Monday, February 25, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/2/08
League promise "robust defence" of Leeds United action
By Phil Hay
The Football League are poised to respond to Leeds United's High Court writ – and have promised to present a strong defence of their decision to deduct 15 points from the club.
The League have been ordered to reply to the High Court by Tuesday after being served with legal papers by Leeds on February 5, and their board are planning to "robustly" contest United's judicial claim.
The Elland Road club are suing the League over the ruling taken in August which saw Leeds deducted 15 points after failing to exit administration through an agreed Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).
The Football League said the move contravened their rules on insolvency and justified the points penalty, but Leeds will argue that the punishment was unfair and unreasonable when their case is heard in the High Court.
League chairman Lord Brian Mawhinney wrote to clubs across the country this week to confirm that the body would fight to uphold the unprecedented deduction.
Mawhinney wrote: "The board discussed this matter fully at its meeting last Thursday (February 14).
"It has retained experienced solicitors and counsel and has instructed them to defend the 15-point deduction robustly on behalf of the League's board and clubs."
United have spent six months constructing their argument against the League, and their request for a judicial review was driven by the refusal of the Football League or the Football Association to open an independent inquiry into the 15-point penalty.
Leeds will ask the High Court for the earliest possible hearing after expressing concern over the effect that a decision taken after the end of the season could have on the final League One table. Mawhinney's letter made no mention of the timescale envisaged by the Football League.
But the expectation among officials at Elland Road that Barnsley would support United's claim appears to have been dampened by a week of confusion at Oakwell.
Mawhinney's letter confirmed that Barnsley's name had been included on the writ submitted by Leeds to the Football League, a revelation which the former Conservative MP admitted had taken him by surprise.
Support for Leeds is though to have been offered to Bates by Barnsley director Barry Taylor, but Oakwell chairman Gordon Shepherd moved quickly to distance his club from the legal battle on Friday after insisting the case was not Barnsley's to fight.
Taylor's show of solidarity for Leeds is understood to have been made without Shepherd's knowledge, and it is unlikely that Barnsley will play a part in proceedings once the case begins at the High Court.

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/2/08
Tresor's strike too little too late
By Phil Hay
Leeds United 1 Crewe Alexandra 1Tresor Kandol's first goal for 19 games arrived late at Elland Road but with the stark realisation that the reward it brought was too little for Leeds United.
The striker's 86th-minute header averted a defeat to Crewe Alexandra which would have shaken badly a club with aspirations of promotion, but the impact of yesterday's 1-1 draw was visibly apparent in the faces of Gary McAllister and his players.
Leeds, by their own admission, have lost their way since the start of 2008, and there is little left at Elland Road to frighten visiting teams, but it will concern McAllister to have seen the trouble taken by his side to prise a point from a clash with Crewe.
The Cheshire club have won two of their last 18 games and possessed no sort of encouraging form in the lead up to yesterday's match.
They are, potentially, a team heading for relegation, yet McAllister did not bother claiming that the draw snatched by his side had been well-deserved. Such a claim would have been groundless. On the contrary, the result did an injustice to a Crewe team who had enough of the game to have been out of sight when Kandol nodded home his equaliser.
With four minutes remaining, it was a strike which brought a sliver of relief to the watching crowd, but there is little comfort to be found in the disjointed performance and mediocre result produced by Leeds.
Their sequence of seven games without a victory is growing more expensive by the week, and the fact that United moved a point closer to the second automatic promotion place in League One as a result of their draw is less striking than the five-point deficit which lies between them and the play-offs.
Jermaine Beckford was absent from yesterday's game through a one-match suspension, and Leeds missed both his pace and his eye for goal.
The striker was due to serve his ban against Doncaster Rovers last week until a frozen pitch culled the fixture at late notice, and his penance yesterday saw Tore Andre Flo start his first match since United's defeat to Doncaster at Elland Road on January 19.
That fixture was the start of the six-match winless run that stalked Leeds before yesterday's game, and in spite of the improvement shown by his players against Nottingham Forest 11 days earlier, McAllister saw fit to rearrange his line-up in preparation for Crewe's arrival.
Bradley Johnson was dropped to the bench, leaving McAllister free to include Frazer Richardson in his starting team as an improvising right winger.
The formation, with David Prutton in the centre of midfield, was slightly unorthodox, but the arrival of four chances in the first five minutes indicated that United's players initially understood their manager's thinking,Flo's first opportunity came inside a minute when he ran free of Crewe's defence and scraped a shot from 18 yards over the crossbar, and a strike from Alan Sheehan deflected over Ben Williams' goal via a deflection from central midfielder Gary Roberts, one of two players with the same name in Crewe's line-up.
It took Crewe half-an-hour to play their way into the match, by which time their clean sheet had been threatened on several more occasions.Rui Marques, United's captain for the day, hooked an overhead kick over the bar at the far post after a cleverly-worked corner involving Sweeney and Flo, and Kandol's long-range effort was turned away low down by Crewe's embattled goalkeeper.
The barrage continued with Richardson's curling attempt from outside the box which slipped beyond the post, but when Crewe's confidence and invention surged around the half-hour mark, the remainder of the half became increasingly uncomfortable for McAllister's side.
Kenny Lunt produced their first meaningful contribution when his scuffed volley had Casper Ankergren scrambling to defend his near post, and Nicky Maynard spared Leeds with a fierce and wayward finish after Ankergren's parry from Lunt left the striker unmarked in front of an open goal.United's keeper was no more able to intervene after Prutton was penalised for a foul on Byron Moore a yard outside the hosts' box. Lunt curled a well-directed free-kick over Ankergren's wall, and the ball struck the woodwork before the Dane could move.
Sweeney had forced Williams into a lively block two minutes earlier after driving Richardson's cross goalwards, but it was, surprisingly, Leeds who were in greater need of the interval by the time referee Mike Pike brought the first half to a conclusion.
The respite was brief. Two minutes after the restart, Lunt's through ball found Roberts onside, and his pass across goal was tucked beyond Ankergren by the on-running Maynard. On the evidence of the previous 15 minutes, it was a goal that Crewe deserved.
The break of the deadlock required an urgent response from Leeds, and Jonathan Howson's flicked header was clawed away from goal by Williams as United attempted to repair the damage.
Richardson's ambitious strike from all of 30 yards had Williams scrambling again in the 56th minute, but Byron Moore almost turned home a second goal for Crewe moments later after meeting Lunt's cross at the near post.
McAllister had already called on Sebastien Carole from the substitutes' bench by then, and Anthony Elding and Johnson were sent on from the bench with 24 minutes to go. But his side were fortunate to remain a single goal adrift when the second Gary Roberts in Crewe's line-up ran clear onto George Abbey's long pass in the 73rd minute and drove a weak shot against Ankergren's legs with only the keeper to beat.
Roberts' was a wasted opportunity, and one which Leeds were able to exploit. With four minutes remaining, and pressure soaking into Crewe's defence, Carole's deep cross reached Kandol at the far post and the striker buried the easiest of headers. It could not avert the feeling that Leeds had fallen a long way short again.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yorkshire Post 4/2/08
McAllister looks to bolster Leeds squad
By Richard Sutcliffe
NEW Leeds United manager Gary McAllister says he may bolster his squad when the loan market re-opens on Friday.
The former Scotland international made his Elland Road bow over the weekend and was a frustrated spectactor as United crashed to a 2-0 defeat against Tranmere Rovers ».As a result, Leeds slipped out of the play-off positions for the first time since early November.McAllister was one of the busiest managers around ahead of the transfer window closing last Thursday with Anthony Elding, Lubomir Michalik and Alan Sheehan arriving at the club.
Despite that, and Dennis Wise having made five other signings in 2008, the new United manager admits he may enter the emergency loan market when it opens at the end of this week.
He said: "The players that came in had been tracked by the club for a bit of time. As for the emergency loan market, the chairman has made it pretty clear if there is anyone I can bring here who will add to the squad then he will support that.
"There is a big portfolio of players to look at. I know the board will be as supportive as they can.
"Everyone knows this club has had its problems over the years, but it is turning around. It is on its way back."
On the disappointment of slipping to eighth place in League One and losing ground on their promotion rivals, he added: "Like all divisions below the Premier League, everyone is capable of beating each other in League One.
"The players have proved already this season they are capable of going 10, 11, 12 matches without defeat.
"I managed in the Championship for 18 months and watched a lot of games in and around the Midlands, so I am fully aware about what is needed to get out of this division."
McAllister will be in no doubt as to the size of the task facing him if Leeds are to win an instant return back to the Championship.
If that is to be the case, there will have to be a huge improvement on the woeful showing against Tranmere when goals from Jennison Myrie-Williams and Ian Moore condemned United to a third home defeat of the season.
The new Leeds chief said: "The game did not have a great deal of quality in it, but Tranmere came here and did a job.
"It is obvious there is a bit of work to be done to get us back on track. We have a free week now and will be putting in a lot of work on the training ground. I am going to encourage them to play football.
"We have to snap out of this rut quickly. The job I expect of them is simple – to get us out of this division in 16 games. But we will have to be better than we were against Tranmere."
McAllister, who was forced into a couple of changes on Saturday with Frazer Richardson (groin) and Tresor Kandol (sickness) being unavailable, added: "We have got to show more bravery on the ball.
"First of all, we have to compete and win battles across the pitch before you have the right to get the ball down and pass.
"There is loads I can work on. There were a couple of plusses with Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson, two of the younger players, showing little bits of bravery to get on the ball."
McAllister is hoping to confirm the identity of his new assistant manager today with former Bolton and England coach Sammy Lee believed to be his No 1 target.
The Scot said: "I would love to tell you, but we have been negotiating around the clock for the last day and a half to try and get the man I want here. Hopefully, we will have some progress by Monday."

Yorkshire Evening Post 4/2/08
Staunton is McAllister's man
Leeds United were today poised to confirm former Republic of Ireland boss Steve Staunton as Gary McAllister's assistant manager.
Staunton linked up with United's squad for training at Thorp Arch this morning, and Leeds are in the process of finalising his contract, six days after announcing the appointment of McAllister. The club's new boss operated without an assistant against Tranmere Rovers on Saturday, but Staunton is set to become the first addition to his backroom team.
The 39-year-old is expected to receive a short-term contract until the end of the season, in line with the deal agreed by McAllister.
Staunton enjoyed a long playing career which included two spells with both Liverpool and Aston Villa, and he won 102 caps for the Republic of Ireland during an international career spanning 13 years.
He was taken on as the Republic's manager in 2006 but had his contract terminated by mutual consent in October after the Irish failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
Sammy Lee and Gary Speed had both been linked to assistant's job at Leeds, but United will aim to tie up a deal with Staunton in time for Saturday's visit to Northampton Town. Staunton played under McAllister briefly at Coventry City in 2003.
A statement from the club read: "Steve Staunton joined the squad on Monday with a view to assisting Gary McAllister until the end of the season."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 2/2/08
United lose Mac's opener
By Phil Hay
The result that Gary McAllister had desperately wanted to avoid came to bear at Elland Road yesterday, as the Whites lost 2-0 to Tranmere on an afternoon which laid out the pressure that comes with his desk at Leeds United.
McAllister would have wished for a special start to a reign which began officially on Wednesday and in earnest this weekend, but a 2-0 defeat to Tranmere Rovers represented the worst possible beginning for United's new boss.Tranmere scored twice in the second half to take three points from a match which Leeds were never in control of, and when McAllister looked at the League One table last night, he saw United outside the play-off positions for the first time since November.
The club's loss of form is slowing having a tangible and negative effect.Leeds have taken a solitary point from their last four games, and yesterday's defeat was the continuation of a decline which appears to have started on Boxing Day. McAllister is only three days into his job and cannot carry the can for anything that has gone before, but his expectation of realistic patience will be tempered by the reality of United's league position.
Leeds have 16 matches remaining this season, and the evidence of the past month has indicated that their plan to finish inside the top six may come down to extremely fine margins.
The club were well beaten by Doncaster Rovers a fortnight ago, and did not perform effectively against either Luton Town or Southend United. Yesterday, there was no way of denying that Tranmere had deserved their win. The majority of teams inside the top six appear to have the beating of Leeds, and McAllister's first challenge is to prevent United's competitors from leaving them behind.
Chairman Ken Bates will expect the Scot to be his own man at Elland Road, and yesterday's line-up showed how single-minded he is likely to be.
United's starting team displayed five changes from that which was beaten 1-0 by Southend on Tuesday night, a cull enforced in part by injuries to Frazer Richardson and Neil Kilkenny and Tresor Kandol's sudden illness, but also delivered as a result of a meek performance at Roots Hall.
All three of the new signings made by McAllister on the last day of the transfer window – Lubomir Michalik, Anthony Elding and Alan Sheehan – were included immediately, and the fresh appearance of United's side added to the feeling of transition before kick-off.
McAllister was welcomed out of the tunnel by a passionate reception from the Leeds fans and then welcomed immediately into the lacklustre period that United's players have found themselves in.Tranmere were disconcertingly confident and hit the crossbar after making the better of McAllister's first few minutes in the deep end.
David Lucas was wrong-footed by a sublime free-kick from Paul McLaren, conceded by Matt Heath's foul on Ian Moore a yard outside the box.
McLaren's set-piece bounced against the underside of the crossbar, sparing McAllister from an early headache, but his team were unable to muster a reply until the 23rd minute. The opportunity was a half-chance, and Elding's shot from 20 yards was collected safely by Danny Coyne, Tranmere's goalkeeper.
United had struggled to settle before then, and it did not help their display to see Andrew Hughes taken from the field with his face smeared with blood after a collision with Antony Kay. Hughes returned five minutes later with his head heavily bandaged, but the visitors were largely responsible for pushing the pace of a tepid contest before half-time.
McLaren slashed a shot two yards wide of Lucas' goal after a purposeful passage of passing left him unmarked in front of goal, while Howson's strike at the other end flew into the midriff of Coyne, but Tranmere's keeper rode his luck in the final minute of the half after misjudging the flight of a free-kick from David Prutton.
The midfielder was attempting to guide a cross towards Coyne's back post, but the overweighted delivery crashed off the top of the bar before bouncing out of the box. It at least left McAllister with a touch of impetus to dwell on at the interval.
Coyne was involved against five minutes after the break, diving to his left to claim Beckford's glancing header from another Prutton cross, and United's manager took the positive step of replacing right-back Kenton with Sebastien Carole on 54 minutes, before the half had taken off.
But the game took an unpalatable twist on the hour when Tranmere produced their first goal out of nothing.
Winger Jennison Myrie-Williams flicked a bouncing ball over the head of Matt Heath and ran into United's box before cutting inside two defenders and curling a sublime finish into the top corner of Lucas' net.
United's confidence faded immediately despite their encouraging start to the half, and two headers from their former player Shane Sherriff, one of which brought an excellent save from Lucas, gave a warning of what was to come in the 70th minute.
McLaren opened up McAllister's defence with a swinging free-kick, and Moore - another of United's ex-employees – leapt to aim a header beyond Lucas' reach, leaving Leeds with the impossible task of rescuing the game. McAllister will hope that promotion is altogether more achievable.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

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Friday, February 01, 2008 1/2/08
New United manager Gary McAllister immediately felt at home when he returned to Thorp Arch this week.
The Scot took his first training session on Thursday, ahead of the weekend clash with Tranmere, and says it was great to get back on familiar ground.
"I actually left the first week the club had moved up here," recalled the boss. "But I've been gobsmacked. The facilities are absolutely world class.
"I feel there's a big advantage because I feel so comfortable driving in. It's all so familiar again and it's great to be back.
"I asked the players for a freshness in training and I got a wonderful response. Training was nice and bright and sharp.
"It wasn't too tactical, it was about having fun and getting on the ball, and I think they enjoyed it.
"The experienced guys were very positive, and it was good."
The club moved quickly on deadline day to add three new faces - Lubo Michalik, Anthony Elding, and Alan Sheehan - and extended the stay of Darren Kenton until the end of the season.
Gary was delighted with the progress made and is confident in the ability of his squad.
"The club and Gwyn Williams have been tracking several players for a good length of time," he explained.
"I'm more than happy to trust that judgement - I know Gwyn well, he's very experienced.
"All the contact has been positive and we are signing players who will make a difference. There's a big job to be done here.
"As much as my contract is to the end of the season, I'm projecting forward and want to take the club forward.
"You have to set targets, and set them high, and we have a group of players who are capable."
Gary was a part of the last Leeds United team to win silverware, but the new manager firmly believes that the class of 2008 have a real chance of etching their name into the history books if they defy the odds - and the 15-point sanction - by clinching promotion.
"They've just got on with it here and got into a great position," said the new boss.
"They've fallen away in recent games, but I know they are capable of going seven or eight games...
"I've got a respect for Dennis Wise and I'm sure he has brought the players in with the right mentality. It's in their interest to get out of this division, but if we get out of this division with that deduction they could go down as one of the best.
"This club has a great history, but you have to say this would be one of the greatest achievements. Theres' nothing wrong with trying to emulate the good things of the past."
Gary also admits he is keen to see Leeds 'play' their way out of the division.
"The good thing about League One is the teams that try and play attractive football are the ones near the top," he said.
"I can't be hypocritical. I've spent all my life trying to play. The proper way is to win games, but if you can do that with style...
"The teams that buy themselves space to play earn that right. A lot of hard work goes into that."
The three new faces will all come into contention for Saturday's game against Tranmere Rovers.
Goalkeeper Casper Ankergren remains a doubt, while Neil Kilkenny and Frazer Richardson also picked up knocks during Tuesday's defeat at Southend.
"I don't envisage too many changes," added the boss. "There's a couple of signings, one of those will probably go straight into the side, but I'll be picking from the majority of players that Dennis had."

Yorkshire Post 1/2/08
McAllister wastes no time in freshening up Leeds's squad
By Richard Sutcliffe
LEEDS UNITED'S Gary McAllister continued his whirlwind week by being Yorkshire's busiest manager on the final day of the January transfer window.
The new Elland Road chief moved quickly following his appointment on Tuesday afternoon by adding Bolton Wanderers' defender Lubomir Michalik, Stockport County striker Anthony Elding and Leicester City left-back Alan Sheehan to his squad.
United also extended the stay of Darren Kenton until the end of the season after agreeing to take over his contract from Leicester City. The defender had initially signed on loan until the middle of this month.It is the arrival of Michalik, however, in a deal the Yorkshire Post understands to be worth £200,000 that will excite supporters the most with the Slovakian international having impressed when on loan at Elland Road last season.
The 24-year-old made seven appearances and finished on the losing side just once – quite a feat considering United lost 26 games en route to being relegated from the Championship.At 6ft 4in, the Bolton man was a towering influence at the back and his recall by Bolton with three games remaining to solve an injury crisis hit Dennis Wise hard with his side going on to claim just one more point.
Michalik played in Wanderers' final four games – scoring in a 2-2 draw at Chelsea – and has gone on to make 13 more appearances this season in the Premier League and UEFA Cup.
However, Gary Megson's capture of Birmingham City's Gary Cahill suddenly meant Michalik was surplus to requirements at the Reebok and able to leave.
Leeds, who initially approached Bolton late last year, have had to be patient and their approach was last night rewarded when he signed a three-and-a-half-year-deal.
With Kenton extending his stay until the end of the season, McAllister – who is yet to announce the identity of his assistant – now has plenty of options at the back with Paul Huntington and Matt Heath also competing for a starting place at home to Tranmere tomorrow.
Rui Marques – one of the club's standout performer this season – is away on African Cup of Nations Duty with Angola, but will return later this month to further bolster United's options.
Elding is an intriguing capture with the 25-year-old having been the subject of intense transfer speculation in recent weeks. Stockport had already rejected two bids from Hartlepool United and another from Gillingham when Leeds swooped yesterday morning by agreeing a fee. It was also believed Crewe Alexandra were preparing a bid in the region of £150,000 for the former Boston United striker.
Elding has been in fine form this season and has already bagged 15 goals to propel the Hatters to the fringes of the play-off places in League Two. He has scored in each of his last five League outings.The arrival of a forward who has also played for Stevenage Borough and Kettering Town will again give McAllister additional options with the United manager already having Jermaine Beckford, Tresor Kandol and Tore Andre Flo available to him with Leon Constantine expected to return from injury in March.
Sheehan also brings increased competition with Ben Parker the only recognised specialist left- back in the squad.
The 21-year-old, who had two months on loan at Mansfield Town last season, has made 24 appearances this term with his most recent outing coming in the FA Cup third round defeat at Southampton.
The quartet of signings mean United's spending in the January window has soared past £1m with Birmingham City's Neil Kilkenny, Bradley Johnson of Northampton Town, Stoke City's Peter Sweeney and Sebastian Sorsa from HJK Helsinki.
After such a hectic day of transfer activity, McAllister can now turn his attentions to tomorrow. Kilkenny is a doubt after limping out of the midweek defeat at Southend United along with Casper Ankergren who damaged his hip in last weekend's draw at Luton Town.
It is believed that the search for a new assistant manager at Elland Road will not be concluded until after the weekend despite McAllister being linked with both Eddie Gray and Gary Speed in recent days. The latter is believed to be a non-starter, however, with Sheffield United desperate to keep the veteran at Bramall Lane.

BBC 31/1/08
Elding heads Leeds deadline buys
Leeds have made a quadruple swoop in the transfer market on deadline day.
Arguably, the biggest signing for new boss Gary McAllister is striker Anthony Elding, 25, from Stockport who has joined for an undisclosed fee.
Leeds have also signed Bolton defender Lubo Michalik, 24, for an undisclosed fee and have made Leicester defender Darren Kenton's loan move permanent.
Meanwhile, Foxes defender Alan Sheehan, 21, has been brought in on loan for the rest of the season.
Michalik has joined on a three-and-a-half-year contract, while Elding has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal.
Kenton, 29, initially joined Leeds on a month's loan in January having fallen out of favour at the Walkers Stadium. 31/1/08
Slovakian international Lubo Michalik has returned to Leeds United in a permanent deal.
The central defender has signed a three-and-a-half-year deal after the the club agreed to pay Bolton Wanderers undisclosed fee.
Lubo made eight appearances for the club last season while on loan from the Reebok.
The 24-year-old returned Bolton last April and has featured regularly in the Premiership this season. He made 17 appearances for Bolton in total.
Former United manager Dennis Wise had identified the defender as one of his main January targets and new boss Gary McAllister was more than happy to persue the deal following his arrival at the club.
Lubo is Gary's second confirmed signing of the day, following fellow defender Darren Kenton, and striker Anthony Elding is expected to become the third signing this evening.
The club had an offer accepted for Anthony by Stockport this morning and the player arrived at a snow-bound Thorp Arch later in the day.