Saturday, December 15, 2007

Leedsunited.com 15/12/07
JUST REWARDS
WALSALL 1 (Mooney 75), LEEDS UNITED 1 (Westlake 90)
United boss Dennis Wise was forced into making one change from the side which thrashed Huddersfield last weekend, with Leon Constantine making his first league start in place of the suspended Tresor Kandol.
Walsall included former United striker Michael Ricketts in their starting line-up.
Once again Wise's men trotted out in front of a full-house, and it was the home fans who were almost celebrating after just eight minutes.
Mark Bradley's attempted long-distance chip of Casper Ankergren came back off the bar, but former Birmingham marksman Tommy Mooney was in an offside position when he rifled home the rebound.
United's early opportunities came courtesy of David Prutton and Jonathan Douglas, with both firing over the top from distance.
Douglas also had a free-kick blocked after Ian Westlake was fouled on the edge of the area.
But the home side were also a threat going forward and Frazer Richardson had to react well to clear a Bradley cross. Ankergren also saved a Scott Dann header, following a free-kick.
At the other end, a piledriver from Andrew Hughes was deflected to safety and Walsall had to scramble clear a Douglas corner.
United had upped the tempo and, with Hughes and Westlake working hard on the left, were enjoying a good spell of pressure as the game passed the half-hour mark.
Walsall went close again, though, on 39 minutes when Ankergren was adjudged to have got his fingertips to a Mooney effort. The Dane disputed the decision to award a corner.
As United moved quickly downfield, it was Walsall's turn to dispute a corner when Clayton Ince failed to hold a Douglas delivery and the referee awarded a corner.
The half-time break brought some respite for both sides, and "Champions of Europe" was given a noisy airing by the 2,891 visiting supporters, many braving the freezing conditions and waving shirts in the air.
Leeds started the second half brightly, and Westlake sent a fizzing volley over the bar after a great ball from Radostin Kishishev. The lively Frazer Richardson then dragged a shot narrowly wide as United continued to press.
But it was Ankergren who made the first save of the half when he beat away a fierce shot from Edrissa Sonko shortly before the hour.
With 20 minutes remaining, Wise introduced Tore Andre Flo in place of Constantine as the manager sought to find the all-important goal.
But the goal came at the wrong end on 75 minutes when Tommy Mooney got the final touch of a goalmouth scramble, following a Walsall corner. Mooney seized after an untidy scramble inside the six-yard box.
Wise immediately made two substitutions with Jonny Howson and Alan Thompson joining the fray.
Jermaine Beckford tested Walsall goalkeeper Ince 10 minutes from time as United surged forward in search of a leveller. And Thompson fired over the top after Walsall failed to clear a long punt from Ankergren.
A tactical switch saw Douglas drop back to centre-back for the final five minutes, Matt Heath adding more power to the frontline.
And United were rewarded for a determined effort when the deserved equaliser came in the final minute after Westlake appeared to get the decisive touch on a Thompson free-kick
The drama wasn't over, though, and in the second minute of stoppage time, Irish international Douglas was stretchered from the pitch in great pain with what appeared to be a severe injury to his left leg.
United played out the final moments with 10 men, and ensured a well deserved point.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Yorkshire Post 10/12/07
Ken Bates plans two hotels at Elland Road
LEEDS United chairman Ken Bates plans to transform the club's Elland Road ground with an ambitious scheme that includes two hotels, a shopping centre and a health club.
The hotels, a budget proposition and a four-star offering, would be built in an L shape on the site currently occupied by a souvenir shop.
The development would also include food outlets and a Leeds United museum.
Details of the plan were announced by Mr Bates in the match programme for United's derby game against Huddersfield Town on Saturday.
He said the hotels would strengthen the club's conference and banqueting (C&B) business, and added: "I believe that the income from an enlarged C&B market would enable us to buy a quality player every year!"
So far no start date for the development has been announced.Mr Bates says his plans complement those of Leeds City Council, which owns much of the land surrounding the ground. In September, the council floated the idea of building a new railway station as part of wider plans for a leisure development.
The council's own plans for the area include proposals for an entertainment arena, casino, hotel, health club, police headquarters, cafes, bars and parking for about 2,700 cars.
The east coast railway line borders the site and the idea of building a station at Elland Road has been discussed several times over the last 20 years.
Council leader Andrew Carter said when the latest plan was unveiled: "All members would like to see a halt but it would be dependent on the developments that take place and the value of those developments.
"In the past the line has not had sufficient capacity and there has been no money to build the facility. However, we have to fight for it because it would benefit the city in general."
The Elland Road ground was sold to Manchester businessman Jacob Adler by a previous United board in late 2004, with Leeds taking a 25-year lease on the site. It was sold on to British Virgin Islands-based Teak Commercial Limited in 2005.
Mr Bates has said he intends to buy back Elland Road "in the fullness of time".

Harry lets target out of the bag
By Phil Hay
Dave Bassett let the cat out the bag on Monday morning when he announced that Leeds United planned to sit at the top of League One on New Year's Day.
Dennis Wise reacted by joking that his assistant was blessed with "a big gob", but Bassett's comments revealed the swing from caution to optimism which has taken place at Elland Road.His admission was followed up later in the week by Frazer Richardson's assertion that Leeds would win automatic promotion this season, and even Wise found himself drawn into a discussion over how far his squad can go by May. After four months which have laid the most perfect of platforms, United appear ready to show their hand.
"It was a target I put to them," said Wise of the January 1 aim.
"Are they capable? We'll see. You have to challenge them and keep them on their toes."
United's credentials were widely examined last month, the result of their first spell of struggle in an otherwise excellent season, but a 3-0 victory over Port Vale on Tuesday negated their 1-0 defeat at Cheltenham and sent Wise's players into yesterday's West Yorkshire derby against Huddersfield Town with a renewed sense of purpose.
United have 12 more points to compete for before the turn of the year, and a five-point margin separated the club from the top of the division ahead of this weekend's fixtures.
The season started with Wise plotting his side's recovery from their Football League penalty, but United's rapid climb up the league has revised the expectations of many supporters who feared whether another tussle with relegation was on the cards. Wise, however, insisted he had not been surprised by the speed of Leeds' ascent.
"We're slightly in front of what I expected," he said.
"It's nice, but there's still a target. Whether or not we drop below, we've still got a target that we want to achieve.
"But I'm not going to get carried away. We're in a fantastic spot but when you get carried away, things like Cheltenham happen.
"We've had stages this year. We had to get out of the bottom four first, then there was the next group (to catch).
"Then there was getting into the play-offs, and now there's the final group – the final hurdle of getting into an automatic spot and staying there."
The criticism that came United's way last month irked Wise, and frustrated his assistant Bassett who became an easy if unjustified target for criticism from a number of United supporters who suggested the club's form was linked to Bassett's arrival in place of Gustavo Poyet.
Bassett rejected the claim – calling it a "cheap shot" – and Wise moved to support him this week after the 3-0 victory over Vale returned normality to the club.
Wise said: "Everyone jumped on the bandwagon after we lost a couple of games.
"They have to realise that in the cup games I changed the team and if I'm being honest it was my fault. I haven't concentrated fully on the cups, or as much as I should have done.
"But you have to look at the long-term, and what we're trying to achieve this year.
"I looked at the big picture, not just the cups. We didn't have fantastic results but we've got one thing to concentrate on now.
"People just have to judge us in the league. In the league we've been fantastic.
"That's where our full concentration has been. In the cups, we've changed the team quite a bit.
"People like to write certain things about us having such a bad spell but that's the way it is and you have to face up to it."
Wise, meanwhile, has been promised money to work with in the January transfer window after holding talks with chairman Ken Bates this week.United's manager has no plans to make sweeping changes to his squad next month, but United's improving financial position will allow him to target key areas of his team ahead of the League One run-in.
"I've got some money," said Wise.
"It's always nice to bring people in, but it has to be the right people. If it's right then I'll do it.
"If it's not then sometimes you don't want to upset the applecart.
"I'm happy with what I've got but if I get any injuries then obviously I'll need to tweak it."

Yorkshire Post 10/12/07
Leeds United 4 Huddersfield Town 0
By Richard Sutcliffe
At Elland Road
MATT HEATH may not want either Tresor Kandol or Jermaine Beckford on his side when the Leeds United squad is divided into two teams during training.
But the defender knows just how fortunate United are to have the strike pair spearheading the club's seemingly relentless assault on the League One title. Once again, Beckford and Kandol proved too hot to handle as Leeds powered to a 15th victory of the season to move within two points of Swansea City at the summit. The pair, who are best friends off the field, have developed an almost telepathic understanding and their styles complement each other to such an extent that a combined tally of 21 league goals is more than many clubs have managed in total this term.
Huddersfield, with 18, are one of those who cannot match the Leeds duo's tally and Heath appreciates just how important the pair are to the club's quest for success. He said: "It is great to have them both on our side because we can usually rely on them to get a goal here or there.
"It is nice that a few others are popping up with goals as well because Tres and Becks won't score every week, even though they are at the minute.
"To be honest, they are terrible in training. They never score in the games we play on a Friday. I never want them on my team because they are rubbish.
"But come Saturday they do the business.
"Hopefully, we can get promotion because they can then prove themselves in the Championship, too."
Kandol may not have scored, but there was little doubt of the key role he played in Leeds's ninth home win in 10 outings with the former Barnet striker running tirelessly throughout.
His aerial prowess also unsettled the Terriers defence, while he also proved to be no slouch with the ball at his feet, either. It was Kandol's ability to retain possession when under intense pressure before playing an intelligent pass that created the decisive second goal of the game on 50 minutes when Beckford finished in typically predatory style.
Town striker Andy Booth, a veteran of more than 500 games, saw enough of the pair to know they will take some stopping this term.
He said: "Leeds deserved to win but it was a lot closer than 4-0. It was tight in the first half and could have gone either way The second goal was the most important one.
"There was not a lot between the two sides but they got the four goals. They took their chances.
"The front two are very good. Leeds are well organised and both lads run the channels and are very strong. Plus, they score goals. I was very impressed with them both.
"The two front lads are probably a cut above the division."
There was little doubt Leeds deserved the points but the margin of victory was harsh on a Town side who, for 45 minutes at least, played the more constructive football. With Michael Collins and Ronnie Wallwork bossing the centre of midfield and Malvin Kamara's pace unsettling Andrew Hughes at left-back, it was the visitors who fashioned the better chances during the first half.
Huddersfield should have gone ahead after just two minutes when Kamara sped past Hughes before drilling a cross into the path of Booth. The veteran's first touch was poor and Hughes managed to block, but he only managed to divert the ball into the path of Wallwork who should have done better than shoot wide from 10 yards.
Collins almost got the better of Heath after the defender stumbled 10 minutes later, while Town were also left to rue two wasted opportunities by on-loan Phil Jevons towards the end of the half. In contrast, Leeds struggled for much of the opening half and fashioned only one chance. Crucially, however, they made it count when Jonathan Douglas drilled a 20-yard shot along the soaking turf and past the out-stretched hand of rookie goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
Going in at the break behind was rough on the visitors but as soon as Leeds had doubled their lead five minutes after the restart, the game was effectively over. Kandol showed great tenacity to win the ball before playing David Prutton away down the left. He looked up before drilling a cross towards the front post where Beckford nipped in front of Smithies to flick the ball into an unguarded net.
United were now firmly in control and they extended their advantage on 69 minutes when a wonderful overhead pass by Beckford allowed Ian Westlake to spring the offside trap. He raced into the area and picked out Douglas, who brought a wonderful save from Smithies.
Unfortunately for the teenage debutant, the ball merely rebounded to Beckford who tapped it into an empty net.
Leeds were not finished yet and with just three minutes remaining, Tore Andre Flo added a fourth goal with Smithies again unfortunate after managing to block a goalbound effort from Westlake.

Telegraph 10/12/07
Leeds' display is worthy of Billy Bremner By Richard Holdsworth
More than 32,000 fans congregated at Elland Road to watch Leeds take on Huddersfield in a raucous derby on a cold, wet December day.
It was the kind of scene Leeds United's Billy Bremner would have loved. A minute's applause before kick-off commemorated the 10th anniversary of the death of the Leeds legend, who would have enjoyed the ensuing result even more.
A glut of goals rather than solid defensive displays has been the foundation for Leeds' recent success and a 3-0 midweek win over Port Vale had moved Dennis Wise's side up to fifth in League One before this impressive win maintained their promotion push. They are now just two points behind leaders Swansea.
On a day when the fiercely competitive Bremner - once described as '10 stone of barbed wire' - was lovingly remembered, it was perhaps fitting that midfield ball-winner Jonathan Douglas should score the opening goal.
A mainstay of Wise's starting line-up, the midfielder holds Bremner's No 4 shirt and plays in a similarly tenacious manner. No wonder Wise has made the 26-year-old his club captain. The low drive he unleashed in the 24th minute put paid to Huddersfield's early pressure and probably dented the confidence of rookie goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
To be fair, there was little the debutant could have done to keep out his shot, particularly given the way the ball appeared to skid off the wet surface.
Leeds fell into an irresistible rhythm and a more relaxed second-half display followed, yielding a further three goals, Ian Westlake's delightful cross quickly setting up Jermaine Beckford, who underlined his growing reputation as a striker by netting his second 20 minutes later. Tore Andre Flo came off the bench and score the fourth with his first touch late on.
"It was lovely to see 'Dougie' get the first goal, I like sentimental things like that," Wise said.
"It took us 24 minutes to get a shot in, which I was a bit puzzled about because I told them to test the young lad in goal, but overall I thought we were a lot better than them."

Daily Mail 9/12/07
Leeds boss Wise slams 'idiot' after Bremner statue vandalised
Leeds manager Dennis Wise was furious that the Billy Bremner statue outside the ground was spraypainted before his side's 4-0 victory over local rivals Huddersfield.
The victory was a fitting tribute to former Leeds and Scotland captain Bremner, who died 10 years ago this week.
"You don't disrespect a player of that calibre," he said.
"It is disappointing that some idiot decides to do something like that. People like that should be kept away from football."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Yorkshire Evening Post 8/12/07
Leeds United reign on Billy's day
By Phil Hay
Leeds United 4 Huddersfield Town 0
IT was Billy Bremner's day at Elland Road yesterday, and it therefore stood to reason that it should be Leeds United's as well.
On the weekend of the 10th anniversary of Bremner's passing, a capacity crowd acknowledged the legend born in Scotland but bred in the heart of Leeds in the way that modern day football knows best, with a simple and heartfelt round of applause.
The tribute honoured a man of unique talent and personality, and one who is virtually peerless around Elland Road. The city of Leeds vowed never to forget, and has held rigidly to that promise.
It was, however, with an impeccable sense of occasion that yesterday's West Yorkshire derby against Huddersfield Town was settled in United's favour with the help of a midfielder carrying Bremner's iconic number four on his back.
A first-half goal from Jonathan Douglas – the modern-day holder of Bremner's famous shirt – set Leeds on the path to a commanding victory in the first league fixture between the clubs for two decades, and gave Elland Road the result that the bulk of a crowd of 32,501 had turned out to see.
The outcome would have mattered to Bremner. These days, Dennis Wise takes just as much pride in the success of the club. By the time Tore Andre Flo rounded off the victory in the 87th minute, Wise's name was also resounding around Elland Road. The past and present of Leeds United were thus satisfied.
A 4-0 scoreline at the end of a derby can be construed as a massacre, and Huddersfield's players were desperate to make their escape at the final whistle.
But as United ran away with the game during the second half, it was easy to forget the contribution that Town had made to the start of a breathless encounter, and how different the outcome might have been had their best chance not been squandered in the second minute. Leeds scored when it mattered; Huddersfield, repeatedly, had no reply.
United's preparation was unquestionably better than the build-up experienced by Andy Ritchie. Huddersfield were dragged to Southend on Wednesday evening, and travelled home nursing the damage of a 4-1 defeat and the red cards shown to goalkeeper Matt Glennon and experienced defender Frank Sinclair, a former Chelsea team-mate of Wise.
Ritchie accepted Sinclair's dismissal but had anticipated overturning Glennon's on appeal, only to be disappointed by the Football Association's decision to uphold his red card on Friday.
With both players automatically suspended yesterday, it left 17-year-old keeper Alex Smithies to fill Huddersfield's most serious void at Elland Road, the early pinnacle of a career which began in earnest with his first senior appearance as Glennon's replacement at Roots Hall.
The only relevant concern for Wise was Jermaine Beckford, who injured his shin in Tuesday's 3-0 victory over Port Vale but was passed fit after completing a light training session 48 hours before kick off.
Beckford struck his 11th goal of the season against Vale but, if Smithies was seen as a potentially weak link by Wise, United's ponderous start did not threaten to break it or to tease a Carson-esque error from Huddersfield's trainee.
The hosts took until the 24th minute to direct a meaningful shot at Smithies' goal, but the fact that the effort brought United's opening goal put the youngster in extreme peril. Chided by United's supporters yet largely blameless it was, in the end, a cruel stage on which to make a full debut.
Smithies could not have been blamed for failing to stop the low, sweeping and beautifully accurate strike from Douglas which curved into the net at his right-hand post, but a Huddersfield team who had appeared quietly confident while the game was goalless suddenly looked in danger of over-exposure.
That United had stumbled through the first quarter of the match, struggling as they did with Town's pace and slick passing in attack, will have offered no consolation to Ritchie, whose side should have taken the lead in the second minute.
Malvin Kamara out-ran Andrew Hughes on the right wing, stretching Leeds' defence, and a series of rebounds directed the ball to Ronnie Wallwork whose side-footed effort past the post was as casual as it was wasteful.Had Wallwork beaten Casper Ankergren, United – for all the spirit of Bremner – would not have relished the scenario of trailing before their capacity crowd. They were, before Douglas' contribution, comfortably second best.
But Leeds have rarely failed to protect themselves when handed the lead this season, and the match began to follow what has become a familiar course at Elland Road.
Huddersfield pressed repeatedly, laying on a volley for Phil Jevons which dropped wide of a scrambling Ankergren in the 33rd minute, but they were susceptible to the type of opportunity created by Leeds in the next passage of play.A flicked header from Tresor Kandol utilised the pace of Beckford, whose rising shot from inside the box whistled beyond Huddersfield's goal at pace. Leeds' sharp finishing had guided them out of trouble against Vale earlier in the week, and their performance seemed to rely again on their penchant for goals.
That clinical habit revealed itself again five minutes into the second half. Douglas dug out possession in midfield and provoked an attack which left David Prutton unmarked on the left wing. His low cross found Smithies absent from his near post, and Beckford slid in to guide his 12th league goal into a vacant net. His strike left Huddersfield to salvage what pride remained on offer, which amounted to little.
Ankergren's flap at a cross in the 62nd minute almost gifted a chance to Michael Collins but the bounce of the ball aided Leeds, but Town's spirit was broken seven minutes later.Beckford's overhead kick played in Ian Westlake, who unselfishly squared a pass to Prutton inside the box. The winger's fierce strike was brilliantly parried by Smithies, but Beckford poached the rebound a yard from the line.
With the result confirmed, Flo – who is moulding himself into the perfect substitute – stepped off the bench to score with his first chance in the 87th minute, set-up by Smithies' excellent parry from Westlake's shot.
Bowed and beaten, Huddersfield held up their hands. It is what United might call the Bremner effect.


Yorkshire Evening Post 8/12/07
A waiting game
By Phil Hay
The Football Association today admitted it is in the dark over Leeds United's plan to fight their 15-point penalty through independent arbitration.
The governing body has received notice from Elland Road that Leeds intend to force an independent review of the Football League penalty. But officials at Soho Square are still waiting to learn the exact details of United's complaint – and for confirmation of who the complaint will be lodged against. Leeds have fought the 15-point penalty ever since their first appeal to the Football League was rejected in August, and the FA have twice turned down direct requests from United for the punishment to be overturned. The club are entitled to request independent arbitration under FA rules, but a spokesman for Soho Square said: "We haven't been told who their case is specifically against or been given a clear explanation of what their complaint is. This can't move forward until that happens." Confirmation of the details of United's complaint would see a three-man panel set up to rule on the matter, including one member selected by Leeds, one by the FA and an independent chairman agreed by both sides. The FA would normally take responsibility for selecting the chairman if the opposing parties fail to reach an agreement, but if the governing body is itself the subject of United's complaint – as it is likely to be – the final member of the panel would be elected by the Sports Dispute Resolution Panel, a London-based body which operates independently of the FA.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Yorkshire Post 30/11/07
Shepherd eyes investment in Leeds United
By Richard Sutcliffe
EXCLUSIVE: Freddy Shepherd wants to buy a one-third share in Leeds United, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.
The former Newcastle United chairman is understood to have been in talks with the Elland Road hierarchy for a couple of months over acquiring a minority shareholding.
It is by no means a done deal, however, with several other would-be investors believed to have been in touch with chairman Ken Bates since the club exited administration during the summer.
Under the proposal by Shepherd, Bates would remain in control with the deal taking the form of an investment as opposed to an outright takeover. This would fit in with the 75-year-old's intention to remain as chairman.
Bates has made no secret of his desire to attract investors to the club and is known to have had lunch with Shepherd in September.
He has been at pains to point out that the club is not for sale and used his programme notes for the recent FA Cup game against Hereford United to reiterate his intention to restore United to former glories.
He wrote: "There are plenty of would-be investors sniffing round Leeds United. It could be tempting to take the money and run.
"Let me assure you, that possibility is not even in the mind of (my wife) Suzannah and myself. We are here to build not just Yorkshire's No 1 club, but one which will compete and take on the so-called greats including Chelsea with (Roman) Abramovich's millions.
"Rumours surfaced earlier this season that Shepherd, who banked £37m by selling his shares in Newcastle to businessman Mike Ashley, could be interested in Leeds.
The speculation originated in the North East where the two men, who became friends when in charge of Chelsea and Newcastle respectively, were spotted having lunch together.
It was claimed by sources in the city that Shepherd wanted to buy the Leeds club outright, but the Yorkshire Post understands this not to be the case.
Shepherd, who has also been linked with Sheffield Wednesday in recent weeks, did reveal earlier this month how he hoped to be back in the game by January and claimed that "half-a-dozen clubs" had tried to interest him in either investing or mounting a full take-over.
He then added: "Football is a drug, and a powerful drug. From January I think something could happen.
"I am a northern guy, so obviously I am more interested in northern clubs.
"When news of the initial meeting between Bates and Shepherd emerged, the Leeds chairman said: "Freddy is a good friend of mine and has been for years.
"I went up to see him, and we finished up having lunch.
"Inevitably the subject of football came out, and he is still a bit sore about what happened at Newcastle.
"He would like to get back in and I would like an investor, so the two fit in."
Should Shepherd invest in Leeds, it will continue a rollercoaster year for the club whose very future was in doubt not so long ago after slipping into administration amid debts of £35m.
A bitter fight for control raged on for much of the summer before Bates emerged triumphant by buying the club back from the administrator.United's troubles were not over, however, with the Football League refusing to return the club's share due to what they considered to be a failure to foll
ow their insolvency policy.
It meant a nervous wait for supporters before the League finally handed back the share in early August after hitting Leeds with a 15-point penalty. Appeals to the League and Football Association to review the deduction were subsequently turned down and a club statement this week confirmed they plan to take the fight to arbitration unless the FA agree to go to the High Court for a judicial review.
The fear was that the penalty would lead to a relegation battle but, instead, it has had a galvanising effect with supporters, management and players having been bound together in a determination to give a metaphorical V-sign to the League.
Results have been so impressive on the field that United now sit fifth in League One after claiming a phenomenal 41 points from 17 games. Without the points penalty, Leeds would be 10 clear at the top of the table.