Sunday, December 28, 2008

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Match – 24 January 1970 – Sutton United 0 Leeds United 6

It was one of the classic David and Goliath contests for which the FA Cup is famous but treble-chasing Leeds were in no mood for mercy and Sniffer Clarke scored four goals 28/12/08
28 Dec 2008
United return to winning ways at Stockport...
STOCKPORT 1 (Mullins 2), UNITED 3 (Becchio 19, Delph 73, Christie 87)
Stockport: Williams, Mullins, Rose (McSweeney 25), Blizzard, McNulty, Pilkington, Gleeson, Baker (Turnbull 78), Rowe, Tunnicliffe, Davies (Thompson 78). Subs: Dicker, Taylor.
United: Ankergren, Richardson, Marques, Michalik, Sheehan, Hughes (Prutton 89), Douglas, Delph, Snodgrass (Howson 65), Becchio, Beckford (Christie 64). Subs: Robinson, Lucas.
Referee: R Beeby
Booked: Becchio, Sheehan, Douglas, Delph (United)
United manager Simon Grayson made two changes to his first starting line-up with Andrew Hughes and Robert Snodgrass coming into the reckoning.
Snodgrass scored his third goal in as many games after stepping off the bench against Leicester on Boxing Day as United marked Grayson's first game at the helm by ending a five-game losing streak.
That point against Leicester, the equaliser coming in the 91st minute, was a massive boost to United, but it took less than two minutes for Stockport to dent that confidence.
Casper Ankergren made a great save from Michael Rose inside the first minute, but less than 60 seconds later the keeper was helpless after Carl Baker teed up Jonny Mullins inside the area and his powerful strike rapped Jonathan Douglas on its way into the net.
United did respond immediately, though, and after claims for a penalty were dismissed in favour of a corner. Stockport failed to deal with the second ball in and Lubo Michalik fired wide after seizing on the loose ball.
Jermaine Beckford also had a shot blocked after an intelligent ball from Luciano Becchio. Moments later, as United continued to rip into Stockport, Beckford hit the woodwork with an overhead kick.
An equaliser was always on the cards, and it came in the 19th minute when Becchio got the decisive touch on a Snodgrass corner to restore parity.
Becchio came within a whisker of scoring a second just three minutes later when Owain Fon Williams got down well to parry his goalbound effort. The quick-thinking Beckford almost seized on the rebound.
Following the early goal conceded, United were dominating the contest, playing some of the most incisive football in weeks, and Stockport left-back Rose paid a price when he was hauled off after just 25 minutes and replaced by Leon McSweeney.
McSweeney's first involvement was to chase the shadow of Snodgrass and after Delph had a shot deflected wide, Beckford hit another overhead effort over the top following a good knock-down by Michalik.
The home side had not left their own half for almost 30 minutes, but on 32 minutes it took a goal-line clearance to deny Baker with a header following a corner.
It also took a terrific clearance from Hughes and a save from Ankergren to keep Stockport at bay when the hosts won another corner on 34 minutes. Ankergren also saved from Anthony Pilkington after the lively Baker delivered a good ball into the box.
However, as the half-time whistle went, Grayson will have been pleased with the way his new charges responded to the early goal and also with the manner in which they defended when Stockport finally re-found their feet.
The second half started like the first with Stockport on the attack, and it took some good early defending to deny Tommy Rowe.
But it was United who came within a whisker of taking the lead on 54 minutes when Snodgrass bent a terrific free-kick around the wall and past the goalkeeper before it drifted narrowly wide.
It was real end to end stuff and was full value for the Edgeley Park full-house. Stockport defended well to clear a Hughes cross was Beckford was in space and Leeds replied when Alan Sheehanmade a good clearance from a corner.
With 25 minutes remaining, Grayson made his first changes. Beckford, still feeling the effects of injury, was replaced by Malcolm Christie, and Jonny Howson came on for Snodgrass.
But the goal came from a familiar face on 73 minutes as United took the lead. Stockport keeper Williams hit a clearance as far as Fabian Delph, who was near the touchline, and the youngster seized to fire the ball back into an empty net from over 30 yards out.
It was a terrific finish from the youngster who retained his composure well, and the goal sparked wild scenes among the sizeable travelling contingent.
It meant United were within touching distance of a first win since November 22 and after Ankergren made a good save to deny Dominic Blizzard on 86 minutes, Leeds quickly returned the ball upfield and Christie made sure of the win with a good finish from distance to register his first goal for the club.

Yorkshire Evening Post 27/12/08
Grayson: Season starts here
By Phil Hay
Simon Grayson celebrated his first point as Leeds United manager after a dramatic clash with Leicester City, and insisted: "The season starts here."
The 39-year-old was saved from a losing start to his reign at Elland Road as Robert Snodgrass' late goal staved off a sixth successive defeat and earned Leeds a 1-1 draw against League One's leaders.
United were trailing to a first-half strike from Matt Oakley yesterday when Snodgrass scored his sixth goal of the season at the end of the 90th minute, and Grayson praised the resolve of a squad who overcame a turbulent week to halt a dire run of form.
Grayson had only 48 hours to prepare United's players after arriving at Elland Road from Blackpool as the club's replacement for sacked boss Gary McAllister, but he is counting on an immediate run of positive form to bridge the gap of seven points between Leeds and League One's play-off zone.
Speaking after their stalemate against Leicester, which was watched by a huge crowd of 33,580, Grayson said: "We want to get out of this division and we're not too far behind everybody.
"If we can put a run together over the next few weeks there'll be no stopping this football club. If we can get the ball rolling at home and away then this football club can move forward.
"But we need to get into a position to be able to push on, and this is the first point of a campaign from now until the end of the season. My ambition is to get out of this division, like the 30-odd thousand here today."
Grayson's appointment at Elland Road is the subject of an ongoing complaint from Blackpool to the Football League, but the former Leicester midfielder has settled quickly into his new position after staging his first training session with United's players on Christmas Eve.
His first game in charge appeared to be heading for a negative conclusion after Leicester captain Oakley opened the scoring on 24 minutes, shortly after Leeds striker Luciano Becchio had struck a post, but substitute Snodgrass tapped home a cross from Jonathan Howson at the start of four minutes of injury-time to deny Leicester a sixth straight victory.
Snodgrass' strike was his third in as many games, and Grayson admitted that the Scottish forward had been unfortunate to find himself limited to a place on the bench.
Grayson said: "Robert had scored two goals in his last two games and was unfortunate to be out of the team.
"I picked a team of players that I knew more about, and certain players were unlucky to be left out.
"But it's a start for us now and everyone will have a chance to be in the team over the next few weeks. "To get a late equaliser against the league leaders is a positive result.
"I know there's a lot of work to be done and we could have played a lot better, but we showed desire, spirit and resolve to keep going to the end.
"If the game had gone on for another five or 10 minutes, we would have been the team who won it.
"I'm delighted with a result and I suppose Leicester are disappointed.
"The positive side is that we dug in, and when you're getting a team together you need a group of players who are committed and who don't give in."
Grayson made his first coaching appointment at Elland Road by adding Ian Miller to his backroom staff ahead of the Boxing Day game.
The former Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Leicester coach was assistant manager of Blackpool while Grayson was reserve-team coach at Bloomfield Road, and he has now linked up with the 39-year-old at Leeds.
Grayson is expected to make a further addition to his team in the coming week.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

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Match – 10 January 1970 – Chelsea 2 Leeds United 5

The Whites tore championship rivals to pieces with a breathtaking display of attacking football in the first twenty minutes of the second half at Stamford Bridge

Read the full story at

Friday, December 26, 2008 26/12/08
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson was delighted to see his new charges end their five-game losing streak with a late equaliser against league leaders Leicester City at Elland Road on Boxing Day.
Rob Snodgrass struck in stoppage time to with a deserved equaliser as United kicked off the Grayson era with a 1-1 draw against the promotion favourites.
"I was pleased with the result in the end," said the new boss. "I felt if we'd have started like we finished we could have won the game.
"I'm smiling because we got a point against the league leaders when it didn't look like we would get one. They are a good team.
"We didn't have enough tempo to get at Leicester at times, but we dug in there. The players deserve credit for that
"We know the players are a little bit down in confidence, but we showed great spirit and to score when we did will give them great belief. If it had gone on for another five or 10 minutes we might have won it.
"And it's the first point of a new start for us. It's a point we can build on and try and get things going again."
The new boss has had just two training sessions with his new players in what has been a whirlwind week for a man who parted company with Blackpool on Tuesday before joining Leeds United.
Grayson was joined by new first team coach Ian Miller at training on Christmas Day and says he is learning about his players by the day.
"We've had two good days training, but you learn more about them in match situations and I've learnt about them today," he explained.
"It'll be a gradual thing, but the main thing is instilling confidence and belief because they are a talented group.
"We have something to build on now."
Yorkshire Evening Post 26/12/08
Grayson is the right choice
By Phil Hay
Though an unexpected selection for many in Leeds, former Leicester City captain Steve Walsh saw perfect sense in Simon Grayson's appointment at Elland Road.
While several other names were championed, Aidy Boothroyd, Gustavo Poyet and Billy Davies among them, Walsh felt that Grayson's strength and the key to Leeds United's thinking was the League One play-off final victory on the 39-year-old's managerial record.
Grayson won promotion in 2007 with Blackpool – the club he resigned from on Tuesday to become United's new manager – and took the Lancashire side to the level of English football where Leeds hope and expect to play next season.
Walsh came to know Grayson well while the two men were team-mates and room-mates at Leicester between 1992 and 1997, but it is latter's track-record at Bloomfield Road rather than his Premier League past which Walsh feels has justified his selection by Leeds chairman Ken Bates.
In his first two seasons as permanent boss of Blackpool, Grayson won promotion from League One and helped the club find their feet in the Championship. In their current position, Leeds would readily settle for the same progress over the next 18 months, and Walsh claims they have found the "right man" to plan and lead the climb.
"We're old team-mates and we used to room together so I'm obviously delighted for him," said Walsh.
"I know Simon really well and I witnessed his talent as a player, but I don't think you need to have seen that to appreciate what he'll bring to Leeds.
"His record and his performance at Blackpool is exactly what Leeds should have been looking out for. He's someone who not only knows their division but knows how to get out of it. That achievement's there in black and white, done two years ago.
"Since then he's established Blackpool as a Championship club and in listing these things I'm pretty much saying what Leeds need to achieve in the next couple of seasons.
"I saw a lot of names mentioned when the position became available – some bigger names than Simon's, with respect to him – but personally I'd go for track record every time. That's the mark of a good manager.
"He'll face more expectation at Leeds than he did at Blackpool but the job still comes down to what a manager does with his players. Simon can take on the job knowing he's looking to repeat what he's done before. There's no question of his ability to win promotion because he's already bought the T-shirt."
Walsh can spot the attributes shown by a talented manager – five of his 14 years as a Leicester player were completed under Martin O'Neill – and the retired defender sees Grayson's first foray into management as proof of his long-term potential.
Grayson, whose appointment at Elland Road has been acrimonious and may lead Blackpool to take legal action against him and Leeds, worked on a thin budget at Bloomfield Road but guided Blackpool out of League One while Nottingham Forest, Swansea City and Doncaster Rovers – three wealthier clubs – remained trapped in the division two years ago.
Walsh expected that his former team-mate would find the chance to return to the county of his birth and the club where he began his playing career too much of a pull to resist, and he insisted that talk of Grayson lacking high-profile experience ignored the success he enjoyed as a player with three Premier League clubs.
"He didn't often grab the headlines but he was a terrific professional," said Walsh.
"A bit like myself, defenders don't tend to be the most high-profile of people, and there will probably be a few fans in Leeds who don't know an awful lot about him.
"That shouldn't take away from the fact that he had a long and impressive career as a player. He's seen a lot of football and a lot of managers, and I know that Martin O'Neill thought highly of him as a person and a defender.
"I don't think there are necessarily shades of Martin in Simon because Simon's his own man, but the thing they do share is an understanding of how important it is to get results. It's everything for a manager.
"Martin was brilliant at forcing out victories week after week and finding momentum. If there's one thing Leeds need just now it's that – a spell where everything goes right and every game brings a result.
"League One is a nightmare for Leeds – an absolute nightmare. They don't want anything to do with it anymore and as much as I felt sorry for Gary McAllister because he's a good friend of mine, nine league defeats at this stage of the season is far too many.
"If you ask Simon what his priority is, he'll say results. He's shrewd, he's clever and he's very wise about the way football works. In no way is the job too big for him."
Grayson, at 39, is the youngster person to be handed the manager's job at Elland Road since Eddie Gray took on the role in 1982, and support for him at Blackpool was provided by his assistant manager Tony Parkes, and first-team coach Steve Thompson.
United have confirmed that Grayson intends to relocate his backroom staff from Bloomfield Road to Leeds, and he is expected to receive a budget in the January transfer window and will have the opportunity to deal with the weaknesses which earned McAllister the sack last week.
"It's nice for a manager to have a bit of money to spend, and it'll probably be a novelty for him," said Walsh.
"He's worked on a tight budget at Blackpool and that can't have been easy, but it's very good experience. It means that he won't go to Leeds demanding money or feeling that he needs to spend to have success. He'll make the best of his resources.
"I really think this will ignite Leeds – not because he's a massive name or a guy with loads of razzmatazz but because he's a quality manager who'll do the job they want him to do. They're too far down League One to say they'll definitely go up this season but I know where my money would be." 26/12/08
LEEDS 1 (Snodgrass 90), LEICESTER 1 (Oakley 24)
United:Ankergren, Richardson, Marques, Michalik, Sheehan, Prutton (Hughes 57), Douglas (Snodgrass 77), Delph, Robinson (Howson 77), Becchio, Beckford. Subs: Lucas, Kilkenny.
Leicester: Martin, Gilbert, Tunchev, Oakley, Howard, Dyer, Fryatt (Dickov 85), King, Hobbs, Berner, Davies. Subs: Morrison, Adams, Powell, Cisak.
Referee: M Halsey
Booked: Marques (United), Davies (Leics)
Att: 33,580
Elland Road welcomed its third manager of the year with Simon Grayson taking the reins for the first time following the departure of Gary McAllister.
Grayson recalled goalkeeper Casper Ankergren, midfielder David Prutton, and received a double boost with Andy Robinson and leading goalscorer Jermaine Beckford both returning from injury to take their places in the new manager's first starting line-up.
One of United's biggest frailties in recent weeks was the ability to defend set-pieces, but after Lubo Michalik headed away an early free-kick, the resultant corner was subsequently dealt with.
The new manager almost got off to a dream start though. On 15 minutes, Andy Robinson whipped in a cross from the right, David Prutton nodded it on, and Luciano Becchio rattled the post from close range.
But it was Leicester who drew first blood, courtesy of a Matt Oakley goal in the 24th minute. Matty Fryatt was the architect with a good surging run and Oakley profited from a good ball by drilling a low shot beyond the reach of Ankergren.
Leicester were a well-drilled outfit, but United went close again on 35 minutes when skipper Frazer Richardson sent a low shot skidding across the face of goal.
And it was United who enjoyed the better of proceedings as the game headed towards half-time.Fabian Delph had a shot from outside of the box blocked and the home side enjoyed a good spell of pressure before the whistle blew.
Leeds started the second half in similar fashion and Becchio lifted a shot over from a tight angle after good work by Robinson.
On 57 minutes, Grayson made his first substitution as Leeds boss with Andrew Hughes replacing Prutton, and the sub made an immediate impact with a crunching challenge flooring Leicester's Mark Davies.
With the biggest Football League crowd of the season inside Elland Road, the volume leves rose another few decibels as United pushed forward in search of an equaliser.
Leeds continued to apply the pressure and Hughes lifted a shot over the top after Leicester goalkeeper Dave Martin punched away an up and under from Alan Sheehan.
With 15 minutes remaining, play was held up while Rui Marques received treatment following a clash with Steve Howard.
Still United looked to force an opening, but it wasn't hard to see why Leicester currently hold the leadership of the division, given their strong organisation and their ability to defend in numbers.
As the clock started to tick down, Jonny Howson felt he had a good penalty claim waved away and Beckford was beaten to high ball by visiting goalkeeper Martin.
United weren't to be denied, though, and the equaliser came in the first minute of stoppage time. Howson played the ball in to fellow sub Robert Snodgrass, and the Scotsman converted at the far post to secure a deserved point for United.
Not that United settled for the point. The three minutes of added time saw Leeds go in search of a winner, but time eventually ran out and new manager Grayson was content to see his new charges halt their winless run.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008 23/12/08
New United manager relishes the challenge....
New Leeds United manager Simon Grayson says he can't wait to get stuck into his new role.
The former Blackpool manager was confirmed as the new United boss on Tuesday and is relishing the challenge.
"When the opportunity came to come here I couldn't wait to be involved in as quickly as possible," he told LUTV.
"It's a massive club and it's close to my heart, having played here and supporting the club. The size and the ambition is obviously an attraction as well.
"I had a great time at Blackpool. I had a great rapport with the fans and the board. I certainly wouldn't have dropped down a division for any other club and I feel this is the next stage of my managerial career."
Grayson arrives at Elland Road on the back of a successful stint as Blackpool boss. He guided the club to their highest league position for over 40 years after leading the Seasiders to League One Play-Off Final success two years ago.
"I'd like to think that what I've achieved has alerted a few people," he said.
"What I want to do is keep working hard and impose my ideas and beliefs onto the team at Leeds and make sure we carry on in a positive manner and get out of this division. That's the aim and that's what we want to do.
"I know there is an expectancy level and it's a challenge I'm looking forward to. There'll be a near full-house here on Friday and the club has that tradition and past history.
"However, it is a League One club at the moment and everyone has to pull together.
"Hopefully the fans will embrace what we are trying to do and we can grasp this opportunity to get the club back where it should be. I know other managers have tried to do that, and I'll be trying my best."
His appointment at Elland Road represents the full circle for a Yorkshireman who started his career as a teenager on schoolboy forms during the first tenure of Eddie Gray.
Grayson made just two senior appearances during his six years with the club, but after leaving in 1992 he embarked on a successful playing career that saw him make over 500 senior appearances before eventually moving into management with Blackpool.
"When I first came as a 14-year-old I never thought I'd get to this stage, but as time goes by you get into the coaching side and this is one club I have always wanted to manage," he added.
"I'd like to thank the chairman for giving me the opportunity to come into the club and hopefully it will be as successful partnership."

Yorkshire Post 23/12/08
Seaside shuffle as Simon Grayson joins Leeds amid legal row
SIMON Grayson's defection from Blackpool to Leeds was shrouded in acrimony today as the Coca-Cola Championship outfit threatened legal action against him and his new employers.
Grayson, 39, was announced as the League One outfit's new manager after Gary McAllister was axed on Sunday following a dismal run of five straight defeats.
Yet Grayson's move across the Pennines to his native Yorkshire and to Elland Road - where he began his playing career - has been met with a furious response from Blackpool.
They refused his resignation and are unwilling to release him from his contract, which has 18 months remaining.
Talks about compensation are believed to be still ongoing but Blackpool said in a statement: "Blackpool FC can confirm that Simon Grayson tendered his resignation at 0830 on Tuesday morning.
"The resignation was not accepted by the board of directors and the club and are now considering legal action against both Simon Grayson and Leeds United."
Nevertheless, Grayson becomes the ninth manager at Elland Road in the last 10 years after he built up an impressive cv and reputation at Blackpool.
He enjoyed a six-year stint at Bloomfield Road, first as a player then as manager, during which he guided the club to promotion to the Championship in May 2007 before staving off the threat of relegation last term.
Grayson's brief at Leeds is to repeat that feat with the fallen Yorkshire giants after their recent slump raised fears of failing to even make the play-offs.
Howard Wilkinson managed Leeds between 1988 and 1996 and believes Grayson, who played for Leeds, Leicester, Aston Villa and Blackburn before joining Blackpool, fits the bill perfectly as the club seek to reignite their promotion bid.
Grayson's first game in charge will be the visit of former club and current League One leaders Leicester - with whom he won the League Cup in 1997 - on Boxing Day.
Wilkinson said: "Simon Grayson is an ideal choice for Leeds - for lots of reasons."I've followed his career closely and he's worked hard at everything he has done.
"He's worked hard to have a career as a player - he was not as gifted as some and would tell you that himself - but he made a good career for himself as a player.
"When he got into management, he applied himself equally diligently.
"He's a student of the game, he's been on a lot of courses and getting Blackpool to where they are is a massive achievement.
"He's had to compete with people with far greater resources than he has but he's got the results for Blackpool. He's shown he has got talent."

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/12/08
Grayson appointed as Leeds boss
Leeds United have named Simon Grayson as their new manager.
The 39-year-old left his job with Blackpool this morning to take up the vacant manager's position at Elland Road.
But both Leeds and Grayson appear to be facing legal action following his appointment.
Blackpool have revealed that Grayson tendered his resignation to the board at Bloomfield Road this morning, and confirmed that his resignation was refused.
A statement from the Championship club read: "Blackpool FC can confirm that Simon Grayson tendered his resignation at 0830 on Tuesday morning.
"The resignation was not accepted by the board of directors and the club are now considering legal action against both Simon Grayson and Leeds United."
United had been locked in negotiations with Blackpool over compensation for Grayson, whose contract at Bloomfield Road was due to run until 2010.
He was identified as Leeds' preferred option for the vacancy at Elland Road after McAllister was sacked on Sunday following his 50th game in charge. Grayson began his playing career with United and has been Blackpool's manager for three years, leading the club to promotion from League One in 2007 and firmly establishing them inside the Championship.
Leeds are still to confirm the length of Grayson contract and the make-up of his backroom team.

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/08
Nightmare end to dream return
Never go back, as the wise and cynical are bound to say whenever the return of a local legend ends in tears.
Gary McAllister may have shed a few when word reached him yesterday that Leeds United's board had lost faith in his management, but his tears of regret will not relate to his original decision to accept such an emotive position.
Eleven months ago, McAllister wore the honoured look of a man who had returned to two of his spiritual homes – to Leeds United and to professional football. At no point then or since did he reveal any suspicion that reacquainting himself with Elland Road might have been the wrong decision.
It was his second job in management and his first since leaving Coventry City to care for his wife, Denise, who died in 2006 after developing breast cancer. After such difficulty in his personal life, it was arguably the perfect, idealist offer to convince him that his career was ready to start afresh.
McAllister brought to Elland Road a previous association with Leeds which guaranteed him favour. As a member of the squad which won the Division One title in 1992, the Scot did not have to worry about support from the terraces nor wonder whether, like Dennis Wise before him, sections of United's fans would be willing him to fail.
What his prior career could not guarantee him was a successful tenure, or immunity to the consequences of poor results. The same rule applied to Billy Bremner, the iconic captain of United who was sacked as Leeds boss without a second thought in 1988. In neither instance could the outcome be described as a cause for celebration.McAllister's exit will seem like a sensible, inevitable decision to many – not least the 4,000-plus fans who watched Leeds capitulate to MK Dons on Saturday, the 43-year-old's day of reckoning – but it is deeply regrettable that a man who gave so much to United as a player could not reach his first anniversary as their manager.
What Leeds have lost is a decent, diligent character who adored his job and was desperate to fulfil the potential it offered him. He was clean-cut, polite and extremely professional, the last man to pick a fight in an industry which encourages conflict. McAllister, to his credit, has not left Elland Road with many enemies.
Those are reasons to sympathise with him, but not reasons to dispute his sacking. As Paul Ince discovered last week, and another manager will discover soon enough, there is no greater currency in football than results and no greater danger to a boss than the sense among his employers that his magic touch has worn off.Ken Bates, United's chairman, was one of the 17,073 spectators at Stadium:mk on Saturday, and he could not ignore what his eyes were telling him.
The fragility of McAllister's team was exposed by their concession of two goals inside the first 17 minutes, and the issues confronting the manager were displayed in full.
His team did not often look like scoring yet were liable to concede whenever MK Dons turned the screw. It was telling that within six minutes of Robert Snodgrass swinging the momentum towards Leeds, Aaron Wilbraham's 54th-minute header put the game to bed. In that moment, Bates may have asked himself where United's backbone had gone.In time, and on the evidence of the more positive periods of his reign, I still maintain that McAllister had the qualities and the vision to carry Leeds forward, but Bates was entitled to push for change. The League One table on Saturday night made damning reading.
United are 15 points behind leaders Leicester, and 11 behind MK Dons who lie second. Probability says that Leeds will not overturn those margins, especially if the decline which set in under McAllister continues into next month.
More troubling still for Bates should be the five-point margin between Leeds and the play-offs, a deficit which brings home the reality that United are dicing with a third season in League One. The Elland Road club cannot afford that, and Bates knows it. So, too, does McAllister.
The uncomfortable reality is that United have not moved forward from their defeat in last season's play-off final. Their squad is better man for man but, in terms of their standing in the league, the club have gone backwards, falling to a position which is only one place higher than the lowest ranking held under McAllister last term.
Blessed with one of the largest pools of players in the division and, quite possibly, the highest wage bill, it has been clear for several weeks that Leeds are punching below their weight. Bates and Shaun Harvey, United's chief executive, offered meaningful statements of support, but McAllister was unable to feed positively from them.
Bates' musings were followed by defeats to Tranmere Rovers and Colchester United, and Harvey's by the loss to MK Dons. No result was more damaging than the 2-1 win collected by a mediocre Colchester at Elland Road on a day when Leeds were expected to steady their ship in time for a difficult run over Christmas.
It was that game more than any other which pushed McAllister to the edge of the cliff, creating considerable and understandable doubt about his capabilities.
United's muddy defeat at Histon and narrow losses away to Northampton Town and Tranmere were poor results, but their performance against Colchester was devoid of confidence and riddled with nerves. It was clear that the players were beginning to doubt themselves, if not their manager.
In the end, McAllister's fate was intrinsically linked to the shortcomings of his squad, and the failure of his defence to grasp the advice that he and assistant manager Steve Staunton were offering them.
United's production of clean sheets has been appalling, and it was the failing from which McAllister was most likely to hang. Dissecting the root of their defensive problems has been almost impossible, for him and the fans.
Prior to the campaign starting, he gave no indication that his squad was weaker than he would have liked. In fact, McAllister stated openly that only one of his intended summer signings – thought to be Jay Bothroyd – had said no to an approach from Elland Road and gone elsewhere. The ineptitude of his defenders must therefore have staggered him.United do not lack quality in defence – the point has been made before that four of the players in his squad provided an excellent back line towards the end of last season – but there is no explaining the endemic loss of form.
Professionals who performed impressively and consistently in 2007-08 have visibly regressed.
On Saturday, Lubomir Michalik's half-time substitution was a fair reflection of a player whose confidence and reading of the game has deserted him. Michalik looked shell-shocked during the first half, and he was not alone. It is fair to ask whether McAllister's future was on their minds, and hardly surprising if it was.
On reflection, the Scot might agree that it was a mistake not to add to his squad before the end of the emergency loan market. Financial issues appeared to hinder him and he also implied that persuading players to drop into League One was extremely difficult (without question, the move for Hull City's Wayne Brown met both obstacles).
But I wondered in November whether the extent of the defensive problems on McAllister's hands dawned properly after Leeds' defeat at Northampton, a result which came 48 hours before the emergency loan deadline and too late for decisive action.
The lack of fresh blood left him to work with his existing squad and players who were struggling to make first-team shirts their own. In no position has the absence of a definite first-choice been more unsettling than that of United's goalkeeper, something which McAllister may well have looked to address next month. It was symptomatic of a defence built on sand rather than rock.
To balance the criticism, it should also be said that McAllister was unfortunate – unfortunate to see Leeds stumble into poor form before a passage of pivotal and difficult fixtures; unfortunate to see Jermaine Beckford and Andy Robinson tear hamstrings at the very moment when he needed a full squad; unfortunate that the pressure and expectation on him was hiked up from the start.
This month was always likely to be decisive for McAllister, containing the fixtures it did, and Bates saw enough on Saturday to make up his mind.
The sacking will not please United's chairman – if anything, it will probably astonish him that McAllister's tenure has come to this – but it would have been difficult for him to hand a transfer budget to a manager in whom he lacks confidence. January could be the last chance saloon for United's season.
In a sense, Leeds are back where they started when Wise departed Elland Road at the start of 2008 – without a manager and with their term in the balance. The only difference is that McAllister's replacement will have a window to play with and a little more time. Yet to describe it as a difficult job is a crass understatement.
As for McAllister, I hope we will see him in management again. I watched him closely at full-time on Saturday as he applauded United's supporters and listened as he paid an honest tribute to them, remarking painfully that the city of Leeds "deserves better".
McAllister loves his sport and he loves Leeds United. His failure will wound him gravely.
But that is football and that is management, a game where sentiment holds no real value when results have run dry.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 20/12/08
The cavalry is coming says Mac
By Phil Hay
Gary McAllister is confident that Leeds United will sign their key transfer targets next month after admitting the club's initial approaches have gone "beyond enquiries".
The Elland Road manager has identified a number of possible recruits after conceding that his existing squad lacks the strength in certain positions to see Leeds through the rest of the League One season.
McAllister will pay special attention to improving his vulnerable defence next month – the United boss made an early addition to his ranks by recruiting out-of-contract centre-back Mansour Assoumani on a month-long deal this week – and he is hoping to bring a quick conclusion to his dealings in the January transfer window.
Leeds failed with an attempt to sign Wayne Brown on loan from Hull City last month, and the club's performances since have left McAllister in no doubt that new defenders are needed to keep United in contention for promotion to the Championship.
McAllister said: "We're going to have to strengthen in that department and we've made progress with that already.
"I'm positive about the two or three enquiries we've made, and they're beyond enquiries now."
McAllister's comments indicated that Leeds were hopeful of completing their business in the early stages of the transfer window and avoiding lengthy negotiations with rival clubs.
Despite having one of the biggest squads in League One, United have struggled to find an established and reliable defence, but McAllister may receive another boost next month with the return to fitness of Paul Huntington.
The ex-Newcastle United player underwent surgery this week to repair a long-standing injury to his groin, but he has started work in the gym at Leeds' Thorp Arch training complex already and could return shortly after the turn of the year.
Huntington's last first-team appearance came in September.
McAllister said: "They've repaired the slight bit of damage that was in there.
"In years gone by it would have been a six or eight-week absence but the technology of that operation has moved on and you can be back much quicker.
"But we're wary of not rushing him. It's been preying on his mind for a while so he's got to be right mentally before we start thinking about him."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

New pages uploaded at

At a time when life doesn’t feel good ... comfort yourself with stories of better times

2 August 1969 – Leeds United 2 Manchester City 1
The curtain raiser to the 1969/70 season pitched United against Cup holders Manchester City - the trophy wasn't the most highly prized but Leeds now had a thirst for silverware

17 September 1969 – Leeds United 10 Lyn Oslo 0
Finally United had a shot at the biggest prize of all, and didn't they take advantage of a woefully outclassed amateur team from Norway as they set a club scoring record

Read the full story at