Friday, May 31, 2013

We have to be patient - Boss

leedsunited.com 31/5/13
Brian McDermott speaks about summer plans…
United manager Brian McDermott was at the training ground earlier this week as the transfer process continues.
The manager may have enjoyed his summer break but he has spent a lot of time working hard to start the process of bringing new faces into his United side.
"I've been on the phone an awful lot, trying to get where we need to be," said Brian.
"I'm back at the training ground now to try and do everything that we talked about towards the end of last season and that's in progress now really.
"The phone has been quite hot actually, it's a little bit different here for me as it was at Reading.
"At Reading I had a Director of Football who took a lot of the phone calls from the agents.
"What's happening here is that the agents are contacting me, Gwyn Williams is involved and there is Shaun Harvey as well, so between the three of us that's happening."
When speaking about bringing players into the club Brian says that all the talks isn't something that he particularly enjoys, but it is all worth it in the end when you get your man.
"I relish trying to sign players and get players in that I think are going to make a difference to our club," stated Brian.
"I don't particularly relish the process leading up to getting the players, it is just a process that you have to go through.
"I don't like speculation because speculation is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is actually signing a player, getting him into our squad, into our group and starting pre-season.
"That's what I relish, signing players that can make a difference to our club."
McDermott vs Sheffield WednesdayEarlier this month Brian discussed his list of players that he would like to add to his squad with the board, and this is something that is ongoing.
"The chief executive has spoken to a number of agents about players that we have targeted and they have been positive talks," said the United manager. "Once we have those talks you look to have those deals over the line, that's the only thing that makes any difference, that's the only thing that matters.
"We're trying to get things done, but generally you find that things don't get done in this month, June can be quiet at times as well, so we have to be patient.
"Ideally you'd have a number of players coming through the door in June for pre-season because when we go away we want to be taking those players with us."
The United manager firmly believes that patience is the key when it comes to the transfer window. Although Brian would like deals done quickly, he knows that you have to be patient to get the right players.
"You have to be patient in June as well, I remember doing deals in August last season," said McDermott.
"We don't want to be doing deals in August because we want a settled squad.
"Do I think that we will have every single player in the door before we return for pre-season? Possibly not, but it is something that we will be working towards."

Leeds United: Mac’s happy with progress made on transfer front

YEP 31/5/13
by Leon Wobschall
Leeds United boss Brian McDermott says the club are making positive strides in their quest to bring in a number of summer transfer targets.
While the transfer market remains pretty quiet, with McDermott expecting that pattern to continue for much of June, the Elland Road chief says plenty of work is going on behind the scenes to facilitate business.
The strongest transfer links regarding United have so far revolved around the names of defender Matt Mills and striker Noel Hunt, two players McDermott knows well from his time as manager at Reading.
National reports suggesting that United have tabled a £1m bid for Bolton Wanderers defender and ex-Royals captain Mills appear to be premature – despite interest in the player from Leeds.
It is understood that the two clubs’ respective valuations of the 26-year-old player remain apart, as it stands.
Mills is keen on a move to Elland Road, with Bolton ready to sell him to provide funds to enable them to move for a number of summer targets, most notably West Brom’s Craig Dawson.
Hunt, who recently left Reading after only being offered a one-year contract when he was chasing a longer-term deal and available on a free transfer, is also on the radar of United. McDermott is a friend of the striker and due to attend his wedding next month.
On his transfer recruitment, McDermott said: “It is like everything. A lot generally does not get done in May – even June to a point. We are in talks with players and their agents and we have had positive talks with them and as far as I am concerned, we are moving forward.
“That’s what I will be doing. I will be moving forward with the talks, as is (chief executive) Shaun Harvey.
“But talks are talks and they mean nothing until a player signs on the dotted line and there isn’t a lot to say at the minute. Once a player signs, we have something to talk about.
“But we are working on things. I am on the phone, Gwyn (Williams – technical director) is going to games and Shaun is on the phone as well. Everything is speculation until something is done. You can speculate about 20 players and it will be the same at every club and I do understand that’s how that works.”

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Don Revie - Never Forgotten

leedsunited.com 26/5/13
24 years on...
Sunday May 26 marks the 24th anniversary of the passing of our greatest ever manager Don Revie.
The Don sadly lost his battle against motor neurone disease on May 26 1989 in Edinburgh when he passed away, at the age of 61.
Don, a former England international who had won an FA Cup winners medal with Manchester City, joined Leeds United as a player in 1958 and became player manager three years later.
Within three years he had guided the club back to the top division and in 1965 he led the team out at Wembley for the first time ahead of the FA Cup final defeat at the hands of Liverpool.
It was to prove the start of the most illustrious period in the club's history.
He led Leeds into Europe for the first time during the 1965/66 season and won his first trophy two seasons later when United beat Arsenal in the final of the League Cup. United also claimed a first European success, beating Ferencvaros in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final, held over until the start of the 1968/69 season.
The following season the club, captained by Revie's on-field general Billy Bremner, won the Football League title for the first time after a then record-breaking campaign.
Revie went on to guide the club to Inter-Cities Fairs Cup success once again in 1971, while he also led the club to three further FA Cup finals, in 1970, 1972, and 1973.
Leeds lost to Chelsea after a replay in 1970 and to Sunderland in 1973, but Allan Clarke's goal sealed our only FA Cup triumph in 1972 when Arsenal were beaten 1-0.
United missed out on a league and cup double that season after losing 2-1 to Wolves in a game controversially played just 48 hours after the FA Cup final win.
The following season, Revie took Leeds United to the European Cup Winners Cup final, where a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Milan was overshadowed by allegations of bribery against the match referee, who was subsequently banned from refereeing by UEFA.
Leeds never finished out of the top-four in the first division, finishing runners-up five occasions, during a 10-year period that culminated with a second league title success in 1974.
Revie was also named English Manager of the Year in 1969, 1970, and 1972, and was awarded the OBE in 1970.
That title success proved Revie's last act as Leeds United manager before he accepted the post as England manager. After three years in charge of England, Revie headed for the UAE where he coached the international team. He also managed in Egypt in 1984 before returning to the UK.
Three years on he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

DON REVIE - NEVER FORGOTTEN

Friday, May 24, 2013

Leeds United: Bolton in driving seat behind move for Mills

YEP 24/5/13
by Phil Hay
Bolton Wanderers are ready to push Matt Mills in Leeds United’s direction after signing Alex Baptiste from Blackpool.
The Lancashire club seem increasingly keen for a firm approach from Elland Road with Mills destined to be sidelined by a major reshuffle at the Reebok Stadium.
United are not believed to have made a serious enquiry about Mills, a defender who played under Leeds manager Brian McDermott at Reading, but both he and his existing club are open to a deal which takes him to Yorkshire.
The 26-year-old was a rising star during McDermott’s reign at the Madejski Stadium but his career has suffered since a £5million move to Leicester City in 2011.
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson dropped him towards the end of his first season with the club and sold him to Bolton last summer. Bolton used him infrequently this season and are already looking to sell-off a centre-back who is thought to be earning in the region of £25,000 a week.
Wanderers will look for a fee in the region of £1million, money which boss Dougie Freedman is planning to use to buy West Bromwich Albion centre-back Craig Dawson. Baptiste has already agreed to join Bolton in July after reaching the end of his contract with Blackpool.
McDermott plans to recruit at least one new centre-back of his own before the start of next season, strengthening an area of United’s squad which has little in the way of cover behind Tom Lees and Jason Pearce.
Leeds’ new manager has made no comment about specific transfer targets since drawing up a list of preferred signings shortly before the end of the season but Mills was a defender who thrived during his reign at the Madejski Stadium.
Reading invested £2million in Mills in 2009, signing him from Doncaster Rovers, and he wore the captain’s armband for parts of McDermott time as manager.
Leicester’s weighty bid of £5million forced a sale two years later, however, with Mills’ stock rising on the back of Reading’s run to the play-off final but a fall-out with Pearson put him back on the market within 12 months.
Leeds were one of the clubs who attempted to sign Mills on loan before his switch to Bolton last July.
McDermott admitted on Wednesday that he was still to make serious progress in the transfer market but said: “It’s not a secret that I’m looking to move things forward quickly.
“For me it’s very straightforward in the sense that my targets are my targets and I know what I’m looking to get.
“But I don’t really want to talk about being close to this or close to that because the important thing is getting deals over the line.”
Suggestions that McDermott was poised to land Zurab Khizanishvili – another ex-Reading defender – came to nothing on Tuesday when it was revealed that the Georgian centre-back had agreed to stay with Kayserispor in Turkey for another year.

7 November 1973 - Hibernian 0 Leeds United 0

United had little appetite for the UEFA Cup in 1973/74, but Billy Bremner's masterly display at sweeper and two rookie keepers saw to it that United earned a famous win by virtue of a penalty shoot out.
"I have been proud of my players many times in the previous 76 matches we have played in Europe, but I don't think I have ever been more proud of them than I was last night," Don Revie told the Evening Post's Don Warters after the game. "I don't think I have seen a better exhibition from 12 players over a two-hour period than I saw from my side. They were magnificent, and showed themselves willing to run until they dropped for Leeds United. I cannot ask for more than that. We were without so many good players, but we still managed to show them a thing or two. We made it clear that we were not quitting - that is simply not our style."

Read the full story by clicking here

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Byram wants to stay on at Leeds United - McDermott

YEP 23/5/13
by Phil Hay
Brian McDermott believes Sam Byram is committed to remaining with Leeds United next season and has claimed again that the right-back’s development will be best served at Elland Road.
McDermott said he had no expectation of either Byram or Leeds attempting to line up a move in the transfer window and insisted he was “not concerned” about the future of United’s £8million-rated defender.
The 19-year-old is poised to make his international debut with England’s Under-20s next month, a fitting end to a first season at Elland Road which earned him multiple player-of-the-year awards and a contract extension until 2016.
Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion and Cardiff City were three of the clubs who showed an interest in Byram during the second half of the 2012-13 campaign but McDermott said no bids had been tabled and the Leeds boss appears increasingly optimistic of starting the new term with the talented teenager at his disposal.
McDermott said: “Sam wants to be here next season and the club want him to be here next season. I’m absolutely certain of that. If someone does try to push him in a different direction then it won’t be the player or the club who are doing the pushing. I’m not concerned about it.
“For me his development as a player will be so much better and quicker through regular football, and the games he’s had at Leeds have done him the power of good. You can see that he’s loving it and I feel very strongly that he’s in the right place. I know he thinks so too. Why would he want to go anywhere else?”
Byram is bidding to make the cut for the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey having earned a place in Peter Taylor’s provisional 35-man England squad.
Leeds centre-back Tom Lees, meanwhile, will travel to the European Under-21 Championship next month, a tournament renowned for attracting scouts from leading English clubs.
McDermott, who will confirm United’s pre-season schedule in the next seven days, said: “I never worry about that. I’ve had good players before, some of whom attracted attention.
“Sam and Tom were desperate to go and play for their country and you can’t hold young lads back. It’s fantastic experience and I’m really pleased. They both deserve it and as far as their conditioning goes, it’ll be managed.”

McDermott’s aiming to move deals forward

YEP 22/5/13
by Phil Hay
Leeds united manager Brian McDermott insisted last night that he was hoping for a “straightforward” summer in the transfer market, claiming he had a fixed idea of how his team and squad should look next season.
McDermott admitted that his attempts to bring new players to Elland Road were still at a preliminary stage, two-and-a-half weeks on from the end of the 2012-13 term, but he spoke with quiet confidence about his prospects of hitting the list of targets put forward by him to United’s board.
Leeds have been making initial enquiries about the “six or seven” names laid out by McDermott, who is planning for his first full year in charge of the Championship club.
Speaking to the YEP, McDermott said: “We’re making progress and we’ve had conversations with the agents of a few players. It’s preliminary at the moment but it’s not a secret that I’m looking to move things forward quickly.
“For me it’s very straightforward in the sense that my targets are my targets and I know what I’m looking to get. But I don’t really want to talk about being close to this or close to that because the important thing is getting deals over the line.
“I always say that talks are talks and what matters is getting things done – getting as many of your targets as you can. But I know in my mind exactly where I want to go with this.”
McDermott met with United directors Hisham Alrayes and Salah Nooruddin last week, describing their discussions as “very positive and very encouraging.”
Nooruddin has been on the board at Elland Road for less than a month but he looks increasingly likely to be a main player under the ownership of GFH Capital.
The 49-year-old Bahraini, who holds a 3.33 per cent stake in United, was named as the club’s vice-chairman on Monday and is understood to be in line to succeed Ken Bates as chairman when Bates stands aside on June 30.
McDermott is hoping to see his first-team squad take shape before then, with Leeds due to begin training in the last week of June. The Leeds boss – sacked by Reading in March and appointed by United on April 12 – took a short holiday at the end of the season but said: “I’m not really in the habit of taking breaks. I went away from a little while but to be honest I don’t do breaks and I never have. I’d rather be getting on with things.”

Leeds United target Khizanishvili decides to stay put in Turkey

YEP 22/5/13
by Phil Hay
Former Reading defender Zurab Khizanishvili appears to have ruled out the possibility of a reunion with Brian McDermott by agreeing a new contract with Turkish club Kayserispor.
Khizanishvili, who was strongly linked with a move to Leeds United, is set to remain with Kayserispor next season after extending his deal until May 2014.
The 31-year-old’s agent, Ivan Marko Benes, told the YEP: “He has signed a contract, there is no more to say.”
Khizanishvili, pictured in action against Leeds, played 42 times under Leeds boss McDermott at Reading and was involved in the squad that reached the Championship play-off final in 2011. He left England for Turkey later that summer and has been regularly involved at Kayserispor.
The ex-Newcastle, Rangers and Blackburn defender was tipped to return to English football before the start of next season with Leeds, Reading and Norwich City all touted as potential destinations.
A new centre-back is one of McDermott’s requirements as he looks to provide support for Tom Lees and Jason Pearce. United released Australian Patrick Kisnorbo shortly before the end of the season.

Hall of Fame: Legend Eddie's Induction

leedsunited.com 21/5/13
Eddie Gray receives accolade...
Elland Road legend Eddie Gray is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum.
Eddie, who is a member of the Leeds United Ambassador Panel and has served the club as a player, manager, and a coach, is to receive one of the highest honours in football when he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at a prestigious award ceremony on 25 September 2013.
Matt Le Tissier, Cliff Jones, Mike Summerbee, Peter Schmeichel, and Ray Wilkins are the other former professionals being inducted along with Sheila Parker, who played for Chorley Ladies Football Club and is the club's longest serving player, and the late Jack Taylor, the first Englishman to referee a World Cup Final (1974) and first referee to take a place in the Hall of Fame.
They will join a host of other famous football faces like Sir Alex Ferguson, lan Ball, Gordon Banks, Cliff Bastin, Jimmy Greaves and Sir Tom Finney, whose achievements are already celebrated with a place on the honour roll.
Inductees have been chosen by a panel featuring some of the biggest names in football including, the Museum's President Sir Bobby Charlton, Vice President Sir Alex Ferguson, Gordon Taylor and Mark Lawrenson. They must have finished their playing career or be aged over 30 and have played or managed in England for at least five years to qualify for Hall of Fame nomination.
Eddie said: "I'm delighted. It's 50 years ago that I first came to Leeds United and everything I achieved is down to the club.
"This is a real honour, not just for me personally, but for the club itself and for the team that I played in.
"You look at so many of the greats who have been inducted and I am thoroughly delighted."
The eight football legends will have their achievements celebrated at a charity fundraising Hall of Fame induction celebration at the National Football Museum in Manchester on 25 September.
National Football Museum Director Kevin Moore said: "We are delighted to be able to recognise the achievements of these legendary players in this way. We really hope they can all attend the induction dinner in September and we'd love to see fans come along too - it's a rare chance to be close to some of the biggest players in football history."
Members of the public can buy tickets to attend the exclusive event in September by emailing halloffame@nationalfootballmuseum.com. Information about ticket prices and sponsorship packages can be found online at www.nationalfootballmuseum.com
The National Football Museum provides a world-class home for the greatest collection of football memorabilia ever assembled, in addition to housing its nationally-recognised Hall of Fame in Manchester.
More than 140,000 objects, works of art and photographs make up this unique collection and highlights include a shirt from the world's first international match played in 1872, the 1966 World Cup Final ball and the shirt worn by Maradona during the infamous 1986 'Hand of God' quarter final match between England and Argentina.
Admission is free of charge but, as the museum is a registered charity, it relies on donations from the public and support from the corporate sector to stay open.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Salah Nooruddin named as new Leeds United vice-chairman

YEP 21/5/13
Salah Nooruddin has already attended a meeting with chief executive Shaun Harvey and Leeds City Council.
by Leon Wobschall
Bahraini-based businessman Salah Nooruddin has been named as Leeds United’s new vice-chairman with immediate effect.
United have also confirmed that Nooruddin, once a prominent employee at Bahrain’s International Investment Bank (IIB) – who purchased 10 per cent of club owner GFH Capital’s 100 per cent stake of the club in March – is the holder of 3.33 per cent in LUFC Holding Limited.
Last week, Dubai-based GFH Capital told the YEP that several directors at Elland Road had been handed equity in the club after accounts of its parent company, Gulf Finance House, showed that GFH Capital’s stake had fallen to 86.67 per cent.
The report stated that GFH had sold a 13.33 per cent stake in United during the first three months of 2013, 3.33 per cent more than it relinquished to IIB in March, with it having now been revealed that Nooruddin has acquired the additional equity.
GFH Capital had declined to comment on whether Nooruddin owned any shares last week, stating that the details were confidential. But they have now clarified the position.
Nooruddin – who has interests in real estate – joined the club’s board on April 26, taking on what GFH Capital described as a responsibility for “bringing new investors on board as part of GFH Capital’s strategy of building a successful and sustainable future for the club.”
On his appointment as vice-chairman, Nooruddin said: “I am delighted to accept the position as vice-chairman of Leeds United and look forward to working with the club’s staff, so as to achieve the best possible results both on and off the field.”
Hisham Al-Rayes, managing director of GFH Capital added: “Salah comes with 25 years experience in the investment business in various regions including the UK.
“He will be working closely with the club’s executives to achieve our visions and goals. He will be in regular communication with the club to achieve this.
“We have also had a constructive meeting with Leeds City Council that Salah attended, along with Shaun Harvey to discuss how we can work together in the future to our mutual benefit.”
Upon taking the reins at Elland Road, GFH Capital revealed that it’s plan of ownership involved selling parts of its stake to “co-investors” and establishing a consortium of shareholders.
Gulf Finance House’s latest financial accounts, covering the first quarter of 2013, reiterated the prospect of the company relinquishing more shares, stating: “The group has an active plan to sell its controlling stake in LUFC Holdings Limited to co-investors.”
Meanwhile, the Championship make-up for 2013-14 is almost complete with Yeovil Town having accompanied Doncaster Rovers and Bournemouth to the second-tier, meaning another lengthy trek for United supporters.
United visited Huish Park three times before during their tenure in League One, their last game at the Somerset venue being in April 2010.
United’s match at Bournemouth’s Dean Court ground next season will be their first trek to there since November 2007, while you have to go back to January 2006 for the last time the Elland Road club visited the JJB Stadium, when they faced Wigan Athletic – newly relegated to the Championship – in a third-round FA Cup tie.

Club Statement: Vice Chairman Appointed

leedsunited.com 20/5/13
Salah Nooruddin takes up post...
Leeds United Football Club Limited are pleased to announce that Mr Salah Nooruddin has been appointed as Vice Chairman with immediate effect and can also confirm that he is the holder of 3.33% of shares in LUFC Holding Limited.
Salah Nooruddin said: "I am delighted to accept the position as vice-chairman of Leeds United and look forward to working with the club's staff so as to achieve the best possible results both on and off the field."
Hisham Al-Rayes, Managing Director of GFH Capital said: "Salah comes with 25 years experience in the investment business in various regions including the UK. He will be working closely with the club's executives to achieve our visions and goals. He will be in regular communication with the club to achieve this.
"We have also had a constructive meeting with Leeds City Council that Salah attended along with Shaun Harvey to discuss how we can work together in the future to our mutual benefit."

Boss McDermott’s positive about his pre-season plans

YEP 20/5/13
There are some for whom the football season never truly ends. In a summer when Brian McDermott admitted that Leeds United “need a break”, as many as five of his squad will engage in international duty in countries across the world.
McDermott watched with satisfaction last week as Tom Lees and Sam Byram were selected by England for tournaments abroad, and he knew before the domestic season finished that Rodolph Austin – a player who more than any other might have benefitted from prolonged downtime – would appear as many as three times for Jamaica in the first two weeks of June.
FIFA’s latest round of World Cup qualifiers are arranged for the start of next month and Ross McCormack, the Leeds striker, is expected to be part of the Scotland contingent who fly to Zagreb to face Croatia on June 7. Midfielder Paul Green is also preparing for four Republic of Ireland matches after earning a place in Eire’s provisional squad.
Byram’s selection for the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey is also provisional but he is highly likely to make the final cut when England youth coach Peter Taylor disappoints 14 of the 35 players he chose on Friday. Byram and Lees, who is due to take part in the European Under-21 Championship in Israel, will be out of the country for a matter of weeks while McDermott readies himself for the first day of pre-season training.
United’s manager has set June 27, a date which falls five weeks on Thursday, for the start of training at Thorp Arch but he will give careful thought to the handling of the players tied up by international football.
All five of those concerned are part of his plans for the 2013-14 season, though Austin will start the new campaign with a two-match ban following his dismissal against Brighton last month.
McDermott said: “We’re proud for all of the players who’ve been selected, they’ll be proud to represent their countries, and it’s good for the club to have the players recognised. We’ll make sure all our internationals have the right amount of rest when they return.”
The new Championship season will kick off earlier than usual, beginning on August 3, and the Football League is planning to announce its fixture list on Wednesday, June 19.
McDermott has completed a short holiday taken after the final weekend of the 2012-13 term and is looking to make inroads into the list of transfer targets he left behind with the board at Elland Road.
United’s boss has not spoken in detail about the scale of his plans to alter his squad, saying only that he has presented chief executive Shaun Harvey and technical director Gwyn Williams with the names of “six or seven” players who he hoped to speak to.
McDermott’s work this summer, like that of his predecessor Neil Warnock, depends heavily on United’s ability to fund his first-team vision.
The fortnight since the end of the season has seen more speculation about the club’s owner, GFH Capital, than it has about potential signings, with intriguing revelations arising from the accounts of GFH Capital’s parent company, Gulf Finance House. Gulf Finance House’s financial results for the first three months of 2013 showed an overall profit of around £1million and stated that GFH Capital’s stake in the club – previously a 100 per cent shareholding – had dropped to 86.67 per cent.
GFH Capital has since confirmed that, on top of a 10 per cent share sold to Bahrain’s International Investment Bank in March, a further 3.33 per cent had been passed to unnamed directors on United’s six-man board. It insisted that Ken Bates – the man who sold Leeds in December – was not a recipient.
GFH Capital has fought against scepticism about its financial clout and suitability as owner by reducing season-ticket prices for next season – reductions which have led to sales of more than 11,000 – and naming McDermott as manager after sacking Warnock on April 1.
The Dubai-based private equity firm will see its support of McDermott in the transfer market closely monitored following the 52-year-old’s insistence that “recruitment is very important for us” this summer.
McDermott met with United directors Hisham Alrayes and Salah Nooruddin last week to discuss his plans and said: “We spoke about a number of things to progress the club, including player acquisitions, philosophies and upgrading the training ground. “They were very, very supportive.
“I have to say, it was very positive and very encouraging.”

Leeds United nostalgia: Hackworth had a baptism of fire in Nou Camp

YEP 20/5/13
It is chapter one or thereabouts in the book of debuts from hell; Tony Hackworth’s first appearance for Leeds United.
His 16-minute outing at the Nou Camp in September 2000 was much like his career at Elland Road – fraught, forgettable and unlucky. Leeds lost 4-0 to Barcelona in a harsh Champions League introduction and Hackworth chased shadows as a crowd of 85,000 lapped up United’s drubbing.
Before long, Hackworth would disappear quietly on the back of his involvement in the criminal trial of Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer. In the year of his United debut, the Durham-born forward was charged with assault and affray after a late-night attack on a student in Leeds but was rapidly cleared of both offences.
Speaking at the time, his solicitor John Perry said: “Over the past 12 months he has shouldered this burden with great poise and dignity. It has been an immense burden for him and he has shouldered it well. I hope now he can get on with his life.”
Hackworth made few waves as a first-team professional at Elland Road but he broke into the senior squad on the strength of youth-team performances which marked him out as a player with pedigree and a striker with bundles of goals in him.
An England youth international, Hackworth was part of the FA Youth Cup-winning squad of 1997, denied an appearance in the final by an untimely ankle injury. United beat Crystal Palace in his absence but Hackworth was expected to progress alongside many of his peers – Woodgate, Paul Robinson, Harry Kewell and Alan Smith. Serious cruciate ligament damage held him back again as others from the Academy began to find favour under David O’Leary.
Hackworth’s debut against Barcelona at least suggested that United’s manager had not forgotten him. He was involved in the pre-season programme leading up to the 2000-01 term and was seen by others in United’s side as a threat to their places. Michael Bridges said: “There’s me, Alan Smith, Darren Huckerby and Tony Hackworth in the frame now, along with Mark Viduka. There’s competition for places and it’ll be a big bonus for us.”
The competition for Hackworth, who celebrated his 33rd birthday yesterday, proved too fierce and he was used only twice more by O’Leary, most memorably in a League Cup defeat at Tranmere Rovers when O’Leary fielded him as a replacement before substituting him in extra-time. A useful 26-minute shift at home to Lazio in the Champions League was his last outing.
Leeds sold Hackworth to Notts County for £120,000 in the summer of 2001 and he joined the now-defunct Scarborough FC three years later.
He is presently on the books of Scarborough Athletic, the club built from Scarborough FC’s ashes, and won their player of the year award at the end of his first season. The club were promoted from the Northern Counties East League Premier Division last month.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Leeds United Woo Striker Jean-Bryan Boukaka

Inside Futbol 18/5/13
Leeds United are wooing Tours striker Jean-Bryan Boukaka as they look to begin reinforcing their squad for the 2013/14 campaign.
New Leeds boss Brian McDermott is on the lookout for more firepower and Boukaka has come to the ex-Reading manager’s attention.
According to Mercato365, the Yorkshire giants are plotting snapping up the 21-year-old for a period of three years.
Boukaka spent the second half of this season on loan at Boulogne. This season he has made nine appearances in Ligue 2, providing two assists.

Boss encouraged by owner support

leedsunited.com 17/5/13
Brian McDermott hails positive meetings with board members...
Representatives of GFH Capital met with manager Brian McDermott this week to discuss the club's plans for the future.
Managing Director of GFH Capital, Hisham Al-Rayes, along with fellow Leeds United board member Salah Nooruddin met with the United manager at both Elland Road and Thorp Arch.
"We've had a good meeting over two days," said the boss.
"We got on really well and spoke about a number of things to progress the club, including player acquisitions, philosophies, how I see things, and upgrading the training ground.
"We discussed an open working relationship and the importance of everyone pulling in the same direction, and they were very, very supportive.
"I have to say, it was very positive and very encouraging."
The owners also met a number of staff members during their visit to Leeds.

Unnamed Leeds United directors acquire small stake in club

YEP 17/5/13
by Phil Hay
GFH Capital has further diluted its stake in Leeds United by assigning a small portion of shares to unnamed members of the club’s board.
United’s owner confirmed to the YEP that a number of directors at Elland Road have been handed equity in the Championship side after accounts for its parent company, Gulf Finance House, showed GFH Capital’s stake had fallen to 86.67 per cent.
The Dubai-based firm took full control of Leeds in December and subsequently sold a tenth of its 100 per cent stake to Bahrain’s International Investment Bank (IIB) for a sum of £2.5million. Gulf Finance House’s report, however, states that “the group sold (a) 13.33 per cent stake” in United during the first three months of 2013, 3.33 per cent more than it relinquished to IIB in March.
Asked about the anomaly, GFH Capital said the additional equity had been acquired by directors of Leeds, though it declined to name the board members concerned.
It stressed, however, that former owner and outgoing chairman Ken Bates was not one of the recipients and continues to hold no shares in the Elland Road club.
Bates is an existing board member at Leeds but willresign as chairman on June 30 to begin a three-year term as president. Chief executive Shaun Harvey is also a director along with GFH Capital employees David Haigh, Hisham Alrayes and Salem Patel.
Salah Nooruddin – once a prominent employee at IIB and a Bahraini-based businessman with interests in real estate – became the latest addition to the board on April 26, taking on what GFH Capital described as a responsibility for “bringing new investors on board as part of GFH Capital’s strategy of building a successful and sustainable future for the club.”
The announcement of Nooruddin’s appointment came with no details about whether he had invested any cash in United or bought part of GFH Capital stake.
GFH Capital declined to comment on whether Nooruddin was now in possession of any shares, saying details of the exchange of equity were confidential.
GFH Capital’s plan of ownership at Elland Road involves selling parts of its stake to “co-investors” and establishing a consortium of shareholders.
The company has controlled Leeds United for the past four-and-a-half months after buying United’s parent company through LUFC Holdings Limited, an off-shore firm that is based in the Cayman Islands.
GFH Capital has faced persistent questions about its financial strength and its ability to fund United’s operations.
Gulf Finance House’s latest financial figures, covering the first quarter of 2013, spoke again of an intention to relinquish more shares, stating: “The group has an active plan to sell its controlling stake in LUFC Holdings Limited to co-investors.
“During the period, the group sold 13.33 per cent stake in the LUFC Holdings Company resulting in dilution of the group’s stake from 100 per cent to 86.67 per cent.”

Leeds United: Bahraini’s view investment in Whites as a ‘value play’

YEP 16/5/13
The International Investment Bank, the Bahraini firm which bought 10 per cent of Leeds United in March, paid £2.5million for its minority stake according to the company’s latest financial report.
IIB described its decision to invest in Leeds as a “value play” – an opportunity to buy shares which it expects to increase in value – and claimed the plans of owner GFH Capital would “make the club more sustainable and an attractive investment opportunity.”
The bank announced a deal to purchase a small portion of GFH Capital’s 100 per cent shareholding on March 28 having first discussed a minor investment around the time of GFH Capital’s £21million takeover of Leeds midway through December.
The exact details of the agreement with IIB and the price paid for its 10 per cent stake were not disclosed initially but the firm’s annual report for 2012 has shed more light on its outlay and intentions.
In a statement, IIB’s chief executive Aabed Al-Zeera – appointed to the board of United’s parent company as part of the bank’s equity deal – said: “This investment is a ‘value play’ with a high return potential should LUFC get promoted to (the) Premier League.
“The investment opportunity was introduced to IIB by Gulf Finance House (GFH Capital’s parent company) after its purchase of the club in December 2012.
“GFH exclusively own 90 per cent of LUFC through its Dubai-based investment arm GFH Capital and are currently in talks with other regional players to participate in the investment. IIB has made a capital injection of £2.5million against this acquisition.
“IIB believes that GFH’s plan to restructure the financial operations of the club and take on other strategic investors will make the club more sustainable and an attractive investment opportunity in the future.”
Al-Zeera also admitted that IIB would look to sell its stake once progress at Elland Road offered the bank a profitable return, saying: “IIB anticipates capital appreciation over the medium-term, therefore we are currently taking the approach to hold the 10 per cent with a consideration to offer it once the club’s financial position is solidified.”
Al-Zeera joined the board of Leeds City Holdings Limited in March while Salah Nooruddin –formerly chief operating officer at IIB – was named as a United director towards the end of last month.
Companies House’s website is still to confirm either appointment but GFH Capital said Nooruddin would be tasked with “bringing new investors on board as part of (our) strategy.”
The Dubai-based private equity firm has repeatedly spoken of building a consortium of “co-investors” as it looks to end United’s 10-year exile from the Premier League.
The company is believed to be willing to sell a controlling interest in the club.
IIB’s acquisition of a 10 per cent stake was expected to be the first in a line of similar deals, though no further investment has yet been confirmed.
GFH Capital is at the beginning of its first summer transfer window and United manager Brian McDermott will return from holiday next week with the intention of pushing ahead with plans to rebuild his squad.
McDermott wants as many as seven new signings, a wish-list which will examine Leeds’ and GFH Capital’s financial strength.

Leeds United track Swindon Town star in case Byram leaves

YEP 15/5/13
by Phil Hay
Swindon Town right-back Nathan Thompson could emerge as a target for Leeds United if the Elland Road club are forced to sell Sam Byram.
Sources in Swindon claim Thompson, 22, is on United’s radar after coming to the fore at the County Ground during Town’s run to the League One play-off semi-finals.
Thompson played 26 times before missing the run-in and the play-offs with an ankle injury sustained at the beginning of last month.
His contract with Swindon expires at the end of June but his one-year deal is believed to include the option of another 12 months. Swindon are set to take up that option having named the young full-back on their retained list.
The Wiltshire club are believed to value Thompson in excess of £500,000 and United will only enter the market for a new right-back if a substantial offer for Byram tempts them to cash in on the 19-year-old.
Leeds have another available right-back in captain Lee Peltier, but Peltier – United’s most expensive signing in the 2012 summer transfer window – made a large number of his appearances this season in the centre of defence.

Mancini’s exit at Manchester City casts fresh doubt on Byram bid

YEP 15/5/13
by Phil Hay
Manchester City’s plans to table a close-season bid for Leeds United defender Sam Byram have been cast in doubt by the sacking of Roberto Mancini.
The threat of City making a multi-million pound offer for United’s prized asset appears to have receded following the announcement of Mancini’s dismissal late on Monday night.
The Italian coach was among Byram’s many admirers and had monitored the 19-year-old throughout the second half of the season with a view to submitting a bid for him during the summer transfer window.
But Mancini’s time at Eastlands was unceremoniously ended in the aftermath of City’s defeat to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final, increasing the likelihood of Leeds retaining Byram for the 2013-14 Championship season.
The teenage right-back was the stand-out player in United’s recent campaign, playing 53 times in his first year as a professional and claiming a clutch of awards last month, including the YEP’s player-of-the-year prize.
Leeds tied him to a contract until 2016 in January but Byram’s consistent form has attracted the attention of a number of established Premier League clubs – and ones who are heading into England’s top tier this summer.
Cardiff City – recently promoted as Championship title winners – made an initial enquiry about Byram as they edged towards a top-two finish.
But the Welsh club are not expected to meet United’s valuation, believed to stand at £8million.
West Bromwich Albion’s Steve Clarke is another manager with an established interest in Byram, though the West Midlands club might also find the cost of recruiting Byram too steep.
City, in contrast, have ample funds with which to force a sale through but Mancini’s sacking a year after he took the Premier League title to Eastlands could ensure that Leeds keep hold of their gifted and intensely popular defender.
United manager Brian McDermott warmed to Byram quickly after taking charge at Elland Road last month, insisting that Leeds could not afford to lose Byram at a time when the academy-produced player was displaying so much potential.
McDermott said: “He’ll get better and he’ll improve at Leeds, there’s no doubt about that.
“He’s a Leeds boy – the fans love him, the staff love him, the players love him.
“From our point of view, my point of view, absolutely 100 per cent I would expect Sam to be playing for us next season.”
Byram turned professional less than 12 months ago and was not expected to figure significantly in the 2012-13 term but he became a fixture in United’s line-up at an early stage of the season and was ever present until a hip injury forced him to miss the final two league matches against Brighton and Watford.
The problem was minor and Byram is due to begin pre-season training with the rest of United’s squad on June 27.
Talking last month about outside interest in him, Byram said: “It’s nice to hear that Premier League clubs are interested in me, just because it shows that I’m doing a good job here, but personally I’ve really enjoyed playing at Elland Road.
“The best way to learn is by playing games and the new manager’s been unbelievably encouraging with me.
“I like his style of play and I’m really happy.”

Bolton Wanderers defender keen on Whites move

YEP 14/5/13
Leeds United transfer target Matt Mills is keen on a move to Elland Road and a reunion with Whites chief Brian McDermott – who managed him at former club Reading.
Mills’ days at Bolton Wanderers look numbered, with the Lancastrians ready to sell the 26-year-old to provide boss and former United striker Dougie Freedman with cash to help fund a summer recruitment programme, with West Bromwich Albion centre-half Craig Dawson top of their shopping list.
Mills only joined the Trotters from Leicester City for an undisclosed fee – thought to be in the region of £2m – last July.
But the Swindon-born defender is expected to move onto pastures new once again, having not started a game for Freedman’s side since December 8, when he suffered a thigh injury in a 2-2 draw at Huddersfield Town – his only appearance in 2013 coming as a late sub in the reverse fixture against the Terriers in early April.
According to reports, a bid of £1m could prompt a sale.
Former United boss Neil Warnock made an abortive move to bring in Mills on loan soon after taking over in February 2012, when the big defender was out of favour at Leicester. Mills’ weekly wage packet, comfortably in excess of five figures, scuppered hopes of any business then and represent the big sticking point to a potential deal now – with the defender still having two years of his Reebok Stadium deal to run.
But Mills, according to sources close to him, is intent on reviving his career with a familiar face in McDermott, having worked under him at the Madejski Stadium during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 campaigns.
He is understood to be prepared to reject rival interest if it means he could secure a move to West Yorkshire.
Despite being signed by ex-Royals manager Brendan Rogers in the summer of 2009 from Doncaster Rovers, it was under McDermott and assistant-boss Nigel Gibbs – now together at United – that the centre-half prospered.
Mills was given a new lease of life under McDermott, who took over initially as caretaker manager in December 2009 and was a vital cog of the side who went within ninety minutes of being promoted to the Premier League, only to lose out to Swansea City in the Championship play-off final in May 2011.
That proved Mills’ last game for the Berkshire club ahead of his big-money £4.5m switch to Leicester, with the stopper penning a letter to Royals fans shortly after his move expressing his gratitude both to them and McDermott and his coaching staff.
Speaking at the time, Mills, who said that his move was prompted by a desire to play in the top-flight said: “My first few months at Reading didn’t pan out as the move I expected and wanted, but that all changed when Brian got the job and Gibbo became assistant manager.
“They gave me a new lease of life, and the opportunity and coaching they gave me has honestly made me the player I am now.”
After a stop-start past two seasons with first Leicester and now Bolton, Mills now wants to resurrect his career under McDermott at United.

Books confirm Gulf owners seeking new investment in Leeds Utd

Yorkshire Post 13/5/13
By Phil Hay
THE parent company of Leeds United owner GFH Capital has confirmed that the search for investment in the club is ongoing after announcing its latest financial results.
Gulf Finance House, the Bahraini investment bank which controls GFH Capital, said it “undertook due diligence on a number of potential strategic investors” for Leeds during a three-month period in which its small profits rose by 50 per cent.
GFH Capital bought a 100 per cent stake in Leeds in December and sold 10 per cent of that shareholding to another Bahraini organisation, the International Investment Bank (IIB), in March. But comments from company executive and United board member Hisham Alrayes indicated again that further sales of equity were planned.
The commitment of GFH Capital to long-term ownership of United came under scrutiny earlier in the year when a statement in Gulf Finance House’s annual accounts appeared to suggest that it would relinquish its entire stake in the Elland Road club before the end of 2013.
GFH Capital subsequently stated that it planned to retain an interest in Leeds, though the Dubai-based private equity firm is believed to be willing to give up a controlling stake.
Negotiations with Yorkshire businessman Steve Parkin over the sale of 51 per cent of shares – a process which began around four months ago – have so far failed to reach a positive conclusion.
Discussing Gulf Finance House’s figures for the first three months of 2013, Alrayes said that the firm was “focused on maximising the potential of our current portfolio and working on early exits from our projects.”
United’s owner is approaching a critical period in the club’s year with the Championship season over and the transfer window poised to open. Leeds manager Brian McDermott – currently out of the country on holiday – has submitted a list of seven targets to the Elland Road board and stressed the need for quick and effective recruitment this summer.
Gulf Finance House’s latest results show that the bank’s income in the initial quarter of 2013 fell in comparison to the previous year but its profit rose to around £1million.
Alrayes said: “We are pleased with the results of our efforts over the past quarter and look forward to announcing further progress in the coming period.
“Importantly, GFH Capital undertook due diligence on a number of potential strategic investors for Leeds United FC.
“Today, GFH is a bank firmly focused on maximising the potential of our current portfolio of investments and working on early exits from our projects.”
GFH Capital stated on the day of its takeover that it had the funds to support Leeds without external help but director Salem Patel expressed concerns about United’s cash flow, describing it as a “weakness”.
Leeds will use £3.3m from season ticket sales for next season to repay the remainder of the £5m loan provided by Ticketus for the rebuilding of Elland Road’s East Stand in 2011, and falling league attendances have affected the club’s revenue, though their income for the 2012-13 term was aided by multiple cup fixtures at Elland Road.
GFH Capital has been actively seeking investors since the turn of the year and Parkin came to the table in January with a view to securing a 51 per cent stake for a fee of around £12m.
Discussions do not appear to have made significant progress recently, however, though Parkin was unavailable for comment.
The past six months have seen substantial changes to the boardroom at Leeds, with another coming next month when Ken Bates resigns as chairman.
The 81-year-old agreed a deal to become club president when he sold his majority stake in Leeds to GFH Capital and he will start a three-year term in that position on July 1.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

New page uploaded at mightyleeds.co.uk

1 September 1973 - Tottenham 0 Leeds U 3

It was in a mood of burgeoning self-confidence that Don Revie's Leeds United arrived at Tottenham's White Hart Lane at the beginning of September 1973. The Whites had won their opening two games, defeating Everton 3-1 at Elland Road and following up with their first Division One victory in London since January 1971 by beating Arsenal 2-1 at Highbury in midweek.

Search for investment goes on for Leeds United owners GFH

YEP 11/5/13
By Phil Hay
The parent company of Leeds United owner GFH Capital has confirmed that the search for investment in the club is ongoing after announcing its latest financial results.
Gulf Finance House, the Bahraini investment bank which controls GFH Capital, said it “undertook due diligence on a number of potential strategic investors” for Leeds during a three-month period in which its small profits rose by 50 per cent.
GFH Capital bought a 100 per cent stake in Leeds in December and sold 10 per cent of that shareholding to another Bahraini organisation, the International Investment Bank (IIB), in March. But comments from company executive and United board member Hisham Alrayes indicated again that further sales of equity were planned.
The commitment of GFH Capital to long-term ownership of United came under scrutiny earlier in the year when a statement in Gulf Finance House’s annual accounts appeared to suggest that it would relinquish its entire stake in the Elland Road club before the end of 2013.
GFH Capital subsequently stated that it planned to retain an interest in Leeds, though the Dubai-based private equity firm is believed to be willing to give up a controlling stake.
Negotiations with Yorkshire businessman Steve Parkin over the sale of 51 per cent of shares – a process which began around four months ago – have so far failed to reach a positive conclusion.
Discussing Gulf Finance House’s figures for the first three months of 2013, Alrayes said that the firm was “focused on maximising the potential of our current portfolio and working on early exits from our projects.”
United’s owner is approaching a critical period in the club’s year with the Championship season over and the transfer window poised to open. Leeds manager Brian McDermott – currently out of the country on holiday – has submitted a list of seven targets to the Elland Road board and stressed the need for quick and effective recruitment this summer.
Gulf Finance House’s latest results show that the bank’s income in the initial quarter of 2013 fell in comparison to the previous year but its profit rose to around £1million.
Alrayes said: “We are pleased with the results of our efforts over the past quarter and look forward to announcing further progress in the coming period.
“Importantly, GFH Capital undertook due diligence on a number of potential strategic investors for Leeds United FC.
“Today, GFH is a bank firmly focused on maximising the potential of our current portfolio of investments and working on early exits from our projects.”
GFH Capital stated on the day of its takeover that it had the funds to support Leeds without external help but director Salem Patel expressed concerns about United’s cash flow, describing it as a “weakness”.
Leeds will use £3.3m from season ticket sales for next season to repay the remainder of the £5m loan provided by Ticketus for the rebuilding of Elland Road’s East Stand in 2011, and falling league attendances have affected the club’s revenue, though their income for the 2012-13 term was aided by multiple cup fixtures at Elland Road.
GFH Capital has been actively seeking investors since the turn of the year and Parkin came to the table in January with a view to securing a 51 per cent stake for a fee of around £12m.
Discussions do not appear to have made significant progress recently, however, though Parkin was unavailable for comment when contacted by the YEP.
The past six months have seen substantial changes to the boardroom at Leeds, with another coming next month when Ken Bates resigns as chairman.
The 81-year-old agreed a deal to become club president when he sold his majority stake in Leeds to GFH Capital and he will start a three-year term in that position on July 1.

Diouf claims are 'complete rubbish'

leedsunited.com 9/5/13
African claims dismissed...
Claims being made by Guinean club AS Kaloum about signing El-Hadji Diouf have been dismissed as "complete rubbish" by the player.
Officials from the African club have publicly claimed they expect to sign Diouf during the transfer window, despite the fact he has a year remaining on his current Elland Road contract.
Diouf, who returned to Senegal last week and is currently involved in a number of charity footballing events in the region, said: "It's complete rubbish.
"I have a contract with Leeds United, I will be back for pre-season training on June 27, and I'm looking forward to the new season."

Youngster Dawson signs new contract

leedsunited.com 8/5/13
Chris gets his reward... Highly-rated youngster Chris Dawson has signed a new three-year contract with the club.
The 18-year-old, who made his first team debut against Derby in April, was already under contract until 2015, but he has accepted the offer of a new three-year deal, and is looking forward to the future.
"I'm really pleased with how my season has gone and this is a reward at the end of it," said Chris.
"At the start, I was hoping to maybe get a one-year 'pro' by Christmas and then kick-on next season, but it's obviously gone a lot better than expected and I've got three years now.
"This will give me a lot more opportunities and I have more time to work things and improve."
Chris started the campaign in the Under-18s and moved up to the Under-21s where he scored seven goals in 12 appearances.
"As a first year scholar I didn't get an opportunity all season, but this year I started in the 18s and I have become a better player by playing more games and I hope to carry that on next season as well," he said.
"I moved up to the Under-21s and did well there, and I got my chance in the first team. Hopefully I can do well there next season. After my first year when I didn't expect to get anything at all, it's a great feeling."
The culmination of Chris's season came on Easter Monday when he made his first team debut against Derby County at Elland Road.
"It was nervy at first, but once you're on the pitch it's okay," he said.
"I'd never played at the level before, but you get used to it once you've done it. I try and stay level headed. I know what I need to do to become the player I want to be, so things don't faze me too much."
Chris has also been involved on the international stage, making his Wales Under-21 debut in January.
"It's been a good experience playing against other countries at that level and it can only make me a better player," he said.
Like all Academy graduates, Chris was quick to pay tribute to the coaching staff at the club, and despite missing the closing weeks with a shoulder injury, new manager Brian McDermott has offered words of encouragement for next term.
"The Academy has been really important," said Chris. "I've had a lot of encouragement from all the staff. It helps when you talk to them.
"I've spoken with the new manager a couple of times and he seems like a really good guy. The style of football he plays suits me so I can't wait for it to start.
"I had a shoulder operation a few weeks ago which has gone well so I'm looking forward to pre-season now. If I can play a part in pre-season hopefully I can impress and see where it goes."

Poleon confident he make it with Leeds United INTERVIEW

YEP 8/5/13
By Phil Hay
Brian McDermott is not the first manager to think that Dominic Poleon has something to offer at Elland Road. Poleon has been a prospect-in-waiting since Leeds United took him from Southend United’s youth system at the age of 16.
His opportunity to shine against Watford on Saturday was a matter of convenience more than anything else – the only striker left once Steve Morison took an elbow to the face – but members of staff at Thorp Arch expected Poleon to break through the academy ceiling eventually. He departs for the summer now, safe in the knowledge that McDermott will give him a chance.
Poleon had a chance of sorts under Neil Warnock, the manager in situ when the 19-year-old turned professional last summer, but never quite met Warnock’s needs. He played and scored on his full debut against Nottingham Forest but was sent on loan to Bury soon after. A later appearance against Crystal Palace went badly wrong, with Poleon culpable for the lax defending which threatened a priceless Championship win. He suffered that rare humiliation of a substitute being substituted.
His contract was extended under Warnock in January but Leeds sent him on loan to Sheffield United nonetheless, at a time when their former boss was complaining regularly about the attacking limitations of his team. When United sacked Warnock, Poleon was recalled by caretaker Neil Redfearn within 48 hours, ensuring that he was available to McDermott last weekend.
The 52-year-old turned to Poleon for the first time at Vicarage Road and the forward provided ample energy up front, scoring late in the first half. Quick pace, natural strength and inherent confidence were trademarks of Poleon’s academy and reserve-team appearances, along with an undeniable ability to finish. McDermott’s message to him was simple – get fit in the summer and more appearances will come. This pre-season will be crucial for him.
“The manager has said to work hard and come back fit as a fiddle and fighting,” Poleon said. “I believe in my own ability. I can score goals and I think I can bring something different to the team by using my pace.
“I’ve learned loads this season and it’s been up and down, going out on loan and getting recalled, but you have to bide your time. When things like Saturday happen, you have to try and take your chance.”
McDermott uttered an old adage after full-time on Saturday – “the youngsters here, if they’re good enough they’re old enough,” he said – but the game at Watford gave some impression of his attitude towards junior pros.
Zac Thompson was preferred in midfield to the ageing and increasingly surplus Michael Brown, though Thompson’s ineligibility saw him replaced before kick-off. With Brown promoted to the starting line-up, Simon Lenighan took a seat on the bench. Defender Ross Killock and young goalkeeper Alex Cairns also featured among the substitutes.
A number of those decisions were brought on by a squad reduced to its bare skeleton by injuries and bans but the feeling at Thorp Arch is that McDermott’s focus on the academy will be less superficial and more consistent than Warnock’s. His promise to Poleon is likely to be kept.
Peter Lorimer, United’s record goalscorer, said: “Poleon looks promising. He’s got a goalscorer’s attitude but, like a lot of lads, plenty to learn too.
“I’m not sure he was ever Neil’s type of player and he’ll probably be more suited to the style of football which Brian McDermott likes to play but to be fair to Neil, there were occasions when Poleon showed a little bit of inexperience. Defensively there was quite a bit he needed to brush up on.
“But this is why you send players out on loan. You hope that they’ll get games every week and play in proper atmospheres, in front of proper crowds; not 70 or 80 people at Thorp Arch.
“When you get to Poleon’s age you need the feeling of added pressure that comes from producing the goods for demanding supporters.”
McDermott’s primary hope on Saturday might have been for Morison to emerge from the mediocre form which consumed him after his transfer from Norwich City in January. Morison has made hard work of demonstrating his class and is already beset by scepticism among the club’s support. His involvement at Vicarage Road ended after eight minutes when a collision with Joel Ekstrand left him with concussion.
Poleon stepped into the fray and scored on 42 minutes when a defensive error gave him the responsibility of tapping the ball into an empty net from a yard out.
It was one of several incidents which resigned Watford to a place in the play-offs on a day when victory over Leeds would have sent them into the Premier League automatically.
“Any opportunity to score, I have to take,” Poleon said. “I didn’t sky it.
“It was a ball over the top, and I had to gamble using my pace. There was a little ricochet and I couldn’t miss.
“For us it was about getting the result. Spoiling (Watford’s) party comes with that but it was more about getting the win. You go home with a smile on your face after any win but going there, winning and upsetting them was the best thing we could have hoped for.”
It was Poleon’s misfortune to see the season end on Saturday. With Morison concussed and Habib Habibou sent back to Belgium after an unproductive loan at Elland Road, he would have been in line for further appearances. But his outing against Watford prompted McDermott to talk of a “real asset” who will be heavily involved in pre-season training, despite the prospect of up to seven new players joining the club this summer.
“You have to be ready,” Poleon said. “I’ve been training and working hard and when you get the shout and cross that line, you have to be ready. These things happen in football.”

Monday, May 06, 2013

McDermott hands list of potential targets to Elland Road board

YEP 6/5/13
By Phil Hay
Brian McDermott wants as many as seven new signings in place before the start of next season after Leeds United ended a hard campaign with a morale-lifting win at Watford.
United signed off the 2012-13 term by recording their first away victory in more than five months, wrecking Watford’s bid for automatic promotion in the process.
A last-minute goal from Ross McCormack settled a pulsating match at Vicarage Road and a satisfied McDermott praised United’s “integrity” on a day when his players found themselves at the centre of a chaotic promotion fight.
But the Leeds boss spoke of major changes to come after revealing that he had asked the United chief executive Shaun Harvey and technical director Gwyn Williams to make approaches to “six or seven” summer targets. McDermott released a total of 10 players on Friday but is yet to transfer-list any of the senior professionals who are contracted to Leeds for next season and beyond.
But the 52-year-old said: “We’ll see what happens and we’ll see who we manage to bring in. I’ve given Gwyn and Shaun a list of six or seven players who I’d like to talk to. Giving a list and getting players over the line isn’t the same and it’s not easy to get players over the line. My experience of football is that sometimes it takes longer than you’d like.
“But it would be nice to do business early. Recruitment is going to be really important for us.”
McDermott replaced Neil Warnock as manager three weeks ago but he refused to talk up Leeds’ chances in the 12 months ahead, saying: “We’ll find out how good we are at the end of next season.”

A fit Poleon can be a major asset for us - Mac

YEP 6/5/13
Dominic Poleon has been told that a hard and committed summer will earn him a place in Leeds United’s plans for next season after making the most of an unexpected opportunity on Saturday.
The youngster’s goalscoring appearance helped Leeds round off their Championship campaign with a 2-1 win over Watford and secured a promise of future involvement from manager Brian McDermott.
Poleon stepped into the breach after Steve Morison suffered concussion eight minutes into a bizarre and dramatic game and he opened the scoring with a simple tap-in following a mix-up between Watford goalkeeper Jack Bonham and defender Joel Ekstrand.
The outing was his first for Leeds in more than seven months and a positive step forward by an academy product who made his senior debut on the first day of the season.
He started and scored in a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest on September 22 but failed to feature again under McDermott’s predecessor, Neil Warnock.
Poleon was sent on loan to Bury before Christmas and moved to Sheffield United in February but was recalled from Bramall Lane less than 48 hours after Warnock’s sacking on April 1.
McDermott said: “He’s a young boy from the academy and he’s got pace and power. What we need to do is get him really fit.
“If he can get fit through the summer then he can be a real asset for us. He scored his goal on Saturday and I’d spoken to him after he scored a goal for the reserves last weekend.
“The younger ones coming through here – if they’re good enough, they’re old enough.”
United are speaking in increasingly optimistic terms about their junior ranks and particularly of their Under-18s side who won the northern League Two title last month and were beaten 1-0 by southern runners-up Queens Park Rangers in a play-off semi-final on Saturday.
McDermott attempted to field midfielder Zac Thompson from the start against Watford but replaced him with Michael Brown shortly before kick-off after learning that Thompson was ineligible due to his recent loan at Bury.
United’s 2-1 win at Watford –sealed by a last-minute chip from Ross McCormack – lifted them to 13th in the Championship table and resigned Watford to the play-offs on a day when Gianfranco Zola’s side threatened to snatch automatic promotion.
McDermott, who took charge at Elland Road three weeks ago, will attempt to edge United into a more prominent position next season but the Leeds boss was reluctant to make predictions about the club’s prospects ahead of a summer when changes to his squad are likely to be substantial.
The 52-year-old has spoken repeatedly of improving United’s infrastructure and addressing issues beyond the rebuilding of his squad, with a review of operations at the club’s Thorp Arch training complex already in progress.
McDermott said: “It’s really easy to talk about what you could do or what you might do but it’s just words and it means nothing to me.
“We have to build something here. We’re trying to build a club. We also need the players to come back from the summer absolutely tip-top.
“We come back on the June 27 and we’ll be going somewhere to train. Then we’ll have pre-season and then we’ll kick off. Then we can start talking about what might be done. But everything else is just words at the moment. It doesn’t mean anything.
“It’s 10 years since Leeds were in the league above (the Premier League) and we’re trying to make something solid, trying to build something with foundations.
“It’s not just a case of putting 15 or 20 players together and forgetting about everything else. There’s a lot to be done here and we’ll be doing it through the summer.”

Watford v Leeds United: McCormack winner has sting in the tail

YEP 6/5/13
The final Championship table does not tell even half the story of Leeds United’s year or the last hours of the season.
“Amazing” was Brian McDermott’s verdict as the dust settled and, through gritted teeth and a sad smile, Gianfranco Zola agreed.
Football’s purists look elsewhere for fulfilment – with just cause going on the past nine months – but they will not find a division in Europe which ends as the Championship did on Saturday.
Plots, sub-plots, extreme emotion; in isolation at Vicarage Road and at other stadiums miles away. Leeds United were neutrals amid the fighting, forced to sit in that bemusing no-man’s land created by a league in which half of its clubs had something to gain from their 46th game.
Automatic promotion was Watford’s Elysium but Leeds gave them hell, riding the most distracting of atmospheres and walking off into the summer sun with a rare away win.
That in itself – United’s first league victory away from home for 154 days – made their game against Watford resonate but the controlled style of a fine result against a club who had a foot in second place for all of nine minutes was overlooked afterwards. For the media present, it was a case of where to begin and how to make sense of breathless weekend.
Leeds were toying with mid-table positions on Saturday and duly finished 13th. For Hull City, the scenario was more loaded – equal or better Watford’s result and a place in the Premier League was theirs. Hull held that side of the bargain, drawing 2-2 with Cardiff City at the KC Stadium while United tortured Watford. How different it could have been.
For McDermott, his sole concern was that Leeds left Vicarage Road with a flush of satisfaction and their professionalism intact. He and Zola are good friends, managers who worked on a coaching licence together, but McDermott did not want to be seen doing favours for his Italian colleague.
“It was so important for the integrity of the league that we made sure we were spot on and did our business for our club,” he said. “We’ve done that.
“Gianfranco’s a friend of mine and I feel for him because if I was in his shoes then he’d be the same with me. But during the game you do what you have to do.
“He’s a great guy and I hope Watford do well. They’ve still got a chance. They’ve got every chance of going to Wembley and every chance of going up.”
So for Watford the play-offs and for Leeds a holiday which could not be accused of coming too soon.
In years to come, the 2012-13 season will look like a non-event but those who endured it will recall the longest of takeovers, the slow surrender of Ken Bates, a failed experiment with Neil Warnock and the urgent approach to McDermott last month which, above all else, kept relegation at bay.
The ruck at the bottom of the Championship was brutal on Saturday and Leeds were well out of it. Their own mediocrity has been surpassed by others.
When Watford look back, they will say that the last afternoon of the season was a time when everything which could have gone wrong did go wrong. But Leeds had their problems too.
The seams of the game split as early as the pre-match warm up when Watford goalkeeper Manuel Almunia cried off with a hamstring injury and Leeds realised at short notice that complications with paperwork relating to Zac Thompson’s recent loan at Bury rendered him ineligible.
McDermott had unexpectedly named the young midfielder in his starting line-up but Michael Brown’s sudden dash towards the tunnel 10 minutes before kick-off pointed to an imminent change. Thompson seemed oblivious to the chaos but was hastily withdrawn and replaced by Brown. “There was a mix-up regarding the paperwork but we took care of that,” McDermott said. “There’s no problem, it’s just one of those things.”
The Football League would doubtless have come knocking had the oversight not been rectified. Zola replaced Almunia with Jonathan Bond, one of three keepers he would use before the day was out.
Bond had been on the field for only 22 minutes when a collision between him and right-back Ikechi Anya left him with a broken nose and in need of oxygen and a stretcher. Poleon was implicated and booked for a push on Anya as the ball bounced into Watford’s box but he and Bond made peace on Twitter later and Zola did not take issue with the young forward. “It was very unfortunate,” Zola said.
Poleon himself was only present because Steve Morison – recalled by McDermott – suffered concussion and a cut face in the eighth minute. Laid out by Joel Ekstrand’s swinging elbow, he took some time to get to his feet and walked unsteadily down the tunnel. Ekstrand, like Poleon, protested his innocence.
Michael Brown did the same after appearing to trip Jonathan Hogg inside United’s box five minutes later but the injury to Bond was pivotal, not only for Watford but the entire afternoon.
His treatment ran and ran and referee Graham Salisbury added 16 minutes of injury-time when normal time in the first half elapsed. The implication for Hull was that their fixture against Cardiff would finish long before the match at Vicarage Road. Supporters at both ends of the country were chewing their nails by then.
In no small way, the relevance of matters on Humberside was a troublesome diversion. Chinese whispers in the home end at Watford spoke wrongly of a Cardiff goal late in the first half, prompting ecstatic reaction around the ground. Watford’s players were snared by the noise and in the 42nd minute, Bond’s replacement – 19-year-old debutant Jack Bonham – lost communication with Ekstrand and lured the defender into a mis-hit clearance which gifted Poleon a tap-in from a yard.
Bonham had come to Vicarage Road as a spectator and was surprised to find himself on the bench. His eventual promotion to Watford’s team was hopelessly cruel, ending with another bad error at the death. “In football, you make mistakes,” Zola said. “I’m not going to blame him for one second. I’m just expecting a good reaction from him, that’s all I’m asking for.”
In the extended period of first-half injury-time, Watford salvaged failing optimism when Almen Abdi picked out the top corner of Paddy Kenny’s net with a beautiful shot from 20 yards. Cardiff scored soon after but Leeds offered no help. Watford were troubled further when Troy Deeney – already booked for kicking the ball away – earned a red card for lunge on Brown in the 61st minute. United worked on Watford’s tiring legs until news of late chaos at Hull positioned Zola’s players within a goal of promotion with nine minutes to play.
Kenny denied them it by beating shots from Hogg, Matej Vydra and Nathaniel Chalobah off his line and as Watford drew breath for one last push in the 90th minute, Aidan White played the ball out to Ross McCormack who sprinted into an empty half of the pitch and attacked Bonham with a chip which slipped through the teenager’s hands and bounced over the line, forcing Vicarage Road to smell the coffee. It was football at its most compelling, as Zola was forced to admit. Leeds would still trade a few weeks of holiday for the chance that Watford have left.

Gianfranco Zola's body language betrays Watford's promotion disappointment

Independent 6/5/13
Michael Calvin
There's something of the country curate about Gianfranco Zola, a transparent decency and thoughtfulness which makes one care for his welfare. In such a harsh, unremittingly challenging environment as professional football, his body language is too eloquent for his own good.
He couldn't disguise the hurt of Watford's failure to clinch automatic promotion. He hovered over his seat, visibly impatient to end the inquest into the 2-1 defeat by Leeds, and return to a dressing room which was a cross between a confessional and a psychotherapist's consulting room.
Zola has a huge job to lift his players, physically and mentally, for the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-final at Leicester City on Thursday. Watford defeated them twice during the regular season, but his team were hollow-eyed with disappointment, knowing they were a goal away from the Premier League on a surreal afternoon at Vicarage Road.
"I know how tough this is for all of my players, " Zola said, with trademark earnestness. "Now it is a question of using the right leverages to get the best out of them on Thursday. I can assure you we are not going to approach the play-offs feeling sorry for ourselves, otherwise we will concede too much advantage to our rivals, but we will do everything possible to make sure they are up for it.
"I've never been through the play-offs before, so this is something new for me as well. The players will still be down over the weekend, but on Monday they will be ready to fight. I don't think the games we've played against Leicester earlier this season will be relevant. This is a completely new game, a new challenge, and we will be ready for it."
Brave words, but problems accumulate. Zola must hope first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia recovers from the hamstring injury which forced him out of the Leeds game during the warm-up. Second choice Jonathan Bond has a badly broken nose, and third choice Jack Bonham was traumatised by his unexpected debut, as substitute.
Many in the game are willing Watford to fail, because of the opportunism of the Pozzo family, in adding the homely Hertfordshire club to their burgeoning football empire. The Italian owners addressed the players in the dressing room, and stressed they are ahead of schedule.
Watford's 16 loan players represent an unfair advantage, but at least one of them, Nat Chalobah, will be in the Premier League next season. He is occasionally indolent, but has ease on the ball. Still only 18, he could be the future of Chelsea's midfield.
"Everyone is gutted," he admitted. "It's not a nice feeling to know you came so close and then right at the end to see things go wrong, but that is football. You just have to stay positive. It is deflating, but we have a good bunch here. Not a lot of people get two chances at promotion, two bites at the cherry, but we have that. Now we have to go back and see if we can do it that way."

Watford 1 Leeds United 2: Fans Fittingly Provided With a Final Flourish

Fear and Loathing in LS11 5/5/13
by Ken DeMange
In a season where positives on the pitch have been thin on the ground and solace has only been consistently been found in the support the club continues to receive in the stands, it was fitting that the football should take a second billing for the visit to Watford.
Even in the darkest hours, the spirit sapping humiliations at the KC Stadium and Oakwell, the string of late conceded goals, the horrific spectacle of a seeing Jason Pearce and Rodolph Austin paired together at the back in the closing stages at The Valley, being reduced to pinning our hopes on Habib Habibou and the long, 6 month stretch without witnessing a league win, not mention the 4+ months without a first half league goal…even then, the fans’ heads have never bowed. Yesterday was all about them.
A 6.00am departure on the White Rose Supporters’ coach was evidence enough that a 12.45pm kick-off was but one component of the day’s plans. The nature of the passengers, provided rather more clues; it’s not often that Violet Incredible, the Honey Monster, Wonder Woman, a clown, Robin, a banana, and a surgeon follow Bananaman…and woman, onto a coach. The final day fancy dress p***-up was upon us.
A stop off at Barnsley and suddenly a 6 foot baby, Oompa Loompa and Brian McDermott amongst others, swell the numbers. Then on to the services at Leicester Forest and the coaches from Harrogate roll in: we now have FOUR Honey Monsters heading for Vicarage Road!
I’d heartily recommend becoming a Honey Monster for a day; it attracts many stares – some amused, some bemused, and of them can be enjoyed behind the anonymity of the meshing in the mouth. One key tip though: be very careful in the gents’ toilets, you really wouldn’t want to get those furry feet damp with a long day in prospect.
So onwards to the designated pub stop; Gary Cooper’s Wetherspoons in Dunstable. The typical phenomenon of a paltry supply of bar staff, suddenly overwhelmed by a few coach loads of Leeds fans rolling up at 9am, waving money and demanding ale in exchange. A young family were sat at the rear, two small children seemingly excited by a scene that even Lazy Town would fail to match as a strange, technicolor mind ***k.
Two hours later and the last leg of the coach journey to the stadium. Therein, more of the weird and wonderful final day sights – a full coach load of perfectly co-ordinated convicts, chickens, nuns, arbitrary Elvis, Guantanamo inmates, Scooby Doo amongst the number. The clouds have parted, the temperature’s rising, Neil Warnock is gone and the pressure is off in the Leeds end – happy days at last…contrast that to the other two (and a bit) stands where all the doubt and suffering is happening. The boot is finally on the other foot – a chance not to be missed!
So the teams arrive on the pitch; the stadium announcer spinning hyperbole to almost dizzying heights in an effort to inspire the home support; he fails, a few, half-hearted, insipid offerings are the best that can be mustered. Kudos to Watford fans, I thought only Reading supporters were capable of reducing the frenzied passion of a promotion deciding fixture to something more befitting of a pre-season friendly. I was wrong.
Early exchanges on the pitch do little to inspire, the club installed drummer seemingly forcing a few cursory handclaps amongst pockets at the end behind the goal, but that apart, nothing. A procession of injuries then serves to stifle all momentum; Steve Morison confounds experts by becoming sufficiently involved to take a blow that necessitates his withdrawal on the grounds of concussion; but with his exit comes the arrival of Dominic Poleon and the seeds of Watford’s misery are sown.
Minutes later, a shove on a defender by Poleon as he chases a through ball is sufficient to floor the goal keeper as a by-product; over 10 minutes later the departing stretcher crosses paths with the day’s third choice keeper, 19 year-old Jack Bonham and with it went Watfordian dreams of contemplating life at football’s top table, come Saturday evening.
It could still have gone the home side’s way at that stage, but Michael Brown’s clumsy challenge on Jonathan Hogg drew a dismissive glance from the referee instead of drawing a penalty and a red card. While Watford heads were still collectively shaking, Poleon cemented his place amongst the ‘Leeds Scum’ by chasing down a long ball and getting his head to it amidst shambolic communication between defender and goalkeeper, before collecting his own assist to tap in from a yard.
The home fans, moments earlier, at their most animated, celebrating a goal that never happened in Hull were stung back into their default mode of silence. “We’re only here, to spoil your party!” resounded from the Leeds end as the play-offs suddenly loomed large.
As chants of “Enger-land, Enger-land, Enger-land” and “You’re just a s*** Udinese” punctured the stifling apathy amongst the majority, Watford had to respond and they did. The tempo was raised and reward was forthcoming as Almen Abdi curled in gloriously in the 6th minute of added time. Ten minutes later as the teams finally left the pitch for half-time, the mood was changed.
Watford were suddenly back in it and up at the KC Stadium, Hull were leaving the dressing rooms knowing the cushion of Watford trailing was gone. Midway through the half-time ‘entertainment’ the stadium announcer broke news of a Cardiff goal – fists were raised in celebration and he responded by assuring supporters that he’d keep them abreast of any further developments.
With the players due to return he left the pitch imploring the supporters, win, lose or draw to “back the boys like never before”…polite applause met the reappearing teams, little else. Maybe the Watford fans knew what was coming, with the second half barely underway, news of a Hull equaliser filtered through, minutes later another Hull goal…the stadium announcer was suddenly conspicuous by his absence.
Hull, by no means a beloved club of Leeds fans (at least to the extent anyone could be bothered by Hull) had, at least provided more opportunities to goad and more chants alluding to party pooping, our Yorkshire identity and tongue in cheek choruses of “Tigers, Tigers! Rah! Rah! Rah!’ followed.
While on the whole, Watford heads began to drop, Troy Deeney instead chose to lose his, lunging at Michael Brown on the touchline. The referee chose to show mercy, sparing him a second yellow, rather than a straight red but his game was over all the same, in the process, a thousand journalists with their hearts set on a ‘Jailbird to Premier League footballer’ rehabilitation story were heard to snap their pens in unison.
Watford were a man down and with Brown quickly then having to retire injured, some of the more cynical Leeds fans were moved to suggest that Leeds had suddenly found themselves at an even greater advantage. With only hope left to invest in, Watford pushed desperately onwards, but whereas only a few weeks ago, that in itself would’ve been enough to bring a goal, Leeds’ new found ability to keep possession made it a far more troublesome pursuit.
News suddenly arrived on the network of radios; a Hull penalty miss, then seconds later a converted Cardiff spot kick – it was all over at the KC and suddenly promotion was back on, just for the want of the goal. Step forward Paddy Kenny with three outstanding saves, and then with 35 seconds of regulation time, Ross McCormack…
In a season that’s produced so few player’s worth celebrating and with Sam Byram sidelined by ‘injury’ it was fitting that the Scot should provide the last abiding memory of the season. With Watford stretched he broke forward and has he approached the penalty area, opted to catch out Bonham with a deft chip; it wasn’t the best attempt, too softly struck, but somehow the 19 year-old conspired to help the ball over his head and under the bar.
Mad celebrations ensued in the Leeds end, not even tainted by the thought of similar scenes back up in Hull. An away win AND a first half goal all in space of one afternoon!! In contrast Bonham stood disconsolate, hands on hips, the cruel taunts of “2-1! It’s your keeper’s fault!” barely registering…at least you’d hope for his sake, that was the case.
In a season punctuated by misery, it seemed like some form of twisted payback that Leeds fans could now finally stand back and witness the suffering of others, first hand, just for once. Throw in the 6-1 Elland Road reverse and the play-off final humbling of 2006 and maybe it was even easier to understand the pleasure taken by many in goading the home fans on the way to the coaches and the journey towards the motorway.
Back to Leeds for one final, but happier pub post-mortem…and en route there, some demands for Honey Monster hugs from complete strangers, including a new bride!
Once around the table, beers in hand, the general vibe almost identical to this time last year:
“Well thank God this season’s finally over…over 2 months until pre-season kicks off, you say?”
MOT.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Watford 1 Leeds United 2 match report: Jack Bonham left in private hell as he lets Watford's chances slip

Independent 5/5/13
The Calvin Report: He was the club's most unlikely recruit since wine waiter Gary Plumley
Michael Calvin
An afternoon which began portentously with thunder and lightning ended in bitter anticlimax and undisguised anxiety for the welfare of two young Watford goalkeepers. One was in the hospital adjoining the Vicarage Road ground, and the other was in a private hell.
The worrying facial injury to goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, sustained halfway through a first half which stretched to 62 minutes, was a moment of brutal perspective which introduced Jack Bonham to the pitiless realities of the professional game.
Watford's third-choice keeper, dragooned into his debut, was culpable for both of the goals which condemned them to defeat, and a Championship play-off semi-final against Leicester. They will be without striker Troy Deeney, sent off for a scything foul on that enduring irritant Michael Brown, for the first leg at the KP Stadium on Thursday.
Bonham may be pressed into service again because, in keeping with the surreal nature of the occasion, Watford lost first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia in the warm-up with a recurrence of a hamstring injury. Bond's season is surely over, although his manager, Gianfranco Zola, suggested, somewhat improbably, that he might be able to play in a protective mask. Bond had demonstrated the requisite bravery of his trade, throwing himself into the path of the ball, and into harm's way, just before the Leeds substitute Dominic Poleon appeared to push the defender Ikechi Anya into him at pace.
It was a sickening collision, and the alarm signals from the players around him were stark and immediate. The goalkeeper was attended by seven medical staff and two paramedics for fully 12 minutes. He was given oxygen and taken away on a stretcher to a standing ovation.
Bond had broken his nose, badly, and left Zola awaiting the results of scans. "The way he went down looked very bad," Zola said. "It looked like he wasn't responding." Staff had to clear the pitch of bloodied tissues and pour water on a bloodied patch of turf before play could resume.
Bonham consequently became a central character in a game he assumed he would be watching from the stand. A gangling figure in a silver-grey shirt that was a little too short for his torso, he looked unkempt, and on the verge of hyperventilation. He was Watford's most unlikely recruit since Graham Taylor selected Gary Plumley, a wine waiter, for the 1987 FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham. They lost 4-1 that day, and, with a place in the Premier League at stake, Bonham did not have long to discover the limits of romanticism.
He had touched the ball only twice when he failed to command his area and clear out a hopeful punt forward. He collided with the defender Joel Ekstrand, who could only hook his attempted clearance into the face of Poleon, who blinked before walking the ball into empty net. Watford's equaliser was worked across the box by Anya into the path of the outstanding Almen Abdi, whose driven shot into the top corner was a mark of genuine quality.
Everyone then entered a parallel universe of hope and hysteria. Watford's players were confronted by sudden opportunity when they were still in the sanctuary of the dressing room as Cardiff took the lead at the KC Stadium, but hope appeared to die when Hull scored twice in five minutes.
News that Hull had eventually drawn was greeted with frenzy. Watford, reduced to 10 men when Deeney picked up his second yellow card, had almost a quarter of an hour to score the goal which would have earned them a promotion popularly assumed to be worth £120 million.
"At that moment, I thought we could do it," said Zola, whose optimism was undermined by Paddy Kenny. The Leeds goalkeeper showed remarkable agility for someone so heavily boned, and made three outstanding saves before, with 35 seconds of regulation time remaining, Aidan White sent Ross McCormack clear.
A goalkeeper with greater experience than Bonham would have come out assertively and narrowed the angle. But Bonham hesitated, and could only paw McCormack's chip into the net. Zola refused to apportion blame, but the dream was over, in nightmare fashion.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Leeds' Ross McCormack spoils Watford's automatic dream at the death

Guardian 4/5/13
Watford 1-2 Leeds United
Jacob Steinberg at Vicarage Road
For Watford it was an afternoon when absolutely nothing went right and at the end of it there was an unmistakeable sense of what might have been. When Cardiff City scored a dramatic late penalty to earn a 2-2 draw with Hull City, Watford, who were being held 1-1 at home by Leeds only needed one goal to steal the final automatic promotion place. One goal to decide an entire season.
Yet no sooner had the prospect of Premier League football been dangled tantalisingly in front of Watford, it was snatched away from them. As they poured men forward in search of a decisive winning goal there was space for Leeds to exploit on the break and when Aidan White sent Ross McCormack racing away down the right flank in the 90th minute, his tame chip from 25 yards out somehow slipped through the fingers of the teenage debutant keeper, Jack Bonham, and slithered agonisingly over the line to condemn Watford to the play-offs. "I thought we were going to make it," Gianfranco Zola said. "I knew we had the quality to create a goal. It was a big gamble but I had to try."
Watford cannot dwell on the past, though, and Zola must lift his side ahead of the first leg of their play-off semi-final away to Leicester on Thursday. He already knows that he will be without Troy Deeney, who was sent off for two bookings, while Manuel Almunia injured his left hamstring in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Jonathan Bond, who was taken to hospital after suffering a sickening injury in the first half.
When a long ball was launched forward for Dominic Poleon, on as a substitute for a bloodied Steve Morison after he was involved in a collision with Joel Ekstrand, to chase there did not appear to be any danger. Yet as Ikechi Anya came across to shepherd the ball back to his keeper, Poleon gave the defender a sly, disgraceful push in the back, causing him to clatter into Bond.
The blood on the pitch told its own story, as did 16 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half, and it was a dereliction of duty on the part of the referee Graham Salisbury that he did not send Poleon off. Overall Salisbury did not cover himself in glory, having earlier missed Michael Brown denying Jonathan Hogg a clear goalscoring opportunity when he tripped the Watford midfielder in the area.
Brian McDermott claimed the injury to Bond was an accident, while Zola did not seek to castigate Poleon. "Bond has a broken nose," the Italian said. "He has been taken to the hospital for an assessment. If it's only a broken nose he should be ok. Now you can play with protection. It looked like he wasn't responding. The way he went down was worrying."
On came young Bonham to make his debut in difficult circumstances. He had arrived at Vicarage Road expecting to watch the match from the stands but instead found himself thrust into action in Watford's biggest game of the season. It was too much. Three minutes before half-time Leeds hoofed it again and Poleon took advantage of indecision between Bonham and Ekstrand to score. The irony was presumably lost on Watford.
There had been a flatness about Watford but falling behind seemed to rouse them. In the sixth minute of added time Nathaniel Chalobah sprayed a pass out to Anya, who cut inside and found Almen Abdi on the edge of the area. His outstanding curler from the edge of the area gave Leeds keeper Paddy Kenny no chance.
At last the tension had been lifted and news soon filtered through that Cardiff had taken the lead at Hull. Suddenly belief coursed through Watford – and evaporated just as quickly as Hull scored twice before Deeney, already on a booking, sent Brown flying. At that point it looked up for Watford and for a while the game drifted into irrelevance, even if Kenny had to react well to save from Matej Vydra.
Yet at times this had felt like a race that no one wanted to win and when Hull, who have mastered the art of choking in recent weeks, missed a penalty that would have made it 3-1 and then conceded one that made it 2-2, Watford could dream again. "Interesting game," McDermott said. "Amazing game." He could have been summing up the entire sport itself.
Having been offered a glimmer of hope, the 10 men attacked with renewed urgency, Kenny saving well from Abdi and Chalobah, and Fernando Forestieri stabbing a shot into the side-netting. On the touchline Zola thought a goal was on its way. It was, just not at the right end. There was to be no fairytale ending. Perhaps it will have to wait for Wembley.