Saturday, December 27, 2003

Times Online - Newspaper Edition

O'Leary's return to Leeds leaves Gray frustrated on and off the pitch
By Jeremy Cross
Leeds United 0 Aston Villa 0

HONOURS were shared in a dour contest at Elland Road yesterday, yet David O’Leary, the Aston Villa manager, left his former stamping ground convinced that he had secured a victory on points. O’Leary’s acrimonious dismissal from Leeds United 18 months ago had meant that his first return to the club where he “lived the dream” with Peter Ridsdale, the former chairman, had been awaited with mixed feelings.
As it turned out, his walk to the opposition dug-out before kick-off was accompanied by rapturous applause. While some would portray the Irishman as the joint architect of Leeds’s financial collapse, it appears the club’s supporters lay no blame at his door.
He was welcomed back like a hero, yet O’Leary was never in any doubt as to his status with the Leeds faithful. “The crowd here didn’t drive me out,” he said. “They were fantastic. They are getting behind Leeds now and I never had a problem with them while I was here.”
O’Leary’s grand entrance must have stuck in the throat of Eddie Gray, the Leeds caretaker manager, who fell out with his former colleague when O’Leary appointed Brian Kidd as head coach and left the Leeds legend to deal with more mundane matters such as scouting. Nothing would have given Gray greater pleasure than to have seen Leeds continue their recent renaissance with another victory at the expense of O’Leary’s team.
The fact that it did not happen owed much to the lack of support offered to Mark Viduka in attack and the visiting team’s stubborn determination in most areas of the field. In truth, neither side deserved to win and it is a safe bet that both Leeds and Aston Villa will be looking over their shoulders until the final week of the season, even though the home side extended their unbeaten run to five games and Villa have lost just one of their past seven.
James Milner wasted the best chance of the first half for Leeds, fluffing his shot after Paul Robinson’s punt upfield caught the Villa defence flat-footed, while, on the stroke of half-time, Juan Pablo Ángel had a goal for Villa disallowed for handball. Michael Duberry, desperate to impress the manager who largely ignored him during his reign at Elland Road, was also frustrated when his clinical finish to Milner’s free kick in the 54th minute was adjudged offside.
Although Thomas Sorensen, in the Villa goal, had to cling to a skidding drive from Alan Smith in the closing stages, such is the fraught nature of the Premiership this season that both sides were most concerned with not giving anything away.
Leeds travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers tomorrow needing to land a blow on one of their closest relegation rivals. “A point would be good away from home but we will be going there to win all three,” Gray said. “It will be a huge battle right until the end of the season but this result gives us a little bit more confidence and belief that we can get the results we need.”
LEEDS UNITED (4-5-1): P Robinson — G Kelly, M Duberry, M Kilgallon, I Harte — J Pennant (sub: A Lennon, 72min), D Batty, A Smith, D Matteo (sub: E Bakke, 64), J Milner — M Viduka. Substitutes not used: S Carson, L Sakho, S McPhail.
ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): T Sorensen — M Delaney, O Mellberg, D Dublin, J Samuel — L Hendrie (sub: D Vassell, 66), P Whittingham, G McCann, G Barry — S Moore (sub: T Hitzlsperger, 66), J P Ángel. Substitutes not used: S Postma, U De La Cruz, R Johnsen. Booked: Dublin, Whittingham.
Referee: S Bennett

Friday, December 26, 2003

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O'LEARY CALLS FOR LEEDS ENQUIRY

David O'Leary has supported calls for an enquiry in to what happened to the money at Leeds United, following his rousing reception from the Elland Road crowd on his return.
O'Leary was delighted to be welcomed back by the fans, admitting he felt the support of the club was the thing that would always make Leeds a big club.
The Irishman was sacked by the club after one if its most promising periods, but cannot believe the financial collapse that took Leeds to the brink of bankruptcy.
"I would support an enquiry into what happened at this club," said O'Leary. "At that time we had the Champions League semi-final, a sell out of course and a big sponsorship deal with Nike and I was never aware of any financial problems. I let the financial people handle things because that was their strength I thought. I believed that a couple of people were overseeing things and that doesn't appear to have been the case. I have an inkling about what went on but I'm not prepared to say at this stage. I will say I would support an enquiry because I would love to know just were the money went."
O'Leary, now at Aston Villa was proud to be cheered by the home crowd, but not surprised by his welcome.
"The fans make this club,” said O'Leary. “I was never worried about coming back here because I liked being manager here and I think I did a good job. I want them to stay up and if they keep this form up there is no chance of them going down."
BBC SPORT | Football | Premiership | Leeds 0-0 Aston Villa

Leeds remain in the drop zone after being held at home to Aston Villa

Both sides showed plenty of effort and desire but the game was desperately short of goalscoring opportunities.
Juan Pablo Angel had a goal ruled out for handball, while Leeds had the ball in the net only for defender Michael Duberry to be ruled offside.
Former Leeds boss David O'Leary got a mixed response on his return to Elland Road for the first time since being sacked by the club 18 months ago.
As expected O'Leary was booed by some Leeds fans, but he also heard some cheers from fans who remembered the good times of his rollercoaster reign.
Once the game got under way there was not too much for the fans to cheer about with hardly a clear-cut chance in sight.
Villa's in-form striker Angel had the first shot in the seventh minute with a 25-yard effort which bobbled past Paul Robinson's right-hand post.
Leeds responded with Jermaine Pennant superbly controlling a high hanging ball from Mark Viduka before drilling in a cross from the right-hand edge of the area.
Villa keeper Thomas Sorensen could only parry the cross but Dion Dublin came to his keeper's rescue by clearing.
James Milner latched onto a Robinson clearance, but the 17-year-old completely mis-hit his shot and Sorensen comfortably saved.
Villa looked to have taken a 35th-minute lead when Angel bundled over the line from a Lee Hendrie left-wing free-kick.
But the Colombian clearly used his right hand and the infringement was spotted by one of the assistant referees.
Leeds looked more lively in attack in the opening exchanges of the second half and had the ball in the net themselves.
A free-kick from Milner was sidefooted home by Duberry but he was adjudged offside.
Villa's Peter Whittingham had a volley deflected over the bar by Duberry but it was Leeds who looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
Alan Smith had a shot blocked by Dublin and then skipper Dominic Matteo fired a 25-yard shot over the bar as the home side desperately looked for an opening.
Teenage defender Matthew Kilgallon was making his first Premiership start and he was lucky to get away with a shove on the back of Moore inside the penalty area.
Villa threw on Thomas Hitzlsperger and Darius Vassell in an effort to force their way back into the game.
There was a late flurry of chances with Gareth Barry, Vassell and Angel firing off target and Smith's 30-yard effort saved by Sorensen.
But neither side really did enough to deserve the three points.
And as the campaign approaches the halfway point the only thing Leeds and Villa are likely to be playing for come the end of the season is their Premiership safety.
Leeds: Robinson, Kelly, Duberry, Kilgallon, Harte, Pennant (Lennon 73), Smith, Batty, Matteo (Bakke 64), Milner, Viduka. Subs not used: Carson, Sakho, McPhail.
Aston Villa: Sorensen, Delaney, Mellberg, Dublin, Samuel, Hendrie (Vassell 66), Barry, McCann, Whittingham, Angel, Moore (Hitzlsperger 66). Subs not used: Postma, De la Cruz, Johnsen.
Booked: Dublin, Whittingham.
Attendance: 38,513.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent)
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GRAY PLEASED WITH POINT

Leeds United's stand in boss Eddie Gray admits that the 0-0 draw against Aston Villa was far from a classic, but is happy that his side claimed a point.
Gray's side are now unbeaten in five games, and the Scot was delighted with his side's work ethic.
"It was a difficult game, but I thought we did very well," said Gray. "I think a draw was a fair result, they shaded the first half but I thought we were better in the second. I'm a little disappointed not to have won at home, but I am also happy that we didn't lose. I'm trying to get the players to believe in themselves and also to believe in each other. One thing I can't criticise since I came back here is the work ethic - they are all working very hard. It wasn't a great game, but when two teams are battling for points it's always going to be a scrap."
Sport

Leeds' hopes of survival pinned on Gray
By Tim Rich

The ghost of Christmases past stalks Elland Road this afternoon. David O'Leary laughed when asked if he imagined he could return to Leeds United with his held high. However, his reception will be considerably less than that of another messianic figure who came within an ace of breaking Manchester United's hold on the Premiership but whose legacy was heavy debt and memories of what might have been.
Kevin Keegan's name was chanted from every corner of St James' Park when he returned for the first time in February 2002. The Manchester City team bus nosed its way into the stadium through a Geordie sea for an FA Cup tie and Keegan blew kisses to the vast stand his team had paid for.
O'Leary, now at Aston Villa, will get precious little of this; his legacy is far more questionable. His insistence that he was unaware that he was spending £70 million of someone else's money still rings hollow 18 months after Peter Ridsdale dismissed him following a terse five-minute conversation.
Eddie Gray was more direct. Yes, the club "was essentially spending money it didn't have", he admitted recently. When it was doing most of the spending, Gray, who was never close to the Irishman, was third in line, behind O'Leary and a man who supplanted him as first team coach, Bryan Kidd.
Just as Newcastle recovered their post-Keegan equilibrium only through Sir Bobby Robson, who queued for tickets to see Jackie Milburn play in the 1951 FA Cup final, so it needed Gray, a Glasweigan steeped in Leeds United since he made the first of his 442 appearances for the Yorkshire club in 1965, to oversee the revival.
Should O'Leary blow a kiss towards the Revie stand this Boxing Day, Gary Edwards will be there. He has been watching Leeds as long as Gray has been associated with the club and his experiences are recounted in a book called Paint It White - the title derives from his refusal as a painter and decorator to deck out anything in red. In all these years he has missed one game - a friendly in Toronto in 1968 and that because he could not get a flight from Madrid.
He has seen so much but unlike so many fans whose support teeters on the edge of fanaticism, Edwards has a sense of perspective. In 1973 he saw Leeds attempt a treble of the Championship, Cup-Winners' Cup and FA Cup. Thirty years later the treble they might achieve is relegation, administration and the sale of their few survivors from the O'Leary years.
"This is not the worst I've felt, that was coming back from Paris after the European Cup Final of 1975, knowing we had been cheated. Had we won that game, the whole perspective of Leeds United would have been altered.'' The best was not the run to the European Cup semi-final two years ago. "No, it was beating Barcelona in the Nou Camp when Johann Cruyff was at his peak. The Barca fans held a huge banner of Cruyff in a tank driving over us and on the night we were inspired. "I have seen too much to be depressed. I can't say if it was right to sack Peter Reid [although Reid candidly told Emlyn Hughes that he deserved to go because of the results]. But we would have definitely gone down under Terry Venables. 'I'm encouraged by what Eddie Gray has achieved. Our great days under O'Leary were with him as first team coach, attacking in a 4-3-3 formation. Something went missing when he was replaced by Kidd, and I'm not just saying that because of his links with Manchester United.''
The team shattered 6-1 at Fratton Park in Reid's final, disastrous game in charge has shown signs of the old panache. They might have beaten Chelsea and Manchester City, while their 3-2 victory over Fulham was as if the last two disastrous years had never been.
There are still shadows hanging over Gray, not least the fact he is not properly qualified to coach the club. He was supposed to have taken out his Uefa licence in the summer but he was sacked by Reid and then, in a twist only Leeds could have managed, he was appointed by the then chairman, John McKenzie, to act as his "football adviser'' and ended up advising McKenzie on the man, Reid, who had just fired him. This however will be less of an obstacle than the opening of the transfer window in five days time.
January has been a cruel month at Elland Road. In 2000 there was the fracas outside the Leeds nightclub which led to the trial of Jonathon Woodgate and Lee Bowyer. In January two years ago, O'Leary published his astonishingly ill-timed book, Leeds United On Trial, which did much to undermine their position as Premiership leaders.
Last January, Venables and his chairman, Peter Ridsdale, eyed each other with contempt and suspicion as they attempted to explain away Woodgate's sale to Newcastle.
Now, having hauled themselves within sight of safety, Leeds face the loss of Mark Viduka to Manchester United and, perhaps even more unpalatable, that of Alan Smith. Viduka, whose churlishness poisoned the dressing-room in Reid's last days, has regained the form that salvaged the club last season.
The loss of Smith would be far more symbolic - akin to Newcastle's sale of Paul Gascoigne - and an admission they are no longer big enough to hold on to a local hero.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

ThisisLondon

Birch considers Leeds inquiry
23 December 2003
Leeds acting-chairman Trevor Birch today promised to consider an independent inquiry into the running of the club over the last five years.
With John McKenzie stepping down as plc chairman at the annual general meeting at Elland Road, albeit remaining on the football club board as a director, Birch has now assumed overall control and a new job title.
Initially appointed as chief executive, Birch will be in temporary charge until at least January 19, the deadline agreed with creditors while a buyer is sought for the club currently £78million in debt.
Birch's appointment as a director was overwhelmingly agreed by shareholders, who understandably voiced their anger and frustration at how the club had managed to find themselves in such a financial mess.
One shareholder described the Leeds board, primarily harking back to the era under Peter Ridsdale, as "inept" and "incompetent", while another claimed they were now "the laughing stock of the football world".
Such accusations prompted a suggestion that Leeds should implement an independent inquiry to discover why the club stand on the brink of administration.
"Shareholders have a right to be angry," said Birch, who it has been revealed is the highest-paid director in the history of the club as he is earning £500,000-per-year, although he is continuing to work without a contract. "On the face of it, it (the club's financial record) is difficult to defend as the results speak for themselves. But John came in, steadied the club and steered it through turbulent waters. The reality is the ship is still afloat. It may well have sunk if John had not implemented pretty difficult decisions in terms of taking cuts out of the business. In terms of an inquiry, all my efforts are concentrated on the club, and I'm not sure who would take it on and how it would be financed. But it's something to look at once Leeds United is safe. For now, we are totally geared towards saving the club."
Due to Stock Market regulations, Birch was unable to divulge to the 250-strong meeting any details of negotiations ongoing with potential buyers, or their identity.
Former deputy plc chairman Allan Leighton is believed to be favourite to take over with a consortium, although he came in for strong criticism, as did McKenzie.
Birch, though, reassured the shareholders a buyer would be found as he said: "We are talking to a number of interested parties and it is a very delicate set of negotiations. We have to hope they are concluded within the time frame otherwise the alternative is the club falls over, but I am confident something will be done."
Birch, meanwhile, has again warned Manchester United off a bid for Mark Viduka, with Sir Alex Ferguson poised to make a move in the January transfer window.
Ferguson watched Viduka during Leeds' 1-1 draw at Manchester City, with the striker scoring his second goal in as many games to give the Whites another vital point in the battle to beat the drop.
"No club can say a player is not for sale if the figure is not the right one," added Birch, with United understood to have already made an approach for the Australia international. "But we don't want to sell anybody and we don't need to sell anybody. Selling a player for £3.5million makes no difference to the level of debt and only weakens the playing squad."
Caretaker-manager Eddie Gray was given a standing ovation when he was introduced, and concluded the meeting in rousing fashion.
"Everybody is here for one reason and that's because we love Leeds United," said Gray. "If we all stick together then we can make this club great again because I firmly believe we should be among the elite clubs with Manchester United and Arsenal. It's up to me and the players to turn things round and if we get it right on the pitch then everything else takes care of itself. I will say that we will do our utmost to survive in the Premier League, and if we do that then I am sure we will go on and get back into Europe. I know people have reservations about the financial side, but everybody is working hard to get us back on an even keel. On the pitch, there are good players at this club and if you get behind them, as you have been doing, then we will climb the table."
Leeds United Football Club - Investigation Can Wait


Leeds chief executive Trevor Birch has said that any enquiry into the club's past operations will have to wait until the future of Leeds United has been resolved.
Birch was responding to questions at the AGM, amongst them calls for the dealings of previous management to be opened up for independent examination.
"Shareholders have a right to be angry," said Birch. "On the face of it, it (the club's financial record) is difficult to defend as the results speak for themselves. But John came in, steadied the club and steered it through turbulent waters. The reality is the ship is still afloat. It may well have sunk if John had not implemented pretty difficult decisions in terms of taking cuts out of the business. In terms of an inquiry, all my efforts are concentrated on the club, and I'm not sure who would take it on and how it would be financed. But it's something to look at once Leeds United is safe. For now, we are totally geared towards saving the club."
Asked whether Mark Viduka would be sold, Birch said it was the intention of the club to hold onto the Australian striker to boost their Premiership survival.
"No club can say a player is not for sale if the figure is not the right one," said Birch. "But we don't want to sell anybody and we don't need to sell anybody. Selling a player for £3.5million makes no difference to the level of debt and only weakens the playing squad."

Monday, December 22, 2003

Telegraph | Sport | Leeds maintain Gray impetus

Man City (0) 1 Leeds Utd (1) 1
Shortly before 8.30 last night Eddie Gray would have raised a glass at his daughter Natalie's wedding. Not to toast the bride and groom but to mark the latest significant step forward of the Leeds United team who were in a dreadful mess when he inherited them from Peter Reid five games ago.
Mark Viduka's fifth goal of the season enabled the absent Gray to savour his fourth reward from that short tenure - a precious point which inches them closer to Premiership safety as the teams around them move in the opposite direction.
Manchester City are one of those teams and would have slipped even closer to the danger zone but for substitute Antoine Sibierski's late equaliser which quelled growing discontent among the home faithful.
Gray was clearly at the City of Manchester Stadium in spirit as his players continue to respond encouragingly to his new approach to the daunting task of arresting the decline of a famous club.
The satisfactory outcome here also raises morale among shareholders for today's annual meeting. At the start of the month that was shaping up to be an angry affair but with chairman John McKenzie now out of the firing line the long-suffering supporters may instead decide on displaying seasonal goodwill towards their beleaguered leaders.
Viduka, who many believe will be the next big name to leave the financially-troubled Yorkshire club, was able to celebrate his 150th appearance for them in style thanks to some appalling defending by David Sommeil, City's centre back, midway through what had been a tense first half.
A routine clearance looked Sommeil's for the taking as the Frenchman beat Viduka to a hopeful through ball by young James Milner but Sommeil got in a terrible tangle and the Austalian striker was able to take the ball round David Seaman and stroke it into an empty net.
Kevin Keegan, the City manager watching helplessly from the touchline, held his head in disbelief as Gray's assistant, Kevin Blackwell, jumped for unexpected joy in his one and only match at the helm.
That simple finish enabled Viduka and his anxious Leeds team-mates to forget his alarming miss from the visitors' first attack. Again Milner was the provider with a curling free-kick from the left which eluded everybody in a crowded penalty area before finding its way through to Leeds' lone striker. All it required was a far-post flick past Seaman but Viduka failed to make contact from two yards out.
City, who were desperately trying to come out of a disturbing slump, should also have made their mark before the interval but were guilty of equally weak finishing.
Their biggest culprit was American midfielder Claudio Reyna, who was cleverly picked out in front of goal by Nicolas Anelka. A scuffed shot from 10 yards which skidded past goalkeeper Paul Robinson lacked the pace to beat the covering Michael Duberry.
After the break, Robbie Fowler should have scored against his former club with a header from a Shaun Wright-Phillips cross but the exLiverpool striker remains a shadow of his former self in front of goal and saw his attempt loop a few feet wide to the relief of the stranded Robinson.
Leeds' accomplished England goalkeeper was beaten again a couple of minutes later when England under-21 midfielder Joey Barton let fly with a splendid low drive but the inside of an upright came to the visitors' rescue.
With Anelka also heading over from a promising situation and Richard Dunne heading into the arms of Robinson, the Leeds rearguard was stretched to the limit in preserving their hard-earned advantage.
That resistance was nearly broken when Reyna, receiving the ball fortuitously off the heel of Anelka, shaved the outside of a post with a shot on the run and Anelka headed over from eight yards from a Sun Jihai cross.
Keegan made a triple substitution - the departure of Barton bringing more protests than those of Steve McManaman and Fowler - in a desperate attempt to salvage something from another miserable occasion and one of the trio, Sibierski, did the trick eight minutes from time with a splendid header from Sun Jihai's cross.
Man City: Seaman, Jihai, Sommeil, Dunne, Distin, Wright-Phillips, Reyna, Barton (Sibierski 71), McManaman (Macken 70), Fowler (Wanchope 70), Anelka.
Subs Not Used: Stuhr-Ellegaard, Tarnat.
Goals: Sibierski 82.
Leeds: Robinson, Kelly, Radebe (McPhail 74), Duberry, Harte, Pennant (Bridges 81), Smith, Batty (Kilgallon 90), Matteo, Milner, Viduka.
Subs Not Used: Carson, Morris.
Booked: Duberry, Batty, Bridges.
Goals: Viduka 24.
Att: 47,126
Ref: G Barber (Hertfordshire)
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LEEDS HAPPY WITH POINT
Leeds United head coach Kevin Blackwell was very happy with a point at Manchester City, but confirmed the loss of Lucas Radebe through injury.
Leeds secured a valuable point thanks to a 1-1 draw at The City of Manchester Stadium and Blackwell confirmed that getting something from the game was very much part of their pre-game plan.
"It is one of those games were you set your plan out and try to get something and that is what we got," explained Blackwell - who was manager for the night as Eddie Gray was attending his daughter's wedding. "We knew we were would be under the cosh after we scored and we had to make decisions about it. It was a great fighting spirit from us and the players put their heads and bodies in where it counts. We wanted to try and stay tight and we did."
Blackwell also confirmed that South African defender Lucas Radebe had torn his hamstring, after he was stretched off in the latter stages of the match.
"Lucas has completely torn his hamstring and it looks as if he is out for six to eight weeks," he confirmed.
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SIBIERSKI SAVES CITY'S BLUSHES
Monday 22nd December 2003

Manchester City 1-1 Leeds United
A late goal from substitute Antoine Sibierski levelled Mark Viduka's first half opener to give Manchester City a 1-1 draw against Leeds United on Monday evening.
Viduka had capitalised on a David Sommeil error to put Leeds ahead after 24 minutes and City looked like losing a game they had dominated until Sibierski headed home brilliantly to seal a share of the spoils with less than ten minutes left.
City had started the game brightly and opened Leeds up after just 70 seconds when Shaun Wright-Phillips out paced Ian Harte before firing the ball across the area, but it was behind the on-rushing Nicolas Anelka.
Leeds then had what would prove to be a rare chance, but it was a great one as James Milner flighted a free kick into the City area - the ball evaded everyone including Viduka at the back post, who only needed to make contact to score.
The home side continued to attack with pace, but Steve McMananman and David Sommeil could both only blast wide after good link-up play with Anelka on each occasion.
Leeds then made the breakthrough - very much against the run of play, but it was a calamitous error from Sommeil which gifted them the goal.
James Milner picked up a great ball from Alan Smith down the right and attempted to find Viduka without much success, but as Sommeil attempted to control the ball the Aussie dispossessed him and took the ball wide of David Seaman before firing home.
City were stunned by the goal and it took them a while to get back in their stride, but they should have levelled just before the interval.
Claudio Reyna received a pull back from Anelka just eight yards out and he beat Paul Robinson with his shot, but Michael Duberry was brilliantly placed on the line to clear.
Kevin Keegan's instructions seemed quite clear at half time and City dominated second half possession.
Richard Dunne, Reyna and the disappointing Robbie Fowler all saw efforts easily saved or fly wide.
Joey Barton almost brought City level with their best effort of the game when he picked up the ball 25 yards out and jinxed past David Batty on the edge of the area before launching a tremendous effort which beat Robinson, but deflected back off the inside of the left-hand post.
Keegan then brought on Paulo Wanchope, Jonathan Macken and Antoine Sibierski with 20 minutes remaining in a desperate bid to spark City into life - Fowler and Steve McManaman made way for the first two, while Barton - to the displeasure of the homes fans - came off for the French midfielder.
However, the former England coach would have the last laugh as the equaliser came with seven minutes remaining.
Good build up play saw the ball switch to the right for Sun Jihai, he floated a cross into the edge of the area and that was met by a thunderous header from Sibierski which sailed over the helpless Robinson.
City came forward looking for the winner, but it was Leeds who then came close when Duberry headed a Milner's corner goalward, but Sibierski was in the right place again as he deflected the effort wide.
Wright-Phillips and Reyna attempted efforts, but like most of the evening City's finishing was below standard.
In the final minute the game flared up. James Milner had broken clear but as he closed in on goal he went down, referee Graham Barber waved play-on - despite the fact it looked as if the young midfielder had his heels clipped by Sommeil.
Leeds were not happy and Michael Bridges was booked for a rash challenge, as Smith and Sommeil had to be separated.
The game at last had an edge to it and City again pushed forward in desperate search for the second and it almost came in stoppage time when Reyna hit a sweet half volley from 25 yards only for Robinson to push the ball wide.
The point means Leeds remain second from bottom, but are now within three points of Tottenham in 15th, while City climb three places to 11th.
LeedsUtdMAD Independent - the definitive Leeds United website. Independent news and stats from footymad.net: "Gerrard: It All Points To Leighton"

Dr BILL GERRARD, a professor of sport management and finance at Leeds University, is convinced Allan Leighton is the man who will come up with a rescue plan for Leeds.
Leighton resigned as Leeds' deputy plc chairman earlier this month in order to form a consortium, aided by a number of leading city investors, thanks to his business connections.
"When you look at it logically, and the longer it goes on, there's only one credible solution," said Gerrard, who will be attending the AGM tomorrow. "Eddie Gray is key to the football future at Leeds United, with Trevor Birch key to a successful financial future, with the third part of the triumvirate being Leighton. The creditors would not have proposed a standstill agreement and Trevor Birch would not have come in if he had not done his homework and there was something viable. He has come up here to see it through and to move the club on, while the creditors would not be confident in reaching an agreement with the club if they felt there would be no money put on the table. I feel the Chinese link is nothing more than a smokescreen for the Professor, and while the sheikh is a Leeds fan, he is a long shot. It all points to Leighton coming in with his own consortium and I'm not saying that with any insider knowledge, it's just a matter of elimination. The fact he has not come out and said anything publicly is because he is someone who would not say anything unless all his ducks were in a row. He will say things when they need to be said, and he has until January 19th for a deal to be done."

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Leeds Today

VIDUKA SET FOR MOVE TO MAN UTD
By PAUL DEWS

MANCHESTER UNITED'S top priority when the transfer window re-opens is to capture Leeds United striker Mark Viduka, the YEP can reveal.
The Old Trafford club are set to swoop for the Aussie ace by making cash-strapped Leeds a £5million offer next month.Reds boss Sir Alex Ferguson is desperate to find a partner for Ruud van Nistelrooy and has identified Viduka as the missing piece in the jigsaw.Elland Road chief executive Trevor Birch insists no fire sales will be necessary in January, but he will have a fight on his hands if Viduka, asanticipated, confirms his desire to leave.It's understood that Leeds have already received a tentative enquiry from Old Trafford about Viduka's availability. Caretaker boss Eddie Gray would resist any approach for his star striker, but admits he won't be surprised when clubs come knocking on the Elland Road door.
Said Gray: "You can never tell what happens with players. I'm sure Viduka is a player who will attract interest from other clubs. In an ideal world you would want to keep him. It's important you keep all your best players, but you have to be realistic enough to know that things change. Everybody in the game knows he is a world class striker – one of the best in the business – but it's something I'm not thinking about at the moment."
The 28-year-old had a series of public rucks with former manager Peter Reid, but has shown an encouraging return to form since Gray took over the reins.Viduka and Gray appear to have struck up a good rapport – the player has responded by turning in a string of impressive performances since his arrival – and after training yesterday the pair were deep in conversation.
"He's in good form at the moment," said Gray. "He knows what he's about – he just gets on with it. I just tell him what I expect. He is a great player. He holds the ball up and brings people into the game. That's his job. I've got great faith in his ability. Anyone who has worked with him will know about his talents."
Inter Milan have a long held interest in the former Celtic star.
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LEEDS: 'NO SALES IN JANUARY'

Leeds chief executive Trevor Birch has again insisted that no player will be leaving Elland Road during January's transfer window.
With Leeds £78million in debt and up for sale as they strive to avoid the threat of administration, speculation surrounds the futures of players like Mark Viduka, Alan Smith and James Milner.
All three have been linked with possible moves to Manchester United, while Viduka is again seemingly attracting the interest of Inter Milan.
The Italian giants tried to land the Australia international on loan for the season in the summer, offering #2million for the deal, but Leeds declined.
However, Viduka is an attractive buy as he is not cup-tied in Europe and would be able to play in either the Champions League or UEFA Cup later this season.
Although Viduka has only scored three goals to date, and with his strike in the 3-2 victory over Fulham on Sunday ending a nine-match drought, he is showing signs he is back to his best following the arrival of caretaker-boss Eddie Gray.
Despite Viduka's £65,000-a-week wages, Leeds are determined to hang onto a player they see as vital if they are to avoid relegation.
"We are not commenting on speculation, but we are not looking to sell any players in January,'' confirmed Birch.
Just last week, Birch revealed it would take a staggering bid for Leeds to consider selling the 28-year-old, with only Chelsea seemingly carrying such financial muscle.
"If you get an absolute knockout offer and somebody comes in and offers £50million for Mark Viduka then you are going to think about it,'' said Birch. "But the stated objective is to retain our status as a Premier League club and you don't achieve that by selling your players - again! We are not a selling club. We won't be a selling club in January because that's not consistent with our overall objective. So selling Mark Viduka for, say £5million, and losing £25million if you get relegated, those figures don't really stack up.''
Leeds United Football Club - United: No Plans To Sell

The future of Mark Viduka is again being speculated on in the morning's press, but United insist they are not looking to part with their key striker.
Manchester United and Inter Milan have both been linked with making a move for the Australian when the transfer window reopens by reports, but the club's position on all their key players remains clear.
United chief executive Trevor Birch said today:
"We are not commenting on speculation, but we are not looking to sell any players in January."
Leeds caretaker manager Eddie Gray has been delighted with the form of Viduka since he took control.
"Since I've come back to the club, he has been terrific," said Eddie. "I've never had any problem with Mark, who is a top-class striker. He is certainly a vital member of our team and I was delighted to see him score, because once he starts scoring goals, to go with everything else he has got, he shows how important he is to us. I said a few weeks ago Mark Viduka will start scoring goals and once he does then he will go on a run and I'd like to think he will now. There is no doubt that in playing on his own up front, Mark cannot help but get involved, and that is clearly working in his favour, as well as ours."

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Times Online - Newspaper Edition

Chinese millionaire 'interested in Leeds'
By Ashling O’Connor

ONE of China’s richest men has emerged as a possible saviour for Leeds United as the cash-starved Barclaycard Premiership club scours the globe for potential investors. Xu Ming, 32, the president of Shide, a petrochemicals and housing materials group, was yesterday named by a Chinese newspaper as an interested party in the club, which needs to find fresh capital by January 19 to avoid administration.
A keen football follower, Xu owns Dalian Shide, the Chinese first-division club, which has won seven of the past nine championships. He has spoken of wanting a joint venture with a leading European club and expressed interest in buying teams in South Korea, Australia, Italy and the United States, the Shanghai Morning Post reported. Last year, he was entertained at St James ’ Park by Freddy Shepherd, the chairman of Newcastle United, at a game against Charlton Athletic.
“While Xu Ming is still just one of the possible contenders, there are no other buyers that can come close to Shide’s financial strength,” the newspaper said.
Forbes magazine lists Xu, the son-in-law of Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Vice-Premier, as China’s eleventh-richest man with assets worth $360 million (about £205 million).
The speculation follows the decision by Professor John McKenzie to step down as chairman of Leeds after next week’s annual meeting to avoid a conflict of interest that might arise if he were to be involved in a takeover.
McKenzie, an adviser to Shanghai’s municipal government, is not thought to have any detailed plans but is talking to a number of potential investors in Asia — including, it is believed, Xu — where he has strong connections. However, it is understood that most of the Chinese interest is in developing the club’s media and merchandising rights in China rather than in buying it outright.
Leeds, more than £80 million in debt, have been given until next month by creditors before administration becomes unavoidable.
Fans, used to talk of foreign saviours that do not materialise, are unlikely to be excited by the latest development and cynicism may be a sensible response. Earlier this year, Xu was touted as a possible investor in WUSA, the women’s professional league in the United States, which employed many Chinese players. The league went bust in September.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Times Online - Newspaper Edition

Captain Courageous saves day for Leeds
By RICK BROADBENT
Leeds United 3 Fulham 2

IF EDDIE GRAY IS NOT careful, he may be getting a poisoned chalice for Christmas. It may be too early to talk of a phoenix rising from the ashes of tainted dreams, but seven points from their past three games amount to manna from heaven for a side that had been dodo-esque during the last days of Peter Reid’s reign. Having twice lost his job at Elland Road in the past, the caretaker manager is now staking a claim to be handed the role on a permanent basis. It is no coincidence that Leeds’s improvement has arrived with Gray’s policy of leaving out the job-lot of loan signings that Reid recruited from abroad.
“There are lots of players with ability, but you have to use it,” he said. “You need courage.”
The implication was that home-grown players such as James Milner and worldly warhorses such as Lucas Radebe are a better bet for a relegation scrap. A rip-snorting finale left the game hanging in the balance until the very last kick, but Leeds were worth their win.
Fulham must hope that their bubble has not burst after Dominic Matteo, the Leeds captain, headed in Ian Harte’s free kick in the 88th minute to claim the spoils with his first goal since he scored against AC Milan in sepia days of success. Having seen his side equalise only three minutes earlier, when Paul Robinson fluffed Louis Saha’s daisy-cutter, Chris Coleman felt hard-done-by. He said that he felt his side deserved to win but was happy to act as a seconder for Gray’s claim on the manager’s seat. “No way are they one of the worst teams in the league,” Coleman said. “I think he’s got them focused and has the players behind him.”
Both sides had numerous chances and only a combination of profligate finishing, good goalkeeping and the woodwork prevented a goalfest. Jermaine Pennant twice hit the bar, once with a rasping volley and then with a deflected cross, while Steed Malbranque drew a fine save from Robinson in injury time. It was thrilling stuff and at the centre of most of the frenzied action was Alan Smith.
Few fans will be devastated by Professor John McKenzie’s decision to step down, but they might be concerned that the chairman has always maintained that Smith would not be sold while he was in charge. The local hero’s manner of playing as if affronted by the mere presence of opponents has cemented his place in Leeds folklore and, if his billing as a regular goalscorer is something of a myth, his passion and aggression are priceless. Every crisis club should have a player such as him.
With Smith, Matteo and David Batty flooding the midfield, the emphasis was on stifling rather than creating. It made for a first half that was a good advertisement for Christmas shopping and it was fitting that the breakthrough was a slapstick goal that owed much to fortune, Michael Duberry scoring with his knee after Edwin van der Sar had parried Harte’s disputed free kick.
Maybe it was the half-time singalong led by Allan Clarke, Mick Jones and Paul Reaney, three reminders that it used to be different, which galvanised the game. Seconds after the restart, Mark Viduka picked up Milner’s throw and shuffled across the box with that familiar mincing gait that suggests his shorts are chaffing. Yet Viduka’s languid style masks the fact that he is the best finisher Leeds have had since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and he proved it by caressing a wonderful 20-yard strike into the top corner. If he does depart in the January sales, it will leave Leeds bereft of a genuine goal threat. “He’s very important to the system we’re playing,” Gray said.
This being Leeds, it was a fleeting stop in the comfort zone. Almost immediately, Sean Davis pushed a pass to Saha and the Frenchman threaded the ball between Radebe’s legs and beyond the flailing hand of Robinson. Chances continued to come and go. Robinson stopped a volley from Saha, Malbranque flashed a drive just wide and then Matteo blazed over from eight yards. The last redeemed himself when it mattered, though, and Leeds can at least be assured of avoiding the hoodoo that dictates that the bottom side at Christmas ends up being relegated.
Leeds United (4-5-1): P Robinson 5 — G Kelly 5, M Duberry 5, L Radebe 7, I Harte 6 — J Pennant 6, A Smith 6, D Matteo 7, D Batty 5, J Milner 7 — M Viduka 7. Substitutes not used: S Carson, J Morris, M Bridges, S McPhail, F Richardson. Booked: Batty, Smith. NEXT: Manchester City (a). FORM: WDWLLL
Fulham (4-1-4-1): E van der Sar 5 — M Volz 5 (sub: B Hayles, 63min 5), A Melville 5, Z Knight 5, J Harley 5 — S Legwinski 5 — S Malbranque 7, L Clark 6, S Davis 6, L Boa Morte 6 (sub: F Sava, 77) — L Saha 8. Substitutes not used: M Crossley, M Djetou, A Goma. Booked: Boa Morte. NEXT: Chelsea (h). FORM: LWDWLL
Shots on target: (h) 8 (a) 5. Fouls: (h) 16 (a) 13. Offsides: (h) 2 (a) 2
Referee: N Barry 7. Attendance: 30,544
Sport News and Results from Sporting Life

UNDER FIRE McKENZIE STEPPING DOWN

Professor John McKenzie was described as "damaged goods" following his decision to step down as Leeds plc chairman.
McKenzie has confirmed he will not be standing for re-election at next Tuesday's AGM to ensure there is no conflict of interest should he represent potential new investors in negotiations with the club's advisors or creditors regarding a buy-out.
McKenzie, who took over the troubled helm following Peter Ridsdale's resignation at the end of the March, is to retain his role as non-executive chairman, although it is understood he will also relinquish that position at a later date.
Dr Bill Gerrard, a professor of sport management and finance at Leeds University Business School and an outspoken critic of the United regime in recent months, feels McKenzie's departure comes as "a relief."
Although McKenzie, who is Leeds' largest individual shareholder with four million shares, has been able to slash £20m annually off the club's costs, Gerrard believes the 65-year-old still has a lot to answer for.
McKenzie came close to quitting following the Harry Kewell transfer fiasco over the summer in which Leeds pocketed just £2.5m from a £5million deal with Liverpool.
Kewell's agent, Bernie Mandic, picked up £2million for his part in the move, while the remaining £500,000 was paid into the player's employee benefit trust.
Shareholders are also understood to be irate at the fact McKenzie has paid himself £380,000, with more than half that up until September next year, despite the club being around £80million in debt.
McKenzie earns a basic salary of £80,000, added to which is a £100,000 wage for his non-executive position, topped off by £200,000 for what is described in the annual report for 2003 as 'a consultancy fee'.
"Professor McKenzie would have been absolutely slaughtered at the AGM by the shareholders next week," insisted Gerrard on Sky Sports News.
"He is damaged goods. His reputation precedes him and there is a huge amount of hostility regarding his remuneration in the annual accounts.
"You have to remember this is a club teetering on the brink of administration and he has been paid up until September 2004.
"When that was disclosed I think that was the end of Professor McKenzie as a member of the Leeds United board.
"The focus would have been totally on his remuneration, and on the Harry Kewell transfer and the disclosure he only got £2.5million net.
"Questions would also have been asked as to why did nothing happen with the creditors from May until November when Trevor Birch (chief executive) came in."
There has been speculation regarding McKenzie fronting a Chinese consortium due to his business contacts in the Far East, however, he insists he has yet to take part in any "substantive discussions."
Allan Leighton, who resigned as deputy plc chairman 11 days ago, is also understood to be putting together his own consortium, although no statement of intent has so far been issued.
Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak al-Khalifa from Bahrain, backed by two Saudi Arabian businessman, is the only person so far to make his interest known, although there has still not been a firm offer.
It remains to be seen whether McKenzie can come up with his own rescue plan, with the clock ticking as Leeds have five weeks to avoid the prospect of administration.
McKenzie though appears determined to find someone with the club at heart.
He said: "It is essential that we ensure, not only that new funds are available, but also that the club is subsequently only in the hands of owners and managers who care deeply about Leeds United Football Club and who can provide the fans with the success their tremendous loyalty and support so richly deserves.
"To generate these funds it will be necessary to bring potential new investors into the club and negotiate on their behalf with the club's advisors and creditors.
"To date there have been no substantive discussions with me, but clearly any possible future involvement in negotiations on behalf of potential new investors could cause a conflict of interest if I were to remain chairman of Leeds United plc.
"Consequently, I have decided that, in order to support the club and its fans in the best way I can, I shall not seek re-election to the plc board at the annual general meeting on December 23.
"Rather, I shall spend time over the next few critical weeks seeking to ensure that the best possible levels of funding and the most appropriate form of ownership is secured to take this great club forward."

Leeds United Football Club - The Official Website

STATEMENT: BOARD CHANGES
by Graham Walker

John McKenzie has today indicated he will not stand for re-election to the board of Leeds United plc at the Annual General Meeting on 23 December.
He has determined on this course of action to ensure there will be no possible conflict of interest were he to represent potential new investors in negotiations with the club's advisors or creditors during the next few critical weeks. However, the board wishes to make it clear that media comments regarding the identity and status of any potential new investor is speculation.
Commenting, Professor John McKenzie, said: “When I was appointed Chairman of Leeds United plc I made it clear my immediate tasks were to stabilise the business; to improve our trading position; and to introduce a strong management team capable of achieving a robust, long term restructuring package. We have cut £20m from our costs on an annualised basis and are now beginning to trade viably. I have been fortunate to recruit in Neil Robson and, more recently, Trevor Birch, our Chief Executive, an outstanding management team. I have also been able to give a number of younger staff within the club the chance to run parts of the business. Already it is clear that they are responding very positively to this opportunity. It is also essential that we ensure, not only that new funds are available, but also that the Club is subsequently only in the hands of owners and managers who care deeply about Leeds United Football Club and who can provide the fans with the success their tremendous loyalty and support so richly deserves. To generate these funds it will be necessary to bring potential new investors into the club and negotiate on their behalf with the club's advisors and creditors. To date there have been no substantive discussions with me, but clearly any possible future involvement in negotiations on behalf of potential new investors could cause a conflict of interest if I were to remain Chairman of Leeds United plc. Consequently, I have decided that, in order to support the Club and its fans in the best way I can, I shall not seek re-election to the plc Board at the Annual General Meeting on 23 December. Rather I shall spend time over the next few critical weeks seeking to ensure that the best possible levels of funding and the most appropriate form of ownership is secured to take this great club forward.”

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Sport

Fire-fighter Birch: 'We mustn't sell any players'
By Steve Tongue
14 December 2003

Give him his due, Trevor Birch is always up for a challenge. This is a man who, bearing the burden of being Bill Shankly's last-ever signing, tried to break into a Liverpool forward-line of Keegan, Toshack and Heighway, with David Fairclough as the regular supersub; then, having lost that battle, had to replace Ian Rush at Chester ("After most games the manager used to come in and lament, 'If only Rushy was still here', which taught me about man-management"); was a 16-year-old school-leaver who took a degree at 23; then jacked in a partnership with an accountancy firm to return to the crazy world of professional football, where the numbers never quite seem to add up.
As managing director of Chelsea (estimated debts £98m), he performed such wonders of juggling that not a player had to be sold, and administration was avoided. Just the man then, after being rewarded for his achievements with constructive dismissal (Manchester United's Peter Kenyon was given his job) to take on the running of the financial madhouse that is Leeds United. Debts there, after all, are a mere £88m, including payments due to a litany of sacked managers, and wages still being paid to players like Robbie Fowler to make them go away and score goals for someone else.
Ask the softly spoken Birch why he even thought of taking on this latest challenge at the start of last month and he replies "good question" before adding an ironic: "Club in crisis, sack the manager, players being arrested for rape. But perversely I'm enjoying it, because it plays to the skills I have in terms of previous business career. Having done a little bit of it at Chelsea too."
There is understatement in that last sentence. For all Ken Bates's bluster, Chelsea were in a parlous state, yet Birch's strategy not only kept the blue flag flying but prevented the sort of panic and fire sales that turned Leeds from Champions' League semi-finalists to relegation contenders in all-too-few easy lessons. He will use the same methods at Elland Road: "When I first joined Chelsea [18 months ago], costs had escalated and there was a big squeeze, so we got the creditors together and explained that if you start selling players, there's only one way it will go. We had the semblance of a good team, had just missed out on the Champions' League and the important thing was to keep at that top table and maintain the status as a big club. I really worked on the creditors and said, 'Trust me, because I've done this kind of thing before and I've a football background'."
The argument has already achieved a "standstill" agreement with Leeds's major creditors, who include American bondholders, the Inland Revenue and a finance company still owed money from the purchase of Mark Viduka more than three years ago. That gives Birch until 19 January to find a new buyer, which is the only way to avoid administration - something he is desperate to do despite the possibility of minimising debts as Leicester City did - because as a football man well versed in the sport's politics he can envisage repercussions such as a deduction in points or enforced relegation.
"To attract someone as a buyer the last thing we're going to do in January is start selling players," he promises, "unless there was, as they say, an offer you can't refuse. But even then the player has to want to go. My stated policy would be not to sell any players. The short-term gain of selling a player can't possibly be the right decision when you could lose £20m next year by going into the First Division. Look at James Milner, one of the brightest prospects I've ever seen, only 18 in January - somebody like him is undoubtedly the future of the club. And in a fire sale you don't get the right prices, you're seen as a club in crisis and people will take advantage." As others tried to do with bids for Viduka, Alan Smith and Paul Robinson in the final week of the last transfer window. The next one, from the end of this month, covering the deadline for a sale, will test Leeds's nerve again.
Unless an open and approachable man is keeping somebody up his sleeve, discussions with potential buyers have not progressed very far. The colourful Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarek Al-Khalifa of Bahrain is a genuine Leeds fan, previously at college in the city, but he sounds Third Division compared to Roman Abramovich, whose largesse transformed Birch's summer into the "wonderful experience" of signing 13 players for £120m, while Leeds were begging and borrowing loanees from France. Throw up, Peter Reid. "Roman is not just once in a lifetime, it's once in the history of football," Birch says. "For it to happen twice in the space of six months is asking maybe a little bit too much. Lowering our sights, it's more likely to be a consortium of some sort."
How did it all come to this? Although reluctant to dwell on the mistakes of the previous regime, the new chief executive can analyse the downward spiral with a trained accountant's eye: "Debt is not bad thing per se as long as you can afford to repay it. And it depends what you raise the cash for. Southampton used it to build a ground, which was sensible. Leeds were perhaps not. We should be sitting here with a developed ground. Ken Bates has got a great ground with 5,500 corporate season-ticket holders, bringing in a significant amount of revenue. Leeds got the money from a securitisation loan, bought players, paid big wages and had some success. But if Chelsea are generating £30m from their ground, Leeds are only generating £13m or £14m, which, like Champions' League qualification, is a massive difference every year."
Additionally, they suffered as badly as anyone from what Sir Alan Sugar famously called the "prune juice effect" - income passing through the clubs and going right out of the game to players and agents. Birch believes that a new reality will be reflected in contracts from now on, probably with a much greater performance-related element. In the meantime, performance has suddenly picked up, with four points taken from Charlton and Chelsea and reasonable hope of more at home to Fulham this afternoon.
"I'm spreading a very positive message because I think we are nearing the end of all the uncertainty," Birch says. "We will come out of this stronger, I really do believe that. But the people you are trying to attract have to be assured there is potential for this club and there is, because historically it is a top-five club." Top five - now there's a challenge.
Leeds United Football Club - The Official Website

McKENZIE TO FORM CONSORTIUM?
by Graham Walker

United chief executive Trevor Birch has said that reports that chairman John McKenzie may be stepping down from his position are "a little bit premature," but did admit he could be putting together a consortium of his own.
McKenzie, who took over from former United chairman Peter Ridsdale in March after being invited to the board in October 2002, has many business associates in Japan and China, and they could prove to be useful allies if he does front a bid for Leeds United.
"John has a lot of business interests in the Far East and I think there is a possibility he might be looking to put a consortium together with those people," said Birch.
"But it's early stages and we shouldn't really speculate too far on that."
Birch added: "Stepping down does two things. It allows John to be able to work and put together a consortium and also gives somebody looking at the club a clean board in which to invest."
United have already revealed that a number of parties interested in taking over the club have already made themselves known, and negotiations have started with at least three parties.
This next week could prove to be one of the most important in the club's history, with the bid situation expected to become clearer.
Sheikh Al-Khalifa from Bahrain is the frontman of one consortium who have made their interest known, although no written bid has yet been made.
Birch added: "Anybody out there who is interested in buying Leeds should come forward now. But there are two or three parties who are very, very interested and we are working with those people. We are in the early stages but we are hopeful, given the stance the creditors have taken, that we will reach a conclusion with them."
BBC SPORT | Football | Premiership | Leeds edge past Fulham

Leeds 3-2 Fulham

A late headed goal from captain Dominic Matteo earned Leeds three priceless points after Eddie Gray's side had let slip a two-goal lead against Fulham.
A fortuitous Michael Duberry goal and a superb Mark Viduka effort had put relegation-threatened Leeds seemingly in complete control.
But just 70 seconds after Viduka's goal, Fulham gained a foothold in the game after Louis Saha guided a shot past Paul Robinson.
Saha struck again on 86 minutes with another piece of opportunistic finishing, but soon after Matteo rose to glance a header past Fulham goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
The victory means Leeds have now accumulated seven points from their last three games and are within a point of fourth-from-bottom Leicester.
Leeds' initial attacks were concentrated down the right where Gary Kelly and Jermaine Pennant caused the Fulham defence some anxiety.
One Kelly cross in particular forced Van der Sar to leave his line and punch clear.
Likewise Pennant's ability to get past Jon Harley allowed the on-loan Arsenal midfielder to send over a couple of dangerous crosses.
Just before the hour Pennant was unlucky not to score when his shot cannoned back off the bar and soon after another of his efforts was deflected on to the woodwork.
As ever Alan Smith's aggression in midfield provided another useful point of attack for Leeds.
Five minutes before half-time Smith bore down on the Fulham penalty area and referee Neale Barry ruled the England international was impeded by Luis Boa Morte.
Van der Sar palmed away Harte's free-kick but the ball richocheted off Duberry's knees into the net as the defender claimed only his second Leeds goal and his first in over three years.
If Duberry's goal had something of the ridiculous about it, Viduka's goal was in the sublime category.
Running across the Fulham box the Australian international striker unleashed a fizzing shot past Van der Sar to double Leeds' advantage and claim his first goal in 10 games.
Up to that point Fulham had barely tested Paul Robinson but barely a minute after Viduka's goal, Saha collected Sean Davis' pass and guided his shot past the Leeds goalkeeper.
With four minutes left Saha equalised with another low shot, but in a dramatic climax to the game Matteo's goal secured the three points for Leeds.
Leeds: Robinson, Kelly, Radebe, Duberry, Harte, Pennant, Smith, Batty, Matteo, Milner, Viduka.
Subs Not Used: Carson, Morris, Bridges, McPhail, Richardson.
Booked: Batty, Smith.
Fulham: Van der Sar, Volz (Hayles 63), Melville, Knight, Harley, Malbranque, Legwinski, Clark, Sean Davis, Boa Morte (Sava 77), Saha.
Subs Not Used: Crossley, Djetou, Goma.
Booked: Boa Morte.
Attendance: 30,544
Referee: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).
Times Online - Sunday Times

Leeds chairman to resign
David Bond

THE chairman of Leeds United, Professor John McKenzie, is expected to quit in the next 48 hours to pursue a rescue package in China for the troubled club. The move, which will be confirmed in an announcement to the London stock exchange tomorrow, will take effect immediately and be rubber-stamped at the club’s annual meeting on December 23.
McKenzie has decided to quit to avoid possible allegations of a conflict of interest as he attempts to negotiate a deal to save the club with a group of wealthy Chinese investors. If he is successful, he stands to benefit personally because he is the biggest shareholder on the Leeds United board, with a holding of 4m shares, about 1% of the total. A month after Peter Reid was sacked as manager, McKenzie’s move will cause fresh uncertainty at Elland Road.
Although Trevor Birch, Leeds’s chief executive, is in talks with at least three groups interested in buying the club, including one led by Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Mubarak al-Khalifa of Bahrain, McKenzie believes the best chance of a rescue deal is presented by his Far Eastern contacts.
The businessmen, believed to have extensive interests across eastern Asia and Australia, are understood to have told McKenzie that Leeds have huge merchandising and media potential in the region. Sources say they are considering an investment in the club of between £15m and £20m. They are not prepared to mount a takeover in the style of Chelsea billionaire Roman Abramovich. Instead, they want to provide an injection of cash to help Leeds attract other investors and settle their debts. It is believed they will ask McKenzie to return as chairman if the deal can be concluded.
Leeds, who line up against Fulham at Elland Road today, are facing the even greater financial threat of relegation to the Nationwide Football League. Although they have experienced a mini-revival under caretaker manager Eddie Gray, they are still just one point and one place off the bottom of the Premiership.
The club is £78m in debt and has been given until January 19 by its creditors to find a buyer or big investor. Birch is understood to have received some good news this weekend after the holders of a £60m bond, Leeds’s biggest debt, indicated they were willing to settle for half that amount. A full takeover of the club, including investment in the squad, would cost about £50m.
McKenzie, 65, took over from Peter Ridsdale at the end of March. He was brought in by Allan Leighton, the former deputy chairman who resigned from the board this month to put together a separate rescue consortium.
During his eight months in charge he has overseen a brutal regime of cutbacks, slashing costs by £20m. But he has always been a reluctant football club chairman who didn’t court the public limelight so enjoyed by his predecessor.
Recently he indicated his determination to stand down if any of the club’s remaining assets, such as striker Alan Smith, were sold. In an interview with The Sunday Times in July, he admitted he had considered resigning in the summer after being criticised for his handling of Harry Kewell’s transfer to Liverpool. He said: “The Kewell deal was a bad week and my wife and family wanted me to walk away. I don’t like the profile but I have committed myself to something and I have to see it through.”
Birch also wants to hold on to the club’s best players. He said: “The short-term gain of selling a player can’t possibly be right when you could lose £20m next year by going into the First Division. Look at James Milner, one of the brightest prospects I’ve ever seen, only 18 in January — somebody like him is undoubtedly the future of the club.”

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Leeds Today

GREEN FOR GO
EXCLUSIVE: yep investigation into united future
Philip Green could emerge as the public face of a bid which would see considerable funds pumped into Leeds United
AS the clock starts ticking away on cash-strapped Leeds United's bid to find a buyer or investor by January 19 YEP soccer writer PAUL DEWS examines the various scenarios facing the club.

TREVOR BIRCH and Leeds United's plc board face an unenviable task.
They have just five weeks to agree a rescue deal with a consortium that will not only save Leeds United from administration, but will also safeguard the long-term future of the Elland Road outfit.
It is not just about finding a buyer for the business, but finding one who will satisfy the interests of the creditors, the shareholders and, indeed, the board itself.
The clinching of a deal could even spell the end of the road for the very men who are being charged with saving United from oblivion.
There are so many scenarios available that it would be no surprise to see potential investors and United officials hammering out the fine print in the hours leading up to the deadline.
To date only one party has expressed a firm interest in the football club and United insist they are still waiting for confirmation of the Middle East consortium's financial muscle.
It's known that Allan Leighton is ready and willing to broker a deal involving his associates, while two other unidentified parties are understood to be making noises about jumping on board.
How much cash is on the table varies according to the different consortia. United were valued at £19m today and have an additional £82m worth of debt.
It's unlikely that anyone will step forward with an offer of £103m and any bid would have to satisfy the shareholders and creditors.
But what would a takeover mean to the fans and will everything in United's garden be rosy by the middle of next month?
Tonight, the Yorkshire Evening Post investigates the possible outcomes and what they would mean for Leeds United.
1 THE SHEIKH
Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa is the only individual to have gone public over his interest. It's known that he is backed by two wealthy Saudi businessmen – and he is a lifelong fan of United.
The Sheikh, pictured, has already said he would not support the selling of players and he is known to have the best interests of the Elland Road club at heart.
The Sheikh is likely to step forward with a cash offer which would be for the purchase of shares and a reduction of the overall debt. Money could also be available for team strengthening.
2 ALLAN LEIGHTON
United's former deputy chairman has yet to declare any firm interest in brokering a deal, but is believed to be discussing possible investment with City contacts.
His long-time associate Philip Green could emerge as the public face of a bid which would see considerable funds pumped into the football club.
By acting as broker Leighton, pictured, would be able to assemble a consortium which, like the Sheikh, would almost certainly ensure the club's long-term future. The syndicate would also make an initial investment in shares and reduce the debt.
3 SMALL BUSINESS CONSORTIUM
There are other figures waiting in the wings without the massive financial clout of the Sheikh or Leighton, hoping to seize an opportunity to take control at Elland Road.
Their initial cash investment could well be much lower than those in options one and two and, while shareholders may feel happy with it, it is unlikely that there would be any dramatic reduction of United's massive debt.
Extra funds would be required to strengthen a business which has been forced to slash its costs and a smaller consortium is unlikely to have the cash required to maintain the club's current status.
United would continue in the short-term in its present form, but without substantial future investment a sustained period of mediocrity and all that that entails would be likely.
Smaller consortiums are likely to come to the fore if United slip into administration.
4 OVERSEAS PLAN
An alternative to a major outright investment would be a consortium willing to buy up some shares, but come to a separate non-cash agreement with the creditors.
For example this could lead to a deal with the largest creditors where Elland Road is handed over to the bondholders and the club lease it back at a fraction of the debt. Leicester City adopted a similar route and, while not as effective as the first two options, such a takeover would enable Leeds United to continue in its current guise.
The new owners would look to generate further income through the sales of media and merchandising rights on a global basis and the club, without the major creditors, would eventually become self-financing.
This form of investment is more likely to come from sources outside the UK who are keen to maximise United's branding rights.
It's understood that chairman John McKenzie, who has business contacts in Asia, favours this option or option one because it will leave the club in the hands of people who are fans. It's known that the chairman is currently working on this.
5 ADMINISTRATION
Administration would not necessarily mean the end of the road for Leeds United and, from a fan's perspective, it would give the club a good chance of finding a buyer who has his roots entrenched at Elland Road.
An agreement would be reached with the creditors and the aim of the administrators would be to sell United as a going concern at what would be a knock-down price.
However, player sales would be almost certain at the end of January – the administrators would be obliged to listen to any offers – and costs would be further slashed in a bid to appease the club's major creditors.
The other concern is how the Premier League would react to one of its clubs going into administration and, with a number of other chairmen already expressing concern at the prospect, it is a risk United are desperate to avoid.
6 ASSET STRIPPER
The potential asset stripper would creep in if no other significant offer appears.
They would buy up the shares at the lowest price.
Players would be sold in order to slash the hefty wage bill – and fund the re-payment of the debts – while the Elland Road stadium, a piece of prime land owned by the football club, could be sold on.
Such decisions would please the bankers and the creditors, but the business would be run at a fraction of current costs and would inevitably slip.
However, with cash in the bank a timely decision to sell could see the asset stripper walk away with a tidy sum and leave behind an uncertain future for an under-performing club.
In short, while the initial offer may be good, the future for United would be bleak.
BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Leeds United | O'Leary defers Leeds pay-off


David O'Leary says he will delay payment on the £2m severance he is owed by Leeds in a bid to help his former club out of a financial crisis.
O'Leary receives a monthly payment following his sacking last year. Terry Venables and Peter Reid have a similar deal, but O'Leary says he will defer payments to every six months.
"You can't cut your ties with a club where you worked for a number of years and not feel something for them when things are going wrong," O'Leary said.
O'Leary retains strong feelings for the club and the fans and will now be paid £500,000 next month, with three more similar payments to follow.
"The supporters at Leeds have always treated me fantastically well," O'Leary said. He added: "I still keep in touch with people at the club and friends of mine are supporters so I feel the way they do about what has happened. I have always said that I took no part in the financial side of things at Leeds. I recommended we might sign a certain player because he would benefit the team but it was left to others to decide whether the money was available or not. People there are working very hard to put a rescue package in place and I wish them well in everything they do."

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Leeds United | Leeds begin takeover talks

Leeds United have revealed they are in discussions with several parties interested in buying the Elland Road club.
Leeds confirmed to the Stock Exchange on Wednesday that the talks were "at a very early stage and may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company".
The financial problems at the Premiership club have been well documented in recent times, and they have until 19 January to find a buyer with the debt currently about £82m.
Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa is one potential saviour, but former board member Allan Leighton is also believed to be assembling a takeover consortium.
The Sheikh has revealed that his group includes two Saudi Arabian businessmen and an Asiatic company.
He also revealed that a rival bidder - believed to be Leighton - had entered the race.
Leeds chief executive Trevor Birch earlier said he was confident a buyer would come forward to save them.
"I think there will always be people out there who want to own a Premier League football club," Birch told BBC Radio Leeds. "In that sense you have to be confident that given that everybody in the world knows that Leeds United is for sale, someone will come forward able to conclude a transaction in the short time frame that we have to work."
Birch has also promised that the side's best players will not be sold in the January transfer window as it would increase the prospect of Leeds being relegated. But he stressed that it was vital to stop the club going into administration as that would leave its fate in the hands of the rest of the Premier League clubs.
"There is great fundamental uncertainty whether the club could go into administration and reappear because Premier League rules are different to Football League rules," said Birch. "he Premier League is a limited company, there are 20 shareholders and the fate of the club is likely to be decided by the 20 representatives at a shareholders' meeting. You couldn't, hand on heart, take the club into an administration process when you are not sure about what the outcome would be. For example, take a club trying to make ends meet and they've had mediocrity for the last five or six years. They may have looked on with jealousy at what Leeds have done, but then see Leeds wiping out their debts. They could say 'tough, you've broken the rules and out you go'."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Times Online - Sport

Leeds aim to resist Wenger's move for Smith
By Rick Broadbent

ALAN SMITH could become a reluctant pawn in the power struggle between Arsenal and Manchester United as the vultures circle over Leeds United. The striker, who has said that his future is out of his hands, has emerged as Arsène Wenger’s No 1 transfer target, but any courtship is likely to provoke opposition from both sides of the Pennines.
Smith is one of up to eight strikers that Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, is considering as he prepares for the new-year sales, but Wenger has stolen a march on his adversary by pinpointing the 23-year-old as his preferred choice to ease the pressure on Thierry Henry’s shoulders.
Leeds continue to insist that Smith is going nowhere. “He epitomises what we are about,” Professor John McKenzie, the Leeds chairman, said. “I will leave before he does.” A former ball boy, Smith came up through the club academy.
Trevor Birch, the chief executive, said that selling players was “a sure-fire recipe for relegation”, but Leeds cannot be certain of keeping their most popular player until a buyer for the club is found.
Some may argue that Smith, who has been sent off nine times, would merely exacerbate Arsenal’s disciplinary problems. Wenger is unconcerned by his ragged edges and remembers him as the player who dented some of Europe’s biggest reputations during Leeds’s charge to the European Cup semi-finals three seasons ago. With Dennis Bergkamp’s phobia of flying an enduring problem and Sylvain Wiltord an erratic performer, Wenger sees Smith as the ideal player to end Arsenal’s repeated failure on foreign fields. He will also overlook a modest goalscoring record that has delivered just seven league goals in the past two seasons and point to the versatility that has often seen Smith played in midfield.
Smith, a die-hard Yorkshireman, would prefer to avoid the enmity heaped upon Rio Ferdinand and Eric Cantona when they moved from Leeds to Manchester. Given the club’s commitment to retaining him, Mark Viduka appears more likely to take that route.
Leeds still need Birch to find a buyer before January 19, however. They have denied Sheikh Abdul bin Mubarak al-Khalifa’s claim that he has already made a bid, casting further doubts on his involvement. Allan Leighton, who has stepped down as deputy chairman to put a consortium together, hopes to be considered a safer option.
Sport News and Results from Sporting Life

BIRCH SEARCHING FOR 'WHITE KNIGHT'
By Ian Parkes, PA Sport

Leeds chief executive Trevor Birch believes any prospective new owner has to have the club "in the blood".
Birch, portrayed as the man who saved Chelsea from ruin with the introduction of billionaire Russian Roman Abramovich, is now attempting to douse the financial fires which have long raged out of control at Elland Road.
Birch remains confident he will save Leeds from administration, and believes not only will no players be sold in the January transfer window, but new faces will arrive.
Despite claims of a £17million offer from Bahrain's Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, who is backed by Saudi businessmen, Birch insists no formal bid has yet been received.
Birch also hopes former deputy plc chairman Allan Leighton, who last week resigned from the board, comes back in with his own consortium, while he insists "there is likely to be further interest from other potential parties".
Finding one white knight in Abramovich was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but to find another in the space of six months is surely asking for the impossible.
After being set a deadline of January 19 by the club's main creditors - three companies who who are owed £60million and the player-leasing agents who are owed a further £21million - Birch has his work cut out.
He told the Press Association: "It's tough because it's a hard market out there. Football is going through a difficult period and therefore there aren't people queuing up to snap your hand off. So it has to be something that's in your blood. You are looking for somebody with an emotional aspect to the investment. If you are looking for a normal return then you are not going to look at football, save for Manchester United. But I really do think there will be a solution. I'm confident that there will be somebody out there who wants to buy Leeds United. We are a Premier League club, with the potential to be a top Premier League club, and we are a one-club city. It has a large catchment area; it is the second city to London in terms of finance and banking and it's an affluent area. You then add the residue of a reasonable team with some good, young players coming through. So I am confident something will happen."
Birch, who refuses to put a price on the club as he claims it comes down to "whatever anybody will pay", feels new owners would also invest in the squad next month to ensure Leeds avoided relegation.
Birch has reiterated the fact the club's position will not be compromised by the sale of star names, nor will any potential signings add to the current debt mountain.
He added: "If you get an absolute knockout offer and somebody comes in and offers £50million for Mark Viduka then you are going to think about it. But the stated objective is to retain our status as a Premier League club and you don't achieve that by selling your players - again. We are not a selling club. We won't be a selling club in January because that's not consistent with our overall objective. So selling Mark Viduka for, say £5million, and losing £25million if you get relegated, those figures don't really stack up. As for investment, it depends on the strength of the buyer coming in. Anybody looking at the club has got one eye on some investment in the transfer window and you would assume it would be done through their own resources. They will factor that in to the amount of money they are prepared to pay for the club, and therefore there will be an element of cash available, or earmarked for the transfer window."

Monday, December 08, 2003

BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Leeds United | Leeds deny Sheikh bid

Leeds deny Sheikh bid

Leeds have denied reports that the club's potential saviour, Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, has made an official bid for the club.
The Sheikh was quoted as saying that the consortium he is heading were waiting for a response from the Elland Road club after submitting an offer.
He claimed his group included two Saudi Arabian businessmen and an Asiatic company but he also revealed that a rival bidder had entered the race.
But a Leeds club spokesman said: "We have not received an offer as yet from anybody for the business."
Leeds came to an agreement with their creditors last week which avoided the immediate threat of administration.
The "standstill" deal has also released £4m to give the club four to six weeks to find a buyer.
Former Elland Road board member Allan Leighton is believed to be putting together a consortium and is understood to be the other party interested in purchasing the club.

Leeds have also received a boost with chief executive Trevor Birch reiterating the club's stance that the side's best players will not be sold in the January transfer window. Birch said going down the route of off-loading star names would only increase the prospect of relegation.
Leeds United Football Club - The Official Website

CONFIDENCE RETURNING TO WHITES
by Graham Walker

UNITED'S players are starting to believe in their own ability again after two good performances on the trot, believes caretaker manager Eddie Gray.
Gray pin-pointed restoring confidence to the side as one of his main tasks when he came in to fill the void left by Peter Reid's departure, and after a win against Charlton and Saturday's excellent draw against Chelsea at Elland Road, he feels he is on track to achieve that aim.
"When teams are in the position we were confidence can be lacking and it's hard to turn things around," said Eddie.
"Once we start picking points up and start to climb the table I think we will start playing more ourselves.
"It was all about us going out there and trying to make it as difficult as we could for them, but we made some chances for ourselves.
"I thought it was up to our boys to work hard and make it difficult for Chelsea to create chances.
"I felt we did that and we created one or two openings in the first half. The second half we had our backs against the wall for while but it was always going to be like that for us.
Defensively, Eddie was pleased his charges were managing to keep it tight in their 4-5-1 formation, and finding their way to goal at the same time.
"We never conceded last week at charlton and we conceded just one here and I think that's the first goal Chelsea have conceded in the league since October
"I believe that if you work hard you will get your rewards, they know what I expect and they know what they expect from themselves which is more important for me.
"There's a long way to go for the club and the team and I just hope they keep working as hard and have that belief in themselves to get out of the position they were in."
"I know the players won't be happy until they get the required number of points to make sure Leeds United are a Premiership side next season."