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Leeds United News from The Sporting Life    Yorkshire Evening Post


May 31: It's been a bit of a busy week for us at Jabba Towers, and I'm afraid I never did get round to writing that in-depth analysis of Uncle Ken's position and the competing bids - just as well the Guardian had that informative piece yesterday. The main reason why I've been a bit time-poor is simple: I'm delighted to announce the debut this evening of Isabel Alice, one week later than scheduled, but a healthy and happy 3kg baby girl who has already got her dad wound round her little finger. Mum and baby doing well and should be home at the weekend.

May 30: Today's Guardian has an interesting article on the state of the club and its finances ahead of Friday's crucial meeting - read it here. Most interesting quote comes from the administrator - the article reads: 'Asked why the two anonymously-owned offshore entities [Krato and Astor] should agree so dramatically to write off millions of pounds put into Leeds, in return for a sale to a new company in which they state they have no interest, Fleming said: "At the time we agreed it, there were no other offers. Maybe they had football in their hearts and wanted the club to survive."' And if he believes that, I've got a bridge in New York that I'd like to sell him.

May 30: Ken Bates has been frantically attempting to swing the large number of small creditors round to back his bid after Simon Morris's group appeared to be gaining some ground in their attempt to stop Bates' bargain basement buyback on Friday. Morris has almost no chance of getting his own bid through, but could delay things long enough for more information to be revealed on the nature of the offshore entities so keen for Ken Bates to take this burdensome debt off their hands. Bates' message has turned apocalyptic. He said: "If they want a football club in Leeds they should make sure they vote the right way. Otherwise, if the CVA fails, I can assure the fans it is unlikely there will be a Leeds United Football Club. Remember Accrington took 45 years to get back to League status from when they went out. Hopefully, we can move forward and put the tribulations of the last five to six years behind us and start again with an open and even playing field so we can start getting the club back to where it belongs."

May 27: Simon Grayson is one old boy whose face won't be appearing at Elland Road next season: his Blackpool side took their winning streak to 10 games with a play-off final win over Yeovil, gaining promotion to the Championship. Grayson has been in charge of the Seasiders forjust over 18 months, and has worked nothing short of a miraculous turn-around at Bloomfield Road since he took over from Colin Hendry.

May 26: Scott Carson was between the sticks and Aaron Lennon and Alan Smith out on the park as an England B side beat Albania 3-1. Most attention was on Michael Owen's return - and the Newcastle striker passed up a golden opportunity created by Lennon early on. Unfortunately that was all the winger could do before going off with a twisted knee after 10 minutes. Smith opened the scoring from the edge of the box just past the half hour, and there was little that Carson could do about the visitors' goal.

May 25: Neil Sullivan is understood to be in talks with Doncaster - where he spent much of last season on loan - about a permanent switch for next season. Ian Moore could turn up at Huddersfield: still can only think that we let him go for financial reasons because I'm sure he'd be a great success in the 3rd division. Meanwhile former "promising youngster" Simon Johnson is in training at our two-times UEFA Cup opponents CS Maritimo after being released by Darlo at the end of last season.

May 24: Technical director Gwyn Thomas dropped a heavy hint or two as to which players from the current squad we could expect to see next time round. Apparently Rui Marques, Tore Andre Flo and Matt Heath will all be invited to discuss terms in the next couple of weeks - but obviously Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet are hamstrung by the continuing CVA and cannot sign firm contracts or offer guaranteed terms until the financial future of the club is clear. Thomas said: "It's difficult because we are in administration and therefore we have to wait, but we've been doing a lot, particularly during the latter part of last season because we knew we had a number of players whose contracts were coming to an end. We've been looking at replacements, making enquiries, and are looking at what we can and can't do."

May 24: The landlord of the Cat and Cage will be rubbing his hands in expectation of a major boost to his profits on Saturday 7 July as Shelbourne announced that Leeds would once again return to Tolka Park for a friendly - though this is subject to final confirmation from the administrators at Elland Road. Shelbourne were demoted from the top flight due to financial irregularities and it seems a very long time since our last visit on that sunny August weekend in 2003 when Peter Reid's side lost to Shels and Villa, and we reckoned we'd seen the next great Leeds goalscorer in Lamine Sakho.

May 23: Late on Tuesday, Duncan Revie was saying that he was still interested in bidding for the club but couldn't take things forward because of the deadline set by the administrators being too tight. Overnight, things have changed. Revie now said that he had provided proof of funds to KPMG and would be going ahead after all. He said: "My Middle Eastern backer - not a consortium - has upped the pace. Proof of funds have been provided today. And I would like the fans to know that it is my intention to put Leeds United back where it belongs."

May 22: Like most football fans I've got a long memory and will carry some grudges to my grave. So the prospect of AC Milan playing an English team in a European final in Greece means that I'd be cheering for the English team - even if they hailed from Old Trafford. It's over 30 years since ref Christos Michas followed the instructions of his Italian paymasters and handed the Cup-Winners Cup to Milan, and after last season's match-fixing scandal in Italy it beggars belief that they were allowed to enter a UEFA competition at all - but I guess we shouldn't be surprised by any decision made by that organisation. So for tomorrow night only, it's bubble perms and tracksuits all round as we get behind Rafa Benitez and his team, even if that also means seeing Harry Kewell win a second European Cup on the back of an ever smaller contribution.

May 22: Speculation on this summer's overseas trip was confirmed today as the club announced that the first team squad would undertake a three-match tour of Germany in July. The team will open up against Union Berlin on July 18 - a 3rd division outfit over there, so it will be interesting to see how similar levels compare between the two countries. After that it's on to Dresden to face the once-mighty Dynamo - who are also down in the third tier - on July 21. The tour ends with Bundesliga relegation-avoiders Energie Cottbus on July 23.

May 22: Preston and Luton will fight it out for the signature of Kevin Nicholls once the CVA is sorted and Leeds can trade again. Nicholls had indicated a desire to return to the south after failing to settle in Leeds, but being a league higher at Preston may be a better prospect for him than a season of third-tier football under Kevin Blackwell.

May 21: The first batch of pre-season fixtures was announced today. Dennis Wise will take his team to face York City on Saturday 14 July before heading off on a to-be-confirmed overseas tour. They next travel to Burnley on 28 July and then to Darlington for an evening fixture on July 31 before entertaining Wigan at Elland Road on August 4, a week before the season starts.

May 21: All bar four members of the playing staff have agreed to a wage deferral for the duration of the CVA. Presumably this helps the short-term cashflow or makes it cheaper for the club to come out of admin, since the administrators will be paying the four other players and no doubt taking a small slice of the proceeds to fund the transaction.

May 20: We have yet another Sheikh wanting to buy the club! Last time around there were rumours aplenty but no promises of hard cash - so it will be interesting to see what happens this time. Sheikh Samir Mirdad of the Dubai-based Linx group is the latest prospective saviour to throw his hat into the ring. He said: "Leeds United is a prestigious club that has, in the recent past, suffered setbacks. My vision is to bring the club back to its former glory. The club has a huge fanbase and because of the history and the desire of the people of Leeds to see Leeds United back in top-flight football we think this may be the ideal challenge for us. I am very passionate about football and I want to help a lot of other people who share this passion. My intentions should follow the vision that would be shared between me, Mr Bates and the people of Leeds. There is a lot of potential for the club." Errr...yes. But how much money are you prepared to invest, are you really going to put some money in and let Ken run the club, and "ideal challenge"? - you're taking the mick...

May 19: There have been new/first contracts issued for four young players despite the CVA constricting the club's ability to sign up anyone else. Ben Parker - who has been on loan at Bradford, along with reserve regulars Gavin Rothery, Scott Gardner and Tomi Ameobi have all received contracts for the next season as Dennis Wise sets about rebuilding his team.

May 19: Scunthorpe remain keen to take on loanee jermaine Beckford but it's not clear if they will be able to meet the terms offered by Leeds. Scunthorpe boss Nigel Adkins said: "I have spoken to his agent and I have also spoken on a number of occasions to Leeds. Leeds have their own difficulties at the moment, but we have put in a bid for Jermaine because we want to bring him to this football club. Our indications at the moment are that our bid will probably be turned down, but we will pursue our interest."

May 17: The club has announced season ticket prices for next term and - unsurprisingly given the fact that we're in the third division - there are some substantial reductions. New applicants for the Kop will have to pay £400 - down from £525 last year, with juvenile tickets on offer for £190 from £300. The most expensive seats in the ground remain in the John Charles Stand or Lower East Stand, but once again the price of £555 is a bit of a drop from last year's £726. The 5-month interest free option will once again be available, and your money will be safe whatever happens to the club: it will be paid into a ring-fenced account and will not be affected by the CVA.

May 17: Yet more departures to announce from Elland Road as a result of relegation and administration. Long-time physio Alan Sutton, whose lung-busting sprints onto the field and ear-splitting shouts from the sidelines have been a feature of many a dull game has been made redundant, as has kit manager Shaun Hardy and manager's secretary Vicky Walsh. Good luck to all of them - once again it's the "non-stars" who get the biggest kicking from the Ridsdale-induced collapse of the club.

May 17: A thick document landed on many doormats this morning as administrators KPMG sent out a detailed breakdown of the state of the club to all creditors as part of the CVA. Pretty much anyone who is owed anything by the club gets a mention - complete with names and addresses - from the 20-year season ticket holders to Danny Mills and the Inland Revenue. Mills is owed £216,667, Michael Ricketts is waiting for a cheque for £117,500 (surely we can avoid this one since it couldn't be classed as a footballing debt), with Sean Gregan, Eirik Bakke, Steve Stone, Jermaine Wright and Paul Butler also on the list. Ken Bates is offering creditors one penny in the pound on their outstanding debts - with Astor, Forward Sports Fund and Krato generously agreeing to waive their rights to a dividend if the CVA is voted through. Former chairman Gerald Krasner is less than impressed with Bates' offer. He has sent a letter to creditors offering to represent them for free, saying: "Effectively, [Bates] will have bought the club back debt free for approximately £500,000, including professional costs. Quite frankly I consider this offer utterly derisory and unless you agree with this proposal, it is up to you as a creditor to make your voice heard." I'm sure Krasner's offer is motivated entirely from a desire to help the club and small creditors - and not to help his former board associate Simon Morris's takeover attempt, or former board associate Melvyn Levi's continuing claim against the club for his money. But with the football debtors unlikely to vote against any proposal that sees them paid, and with Bates' offshore vehicles guaranteed to back the buyout, it still looks impossible for anything to happen outside of Bates' plan. Which, sad to say, is probably the best thing for the club, because Dennis Wise needs a swift resolution of the financial situation in order to be able to acquire new players and get everyone ready for the start of pre-season training, and the longer the uncertainty continues, the fewer of his first choices will be available.

May 16: June 1 is D-Day! Okay, I know, June 6 was D-Day, but I'm talking about Leeds now. The administrators have set the date for the creditors meeting that will decide the fate of the club. Richard Fleming of KPMG explained what would happen: "At this meeting, I will outline the proposal to sell the club to Leeds United Football Club Ltd [the new Bates-created vehicle] and will also inform the directors of any other matters which could influence their decision, such as details of the level of interest from other potential buyers of the club and indeed any alternative bids. Creditors will then be invited to vote on the proposal and any modifications that emerge. The proposed sale enables the club to survive and offers a minimum return to creditors. We know from preliminary discussions that the deal is supported by some of the larger creditors by value. However, it still requires a majority of 75% to be approved. If the proposal is carried, the CVA process will move forward, which will involve agreeing the club's new ownership with the Football League and paying a dividend to creditors. If not, we will seek an alternative solution, and again request creditor approval." In other words, the companies believed to be controlled by Bates will do exactly what he wants with the only question being whether he can swing an additional 13% of the creditors around to his way of thinking.

May 15: The club have released four more players as the Grand Clearout continues: Armando Sa, Neil Sullivan, Stephen Crainey and Sam Hird have all been told they don't figure in Dennis Wise's plans for next season.

May 15: Have you got a bit of expertise and spare time to help a worthy cause? If so, Leeds United Ladies would like to hear from you. They're looking for people to help with the running of the non-football side of things for next season, so if you can do PR or journalism, website stuff or just general admin then they'd like to hear from you. There's a meeting next Monday at 7pm at Garforth Town, or you can drop them an email at leedsunitedladies@hotmail.co.uk to offer your assistance.

May 12: For the eternal optimists among us, the club has announced that season ticket prices and availability will be announced next week, and that the 5-month interest-free option will once again be available. The club has also indicated that those 100-odd brave and committed souls who forked out for 20-year season tickets will have their tickets honoured if the Bates buyout goes ahead.

May 11: Former Leeds boss Jimmy Armfield is being treated for throat cancer - but it looks like there's a good chance the treatment will succeed, although these things can take time. Armfield faced the thankless task of taking the post-Revie (and post-Clough) side and rebuilding it, and was in charge on that infamous night in Paris when Beckenbauer's Bayern Munich team cheated Armfield's team of the European Cup with no small assistance from the officials. He was sacked by the board for "failing" - top 5 finishes and cup semi-finals in reality were great achievements in the circumstances, but weren't enough to placate fans and financiers who had become accustomed to better things in the Revie Days. He's now a regular summariser and commentator - and a thoroughly decent bloke who always has the time for a chat with the average fan. We wish him well in his fight.

May 10: Don Revie's son Duncan is aiming to put together a bid for the club with backing from a Middle East consortium (where have I heard that before?). Revie says that the only problem will be finding a manager good enough to revive the team! He said: "Some would say that's a pipe-dream, but when Dad walked into the dressing room when we were in the old second division and changed the strip to all white and said, 'I'm going to make you as great as Real Madrid', that was a pipe-dream, too - except that it happened."

May 10: Possibility reported has fact has pushed the club into issuing a statement about the pre-season plans for the summer. Rumours had it that a tour to Germany was set in stone - but the club say it's possible but not confirmed, and that a trip to the States was also possible. A home friendly is looking likely towards the end of July, with the season starting on August 11. There will be two firsts for the club next term: participation in rounds 1 and 2 of the FA Cup in November/December, and entry into the Johnstone Paints Trophy (as the LDV/Freight Rover/give the small clubs a chance Cup is now known) - so get your tickets and hotel rooms booked for a Wembley final on March 30 now!

May 09: Former director Simon Morris has today challenged Ken Bates for the ownership of the club with a £10 million bid as part of a plan to develop a £400 million "leisure venue". Morris reckons that his property company can invest that amount in developing the land around Elland Road (which the council are keen on) and providing a new 50,000 seat stadium into the bargain. Call me a pessimist, but haven't we heard this before? And does any bid other than Bates' have a chance of success? Given that FSF, Astor and Krato are all believed to be vehicles for the Great Man and that they represent 62% of the debt, any hope of another bid achieving approval from 75% of the creditors (by value) must surely be limited unless someone comes in with an enormous premium to allow Bates to exit with his wallet considerably enhanced.

May 09: Hayden Foxe and Robbie Elliott have both been told that their short-term deals will not be extended. The experienced pair have supplemented the defence over the last season, but with Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet orchestrating a major clearout over the next week, they have joined Ian Moore on the way out of the club.

May 08: If you believe half of what you read, the squad changes at the weekend were not the result of giving a few youngsters a chance when there was nothing to play for. Oh no - the conspiracy theorists say that half the senior players were dropped for facing off Dennis Wise over their support for Gary Kelly and attendance at a dinner for Alan Sutton last week. Wise is, apparently, isolated within the camp with Gus Poyet the conduit for all communication with the players. Needless to say all of this comes from friends of friends, or "someone at the club who I can't name" - but things will start becoming clearer soon, with Ian Moore the first to reveal that he is no longer wanted at the club.

May 07: Ken Bates has gone on the record after Kevin Blackwell and Peter Ridsdale both came out with the usual blah that the team wouldn't have gone down if they'd still been around, and they weren't responsible for the problems. Bates said that Blackwell had totally lost the dressing room by the time he left - and that Paul Butler (who many fans were amazed to see as a regular selection) seeming to hold sway. Bates said: "The day Dennis Wise took over, he called Paul Butler in. I had suggested to Blackwell to change his captain, but he said 'no'. I think he was frightened of him. Dennis called Butler in and said he was taking the captaincy off him. Dennis then asked 'do you want to stay?', to which Butler said yes. Dennis then said 'so why did you text another manager and say 'get me out of this club'. There was a silence and I think Butler denied it. But he had made a mistake because Dennis then said 'the text went to my best friend, that's why you are not captain any more'." Bates said that Wise would have a clean sheet for next season, and with only 9 players contracted beyond the summer - and some of those transfer targets for the top divisions - that the manager would be able to pick the players he wanted. Bates said: "It is a clean sheet. Dennis knows already who is going. Some of them we don't want, some are at the end of their contracts and some do not want to play in League One. They do not have the heart for the fight. Dennis knows who falls into that category... The players will then be brought back on July 2 for a proper pre-season. That was at the root of this season's problems. The number of injuries we have picked up this season show that. Dennis says you never make up your pre-season training if you do not do it." If we're being honest, it wasn't the pre-season - though that was clearly badly organised. Nor was it Blackwell's tenure as coach and then manager, which saw a marked drop in the fitness levels and corresponding increase in waistlines. Terry Venables' time didn't help matters - but just as our fortunes on the pitch have been falling since hitting the Champions League semis, so have our off-field standards and preparations ever since David O'Leary ripped up the coaching organisation that had put such success in place and brought in Brian Kidd. Bates had a final dig at Gary Kelly for failing to agree a wage cut: Kelly offered to halve his appearance money with the proviso that he would be compensated if Leeds were promoted - but that wasn't ood enough for Bates. And finally the current chairman had a go at his predecessor: "It is Ridsdale's fault that this club is in this state. He was the chairman who borrowed the money and wasted it. Now he is blaming David O'Leary, but O'Leary did not sign the cheques. When he became chairman [of Cardiff] they were five points clear. Now they have not qualified for the play-offs. Maybe he should concentrate on his own performance."

May 06: The haste with which the administrators appear to have concluded a deal to sell the club has been questioned by former chairman and insolvency expert Gerald Krasner. He says that despite what KPMG have stated, other people are interested in buying the club. He said: "I know there are seven other interested parties because over the last three weeks I've received phone calls from representatives asking me for technical advice. It's certainly not for me to name names, but they know I know a bit about Leeds... The truth is there are people in town, they just don't want to work with Ken Bates and have been waiting to work with the administrators."

May 05: So we went into administration because of a five-million plus debt to HMRC. Would we have found the money - and avoided administration and the ten-point penalty - if we'd gone into the final match with half a chance of survival? Or would we have still been unable to pay but decide to chance starting next season in the Championship on -10 points. All academic now I guess...

May 04: All week there have been indications of discussions between the club and KPMG, and this all came to a head this afternoon when it was announced that the club had entered administration, with a tax bill being the final straw. This instantly attracts a 10-point penalty from the League, turning our bar-a-miracle escape hopes into dust and guaranteeing that Leeds finish the season at the bottom of the Championship. On the positive side it means that we won't start next season on -10 points. Whatever happens to the other debt, any remaining "footballing debts" - i.e. wages for Robbie Fowler, Danny Mills and so on - must be paid in full. But it looks like the creditors will have to take a hit, but will accept that getting a few pence in the pound will be better than the alternative. More soon....

May 04: Almost as soon as the club went into administration, KPMG announced that the business had been sold to.... Leeds United Football Club - props K Bates, S Harvey, M Taylor. So basically the offshore owners of the old club and its debts - Forward Sports Fund and Astor (who were both believed to be fronts for Bates' investments) will have to take a hit. But in return for a smallish new investment and writing off the small amount he previously put in, Chairman Ken gets a debt-free vehicle with an attractive option to repurchase the ground and Thorp Arch, and the freedom for Dennis Wise to organise a team which should - hopefully - stroll to promotion next season. Agreement from 75% of the creditors is needed for this to formally complete, but the administrators say that this was the only offer on the table, so unless one of the many mystery consortia who have been linked with the club over the last 4 years suddenly reappears, it seems it's a done deal.

May 03: Assistant manager Gus Poyet has called on the team to try to end the season on a high note with a win at Derby. He said: "We've said we need to finish well at Derby now and win the game. We've got nothing to lose. [Avoiding relegation is] practically impossible but we'll go there, try to play, and hopefully get a result. If we can score a few goals and get a result that would be okay. After that we will sit down and think about next season." Expect a couple of youngsters to be given a chance to impress: there's not much point in fielding a team full of loanees and soon-to-be-sold players now that neither us nor Derby have anything to lose or gain in this match.

May 02: Striker Aaron Burns becomes the second ex-ManU youngster to turn up at Thorp Arch in search of a chance to take apart some Third Division opposition next season. Maybe we should run a sweep on how many triallist Dennis will take on this summer: anything less than 100 would be wasted bet!

May 02: Chairman Ken's lawyers have been busy again. They've fired off a writ against the Daily Mail demanding they print a retraction of their "rumour" that the club will quit Elland Road in favour of South Leeds Stadium. Bates said: "We have issued a writ this morning against the Mail for damages and a retraction - and I want to reassure all Leeds fans that we have no intention of moving anywhere else at all and intend to stay at Elland Road, certainly as long as I am chairman. Another allegation made was that we would redevelop Elland Road for property, implying we would make a lot of money out of it. It's no secret that we want to redevelop around the edges to give us a seven-day-a-week, 52 weeks a year off-field income, and that's what we intend to do in due course as part of the council's masterplan for the area."

May 01: Dennis Wise is already looking to the future: he's handed a trial to ex ManU youngster Jamie Mullan. The winger has been release by the Old Trafford outfit and will be the first of many to turn up at the training ground as Wise seeks to build a new squad with precious little left from the mass of loanees and soon-to-be-ex players who have taken the club down this time around.

May 01: Former Sheffield United chairman Mike McDonald says that Ken Bates' talk of him making an unfunded offer for Leeds is garbage. He admitted to meeting Bates and saying he would be prepared to invest - but only as part of a consortium and without the burden of joining the board. McDonald said: "If someone said, 'would you invest in Leeds?', I would be interested if I thought it was a good deal. Leeds is a big club with a big fanbase and, although it will be an uphill slog to turn it around, it can happen if it is run the right way." McDonald also denied any suggestion that he'd already got Graeme Souness lined up as manager.

May 01: Following Sam Allardyce's departure from Bolton and Sammy Lee's appointment as new manager, veteran former Leeds midfielder Gary Speed has taken on a coaching role at the club. Sammy Lee said: "Gary is a model professional and has great aspirations to be a top-class coach. He is fully-qualified having recently gained his Uefa A licence. He has great tactical and technical knowledge and is highly-respected by his team-mates." Speed continued the mutual backslapping theme: "I am delighted to be joining a new exciting era for the club under the leadership of Sammy Lee. Sammy has great ambition to take the club forward and I am looking forward to be part of that process."

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