Sunday, May 30, 2010

leedsunited.com 28/5/10
UPS AND DOWNS - JERMAINE'S 'AMAZING' TIME
Departing striker Jermaine Beckford reflected on his Leeds United career on Friday morning and said "it has been an amazing four-and-a-half years."
Having scored 85 goals in 150 appearances since joining the club from non-league Wealdstone in March 2006, the striker is now free to take up the challenge of Premier League football after establishing himself as one of Leeds United's most prolfic modern-day marksmen.
"I've enjoyed every single moment," said Jermaine, speaking exclusively with LUTV.
"The ups, the downs, the relegations, the Play-Off final, the Play-Off semis. I have had an amazing time here.
"You don't see as much as I've seen in four and half years at Leeds and I'm so proud to say I was here. I really loved it.
"The fans have been amazing and they have opened up my eyes to what football should be about. I want to say thank you for everything because it has been amazing.
"The management are amazing, the staff behind the scenes...this club will always have a special place."
Speaking with LUTV, Becks talks candidly about his Elland Road during one of the most dramatic periods of the club's history.
Becks on his debut..."Going from Wealdstone to a place like Leeds United where I made my debut in front of 30,000 fans. I can't remember anything about the game, adrenaline took me through it. The sound was amazing. There's some feelings you can't explain and that was one of them."
Dennis Wise..."With me and Tres it felt like we needed somebody to speak to us and tell us what we were doing wrong and what we were doing well and with Dennis and Gus it definitely helped."
The start of the 2007/08 season..."Nobody else could see it. Everyone from the outside was writing us off, but inside the camp you can't describe the confidence we had. In a strange kind of way, we knew we wouldn't have a problem wiping out the 15 points."
Simon Grayson's arrival..."A few of the boys were feeling slightly down. He came in and lifted confidence. It's always nice to get someone else's views and it definitely helped the boys. He brought a new way of doing things and freshened things up. He's done very well."
Manchester United in the FA Cup..."I remember everything from the beginning to the final whistle. I remember Jonny's pass, Casper's save from Rooney, Jason Crowe's tackles, Doyler in the middle bullying them...It was an amazing, amazing day."
Captaincy on the final day of the season..."I thought the gaffer was having me on in the changing room. He kept trying to give me the armband and telling me to go see the ref. Then, he took me to one side and said 'seriously, I want you to captain the side.' It was one of those feelings, like your first goal. My body started tingling and the nerves kicked in - I don't usually get nervous, but something was different."
On winning promotion..."I got in the changing rooms and put my head in my hands and the tears dripped down my face. I can still feel it now talking about it. It felt like such a weight had been lifted. It's what we've been searching for, for the past three years."
Leedsunited.com 28/5/10
BECKS DEPARTS LEEDS UNITED
Leeds United have cancelled the contract of striker Jermaine Beckford to enable him to find a new club.
Jermaine will depart Elland Road with the best wishes of everyone connected with Leeds United and he is now free to find another club with immediate effect.
After the departing Rui Marques, Becks was the longest serving player at Elland Road, having joined the club in March 2006, making his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace.
Jermaine made four more appearances from the bench that season as United pushed for the Play-Offs.
The following season Jermaine made his debut against Chester in the Carling Cup and his one and only league start for the club that season came at Sunderland on Boxing Day, when he played up front with Tresor Kandol for the first time.
During 2006/07, Jermaine also spent a month on loan at Carlisle, scoring on his debut against Millwall, and spent over four months at Scunthorpe United, where his eight goals helped the Iron gain a place in the Championship.
But he returned to Leeds in the summer of 2007 and it was under Dennis Wise that the striker's career took off. Becks netted 20 goals in 40 appearances as the club reached the Play-Off final.
The following season, Jermaine netted his first professional hat-trick, in a 5-2 Carling Cup win at Chester, his first FA Cup hat-trick, in a 5-2 success at Northampton, and his first league hat-trick as Yeovil were swept aside 4-0 at Elland Road.
He netted 34 goals in 37 appearances and became the first Leeds player since Lee Chapman to score 30 or more goals in a season.
Last term, Jermaine achieved the feat again, becoming only the second Leeds player to score 30 or more in a season on two occasions. Only John Charles had achieved this. He will go down in the club's history as the most prolific modern-day goalscorer to wear a white shirt.
He continued to collect numerous Player Of the Month awards, but one of his finest moments came at Old Trafford on January 3 when his goal secured Leeds the FA Cup scalp of Manchester United, and our first victory at Old Trafford since 1981.
He followed that with two goals in the next round at Tottenham, including a 96th minute equaliser from the penalty spot.
While the team struggled for form during the second half of the season, by his own admission Jermaine failed to hit the standards he had set himself in front of goal, but the striker's confidence didn't waiver, and it was fitting that, wearing the captain's armband for the first time, he scored the winning goal against Bristol Rovers on the final day of the season to secure our elevation to the Championship.
Jermaine is now expected to continue his career at the highest level of English football, and all at Leeds wish him every success.

Yorkshire Evening Post 27/5/10
Schmeichel signs for Whites
By Phil Hay
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has become Leeds United's first summer signing – after a transfer which earned the approval of his renowned father, Peter.
United's plans for the Championship took an impressive step forward as Schmeichel agreed a two-year contract and filled an important vacancy in Simon Grayson's squad.
Leeds fended off a number of Premier League clubs to secure the 23-year-old on a free transfer, taking advantage of his recent release from a lucrative contract with League Two champions Notts County.
The Danish Under-21 international – the son of former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter – replaces a compatriot in Casper Ankergren who moved on from Elland Road this month after three-and-a-half years with the club.
Ankergren's exit left Shane Higgs as Grayson's only senior keeper but Schmeichel will provide serious competition for a starting place in the Championship next season.
He admitted he had sought the opinion of his father after receiving United's approach and said a favourable reaction had convinced him to opt for a move to Elland Road.
Schmeichel said: "As soon as Leeds came in, he asked me what I wanted to do and said he couldn't agree more. He said it was the best club to be at now.
"There wasn't a lot of decision- making to do. When the question was raised about interest from Leeds I said 'yes'.


Everything
"I've grown up in England, I know a lot about English football and Leeds are one of the biggest clubs in the country. There were other opportunities but Leeds have everything."
Grayson revelled in the capture of a player with "fantastic qualities" who arrived at Leeds on the back of a title-winning term with Notts County. Arsenal and Bayern Munich were the most notable clubs reported to be interested in signing him.
Grayson said: "We wanted to bring another keeper in and Kasper had an excellent season at Notts County. There were Premier League clubs interested in him but he wanted to come here."He's got fantastic ability, he's a winner and he's determined to take this club forward."
Notts County recruited Schmeichel from Manchester City last summer as part of the ambitious but troubled strategy drawn up by the Nottingham club, and the costly five-year deal he agreed at the County Ground – said to be worth £15,000 a week – was terminated at the end of last season.
County were beset by financial issues but still succeeded in dominating League Two, finishing the season 10 points clear.
Schmeichel played in 43 league games and his resume shows more than 120 league appearances in England and Scotland, including time spent on loan at Falkirk while on Manchester City's books.
He was one of a number of keepers on Leeds' radar – Newcastle United's Fraser Forster and Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny were also seen as possible options to replace Ankergren and challenge Higgs – but a deal for Schmeichel was finalised yesterday after a medical at Thorp Arch.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Leedsunited.com 27/5/10
KASPER BECOMES FIRST SUMMER RECRUIT
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is Leeds United's first signing of the summer.
The 23-year-old Dane joins the club from League Two champions Notts County where he kept 24 clean sheets and was named PFA League Two Player of the Year as the Magpies romped to the title.
The highly-rated keeper has signed a two-year contract at Elland Road and manager Simon Grayson said: "After releasing Casper Ankergren, we wanted to bring another goalkeeper in, and Kasper has had an excellent season at Notts County.
"There were a lot of Premier League clubs interested in him, but he wanted to come here.
"He's got a fantastic ability, he's a winner, and he is determined to take this club forward.
"He has some fantastic qualities and he will provide us with good competition for places which is what we want."
The Danish under-21 international's signing was seen as a real coup for Notts County at the start of last season after the player learnt his trade at Manchester City.
Schmeichel, who made his Premier League debut in 2007, made 10 appearances for Man City, and also gained experience with loan spells at Darlington, Bury, Falkirk, Cardiff City and Coventry City.
Despite his young age, Schmeichel has already made over 140 career appearances.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Scratching Shed 23/5/10
Don Revie Tribute plans unveiled
A new statue built in honour of the late Don Revie will be unveiled in Leeds in Autumn 2011. Although there’s no confirmation as to where the statue will be located, the sculptor, Graham Ibbeson has already made a start on the tribute and those responsible for the idea are progressing quickly.
TSS emailed those behind the fundraising efforts for more on the fundraising and received plenty of information back from the chairman of the Don Revie Tribute, Jim Cadman.
What instantly struck me was the professionalism with which the fundraising efforts are being undertaken. This isn’t just your average fans initiative heavy on desire and love, but lacking in organisation and the necessary know how. Instead, what we have is an experienced fundraiser and sculptor working together with the backing of Leeds City Council and Leeds Civic Trust who are determined to ensure the project is a success.
Although no money has yet been raised, the artist’s studio has already been located and he will begin work on the statue in clay. The Don Revie Tribute have underwritten the cost of the initial work to get things moving as quickly as possible.
Attention will now turn to the fund raising efforts and a host of events featuring Leeds United players past and present. The events confirmed so far include a Theatrical Tribute to Don Revie and a Gala Dinner at Elland Road, with players from Don Revie’s team invited as honorary guests. The group also plan to release a special one-off tribute magazine featuring tributes from his former players and closest friends.
The total amount required for completion of the statue is £90,000, but the fundraising won’t stop there. Any surplus funds raised from the events will be used to fund a ‘Don Revie Research Project’ into the Motor Neurone Disease which Revie suffered from in later life.
Alongside the fundraising efforts, the Don Revie Tribute group will also be allowing the local community to watch the sculptor at work. Strictly by invitation only, the Don Revie Tribute will invite school children, art students and supporters to come and see the artist at work in his Leeds studio.
The Scratching Shed will be keeping up with all the latest developments as the statue is created and will keep you updated right here.

Graham Ibbeson
Graham Ibbeson lives in Barnsley and has completed statues across the country, including perhaps his most famous piece, comedian Eric Morecambe which is pictured right and was unveiled by Her Majesty the Queen in 1999.
Other works completed by Graham include a statue of comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy and one of his most recent works, cricketing legend Fred Trueman which was unveiled in Skipton earlier this year.
Historian and writer, Brian Elliot said the following of Ibbeson’s work;
“No, I’m not comparing Ibbeson to Michelangelo (I can hear Graham laughing in the background) but his creations mean more to me. They make me laugh. They make me think, and I must admit several of his mining commissions make me cry. Isn’t that what good art is all about? Graham’s devotion to capturing the spirit of the people appears in all his sculptures which is why they communicate so well with ordinary folk. His work is in many private collections and public museums around the world but many also serve as highly accessible public art sited in public places for all to enjoy”
You can see more of Graham’s work on his website here.

Don Revie
What appeals to me most about the project is the chance to relive and celebrate Don Revie’s wonderful achievements again. His impact not only on Leeds United FC, but the city of Leeds as a whole can’t be underestimated. The club honoured their greatest ever manager when renaming the Kop, but a statue is something long overdue.
Although not born and bred in Leeds, Revie became an adopted child of the city. He brought success and fame to a northern city where before there was little to celebrate. He made Leeds United not only a household name, but a name that was feared throughout all Europe. The statue will stand as a lasting tribute to all that he achieved and what he means to the people of Leeds.


Jeff Powell, Chief Sports Feature Writer, Daily Mail:
Throughout what became known as the club’s Golden Years, Leeds played some of the most wondrous football ever seen in this motherland of the game. They also reinforced their flowing talents with the fiercely competitive challenges which were born of an iron will to win. Their critics, especially those who envied their success, protested against their aggressive commitment to victory. With hindsight, it can be seen that Revie was pioneering all over again. Just as The Revie Plan in his time as a player with Manchester City took the blinkers off English tactics, so he laid the foundations for the Premier League football we witness today, a furious game in which even the most refined skills can only prevail if they come driven by physical courage.

Daily Telegraph 21/5/10
Leeds looking for players with strong mental attitude, says Peter Lorimer
Leeds United director Peter Lorimer believes the players whose perceived lack of nerve almost cost the Yorkshire club promotion will have to make way for footballers with the proverbial bottle to deal with the pressure of life at Elland Road.
By Rob Stewart
The former Leeds and Scotland midfielder is convinced manager Simon Grayson will put as much emphasis on mentality as ability in his recruitment drive this summer to weed out the players whose stage-fright threatened the newly-promoted club's upward mobility.
Leeds, of course, only secured promotion to the Championship following three years in League One on a nerve-jangling last day of the season, following a dramatic slump in fortunes since of the turn of the year when they were riding high at the top of the division.
"One of the things I would personally question the squad with is that our form at home since Christmas has been awful and did they have the bottle or the belief to go out there and perform on a Saturday?" Lorimer said.
"Some of our players - in all honesty - in the last seven or eight games at home have not had that courage you need to go out there and do it. I am sure Simon will have looked at that and it will very much come into his consideration when he is picking the squad for next year.
"That will help Simon's decisions because to play at Elland Road in front of a big crowd is a difficult, daunting task because they are very demanding. It is quite obvious Simon will have to bring some players."
Lorimer, 63, knows a thing or two about the demands on players at Elland Road, having played more than 500 times for Leeds during the 1960s and 1970s when the club became established as one of the top clubs in the country under the management of Don Revie
"One of the things Simon will be thinking is that we need players that have the confidence to go out and play in front of 30,000 people at Elland Road most weeks," Lorimer added.
"That is something that is very important. There is no point just being a good player. Are you good enough to come to Elland Road in front of 30,000 people and be a good player? It is a difficult thing to do.
"Next year the crowds are going to be bigger because we have so many local games. They won't be like your Yeovils bringing 200 people and your Exeters, we will have serious amount of away fans coming as well from Derby, Sheffield United and Barnsley. "It will be a great atmosphere. When you talk to people who come here, away players and managers, and they say wow it's a daunting place to perform because the atmosphere when you come out is electric and there is a lot of pressure."



Yorkshire Evening Post 20/5/10
Whites need major surgery in summer - Ritchie
By Phil Hay
Leeds United's squad requires major changes to prime it for the rigours of the Championship, according to the club's former striker Andy Ritchie.
Ritchie predicted a flurry of business at Elland Road after warning that hopes of Leeds mirroring Leicester City by qualifying for the Championship's play-offs a year after promotion from League One under-estimated the strength of an intensely competitive division.
United served notice of major alterations by issuing a retained list which deemed seven senior players surplus to requirements, and the club are pressing for their first close-season signing following discussions last week between manager Simon Grayson and chairman Ken Bates.
The pair met less than 48 hours after Leeds' promotion from League One to draw up a strategy to ensure the club's survival and progression in the Championship, a league which United last competed in three years ago.
Grayson intends to rely on several of the players responsible for claiming second place in League One but Ritchie, who led Barnsley into the Championship via the play-offs in 2006, would not be surprised if the former Blackpool coach revises and strengthens every area of his squad.
Scunthorpe United manager Nigel Adkins talked up Leeds' prospects for the 2010-11 season by claiming they had the "top six to aim for", but Ritchie said: "You can't under-estimate the jump between the divisions. Personally, I think it's a big one.
"Leicester are an example of what can happen but so too are Sheffield Wednesday. They never really got to grips with the Championship and they're back down in League One again. The fact is their squad wasn't good enough.
"Simon will be as conscious of that as he is of Leicester and I think he'll be looking to strengthen everywhere. Without being disrespectful to some of the guys who are already there, he needs a better grade of player – players who he knows will do the business for him at that level.
"I found out at Barnsley that players who get you out of League One aren't always suitable for the Championship. You become attached to your squad and it's not easy to tell people that they're no longer needed but it's an essential part of the job.
"Simon doesn't seem like the sort of person who's afraid to make difficult decisions. I remember him once saying 'I'm not here to be popular' and that needs to be his attitude. As difficult as it is, there's only so much loyalty you can show. The Championship can be pretty unforgiving."
A number of Grayson’s requirements are evident in the pool of professionals which remains at Elland Road.
Jermaine Beckford’s impending exit to one of a growing list of Premier League clubs has made a new striker a priority, and an enquiry made about Newcastle United goalkeeper Fraser Forster is a sign that Grayson intends to find an external replacement for the outgoing Casper Ankergren, rather than rely on Scottish youngster Alan Martin to deputise for Shane Higgs.
Forster is one of a group of keepers identified by Leeds as possible summer recruits, but Norwich City are prominent in the fight to sign him.
The 22-year-old completed last season on loan at Carrow Road and would be welcomed back on a temporary basis by City’s manager, Paul Lambert. Newcastle have no intention of selling a player whose reputation grew impressively during his time with Norwich.
The release of Ankergren at the end of his contract has created a vacancy alongside Higgs, who began and finished the 2009-10 term as Grayson’s first-choice keeper.
Ankergren completed three full seasons with Leeds and made more than 100 appearances for the club but his failure to oust Higgs when both players were fit made his exit this summer increasingly likely.
Speaking this week, Ankergren said: “I still feel I played a part in winning promotion and in many ways it feels like mission accomplished.
“I’m happy we did it and I’ve got a promotion with Leeds United on my CV. The club are moving on and I’ll move on.”
Leeds, meanwhile, have already made plain their interest in Sheffield United midfielder Nick Montgomery, and defensive additions seem necessary after a campaign in which United regularly played without recognised full-backs.
Ritchie said: “I’d imagine that a striker is his biggest concern. It’s hard to know how much money the club have given him but you’d expect a lot of his funds to go towards finding someone good enough to replace Beckford. That’s vital.
“It’s one thing having a strong squad in the Championship but if you don’t have a reliable goalscorer then you’ve got a problem. You can’t afford to be without one, not if you want to stay in the division and move forward.
“That’s the priority for Leeds next season – to make sure they’re a Championship club at the end of it. I’ve heard all the talk about copying Leicester – and there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious – but nobody should expect it. Simon and his squad will be under enough pressure without having the play-offs demanded of them.“
You need to realistic about what the division involves, which is why I don’t see Simon taking any risks with his squad. There are players in there who look good enough for the Championship and I imagine they’ll get a chance. But he’ll want them to be surrounded by plenty of others who’ve already shown that they’re up to it.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yorkshire Evening Post 16/5/10
Becks would go with our blessing – Kilkenny
By Phil Hay
Neil Kilkenny says Jermaine Beckford should be remembered as a faithful and outstanding servant to Leeds United if he opts to call time on his career at Elland Road.
Kilkenny admitted that Leeds were in danger of losing a "top-class striker" after Beckford's 85th and potentially final goal for the club sealed their overdue promotion to the Championship.
The 26-year-old stole the show at Elland Road last Saturday as his 63rd-minute strike claimed a 2-1 victory over Bristol Rovers and saw Leeds retain second position in League One on a gripping final day of the season.
The close-range finish might prove to be Beckford's last act with Leeds, a club he joined for £95,000 from non-league side Wealdstone in 2006 for a range of clubs in England and abroad are preparing to move for a player who will be out of contract and available on a free transfer on June 30.
United have planned for many months to make a final offer to their leading scorer, who finished the 2009-10 season with 31 goals, but chairman Ken Bates seemed resigned to losing Beckford this week when he described the chances of him remaining at Elland Road this summer as "unlikely".
Midfielder Kilkenny insisted Beckford was entitled to consider his options after three prolific years with United and the Australian international said the forward would leave with his best wishes if he takes up a contract elsewhere.
Kilkenny said: "I don't know what he's thinking and I don't know what's best for him but he needs to make the right decision. Only he can make it.
"I've always got on well with him and I'd be sad to see him go.
"He's a good friend and I find him easy to link up with on the field – he seems to know what I'm going to do, which positions to take up and where to run.
"He's a top-class striker and great to play with.
"If Jermaine stays then a lot of people will be happy and if he goes then good luck to him.
"He gets a lot of stick and maybe he deserves it at times but he does his job as well as anyone here. He's paid to score goals and he's scored 30 plus this season. You can't complain about that."
Beckford's future has been the subject of constant speculation ever since he rejected the offer of a three-year deal from Leeds last summer, leaving him with only 12 months remaining on his existing contract.
That agreement will expire in just over six weeks' time and though Leeds plan to make a last attempt to tie him down, there was little expectation at Elland Road that Beckford would be persuaded to remain, with Everton heading the pack of clubs interested in signing him.
Manager Simon Grayson handed him the captain's armband in the absence of Richard Naylor last weekend and Beckford's fine performance on what could prove to be his last outing for Leeds was capped by the goal which sealed United's second half fightback.
The club's promotion vindicated Grayson's decision to retain Beckford in January, despite repeated bids for the striker from Newcastle United which peaked at £1.8m.
Beckford was six months away from the end of his deal and will soon be free to move on for nothing but Grayson's expectation that he would supply enough goals to seal promotion proved astute. He scored 12 times between January 1 and the end of the term, including four in his last four matches.
Grayson said: "Jermaine has become a hero. If he moves on, he'll do so with my best wishes because he's been a fantastic player to work with since I arrived at the club.
"We turned down good money (from Newcastle) in January because we wanted to win promotion. His goals proved that it was the right decision.
"Someone who can score you 30 goals a year is a rare commodity and I'm sure he wants to be tested at the next level."
Beckford became the first Leeds United player ever to score 30 goals in successive seasons when he struck twice in the 4-1 win against MK Dons last month and his departure would leave Grayson searching for a comparable forward as he prepares to take his United squad into the Championship.
Leeds vice-captain Jonathan Howson denied that Beckford was irreplaceable but said it was wrong to assume that a suitable stand-in for League One's player of the year would be easy to find.
Howson said: "It's not for me to say what he should do, but I'd love him to stay.
"You'd always want to keep an asset like Jermaine Beckford. He's scored a lot of goals again this season and he's got a phenomenal record. Of course I'd want us to keep him.
"I don't think he's irreplaceable because there's always someone out there who could come in and score goals for a club like this but the difference with Jermaine is that we know he can do it.
"If he was to go, it's not guaranteed that someone else will be able to come in and score goals.
"With Jermaine, we know he has always performed."

Friday, May 14, 2010

LEEDS UNITED - RELEASED AND RETAINED
14 May 2010
Leeds United squad plans 2010/11...
The following professional players who are out of contract at Elland Road will not to be offered new deals with the Championship club, Casper Ankergren, Rui Marques and Andrew Milne.
The club will offer a new contract to Andrew Hughes and the previous offer made to Jermaine Beckford remains available to him, but he is expected to move on to a Premier League club.
In addition, Alan Sheehan, Lubomir Michalik, Andy Robinson and Tresor Kandol have all been informed that they should actively seek to find a new club for the 2010/11 season even though they are still under contract.
Further players may be available once the club has signed new players for the first season back in the Championship. Second-year apprentices, Mike Whitwell, Ryan Jones, Sam Jones, Callum Williams and Adam Watson will not be offered professional contracts.
Manager Simon Grayson said "It is the hardest part of a Manager's job, informing players who have contributed to a successful season that you are not going to offer them a new contract. In all the cases those that have been allowed to leave have been a joy and pleasure to work with on a day-to-day basis. I feel certain they will find another club who will be lucky to have them.
"The club needs to move forward and these decisions, as hard as they were, had to be made in that interest, so the recruitment of new players can now start to form our squad for the Championship campaign."Over the summer months we will also be looking to extend the term of a number of the existing players contracts and also make a decision on those players who have now returned to their clubs, having been on loan, which will also be made in the context of our squad next season"

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/5/10
Players were desperate for success - Hughes
By Phil Hay
Andrew Hughes attended a function at Elland Road last month where his conversation with one Leeds United supporter was waylaid by another. United's tepid defeat to Swindon Town earlier in the day had created a delicate atmosphere and Hughes anticipated an awkward evening. Still, he took exception to scathing comments made for his benefit.
"I was chatting to one supporter when another came up to him and said 'don't speak to the players, they're all a disgrace'," Hughes said. "I tried to stop him and talk it over but he wasn't interested.
"All he'd say was 'you're peeing promotion up the wall'. That hurt and I take offence at anyone telling me I don't care. Football's my job and it goes home with me. It always has.
"I made a point of remembering his face and I hope I'll bump into him one day.
"Nothing aggressive and nothing clever – I'd just like him to admit that I was right and he was wrong. We're not bottlers and we do care."
Hughes cares so much that he would rank United's promotion to the Championship as the third most important event of his life, behind his wedding day and the birth of his daughter. It is, in his words, the most sublime moment of a professional career in which he has won promotion with two other clubs.
"I'm 32 and I don't think I'll see another moment like this," he said, in no way predicting his own exit from Elland Road.
"Maybe we'll get promoted to the Premier League next season and maybe I'll be part of it but this could be the pinnacle for me.
"That's why I made no effort to get to the tunnel when the supporters invaded the pitch on Saturday.
"I thought 'I've waited a long time for this moment and I want to soak up every second.' If that means getting crushed by the celebrations of 5,000 fans then that's fine by me. I know what they've been through in League One because I've seen it all."
If Hughes is to leave Elland Road at the end of his contract this summer – a decision which would be Simon Grayson's rather than his – then the abiding image of his career in Leeds may be the sight of many shoulders carrying him from the field at Elland Road after the club's decisive win over Bristol Rovers.
The midfielder is synonymous with United's time in League One, the first player to sign for the club after their infamous 15-point deduction was confirmed by the Football League in 2007.
When he answered his mobile phone on the motorway and accepted the terms offered to him by Dennis Wise, United's former manager, he had a fair idea of the unpredictability he was embracing. For him, the past three years have been both brilliant and hard. The moments of optimism were intense but twice Leeds lost in the play-offs, disappointing a brow-beaten fanbase.
Hughes, meanwhile, fought the limits of his ability, admitting to his own shortcomings with brutal honesty but arguing all the time that tireless application could compensate for it. His insistence was underlined by the season just gone, a term in which he played 51 times and proved the theory that show-ponies alone cannot pull a load as heavy as Leeds United through League One.
"When you're young, football is all about skill and technique," he said. "That's what gets drummed into you. But the older you get, the more you see another side of the game – the need to turn teams, to get in their faces and to run them into the ground.
"In this league, you need horrible footballers. I'd put players like myself and Michael Doyle in that bracket, and that's not disrespectful to him, not in the slightest.
"You can't over-estimate the value of a Michael Doyle – someone who bites away at the opposition until they're totally demoralised. I've seen many teams get to the point where they can't handle any more of his tackling and scrapping. You'd get nowhere without it.
"From my first day here, I knew and accepted that there were better footballers here than me. I wouldn't compare myself to someone like Jonny Howson. But I always said that Leeds would get every drop of energy and blood from me if they wanted it and I've given as much as I can for three years. It's been ups and downs every week. It's never quiet here, ever.
"There's pressure on you constantly but isn't that what football's about? Going to a mid-table club and messing around with nothing to play for isn't for me. That's why I came here and why I want to stay."
Hughes should know by the end of the week whether Grayson intends to keep him for a fourth year and a first with Leeds in the Championship.
Hughes played at that level with Norwich City immediately before his transfer to Elland Road and would love to do so again.
"The only thing better than getting Leeds out of League One would be getting them into the Premier League," he said. "I'd love to have a go at that." Last weekend, he knew how fragile United's defence of second place in League One was. With 47 minutes played, Bristol Rovers were a goal to the good and favoured by an additional man after Max Gradel's red card.
At that moment, Charlton Athletic were the club with second place in their hands and Millwall were hovering ominously.
"Of course I was worried," Hughes said. "When (Bristol Rovers) scored, I look round and the first face I saw was Bradley Johnson's. He looked devastated.
"It was a pretty emotional moment because you knew it was all or nothing. I'll never forget the last half-hour.
"We made it happen against the odds and that's what I kept trying to say to the fans who doubted us – judge us when the season finishes. I'm more than happy to accept criticism when it's due.
"But football's a game of opinions and everyone's got one - people in the street, reporters in newspapers, commentators on the radio. To be honest, it's brilliant that so many people take an interest in Leeds United and in us as players. You start to realise that if no-one had an opinion about anything, football would be a pretty boring place to be."
Hughes is not certain of the legacy he will leave at Elland Road as and when he moves on.
"Does promotion make us legends?" he asked.
"I don't know about that. This club's had some real glory years in the past.
"I'm just thrilled to be able to say that I achieved something meaningful with Leeds. A lot of players have passed through here and not all of them are able to say the same."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yorkshire Evening Post 11/5/10
I will have to be ruthless - Grayson
By Phil Hay and Leon Wobschall
Simon Grayson said today that a large number of his Leeds United players will go with him to the Championship – but he warned of "ruthless" decisions as he prepares for next season.
United's manager insisted that sentimentality would have no bearing on the future make-up of his squad as he began the complex task of restructuring it for the club's first term in the Championship since 2007.
Leeds are expected to announce their retained list this week, confirming their intentions for the small group of players who are out of contract at Elland Road.
Jermaine Beckford heads a list which includes Andrew Hughes, Casper Ankergren and Rui Marques, and Paul Dickov is also at the end of a short stint with Leeds which saw him start only one game.
United, meanwhile, finished the season in possession of several loanees, all of whom will now return to their parent clubs while Grayson considers their longer-term potential.
Over the past nine months, he has stated repeatedly that many of his players would be capable of stepping from League One into the Championship and contributing to a competitive campaign, and they will have that opportunity next season after sealing automatic promotion in frantic fashion against Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
But Grayson said additions to his squad were essential after vowing to make a serious attempt to win promotion to the Premier League at the first attempt.
"I'll give the players here the opportunity to take us on," he said. "But sometimes you have to make ruthless decisions and that's what I'll do. I want this club to be successful.
"I've got a group who in large parts can cope with the Championship but we will need strengthening. There's no question about that.
"The players here were brought in to get us out of League One. I brought them in last summer to get us promoted and then move on from there. That's no different now.
"Every level you step up to, the squad has to be improved. If players do leave the club then I'll thank them for what they've done and bring in lads who can take us to the next level. A lot of those here can cope with the Championship but we still need new players, that's for sure."
A large proportion of United's squad are under contract, though several players are approaching the final year of their contracts.Patrick Kisnorbo, Luciano Becchio, Neil Kilkenny and Richard Naylor are among those whose existing deals will expire in 12 months' time and Leeds chief executive Shaun Harvey said prior to the end of the season that the club would reassess the contractual positions of their entire squad once the campaign finished.
United's squad are beginning a two-month holiday with pre-season training expected to begin at the start of July but Grayson's respite will be less substantial, dictated entirely by his success in the transfer market and the speed with which his plans come together.
Leeds completed 60 competitive games during the 2009-10 term, a fixture list swollen by their run to the fourth round of the FA Cup and their appearance in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy's northern area final.
"It's been a long season for everybody," Grayson said. "The players will disappear for seven or eight weeks.
"As a manager, you get a holiday somewhere down the line but I've got to start planning for next year. You start planning straight away.
"My next objective is to try and get the club out of the Championship. It won't be easy but it's something the club are capable of doing. I've seen two of my former clubs, Blackpool and Leicester City, get into the (Championship) play-offs when nobody expected them to.
"We'll have a retained list out soon saying who we're going to keep and there might well be players under contract who'll move on. It's all about deciding who we think will be good enough and seeing what sort of budget I've got available.
"But the results from the first half of the season were proof that we've got good players here. We went to Old Trafford and won (against Manchester United) with more or less the same group who played against Bristol Rovers.
"We also went to Tottenham and gave a good account of ourselves and we got to the Johnstone's Paint northern final as well. We've had a fantastic year."
Beyond his own players, Grayson is likely to give some consideration to the men who contributed to United's season while on loan at Elland Road.
Michael Doyle started 42 league fixtures, more than any other member of Grayson's squad, and the Irish midfielder has made no secret of his wish for a permanent transfer from Coventry City, a club where he is his still under contract.
Gary McSheffrey and Shane Lowry are at the end of their deals with Birmingham City and Aston Villa respectively, though McSheffrey in particular made less of an impact in Leeds than Grayson anticipated.
Teenager winger Sanchez Watt is returning to Arsenal with the intention of playing some role with the Premier League club's first team next season.
Neill Collins, meanwhile, nailed his colours to the mast by insisting that he would "walk from Preston" to take up a long-term deal with Leeds having joined the club from Preston North End at a time of crisis in March.
Collins was signed in the wake of a serious injury to influential centre-back Kisnorbo, and the Scot played nine times to help United close out their League One campaign.
Preston manager Darren Ferguson appears to have deemed surplus to requirements a defender who was signed by his predecessor, Alan Irvine, in January for a six-figure sum.
Collins, 26, said: "Leeds are a club you fall in love with because it's everything you want in a football club. I'd love to stay.
"Preston have made it known in the media that they want to sell me. If Leeds United want me, I'd walk from Preston to come here.
"I've got such a good feeling about this club and I'd like to think that in the short time I've been here I've showed how much I've wanted to play for them."

Yorkshire Evening Post 10/5/10
Leeds United promoted: Nice to end with a smile - Howson
By Phil Hay
Jonathan Howson welcomed the end of three years of disappointment after leading the fightback which carried Leeds United into the Championship.
The midfielder described as "the most important goal of my career" the strike which inspired a 2-1 victory over Bristol Rovers and gave him his first taste of success in his fourth season as a senior player at Elland Road.
United were relegated from the Championship during Howson's debut term and the past two seasons have both ended in defeat in League One's play-offs, one in a two-legged semi-final and the other in the final at Wembley.
Leeds appeared to be heading for a third play-off campaign in as many seasons with the club trailing 1-0 to Bristol Rovers and in danger of losing League One's last automatic promotion place, but Howson's sublime goal five minutes after appearing as a substitute put within reach a win which Jermaine Beckford sealed four minutes later.
Howson said: "A few of us have been at this club through all of it – the 15-point deduction, relegation from the Championship, losing in the play-offs and everything else.
"It's great to achieve what we set out to achieve and, as I said to people close to me before the game, it's nice to finish the season with a smile on my face.
"It's my fourth season and the other three have always left me disappointed. I'm just pleased that we've done this and it'll be nice now to get a full season in the Championship."
Howson admitted that he was beginning to fear for United's chances of retaining second place with Bristol Rovers ahead and Leeds suffering from the earlier loss of winger Max Gradel to a red card.
Howson said: "For me personally, there was just a slight doubt starting to kick in.
"It's not over until the final whistle but one goal down and a man down is a problem against any team.
"But we kept believing – everybody on the pitch kept believing – and we've pulled it off.
"When you come off the bench, you just want to make an impact and put yourself about. I can't remember too much about the goal and it was a bit of pot luck but I knew when I hit it that it had a chance of going in.
"It's definitely the most important goal I've scored."

Leedsunited.com 9/5/10
SIMON SALUTES PROMOTION SUCCESS
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson saluted the greatest achievement of his career after leading Leeds United to promotion on Saturday.
The Elland Road boss presided over the club's return to the Championship, following Saturday's 2-1 defeat of Bristol Rovers in an emotion charged clash.
"This means so much to everybody connected with this club," said a delighted Grayson.
"The staff, the players, and the people behind the scenes have all worked so hard to achieve this.
"Winning any promotion is a great achievement, but to do it as manager of the club I supported and the club where I started my career is something else.
"It really is a great achievement and everyone should be so proud."
In keeping with the nature of United's season, it was a far from straightforward afternoon.
Max Gradel was red carded in the first half and when Bristol Rovers went 1-0 up in the game, Charlton Athletic, who were winning at Oldham, were suddenly propelled into the promotion spot.
But substitute Jonny Howson levelled the scores before Jermaine Beckford secured the win - and promotion - with a second goal moments later.
"We don't seem to do things the easy way here, but I always had a confidence and belief in the players," said the boss.
"Okay, we left it to the last day, had 10 men, and came from a goal behind, but the players deserve have showed the desire, not only on Saturday, but on other days as well.
"The crowd made up for the loss of Max and the atmosphere was incredible. I think we've all been through every emotion possible these past nine months."It was all about getting the team, the club, and the city promoted, and we're back in a league we deserve to be in."

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Bradford Telegraph and Argus 8/5/10
Captain marvel Beckford seals promotion for Leeds
By John Wray »
Leeds 2, Bristol Rovers 1
Just one month after being pilloried by Leeds fans, Jermaine Beckford was their hero as his 63rd minute winner ensured automatic promotion to the Championship amid scenes of unbridled celebration.
Now the big question is whether the 31-goal marksman can be persuaded to forget his wanderlust, sign a new contract and help the club’s quest for promotion to the Premiership.
Manager Simon Grayson not only restored Beckford to the starting line-up against Bristol Rovers – he made him captain with Richard Naylor sidelined by a hamstring injury and Jonny Howson starting on the bench.
Like so many of Grayson’s decisions this season, it worked and Beckford not only summoned his goal-poaching skill, he showed responsibility in trying to persuade Max Gradel to leave the pitch after the Ivory Coast forward was shown the red card for a 33rd minute skirmish with Rovers defender Daniel Jones, who was booed for the rest of the game.
Grayson said: “Jermaine has become a hero. Whether he leaves is a question for another time.
“He is out of contract but responded in the right manner to what I asked of him. Jermaine got the goal but I thought the whole team were heroes.
“If we can offer him the right deal, I would love him to stay. If you are competing against teams from the Premier League it is a different ball game but we will do as much as we can. We offered him contracts last summer because we know what he can do.
“If he moves on, he will do so with my best wishes because he has been a fantastic player to work with since I arrived at the club. If he stays then I have one hell of a player on my hands.”
Grayson joked: “The lads have gagged him and tied him up before putting a contract in front of him. I don’t know if he will have a change of heart, but if there is a chance within our financial constraints then we will try to keep him because he is a fantastic player.
“We turned down good money in January because we wanted to win promotion. His goals have proved that was the right decision.”
Grayson explained the thinking behind handing Beckford the captaincy on the day.
He said: “My objective was to give him added responsibility and I thought he responded. I looked around and thought ‘why not Jermaine?’ He is one of the senior pros and I knew he would be back in the team. I thought that extra responsibility might give him an extra spring in his step.
“I thought it worked. I noticed as he led out the team that he was very vocal. That is not his usual manner.”
Gradel’s 33rd-minute dismissal and Darryl Duffy’s goal just two minutes after the break looked like consigning Leeds to the play-offs, but substitute Howson rifled in a 20-yard equaliser and, when Rovers keeper Mikkel Andersen threw the ball straight to Bradley Johnson, his cross was half-cleared to Beckford, who was besieged by ecstatic team-mates after firing home the rebound.
Repeated pleas for the fans to stay off the pitch at the end were ignored as they raced on in their droves to savour a defining moment in the club’s roller-coaster history.
Grayson added: “The chairman (Ken Bates) is delighted and conversations with him about money can wait for next week. He is as delighted as me we have won promotion. I think getting out of League One for Leeds United will prove to have been harder than getting out of the Championship.
“We are a big scalp in this division. I know the Championship is a difficult division and there are some really big teams in there but it doesn’t frighten me.
“I won’t say ‘we will be promoted next year’ but I am an ambitious manager and want to get this club in the Premier League.”
“We will have a good go. It is a challenge we will embrace. We will have a good couple of days and the chairman has organised a trip for the players and staff. Now it is in the press, we can hold him to that promise. We are not sure where we are going – Filey or Bridlington, probably!
“It has been a long season for everyone connected with the club. The players will disappear for seven or eight weeks and I will get a holiday at some stage, but come Monday and Tuesday, I will be planning for next year.”

Sunday Tribune 8/5/10
Elland back
League one: Leeds United 2, Bristol Rovers 1, Phil Shaw, Elland Road
THE last time there was a hung parliament in Britain, one Elland Road veteran noted before the game, Leeds won the League championship. This time the prize was more modest – escape from the third tier via the second-past-the-post system – but it was celebrated as if a crack at the Champions' League awaited Simon Grayson's side next season, especially after they contrived to do it the hardest way possible.
On an afternoon that lurched between tension and tumult, Leeds played for two-thirds of the match with 10 men after their Ivorian attacker, Max Gradel, was sent off for violent conduct. Gradel had to be escorted from the pitch by security guards after Jermaine Beckford and Michael Doyle struggled to prevent him getting to referee Graham Salisbury.
Leeds then fell behind just after half-time to a goal created by the Rovers player the capacity crowd blamed for Gradel's dismissal, the defender Daniel Jones. And with results elsewhere going against them, they looked set for the play-offs.
Two goals in four minutes either side of the hour mark transformed the contest and pushed Leeds over the line. The equaliser came from a substitute, the locally born Jonathan Howson, and the winner, with a certain inevitability, was fired in by Beckford, who was captain for the day on what was almost certainly his final appearance for the club.
Grayson, the boyhood Leeds supporter who took Blackpool up from League One in 2007, said: "There have been a few bottles of champagne consumed, and rightly so. We never do things easy at our football club, but we showed fantastic desire and determination."
The Leeds manager added that he was "disappointed" with Gradel's reaction but was "still uncertain" exactly why he had been ordered off. "We still had a genuine belief we could get back into it after they scored, and full credit to our fans for keeping us going."
Leeds knew victory would confirm promotion behind Norwich but made a jittery start. Gradel, ironically, appeared the most likely source of a breakthrough, only to rush his crosses. When a firm but fair challenge by Jones, a burly defender on loan from Wolves, left him writhing on the floor, Gradel went in search of retribution.
The pair squared up to one another, Gradel putting his head into Jones' face, upon which his opponent fell to the ground clutching it. When Salisbury produced the red card, the Leeds player reacted furiously and had to be forcibly restrained from confronting the referee. Eventually Gradel was marched away, but Jones' every touch was booed – with Grayson and his coach Ian Miller also making their feelings plain to him as he came off at half-time.
"This game's too big for you," sang the Leeds Kop to the referee with every decision that went against them, though the criticism appeared more suited to their own players. The situation went from bad to worse on 48 minutes when Jones crossed from the right and Jo Kuffour cut the ball for Darryl Duffy to turn Leigh Bromby and score from six yards.
Briefly, the Leeds crowd were cast into silence and Rovers' anthem 'Goodnight Irene' filled the void. Just when it seemed it might be Goodnight Leeds, however, Neil Kilkenny's cross was laid off by Luciano Becchio for Howson to curl a 20-yard shot past Mikkel Andersen.
If the Dane was blameless then, the same was not true of the deciding goal. His throw hit Beckford and fell to Bradley Johnson, who cut in from the left for a shot which Byron Anthony cleared only as far as Beckford. The striker, restored to the starting 11 after a four-game exile on the bench, crashed home his 31st goal of the season and Leeds, to the cacophonous relief of their fans, sweated out the final 27 minutes.
Sunday Times 8/5/10
Jermaine Beckford fires Leeds to promotion
Leeds 2 Bristol Rovers 1:
Andrew Longmore at Elland Road
LEEDS UNITED’S long-awaited climb back up the league began in raucous style at Elland Road yesterday. Being Leeds, the afternoon was far from straightforward. At different times, both Millwall and Charlton occupied the automatic promotion place from League One as Leeds, reduced to 10 men for an hour by a moment of craziness from Max Gradel, had to come from behind to beat Bristol Rovers and end their three-year exile in League One.
The flood of relief at the final whistle told the story of a typically tense campaign, a handsome first half of the season giving way to near despair and hard-won triumph for Simon Grayson, United’s bright and talented young manager, and his industrious side. Though a few in southeast London will disagree, Leeds probably deserved their reward.
“We never seem to do anything easy at this club,” said Grayson. “But it makes it a lot harder when you go down to 10 men and go a goal down. But we showed a lot of hunger, desire and determination. They can be very proud of themselves.”
Certainly, a few Championship chairmen will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of one of the country’s best-supported teams coming to town. Two goals in four minutes early in the second half, by Jonathan Howson and Jermaine Beckford, settled the issue after Darryl Duffy had given the visitors the lead just after half-time.
Whether this is the start of a relentless rise back to their former pomp for United is more debatable. No one could argue with their spirit or nerve in front of 38,000 passionate fans yesterday. But an injection of class and creativity will be required merely to compete in the Championship, particularly as Beckford, the leading scorer, is a free agent and almost certain to leave. His 31 goals, the last of them finally securing promotion back to the Championship, will be hard to replace.
Doubtless, Grayson had reminded his players many times during the week of the need for calm. Unfortunately Gradel, the midfielder from the Ivory Coast, must have missed that part of the lecture. As if Leeds were not making hard enough work of breaking down a resolute Rovers side, Gradel reacted with such ferocity to a challenge by Daniel Jones, the Rovers full-back, that he had to be restrained by two of his own players and a posse of security men from taking vengeance on both Jones and the referee who showed him the red card, Graham Salisbury.
As Gradel is about 5ft nothing and had been Leeds’ one source of inspiration during the first half-hour, the whole incident took on an element of tragi-comedy. Referee Salisbury had no option but to issue a straight red card to Gradel, who had to be escorted off the pitch.
“I still don’t know why he was sent off,” said Grayson. “But I was very disappointed with his reaction. He must have thought he’d let everyone down. He’ll learn from it and he won’t do it again.”
Down to 10 men with an hour still to play, Leeds had to regroup. With Swindon and Millwall drawing 1-1 at half-time, they were still in pole position for that automatic promotion place. But just a minute after half-time came another fearful blow. A cross deep to the far post was hooked back across goal by Joe Kuffour and Duffy turned neatly to clip the ball past Shane Higgs from close range. Charlton, ahead at Oldham, were now in the automatic promotion spot.
Leeds shed all caution and, five minutes after being sent on to replace Shane Lowry, Howson pulled the home team level with a curling shot past Mikkel Andersen from 18 yards.
Four minutes later, Leeds were on the brink of claiming what they see as their birthright, thanks to Beckford’s close-range shot. The Premier League will be a long trek, but Leeds are on the march once more.
Star man: Luciano Becchio (Leeds)
Yellow cards: Leeds: Doyle, Becchio
Bristol Rovers: Jones, Duffy
Red card: Leeds: Gradel
Referee: G Salisbury
Attendance: 38,234
Leeds: Higgs 6, A Hughes 6, Collins 7, Bromby 5, Lowry 5 (Howson 54min, 7), Kilkenny 7, Doyle 6, Johnson 6, Gradel 4, Becchio 8 (Watt 87min), Beckford 7 (Snodgrass 90+2)
Bristol Rovers: Andersen 6, Regan 5, Coles 6, Anthony 6, Jones 6, Reece 5 (Williams 72min), Lines 7, Campbell 6, J Hughes 6, Duffy 7 (Richard 80min), Kuffour 7
Mail 7/5/10
Leeds 2 Bristol Rovers 1: Beckford the hero as Grayson's men seal promotion
By Mark Ryan
Jermaine Beckford created a moment that will live long in the memory of anyone who was lucky enough to be at Elland Road.
Down to 10 men, a goal behind, and seemingly confined to the anonymity of League One again, Simon Grayson's Leeds refused to let their promotion dream die.
Darryl Duffy's 48th-minute goal looked to have sunk Leeds until substitute Jonathan Howson struck as sweet a finish as he will ever manage 11 minutes later.
Then came Bradley Johnson's raid down the left, and his cross was only partially cleared. The ball fell to Beckford six yards out and he smashed in the loose ball. The ear-splitting roar from 38,000 fans that greeted the promotion-winning goal was almost seismic.
A small child was thrown into the air in front of the press box. The infant seemed to land safely enough to raise a triumphant fist. Finally, the future of Leeds United is beginning to look almost as bright as the past.
Yet half an hour earlier it seemed all was lost. Pressure can do strange things. Leeds winger Max Gradel lost his head so completely, having been sent off in the 35th minute, that it took two big security guards to persuade him to leave the pitch.
Even then he went reluctantly. When his captain, Beckford, had tried to persuade him, the pair had almost ended up fighting each other.
Another team-mate. Michael Doyle, had picked up Gradel and tried to carry him off. He just came back on again.
Leeds fans had been in raptures seconds earlier because Beckford had finally netted after a series of missed chances.
But referee Graham Salisbury had given offside. And in the aftermath it appeared a score was settled off the ball. Bristol Rovers defender Daniel Jones had felled Gradel minutes earlier, and the Leeds man apparently sought retribution with what looked like a stamp on the foot and an attempted butt. Chaos ensued, with Jones no calmer than Gradel, though he escaped with just a yellow card.
At half time Leeds keeping coach Andy Beasley appeared to clash with Rovers boss Paul Trollope as the crowd vented their fury.
The tension merely contributed to the drama of the denouement, and at least one Leeds legend could breathe a sigh of relief.
Eddie Gray had explained the significance of the occasion as kick-off drew near. Now 62 but still a classy ambassador for the club, Gray said: 'It's a big day for everyone and the first step towards getting back into the Premier League. There is no reason why this club cannot be as big as it once was.'
Hero Beckford received a standing ovation as he was substituted in the last minute. What a way to go if he is indeed off to Everton.Fans poured on to the pitch before the final whistle. When it did blow, the eardrums took a fresh battering and the green turf disappeared beneath a sea of delirious white. You had to smile at the extraordinary way, against all odds, Leeds at last headed back in the right direction.

Sky 8/5/10
Grayson hails players
Whites boss praises players after clinching second
Simon Grayson was full of praise for his Leeds United players after they won promotion to the Championship on Saturday.
The Whites needed to simply win their last League One game of the season against Bristol Rovers to clinch second spot in the table.
It looked like being another missed opportunity early in the second half with Darryl Duffy opening the scoring and compounding Max Gradel's dismissal.
However, the introduction of Jonny Howson swung the game Leeds' way with his goal levelling matters before Jermaine Beckford's close-range goal settled the contest.
Grayson was not dwelling on Leeds' poor second half of the campaign and is just pleased they are finally back in the Championship after three long seasons in England's third tier.
The ex-Blackpool boss is expecting big celebrations from his players on Saturday, although he insists the hard work planning for next season begins now.
Fantastic
"Fantastic achievement. We didn't do it the easy way after going down to 10 men and a goal behind early in the second half," he told Sky Sports News.
"Credit to the players. It was a fantastic effort from everybody. We're back were we deserve and hopefully we can kick on.
"We'll enjoy tonight, but it's a fantastic achievement what the players have managed to do, today and for the whole of the season.
"It's never easy when you've got ten men to play with, but we've got belief and determination that we could do it.
"They kept going right until the end. Full credit to them. They are a fantastic bunch of players to work with."
"You've got to make decisions sometimes and sometimes it works," he added on Howson's introduction.
"We're back in the next level of football were we deserve to be I think. We'll take stock and get ready for next year."

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Telegraph 8/5/10
Leeds United 2 Bristol Rovers 1: match report
Read a full match reports of the League One game between Leeds United and Bristol Rovers at Elland Road on Saturday May 8th 2010.
By Rory Smith at Elland Road

After three long years, the ignominy is over. After six years of never-ending descent, Leeds United have escaped their purgatory in English football’s third tier. They are not yet back, of course, where they feel they belong. At long last, though, the recovery has started.
In front of a febrile, nervous Elland Road, Jonny Howson and Jermaine Beckford helped Simon Grayson’s side overcome the sending off of Max Gradel and Darryl Duffy’s strike for a dogged Bristol Rovers and ensure they finished an emotional, emotive day where they started it, set fair for automatic promotion.
Grayson’s side seemed to mirror the mood of their fans. They started confidently, bullish about their promotion prospects, Gradel menacing down the right, Beckford lurking with intent in the shadows of the visitors’ defence.
But as half-chance after half-chance passed them by, the nerves set in, legs growing visibly heavy.
Luciano Becchio was an inch too slow to latch on to one Gradel cross, the Ivorian firing across the box when a gentle lay-off to Beckford would have given the striker, Leeds’s captain on what is likely to be his last appearance for the club before a summer move to Everton, the simplest of chances.
Even when Beckford could convert, calmly beating Mikkel Andersen from Neil Kilkenny’s through ball, he saw his effort ruled out for offside. Slowly, in the stands, unease gave way to unrest. And then Leeds exploded.
Gradel, seemingly seeking retribution for a heavy tackle a moment earlier, stamped on Rovers left-back Daniel Jones’ foot. Jones collapsed, clutching his face. A morass of players confronted each other before, amid the chaos, referee Graham Salisbury dismissed Gradel.
So incensed was the winger that first he required Beckford and Michael Doyle to subdue him and then two tunnel stewards - present to prevent a pitch invasion - to escort him from the field.
There are certain conventions in these situations, prime among them the idea that the offender must always rub salt into the wound.
Leeds should not have been surprised, immediately after the break, to see Jones’ deep cross kept in play by the livewire Joe Kuffor, his cut-back deceiving goalkeeper Shane Higgs and allowing Darryl Duffy to convert from close range.
Silence, and dismay, descended. Leeds have felt cursed by fate for years, and as news filtered through that Charlton were winning, a familiar feeling took hold of all 38,234 inside Elland Road. This is Leeds, though. Defiance, like drama, runs in their veins.
First, Howson curled home beautifully from the edge of the box, wrapping his foot round Becchio’s lay-off barely five minutes after he was introduced. Millwall, though, were winning. The job was not yet done.
Bradley Johnson thrashed wide, wildly, when well-placed. Fingernails were bitten to the quick. And then a poor clearance, a Johnson cross, a partial block and there was Beckford, pouncing on his 31st of the season. Bedlam.
There was no time to rest easy. Higgs was forced to deny Kuffor, Neill Collins hit the post. It did not matter. As Salisbury blew his whistle, thousands of fans ignored desperate please to stay off the pitch to celebrate. At last, it is over.

Leeds United's turbulent decade
  • May 2001: Finish fourth in the Premier League and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League – their best season since the 1960s.
  • March 2003: Chairman Peter Ridsdale quits, with Leeds saddled with £103 million debts. His replacement, Gerald Krasner, oversees a fire sale of playing assets.
  • May 2004: Relegated after 13 years in top flight.
  • Nov 2004: Forced to sell Elland Road and Thorp Arch training ground to raise funds. Former Chelsea owner Ken Bates completes a £10 million takeover.
  • May 2006: Finish third in Championship but lose play-off final 3-0 to Watford. Manager Kevin Blackwell sacked in Sept and replaced by Dennis Wise.
  • May 2007: Leeds – still struggling with £35 million debts – enter administration and are deducted 10 points, confirming first ever relegation to the third tier.
  • July 2007: Deducted 15 points for the 2007-08 season after breaking Football League rules on administration. Wise quits in Jan.
  • May 2008: Beaten 1-0 in the League One play-off final by Doncaster. Manager Gary McAllister sacked in Dec.
  • May 2009: Lose play-off semi-final to Millwall under Simon Grayson.


Telegraph 7/5/10
Leeds United would be transformed by promotion, says manager Simon Grayson
Simon Grayson, the Leeds United manager, believes his players will have the chance to rectify a series of wrongs when they go out to secure automatic promotion at Elland Road on Saturday.
By Rob Stewart
Grayson's team will have the chance to propel themselves into the Championship when they face Bristol Rovers three years after Leeds United fell into the third tier of English football for the first time and went into administration following serious financial troubles.
"This is a massive game that can change the fortunes of the club and ultimately it's down to the players to show their desire to succeed and put right what has gone wrong at this club over the last few years," Grayson said.
"For three years we've been a massive club in the wrong division but we are in this division for a reason. Getting to that next level is huge for us and gives us a platform.
"There is pressure every day here. Bristol Rovers will be out to spoil the party but my players have had the expectancy levels on them all season.
"They've been to some big grounds and got results, playing at Old Trafford, playing Liverpool at home and Tottenham home and away this season and we will draw from the good experiences and bad experiences."
Had it not been for their FA Cup run, the Yorkshire club could have already been promoted because the team were threatening to run away from promotion rivals when they beat Manchester United at the turn of the year.
"The cup games gave us some kudos and that was a hindrance," Grayson said. "Coming off the back of United and Tottenham, other teams looked at us and raised their game even more. Maybe the players got distracted slightly."
Grayson, 40, who guided Blackpool into the Championship, said: "The cup games went well for us but it's all about getting this club out of this division. "I didn't come here to win cup games. I came here to win promotion and if we do it will be right up there in my career. It would give me immense pride and fulfilment because I'm a Leeds fan as well."

Daily Mail 7/5/10
Leeds: On their way back from curses and crisis... and a win away from League One promotion
By Michael Walker
Game 60 for Leeds United on Saturday: game 60, game on and, they hope, game over, mission accomplished.
If Leeds overcome Bristol Rovers at Elland Road, then this meandering marathon of a season, with its spectacular, diverting FA Cup high at Old Trafford, followed by its hiccupping League One trudge through a bleak winter, will have ended with its main objective achieved - promotion.
Leeds will not be back, not as a force in the land, but they can claim to have bottomed out. Three years after slipping into the third division for the first time, in administration and embarrassment, Leeds will be able to point to progress. Mild optimism will outweigh heavy pessimism.
As manager Simon Grayson said at the training ground on Thursday: 'It's a massive game. It can shape the destiny of this football club.'
Grayson is not given to unnecessary melodrama. But he is a Yorkshire-born Leeds fan who knows that even in the club's greatest days in the late 1960s and the 1970s there was the occasional epic anti-climax. In 1971 it was such that Don Revie produced a gypsy at Elland Road to lift a supposed curse.
If there has been a curse this season, it is rather more prosaic. Too many games: second-placed Leeds have played 11 more than fifth-placed rivals Charlton.
Success in the FA Cup and the Football League Trophy saw what appeared inevitable promotion in December downgraded to an aspiration four months later.
That momentous victory over Manchester United in January, decided by Jermaine Beckford's 19th-minute goal, was followed by a home draw with Wycombe and a defeat at Exeter. Both clubs are in the relegation zone and, if either had been beaten, Leeds would not be sweating on the last game.
When, after drawing admirably at White Hart Lane in the fourth round of the FA Cup, Leeds subsequently lost 3-0 at Swindon, some began to question the merit of their Cup heroics. In fact, had League One begun on January 1, Leeds would now be 12th.
'Everybody can point to reasons why we had a dip in form,' said Grayson, 'but ultimately we were always going to have a dip in form. You can't go through the season unbeaten.
'Hindsight's a wonderful thing. Nobody was complaining when we beat United and drew at Tottenham. It probably slightly hindered us, but, when you spoke to the players, they never wanted to be rested in those games and we felt the momentum would carry us forward.'
Leeds' raised profile in the FA Cup roused opponents, too.
Grayson added: 'That did hinder us a little. But you wouldn't swap the wins at Old Trafford and the performances against Tottenham.
'Maybe the players got slightly distracted but it's down to us to keep it normal. And they're only human. They were buzzing from beating Man United and, no disrespect, it's difficult to then go to Exeter.
'No, we didn't expect to have 60 games, but players are paid to play and, if you asked them at any time, they wanted to play every minute of every game. After 60 games, if we're promoted, and all the Cup games, then we'll look back and think of a tremendous season.'
Grayson smiled when he said chairman Ken Bates was back in the country at Elland Road on Thursday - 'kicking a***'.
Many fans don't smile when it comes to Bates. He will have enjoyed the windfalls from the FA Cup but Leeds need promotion more.
'You can't progress as a football club in League One, not us,' said Grayson.
'We want to get back into the Championship because of the revenue it brings. Everything at this club is geared to the next level, the training ground, the fan base. If we get back into the Championship then we'll try to be a force and then ultimately get back into the Premier League, where we were not so long ago.'
It has been three long years down the divisions and the fact that the last two seasons have ended in defeat in the play-offs, by Doncaster Rovers and Millwall, means that there is dread around the city that failure on Saturday will mean more heartbreak.
Grayson is paid not to think like that. He led Blackpool out of this division but feels that lifting Leeds would be a greater personal achievement, adding: 'There was no expectancy at Blackpool.' Aged 40, he was 'a kid on the staff' the last time Leeds required a promotion. That was at Bournemouth in 1990 under Howard Wilkinson.
John Giles is due at an Elland Road function on Friday night, and names like his and Revie's resonate.
Grayson understands that, allowing him to speak of destiny and Leeds. He knows on Saturday could be a beginning and an end. He said his last words will be: 'Go and enjoy yourselves. No regrets. And win the game.'

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Mail 2/5/10
Charlton 1 Leeds United 0: Grayson's men face edgy last day after Naylor's late slip
By Ian Ridley
It was a day when eyes were on the game and ears trained for news elsewhere. And while the news from afar was good for Leeds, their own bulletin was shattering as a late own goal condemned them to yet another last-day drama.
With Millwall losing at Tranmere, Simon Grayson's side could have gone up with a win. Instead, they face an edgy encounter at home to Bristol Rovers on Saturday. Charlton even kept alive their slim hopes of automatic promotion.
It is six years since Leeds were relegated from the Premier League so they know about waiting. Their fate is in their hands but Leeds' fear, should they be overhauled, must be that their play-offs record is poor, having lost in them for the last two seasons.
It is possible, too, that they could yet meet yesterday's opponents, who were the livelier side - far from the Charlton Arthritic insult - even without a contribution from teenage prodigy Jonjo Shelvey, sold last week to Liverpool for an initial £1.7 million.
With the prize so close, older Leeds followers might have remembered promotion 20 years ago on another May Bank Holiday when Howard Wilkinson's side won at Bournemouth to reach the old First Division - and go on to win it the season before the Premier League began.
It prompted Leslie Silver, then chairman, to say: 'When my predecessors discovered success, it came as a surprise. We had no history. Then it became an accepted part of life. It's only when you lose that you realise how magical it was. There are kids who cannot have any recollection of Don Revie. But the magic is passed down from father to son and the hunger becomes insatiable.'
That much was seen during the 'Living the Dream' era of Peter Ridsdale and David O'Leary a decade ago when Leeds reached the Champions League semi-finals.
A Charlton programme from that time said: 'We're all Leeds admirers now. Who'd have thought Leeds, that team of bawling, bullying bruisers being transformed into the best thing since sliced bread - white bread with a yellow and blue trim, that is.'
But yesterday Leeds were largely insipid and Charlton fans taunted the visitors with 'You're not famous any more.'
It might have been different had Max Gradel taken a chance when Frazer Richardson sold Darren Randolph short with a back-pass but the keeper beat away his shot.
It took Leeds another 30 minutes to offer a real threat, when Neil Collins seemed sure to turn home Bradley Johnson's cross only for Deon Burton to clear.
At the other end, Burton went close with a hooked shot but Shane Higgs turned it aside.

MATCH FACTS
Charlton (4-4-2): Randolph; Richardson, S Sodje, Dailly, Borrowdale; Sam, Semedo, Racon (Reid 67min), Bailey; Forster (Mooney 67), Burton (A Sodje 67). Subs (not used): Elliott, Llera, Wagstaff, Solly. Booked: S Sodje, Semedo.
Leeds (4-4-2): Higgs; Hughes (Grella 84), Naylor, Collins, Lowry; Snodgrass (Beckford 64), Kilkenny, Doyle (Watt 73), Johnson; Becchio, Gradel. Subs (not used): Ankergren, Howson, McSheffrey, Bromby. Booked: Johnson, Lowry.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).

Updated scores from Tranmere were accompanied by roars from Leeds fans but their side rarely looked like breaking the deadlock and ensuring a carnival atmosphere on Saturday.
They looked nervous while Charlton attacked knowing they had to win, with Lloyd Sam, Therry Racon and Jose Semedo all testing Higgs. Leeds could rarely get talented Robert Snodgrass on the ball and he was eventually replaced by 30-goal striker Jermaine Beckford, who almost turned in a Gradel cross.
'We only need one goal,' sang the Leeds fans. Instead, it came at the other end, Sam heading across goal and Richard Naylor able only to head sub Akpo Sodje's header into the roof of his own net.
Leeds fans have that hunger that an old chairman once talked of - but do their team?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Guardian 1/5/10
Richard Naylor own goal leaves Leeds hanging and gives Charlton hope
Barney Ronay at The Valley
The race for the final League One promotion spot is still twitching with unpredictable, and for Leeds United agonising, life. Defeat to a peppy and energetic Charlton Athletic at The Valley, combined with Millwall's defeat at Tranmere, means Leeds remain in second. "Our destiny is still in our own hands. I thought we dominated possession and we had great chances to win the game," Simon Grayson said. But in truth Leeds blew it here, failing to have a serious attempt on goal during a second half when they knew victory would have clinched promotion.
Charlton and Swindon now have an outside chance of going up automatically, and Huddersfield are not quite out of it. The final day seems certain to be shot through with fist-gnawing tension.
This match was settled by Richard Naylor's late own goal, the ball deflected into his own net by the Leeds captain as Akpo Sodje's close-range header looked to be dipping beneath the bar. It completed a deserved win for Charlton, for whom automatic promotion had seemed to be only a mathematical hypothesis before the start of play, albeit one leavened by the chance to inflect an early blow to the breadbasket against opponents they may still face again later this month in the play-offs.
In the event this was a thrillingly full-blooded match. In the first 20 minutes Leeds took the game to Charlton via a succession of free-kicks and throw-ins, without creating any clear chances for the nimble-footed Max Gradel or the lumbering Luciano Becchio, starting again ahead of Jermaine Beckford. On 15 minutes Bradley Johnson broke through Sam Sodje's challenge rather too easily and spanked a swerving shot that Darren Randolph could only palm down awkwardly.
Charlton made most progress on the right through the yellow-booted Lloyd Sam, although it was from the other flank that Deon Burton drew a flying save from Shane Higgs with an athletic scissors-volley on the half-hour. Moments later Neill Collins managed to spoon a bouncing ball over the bar from three yards out after an aerial scramble from a deep Leeds free-kick. If that was the miss of the first half, the most stirring cheer came with news just before half-time from Prenton Park of Ian Thomas-Moore's goal for Tranmere against Millwall, transporting the massed away end into its own version of utopia.
Despite which Leeds started the second half gingerly, spooked perhaps by the fact promotion was now just a goal away. A curling shot by Therry Racon was well saved at full stretch by Higgs. Charlton were getting closer: on the hour mark Sam Sodje somehow managed to head over the bar from three yards from a corner.
With 26 minutes remaining Beckford came on for Robert Snodgrass just as news came through of Tranmere's second goal. Leeds's top scorer could have made up an attacking trio, but Grayson instead drew Gradel back into midfield when others might have gambled more forcefully. It was only in the final 10 minutes, with the Arsenal loanee Sanchez Watt on the field to complete a quartet of attackers, that Leeds finally came forward. Beckford poked an effort into the side netting after good work from Gradel.
"We only want one goal!" sang the Leeds fans, just as one finally came at the home end with two minutes left. Akpo Sodje leapt highest after a bout of aerial ping-pong in the six-yard box; Naylor's final touch sent the ball into the roof of the net.
In the second minute of stoppage time Leeds did finally have a second-half effort on target, Beckford heading firmly goalwards only to see Randolph save brilliantly. Leeds had come to life too late and their season of steadily declining momentum is still in the balance.
For Charlton hope unexpectedly remains, as does an encouraging sense of coming strong at the last. "We'll go to Oldham and take care of our own job and hope results fall our way," Phil Parkinson said. "Football is about handling the occasion and being able to produce your best when the pressure is on."
Leeds have another chance to do just that at home to Bristol Rovers. Either way it seems likely to be another afternoon of enervating tension for all concerned.


Telegraph 1/5/10
Charlton Athletic 1 Leeds United 0: match report
By Ben Findon at The Valley
Leeds United's promotion party is on hold after defeat at Charlton Athletic but they will still end their three-year exile in League 1 if they beat Bristol Rovers at Elland Road on the final weekend of the regular season.
Akpo Sodje's 86th-minute winnner leaves Leeds with a slender one-point lead over Millwall, who lost at Tranmere, and Swindon. Charlton are a point further back but the Yorkshire side's destiny remains in their hands and they will be favourites to avoid the play-offs and accompany Norwich back to the Coca-Cola Championship.
No shortage of thrills from the opening moments at the Valley. Indeed, Leeds could have had the ideal start courtesy of an underhit back-pass from Charlton's Sam Sodje in the second minute. It was a gift for Max Gradel, but the Leeds striker drummed the ball against the imposing frame of Charlton goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
Charlton were not in the mood to dispense further invitations, and though Leeds pressed forward, the home defenders allowed strictly limited openings.
Bradley Johnson's strike from the edge of the penalty area on 20 minutes tested Randolph again and Neil Collins forced a frantic clearance 10 minutes from the break.
Much of Charlton's threat was carried by the quick-footed Lloyd Sam, with some dangerous bursts down the right wing. Charlton's best first-half opportunity stemmed from the opposite flank, however, when Nicky Forster's flick-on enabled Deon Burton to shoot acrobatically, forcing Shane Higgs into a sprawling save.
The biggest cheer from the visitors' end came moments before the interval, with news that Tranmere had taken the lead against Millwall.
Charlton's attacking intent was clear from the start of the second half and there were two serious scares for Leeds around the hour mark.
Therry Racon's low drive seemed to catch Higgs off-guard and he had to push the ball away after a delayed dive. Then, following a corner, Sam Sodje had his head in his hands after planting a header over the crossbar from close in.
The response from Leeds was swift, with 30-goal striker Jermaine Beckford sent on in place of Robert Snodgrass. Moments later there was another roar from the visitors' end, saluting Tranmere's second against Millwall.
Leeds continued to live dangerously. Substitute Akpo Sodje directed a 72nd-minute header straight at Higgs, and two minutes later the impressive Sam skipped through the middle to send a shot rising over the Leeds crossbar.
Charlton's tails were up and four minutes from the end, when Leeds were slow to cleer the danger, Akpo Sodje rose to head in from close range.



Guardian 27/4/10
Leeds United may be forced to come clean over the ownership issue
Premier League and Championship to standardise rules
Promotion could force Leeds to remove smokescreen
Owen Gibson
If it's not quite up there with the existence of the Loch Ness monster, for some Leeds United fans it is not far off. The mystery of who owns their club could finally be solved this summer, if the team gain promotion.
It had been assumed that Leeds, sitting in an automatic promotion place in League One, would not have to reveal the identity of the shareholders in the offshore companies that make up their ownership structure unless they returned to the Premier League.
But a Premier League proposal for the Football League to align the Championship's rulebook with its own, as part of a package that will deliver a new deal on parachute and solidarity payments, could see the Leeds chairman Ken Bates required to do so far sooner. The Football League, which has satisfied itself that the club's owners are "fit and proper" but does not require them to be named, is likely to put the plan to its clubs at the annual meeting in June.
The Guardian has highlighted the issue of opaque ownership in a campaign backed by MPs and supporters' groups. The Premier League's offer will increase parachute payments from £23.4m over two years to £48m over four and "significantly" increase the solidarity payments shared between other Football League clubs.
It also wants to standardise rules with clubs in the Championship. That would require all those with shareholdings above 10% to be revealed on that club's website. The Football League's chairman Greg Clarke, in talks with the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore over the package from 2010 to 2013, said on getting the job that he had "a propensity to think that transparency is a wonderful thing". This may be his chance to prove it.