Saturday, July 30, 2005

Blackwell chooses the real world over dream works

Leeds'new-found modesty can't mask a club high on hope, says Paul Wilson
For a club who have spent the past three years as a byword for mismanagement and financial devastation, Leeds United glimpsed from the training ground look surprisingly healthy and well-nourished.

A shiny new academy and training centre boast facilities only the very top Premiership sides can match and which several others - Portsmouth and Everton spring to mind - can only dream about. The fact that Leeds no longer technically own the Thorp Arch complex does not seem to matter much: a 25-year leaseback suits everyone and the pitches, gymnasium and swimming pool are still for the exclusive use of the players. Upstairs Kevin Blackwell is dealing with the parents of a potential trainee in an interview suite specially designated for the purpose. Downstairs, anyone waiting to see the Leeds manager can study mounted photographs of youth-team products such as Alan Smith, Paul Robinson, Jonathan Woodgate and Harry Kewell and reflect that there was a lot that went right here before it all went wrong.
'Those players saved the club,' Blackwell says, after he has done his own bit to secure the next generation. 'If it hadn't been for our youth development - and I take my hat off to Howard Wilkinson and his staff - we wouldn't be sitting here now. Those players effectively paid for all this. When the trouble hit, at least we had players to sell. I think we raised about £30million in all and I simply can't imagine where Leeds United would be now had we been £30m poorer than we were last season.'
Blackwell is beginning to enjoy being a manager now. Putting a team together is much easier when you can afford to spend £800,000 for a player like Robbie Blake, and he actually chooses to join you ahead of other respectable options. This time last year Blackwell 'was only doing the job because no one else would touch it,' he says.
'I came as assistant to Peter Reid. I was thrilled enough at that. If I had known I would be manager less than a year later I would have had to reach for the tablets. I always wanted to be a manager, but never ever did I imagine for a moment that my first job would be at Leeds United.'
Blackwell can smile about it now, but at the time it was painful on a daily basis for an untried manager attempting to impose order on chaos. The fact the 47-year-old managed to do just that speaks volumes for his ability.
'Managers with reputations felt it was too great a danger to come here and I couldn't really blame them,' he says. 'I only had a reputation as a coach and I was scared of losing that. Established players weren't exactly falling over themselves to join us. We had triallists left, right and centre. The Friday night before the opening game of the season against Derby I had to sign three players to give me a bench. Five hundred quid a week they were on. Nine players made their Leeds debuts that day. The Elland Road announcer had to introduce everyone, starting with Neil Sullivan. It was the longest roll call I'd ever heard.'
Softly spoken and articulate, Blackwell can still get worked up about what happened to his predecessor. 'It angers me that I only worked for eight weeks with Reidy. His ideas were right, but it was cheaper to get rid of him than some of the players he had to deal with. People shouldn't question his ability based on what happened here.'
Blackwell then assisted Eddie Gray in his seven-month stint as caretaker, before making the decision to put himself forward for manager once Premiership relegation had been confirmed.
'I didn't feel I had a choice,' he explains. 'I didn't want people saying I could only coach. I knew I was taking a big gamble. We had a really young side, six players under the age of 21 playing every week, all of them in their debut season. There were 28 debuts for the whole of the club - I think that's a professional record. Obviously I was aware there were big financial problems, but I didn't know we would struggle to meet the wage bill over Christmas, or that the Inland Revenue had set 24 January as the date to put a liquidation order on the club.'
There were many more unpleasant surprises along the way, such as the unexpected tax bill that instantly wiped out the £1.8m spending money he had been promised from the sale of James Milner. But Blackwell never lacked belief in his own ability. He has a business background as well as his football experience, gained from assisting Neil Warnock at five different clubs. Unconvinced his son would make it as a professional goalkeeper, Blackwell's father insisted he learn a trade. He went into building, so successfully that when he finally sold up to concentrate on the coaching career he had promised himself, the business he had built from nothing employed 60 people.
Building wasn't really what I wanted to do,' he says casually. 'It stood me in good stead, though, even though it was tiring to have to keep dashing off north to play for Scarborough.' Because of his long apprenticeship to Warnock and a football career almost exclusively spent in Yorkshire it is easy to forget that Blackwell is from Luton, which is where his building firm was based. Keeping a football career going at the other end of the country was an early indication that when Blackwell puts his mind to something he is capable of making it happen.
'I always knew I wanted to go into football management,' he says. 'I smashed my leg quite badly at Scarborough and I knew I would never get to the top as a player, but from an early age I had my sights set on a coaching career. That was why I knew I couldn't turn down Leeds.
'I loved Sheffield United and enjoyed working with Neil, but after five clubs it was time to branch out. I didn't want to be so inextricably linked with Neil that people would think I couldn't work with anyone else.'
Blackwell had no idea how soon he would be struggling on his own, but the arrival of Ken Bates in time to banish fears of administration or liquidation brought Leeds back to something approaching normality. 'His football acumen has come to the fore already,' Blackwell says of Bates. 'He has a wealth of knowledge and contacts and he's passionate about turning Leeds around. But he's a very demanding man.'
So demanding that Blackwell must have feared the worst when football's most hands-on chairman turned up to cast his eye over his stewardship. 'I wasn't worried because I knew what I had done for the club,' Blackwell insists. 'I knew that on 12 August last year we only had 12 players signed. Every one of them was a free. The cost of the whole team I put together did not equal one player's wages from the year before. I was working to a budget that kept being taken away from me. No one knew what would happen next, except it would probably be bad. It was about keeping the club alive, keeping it afloat long enough for someone to come along and help us move on.'
In his modest way, Blackwell gives himself credit for that achievement and who is to say he does not deserve it? 'If we had been down in the bottom half of the table in January I don't think Ken would have touched us,' Blackwell says. 'The club would not have survived a second relegation.'
Promotion would be so much nicer. Does Blackwell share the general optimism that Leeds are once more marching on together?
'I have to temper everybody's expectations, don't I?' he asks. 'I expect us to improve on our position last year and that's as much as I want to say. If I come out and say Leeds will get promoted, I've just done the team talk for every manager in this division. '
This Championship could be the toughest race for some time. We'll settle for steady progress. I don't want any more dreams here just yet. We've lived the dream, and seen what happened when we woke up. But you're allowed to have hope and self-belief, it wouldn't be much of a game otherwise. If the fans are looking forward to the new season, that's fine by me.'

Monday, July 25, 2005

Celtic 0 Leeds United 0

There were no goals but plenty of spirit was on display from Leeds as they ground out a 0-0 draw with Celtic in Glasgow.
Kevin Blackwell used his entire squad of 20 players, bar Seth Johnson, in the game and only Shaun Derry got a full 90 minutes in but most of the rest are only a few minutes short of completing their first full game of pre-season. Chances for Leeds were limited but Blackwell will have been heartened by how hard his side worked in the game and how well Dan Harding and Eddie Lewis fitted in.
The thousand or so travelling United fans were able to treat a somewhat quiet Celtic support to the full repertoire of Leeds songs at the start of this game.
The first 15 minutes or so belonged to the home side as they exerted some early pressure on the Whites.
When Paul Butler fouled Shaun Maloney five yards out from the penalty area it gave Celtic a chance to test out Ian Bennett, but it was Sean Gregan who took the full force of the free-kick in the face. A little dazed, he was quickly back on his feet and straight back into the action.
Dan Harding was starting at left-back instead of former Celtic defender Stephen Crainey and he had to be quick to hook the ball away from Maloney before the striker could unleash a shot.
Eirik Bakke was the first United player to go for goal, the Norwegian tried his luck from 30-yards out but was wide of the target.
Another Butler tackle on Maloney inside the area had Celtic screaming for a penalty but they had to settle for a corner.
Leeds were then lucky not to concede when Celtic hit the woodwork twice in the space of three minutes.
On ten minutes Stephen McManus' shot after a corner was blocked by Gary Kelly on the line and the ball cannoned back off the post and fortunately the ball came back for Ian Bennett to collect.
With Leeds having just recovered from that near miss, Celtic then hit the bar with a Stanislav Varga header after the former Sunderland man met another corner.
Leeds then came back into the game after those two narrow misses, first Healy managed to get the ball from Paul Telfer in the right back position and played a great cross for Blake on the penalty spot, but his control let him down and the ball ran free where it was cleared.
Eddie Lewis then put in a chip from the left hand side into the area but it was met by a Celtic head. Leeds were at least starting to take the game to the home side.
Shaun Derry had played Eirik Bakke into a great position just on the edge of the penalty area but the midfielder couldn't collect the ball properly or else he would have been through with just the keeper to beat.
Maloney brought the first real save out of Bennett just before half-time, curling a free-kick around the United wall but it was easily taken by the former Birmingham City keeper.
Celtic made one change at half-time, bringing on Alan Thompson for Bobo Balde whilst Kevin Blackwell stuck with his starting XI.
A few minutes into the half and Healy was taken out McManus with a crunching tackle that saw the United require treatment. Thankfully he was fine to continue and Leeds avoided losing another striker to injury this pre-season, with Rob Hulse a doubt for the first game against Millwall.
Healy got his first shot on goal in on 55 minutes, a somewhat half-hearted effort from 20-yards that dipped just before finding the arms of Hoops keeper Artur Boruc.
At the other end Bennett was forced to tip a header from Craig Beattie over his own bar and from the corner Thompson saw his volley deflected wide for another corner. That corner was eventually put behind for yet another corner and Leeds were struggling to get the ball clear in what were a worrying few minutes.
A push on Healy saw the Northern Ireland striker earn a free-kick and from it Robbie Blake's shot on goal appeared to be deflected for a corner but Leeds got nothing from the referee.
Leeds made their first changes on 68 minutes, Frazer Richardson coming on for Kelly, and Gregan made way for Matthew Kilgallon.
Two minutes later Bennett was given another free-kick to save and he did so comfortably, getting two hands on Maloney's drive.
Michael Ricketts came on for a tired Robbie Blake with just over quarter of an hour to play. Blake's fitness does appear to be steadily improving with games and Ricketts is also looking sharper than he was for much of last season.
Stephen Crainey was given his wish of playing at Celtic Park again when he came on for Dan Harding and receiving a nice round of applause from the home fans too. Two more changes followed with Gylfi Einarsson on for Healy, and Matthew Spring replacing Bakke.
Action points in the second half were far and few between but Spring should have done better when Ricketts set him up soon after the midfielder had come on. His shot threatened the corner flag more than the goal.
Danny Pugh had the last shot of the game from distance but it was never close enough to change what had been a predictable scoreline. Celtic: Boruc, Telfer, McManus, Balde (Thompson 45), Varga, McGeady (McParland 72), Gardyne, Lawson, Wallace, Beattie (Zurawski 63), Maloney. Subs not used: Marshall, Aliadiare, McGlinchey, O'Dea.
United: Bennett, Kelly (Richardson 68), Butler (Carlisle 84), Gregan (Kigallon 68), Harding (Crainey 78), Wright (Walton 86), Derry, Bakke (Spring 78), Lewis (Pugh 84), Blake (Ricketts 72), Healy (Einarsson 78).
A Season to Remember - new pages uploaded at

I've just uploaded my review of the 1964-65 season. You can find it at

Leeds United emerge from the Second Division to shake up the First Division and enjoy a remarkable season with a Wembley debut, but end up with nothing

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Marques ... will he be another Roque Juior or a second Radebe? Posted by Picasa
Leeds United Football Club - Marques Set To Be No.7

United are closing in on their seventh signing of the summer after agreeing personal terms with Portuguese defender Rui Marques.

The former Stuttgart man is set to undergo a medical and will become a United player upon successful completion.

He had initially arrived at Thorp Arch on trial a few weeks ago and has been on a short trial with Ipswich, but has made his mind up to join the Whites.

An Angolan international, Marques, 27, began his career with Benfica, then had spells in Germany with Hertha Berlin and Stuttgart, before returning to the Portuguese SuperLiga with Maritimo last season.

Marques is keen to complete the deal and get his United career off the ground.

He said: "Leeds is a big club, it's really a Premier League club and I beleive that Leeds will be in the Premiership again.

"I had some difficult times after Germany, but I think England will be a new start for me. I think it will be very interesting for me to play in England and I believe I have a lot to offer."

He could now play some part for United in Sunday's friendly against Celtic in Glasgow.

Carver ... new coach Posted by Picasa
BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Leeds United | Carver set for Elland Road role

Leeds United are set to appoint John Carver as the club's new head coach after the departure of Steve Agnew to League One side Hartlepool.
Carver has spent much of his career at Newcastle United where he was assistant to Sir Bobby Robson.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge," Carver told BBC Radio Leeds.
"The first person I spoke to was my brother-in-law, Peter Haddock who was in the Championship winning side and he said if you get a choice go to Leeds."
"Newcastle is a great club with passionate supporters but Leeds United is on the same level.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Blake ... deal done Posted by Picasa
Leeds United Football Club - Debut Winner For Blake: Darlington 0 United 1

Debut Winner For Blake: Darlington 0 United 1
Darlington 0
Leeds 1 (Blake 5)

There was a lively start to the match with a goal and plenty of chances in the opening ten minutes, not to mention the sight of a giant inflatable football that mingled with the action on the pitch.

It was the home side who threatened first. Former United pair of Simon Johnson and Clyde Wijnhard combines and Wijnhard got a foot on the cross, forcing Ian Bennett to tip the ball behind from under his own crossbar.

Leeds then had a chance at the other end from a corner delivered into the box by Seth Johnson which Paul Butler met awkwardly but still managed to direct it towards goal where it hit the post and came back out.

Within five minutes though United were celebrating as Robbie Blake scored the first goal of his Leeds career.

The new signing, who feared he might not be fit enough to start the game, met a David Healy cross inside the area and took his time to compose himself before hitting a low shot under Darlington keeper Bertrand Bossu.

Straight afterwards Butler showed just why he was given another year on his contract this summer as he put in a great tackle on Jonjo Dickman to deny the former Sunderland man from getting a clear shot at goal. Butler was partnered by Sean Gregan at the back and the pair looked solid.

David Healy then hit a low drive from 20-yards that was well saved by the keeper, and Kevin Blackwell will have been encouraged to see the understanding that he and Blake had quickly forged with each other.

Jermaine Wright was enjoying plenty of the ball on the right wing and delivered one or two decent crosses early on, and tried his luck at goal but Bossu was alert though and made the save.

Seth Johnson hit a shot wide on the volley late on as 45 minutes of what had been a competent Leeds United performance approached.

The second half was a dull affair compared to the end to end action that had been provided as entertainment in the first, but true to his word Blackwell gave every player who started the game at least 55 minutes to

Bakke tried a delicate flick to play Healy in but the ball was just too far ahead of the Northern Ireland international and the keeper came out and prevented the danger for Darlington.

Kevin Blackwell left it until the 57th minute to make his first changes. On came Frazer Richardson for Gary Kelly and Gylfi Einarsson replaced the goalscorer, Blake.

After the referee had missed a clear handball by Darlington defender Ryan Valentine inside his own penalty area, Darlington nearly sprung a surprise on Leeds with a swift counter-attack, but substitute Jo Kendrick put his shot straight into Ian Bennett's hands.

A further change followed for Leeds after 70 minutes with skipper Paul Butler making way for Matthew Kilgallon. Shortly afterwards Matthew Spring made his entrance, replacing Shaun Derry. Walton, Pugh and Ricketts were the final changes late on.

Gylfi Einarsson, playing a surprise role upfront, nearly caught out the Darlington keeper when a Crainey cross came in from the left. He outjumped the keeper but couldn't send his header towards goal.

Darlington's best chance came with eight minutes remaining when Akpo Sodje's lung bursting run into the penalty area saw him set up substitute Andy Bell, but Bennett was comfortably able to control the shot. Sodje later had a penalty appeal turned down that he was never likely to get after claiming he was bundled over in the area.

The score remained 1-0 at the end and it was a relatively comfortable win for Leeds, who will have gained more in terms of match fitness than anything else from the experience.

United: Bennett, Kelly (Richardson 57), Gregan, Butler (Kilgallon 71), Crainey, Wright (Pugh 84), Bakke (Walton 84), Derry (Spring 78), Johnson, Blake (Einarsson 57), Healy (Ricketts 87). Subs not used: Carlisle, Harding.
Leeds United Football Club - Blake Deal Done

Leeds United have finalised the signing of Robbie Blake after the striker completed a medical on Monday afternoon.

Blake had already agreed terms on a three year contract at Elland Road last week, and just required the final results of his medical for him to officially become manager Kevin Blackwell's sixth summer signing.

Robbie joins up with his new team-mates for the first time on Tuesday morning.

"I'm really looking forward to being a Leeds player," he said.

"I'm going to a fantastic club. I might be dropping out of the Premiership but hopefully I can get back there with Leeds.

"I'm really happy to have made the move here and you only have to look around at the facilities to realise how big the club is and the stature it has in the game."

Blackwell was delighted to be able to welcome his latest acquisition.

"Robbie has a fantastic goal-scoring record at this level and is an undoubted talent," he said.

"He gives us some options too because he can play up front or wide on the left or right. He can play that role just behind the strikers and hopefully he can add that little bit of guile that was sometimes missing from our play last season.

"He's a major signing for us and I am delighted that we have him at Leeds United."

The 29-year-old began his career at Darlington, where his new team are in friendly action on Wednesday evening, and moved to Bradford City in March 1996 for £300,000. He played a large part in the Bantams promotion to the top-flight in 1999, scoring the winning goal in a 3-2 victory at Wolves to clinch the club's place in the Premiership.
After five years with the Bantams, he made a £1million move to Burnley and became a big hit at Turf Moor as he scored 51 goals in 137 appearances, sparking his £1.25m switch to Birmingham last January.

Blake believes he has joined an exciting forward line, one that also provides plenty of competition, and he would be happy to anywhere upfront for the club if necessary.

"Every centre-forward is signed to score goals and with the quality we have got there, with players like David Healy, Ian Moore and Rob Hulse already at the club, I am sure we can score lots of goals between us this season.

"I hope to be in the team first and foremost and after that I don't mind where I play. Hopefully I can play centre-forward which is my preferred choice but we'll have to see what the manager decides to do."

First trip to Wembley ... a dour affair Posted by Picasa
Leeds fail at the last hurdle - new pages uploaded at

I've just uploaded my review of the 1965 FA Cup final. You can find it at
Leeds United make their debut at Wembley Stadium in one of the most sterile of all Cup finals, with Gary Sprake keeping them in the game with one of his greatest ever performances

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bakke to stay? Posted by Picasa
Sports Headlines - Leeds Today: News, Sport, Jobs, Property, Cars, Entertainments & More


EIRIK BAKKE returned to his homeland with Leeds United yesterday and vowed to resurrect his Elland Road career.
The Norwegian international, who is expected to start his first senior game for 18 months when Leeds take on local side Haugesund tomorrow, has shrugged off speculation about his future and insists he wants to build on his early glory days.
Bakke, who is the focus of attention for local football fans here in Stavanger, has been linked with Birmingham City and Aston Villa, but the midfielder says he is firmly focused on the challenge of helping Leeds to a Premiership return.
He told the YEP: "There's always going to be speculation, but I'm happy at Leeds and I want to stay at Leeds.
"There have been rumours about Birmingham and Villa, but Leeds is a big club and it's more challenging for me to help Leeds back into the Premiership.
"I don't mean any disrespect in that, but the size that this club is and the people here...I want to help get this club back where it belongs.
"I want to stay – it doesn't matter which division we are in. I'm paid to play and do a job and I think we've got a chance this season. It'll be tough because there are some good sides, but we've got a good squad.
"Our squad last season went close but when you look at this squad then we really do have a chance."
Bakke featured for just two minutes last term, as a substitute against Brighton in January, after damaging his cruciate during the pre-season tour of Sweden.
For the first time since last summer he is now back in full training and, after completing two weeks of fitness work at Thorp Arch, he is now relishing the prospect of kicking a ball again as United's pre-season campaign hots up.
"It's good to be back playing football again," Bakke admitted. "It's been a long while. My legs feel heavy, but they will do.
"It's always tougher when you have been out and I'm finding it harder now the football has started, but it will come. It's only a month until we start, but my knee is good.
"Wednesday will be tough, but even if I feel heavy it will be good playing again for the first team. Hopefully, now I can stay injury free and play week in, week out."
Bakke was in similar mood last summer until his season was wrecked when he caught his leg in the turf during a pre-season game against Swedish part-timers Pitea.
But he isn't thinking about that – he is just concentrating on winning a starting place when the season kicks off next month.
Bakke said: "There are eight central midfielders here now and I know when it comes to the seventh of August everyone will want to play. I'm one of them."

Blake ... money to burn for Blackwell? Where will he fit in? Posted by Picasa
Sport - Yorkshire Post Today: News, Sport, Jobs, Property, Cars, Entertainments & More

Blake's pay-off holds up United
Leeds agree fee for striker

ROBBIE BLAKE will today be left behind when his Birmingham City team-mates jet off to Norway for a pre-season training camp after Leeds United agreed a fee with the Blues.
After a weekend of negotiations, the two clubs yesterday agreed an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £850,000 for the 29-year-old striker who moved to St Andrews for £1.25m from Burnley in January.
Blake has spoken to Kevin Blackwell and told the Leeds manager how keen he is to move to Elland Road. The Yorkshire Post understands, however, that the transfer is subject to a settlement being reached between Birmingham and Blake over the remaining three years of his contract.
United are close to agreeing personal terms with Blake, but such is the huge gulf between wages paid in the Premiership and Championship that the striker will have to take a substantial pay cut to move to Elland Road.
Further talks are planned between the player's agent and the St Andrews board this week with Blake, who had been expecting to fly out with the Blues squad to Scandinavia today, set to train with the reserves until the matter is resolved.
Coincidentally, Leeds are also in Norway this week as part of their build-up to the new campaign and are due to share the same hotel as the Blues in Stavanger.
Manager Blackwell said: "There are a number of things that still need to be completed before the Robbie Blake deal is done and until then I would rather not say too much. It could still fall through."
Blake's arrival will be a huge boost to United and give Blackwell enviable options up front with the former Bradford striker vying with Rob Hulse and David Healy for a starting role.
Versatile Blake has played on the right side of midfield during his career while his intelligent use of the ball and eye for an opening also mean the 29-year-old is capable of slotting in just behind the front two.
Steve Stone was the notable absentee when United flew out to Norway ahead of their two-game tour after injuring an Achilles in training.
The 33-year-old sustained the injury in a behind-closed-doors friendly game at Thorp Arch and has been left behind as a precautionary measure.
Blackwell is waiting to hear the extent of the damage, but the injury is not expected to be serious enough to prevent the former England midfielder starting the season on August 7.
Stone's omission has handed trialist Freddie Santos a further chance to impress with Blackwell hoping the Angolan international striker will receive clearance to play a part in the games against either FK Haugesund or Stavanger IF.
Of the other trialists who figured in the friendly game at Thorp Arch last weekend, Northern Ireland winger Keith Gillespie and Hungarian international midfielder Zsolt Baranos have been released.
Blackwell said: "We have a couple of others who will be coming back to train with us at Thorp Arch when we return from Norway. Keith did really well and worked very hard, but we have decided not to pursue that option."
Captain Paul Butler has signed a 12-month extension to his current deal to remain at Elland Road until the summer of 2007.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

So near and yet so far - first episode in a litany of glorious failure Posted by Picasa
Leeds fail at the last hurdle - new pages uploaded at

I've just uploaded my review of the crucial final League game of 1964-65.
You can find it at
Leeds battle back from three goals down to snatch a draw in their final League game of the season, but ultimately finish as runners up to Manchester United by virtue of a poorer goal average

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

End of another unfortunate deal Posted by Picasa
BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Boston United | Joachim completes Boston switch

Boston have signed Leeds United striker Julian Joachim on a two-year deal.
The 30-year-old hails from Boston and returns "home" after successful spells in the midlands with Aston Villa, Leicester City and Coventry City.

More recently Joachim had a productive loan period at Walsall towards the end of last season, but the clubs could not agree terms on a permanent switch.

Leeds insisted they would not offer Joachim a settlement on the remaining year of his contract.

"Julian's come home to his home town club where he stood on the terraces and watched the team on many an occasion," Boston boss Steve Evans told BBC Sport.

"He trained this morning and looked very bright and to be fair to Kevin Blackwell and Leeds they've been in for a week and Julian's fitness is good, which matches what we've seen in our own players."

Noggin wanted by Brummies Posted by Picasa
Leeds Today: News, Sport, Jobs, Property, Cars, Entertainments & More

Tug of war for Bakke
by paul dews
MIDLANDS rivals Birmingham City and Aston Villa are scrapping it out for the signature of Leeds United midfielder Eirik Bakke.
The two Premiership clubs have expressed an interest in Bakke and are preparing their respective bids for the player.
The 27-year-old has suffered two years of injury torment at Leeds and a return to the Premiership would offer Bakke the chance of a clean break.
United boss Kevin Blackwell has strengthened his midfield in Bakke's absence with Sean Gregan, Jermaine Wright and Shaun Derry joining the club to fill that central role.
Bakke, one of just three remaining senior players from the David O'Leary era, has not expressed an interest in leaving Elland Road and any deal would have to be right for player and club.
Villa boss O'Leary is a long-time admirer of Bakke, while Blues boss Steve Bruce has stepped up his interest.
Bruce also has an ace up his sleeve, with United understood to be keen on recruiting Birmingham marksman Robbie Blake.
The former Bradford striker is in danger of falling out of favour at Birmingham less than seven months after joining the club in a £1.25m deal from Championship outfit Burnley.
Blake can operate up front and on the flanks and would provide United boss Kevin Blackwell with another option.
The transfer window shuts on August 31 and Blackwell knows he must finalise his squad by then.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Beating the Scum ... and making it to Wembley ... do things get any better? Posted by Picasa
Leeds make it to Wembley for the first time - new pages uploaded at

I've just uploaded my review of the semi final replay between Leeds and the Scum in the 1965 FA Cup.You can find it at
After the debacle of the first match, the players got back to football for the replay, and Leeds emerged victorious with a wonderful late goal from Blly Bremner to book a place in the final at Wembley

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Battle for survival ... Law loses his shirt... Posted by Picasa
Grim battle for survival - new pages uploaded at

I've just uploaded my review of the grim goalless draw between Leeds and the Scum in the 1965 FA Cup smei final at Hillsborough.You can find it at
Two Uniteds take time off from their championship chase to go head to head in a fearsome battle for the Cup on an appalling Hillsborough pitch - Denis Law's shirt ended up in shreds