulls a hamstring. So, in terms of squad numbers, we are down to the bare bones and will have to work with what is at our disposal." Wise knows that wins are needed - and that failure to turn the club around would be disastrous: "I do not know the specifics, that is up to the financial people, but I do know it would mean a huge cut to my budget. I am not even contemplating that scenario though. We will deal with where we are next season once this season is over."

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