Saturday, May 15, 2004

Leeds United Football Club - Six Departures Confirmed

Six Departures Confirmed
Leeds United have today confirmed that six players will leave the club in the summer after the decision was taken not to renew their contracts.
In addition, the four remaining loan players at the club, Zoumana Camara, Didier Domi, Salomon Olembe and Jermaine Pennant will return to their respective parent clubs.
Two young players though have been offered new deals, and Matthew Kilgallon has recently agreed his new two year contract at Elland Road. Young right-back Stewart Edwards has been offered an extension and is yet to sign.
Amongst the five to leave this summer is David Batty, whose departure was expected once former manager Eddie Gray confirmed he would not be using the 34-year-old for the rest of the season in February.
The former England midfielder has endured an up and down career with the Whites, having started his career with at the club after joining from local side Tingley Athletic in 1985. He went on to win the old First Division title under Howard Wilkinson and was a huge influence on that side before moving to Blackburn in 1993 and later re-signing for United via Newcastle when he became David O'Leary's first signing as Leeds manager in December 1998 for £4.4million.
The midfielder was dropped by O'Leary's successor, Terry Venables and did not feature at all last season, but was recalled by ex-boss Peter Reid this season and made 12 starts until Gray decided he would not be part of his plans.
Batty is expected to retire from football, having turned down various loan offers to play elsewhere in the last year.
Injury hit striker Michael Bridges is also moving on, having already effectively left the club since joining Newcastle in January on loan until the end of the season.
After a great first season in which he found the net 22 times, Michael's time at Elland Road was disrupted by serious injury knee and ankle ligament injuries. He made just 12 appearances for The Whites this season and is currently trying to win a contract with his hometown club.
Another big name who will leave the club is winger Jason Wilcox, denied the chance to push his claims for a new contract by a knee injury that kept him out of action for most of the season and which he has only recently returned from.
Former boss David O'Leary paid Blackburn Rovers £3million for the left winger in a surprise move just before Christmas 1999, and has made 51 league starts in his four and a half-years at the club, fighting with Harry Kewell for much of that time for his position.
He is set to play his final game for the club against Chelsea on Saturday.
21-year-old keeper Shaun Allaway is also at the end of his contract with the club and will leave without making a first team appearance.
The former Reading youngster arrived at the club in a £200,000 deal in March 2000 but struggled straight away after breaking his hand. A number of loan moves to Grimsby and Walsall followed but at Elland Road he was unable to force his way into contention and the emergence of Scott Carson moved him further down the pecking order.
Two more youngsters, Larry Farren and Chris Armstrong are also looking for new clubs. Both have featured for the reserves.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Leeds United Football Club - Robbo Set For Spurs

Leeds United have confirmed they are in advanced talks with Tottenham Hotspur over the transfer of Paul Robinson.
United chairman Gerald Krasner told Leedsunited.com:
"We are in advanced talks but nothing is signed, sealed or delivered," he said. "Tottenham have expressed an interest, and put forward a figure but we cannot complete any deal at this stage, we hope to do that early next week."
Robinson had been set to join Spurs in the January transfer window but the move broke down over a technicality when it was clear he would not be able to rejoin Leeds on loan until the end of the season.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

LUFC.com
Managerial Shortlist In Place

The Leeds board are working hard towards a managerial appointment but will not be pressurised into making a hasty decision.
Chairman Gerald Krasner confirmed to Leedsunited.com that a shortlist of candidates for the job has been drawn up and the board's next move would be to evaluate each candidate to narrow the choice down to one.
With just over 11 weeks to go to the start of the new season, there have been calls for the manager's role to be filled as quickly as possible to give the new man plenty of time to rebuild the squad, Krasner agrees but says you cannot rush such an important decision.
"Of course it needs to be resolved, but like everything else we will not be pressurised into something that is not the right decision for Leeds United," said Krasner.
"We have drawn up a list of who we would like and with having been relegated two weeks before the end of season it has given us two extra weeks to get it right."
"We are not going to say an appointment will be made this week or in two weeks time because if it's a few days late we will get hammered for it again, so as and when we have a manager who has said yes to the job we will announce it.
"These things take time and we are working on this appointment as we speak."
The media has swung the spotlight onto five names for the vacancy, former United midfield ace Gordon Strachan, Crystal Palace boss Iain Dowie, Wigan manager Paul Jewell, Stoke's Tony Pulis and current Leeds head coach Kevin Blackwell. The board though will not be drawn into commenting on the speculation.
The Chairman revealed that whilst the timing of Eddie Gray's departure from the club has come as a shock to many, it was in accordance with the Leeds legend's wishes.
"We have been criticised already for the timing of Eddie's departure, but once we discussed the position with Eddie Gray it was Eddie's wish that he go now and we simply respected that wish," he added.
Head Coach Kevin Blackwell, who takes charge of Leeds for the final game of the season against Chelsea, says Leeds have to act quickly to ensure they don't miss out on the players the club is going to need to fight for promotion next season.
"There are clubs in the First Division now that are now signing players or setting them up to come in," said Blackwell.
"They know their squads but we have to sign in the region of ten to twelve players, and that's a massive amount of players and if we do delay, come the beginning on June most of the good players have been taken and you are only left with what you can do and that is not good enough for Leeds United.
"Things have to be done quickly, they have to make the appointment soon and put the structure in to the football club to move it forward."

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Times Online - Newspaper Edition

Leeds 3 Charlton 3: Leeds homage to local hero
John Aizlewood at Elland Road
THEY charged towards Alan Smith in their thousands shortly after the final whistle. The Leeds players had been attempting a funereal-paced lap of apology for their nightmare season until a good-natured pitch invasion. The trespassers surrounded him, chanted his name, raised him on to their shoulders and exchanged goodbyes with the forward whom they see as one of their own.
Ten minutes later Smith was rescued, happy and honoured. Nothing will change. Whether a player of his calibre belongs in Division One matters not. Leeds cannot afford to keep him.
“I’ve never seen scenes like that,” said caretaker manager Eddie Gray. “He’s a local hero. The fans and his teammates will miss him, but we must look forward. This club is bigger than one man.” Nevertheless, Smith’s current employers were mathematically relegated yesterday, having been spiritually doomed since August.
Typically, their 14-year seating at the top table ended with the mealy-mouthed surrender of a two-goal lead to Charlton, who rarely looked interested. There were no Yorkshire tears at the final whistle. Leeds were all cried out.
Three years ago this month Leeds played Valencia in the Champions League semi-finals. They may have been punching above their weight, but no more than Monaco, Porto and Deportivo La Coruña this term. Next season, beginning with a 10-point deduction should they enter administration after May 15, they and their circa £50m debt will face, among others, Rotherham and Crewe.
Where did it begin to go wrong? Was it the grisly trial of Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate, which undermined David O’Leary’s still nascent revolution? O’Leary’s insensitive book which milked that case and caused a fatal breach with chairman Peter Ridsdale? Or the sales of Woodgate and Rio Ferdinand, which showed Leeds were not ready to mix with England’s — let alone Europe’s — best.
Culprits abound. Ridsdale was hideously profligate, yet his fellow directors did little to restrain the madness. His successor, John McKenzie, vacillated when the firmest of hands was required and current chairman Gerald Krasner’s brief recruitment of Geoffrey Richmond —- who presided over Bradford City’s cash crisis and was weeks away from being declared bankrupt — hardly inspires confidence.
Managers, too, have contributed. Terry Venables under- estimated his task, Peter Reid kept them up last season but careless loan signings almost condemned them before this one had started, while Eddie Gray has struggled again.
At least he offered mea culpa: “I take my full share of responsibility. We had plenty of time to get out of trouble when I took over. We didn’t do it.”
The players, of course, are far from blushing innocents but Leeds’ once reviled supporters are blameless. They sang their broken hearts out again yesterday. For some, the reward at the end of a year where no League gate has dropped below 30,000, is next season’s season-ticket price increase of 27%.
With Charlton’s hopes of Europe all but evaporated after their traditional late-season collapse and Leeds with only self-respect to play for, the game was breezily low-key. Charlton swept ahead in the 11th minute. Paul Konchesky poked a sideways pass to Matt Holland 25 yards out. Given what seemed the freedom of Yorkshire to contemplate his options, Holland curled a glorious shot past Paul Robinson.
Inspired by captain for the day Smith, Leeds clawed themselves back. A flying 27th-minute Stephen McPhail header from Gary Kelly’s cross brought a similarly athletic save from Dean Kiely.
Two minutes later Leeds equalised. Jonathan Fortune inadvertently nodded on Stephen McPhail’s free kick and Matthew Kilgallon slid in to poke home at the far post. Moments later, Jermaine Pennant danced to the edge of Charlton’s penalty area from his own half before back-heeling to James Milner, who was foiled twice by Kiely, once with his hands and then with his feet.
With Charlton in full slumber mode, Leeds edged in front four minutes before the break. Pennant attempted a one-two with Smith, but Fortune, again inadvertently, played the return to his feet. The Arsenal loanee rounded Luke Young and fired past Kiely.
Smith, made captain for the day, secured his reward in the 69th minute when Kilgallon crossed from the left and Fortune hauled down Michael Duberry. Smith fired the penalty under Kiely before saluting the crowd: a gesture more tearful farewell than celebration.
Trying to instil urgency into his team, Charlton manager Alan Curbishley made a triple substitution on the hour. “We weren’t good enough. Any three could have been taken off,” he lamented. They eventually roused themselves when Duberry tripped Euell in the six-yard box and Euell side-footed home the penalty.
Finally inspired, Charlton equalised. Duberry and Euell tussled again in the penalty area as they chased Konchesky’s pass. The ball ping-ponged between them, before hitting Euell and bouncing past Robinson.
“That sums up our season,” sighed Gray. “Too many silly goals conceded.”
“We’re going down,” sang the crowd, “but we’ll be back.” They will be proved correct. When, however, is another matter entirely.
Leeds Robinson, Richardson (Radebe 82), Duberry, Kilgallon, Harte, Kelly (Wilcox 73), McPhail, Matteo, Pennant, Smith, Milner.
Subs Not Used: Carson, Barmby, Winter.
Goals: Kilgallon 29, Pennant 41, Smith 69 pen.
Charlton Kiely, Young, Hreidarsson, Fortune, Powell (Perry 60), Stuart (Kishishev 60), Holland, Euell, Konchesky, Di Canio (Bartlett 60), Johansson.
Subs Not Used: Leite, Fish.
Goals: Holland 11, Euell 76 pen, 79.
Att: 38,986
Ref: M Halsey (England)

Monday, May 03, 2004

Sport

Viduka's folly is the final betrayal as Leeds fall through trap door
Bolton Wanderers 4 Leeds United 1
By Phil Shaw
03 May 2004

Alan Smith's watery eyes told their own sorry story as the Leeds United players trudged off the pitch and out of the Premiership yesterday. The tracks of his tears will lead to Plymouth, Rotherham and Crewe next season ­ and if the cycle of debt and defeat is not addressed Leeds could easily become embroiled in another struggle against relegation.
Smith excepted, too few of Leeds' players replicated the passion of their followers. Long after Bolton had overturned an interval deficit with three goals in nine minutes, they were still roaring out a defiant "We're going down, but we'll be back" and the self-mocking mantra of "Champions of Europe", a title that was within their grasp barely three years ago.
When Leeds last went down, in 1982, their fans tried to demolish West Bromwich Albion's ground. This time the stupidity and brutishness came from Mark Viduka. The Australian's dismissal, with his team ahead, was an open invitation to the battering which Jay-Jay Okocha and co duly inflicted.
Viduka was playing his first match after suspension following his sending-off against Leicester. Within minutes of putting them ahead with a penalty, he was booked for a sly kick at Emerson Thome. When he then cut down Ivan Campo, the referee allowed him the benefit of slender doubt and team-mates urged him to calm down. Viduka promptly planted an elbow in Bruno N'Gotty's face in an aerial challenge and Mr Bennett's patience ran out.
But the decline which culminated at the Reebok Stadium, leaving Yorkshire without top-flight representation for the first time in two decades, arguably started in earnest in January 2002. Then, with the club leading the table, the then manager David O'Leary published his ill-advised tome Leeds United On Trial.
Others, before and since, cannot escape their share of responsibility, most obviously Peter Ridsdale, the chairman Walter Mitty thought was a fantasist; Alan Leighton and the board who approved Ridsdale's reckless spending; and Jonathan Woodgate, whose trial and conviction for the assault of an Asian student took such an attritional toll on Leeds.
With key players sold to service their debts, Leeds have, in the candid post-match assessment of their caretaker manager, Eddie Gray, simply not been good enough. Three years to the day after he stood beside O'Leary as Leeds met Valencia to contest a place in the Champions' League final, Gray said: "That's a long time in football, especially when you lose a lot of players and have no money. Those factors make a big difference. We just couldn't cope.
"But I'm sure the club will bounce back. It may not happen overnight and it's not going to be easy, but it won't be the end of the club. We will survive. We've a big fan base in a one-club city, and they'll remain loyal. But it looks as if we'll lose players and have to produce our own."
Asked about his own future, Gray said: "I'm not thinking about myself but about the club and which way it will go." Tomorrow's board meeting may be the last held by the Yorkshire consortium which bought control six weeks ago. A Leeds-based businessman, Steve Parkin, hopes to complete another take-over this week.
Whoever holds the purse strings could do worse than study the way Bolton have adapted to football's changing economic climate. While Ridsdale and O'Leary gambled money Leeds did not have on massive fees and wages, Sam Allardyce scoured the continent for free-transfers such as Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff and used what resources they had to pay them handsome salaries.
Bolton, Carling Cup finalists in February, now lie seventh in the Premiership and are on course for their highest finish since 1962. Having never previously finished higher than 16th, they still have a chance of reaching the Uefa Cup. They have achieved their success, moreover, by playing with great panache.
Yet one of their exotic recruits, Thome, was fortunate to have been on the pitch for Viduka to kick. In the 26th minute, after Bolton had threatened to breach Leeds' fragile defence with almost every thrust, the Brazilian was caught the wrong side of Smith as he pursued Paul Robinson's booming kick and wrestled him over. For denying a clear scoring opportunity, he should have received the red card. His punishment was a caution and the sight of Viduka striking his 12th goal of the season from the spot.
Instead of being 1-0 up and facing 10 men, Leeds swiftly found themselves a man down and trailing. Bolton equalised after the break when Djorkaeff angled the ball across Robinson from Okocha's pass, and they were soon on their way to a fourth consecutive victory.
In the 53rd minute, Robinson parried Nicky Hunt's shot and Djorkaeff stabbed in his second. Another 90 seconds and a cross by Anthony Barness, sent on by Allardyce presumably to prevent Thome emulating Viduka's self-destructiveness, struck Ian Harte and bobbled in.
After Kevin Nolan had taken another sumptuous Okocha delivery before rolling in Bolton's fourth, the 75th goal Leeds have conceded, many in the visitors' end took off their shirts and waved them above their heads. They were waving goodbye to the Premiership, and, almost certainly, to high earners like Smith, Viduka and Robinson.
Smith, for one, expects to leave his home-town club and the supporters who worship him. "I'm not a First Division player," he said afterwards. "I've got an international career to think about and I hope the Leeds fans will understand that.
"But I'm no different to anybody else right now. I've got pride and I'm hurting. I just feel sorry for the fans. If the team had been as good as them, we'd probably have won the league. Hopefully, in years to come, it won't be the last time they see me in a Leeds shirt." The tears will dry, but trauma, it seems, is never far away for Leeds United.
Goals: Viduka pen (27) 0-1; Djorkaeff (47) 1-1; Djorkaeff (53) 2-1; Harte og (55) 3-1; Nolan (77) 4-1.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-3-2): Jaaskelainen 6; Hunt 5, N'Gotty 6, Thome 3 (Barness 6, 37), Charlton 6; Campo 4; Djorkaeff 7, Nolan 7, Okocha 7; Davies 7 (Giannakopoulos, 83), Pedersen 5 (Moreno 4, 68). Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Frandsen.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Robinson 5; Kelly 4, Caldwell 4, Duberry 3, Harte 3; Pennant 5, McPhail 2, Matteo 4, Milner 5 (Wilcox 4, 59); Smith 7, Viduka 1. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Barmby, Lennon, Kilgallon.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Bookings: Bolton: Thome, Hunt, Davies. Leeds: Viduka, Pennant. Sending-off: Leeds: Viduka.
Man of the match: Djorkaeff.
Attendance: 27,420