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All I got was a season


cantonaisgod

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Many mocked, I suppose rightly so. There had been nothing for Leeds United to shout about since O’Leary’s success with the Yorkshiremen, and their latest ‘fiasco,’ simply added to the long, somewhat embarrassing list of what many a sceptic dubbed ‘mistakes.’ Eddie Gray’s inability to change things meant that he had finally left the club after so many years of good service, and it was the time to try something new once more. Antic, Trapattoni, and George Graham were just a few of the names banded around the media as favourites to take over in the hot-seat at disastrous Leeds United Football Club.

It therefore came as one hell of a shock to the footballing nation, when the name ‘Dan O’Brien’ was splashed across all the back pages, as the man to try and change the fortunes at Elland Road.

Author's Note: This is my first CM Story, any comments/ criticism very welcome. I am aiming to make the story continue for one season, therefore I will be adding more detail than some other stories contain during the course of one campaign.

CM 03/04 med db, English league only

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Many mocked, I suppose rightly so. There had been nothing for Leeds United to shout about since O’Leary’s success with the Yorkshiremen, and their latest ‘fiasco,’ simply added to the long, somewhat embarrassing list of what many a sceptic dubbed ‘mistakes.’ Eddie Gray’s inability to change things meant that he had finally left the club after so many years of good service, and it was the time to try something new once more. Antic, Trapattoni, and George Graham were just a few of the names banded around the media as favourites to take over in the hot-seat at disastrous Leeds United Football Club.

It therefore came as one hell of a shock to the footballing nation, when the name ‘Dan O’Brien’ was splashed across all the back pages, as the man to try and change the fortunes at Elland Road.

Author's Note: This is my first CM Story, any comments/ criticism very welcome. I am aiming to make the story continue for one season, therefore I will be adding more detail than some other stories contain during the course of one campaign.

CM 03/04 med db, English league only

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Cheers James, as much as it may hurt, trying to make Leeds successful, I'll have a go icon_wink.gif

“Don’t let it worry you,†Prof. John McKenzie assured me, as I turned over the page of The Sun, which gave the heading ‘Rookie O’B not up to the job.’

“We have all the confidence in your ability; you know why we gave you the job, due to your unrivalled Lower League successes.â€

I was tempted to add that I that the demands of my contracts’ length supply of Doritos had done little to dissuade them from offering me the job, but I was where I wanted to be, in the deep end of management, and an amicable start to relations between myself and those with more authority was essential.

The remainder of this meeting with McKenzie was spent with the added company of Leighton, Birch, and North, the board of directors. The conversation was focused around the aims for the forthcoming season.

PJM: “We’ve not been the same over the past few years, Dan, you know that. A high league finish is simply not possible with the squad and finances we have at our disposal.â€

Dir1: “This is why, Mr. O’Brien, we expect you to keep us in the division. Do this using methods and techniques which you deem fit, but we expect you to rebuild this side over the course of the season with minimal funds available, in order to keep this ship afloat.â€

ME: “Ok, ok, you’ve made yourself clear; I know what I have to do. Just one question, how much is ‘minimal.’?â€

Dir3: “There is £800,000 at your disposal, Mr O’Brien, but I urge that this is spent only if, well, if the -â€

Dir1: “What he’s trying to say, Mr. O’Brien, is that we need you to avoiding ‘splashing the cash’ so to speak. This club needs all the money it can get, so therefore these transfer funds are only as a last resort or if there is a bargain that we can be certain will help our campaign significantly.â€

ME: “OK mate I understand, cheers for your time fellas.â€

PJM: “OK Dan, I would wish to make it clear, on behalf of my colleagues, that we wish you all the best, as long as you give us everything, I know you won’t let us down.â€

It seemed quite a heavy parting comment, however one that did not affect me or distract my attentions from the task ahead. With the door of Prof. McKenzie’s office shutting behind me, I began to wonder what the situation would be in a year’s time, whether Leeds would still be in the Premier League.

One year was all I had to prove myself, and if I did, I would have longer at Leeds United Football Club.

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Monday 4th August – The first training session

I arrived at the Thorpe Arch training ground at 8.45am that morning, where I was greeted by the beaming smile of an old friend Kevin Blackwell. After my appointment, I asked for Kev to be re-instated as Assistant, as his experience was what I would need for a fresh start at this big club.

I let Kev take control of the first training session, while I assessed our key players in the side.

There was no doubt in my mind that Paul Robinson would be man to take on the responsibility of first choice ‘keeper for the season. Sean Allaway was the only other real threat to his position, after Nigel Martyn’s recent exit to Goodison Park.

At the back, I was convinced that we had the players to keep us up this season. Gary Kelly and Ian Harte would provide the talent on either side of the back four, with the options of experience in the centre with Dominic Matteo, Lucas Radebe, and Michael Duberry. A little arm bending on my part would have to be done in order for me to add some youthful exuberance to that set of defenders.

In the centre of midfield there was a lot of ‘bite,’ but unfortunately no real creativity. With the main 3 compiling of Seth Johnson, David Batty, and Jody Morris, I decided that our style would have to be predominantly focused down the wings, unless I could bring someone in to the centre of midfield.

This meant that the task of creating attacking chances would fall upon the shoulders of Wilcox, Barmby, or Eirik Bakke, who could also play in the centre. I wasn’t too happy with these options, and felt that a cheap midfielder/winger was on the agenda if I was granted access to the transfer kitty. Aaron Lennon and James Milner were possible options for the right hand side of midfield, but I felt that my first season was no time to be tinkering with the relatively untested, or relying too heavily on them.

Leeds had 5 strikers in their first team, one of which, young Simon Johnson, had already agreed terms with Ipswich for a 3-month loan deal. Lamine Sakho, a 25-year old French striker on loan from Marseille, was the only current previous loan transfer whom I had decided to keep on our books, with other names leaving such as Camara, Olembe, and Roque Junior, who were taking big chunks out of our weekly wage budget. I was more than happy with the other three strikers; goal-poaching Michael Bridges, tenacious Alan Smith, and the hugely talented Mark Viduka, who we would do well to keep.

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The first week in charge

As I had arrived after the pre-season friendlies, my sights were set on the opening game of our league campaign, where we would play hosts to O’Leary’s Aston Villa. It was in this first week that I now had to try and make my changes to the side. Allowing youngsters Paul Keegan, Simon Johnson, and Jamie McMaster to go out on loan, with their wages taken care of by their newly adopted clubs, meant that I had gone some way in persuading the board to allow me to spend £750,000 on two new faces.

My first task was to try to land the hugely talented Jose Julian de la Cuesta, from CDC Atletico Nacional in Colombia. At only 20 years of age, and having already earned a call-up to the Colombian under-21 national side, both parties were delighted to have thrashed out the terms in a £500,000 deal to bring him to Elland Road.

Subject to the decision of work permit appeal on the 19th August; Jose would be a Leeds United player.

Up Next: Trying to make the start I'd been hoping for.

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Saturday 16th August

Premier League Game 1

Leeds United vs. Aston Villa

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, Matteo, Radebe ©, Barmby (Milner 47’), Wilcox, Batty, Morris, Viduka, Smith (Bridges 64’)

There was a buzz about the ground before kick-off – now I knew I was in for a special, unique, if not necessarily enjoyable season. The lads knew the team by 12.30pm; I’d left it relatively late to tell them, as I wanted to make sure we got off to a start the club deserved.

A poor first half saw no clear-cut chances, the closest we came to scoring was a Mark Viduka effort from 25 yards after dropping off his marker to turn and get a shot away, only to see his effort tipped onto the crossbar by Thomas Sorensen. No real need for change at half time, we had dominated without creating, so I told the lads to focus our play more through Jason and Nicky on the flanks.

The second half started at a frantic and furious pace, Darius Vassell striking over the bar from just outside the box to remind us that they were still in this game. Milner and Bridges replaced the injured Barmby and Smith respectively, and with 68 minutes gone on the clock, Morris set Viduka through, and the Aussie stroked the ball past Sorensen to give us a deserved lead.

Thankfully for us the next chance fell once again to a white shirt only 8 minutes later, when Bridges converted the easiest chance he’ll ever get after Sorensen palmed out another wonderful Viduka drive. The dangerous Vassell had the ball in the back of our net with only 5 minutes left, but our offside trap paid off as the linesman ruled it out.

An excellent team performance, and I was particularly pleased with the effort and all round performance of Viduka, who got the Man of the Match award. The final whistle blew, and the team were given a standing ovation as we entered the dressing room after a good day’s work.

Leeds 2 – Viduka 68’, Bridges 76’

Aston Villa 0

Attendance: 40272

MoM: Mark Viduka (8)

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My second signing was made in time for the next game of the season. After initially enquiring about Wimbledon midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, my scouts at a Dons’ training session had informed me of an exciting attacking left sided player, who they had heard would cost far less that the £850,000 that Charles Koppel was demanding for Nigel.

Lionel Morgan was therefore set to be the last signing of the pre-season, as our bid for him coincided with the receivers being called in at the Milton Keynes club. The two clubs settled on a mere £240,000 for the player, and on August 17th the final touches were put on the deal.

I had to wait only 2 days after Lionel’s arrival before we were given the news we’d been waiting for, as Jose’s work permit was granted for him to come and play for the club.

He was to be my last signing of the transfer window, and was named in the squad for our visit to the champions.

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Wednesday 20th August

Premier League Game 2

Manchester United vs. Leeds United

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, Matteo (de la Cuesta 66’), Radebe ©, Barmby, Wilcox, Batty, Morris, Viduka, Bridges (Sakho 81’)

We were greeted with the news that Lionel Morgan would not travel with the squad on this typically dull, wet evening in Manchester, after twisting a knee in training only a day before. I stuck with the same side that had beaten Villa; the only change being Michael Bridges was drafted in after Smithy couldn’t shake off an ankle injury.

The team were in high spirits, however to my dismay this wasn’t reflected in a lacklustre display against a side that ran us ragged.

Manchester United were up for the game right from the word ‘go.’ A lazy left leg by Dominic Matteo caught van Nistelrooy after on 94 seconds on the edge of our penalty area. Up stepped Portuguese sensation Cristiano Ronaldo to whip the free kick over the wall past the helpless Robinson, to send us 1-0 down before we had even settled.

The second goal was another moment of pure genius by the teenage winger. A free kick from a similar distance, but from a more acute angle, was once again struck past Robinson in goal to cap a wonderful first half an hour by the reds. A magnificent double save by Robbo helped to send us in at half time only 2 goals down, still with the slightest of chances in the game.

The second half was no better. My team talk looked like it had done the trick as the first ten minutes of the half were spent camped inside Man. United’s territory, although we seldom threatened. The second half fizzled out with no more chances for our boys, although we were spared blushes of a possible hammering by Robbo’s agility and reflexes, to keep the score at a respectable 2-0.

Manchester United 2 – Cristiano Ronaldo 2’, 24’

Leeds United 0

Attendance: 65279

MoM: Cristiano Ronaldo (10)

I was disappointed that our flair players never really put their mark on the game, with our only ‘performers,’ being the battlers of the side, Jody, Batty, and Lucas all turning in solid performances. There was no doubt Paul Robinson had been our player of the night, however, saving us from what might have been a very embarrassing scoreline.

We were downhearted, but we remained focused on the next league game, which was a tough home game against Strachan’s saints.

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Thanks a lot ManUManager, glad you're reading icon_smile.gif

Thursday 21st August

I arrived at the office that morning, to find Mark Viduka’s agent sat outside my office. I knew what he wanted even before I told him to come in and have a seat.

“Mr. O’Brien, I have been in touch with several top European clubs regarding the availability of my client,†Mark’s small, curly haired associate announced. “It has become apparent that AC Milan are ready and willing to open talks with yourself and Prof. McKenzie, regarding the transfer of Mark.â€

“I’m not interested in selling Mark,†I snapped, with an air of finality in my voice. It was not to be the end of his persistence.

“I have been informed by Senor Berlusconi that they are looking to start business at around £5m,†he said. “And we all know how much this club could do with that kind of money.â€

“Hmm, indeed, however, I also know how this club would benefit from having Mark in the side – he is essential to my plans. End of the matter.â€

The conversation carried on for at least another 30 minutes, with Mr. Smith pointing out that despite my attempts to keep him at the club, he would be doing all he could to persuade the likes of AC, Juve, and Fenerbache to meet the £6.25m buy-out clause in his contract.

“If that is how it’s going to be played, Sir, then would you please leave my office.†I smiled patronizingly at him, waiting for him to move.

As he left, I shut the door and leant back on it, cursing, as the reality sank in that the loophole in Mark’s contract meant that he could find his way out for less than I was prepared to let him go for.

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Friday 22nd August

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

Daily Mirror:

‘Viduka wants out’

Mark Viduka is reportedly set to sign for Internazionale this week in a deal worth £5.5m, with Portuguese winger Sergio Conceicao moving the other way on a season long loan when the transfer window re-opens in January. Leeds United have refused to comment at this point, however The Daily Mirror understands that Viduka has failed to see eye-to-eye with his new boss and wants to leave the cash-strapped club.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Not an ounce of truth in this so-called ‘deal’ I had read about the next day, it seemed clear to me that Viduka’s representatives were doing all they could to bring a deal to the forefront of the club’s current affairs.

I was worried that this would unsettle the squad, but I spent the remainder of that Friday with Mark’s transfer saga at he back of my mind, as I worked on the plans to bounce back with a win on Saturday.

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Thanks Terk icon_smile.gif True about Viduka's wages, but I was not confident I'd get his transfer money to buy anyone better. Thanks for reading!

Saturday 23rd August

Premier League Game 3

Leeds United vs. Southampton

Starting XI:Robinson, Kelly, Harte, de la Cuesta, Radebe ©, Barmby, Wilcox, Batty, Morris, Viduka, Bridges

I had some decisions to make for this one, and as I took my seat in the dugout, I was nervous as to whether they would pay off. Despite the recent speculation, Mark started up-front, and I brought in Jose de la Cuesta at the back to make his full debut, replacing Matteo.

We were lucky not to go behind after only 7 minutes, as Gary Kelly had played Phillips onside, but Paul was equal to his drive and he held it well. Twenty minutes had passed without us making any real chances, as I got a message to Lucas to tell Nicky and Jase to push on down the flanks. But it was to no avail, as the first half ended at as slow a pace as it had begun, with neither side managing to outwit each other’s back lines frequently enough. 0-0.

“…and keep it tight,†were my final words to the lads as they filtered out of the white changing room door. Although never really threatening, Southampton had had too much of the play for my liking, and the chances of them sneaking a goal were not to be ignored.

The tempo of the game had picked up with only 19 minutes left on the clock, but the scores were still tied. However a few minutes later, we were on our feet, when a moment of Aussie magic lifted the spirits in the ground. Michael Bridges had beaten their fullback on the inside right of the penalty area, which was followed by a deft cut-back chipped behind Mark, whose overhead kick into the right hand bottom corner sent the fans into hysterics. My heart racing, I was convinced that would be the goal that sealed victory. A James Beattie header was the only piece of action left in the game, however the crossbar ensured we kept all 3 points.

Mark’s celebration told me he did not receive the satisfaction some of the other lads did from our inevitable win; I was to understand why, early the next week. But for now, I could breather easier as we held ground in 7th place, a position I would give anything for to remain in by the time May came around.

Leeds United 1 – Viduka ‘74

Southampton 0

Attendance : 38,860

MoM: Michael Bridges (8)

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Tuesday 26th August

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

Daily Mail

“Viduka hands in transfer requestâ€

Mark Viduka is sensationally set to walk out on Leeds after handing in a transfer request, Sportsmail can exclusively reveal. With a host of Serie A clubs and others set to join the race for his signature, Leeds will be rocked by the news that fans’ favourite Viduka is about to make their season even more uncertain. Sportsmail understands that representatives of Juventus, Real Sociedad, and the two Milan giants were present at Elland Road last Saturday, and their reports on the player will be glowing after Viduka’s glorious overhead kick wet the appetites of his admirers to send Southampton down 1-0.

A friend of Viduka told Sportsmail: “Mark has been frustrated with life at Leeds, who he believes are deteriorating. I am not surprised that he has announced his imminent departure since Juventus and the likes have come knocking. He would be foolish not to speak to those interested.â€

In other news, David Batty, a league winner with Leeds and also his previous side Blackburn, has announced he is to retire from professional football at the end of the season. Leeds United released this statement:

“Yesterday we spoke to David about his future in football. He has decided he will not stay on for the remainder of his contract at Leeds United. The club would therefore like to express their dismay that such a fantastic player is leaving the game, however would like to congratulate him on a splendid career, and wish him and his family all the best for the future. His commitment to the club has been second to none, and he has assured us the remainder of his playing career will be spent helping Leeds through a tough season ahead.â€

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Saturday 30th August

Premier League Game 4

Middlesbrough vs. Leeds United

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, de la Cuesta, Radebe ©, Barmby, Wilcox, Batty, Johnson, Viduka, Bridges

Once again the build-up to this match had been shrouded in the off-field activities of that week, so as one could imagine I was keen to get a result to forget what had happened.

However, the little Brazilian Juninho did his best to ensure this wouldn’t happen. His fantastic individual run and chip over Robbo just before the 15 minute mark saw our heads drop, and I couldn’t help but feeling we’d be leaving empty-handed.

But credit to the boys, we didn’t lower the tempo and only a minute later hit back through Bridges after Jason Wilcox had whipped one in from the left straight onto the striker’s head.

Just as Middlesbrough began to put their mark on the game, we took the lead. A most unlikely goalscorer, Jose de la Cuesta, rose higher than anyone else after 22 minutes, planting the header past Schwarzer before reeling away to celebrate his first Leeds goal with the travelling faithful.

Chances came and went for Middlesbrough in the second half, but we were able to grab a vital goal on 65 minutes when Bridges’ through ball was neatly slotted through the keeper’s legs by, you guessed it, Mark Viduka. The Aussie was starting to prove such an invaluable asset with a move away from the club seeming just around the corner.

Middlesbrough 1 – Juninho 14’

Leeds United 3 – Bridges 16', de la Cuesta 22', Viduka 65'

Attendance: 35090

MoM: Mark Viduka (8)

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Saturday 13th September

We had to wait for 2 weeks before we could attempt to win our second game on the bounce, and when the chance arrived, Newcastle were the visitors to Elland Road. In an intense encounter with no fewer than 11 bookings, we did well to gain a point. We took the lead on the stroke of half time through Viduka, only for it to be cancelled out 7 minutes after the break by a vicious Laurent Robert volley. The scores stayed locked at 1-1, where it was 1 point gained for us, and 2 lost for Sir Bobby’s men in their title challenge.

Saturday 20th September

Our trip to Molineux only a week later was not convincing. In a game we dominated, poor finishing by the usually clinical Viduka & Bridges meant that we were not able to break the deadlock until late on. After sustained spells of possession, Colin Cameron gave his side the lead with a free kick after 13 minutes, only to get sent of 20 minutes later for elbowing Seth Johnson. It was not the last part Seth would play in the match, as he pounced on some catastrophic defending by Wolves to tap home from 4 yards, 3 minutes into injury time. Another 1-1.

Tuesday 23rd September

Our Carling Cup adventure began the following Tuesday, as the lads faced a trip to Darlington. I did not hasten to name a full strength side, as this was a cup I wanted to win, so the youngsters would not be called upon. The only new face in the squad was substitute goalkeeper Scott Carson, but he would not have gained any real experience, as Darlington failed to register a single shot on goal all match. Lionel Morgan’s 24th minute penalty separated the sides, as we travelled home confident we were in with a shout of exceeding expectations for the season.

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Monday 29th September

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

Daily Mirror

‘Leeds beginning to hit harsh reality.’

It has now become apparent that the early form Leeds stumbled across was simply temporary. Yesterday’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool made it no wins in 3 for the white army, with a performance O’Brien described as ‘the worst of the season.’

Leeds seldom threatened, and they were lucky not to be on the end of a thrashing, and for that, Paul Robinson is the man to thank. A marvellous double save from Michael Owen’s efforts in the first half was rivalled by several moments of breath-taking agility in the second, denying the likes of Gerrard, Hamman, and Diouf. The Leeds manager had no hesitation in removing his lacklustre pair up front, replacing Viduka and Smith with Bridges and Milner with only 55 minutes gone.

It remains to be seen how Leeds will fair, although with a trip to Stamford Bridge next Saturday, the immediate future will be tricky for Leeds United.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Thursday 2nd October

The rain hit me hard as I stepped out onto the training field, so I was glad for Michael Duberry’s invitation for me to step back inside for a quiet word. The normally loud, and confident character had become somewhat subdued over recent weeks, I was suspicious that his lack of first team football was the cause for this.

“Have a seat Doobs,†I ushered Michael into the seat opposite mine. “Everything ok?â€

“Not really boss. I’m having a hard time.†His face was glum, and I stayed quiet as he began to give me the ins and outs of his marital problems.

He finished speaking, and I stayed silent for a couple of seconds, pondering over how to deal with this delicate situation. This was not a part of management I had banked on succeeding at, so I hoped I would be able to help him by any means possible. He seldom looked me in the eyes, as if embarrassed by what he was telling me.

“Ok Doobs, I’m glad you’ve told me. Take time off, as much as you need, I want you to get over this. And believe me mate, you will.†He finally seemed at ease now, as he sighed and said “Cheers boss.†I felt I had helped him for now, yet it had a big effect on me over the next few days, thoughts of his home life even crossed my mind, during our next tough Premiership game…

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Thanks d_s, I appreciate your kind remarks icon_smile.gif KUTGW in your story icon14.gif

Saturday 4th October

Premier League Game 8

Chelsea vs. Leeds United

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, de la Cuesta, Radebe ©, Barmby (Sakho ’61), Morgan, Batty, Johnson, Viduka, Bridges

I was possibly too confident going into this game, although it did not affect my team selection. I started with the same side that faced Liverpool, confident that they would wrong the rights of that shambolic performance. The only change to the squad being Dom Matteo on the sidelines in place of Michael Duberry.

Our vibrant opening to the match was ended with only 9 minutes on the clock, when Adrian Mutu curled a free kick round the wall into an unguarded far corner. We created openings, but I watched as we squandered 2 golden chances, once again by Viduka, and the other from Lionel from only 12 yards out.

The second half was encouraging; Chelsea’s Italian Carlo between the sticks helping them to stay in front, saving from Morgan and Seth Johnson. I couldn't help but feel we could nick a point.

The game was sealed, however, with 11 minutes to go, Argentine Hernan Crespo cooling sliding the ball home after a through ball by substitute Joe Cole, putting Chelsea fans into a jubilant and carnival mood.

Chelsea 2 – Mutu 9', Crespo 79'

Leeds United 0

Attendance: 42,263

MoM: Carlo Cudicini

It was a result I expected, however the lads couldn’t help but feel depressed on the coach journey home. We dominated for much of the game, and should have punished them. It was, as they say, back to the drawing board, I would assess our tactics, and I had a few ideas about a new training regime. I still thought we needed to strengthen, so I got on the phone to my head scouts, I wanted to talk about potential signings in January to shake this lot up.

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Monday 13th October

It took a while before I could get the guys back from their respective 'missions,' to update me on what they had found, however once I did I was pleasantly surprised with what they had uncovered.

“Ok fellas, you’ve been out and about all over the past few weeks, what have you got for me,†I stood staring my two scouts Andy Harris and Simon Hall as they trawled through their notes to pick out their recommendations.

“Here’s one young lad, saw him play in Everton’s reserve teams last week. Name’s Iain Turner, plays in net, great prospect,’ Andy told me, however I did not hasten to add that I was more than happy with those currently available for selection between the sticks.

“Ok then,†Andy continued, sounding less confident now that his first suggestion had been knocked back. “I’ve got some sources in Germany who have giving me glowing reports about this Charisteas fella at Werder Bremen. Seems as though they’d sell him aswell, he’s out of favour there at the moment. Strong, good in the air, and can finish.â€

“Leave me his agent’s number and the profile, I might just take a look. What’ve you got for me Si?â€

Simon Hall cleared his throat and began to speak. “This week boss, I’ve done a bit of scouting around over in England, I’ve heard a few whispers about who’s available, one of them being Shaun Wright-Phillips. Would sort us out on the right for a while, his agent tells me he’s looking to get out when his contract finishes in June.â€

Now this, I was interested in. I saw him as a perfect addition, quick, athletic, imaginative in his play, but most importantly, we could get him for free.

With no other real notable findings to report of, I cut the meeting short to get over to Gregg’s before the first batch of meat and potato pasties ran out.

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Saturday 18th October

Premier League Game 9

Leeds United vs. Tottenham

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, de la Cuesta, Radebe ©, Milner, Morgan (Wilcox ’71), Batty, Johnson, Viduka, Bridges

After poor performances of late, Nicky Barmby had to make way for young James Milner on the right hand side of midfield. We needed to get into the habit of winning, and what better way to start than against an under-achieving Spurs side in the relegation zone.

Jose de la Cuesta’s long-range drive, tipped wide, was the only highlight of the first half an hour, in a game between two sides severely lacking in confidence. The deadlock was broken 3 minutes before the interval when Michael Bridges beat the offside trap, to round Kasey Keller and roll the ball into the empty net. Our lead did not last for long, however, when only 2 minutes later Zamora powered a header past Robinson from a Spurs’ corner.

The players responded well to Zamora’s goal, and we were the better side, having a lot of possession, which paid off after 71 minutes, Mark Viduka bagging for the first time in what seemed like ages. We were comfortable, but as is often the case in football the old boy comes back to spoil the party. Jose’s slip in possession meant that Robbie Keane was through on goal, luring Robbo off his line to then delicately chip him to level the scores at 2-2.

But the lads did not give in, and we were handed a lifeline in the last minute, the big chance falling upon the young shoulders of James Milner, who had time to pick his spot; he didn’t let us down, stroking the ball through the legs of Keller. A thoroughly deserved win, were it not for defensive lapses the score could well have been harsher on Spurs, but as it was, 3-2 showed on the scoreboard at fulltime.

Leeds United 3 - Bridges 42', 71', 90+2'

Tottenham Hotspur 2 - Zamora 44', Keane 84'

Attendance: 38,190

MoM: Bobby Zamora (9)

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Wednesday 22nd October

Thankfully there were no midweek games, so we could prepare and rest for the next match the following Saturday. At 11.15am on a drizzly morning my Doritos break was interrupted by Dave Hancock, the head physio, who was bringing some bad news.

“We’ve got problems with Lionel and Seth, gaffer,†were Dave’s opening words to me. “Lionel’s strained his knee ligaments, nothing nasty, but the earliest we’re gonna see him back is the Charlton game on the 8th. Same with Seth, he’s pulled his groin muscle, and unless we take it slow, he could be out for well longer than just a couple weeks.â€

Although no serious concerns, this was a big blow, as we would need to make full use of are already limited squad size.

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October ended with two highly disappointing results, just as I felt we had the morale we needed after the spurs win. On the 25th, a sunny Saturday afternoon, we travelled to St. Andrews, where a Mikael Forssell hat trick sent us home despondent once more. Morgan & Johnson’s deputies, Morris and Wilcox, did little to make the regulars lose any sleep over winning their places back.

This was followed four days later by a Carling Cup exit, a Michael Chopra goal in the 82nd minute for the Toon Army ensured we would not be battling it out in Cardiff come March. Things could have been different however, had James Milner converted our last minute penalty, but it was not to be, as we went crashing out 1-0.

In both these games we did not create, which emphasized to me the importance of having Lionel and Seth in the side. Our normally secure defence had looked leaky, conceding 7 goals in our last 3 games.

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Saturday 1st November

Premier League Game 11

Leeds United vs. Manchester City

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, de la Cuesta, Radebe ©, Milner, Wilcox, Batty, Morris, Viduka, Sakho

Our hectic November schedule began without Michael Bridges, who developed a stomach virus. I decided to bring Lamine in to provide pace and energy, who was the only change from the side that went out of the Cup at St. James’ Park. I am a firm believer in letting the lads make up for their mistakes, and I hoped today they would strengthen this belief.

As ever there were no early goals, however there was bemusement rather than celebration when contender for ‘Freak Goal of the Season,’ occurred after 23 minutes. James Milner struck a beautiful free kick from almost 30 yards out, which crashed off the bar onto the back of Weaver’s head, which crept over the line to leave the City keeper with a lot to make up for after poor reactions.

The goal lifted spirits, and with half time approaching, we were rampant. A Jason Wilcox corner was nodded home at the far post by Viduka, and from the ensuing City kick off, Viduka robbed Claudio Reyna of possession, to round 3 city defenders and lob Nicky Weaver, to score what turned out to be November’s Goal of the Month.

The lads were unlucky not to be 5 or 6 up, however with just over 20 minutes remaining of the match, Jason Wilcox slid in to convert Milner’s cross, to make it 4-0. But it was not to be the perfect score line, as with 79 minutes gone, American Claudio Reyna rifled home from the spot after Lucas had hacked down Fowler inside the box. Although disappointed to have conceded, we could have no more complaints with a handsome 4-1 win, and 5th spot in the league.

Leeds United 4 - Milner 23', Viduka 42' 43', Wilcox 68'

Manchester City 1 - Reyna (pen) 79'

Attendance: 37,455

MoM: Mark Viduka (9)

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Saturday 8th November

It was a real shame that the game against Manchester City could not be followed up by a similarly convincing performance. Instead, we seemed lethargic, as Carlton Cole’s 8th minute opener against Charlton was enough to give the Addicks a 1-0 win. To rub salt into our wounds, the three teams below us all won, which meant that we were now down in 8th place.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Chelsea | | 12 | 10 | 2 | 0 | 30 | 10 | +20 | 32 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Arsenal | | 11 | 9 | 0 | 2 | 20 | 11 | +9 | 27 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Everton | | 12 | 5 | 5 | 2 | 16 | 10 | +6 | 20 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Newcastle | | 11 | 6 | 2 | 3 | 18 | 13 | +5 | 20 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Man Utd | | 11 | 5 | 4 | 2 | 17 | 6 | +11 | 19 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Wolves | | 12 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 17 | 12 | +5 | 19 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Liverpool | | 11 | 5 | 4 | 2 | 13 | 9 | +4 | 19 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | LEEDS | | 12 | 5 | 3 | 4 | 15 | 14 | +1 | 18 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Portsmouth | | 12 | 4 | 5 | 3 | 16 | 12 | +4 | 17 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Fulham | | 12 | 5 | 2 | 5 | 12 | 13 | -1 | 17 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Charlton | | 12 | 5 | 1 | 6 | 16 | 20 | -4 | 16 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Blackburn | | 11 | 4 | 2 | 5 | 12 | 14 | -2 | 14 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Birmingham | | 12 | 4 | 2 | 6 | 18 | 22 | -4 | 14 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Man City | | 11 | 4 | 1 | 6 | 15 | 21 | -6 | 13 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Bolton | | 12 | 4 | 1 | 7 | 17 | 26 | -9 | 13 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Tottenham | | 12 | 3 | 3 | 6 | 20 | 19 | +1 | 12 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Aston Villa | | 12 | 3 | 3 | 6 | 13 | 17 | -4 | 12 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Middlesbrough | | 12 | 2 | 2 | 8 | 12 | 23 | -11 | 8 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Leicester | | 12 | 2 | 2 | 8 | 11 | 22 | -11 | 8 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | Southampton | | 12 | 2 | 2 | 8 | 9 | 23 | -14 | 8 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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Wednesday 12th November

In an infuriating midweek tie with the Division One Champions, Patrick Berger carved us open midway through the first half, before nut-megging Robbo to put them in the lead. Our inability to break them down meant that we had to throw men forward, however we had to rely on defender Jose de la Cuesta to provide our ‘Get out of Jail Free,’ card, nodding us level after 71 minutes.

1-1 was how it stayed, leaving us with only 1 win from our last 5.

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Wednesday 19th November

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

Sky Sports News

Leeds United have signed former Liverpool and Newcastle legend Peter Beardsley as a coach until the end of the season. Beardsley, 42, claimed he was ‘delighted to get the chance to work at a club like Leeds,’ and will join the Yorkshire outfit next week.

O’Brien, dismayed at his sides’ deteriorating on-pitch performances, brought in Beardsley to ‘add valuable know-how,’ to the club.

‘We’re extremely pleased that Peter has agreed to join us,’ the Leeds boss told reporter Nick Collins. ‘We now have the full setup in place to plough through the season and do as best as we can.’

Meanwhile Leeds will be without Nick Barmby for their trip to Leicester next Saturday, with the midfielder straining his neck in training.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Sunday 23rd November

Premier League Game 14

Leicester City vs. Leeds United

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, Radebe, de la Cuesta, Milner, Morgan, Batty, Johnson (Morris ’85), Viduka, Smith (Bridges ’85)

Comments had been made during the week that we had had the best spell of our season, and this Sky Super Sunday game was perfect to prove our doubters wrong.

A goal would have been the only way to cap off this almost perfect first ten minutes of the match; we had hassled and pressed Leicester, forcing them to make mistakes. Things were looking edgy however, when Paul Dickov had the ball in the net after 14 minutes, only for it to be ruled out for an innocuous handball.

The game ‘died’ somewhat after that incident, and it was not until after half time that the game really got going. A late tackle on Lucas by Leicester forward James Scowcroft led to an all out mass brawl. This had disastrous consequences for both side, as Scowcroft was made to walk for his second bookable offence. This however, was overshadowed by the madness of David Batty, who was shown a straight red for landing a left-hook on Leicester ‘hardman’ Lillian Nalis.

If anything this spurred us on, and with the clock reading 65 minutes, young Milner drove a Lionel Morgan corner into the roof of the net, from 12 yards out, to give us the lead.

A moment of genius followed from the youngster, to grab his second of the game. Milner picked up the ball on the half way line, and ran at the Leicester defence. Nobody looked capable of taking the ball off him, as he skipped passed the challenges of Nalis and then Sinclair. A one-two with Viduka saw Milner through on goal, with a feint to the side enabling him to round Walker and put the ball into the unguarded near post.

Leicester City 0

Leeds United 2 – Milner 65’, 79’

Attendance: 32,477

MoM: James Milner (9)

I was delighted with this performance, as we acquitted ourselves pefrectly and played like the home side. I now had to get in touch with a few associates in order to help make this kind of performance a more predictable and assured one.

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Monday 24th November

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

Sky Sports News

***BREAKING NEWS***

We have news coming through that Leeds United have reached an agreement for the fee of Birmingham youngster Darren Carter, in a deal set to take place at the end of the season.

The agreed price is rumoured to be in the region of £500,000, with out-of-favour Leeds midfielder Stephen McPhail moving the other way.

Both clubs have refused to comment on any deal at this stage, we’ll bring you more as we get the news.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

The reports leaked to the press were accurate, although the deal had not been agreed; it was what Birmingham had asked for. I rang up Steve to discuss Darren’s availability, and Birmingham got back to us with the demand of half a million plus McPhail.

But when we returned to them with a formal written offer, they decided McPhail plus £2m was more realistic. We were by no means pleased with their change of heart, however our reaction was to be blown all out of proportion in the press only days later.

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Wednesday 26th November

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

The Daily Mirror

Leeds furious over indecision

Darren Carter’s move to Leeds United has collapsed after Birmingham decided to pull the plug on the youngsters switch. The move was set to be completed in the summer, however as it turns out, Darren Carter will surely be staying at St. Andrews.

It is believed that O’Brien is so angry at the whole fiasco that he has vowed never to do business with the midlands club again.

Carter, meanwhile, stated that although he would have loved to complete the move, now that it seems unlikely, he is dedicated to the Birmingham cause. Carter had agreed terms for a £15,000 per week deal, however the clubs could not agree a final fee to push the deal through, with Birmingham representatives reported to have been responsible for the collapse.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Saturday 30th November

Premier League Game 15

Blackburn Rovers vs. Leeds United

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, Radebe, de la Cuesta, Milner, Morgan, Batty, Johnson, Viduka (Bridges ‘79), Smith

The first ten minutes of this game were completely dominated by the home side, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole combining after 7, only for Yorke’s effort to be tipped round the post by Robbo. A goal seemed inevitable.

And that goal came after 13 minutes. Brett Emerton’s curling near post corner was flicked on by young Steven Reid into the roof of the net. It was a stupid goal to concede from our point of view, which was evident by Lucas berating Gary Kelly who should have picked up the Aussie winger.

After the goal, Rovers showed no signs of taking their foot off the pedal. Emerton looked to terrorise Ian Harte at every opportunity, creating chances for Gary Flitcroft and Dwight Yorke; both spurned in the space of 3 minutes. And it was his corner that led to another goal in the 32nd minute. Another attempt at a near-post routine was cleared by Kelly, which Mark Viduka latched onto, to lob the on-coming Friedel and give us an undeserved equaliser.

Our response caused a subdued opening to the second half, however we were indeed lucky not to be behind when Matt Jansen was sent crashing to the ground inside the area after 69 minutes. Jeff Winter shook his head, as Souness erupted on the sidelines, explaining his theories on the referee’s spare-time activities to fourth official Alan Wiley.

The crazy Scotsman would therefore have been distraught with 13 minutes to go, when the outstanding Jose de la Cuesta leapt magnificently to head home another dangerous Lionel Morgan corner.

Blackburn Rovers 1 – S. Reid ‘13

Leeds United 2 – Viduka 31’, de la Cuesta 77’

Attendance: 31344

MoM: Jose Julian de la Cuesta (9)

I knew beforehand that I would have been content with a draw, so I was extremely pleased to have come away with all 3 points. What made victory even sweeter, was that we had not even deserved one point, so to take maximum rewards was certainly a pleasant occurrence.

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Thanks thepain, glad to know people are still reading. Thank you for your kind words icon_smile.gif

Monday 2nd December

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

FourFourTwo

‘Jose shines in Leeds’ Cuesta for survival’

FourFourTwo Starwatch: Jose Julian de la Cuesta

When Jose de la Cuesta signed for Leeds United at the beginning of this season from unknown Atletico Nacional in Colombia, few expected him to be anything other than a bit-part player for O’Brien’s side. However his fantastic displays in the Premier League have seen him form a superb partnership with captain Lucas Radebe, and left plaudits all over England praising the ability and undoubted potential of the young Colombian star.

Since his arrival at Elland Road, he has earned his first 12 caps for his national side, in which he managed to find the net twice from centre back. FourFourTwo caught up with the Premier League’s November Player of the Month on how he is finding life at Leeds United Football Club. Gary Phillips reports:

GP: Jose, thanks for joining us today. Firstly, how hard was it to settle in at a club like Leeds United, a club so much bigger than Nacional whom you signed from?

JdlC: It was very easy to. They have a special set-up at Leeds, which is such that all the players and staff are very welcoming to any new players.

GP: And what about the language barrier and lifestyle, surely it would have been such a stark contrast to what you were used to?

JdlC: As for the language, I already spoke English as I spent 4 years studying it from the age of 14. However the lifestyle, although it was very different, I was able to adapt to it very well, as all my family have moved across due to my 5-year contract.

GP: How have you found working with your new boss, Dan O'Brien?

JdlC: He's been brilliant. He has given me time to settle and told me if I ever have any probelms, that I should just knock on his door. Himself and Lucas Radebe have proved to be the perfect advertisement for joining Leeds United

GP: Surely when you joined Leeds, bearing in mind you were, and still are, only in the early stages of your career, you couldn’t have anticipated your sudden introduction to the starting eleven?

JdlC: Absolutely, Mr. O’Brien told me when I joined he would be looking to bring me into the side to aid my development, but thankfully I played OK and was able to find myself in the side quite frequently.

GP: And what are your short-term plans for Leeds United?

JdlC: Well for me it’s got to be to stay in the side. As for what I want us to achieve, well a good cup run and as high a league position as possible. We are all confident that the sky is the limit for Leeds.

GP: Jose thanks for your time, and congratulations on your award for Player of the Month.

JdlC: Thank you very much Gary, its been a pleasure.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Thanks a lot SoS, I hope you keep reading icon_smile.gif

Wednesday 3rd December

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

Sky Sports News

Dan O’Brien has urged his players to continue their recent run of good form that has resulted in their climb up to 5th position. Leeds have only lost once in their last 6 league games, with their last two victories coming away from home, an area that O’Brien has previously stated they needed to improve in.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Chelsea | | 15 | 12 | 3 | 0 | 34 | 10 | +24 | 39 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Arsenal | | 15 | 11 | 1 | 3 | 25 | 13 | +12 | 34 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Everton | | 15 | 7 | 5 | 3 | 23 | 15 | +8 | 26 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Man Utd | | 15 | 6 | 7 | 2 | 22 | 8 | +14 | 25 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | LEEDS | | 15 | 7 | 4 | 4 | 20 | 16 | +4 | 25 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Newcastle | | 15 | 7 | 3 | 5 | 24 | 24 | 0 | 24 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

Here we see Leeds could go as high as 3rd with a win against 19th-placed Bolton on Monday, and you can see that live, no-where else but Sky Sports 1, kick-off at seven forty-five.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Thursday 4th December

A long time had passed since I’d heard any grumbles from Viduka & co. No transfer bids had been received, and as far as I was concerned, as long as that was the case, he could talk to as many clubs as he wanted. I arrived back into my office at 1.15pm, upon returning from Gregg’s with a Chicken Bake, to find that Professor John McKenzie needed to see me urgently. I found this odd, as I was scheduled to meet him the following Monday for a meeting on the side’s progress anyway. Apparently this matter couldn’t wait till Monday.

‘Come in,’ Prof. McKenzie replied to my eager tapping on his door. As I entered, two members of the Board of Directors got up and headed for the exit, both without acknowledging my presence.

‘Don’t leave on my account,’ I smirked, in an attempt to patronise them after their blatant ignorance of my arrival.

‘Now Dan,’ Prof. McKenzie’s voice was stern and somewhat impatient. ‘We’ve had a written offer for Mark Viduka.’

My heart sunk as I realised that despite my previous attempts to hold on to him, now that things were starting to move along, money could prove to be the deciding factor.

‘Barcelona have tabled a bid of nearly 8 million Euros. That comes out to 5 and a half million pounds,’ he informed me. ‘We are seriously considering accepting it, but I wanted your opinion.’ I immediately shook my head.

‘Reject it, I strongly recommend you reject it,’ I pleaded. ‘Look at where he’s taken us so far. 5th place.’

After another 10 minutes or so of re-enforcing my argument, I left assured that this time Mark would not be leaving for Barcelona. We had rejected their bid, however if they went much higher, there would be no room for manoeuvre on our part.

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Saturday 6th December

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

Daily Mail Exclusive

Viduka fury as Leeds reject bid

Mark Viduka has threatened to walk out on Leeds United football club after the club rejected a £5m bid from Barcelona.

Barca President Joan Laporta made the bid yesterday, however the Leeds board turned down the approach despite their crippling debt.

Mark Viduka’s agent told Sportsmail: ‘Mark is very angry that Leeds are stopping him from playing at a higher level. Playing for Barcelona would help him to improve as a player, however it seems that Dan O’Brien does not want this to happen – he is more bothered about his own success at Leeds.’

‘If things don’t change then Mark will have to seriously consider why he is still at this club – Mark wants to be playing in Europe, something Leeds can’t offer him.’

It beggars belief as to why Mark Viduka would want to cause such a fuss at a time like this. His club are currently in a rich vein of form, and with Alan Smith and Michael Bridges ready to fill in for Viduka at any opportunity, such an outburst surely is not good for either party.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Saturday 8th December

Premier League Game 16

Leeds United vs. Bolton Wanderers

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, Radebe (Matteo 76'), de la Cuesta, Barmby, Morgan, Batty (Morris 67'), Johnson, Bridges, Smith

As a result of his eagerness to leave the club, I decided to leave Mark Viduka out of the squad to face Bolton. Alan Smith and Michael Bridges led the line in what turned out to be one of our finest performances of the season.

We were right into Bolton from the first whistle. Lionel Morgan deserved a goal after only 5 minutes, ghosting past 4 defenders to fire a shot off the crossbar and out. His goal came however with 19 minutes gone, nodding home a cross from Nicky Barmby to put us in front.

Lionel was involved in the second goal of the match, only three minutes later. Once again he terrorised the Bolton defence with his pace and dribbling skills, before cutting back to the penalty spot where Alan Smith drove the ball into the roof of the net to give us a comfortable cushion.

Half time began exactly as it finished; we were on the front foot and looked like scoring with every attack. But to be fair to the visitors, what happened next could not have been stopped by Maldini, Nesta and Buffon, let alone by Bruno N’Gotty, Emerson Thome and Jussi Jaaskelainen. Ian Harte took a throw in on the halfway line on the left hand side, into the feet of Michael Bridges. A small bounce before it got to him, meant the ex-Sunderland striker was able to lift the ball over the oncoming N’Gotty, and turn. As the ball was still in the air, no fewer than 30 yards out, Michael sent a driving volley crashing in off the post past the despairing Jaaskelainen. A truly special goal.

Youri Djorkaeff did his best throughout to try and get his side a consolation; the best effort however was no more than a drive from outside the box, dealt with comfortably by Robinson.

The game’s last piece of action came after 85 minutes; Nicky Barmby reached the by-line, and pulled back a cross, which Lionel nodded down for Smithy to convert a simple tap-in. It was a great team goal; evident of the type of football we had played all day.

I was thrilled; not only by the score line, but also by the performance and confidence with which we had played. 4-0 was by no means flattering on our part, as we now needed only 4 points to be assured of safety.

Leeds United 4 – Morgan 19’, Smith 22’, 85’, Bridges 46’

Bolton Wanderers 0

Attendance: 37,439

MoM: Alan Smith (9)

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Sunday 9th December

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

Sky Sports News

Leeds Chairman Professor John McKenzie has expressed his delight at Leeds’ emphatic 4-0 win over Bolton yesterday, however claimed the club could still go down.

‘The lads were marvellous,’ Prof. McKenzie said. ‘It could have quite easily been seven or eight. That performance showed we deserve to be occupying a high position in the league.’

But despite his elation at his side’s win over Bolton, McKenzie remains realistic about staying in the Premiership next season.

‘We’ve started the season well, all we need to do now is get to this forty-point marker we’ve laid down for ourselves. When we have done that, only then can we start aiming higher. We’re not safe just yet.’

As you saw here on Sky Sports News around an hour ago, Leeds were handed a home tie against Fulham on the 3rd January in the F.A. Cup 3rd Round, however Leeds’ primary target is to get a result against Everton this coming Saturday.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Saturday 13th December

The 40,000 that turned up to Goodison Park could not have wished for a duller fixture. A total of 6 shots were registered on goal throughout the whole match, with one of the 3 on target being an Alan Smith header with 4 minutes left to go in the match. Man of the Match went to Robbo, for two good saves in the second half. It was an award that was just about deserved, due to the fact that no outfield player seemed prepared to take the game ‘by the scruff of the neck.’

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Tuesday 16th December

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

Sky Sports News

Leeds prepare Bosman Swoop

Reports in Manchester are suggesting that Leeds United are close to agreeing a deal to bring former England Under 21 International Shaun Wright-Phillips to Elland Road at the end of the season.

Manager Dan O’Brien is looking bring to in Wright-Phillips as a long term replacement for Nicky Barmby, and father Ian has already hinted at a move for the youngster:

‘Manchester City have been great to Shaun,’ the Arsenal Legend told Sky Sports. ‘But there is a time in a player’s career when they need a new challenge, something to help them improve.’

‘I don’t know too much about the interest from Leeds, but they are certainly proving to be a big club once more and I’m sure it would be very tempting for Shaun.’

Manager Dan O’Brien has played down rumours of a move, and has also scotched reports linking the club with a move for Argentine striker Martin Palermo, when his contract expires in June, telling reporters ‘it is pure fabrication.’

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Saturday 20th December

Premier League Game 18

Leeds United vs. Fulham

Starting XI: Robinson, Kelly, Harte (Matteo 42’), de la Cuesta, Radebe ©, Barmby, Wilcox, Batty, Johnson, Smith (Milner 90’), Bridges

Our fans would not have been optimistic of seeing much action against Fulham, due to the zero-out-of-ten rating for entertainment value against Everton only a week previously. I named the same squad and first eleven however, in what turned out to be an interesting affair with its fair share of events.

In an opening 20 minutes played largely in the middle of the park, tempers were steadily rising as the likes of Smith and Batty set about getting in Fulham’s faces on more than one occasion.

And it was the Leeds players who got the first chance to rub their opponents’ noses in it, when we took the lead after 24 minutes via a delicious chip from Alan Smith, bouncing in off the post from his 20-yard effort.

Things seemed to go slightly pear-shaped after that, however, and as half-time approached we were put in a rather uncompromising position by Jose de la Cuesta. A neat little interchange between Sean Davis and Luis Boa Morte saw the Portuguese winger bursting towards goal, and in a vain attempt to nick the ball, Jose hauled Boa Morte down to the ground inside the area. Penalty to Fulham. Jose was given his marching orders, as Junichi Inamoto rolled the ball down the middle of the goal to send us into half-time on a par with the visitors.

In the second half we found it increasingly harder to break down Fulham. Chances were few and far between, but feuds were still developing all over the pitch, Smithy and Seth Johnson getting booked for rash tackles.

We continued to push forward, and eventually got our reward with 4 minutes to go, as Smithy slid in to slot home a cross, whipped in by Lionel Morgan. The crowd were in hysterics, and rightly so, as the 3 points was nothing less than we deserved. The final incident was a standing ovation for Smithy, who was replaced by Milner in injury time for exactly that purpose.

Leeds United 2 – Smith 24’, 86’

Fulham 1 – Inamoto (pen 43’)

Attendance: 36,217

MoM: Alan Smith (10)

[This message was edited by Raptor on 09 April 2004 at 16:30.]

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Great Stuff Dan,(hope u aint cheating lol just kidding),is it really all that hard going leeds,i think because they have done so badly this season people say its hard to go them on cm.Kick viduka out ure team,he is a celtic reject.Good luck with wright-phillips,he would be a good capture,and morgan on the left gives u good balance.

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Cheers Therajgaj, and no, no cheating going on here, it's all legit - finding it a bit hard to steady the ship and stay in a good position though icon_smile.gif. Thanks for reading and for the words of encouragement icon14.gif

Friday 26th December

Premier League Game 19

Starting XI: Robinson, Richardson, Harte, de la Cuesta, Radebe ©, Barmby (Milner 72’), Wilcox, Batty, Johnson, Smith (Viduka 69’), Bridges (Kilgallon 72’)

We were dealt a cruel blow on the day before this crunch match with the Gunners, as Gary Kelly was declared unfit to travel with the squad, after developing a serious viral infection. It was therefore the chance for Frazer Richardson, a young 21 year-old fullback, to deputise in place of Gary. Mark Viduka was also named in the squad, as I felt that my stubbornness was not a good enough reason to deny us of a potential match-winner.

The first half brought an unusual air of confidence to our boys, as Wenger’s men were not as dominant as was predicted. Seth Johnson made Highbury hearts flutter after only 6 minutes, when his 25-yard drive crashed off the underside of the crossbar and was hooked away. Thierry Henry was his ever-dangerous self, however his end product was never more than tricky for Robbo in goal, who denied the World’s 2nd best player on a couple of occasions.

With 4 minutes left before the break, the deadlock was broken. Lionel Morgan whipped in a corner to the far post, and who should arrive but Frazer Richardson to head us into the lead, at Highbury, on his debut. The start of a dream day for the youngster?

Not quite. Our bubble burst only a minute later, as deadly Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp fired home from close range after Robbo failed to hold another Henry drive. Although we went in at the break on level terms, the boys were despondent at letting their lead slip so quickly.

The second half was an evenly contested affair, and unusually for a game at Highbury nowadays, there were few goal-bound attempts. I knew it wasn’t to be our day, however, after 72 minutes, when Lucas Radebe was sent-off, given a second yellow card for abusive language to the referee. Not only sent-off, but for a stupid offence that should have been prevented.

Arsenal forced their only clear cut chance of the second half, with eight minutes remaining. Freddie Ljungberg cut in from the right hand side, to play through Henry, whose cheeky chip over Robinson nestled in the corner of the net, to take away our point.

Arsenal 2 – Bergkamp 43’, Henry 82’

Leeds United 1 – Richardson 41’

Attendance: 38,389

MoM: Thierry Henry (9)

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Tuesday 30th December

Our next game was not til the 3rd of January, where we would be taking on Fulham at home in the F.A. Cup. Due to this the players had the privilege of being at home with their families and friends on New Years’ Eve. I therefore took it upon myself to have a word with the lads about their duties and responsibilities.

‘There will be no excuses,’ I told the lads as they all looked, grim-faced towards me. ‘Training on Thursday is a must, and I will be taking action for anyone not here. By all means, enjoy yourself on Wednesday night, but come on; we’ve done well enough to get to where we have done so far. I don’t want to be falling out with anyone over a stupid night on the tiles for New Years’ Eve.’

Most of the boys nodded in agreement with what I was saying. Others, however, I could tell, had just had their plans somewhat spoilt by my speech. But they were all sensible enough to do the right thing, I hoped.

‘Have a few friends round, a few drinks, by all means,’ I re-iterated. ‘Just don’t go over the top. I don’t want any crappy stories the next morning about you being ill, or getting yourselves into trouble.’

I myself would enjoy a peaceful New Years’ Eve with close friends and family. I spent the night wondering if the next day I would have to reprimand any of the lads for misbehaving. I sincerely hoped I wouldn’t, I was so desperate to keep a good run of form going into the New Year. I loved my ‘new’ job in football, and I had a burning desire to stay for as long as possible.

I took training on New Years’ Day, thankfully without any punishment or detective work needed, before going on to do a bit of ‘business’ the following day.

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Thanks Therajgaj, hope you keep reading icon_smile.gif

Friday 2nd January

I had spent this Friday in drizzly Manchester, and I must admit, I found it a very successful trip. I had arranged to meet Shaun Wright-Phillips and his agent, along with Prof. McKenzie. I arrived at Shaun’s home at around eleven, as his beaming smile welcomed me.

‘Mr. O’Brien, come in,’ he said to me, his eyes wide open as if expecting instant news.

‘Good morning Shaun,’ I replied. ‘Not a bad performance at the weekend.’ I winked, and immediately he smiled, seeming confident that his man of the match performance at Southampton the previous Saturday had impressed me.

We sat in his living room, lovely and ‘homely,’ whilst I began to talk to Shaun about our aims.

‘I see you fitting in perfectly at Leeds United, Shaun,’ I told him. ‘We’ve had a good season so far, but with you at the club it could be so much more.’

‘Well thanks, Mr. O’Brien, I’m very interested and thrilled to have you contact me,’ he had a strong assuring tone in his voice. He began to read over the terms of the pencilled contract that Prof. McKenzie had handed over once we had arrived. After a couple of minutes speaking between ourselves, both parties converged once more as I broke the silence.

‘I can arrange a visit down to Leeds for you Shaun, show you the ground, training complex, give you a feel of what we can offer, I-’

‘That won’t be necessary, Mr. O’Brien,’ Shaun announced, placing the document back on the table. ‘Not only is the contract improved on my current one at City, but also I’d love to be a part of your set-up. I will sign for you.’

Professor McKenzie handed Shaun a fountain pen almost immediately, as he signed the contract in the relevant spot. He was therefore set to join Leeds United on the 1st July 2004.

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