By Mike Courtney
You know things are going well at your club when the emergency loan window closes and there was no clamouring on social media or fans forums for signings. Yes all is good down Elland Road way at the moment. That's not to say that the squad assembled by BMAC is by far the finished article. Most would agree that we are probably short one or two quality signings to sustain our rise up the table, but that can wait until the transfer window opens in January. The recent additions of Blackstock and Marius Zaliukas have strengthened the squad and the run we are on at the moment, with 5 wins in the last 6 games has seen Leeds climb into the top six.
Heading into the busy festive schedule, with 7 games coming up in the next few weeks, we will need the strength in depth that the squad now has, starting with a tricky trip across the Pennines to Ewood Park. Leeds will travel with confidence backed by over 6000 of the faithful. Our away form is still a bit of an issue and will need to improve somewhat if we are to gather all three points. It could end up a battle of the Scots with in form Ross McCormack, on the back of 7 goals in 3 games, up against Jordan Rhodes the 8 million pound man. Since Ross has moved back up front, following stints on the wing and in the hole, the goals have started to flow and his partnership with either Matt Smith or Dexter Blackstock will cause the Blackburn defence problems. Hopefully he can keep up his good run of form and bag the goals necessary to get the victory.
The midfield trio of Murphy, Austin and the ever improving Mowatt virtually picks itself at this stage and they will need to be on top form to stifle the home midfield and create the chances for the front two. With Scott Wootten ruled out for a few weeks the three centre backs will be Pearce, Lees and Zaliukas and they will have their work cut out to curb the influence of Rhodes and Campbell. BMAC has a decision to make with the wing backs with Warnock and Byram back to full fitness but the form shown by Peltier and the Resurrection Man, Danny Pugh, might give the boss some headaches before he settles on his starting eleven. Both have been performing well and though I do feel Byram is a better alternative to Peltier it will be hard to drop the ex-skipper based on his recent performances.
From a fans perspective it is great to have these options and I'm sure that that competition within the squad for a starting place is welcomed by the manager and all at the club. The team is playing with renewed confidence since the change of formation. Tomorrow will be another stern test but with Rossco in the form of his life we can nick another vital three points to maintain of top six spot.
Leeds to win 2-1 with Ross and Mowatt (he is due a goal after his recent performances) on the score sheet. We can then start preparing for our two home games against Wigan and Watford as we head into a busy December.
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds
By Mark Rasdall
Although I can't be there at Ewood Park with the 6,800 travelling Leeds United fans on Saturday, I will be there in spirit as I was nearly ten years ago when we played Blackburn Rovers on 10th April 2004. We got an early goal through Stephen Caldwell and then Mark Viduka scored just before the end. Being Leeds of course that wasn't the end. Craig Short got a goal back in injury time for Rovers to shred our nerves even further but we held on for a second consecutive Premier League win - for the first time in what was a miserable season for LUFC.
We all remember Viduka for the game at Bolton of course but on that April afternoon we and Eddie Gray thought he was going to repeat the heroics of the previous season (remember that goal against Arsenal?) and keep us up. He didn't and we were relegated with the same number of points (33) as Leicester and vile Dave Jones's Wolves. Our goal difference was a terrible -39: the same as Wolves.
Brad Friedel was in goal for Rovers that day and Paul Robinson for Leeds. We also had Alan Smith up front while they had Andy Cole. It all seems such a long while ago doesn't it and, when you look at the four teams just above us who narrowly avoided relegation themselves: Everton, Manchester City, Blackburn and Tottenham it is a stark reminder of how much has changed in football's top tier.
So here we are again except now we're in the Championship and fighting out for a promotion slot with Leicester again and possibly Blackburn if they became more consistent and kept Jordan Rhodes fit. They beat Middlesboro at home (who doesn't!) but also lost at Ewood to Charlton. None of these results against teams we've also faced will have any bearing on Saturday of course. We have hit form again and are scoring goals from many more chances created. The -39 goal difference is hopefully behind us forever but the ambition to repeat our 2004 win at one of the league's oldest grounds must be as high as ever.
That game in 2004 was played under tremendous pressure for both teams. We're not at the business end of the season yet but what an investment it would be in our future plans to come away with at least a point. Even if we lose I really hope the fickleness doesn't return with the tired and deflating knee-jerk reactions just undermining everyone again. Every Leeds United fan is entitled to their opinion but I hope we can start taking a longer view of things again now and rebuild the club properly.
I for one would not wish to go back ten years and be in the Premier League, listening to the game on 5 Live or watching it in person; it wasn't fun, it was painful. Even after we won that game I still worried that we might go down. I'd far rather be worrying about going up and being pretty confident that we'd have the club and squad to survive if we did. I think we're on our way again and who knows where we will be in 2024; it could be Ewood Park because, after all, chickens do fly...
By Rob Atkinson
As the crowd gathered at Elland Road before the Champions League semi-final match against CF Valencia on Wednesday 2nd May 2001, excitement and expectation were at fever pitch. Leeds had battled through two incredibly tough groups to reach the knockout stage of the competition, making progress despite opposition from the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Anderlecht, AS Roma...you name them, Leeds had managed to sneak past them, despite their billing as one of the less-fancied teams in the competition. In the quarter-final, the coach of Deportivo la Coruña had been daft enough to play on this factor, claiming he was glad to have been drawn against the weakest remaining team. Depor' paid for their man's insolence, getting handsomely cuffed at Elland Road as the United fans sang "3-0 to the Weakest Link" in passing homage to Anne Robinson's then-popular TV quiz. Everything was coming up white roses as Valencia barred the way to a Champions League Final against Real Madrid, Don Revie's dream game, with one of the main stars of the evening being legendary bald ref Pierluigi Collina. I was there that night, and neither I nor any of the others in that 36,437 attendance could possibly have realised that this was to be the high-water mark for David O'Leary's expensively-assembled team. It would be all downhill - and a very steep hill - from here. Leeds United were destined to plummet down that gradient like a greased pig; it's such a good job we can't see into the future.
So, if you'd put it to anyone at Elland Road on that last Champions League night, that a mere nine years and six days later we would be dancing and shrieking in ecstasy, celebrating until our hearts burst and our ears bled - and all because Leeds United had managed to make their agonising way into English football's second tier - well the very least you could have expected was a secure jacket and a fast ride to a rubber room. You might quite possibly have been bound to a stake and set alight, a human sacrifice to the crowd's undoubted God and hero Peter Ridsdale. It would have been the ultimate heresy to suggest that this new and exciting United would so soon be humiliated by third tier football - and the very idea of celebrating escape from such purgatory! Ridiculous. It's funny what a few short years can do to your perceptions.
But there we were, not quite a decade later, sick to death of third division obscurity, even sicker of the continual media reminders that "only xyears earlier Leeds had been in the last four of the Champions League" .... erm, sorry about that opening paragraph, come to think of it .... and desperate to start the climb back, as insanely desperate as any Leeds United crowd had ever been, at any time in the club's history. For this was it. Fail to win today, and we'd almost certainly be overhauled for second place by either Millwall or Huddersfield Town. That would mean an unwelcome third stab at the playoffs in three years, and nobody in a white shirt wanted that. Leeds United notoriously just don't do playoff success. So it was very much win or bust that May afternoon in 2010.
It needn't actually have been that tense. In the earlier part of the season, Leeds had soared clear of the pack and were sitting, not just pretty, but unbelievably stunning and gorgeous at the top of the league. Then we drew Man U away in the third round of the FA Cup. We went there, to the Theatre of Hollow Myths as proud leaders, albeit only of the third division. The reigning champions held no fear for us, nor for our 9,000 travelling army. We set out to take the game to them, we attacked with verve and style, we defended solidly when we needed to. We scored, No.9 Jermaine rolling the ball gloriously if slowly in at the Stretford End (since re-christened the Beckford End). We showed no fear, no respect. We could have had two more in the second half, Becks firing a good chance just wide and Snoddy hitting the angle with one of those beautiful free kicks. It could have been 3-0, but we settled joyously for 1-0 and knocking "Them" out of the Cup whilst S'ralex drank the bitter draught of sour grapes. And then, unbelievably, at the time of our greatest glory in the Cup for decades - the league form started to fall apart.
The very next match, against Wycombe at home, Leeds looked disjointed, unsure, ineffective; a shadow of the team that slew the Pride of Devon only days before. We took the lead and were pegged back, lucky in the end to get a 1-1 draw. Then we lost at Exeter 0-2. Then we lost at Swindon 0-3. What had happened? We only lost one of the next nine, but managed just three wins in that time, Colchester, Oldham and Tranmere. Then we lost an abysmal four on the trot with performances of staggering ineptitude. In the league, we had completely bottled it, despite continuing heroics in the Cup as we drew at Spurs, and had been dragged back into the pack. Disaster - not those bloody playoffs again? But that looked the best we could achieve. Yet, very slowly, a recovery of sorts was mounted - but we never looked the same team as in those carefree league performances prior to beating Man U. Somehow though, by the 8th of May, we had won four out of six to give us a chance, on that final day, of deciding our own destiny. We had hauled ourselves, painfully but with grit and determination, back into contention. Beat Bristol Rovers - the oddly-nicknamed "Gas" at a packed and raucously emotional Elland Road - and we'd finally be up, the nightmare of division three would be over.
To say it was a day of tension would be to show a masterly talent for gross understatement. Everybody was tense. People in the 38,234 crowd -interestingly almost 2,000 bigger than the Valencia attendance nine years earlier - were almost physically sick with tension. It communicated itself to the players on the pitch, who struggled to cope with the demands of facing Rovers. The away team, for their part were ensconced in mid-table, going neither up nor down to any appreciable degree, whatever happened. So Bristol were able to play with a relaxed, couldn't-give-a-toss insouciance, knocking the ball around, playing to the atmosphere and the gallery, enjoying their big day out before the hols started and those Torremolinos beaches beckoned. Leeds played on their raw and jagged nerve endings while the Rovers players sauntered indolently about. It wasn't fair.
Half an hour of this taut drama had been played out. Then, disaster. Mad Max Gradel, the winger discarded by Leicester who had turned out a raw diamond, showed the very worst of his volatile character, losing it completely on 34 minutes over a challenge with Rovers' Daniel Jones in the Bristol penalty area. The ref thought it over briefly, and then ordered Gradel off. And then Mad Max really suffered a burst of legendary insanity, trying to get at the people who had set his fuse alight, having to be restrained by peacemaker and skipper for the day Beckford, a man who had experienced his own tantrums in the recent past. Eventually the raging Maxi was ushered off and play could continue, with United now faced with having to win despite a one man disadvantage.
Three minutes into the second half and that one man disadvantage was compounded by a one goal deficit. That man Daniel Jones, Mad Maxi's nemesis, put a dangerous ball in from the left which was missed by the United defence, knocked back across and there was Darryl Duffy to score, stunning Elland Road into a momentary silence which was broken only by the delighted squeaks of the Gas fans in the cheese wedge. What now? Cometh the hour, alright - but who would be the man?
In the event, it was United's own iceman that stepped up to the mark, Johnny Howson, scorer of previous vital goals when his side had needed him most, notably in the frozen wastes of Carlisle. Outside the Rovers area, Howson was ideally placed, only five minutes after entering the fray as a substitute, to receive a touch back from Luciano Becchio and curl a beautiful equaliser into the net at the Kop end, sending the United support wild with delight and relief. That was just before the hour - but it wasn't enough. Millwall were winning, so the ten men of Leeds simply had to press on and turn one point into an unlikely three.
In the event, it took only a further four minutes for Rovers, battered and bewildered by the sheer desire of a reinvigorated United side, to capitulate. The Rovers keeper Andersen, having routinely collected a header from Neill Collins, inexplicably threw the ball out straight to Brad Johnson who immediately made progress into the left hand channel and fired a low hard ball into the penalty area. With the keeper nowhere, it fell to a Rovers defender to attempt a clearance which fell just right for the season's hero and Leeds captain on his last ever appearance in the white shirt - Jermaine Beckford. The tall striker took the bouncing ball first time, calmly, making sure not to balloon a hasty effort over the bar and into the Kop at this most vital moment of his career so far - and his composure paid off as he struck the ball at the top of its trajectory, just well enough to guide it ownwards to bounce under Andersen's despairing dive and into the net.
The mayhem that then ensued told you all you'd ever need to know about the pivotal importance of that goal. Beckford's look of wild delight, a man off his head with delirious achievement - that told its own story too. There was still nearly half an hour to play, but the season was all over bar the shouting, with nothing that Millwall, Huddersfield or even Bristol Rovers - their bolt well and truly shot - could do about it. There was still time for Leigh Bromby to guide a towering header to thud against the far post for what would have been the absolute tin lid on the matter - but everyone in the stadium knew that it was now just a matter of playing time out until that blessed final whistle confirmed United's escape from the wretched humiliation of third-class football. When that last whistle blasted out, it was a carnival of noise, a pitch invasion as the players were carried shoulder-high in the time-honoured hero's fashion, a champagne shower for manager Simon Grayson as he tried to give a post-match TV interview that dissolved into wild laughter and vintage bubbles. It was the sweetest moment by far since Leeds' long downward slide had started all those years before; sweeter than beating Man U, sweeter by far than the defiant surge into the minus 15 season - simply the best of times. United weren't back - they're still not back- but it was a start on that long, long road which may one day take us back to the heights of the very top European competition - lost to us, seemingly forever, on a warm May night in 2001.
Next: Memory Match No. 16: Leeds United 7 (Seven), Southampton 0
A classic Super Leeds demolition of utterly helpless opponents on 4th March 1972, featuring possibly the cruellest exhibition of
keep-ball ever seen.
By Andrew Butterwick
After an international break that saw England once again confirm their mediocrity on the World stage by losing to an impressive Chilean side and the German reserve team proper football was back with a bang. The Smoggies from Middlesbrough were the visitors to the Theatre of Hope along with their brand new manager, the wonderfully named Aikor Karanka. The Spaniard Karanka has spent 3 seasons as assistant to Mouriniho at Real Madrid so it will be interesting to see how he adapts to Teesside after his initial schooling in the Bernabau? Not much difference between the two clubs is there?
The train from Selby was alive with anticipation as the Happy Chocker, the Quiet One and yours truly debated the forthcoming game. B McD had a full squad to choose from with the exception of Scott Wootton so the permutations of selection choices were full of intrigue. Will Byram start? What about Blackstock? Will Mowatt come straight back into the team? Will Diouf get some game time? In true Leeds style though there was more than team selection on the agenda. Will Radebe buy a stake in Leeds? How come Capt Birdseye's name is infiltrating the numerous LUFC message boards again? All of that to discuss on a twenty minute journey together with dissecting the finer points of Amy Willerton's bikini. By the time we reached the members bar I was ready for a pint!
Brian McD had drafted Mowatt straight back into the team after his injury. It is such a compliment to the young Leeds star that in just a matter of weeks since his debut he has become a firm fixture in the Leeds midfield. Zaliukas replaced the injured Wootton and Pugh continued at left wing back. 30,000 fans had packed into the Theatre of Hope with a healthy number of Boro fans filling the away section. All was set for a cracking game as HC had a last minute bet on Ross Mac for first goal and a 2.1 victory for Leeds.
The match started with a bang as first Mowatt had a speculative shot blocked and then super scorer, Ross Mac, missed an excellent chance with his head form 6 yards all within the first two minutes. Boro weren't phased though and soon their pacey wide men were taunting Pelts down the left flank. Boro were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box for a perfectly fair tackle but Leadbitter drove the ball into the wall. Pearce was next to get the crowd out of their seats as his header drifted wide then Austin drove a stinging shot at Steele in the Boro goal before Blackstock missed a golden chance when he over steered a cross inches wide of the upright. The confidence Leeds gained from their win at Charlton was beginning to shine through as they sought the crucial opening goal.
The home fans were soon screaming for a penalty as first Ross Mac was up ended in the box and then Ayala thumped the ball away for a corner with his hand with the Scot in hot pursuit. The ref gave the free kick outside the box and booked the Boro defender. It wasn't all one way traffic though. Ex Leeds favourite, Woodgate, headed a corner into the side netting from a corner and Leadbitter had a goal bound shot blocked by the resolute Leeds defence. Zakiulas and Pearce were both showing great presence at the heart of the home defence. What we needed was a goal to settle the nerves. On 11 minutes there was a muted tribute to Gary Speed probably due to the amount of action on the pitch.
On 34 minutes Pugh nearly spoiled HC's bet when Ross Mac released him inside the box but his fierce shot was parried away by Steele for a corner. The Boro defence was creaking despite the best efforts of Woodgate. The corner was swung deep to the back post where Lees leapt high to head back into the six yard box where who else but Ross Mac squeezed his header into the Boro net. 1.0 Leeds. The goal scorer's celebration made it clear that he didn't much care for the reported transfer interest from the Teessiders in the summer as he kissed the Leeds badge in front of the taunting away fans. Immediately the Kop broke into a rendition of "He said no Boro, he said no" just to ram the point home.
The goal stung Boro and Leeds took advantage of the suddenly nervous and cautious visitors to look for a killer second goal. Boro didn't help themselves when a poor headed back pass was pounced upon by Blackstock only to be felled by Steele as he took the ball past him. The ref immediately blew for a foul as Pugh rolled the ball into the empty net. I wish he'd played on. The inevitable red card followed for the Boro goalie and everything in the Leeds garden was suddenly rosy. Ross Mac's free kick left the new goalie motionless as it drifted inches past the right hand post. Half time came with the score 1.0 to Leeds.
The Urinal philosophers were in buoyant mood in the half time gents debate. Not surprising after such an all action first 45 minutes. Not one dissenting voice which is a tad unusual for the mega critical home fans. All we needed to do now was carry on the 2nd half in the same mood. Zakiulas looked commanding at the back whilst Mowatt was buzzing around midfield like a veteran feeding the front two with some good ammunition. The only negative was the ease at which Pelts was losing his attacker and the fact we were only one nil up.
Seven minutes into the 2nd half Boro drew level with a delicious finish from Carayol after Adomah had made the best of a mistake from Pugh to deliver a vicious cross into the Leeds area. 1.1 and the Boro fans were dancing with delight. Leeds hit back strongly though. Mowatt brought an excellent save from Leutwiler in the Boro goal as Leeds forced two corners in a row. The pressure told as a short corner routine freed Pelts who hit a brilliant cross for Pearce at the back post who buried the header in the Boro net. 2.1 Leeds and HC could now see plenty of pound signs revolving in his eyes. 2.1 up against ten men. Surely there was no way back for Boro?
To their credit Boro tried to pass their way back into the game and frustrated Leeds with some intelligent passing but struggled to create many telling chances. Leeds play became more reliant on the long ball the longer the game went on which suited Woodgate at the heart of the visitors defence as he kept Blackstock very quiet. Mowatt brought another superb save from the substitute goalie as he surged onto a cross looking to put the game beyond Boro. The hard working Austin then just headed wide with the open goal yawning invitingly in front of him. This all made for a nervous last ten minutes as Boro looked for an unlikely equaliser and HC looked to preserve his very lucrative bet. Smith and Byram replaced Blackstock and Pugh for the last 9 minutes with Brown arriving for the last 3 minutes. The ref blew the whistle to record a 2.1 victory for the mighty whites. Phew! HC's bank balance was suddenly much, much better!
In the end the result was better than the performance. After a promising first 45 minutes Leeds lost their way in the 2nd. When they did get hold of the ball and play they showed they can open teams up in this league but too often they ceded possession back to Boro far too easily. The final possession split of 45% to 55% in favour of 10 man Boro tells its own tale. Pearce edged my MOM but Zakiulas and Mowatt both came close. The three points lifts Leeds tantalisingly into 6th spot as we head for the hectic Xmas programme. Brian McD has certainly turned Leeds into a side that is difficult to beat. He and most sensible fans know they aren't the finished article though but a few more results like this and it's just possible that this sleeping giant might just be awakening from its coma?
Blackburn away next with over 6,000 vile animals heading for Ewood Park. Should be quite a day.
By Rob Atkinson
It's back to league action for Leeds United this Saturday as Middlesbrough, the celebrated Smoggies of Teesside, visit Elland Road for a first-hand look at Ross McCormack, the one that got away. Boro maintained an ardent pursuit of Rossco throughout most of the summer but, alas, their love was unrequited and the object of their desires put pen to paper on a new United contract. McCormack could hardly have been in hotter form prior to the international break; six goals in two games having shot him to the top of the Championship Hitman Parade. Will he still be firing against his frustrated admirers from the Land That Yorkshire Rejected? A cameo appearance for Scotland and then a withdrawal from the national squad with a slight thigh strain may well have left him champing at the bit. He's fit and available for selection anyway, as are Alex Mowatt (groin), Sam Byram (thigh) and Stephen Warnock (foot). The fine performances of Danny Pugh and Michael Brown at Charlton, however, may indicate that it won't be a straightforward matter to replace them. Scott Wootton's absence means that Marius Zaliukas will get an Elland Road run-out but El-Hadji Diouf is struggling to overcome a stomach bug.
For Boro, the main change is at the top. New boss Aitor Karanka has a Real Madrid pedigree and he will be looking for a positive response to his appointment from a Boro team who have mainly flattered to deceive this term. Brian McDermott speaks warmly of him, and he will doubtless have reminded his own players that the first game under a new manager frequently produces an above-par performance from players who suddenly have a fresh face to impress. Elland Road (and Real Madrid) old boy Jonathan Woodgate will hope to return to the Boro squad after his latest injury setback, and should receive a warm welcome if he figures in the team - as ever - recovery permitting. Fellow defender Seb Hines faces a fitness test ahead of any decision on the make-up of Boro's back line.
Promisingly for Leeds, a decent crowd seems likely, estimates ranging around the 29000 - 30000 mark - not too bad for one of the more ruinously-expensive fixtures. Those who shell out for tickets should contribute to a good atmosphere as the Smoggies can normally be relied upon to bring a good following. Their support is well-known for creating more noise away from home than is usually heard in their own soul-less, Meccano-type stadium.
The international break has given rise to two schools of thought, one saying it was a good thing for Leeds, having enabled the clearing-up of some niggly injuries; others opine that it's a pity as the team were on a hot streak before the break and may now have gone back into their collective shell. The mercurial nature of United's form means that either view could equally likely be correct, but I'm going to err once again on the side of foolhardy optimism and predict not only a 2-0 win, but also a continuation of Ross McCormack's prolific form against the team that were panting to sign him not so long ago.
I'll go for one from Rossco and another from Luke Murphy as Leeds triumph to edge ever closer to that longed-for playoff berth and send a good-sized crowd home happy.
By Rob Atkinson
When Nelson Mandela says of someone "This is my hero", you tend to sit up and take notice. Mandela himself is a hero to millions, an iconic figure in the global politics of the last century, a man who stood up to be counted against some of the most vile and disgusting manifestations of hatred and prejudice seen outside of Nazi Germany. This is not someone whose opinion you would lightly toss aside; the man commands serious attention. And when a hero like Mandela has a hero, then you know that person will not just be any Tom, Dick or Harry. The hero in question is, of course, our own Lucas Radebe, erstwhile centre-half, club & national skipper, football ambassador and now the latest in a long line of people to be associated with moves to acquire Leeds United - or at least a significant stake in the club.
Rumours of takeover bids, prominently mentioning Radebe's name, began to circulate last week. The reaction among the massive online presence of Leeds United supporters was almost unanimously ecstatic - and immediately an important new pressure group came into existence. Make no mistake, this is not a factor that United's current owners will be able simply to dismiss. This is not, after all, some faceless syndicate with shadowy figures behind it, making vague and unsubstantiated promises. This is a contemporary Leeds United hero, possibly the most adored single figure of the post-Revie era at Elland Road. Radebe is accorded God-like status among Leeds United fans, for his performances on the field in over 200 appearances for the club, for his multi-megawatt smile and irresistibly engaging personality - and maybe most of all for sticking by the club when there was multi-million pound interest from Man U. AC Milan and AS Roma were also said to be interested - as Alex Ferguson, in one of his more lucid moments remarked, "Everyone should be interested in Lucas". Everyone was, and any Leeds fan with a long enough memory still is.
It is this iconic status and immense popularity that makes Lucas Radebe THE name for any group or consortium to identify as its dream-ticket front-man of choice. Get Lucas on board, and such a consortium or group will automatically have the good wishes and trust of anyone with the interests of Leeds United AFC at heart. The trust issue is especially important - Radebe is a man whom we can all readily accept loves Leeds United; one whom we will all totally believe has the best interests of the club at heart. He's plainly no fool either, having mixed with world leaders and rubbed shoulders with the great and the good of the world's favourite game. If Radebe endorses a consortium, then that group will be imbued with a credibility that arises directly from such an endorsement. The guy is virtually a one-man due diligence process. This is what GFH have to deal with and, if possible, work with for the betterment of Leeds United going forward. Even though an initial offer for a majority stake has been dismissed as "derisory", the current owners have been careful not to aim any of that derision at Lucas himself. They would be very unwise to do so - it would be a little like the Indian cricket authorities dismissing Sachin Tendulkar as an irritating inconvenience.
Lucas Radebe, once confirmed as an interested party, demands to be taken seriously and recognised as someone who would be a distinct asset to the club if he is able to show that the financial pre-requisites are in place. The timing of his announcement this week, via his own personal website, that he is indeed part of current moves to buy into Leeds, could hardly have been more immaculately perfect. That initial outbreak of enthusiasm among the support at the mere rumour of Lucas wanting to buy in was dwarfed by the overwhelming volume of eagerness and desire to see
The Chief get involved, now that he has said that, yes, he wants to. This is a rip-tide that will be more than usually difficult to turn, and GFH may well feel that, ultimately, they have no choice but to swim with it.
Already, there are suggestions that manager Brian McDermott will have cash to spend in the forthcoming transfer window. This has happened before, of course, and we have still ended up disappointed. But can the current principals afford to let us down again, with Lucas waiting in the wings? A few months ago, we were cavorting in the streets at the thought of a £1 million signing - a transfer barrier that was first breached 34 years ago. With Financial Fair Play in the offing, Leeds are one of the very few clubs not to have made a loss over recent accounting periods - most other clubs, especially those with promotion ambitions, have incurred the losses allowable under FFP, or even exceeded those limits, in the interests of recruiting the kind of quality that can get a team into the Premier League. Signings of £3m or £4m are not unknown in the upper echelons of the Championship - struggling Blackburn splashed £8m on Jordan Rhodes, for crying out loud. But Leeds United have, as yet, shown no sign of matching anything like that level of ambition. Could the prospect of Radebe's involvement prompt a loosening of the tightly-knotted GFH purse-strings? With The Chief's name being bandied about and his own interest confirmed, can GFH really afford another bleak and frustrating transfer window - when everybody is all too well aware of the obvious gaps in the squad as well as the possibility of inward investment from such an attractive source?
We are given to understand that Leeds are awaiting a second offer from the Radebe-backed consortium. It will be interesting to see what the reception would be to a bid that was less "derisory". Maybe it is more likely that some way of working together can be found, rather than a majority buy-out. But the current owners can't simply laugh this one off, and neither can they stand around with their hands in their pockets when crunch-time comes and Brian states his transfer requirements. The latitude for such shilly-shallying is rapidly disappearing, and that is largely because of the gloriously possible return home to Leeds of Nelson Mandela's hero.
By Rob Atkinson
Just over 21 years on from this memorable European night at Elland Road, two over-riding impressions remain with me, as strongly as if the match had been yesterday. One is of the sheer passion and power of a crowd of only 20457 as events unfolded before them and their heroes rampaged to within a whisker of hauling back a three goal first-leg deficit - something that had never before been accomplished by a British side. At times, as the white shirts harried, hunted and chased their bewildered opponents, the volume was almost literally ear-splitting. It has been said that the twenty thousand crowd that night sounded more like the fifty thousand fans who saw the vintage Leeds team conquer Barcelona, Johann Cruyff and all, in 1975 - my second ever visit to Elland Road. Having been present on both occasions, I can testify to this - never have I heard a smallish attendance generate such ferocious passion and noise as the reduced band of Leeds faithful did during their team's assault on the daunting mountain they had to climb.
The second impression is from just after the final whistle, when the Stuttgart players, having been put through a ninety minute wringer of merciless pressure, run off their feet and reduced to their last gasp and final drop of sweat, thought they'd made it by the very skin of their teeth. The relief must have been enormous, and as full-time was signalled it was the apparent victors who sank to the turf abjectly, not the seemingly-vanquished Leeds side. The Stuttgart team were scattered limply across the field of battle like the casualties of a small war as the Leeds players, trooping off having given their all in vain - or so we thought - took the applause of their pumped-up followers. It looked like carnage, the aftermath of a siege - but of course the real battle, off the field, was yet to come.
Winding the clock back to the first leg in Germany a fortnight before, we can briefly set the scene. Leeds had played well enough in the first half and, in fact, probably should have been leading at the interval. David Rocastle and Eric Cantona had both missed passable chances, but Leeds were comfortable enough at 0-0. In the second period though, things went badly awry. Cantona, nursing a leg injury that would see him substituted, tried a lazy cross-field pass that was never on, and the resulting interception saw our defence exposed. Fritz Walter's chipped finish past John Lukic, put us one behind; this swiftly became two when a corner was inadequately cleared, Lukic beat out the first shot and Walter was there again to score. Eight minutes from time, United's agony was complete when Andreas Buck beat out-paced Chris Fairclough to plant a cross shot into the far corner. Manager Howard Wilkinson could not hide his disappointment afterwards, giving short shrift to a tactless ITV post-match interviewer who had asked what had gone wrong. "They got three and we got none, that's what", he snapped. Later, a little more calmly, he remarked that it had been a "crazy game". Indeed it had. Leeds had been so comfortable for so long, but lapses in concentration had left them with what looked like a hopeless task in the return at Elland Road.
Two weeks on and it was time to start climbing that mountain. A breakthrough as early as possible was of paramount importance, the Germans had to be rattled out of any air of calm and confidence; Wilkinson recognised this and set his team up for all-out attack. In fact, it took 17 minutes for United to strike the first significant blow, though Gary MacAllister had been taking pot-shots at the Stuttgart goal from the off. It was a combination of skipper Gordon Strachan's diagonal cross and Cantona's header down though which fashioned the chance for Gary Speed to volley home and give Leeds their start on an unlikely comeback. Elland Road erupted in a burst of jubilation and rediscovered optimism, but disaster was just around the corner. Cutting in from the right, Andreas Buck - who had dealt the final blow in Stuttgart - hurt Leeds again, firing home from just outside the area in what was an isolated raid on the home goal. This vital away goal meant that Leeds now had to score four more in order to go through - a highly unlikely proposition against the champions of Germany.
And yet United's heads did not go down, as so many other teams might have allowed to happen. Undismayed, they pressed on and were back on track after the over-enthusiastic Kuntz committed one too many fouls in the area and MacAllister slotted the penalty away in his usual efficient manner. Leeds emerged for the second half knowing they needed three more and set about applying ever-increasing pressure on a Stuttgart defence which would creak more and more obviously as the match went on. After 66 minutes, Cantona took a Strachan high ball on his chest in the area, gathering it under control as he turned and finding the time and space to poke a shinned effort over the Stuttgart keeper Eike Immel and just under the crossbar to put Leeds 3-1 up and just two short of their miracle. Game on in earnest now. Stuttgart were being run ragged, struggling vainly to cover and contain as United came at them from all angles, tirelessly probing, always threatening. With ten minutes to go a corner from the left just cleared Chris Whyte's efforts to flick on and found Chapman just behind him at the near post. Where some strikers might have been surprised to find the ball flying at them from behind the towering Whyte, Chappy had no such problems as he stooped to conquer, sending his header through a narrow gap between defenders and into the net. One more goal needed, ten more minutes to get it against tiring and rattled opponents.
That was it for the evening though. Leeds continued to press but just couldn't make that last break-through which would have made history. The final whistle blew, the exhausted German team collapsed and called for oxygen and the crowd, thwarted in their hopes so it seemed and yet exultant at such a courageous display, filtered away into the night. I remember seeing a knot of German fans at Leeds City station on my way home and, feeling magnanimous because we'd battered them, I offered my rueful congratulations. "Ja, it was a nice game", one responded. I took my leave disconsolately, thinking of what might have been and muttering "jammy sods" under my breath, the brief mood of generosity gone.
It had been a night to remember, glory in defeat, incredible atmosphere but ultimate disappointment. By the time I got home, I just wanted to sleep - the next day of course would bring the news of unexpected reprieve because of a technical transgression by the normally error-free Germans - and the road to Barcelona and eventual progress would open before us. That story had a happy ending one day short of match-winner Carl Shutt's 31st birthday in an eerily empty Nou Camp stadium - but the resumption of European Cup football at Elland Road after a gap of over seventeen years had been a fantastic occasion in itself and one I will make sure I never forget. Who knows, after all, when we shall see nights like this one again?
Next: Memory Match No. 15: Leeds United 2, Bristol Rovers 1 -
The League One Promotion Party at Elland Road on 8th May 2010.
Leeds had to win to go up in second place after having looked certs for the
Title earlier in the season. It looked as if we were on course for disaster
when we were a goal down in the second half having had Mad Max Gradel sent off - but local lad Johnny Howson got us back level. One more goal needed - it was time for Jermaine Beckford to make his last, historic contribution in a United shirt...
By Rob Atkinson
Today's rumour of a consortium involving Leeds United superhero Lucas Radebe is a real belter - as rumours go. What could be more highly exciting for your average United fan than the possibility of such a rightly-revered name returning to Elland Road - and with a wad of cash to flash as part of the deal? Well, so this story runs. It even has that slight sniff of possible believability about it, the sort that makes you say "Could it be? Naaaah, too good to be true..." But could it be a real, live prospect? Could Lucas Radebe, the beloved Chief of LS11 really be heading back to the club as part of a genuine UK group with a takeover in mind, or even just significant investment ambitions?
It's difficult to imagine anyone who could be more welcome back at the centre of things at Leeds United than Lucas Radebe. He'd be a natural candidate for any serious consortium looking for a fan-friendly figurehead whose whole-hearted acceptance by supporters would be guaranteed. And, as it happens, he was back
at Elland Road for the slaughter of Birmingham City just recently. The rumour runs that this consortium have already had talks with fans group LUST, that they see a pivotal role at the club for Radebe, that they aim to guide United back into Europe - even that (and this is where the timescale seems unfeasibly short) they intend to back Brian McDermott's recruitment plans in January. Surely things can't move as fast as that? Or could this actually be the major investment, described as "close" by Salah Nooruddin in the last month or so?
McDermott apparently is seen as integral to the group's plans, and they're making the kind of ambitious noises that will have any Leeds fan sitting up, panting eagerly and begging. Lucas might be their ace in the hole, but it would naturally have to follow that there are also substantial resources behind any such bid. This could possibly tie in with another recent story, whereby LUST - known to be fund-raising towards securing a stake in the club - would have any sum they manage to get together matched pound for pound by an unknown investor. Curiouser and curiouser.
Of course at the moment it's not much more than a rumour, or possibly a hybrid of two rumours. It's only just been officially denied, which of course will lend quite a bit of credibility to even the most outlandish rumour imaginable. If men in suits troubled to deny every rumour out there, they'd have no time to do anything else, would they? All we can say with any certainty is that it is a particularly attractive rumour - entirely because of the link with that man Radebe who so many that love the club would give their eye teeth to see return home in glory.
Could it happen? Given the timescale being talked about, we'd be expecting to hear much more pretty soon if this really is a goer. So far, the Club have been a little unconvincing in its initial rebuttals. There has been: "We are watching with a mixture of bemusement and interest the reports suggesting any credible takeover bid has been made." And: "No serious approach to us, as majority owners of the club, has been made by any members reportedly concerned with this consortium." The interestingly ambiguous words are highlighted. What can realistically be gleaned from those statements is that there is a consortium and that some sort of contact has been initiated.
Change can be good, change can be bad. But it's an open secret that United could do with a few bob to turn a frustrating season into a possibly thrilling one - by dint of some judicious surgery in the January window. That being the case, there will be rumours, and we shall have to assess each one on its merits, and judge the response of Leeds United by reading between the lines. But whatever other rumours might transpire, it's highly unlikely that they could be anywhere near as sexy as this one, which has caused the Leeds fans' Twittersphere positively to throb with excitement and anticipation. It has also put the inevitable gloom and doom merchants under severe pressure as they scramble to get their own wagons rolling and start shattering those nascent hopes with their pails of cold water. Each to his own.
My own particular cliché of choice for this type of scenario is "There's no smoke without fire". It remains to be seen whether this current spiral of smoke will turn out to be from a cheery Yuletide blaze - or a damp squib left over from Guy Fawkes month. It might just be an interesting week or two ahead.
Watch this space - and fingers crossed.
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