This is the Louth Branch website. Always Leeds always loyal ! Edited by Gerry Cunningham. Please be be advised that we only attain match tickets for paid up members.  Happy new year to  all of our members and their families. On the park hopefully things will get better.

DECEMBER 2011

Saturday New years Eve Dec 31st 2011 – Barnsley 4-1 Leeds United. 01 Lonergan, 02 Connolly (YC), 03 Kisnorbo, 28 White, 48 O’Dea (YC), 07 Vayrynen (YC) (Clayton 54) 08 Brown, 16 Pugh, 20 Nunez, 38 Keogh (Becchio 54) 44 McCormack. Unused Substitutes : 21 McCarthy, 04 Bruce.Shambolic ! Eddie Gray : “We were woeful. They did little one twos around us. That was a  lesson for us how to play football. They gave us a chasing. We have got to bring players in who will start, and by that I mean at least four players . Simon tried to make changes and none of them worked. We were lucky it wasn’t seven or eight today. That’s how lucky we were. Their two central midfield players dominated us today. We have no pace in the side and we have not played well all season. The thing that has been bothering me all season is the performances. Because we have not been playing well, and once those results go the confidence goes also”.Simon Grayson : “Where do you start ?  Embarrassed. There’s not enough words. Lack lustre. We’ve not not got close, no desire. Our fans have every right to criticise me and my players today. Frustrated. One or two have probably played their last games for Leeds United. It’s been coming to be fair. What changed in a week ? We were okay at Derby. Today we went with three man midfield. We didn’t utilise the spare and, and people didn’t pick up. We couldn’t do much worse than the first half. But obviously we did in the second half. A lot of their players appreciate what it means to play football because they have come up through the lower leagues. I might wake up in the morning and regret those comments. I take the criticism but the players have got to look themselves in the mirror and if selected do a lot lot better. Re Snods and Jonny  You can’t blame it on not having Jonny and Robert. Every club and every manager gets injuries. We were struggling with one or two out – Lees, Bromby and O’Dea 75% fit but that’s no excuse. You can guarantee that I’ll be trying very hard to bring players in for Monday. We are a decent enough team and we got to achieve a lot more. Re pressure on manager Of course there’s pressure on me. I’m not daft enough to think results are good and I  accept responsibility, but the players have to accept responsibility when they step across the white line. Phone in comments :Two players from the starting side commanded a transfer fee. You don’t win promotion on the cheap”. – Simon has had no money to spend. Come on get behind the manager. – Disgraceful and embarrassing today. We need to build a team from the back and go for 1-0 wins. So what if it’s boring, its winning games. Leeds didn’t do enough in the summer to bring in quality players. We scrapped around with the freebies and we haven’t improved on last year, and that’s without losing Max Gradel. I feel sorry for the manager who hasn’t had the money to bring in players. Grayson has lost the dressing room. Simple as ! Where has the passion gone. The fans still have it but the players haven’t got it. Snodgrass, White and Howson are all good enough but the rest aren’t. That’s all down to Grayson. We’re sick of hearing the excuses. How he said we played well at Derby, I’ll never know.- He says one or two aren’t good enough to play again for Leeds. I’d say more than one or two were never good enough to haver played for Leeds in the first half. 

Friday Dec 30th 2011. Barnsley v Leeds preview. Leeds chairman Ken Bates said before the Boxing Day defeat at Derby that Grayson faced the possibility of the sack if he failed to guide the club to the Premier League in May. The Tykes host Leeds at Oakwell in the Championship on Saturday. Hill, whose side won 2-1 at Elland Road in November, said: “I hope the result is the same. The commitment from the players will be good and the commitment from both sets of supporters will be excellent. “Leeds are an excellent side. The demands on Simon Grayson are different. The pressures remain the same and he’s trying to make the best of his resources, as I am mine. “It helps that we played recently. We know the players he’s got at his disposal, we know the strategies he’s been using, he knows ours and it will be a question of which team performs the best on the day. “It could be down to mistakes, it could be down to the referee’s decisions, it could be anything, but that’s the greatness of the game we play and we all love being involved in it.” Leeds go into the game without Howson and Snodgrass. However Hill has a string of absentees and may be forced to blood youngsters John Stones (17) and Paul Digby (16). Danny Drinkwater is out with a thigh injury and there are serious doubts over Jim O’Brien and Reuben Noble-Lazarus. Nile Ranger, who arrived at Oakwell in a blaze of publicity has limped off back to Newcastle with a twisted-ankle. Expect Ramon Nunez to start in place of Snodgrass. Who will start up front ? Becchio and McCormack doesn’t seem to gel together, so expect Grayson to go with a 4-5-1, possibly with McCormack in the hole. Brown, Clayton, Nunez and Pugh will most probably be in the middle. Grayson occasionally plays White on the left side of midfield, and Pugh at left full. Grayson may be happy with a point tomorrow but we really need three. We haven’t beaten Barnsley in 13 years. Barnsley have last the last three and United have gained just one point from the last nine. 

Friday Dec 30th 2011. Will Keogh stay or go ? Simon Grayson is refusing to rule out Leeds United retaining striker Andy Keogh when his loan from Wolves ends. The 25-year-old is due to return to Molineux after Monday’s Championship clash with BurnleyDescription: http:/static.lingospot.com/spot/image/spacer.gif at Elland Road. KeoghDescription: http:/static.lingospot.com/spot/image/spacer.gif has done a job for Leeds with his work rate impressing many, although he has scored only two goals in 23 appearances. GraysonDescription: http:/static.lingospot.com/spot/image/spacer.gif has a limited budget in which to utilise in the New Year and he is mulling over whether to spend it in attacking areas. “Nothing’s been confirmed,” he told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “But we’ve got certain areas of the pitch that we need to strengthen and I’ve got X-amount of money to spend. “Wolves are looking to do permanent business and they wouldn’t be loaning him back out again until the end of the window. “I’ve got funds to strengthen and I’ve got to analyse where the most crucial areas are but that’s not to say we won’t do anything with Andy.” At present, in my view we have bigger priorities than signing Andy Keogh, who has faded badly in the last seven or eight games that he has played. 

Friday Dec 30th 2011. Best player ruled out. Leeds United star Robert Snodgrass has been sidelined after undergoing appendix surgery. The Scotland international went under the knife on Thursday. Leeds manager Simon Grayson said: “It wasn’t something that was planned, but we were hoping to keep it quiet until after the team sheets had been exchanged at Barnsley in order not to alert our opponents. “We’re not putting any timescale on things, but hopefully he won’t be absent for too long a period.” Snodgrass has scored eight goals in 22 league appearances this season. There is no doubt that Snodgrass and Gradel were our twin threats last season. Now we are without both players. It’s time for others to step up to the mark. Meanwhile United have used their 24 hour recall clause on Alex Bruce who will go into the squad against Barnsley. Personally, I believe he has had a raw deal at Leeds. 

Thursday December 29th 2011. Duo leave Leeds. Lincoln City manager David Holdsworth has drafted in three promising youngsters with a view to signing them on loan in January. Leicester City goalkeeper Adam Smith and Leeds United midfield duo Sanchez Payne and Will Hatfield have linked up with the Red Imps in order for Holdsworth to have a closer look at them. With Gateshead keeper Paul Farman expected to return to his parent club, the signing of Smith looks certain to go through. However, Holdsworth will run the rule over Payne and Hatfield over the next week before making a decision. Holdsworth told the Lincolnshire Echo: “We have taken a young goalkeeper from Leicester called Adam Smith. “He is very highly-regarded and Paul Farman is likely to go back to Gateshead. “We need an understudy to Joe and someone who is going to compete with him. “And I am very grateful to Leicester manager Nigel Pearson for letting me have a look at him. “We have taken on a couple of trialists from Leeds with a view to possible loan signings. “One is Sanchez Payne and another is Will Hatfield. “I am grateful to Leeds for their assistance and we will see where that progresses.”

Thursday Dec 29th 2011. Who is coming in January ? Leeds United are hoping to beat Millwall and Leicester City to the loan signing of Tottenham midfielder Andros Townsend in January. The 20-year-old is being tipped to leave on loan, possibly for the rest of the season, after impressing when given his chances by Spurs in the Europa League. But Tottenham’s exit from that competition and the strong competition for places in the Spurs midfield should lead to Harry Redknapp farming him out to a Championship club for the remainder of the campaign. Redknapp has hinted at loaning out his fringe players in order to bolster their first-team experience and Leeds want to bring him to Elland Road. The West Yorkshire side’s hopes of reaching the play-offs have faded recently and Leeds boss Simon Grayson has been scouring the market for reinforcements.
Townsend, who has a contract at Tottenham until the summer of 2016, has previously been on loan at Millwall, Watford and Ipswich Town.

Louth Branch Members’views – Looking at our squad at the start of the season with the lack of decent transfers, injuries and the sale of Max Grade I suppose I would have taken 6th at Xmas. We played some good football early on in the season without getting the results our play deserved, but this last few games we are playing like shit. We really miss Max on the wing our team lacks pace and we need to try and solve this problem in January. In my opinion two decent defenders is a must, a creative midfielder to cover for Jonny Howson. I think we should look at our striker department we never replaced Beckford, the strikers’ we have at present don’t score enough. Who we get in January is anybody’s guess with uncle Ken in charge probably a few loans and a few freebies, maybe he will surprise us. Has Ken helped or hindered our club ? I would be 50/50 on this one, the clubs in a good financial position at present but the old hot chestnut for us supporters is he wont spend money on players or wages, I would like to see us spend a bit more on some quality not quantity. Money doesn’t always buy success as Leicester and a few others have found out. Where we finish at the end of the season depends on what players come in January, my guess would be 4th I think West Ham and Middlesboro will get automatic with Southampton 3rd. Paul Martin Carrickmacross – 23rd of December 2011

Weds Dec 28th 2011. Should Grayson go or be given time in January ? The Stay side – In his three years at Leeds, (believe it or not he is our sixth longest serving manager) he has delivered promotion from League One to the Championship, an FA Cup victory at our biggest enemy’s fortress and came within a whisker of the Championship pay offs last season. It’s been progress year after year and the real Leeds fans have never shouted for his head. He has seen some of his best players sold from under his nose with only token amounts redistributed toward team strengthening. Fabian Delph, Kasper Schmeichel, and Max Gradel have all been sold and revenue from Michael Woods, Tom Taiwo, and Garbutt have not been handed back to the manager. He proved his sides could mix it with the best by excellent FA Cup results at Old Trafford, The Emirates and White Hart Lane. Once gain this revenue was held by the chairman. It’s time for Larry to exit stage left. In over three years at the helm, Grayson has still to address our biggest problem….our defence. His signings on the whole have been poor. Defensively we have changed players more that I change my underwear. Neil Collins, Tony Capaldi, McCarthy, Bromby, Naylor, Bruce, O’Brien,  O’Dea have all not been good enough. Others also have arrived and contributed zilch. McSheffrey, Sanchez Watt, Michael Brown, Bessone, Paynter, …the list is endless. Even our best players, Becchio, Lees, Howson, White and Snodgrass either came through the ranks or were signed by his predecessors. His tactics are poor. We are now outside the play-offs and sinking like a stone. Barnsley, Derby County and Reading have all played us off the park in recent games. We now lie in 8th position. There is no time to waste. Don’t thrust this man in the January window. What do you think ?

Mon Dec 26th 2011. St Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day. Derby County 1-0 Leeds United. 01 Lonergan, 03 Kisnorbo, 22 Lees (Connolly 42) 28 White (Nunez 74) 48 O’Dea08 Brown YC, 15 Clayton, 16 Pugh, 10 Becchio YC (Keogh 68) 23 Snodgrass, 44 McCormack. Unused Subs : 21 McCarthy, 07 Vayrynen. Att – 33,010. BBC Report – Derby’s recent dominance over Leeds continued as Jamie Ward’s second-half strike earned the Rams a sixth straight win over the Whites. Ward, who hit the post in the first half, fired in from close range after United keeper Andy Lonergan parried his initial effort. Robert Snodgrass went closest for Leeds but his free-kick was was tipped over by Rams keeper Frank Fielding. The result leaves Leeds without a win in three games. United’s manager Simon Grayson was marking three years in charge of the Elland Road club on Boxing Day but his side struggled to make it a happy celebration. Fielding was equal to Ross McCormack’s 35-yard effort while the Rams stopper also denied Snodgrass and beat away a drive from Danny Pugh. However, the visitors created little else and they found themselves behind when Ward tucked in to his third of the season after Lonergan failed to hold his first shot. Fielding made a late double save to deny McCormack and Adam Clayton to ensure Derby recorded just their second win in nine games. Simon Grayson : “We didn’t deserve to lose that game today. Throughout the course of the game I thought we played well, our shape was good. We weren’t getting the breaks. Luciano missed a chance . We can be  happy with the way we played. We passed it around well. Everyone can see that. Fielding is a good goalkeeper and we can feel unfortunate today. We changed the system with the way we played. Ross played a little deeper. Tom Lees’  clash of heads forced him to come off, and  Cons came on. We didn’t get the breaks but we played well. Tom is dazed and dizzy and we’ll see where we are with the next game. Re firepower – the strikers are judged on the goals that the score. Normally Luciano scores with that header five yards out. We can be happy how we played today. There have occasions when we  lost games but today we can be happy with our performance”. Like many others today I listened to the match live on LUTV. Eddie Gray used words for Leeds like “poor”, too many ordinary performances,  lack of creative play, predictable, and the best team won. The tone of the phone calls afterwards was perhaps 65% vs 35% that Grayson should move on after his three years in charge. Most felt that Bates should go first.  But the saddest thing of the lot seems to be the fact that in the manager’s opinion, the best side lost today. That’s a damning indictment. United lost again and slumped to 8th position in the league. We are in trouble and sinking fast. Does Bates trust Grayson with transfer funds in January ? His signings in the past year have been poor when he seems to go for quantity instead of quality. Kisnorbo, Connolly, Bessone, O’Brien, Paynter, Sam, to name but a few are not Leeds United players. Leeds are four or five players short in their first eleven, let alone the squad, and are now getting found out for their lack of quality and at times baffling tactics. We can see how January will pan out with Leeds waiting to move players out before others can come in. Bates says that the Gradel and Schmeichel money is still available to our manager. Believe it or not, Larry is our sixth longest serving manager. He may not get a chance to become our 5th longest serving manager, but many, including myself now, feel that he has taken us as far as he can. 

Thurs 22nd of Dec 2011. A good stocking filler. In My Defence, The Autobiography by Dominic Matteo is published by Great Northern Books. Dominic Matteo came to football at just the right time – just as players’ wages were going through the roof. As the former Liverpool, Leeds, Blackburn and Stoke player admits himself, he was “just a hard-working player who gave his all” yet ended up making millions from the game. Such a background provides a good platform for his autobiography, the story arc of which takes in a period of sweeping change in the English game. Unlike some books penned by bigger names, this one explains the essence of being a footballer in the era and will therefore be of interest to more than just the fans of the clubs he played for. With Liverpool and Leeds being Matteo’s two major clubs, there is plenty for their supporters to take in – from his deep-rooted dislike of Gerard Houllier to the inside story of the Leeds meltdown in the early ‘noughties’. On a more general level, the lengths gone to in order to fight injuries and a £1million gambling loss are able to shock. The tales of drinking exploits may also surprise many – Matteo’s fondness for alcohol appears to be the source of his biggest regret. Written with the help of the Yorkshire Post’s chief football writer Richard Sutcliffe – a man who has penned biographies of Don Revie and Billy Bremner – the book certainly offers a very recent – and interesting – insight into what life as a top-flight footballer is like. One disappointment is the number of incidents recalled in which the participants remain anonymous. With Matteo now working in the media, that is perhaps to be expected, but the book still provides many a tale worth a read. Many of us met Matteo at a LUSC function a few years ago and found him a very down to earth approachable guy. 

Thurs 22nd of Dec. Leeds and Blackburn slug it out for USA freebie. The agent of Robbie Rogers has confirmed that Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers are interested in signing the USA international next month. But Shaun Higgins admitted to uncertainty over Rogers’ ability to secure the work permit required to complete a transfer to the English leagues. Rogers, 24, has attracted United’s attention with the January transfer window approaching, and he is a free agent after concluding his deal with MLS club Columbus Crew. The winger plans to make a decision on his next move “in the immediate future” but doubt exists about whether he has played regularly enough for America’s national side to qualify for a work permit. United have previously recruited both Davide Somma and Mike Grella from the United States but their moves were aided by the fact they both held Italian passports. Higgins said: “We’re not sure if he will immediately qualify or if he’ll have to go through the appeals process.” Rogers has been on the fringes of the USA squad recently but players applying for work permits are expected to have played in 75 per cent of their national side’s competitive matches in the previous two years.

Thurs 22nd of Dec. Becchio gets it from Bates.(YEP) Ken Bates says Luciano Becchio has accepted responsibility for his bit-part contribution to Leeds United’s season after failing to undergo surgery as planned seven months ago. The United chairman laid the blame for the delayed operation on Becchio’s injured hamstring at the door of the Argentinian forward, right, who has scored twice and started only a handful of games since making his comeback in September. Click here to register and have your say on the Leeds United stories and issues that matter to you . Becchio – last season’s top scorer with 20 goals – suffered his hamstring problem towards the end of April and was scheduled to have surgery the following month after United’s narrow failure to qualify for the Championship play-offs. The striker travelled to Spain during the summer but did not go under the knife, and Leeds were forced to send him for an operation towards the end of July after Becchio broke down in the early stages of pre-season training. Most of his first-team appearances this term have come as a substitute. Bates said: “Becchio has only just come back on the scene. That’s his fault and he knows it. “He should have had his operation in May as he was told to and he didn’t. You can’t tie people down on the operating table, can you? “He now realises that he made a mistake and lost three months.  “That’s a blow because he was our top-scorer last season.” Manager Simon Grayson was unable to call on Becchio until Leeds’ 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on September 10 and the 27-year-old made his first league start in last month’s defeat to Barnsley at Elland Road

Thursday 22nd of December. Bates steps up the heat on Grayson.(Sky Sports) Ken Bates has warned Simon Grayson that he must deliver promotion or face the threat of losing his job. Grayson celebrates his three-year anniversary in the Elland Road hot-seat on Friday, but he cannot afford to start getting complacent. Having guided Leeds back into the Championship and to a seventh-place finish last term, expectations have risen around the West Yorkshire club. A return to the Premier League is demanded in the not too distant future, with a current standing inside the play-offs suggesting that this could be the year that the Whites re-join the elite. They have, however, wobbled on home soil of late, winning only one of their last six fixtures in front of their own supporters. Such a run has offered cause for concern, and Bates has made it clear to Grayson that failure to move the club forward will not be tolerated. “He stands and falls by his results,” said Bates. “Obviously, if he does not deliver, he knows that his job is on the line and that applies to all managers. “Simon and his backroom staff don’t have a bad record. “This year is the ultimate challenge for him, his staff and, just as importantly, the players. “For those whose ambition is to play in the Premier League, well… get us there!” Whilst I have absolutely no issue with Bates’ stance, I do ask who steps up the heat on Bates when he hasn’t delivered Leeds back in the Premiership yet under his watch ? Answer is us Morons, the fans.

Sat Dec 17th 2011. Leeds United 0-1 Reading.01 Lonergan, 02 Connolly, 03 Kisnorbo, 22 Lees, 28 White, 08 Brown (Vayrynen 66 YC)15 Clayton (Keogh 65) 16 Pugh, 23 Snodgrass, 10 Becchio, 44 McCormack (Sam 65)Unused Subs :24 Taylor. Unused Subs : 48 O’Dea, Taylor. Leeds were dire today and certainly didn’t give their supporters a Christmas lift. Reading scored after two minutes when Church broke the off-side trap and took his goal well even though Lonergan made it easy for him. Reading were by far the better side and like many Championship sides right now look forward to coming to Elland Road. Too much is expected from Robert Snodgrass. The chairman has started his pre-January sales warning proclaiming that players have to go before players come in. This is absolutely incredible when you consider that United profited from sales of  Schmeichel (who cost his side a point today) for £1.2M and Gradel for £2.5M to Saint Etienne. Others like Johnson and Kilkenny moved on, further reducing the wage bill.  Leeds remain in the play-off positions but are not taking advantage of other sides dropping points. Some fans want Grayson gone and the majority seem to want him to stay. Increasingly, fans are worried about Leeds tactics and a bizarre withdrawal of three players on 65 minutes did nothing to increase United’s attacking prowess. There is increasing dissent among the ranks right now, and Grayson is perhaps fortunate that much of this anger is directed towards Bates. The phone in on YR after the match certainly was of the hostile variety. Leeds aren’t playing well and seem to be an easy touch especially at Elland Road. Simon Grayson talks of a couple of players coming in January but realistically United are four or five players short of really challenging. There is no doubt that funds are not available. Bates has never thrown money to any Leeds manager except Dennis Wise, who only succeeded in relegating us to the third tier. If he doesn’t have faith in Grayson, which increasingly seems the case then he should replace him with someone better immediately. Otherwise, why trust him in the January transfer window ? His record of appointing managers thus far has been abysmal. Kevin Blackwell brought Leeds to the Championship play-off final but was sacked 10 games into the following season when United were languishing  in the relegation pack. His replacement Dennis Wise managed to relegate United to League One before he fecked off to Newcastle as chief scout. Surprise, surprise no other side has secured his services as manager since. Next came Gary McAllister who succeeded in taking United to the League One play off final after a spirited come back in the semis at Carlisle. Doncaster triumphed easily at Wembley, and United drifted further and further down the pack and faced an all time low of an FA Cup exit to non-league side, Histon. The football was exciting to watch but Leeds seemed to need three goals to win a match with a lack lustre defence. McAllister was gone before the end of Christmas along with his shrewd ( I jest) coach, Steve Staunton. In fairness to McAllister, he did leave the new manager, Simon Grayson with Becchio and Snodgrass, both of whom he signed. Grayson came in and steadied the ship but couldn’t overcome Millwall in the play-off semi finals. He did win promotion at the next attempt and brought Leeds to 7th place in the Championship the following season. United currently lie in 6th but this is the time of the year that Bates usually wields the axe. That said, it would be an optimistic soul that would presume that Bates would bring in a top class manager and more importantly provide him with funds. West Ham have by far the best group of players and the funds available to win the league. Leicester have the next best squad by some distance, even though most are of the individual kind. Southampton can’t win away from home and Cardiff, M’bro, Hull City  and others whilst are decent sides, hardly portray invincibility. If Leeds were to invest circa £3M in players this January, I have no doubt that they could secure automatic promotion. The question is two fold : 1. Is Grayson the manager to take advantage of such funds and take Leeds to the next level ? and 2. Will Bates give his successor the necessary funds to make the jump ? If the answer is no to both then we really are in trouble. Simon Grayson : “Well  it’s been very disappointing. It’s just not happening for us right now. We got off  to the worst possible start. The lad shouldn’t have been  in on his own, but it was a decent finish by the lad. We huffed and puffed. Too many players at our club are not performing to the standards that we demand at this football club. They are capable of doing it. We just give ourselves an uphill task when we give away an early goal. We played today like we played at Watford when we got out of jail with a late penalty. Too many players are giving the ball away too cheaply and not making it difficult for the opposition. We perform well when we move the ball around quickly but we played into their hands today. You have to get on the ball and play with a purpose. Too many players are taking the easy option and playing it up to Luciano. There are quite a few ingredients. You have to give credit to Reading. They are very good team. They have some good individuals and are very hard working and they will be in the play off position at the end. They got to the play off final last year and have not lost much from that squad. Today we played right into their hands. They have two big centre backs and  we have to get the ball down the sides and play. Two to three weeks ago when we got results, we  got the ball down and played crisp 10 yard passes. Today we took the easy option and played the ball long. Re players coming in during January :  “I know the positions that we need strengthened. I’ve been speaking to the clubs, agents and managers. Why wouldn’t players want to come to Leeds United. It’s down to  myself to make that happen, not in terms of finance, but who wouldn’t want to play for this football club. I have one or two players earmarked and we will have a turnaround of one or two more and maybe more. The last two games have been disappointing and sorry to all our supporters that we haven’t gotten the results for you and happy Christmas to all”. Brian McDermott told the official RFC site: ‘At the end of the first half we might have been 2 or 3 up, and that’s no exaggeration. We played some really good stuff with the ball. In the second half we showed a different side to our game – we were resilient and did the job more than anything.’ ‘It was a great finish from Simon, and we had other opportunities that we couldn’t take. It would have been nice to get the second one because at 1-0 anything can happen late in the game. It was a very satisfying afternoon for us.’ It was a great finish from Simon, and we had other opportunities that we couldn’t take. It would have been nice to get the second one because at 1-0 anything can happen late in the game. It was a very satisfying afternoon for us.’

Weds Dec 14th 2011. Taken from Yorkshire Radio’s interview with Leeds United owner Ken Bates today. Transcript provided courtesy of “The Square Ball Fanzine” – the best out there by some distance. ‘Mr Chairman’ tells Ben Fry that Jonny Howson will be out for “two to three months” with his knee injury. He also speaks about possible outgoings in the January transfer window and the need to reduce the size of the squad and lower the wage bill.  Plus he looks back at the Watford match and ahead to Saturday’s game with Reading, as well as revealing how generous he is to Leeds fans this Christmas – he’s giving ‘free’ sausage rolls to all those who paid £40 for the most expensive memberships in English football. Bah humbug… Ben Fry: Chairman, we’ll start with Saturday. A point on the road at Watford. I think it would be fair to say a battling point if nothing else. Ken Bates: Well it’s probably fair to say an undeserved point but there are plenty of games where we deserve more than we’ve got so it’s one of those where it evens itself out. It was a pity of course with Southampton only drawing and West Ham losing and Cardiff dropping two points, we could have really closed the gap on the top three but nevertheless, it was a point away from home and we’ll be glad of that. BF: I suppose at the end of the season though you just put it as a point on the board and no one ever really remembers how they came about do they? KB: That’s also true. It’s interesting that we have the same number of points we had this time last year but a slightly better goal difference and we had a much better home record last year. We are in with a very good chance this year. BF: You touched on the top six, it seems to be tightening up. Do you think they are the six teams to watch now? KB: Well no because if you think about it, Brighton were walking away with the Championship weren’t they at the end of September. Now look where they are. It’s a very even… I said last year I thought it was by-in-large quite a competitive league, but this year I think it’s even more. Particularly since Southampton lost their aura of invincibility. BF: You touched on the Christmas period as well. It’s not quite the same hectic schedule as in other years, so it will be interesting to see how it pans out. KB: Well, I don’t know, we’ve got a game on the 31st and a game on the 2nd so that sort of back-to-back isn’t it? Then it’s only five days before the Arsenal game so it’s quite tough. BF: Alex McCarthy’s loan spell has been extended. Obviously he won’t feature at the weekend though. He has been a good servant to the club in the last few weeks. KB: He has made a very useful contribution and we’re very grateful for what he has done. Our record since he has been with us speaks for itself, including two cleans sheets and 21 goals. So he has been a valuable addition and we’re very grateful for Reading for extending his loan to us. BF: Let’s turn to injuries, they’re starting to take their toll, particularly in the midfield area. No timescale on Jonny Howson yet. He never gets injured so it’s a rarity not to have him available. KB: What’s also annoying when you look back at it, it was a fairly innocuous situation. I was talking to Jonny a couple of days ago and I’m not even sure he was tackled. He just fell awkwardly. He went one way and his knee went the other. I blame the shoes. The boots, I don’t know if you remember, when I was a kid and I was lacing my boots up, it took 20 minutes to do the laces up. Now they’re like slippers. They use these ruddy razors instead of studs so there’s no purchase on the pitch and there’s no support for the ankles so I think that’s what causes a lot of the trouble. Also of course, the pitches are much better but they are much harder so they are jarring your ligaments and your Achilles far more than you used to back in the old days. So it’s annoying. We don’t know the extent of Jonny’s length of treatment yet but it is going to be two to three months. BF: Obviously that brings us round to January as well. Everybody is going to start talking about it at this stage. Are you expecting a busy January and already a couple of Leeds’ key players being linked with moves elsewhere. I’m obviously thinking about Luciano being linked with Middlesbrough. KB: Well, who ever thinks that one, and I don’t mind somebody floating the idea from Middlesbrough because it’s the usual way they tap up players these days of course but if they think we are going to sell our leading goalscorer to our probably closing competitor for promotion they must be out of their tiny minds. Apart from which, I read Tony Mowbray saying that their chairman isn’t a bottomless pit and they haven’t got much money anyway so they wouldn’t be able to afford him anyway, if we were inclined to sell him, which we’re not. BF: And on the reverse side, I suppose I can’t force you to say anything on business? KB: No you can’t. I can say that at 10.30am on Wednesday (today) there’s a full management meeting about funds and income and wages bills which are very, very high. People say… sometimes the fans say we haven’t spent any money on players. Well if you’re paying somebody a large salary that’s the same as paying them a transfer fee and a small salary. It all comes out of the same pot. So, it could be interesting this January window. We have a very large squad by even Premiership standards. We always used to say two players for every position and an extra one for the goalkeeper. That’s 23. Now we have 28, 29. Some of those aren’t featuring at all. It must be frustrating for them, a waste of money for us and it blocks other people coming in. BF: Quick word on Arsenal. Tickets on sale. Obviously the Monday night is a bit of a struggle but they are going relatively quickly. KB: Yeah, I think we’ve sold over 3,000 already and there are a couple of executive packages available as well. Again, you can give more details about that later. It’s unfortunate that it’s Monday night. The thing is, there are six live matches in the third round of the FA Cup and unfortunately ESPN got the last bite of the cherry and they have chosen us. That’s means the timing is out of our hands. I’m very sorry for our fans but nothing we can do about it. That’s decided by the FA and when you enter the FA Cup you have to abide by their rules and decisions so whatever they say goes. BF: The festive season is nearly upon us. The carol concert returns on Monday. A night that I know you look forward to and a good night for the fans. KB: I think so. And also this year is going to be the best ever. The girls who organise these things have done a great job. We’re going to start with the grand parade and I want all the kids to come along in fancy dress, and if they are in fancy dress they can join in the parade. It starts near the Bremner statue and goes down to the Pavilion. We have got one or two unusual things on and we’ve got a hip-hop street dance. I thought the girls said lap dancing but obviously that was just my hearing. I did explain that wasn’t particularly appropriate for a carol concert but it’s some sort of street dance that I’m not familiar with but even at the age of 80 I’m willing to learn. BF: And of course tickets are still available for the carol concert from the ticket office on 08713341919. KB: And of course, they are free to members so come along. I mean, I don’t know how we do it. There’s free drinks, free hot drinks, free sausage rolls, free this, free that. BF: Christmas spirit I think chairman… KB: You’re probably right, Ben. BF: Finally a quick word on Reading. The final home game before Christmas. They seem stronger at home than away and their home form has picked up after the win against Millwall so it will be interesting on Saturday. KB: Yeah, I mean and Reading also had a good win on Saturday themselves. They beat West Ham 3-0, it was a very bad-tempered game and West Ham not being used to losing, lost their marbles a bit and finished the match with nine men. But no, Reading always play attractive football. They have got a nice manager, although I would say that after they lent us McCarthy wouldn’t I? I’m good friends with their chairman, so hopefully, providing the gales drop, we’ll have a good game

Tues Dec 13th. Keogh, Andrews, Beckford and McCarthy. Wolves striker Andy Keogh has told Mick McCarthy that he wants to leave the Premiership club. The Republic of Ireland international is currently on loan with Championship side Leeds United and wants to move to the Yorkshire side on a permanent basis once his loan deal expires next month. Keogh has struggled to hold down a regular place at Molineaux and has spent time on loan with Bristol City and Cardiff in the last 16 months. Speaking to the Yorkshire evening post Keogh stated his intention to stay with Simon Grayson’s side saying “I love the club and in an ideal world I’d like to stay.”“It’s up to the club (Leeds), and my agent will start speaking to them soon and to Wolves to see what the story is and we’ll just go from there. I’ll listen to what they have to say.“Leeds is a great club. It’s the first club I signed for as a youngster and holds a place in my heart. I’m really enjoying my time here and it’s a great dressing room. We’ve also a really good chance of going up.”

According to reports Leeds United are interested in Blackburn Rovers midfielder Keith Andrews.The midfielder is currently on loan at Ipswich Town having vowed to never play for Rovers again after getting abuse from Blacburn fans. Paul Jewell faces a battle to keep the Irish international. Leeds and Swansea are monitoring events.

 Tony Mowbray is planning to pep up his Middlesbrough attack for the promotion push, with a January bid for Leeds striker Luciano Becchio, who has just forced his way back into the starting line-up at Elland Road after hamstring trouble. If Boro boss Mowbray misses out on Argentine Becchio, a huge crowd favourite at Elland Road after scoring 20 goals last season, he may move for Japan striker Mike Havenaar, of J League side Ventforet Kofu.

Alex McCarthy might be sat in the stands at Elland Road this weekend, but he won’t be complaining one iota. The Guildford-born keeper’s parent club Reading are due in Leeds this coming Saturday for the hosts’ final home fixture of 2011 and McCarthy has pretty much accepted for a good while that he would be cooling his heels for that one – whether or not he had returned to the Royals or extended his loan with United. The latter scenario transpired yesterday morning, with McCarthy, who expressed his desire to stay on at United following the end of his initial month’s loan straight after Saturday’s dramatic 1-1 draw at Watford, receiving a welcome early Christmas present with Reading agreeing to extend his stint in West Yorkshire for another month. McCarthy, ineligible under the terms of his loan this Saturday, has won countless friends in the north following a successful temporary stint. He has also proved to be something of a lucky charm for United, tasting defeat just once in six Championship outings.

Sat Dec 10th. Funny but true. Unfancied Ipswich who had lost eight games on the bounce went to 100/1 at half time at Barnsley when 2-0 down. They won 5-3. Portsmouth were 3/1 to win at in form Burnley. They won 1-0. Reading were 80/1 to win 3-0 against second placed West Ham. They won 3-0. Blackpool were 11/2 to win at Southampton. They didn’t but the draw was 11/4.  And then you say the Championship is predictable. No side except Birmingham City won at less than even money in the Championship today. It’s anything but predictable. Ask the bookies who clean up on it. The Premiership however, had four sides  priced below even money. Liverpool, Arsenal and Man United obliged. Only WBA failed to beat Wigan at less than even money.

Sat Dec 10th 2011. Watford 1-1 Leeds United. 21 McCarthy, 02 Connolly, 03 Kisnorbo, 22 Lees, 28 White, 11 Sam (McCormack 63) 15 Clayton, 16 Pugh, 10 Becchio, 23 Snodgrass, 38 Keogh (Vayrynen 63) Unused Subs : 01 Lonergan, 48 O’Dea, 08 Brown. A 95th minute penalty slotted home by Robert Snodgrass gained Leeds a point that their performance didn’t merit. Watford kept the ball in the air and launched aerial assaults that Leeds couldn’t handle. Their quicker forwards  caused Leeds problems all day, and their two central defenders ate up every high ball, denying Becchio and Keogh any opportunity to feature. Larry didn’t go with the 4-4-1 formation with McCormack in the hole instead of the injured Howson. Instead he stuck with Sam, Keogh and Kisnorbo at the back ahead of O’Dea. This is from Sky : Leeds manager Simon Grayson has tipped goalkeeper Alex McCarthy for the top after describing his 89th-minute penalty save as the turning point which allowed his side to rescue a 1-1 draw against Watford with the last kick of the game. Watford were already leading 1-0 at Vicarage Road through Michael Kightly’s strike when Marvin Sordell stepped up to take his penalty with one minute of normal time remaining, but on-loan Reading goalkeeper McCarthy tipped his effort on to the post. The former England Under-21 shot-stopper, whose loan ended tonight, then denied Mark Yeates before Leeds were awarded a penalty with the three minutes of injury time already up. Robert Snodgrass stepped up to secure a point for the visitors. “We probably didn’t deserve the point if you look at our performance,” Grayson said. “The big turning point was the penalty save and it gave us a chance to get something out of the game and it is great that the players had the determination to go until the end.”Alex’s loan finished today and I spoke to (Reading manager) Brian McDermott on Friday about his performances and we said we would talk after the weekend. “I am not saying we will re-sign him, that is down to Reading and also what we decide to do as well. What I will say is that he has been outstanding for us and we are thankful to Reading for letting him come and he has shown all the potential and promise that he will be a top goalkeeper in the future.” There was little to separate the sides in the first half but it was Watford who led at the break as they counter-attacked with pace and on-loan Wolves midfielder Kightly finished with style from 20 yards.The Hornets were comfortable for the majority of the second half and could have secured the victory through Sordell’s 89th-minute penalty, after he was brought down by Patrick Kisnorbo, and Yeates’ late strike.Leeds substitute Mika Vayrynen then went down in the box under a challenge from Nyron Nosworthy and Snodgrass snatched an equaliser. Watford boss Sean Dyche refused to blame referee Eddie Ilderton for the penalty decision and concentrated on his side’s display. He said: “I don’t feel robbed because that is the reality of football; it can spin on a knife edge. “One tiny moment and a refereeing decision changed the feel of it but the performance was good from us throughout and I am disappointed not to take all three points. “I thought it was a soft penalty, and I have seen it again, but referees have a very tough job. “Obviously you are always disappointed if those key decisions do not go your way but that is all it is, people can decide themselves. You have seen them given and you have seen them not given.” Regarding the penalty Simon Grayson had this to say: “Paddy was slow to react buy Alex made a great save. We kept going. Snods kept his composure. It was a game that we did okay buy we didn’t pass the ball. We tried to change at half time and get Becks and Snods in the game. We got a point that was unlikely at especially at that stage of the game. That point at the end of the season may be crucial. We know we must do better. For keeping going at the end we deserved a point. We knew what we would get with Watford. They battle and get into you. You have to give Watford a lot of credit. They have some really good players, like Knightly, Deeney and Sordell. We know we have to do different things better. We need to get some consistency in our game. It’s the teams who get that who will be there at the end. You see how the results went today. This league is unpredictable and you  have to hang in there when it looks like you can’t get anything from a game” Alex McCarthy – “Before the game our goalkeeping coach, Andy Beesely told me he would go right. I thought it went in but I got away with it. This is my last game . I’ve loved every minute of it. The lads welcomed me from the outset .It’s a massive club .We knew it was going to be difficult with their style of play.We stuck in there. We got a chance and it’s a great result and keeps us in the top six. I’ve enjoyed my time here and if I get the chance to stay I’d definitely stay”.

Tuesday Dec 6th 2011. Young Leeds United defender Aidan White has turned down the initial offer of a new contract from the club. The Yorkshire Evening Post says that White is waiting for an improved offer from the club. The 20 year old is enjoying an impressive season in the side and his current contract runs out in the summer. The left sided player who can play either in defence or on the wing has come through the Leeds academy. After struggling to earn a regular starting place in the side last season he enjoyed a loan spell at League One side Oldham Athletic. White has taken his chance this season and he has made 19 appearances so far this season. He has also broken into the Republic of Ireland under 21 squad and he has started all five of their games so far this season, scoring his first goal for his country in their last Euro 2013 qualifier against Liechtenstein.

Sun Dec 4th. Another easy draw for Leeds in the FA Cup. We had Man United away, Spurs away and Arsenal away, and now we have Arsenal away again. The game will take place on the weekend of January 7th and most likely will be televised live. More money for Ken but hopefully it doesn’t sidetrack our promotion bid.

Sat December 3rd. 2011. Leeds United 2-0 Millwall. 21 McCarthy, 02 Connolly, 03 Kisnorbo (YC), 22 Lees, 28 White, 08 Brown (Keogh 40) 14 Howson (Sam 36) 15 Clayton, 16 Pugh, 10 Becchio, 23 Snodgrass. Unused Substitutes :24 Taylor, 26 Bromby, 20 Nunez. Att – 27,161.  It was a day full of raw emotion at Elland Road as the famous old English stadium paid tribute to one of its former sons. Many have written about how Leeds United fans have conducted themselves all week. There were tweets from John Hartson and Ian Wright with two words for United fans : “Pure Class”. Today was always going to be an emotional day. Kenny Jackett and Simon Grayson laid wreaths behind each goal. The quartet of midfield that dazzled in 1991/92 is now just a trio. Strachan, McAllister and Batty moved the whole ground when our former captain carried a wreath in Leeds United colours on to the pitch. Everything was orchestrated and fine tuned to be just perfect, and it was. In the crowd were Gary Speed’s wife, Louise, and her two boys. Gary’s mam and dad were there also and met with Simon Grayson’s dad before the game. The round of applause was deafening and the Louth branch members in the West Stand were caught up in the surreal atmosphere. On eleven minutes for eleven minutes the Leeds crowd repeated their “Speed” singing. On such an occasion it was always going to be difficult to have a game that matched the occasion. Leeds stuck to the same formation that won so comfortably at the City Ground on Tuesday night. That plan was in tatters after forty minutes when both Howson (on 36 mins) and Brown, less than five minutes later departed the fray, injured. McCormack would have been the natural replacement for Howson, and play in the hole behind Becchio. But his wife went into labour on Friday night and the player rushed to be at her side. Sam came on and played on the right wing. Snodgrass went into a free role and Danny Pugh moved from left full to the left side of midfield. A sterile first half ended not surprisingly in dead lock. Becchio was finding it difficult to win anything in the air against Robinson. Andy Keogh was the player that livened up the crowd and got the crowd into full voice by pulling the Millwall defence all over the place. On the hour mark, Clayton won a valuable free kick on the edge of the area. Robert Snodgrass stepped up and delivered a sublime free kick to leave Steve Mildenhall motionless in goal. His celebration included pointing to the heavens and then towards the armband. Class ! Sam was enjoying more and more of the ball and in his favourite right wing position set up Snodgrass to head home just two minutes later. Game over ! Snodgrass then linked up brilliantly with Keogh but the Dubliner couldn’t prod the ball home. Snodgrass really should have had his hat-trick in the last five minutes but Becchio acted selfishly instead of just sliding the ball to the Scot who was unmarked a few yards out. United at last had their victory at home and a fitting tribute to Gary Speed. Millwall manager Kenny Jackett, in his usual gentlemanly way, accepted his players faced an uphill task to stem the tide of emotion, but he had no complaints about their effort. Jackett said: “We did well for an hour and were solid defensively and had some chances on the break, but once the free-kick went in it was tough for us. “The atmosphere at the ground stepped up and it was tough for us to get back in the game. It was a great free-kick, the keeper didn’t move. “I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but it was hard for us to come here today and get a positive result.” Simon Grayson had the following to say : “It’s been a tough week for all at the club. Louise and his boys and mum and dad were here today.  Everyone at the club, especially the supporters should be immensely proud of how they conducted themselves in the past week. The recognition that Gary got today would have made him very proud. You could see how much Gary meant to Gordan Strachan. David Batty, and Gary McAllister. It’s going to be a difficult time for his family but he won’t be forgotten at this football club. I saw all his family before kick off and it’s something I wanted to do and I had to do, and Gary’s dad met my dad. Gary was an Evertonian and his dad realises that, but that’s why they’re all here today because this is where it all started 28 years ago. We signed on here with his mum and dad and my mum and dad and my dad met Roger this morning, which was very nice. “That’s what it’s all about. Our club is very passionate about players who have done well for the club and the recognition was there for everyone to see and everyone can be really proud of what they’ve done this week.” Regarding the game “We knew what Millwall were going to be like. They have two banks of four and get it up to Hendersson. We knew we had to be patient and that it might take something special to score.  Snoddy’s  goal was fantastic and then we got the second one then it could have been four or five. Danny Pugh was an unsung hero today at left back,  left midfield and then in the centre. Re McCormack not being in the squad. “Ross’s wife has gone into hospital last night and she’s having her baby and that’s why he is out of the 16. Re Jonny – It must have been a sore injury for Jonny not to play on. He’s on crutches. Michael Brown had to come off with an ankle injury but Danny Pugh showed his versatility. Well done to our supporters  all this week . If we could round up our season with promotion this season what a fitting tribute that would be to Gary”. On Lloyd Sam he said this : “I said to him at half-time, ‘Look, don’t you forget who wore that shirt. I want you to be as positive as Gary was’, and he did contribute to the game. “Lloyd has got the talent to go on and do that. It would have been fitting for him to score, but let’s not be greedy.” Simon Grayson himself deserves great credit this past week for the composed way he has handled the death of his former friend. It can’t have been easy. By Monday night he had completed over thirty interviews about his former colleague and friend. God knows how many more he did throughout the week. He still  had to prepare his team for two important league games, against Forest and Millwall. The six points were vital. We still haven’t forgotten the meek surrender to Barnsley seven days ago. We still don’t believe we have become a great side over night. We’ll enjoy the six points and hope it’s part of a much needed longer run of results. The Championship saw 4/1 Doncaster at the foot of the table defeat Southampton. It also saw 5/1 Burnley win at WHU. An average Middlesbro side are in third place. Anyone who witnessed the Bristol City v M’bro match on Saturday evening would have discovered a cheaper formula for Dozal. There are many among us who believe that Simon Grayson is not the man to get Leeds promoted. Ken Bates has edged over to that side of the fence if his comments can believed. Southampton are almost invincible at home but poor on the road. West Have are very good on the road and average at home. This Championship will have many twists and turns during the season but any side that can go on a winning run of five or six games can easily gate crash the Saints/Hammers party. It remains to be seen if we are that side. 

Friday Dec 2nd. Football sometimes transcends bitter rivalries. Religion, Wars of the Roses, tribalism and grudge matches sometimes are left to one side even for only a short while.  The few of us that travelled home from Leeds last Saturday after defeat to Yorkshire rivals, Barnsley, witnessed the behaviour of idiots on the Ryan Air flight. Some Man United fans with their kids had to listen to abuse from idiots purporting to be Leeds United fans. Sure most of the idiots chanting were teenagers that knew no better but an example wasn’t set by some men in their fifties who should know better. These are the feckin gobshites who drag our great club down into the mud. Step forward less than 12 hours later and we hear of the death of one of our greatest players in recent years. A man who seemed to have it all to live for : beautiful wife and kids, great career, film star looks, wealth, yes all the trappings except (as our Louth Branch chairman put it) peace of mind. Gary Speed’s death by suicide is a tragedy for everyone, but none more so than for his family. Shay Given’s tears for a friend were pictured around the world before Swansea’s game against Villa. Gary Speed once played for his boyhood heroes, Everton. At Anfield, the home of their great rivals, one could hear a pin drop before the Liverpool v Man City game. At Old Trafford a few days later (Man Utd v C Palace), Man United fans, yes Man United fans respect for Gary Speed, the former Leeds United favourite, was exemplary. Leeds United fans themselves lifted the roof off the City Ground on Tuesday with passion, respect, and raw emotion during their eleven minute singing for our former number 11. Millwall who play the Whites tomorrow at Elland Road, where Gary Speed’s wife will be in attendance, will I believe also step up to the plate and honour Gary Speed, a footballer, a husband, a father and a former Leeds player who seemed to have the respect of anyone who came across him. Our own Terry McQuaid will tell you that he was Galway’s president (long before Michael D) and went to every event and waited patiently for every photograph to be taken. So to the idiots that sing the Munich song, and talk of “Scum”, remember the applause for one of our former players at Old Trafford, and remember also the Man United fan who drove from Manchester to the Billy Bremner statue at Elland Road simply to place a Man United shirt there as a mark of respect for one of our former players, Gary Speed.

Friday Dec 2nd 2011. Grief has bridged divides – Phil Hay YEPOne of the more touching stories among the tributes paid to Gary Speed was the tale of the Manchester United fan who appeared at Leeds United’s stadium on Monday, intending to lay his club’s shirt on the Billy Bremner statue. He was never likely to find trouble or resistance from the small crowd present but you can understand him asking if his sympathetic gesture would cause a scene. Three months earlier, riot police were deployed to separate supporters of Leeds and Manchester United along the length of Elland Road. A death as shocking as Speed’s leaves no room for conflict. It says something about football that a tragedy so appalling is needed to douse inter-club rivalry, but more again that inter-club rivalry disappears in these times. Tomorrow, on a day of mourning and celebration, Millwall will contribute to an occasion which in years to come should define Speed as one of Leeds’ most revered and popular footballers. You can only hope that he knew it. Common ground between Leeds and Millwall is as rare as affinity between Leeds and Manchester United but the Bremner statue acknowledges Speed’s finest quality – the altruism which friends and colleagues of his have spoken about this week. Even old grudges held against him on Merseyside seem to have lost their logic and meaning. His transfer from Everton to Newcastle United in 1998 was seen by some as a controversial defection but there are Everton scarves at Bremner’s feet, one bearing the message ‘Once a Blue, always a Blue.’ Speed supported Everton before he played for Leeds and left Goodison Park without much of an explanation, saying only that full disclosure would “damage the name of Everton Football Club.” No doubt he was right. And, to judge by the scarves beneath Bremner, who now cares? There is more to life and more to consider in the passing of a man as young and talented as Speed. The overwhelming feeling in Swansea last weekend was that the Premier League game between Swansea City and Aston Villa should have been postponed as a mark of respect and decency. On Wednesday evening, Tottenham’s players took it upon themselves to stage an impromptu minute’s silence before their Europa League tie against PAOK Salonika. The world of football never stops but most in the English game have had their minds on something else. In Leeds, the outpouring of emotion has been astonishing – heartfelt on the part of United’s supporters and dignified on the part of the club itself. Leeds have handled a difficult week with good sense and proportion, reflecting the mood of the city around them. Simon Grayson kept his counsel on Sunday but was up in the early hours of Monday morning to conduct multiple media interviews about the loss of a friend he had known for almost 30 years. It was grim but necessary, a part of football management which coaching text books never train you for. Speed would have been proud of him these past few days, just as he would be proud of the club. And as for United’s supporters? Where to start. In five-and-a-half seasons as the YEP’s Leeds United reporter, I’ve read the charge sheet ad nauseam – banning orders, chants about Munich and isolated incidents of trouble. There are many sticks to beat them with. But every club has a problematic element and few are blessed with a support as passionate and spirited as those who followed Leeds to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night or those who will give Speed a final send-off in Leeds tomorrow. (December 3) That is not the view of a partisan newspaper. It was the view of everyone who watched and listened to 11 minutes of chanting in Speed’s name during the first half of United’s win over Forest. In a sense the tribute was planned, organised via Twitter and online message boards, but it was wonderfully instinctive, setting the tone for a reflective weekend. Speed will be remembered everywhere tomorrow and Newcastle United’s plan to conduct 50,000 spectators in a rendition of ‘Bread of Heaven’ at St James’ Park. It should be spine-tingling if it works. At Elland Road, the memorials to Speed will be numerous – black armbands bearing the motif ‘Speed 11’, chants, banners and wreaths laid at either end of the field. At the end of a desperate week, it tells his family that he mattered. As Dominic Matteo said in this newspaper yesterday, respect like this only comes to those who earn it. The reaction has been extraordinary. Tomorrow’s game against Millwall will be preceded by a minute’s applause which, given the opposition, might been seen as a sensible alternative to a period of silence. It was inevitable that questions would be asked about whether a silence could survive in a fixture of such historic enmity. The match, after all, was moved to an early kick-off on the advice of the police. Most involving Leeds and Millwall are. But the scepticism does Millwall a disservice. At the insistence of their manager Kenny Jackett – who, along with Grayson, was a friend of Speed’s and will lay one of the wreaths at Elland Road tomorrow – the club held a well-observed silence before Tuesday’s win over Doncaster Rovers. In a poll on a fans’ website, Millwall’s supporters voted three to one in favour of a minute’s silence over a minute’s applause. It is unfair to ignore these facts when so much is written about Turkish flags and flying missiles. As it happens, applause seems the most appropriate way of honouring Speed. He was a cause of celebration in his time as a Leeds player and the club’s win at Forest was as much about that as it was a night of sadness. But, on the evidence of Tuesday night’s tribute at the New Den, it is more than likely that a minute’s silence would have passed off perfectly tomorrow, regardless of the teams involved or their ingrained sense of rivalry. That Speed has bridged these huge divides is arguably the truest measure of the man.

Friday December 2nd. Leeds v Millwall from a Millwall perspective. Want to be treated with the contempt reserved for second-class citizens? Simple. Support Millwall, and subject yourself to untold indignities, if you wish to watch them play Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday. Coaches will leave the Den at 5:30am, and reconvene for breakfast after 9:45am at Woolley Edge services on the M1. There, and only there, will Millwall fans be permitted to exchange a pre-paid voucher for a £34 match ticket, one of the most expensive in the Championship. Leeds owner Ken Bates has not softened noticeably since his Chelsea days, when he advocated electrified fences at football grounds. Travelling supporters will go in convoy to the ground, and be expected to hang around for at least 45 minutes after the final whistle. The last time I attended this fixture, police asked Millwall manager Kenny Jackett to stage a special warm-down session, to keep the fans occupied. Several players staged an impromptu karaoke session on the pitch. I’ll declare an interest here, before the professional Yorkshiremen get busy. I spent a season behind the scenes at Millwall for my book, Family. It’s a proper football club, gloriously old-fashioned, if burdened by history. Allegiance is passed down the generations, from father to son, mother to daughter. Fans don’t suffer fools, and would no more leave early, to catch the tube, than admit that they quite like Leeds United. They loathe them. The clubs are too similar for it to be any other way. Supporting Millwall, or Leeds, is an article of faith. Although Millwall created the theme tune No One Likes Us, it could just as easily apply to their Yorkshire rivals, who remain acutely sensitive to the Dirty Leeds jibes. That’s something to be cherished, in an age in which Premier League football has been neutered by the marketing men. I would bet my house on fans joining together before kick off, to pay respect to Leeds legend Gary Speed. Millwall supporters observed an impeccable minute’s silence before Tuesday’s home game against Doncaster, out of respect to Jackett, a close friend of the late Wales manager. Millwall and Leeds are proper clubs, with proper fans, who will hate me for trying to be even-handed. They may have the odd simpleton, prepared to throw a bottle or strike a thuggish pose, but football can’t afford to be without them.

Friday Dec 2nd. Brian Deane tribute to Sppedo (YEP). Brian Deane has paid a heartfelt tribute to former Leeds United team-mate Gary Speed – labelling him an inspiration during his time at Elland Road. Deane arrived at his hometown club in a £2.9m move from Sheffield United in July 1993 and while Speed was still only in his early 20s, he remembers him as someone who everyone gravitated towards as a source of inspiration. Speed, who will be remembered by the United family at Elland Road tomorrow, was blessed with endearing qualities on and off the pitch and Deane, left stunned like millions of others at news of his death on Sunday, says he was one in a million. Deane said: “Quite simply, Gary was the life and soul of the changing room and so enthusiastic on a daily basis. When the team was down, he was one of the first people we’d look to for inspiration. “He wasn’t the oldest player in the squad, but we all looked up to him – every one of us. He was an unbelievable guy, whether it was when we were out playing or went out socially, on the way to games and on the way back. He was inspirational. “You couldn’t have a bad word to say about Gary; he was that kind of person. “One thing I will remember is his laugh, it was just so funny listening to him laughing. He’d just captivate everyone with it, whether it was in the changing rooms or on the bus. It was so distinctive as well. “Gary was just always happy, it’s such a sad loss and so hard to believe. “I remember playing against the Leeds side that won the title and with Gary, it was always a case of thinking he was going to be the next superstar. He was dangerous on the back post from set-pieces, but also had a killer left foot. And he was so professional in whatever he did, the model professional in every way. He just looked the part, whether it was on the training pitch and on the way to games. Even in later years, when managing Wales. I thought he’d be a top coach and manager for the next 20 years. “He was an immensely proud man as well. I remember at the time I played with him, Wales weren’t particularly having a nice time of it on the international scene. But Gary was so proud to talk about Wales and anything to do with Wales. He wasn’t just a football supporter, but a Wales supporter. “When he went into the coaching side of it at Sheffield United, I’d see him from time to time and it was good to see a face and personality from when we all used to knock around together at Leeds. When we saw each other, we’d always reminisce back to the days with the likes of Noel Whelan, Chris Fairclough, Gary Kelly and Macca.”

Friday December 2nd. Excellent Bill Fotherby interview re Gary Speed from YEP. Bill Fotherby was there at the beginning, when Gary Speed arrived at Leeds United, and he will be there to say goodbye when the former Whites midfielder is laid to rest. Phil Hay reports. As one of many representatives of the Leeds United family, Bill Fotherby plans to attend the funeral of Gary Speed. It will seem as if he is burying a child of his own. “To me, Gary was like a baby son,” he says. “I want to be there to say goodbye.” Fotherby turned 80 this year and can expect to be given a seat in the church. Otherwise, Speed’s popularity will leave standing room only if any at all. Fotherby adds to the shocked respect showered on Speed since his death on Sunday: “How could this happen to such an immaculate man?”Fotherby was there in the beginning and wants to be there at the end. He was a director of Leeds in 1984 when Speed, a 14-year-old, signed schoolboy forms at Elland Road. He was managing director when Speed “reached a crescendo” as part of the squad who won the Division One title in 1992. “The time comes in every player’s career,” Fotherby says. “It’s that moment when everything clicks and they hit their peak. That season was his, the point when he reached a crescendo – and that’s saying something when you consider the career he had. “I looked down on that team and felt so proud to say I was part of a club with a team like that. Would we have won the title without him? I very much doubt it. His name’s all over it.”While the board at Leeds sanctioned the signing of Speed – and, on the same day, a youthful Simon Grayson – the transfers were negotiated and agreed by their manager, Eddie Gray. According to Gray, United were set on recruiting both players but Speed was “harder to get”. Everton were interested and Speed was a supporter of theirs. “I think in his mind he had visions of starting out at Everton,” Gray told the YEP last year, “but I remember an enthusiastic father wanting him to join us.”United’s directors trusted Gray’s judgement but it was Howard Wilkinson who began to impress on Fotherby the talent and professionalism Speed possessed.“I used to think of the boot room as the planning department,” Fotherby says. “The hard work happened on the training pitch but the planning always took place in the boot room. Every Monday morning, you’d hear deep discussions about what had gone on over the weekend and what they should do differently on Saturday. “I was down there one day and heard Howard talking about a young and up-and-coming Gary Speed; about how they could make the best of his skill, his left foot and his ability in the air. He could jump three feet off the ground without even trying. Gary was sat quietly in the corner, listening and taking it all in. Whenever people talked tactics, you could see him absorbing and processing every piece of information. “There were two specific things that Howard wanted from Gary – for him to flick on high balls on the left wing and to make himself present at the far post, to knock back corners and crosses. Watch the replays of the 91-92 season and you’ll see what a major tactical point Gary Speed was. Not only was he individually brilliant, he was intelligent enough to help make Howard’s tactics work.”Wilkinson’s strategy revolved around one of the most consummate midfields of that era, from Speed on the left through David Batty, Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan. Speed, in Fotherby’s opinion, was the only member of the squad who could equal Strachan’s limitless stamina. On the subject of their influence, he cannot separate the four. “That was the greatest midfield in the country at the time,” he says. “It would compare to any you could name. It was a collection of perfect players and perfect gentlemen. That’s the best description I can find for Gary – a true gentleman. He had no ego and no arrogance. “In many ways, he was like a film star. He had the looks, the body and the charisma. You’d expect someone like that to be a magnet for the high life but, as a young player, he was one of the lads you could forget about. Some players gave you sleepless nights and caused you no end of trouble but I never expected to wake up to a phone call or a headline telling me that Gary was in a scrape. “He always called me ‘Mr F’ and I used to chuckle whenever his contract was due for renewal. He’d come to me and say ‘Mr F, would you mind very much if my agent got in touch and came to see you?’ I’d be thinking ‘bloody hell, your contract’s almost up. Get him down here as soon as possible!’.“When it came to contracts, you came to expect problems or arguments with certain players and agents. But not Gary. There was never a crossed word with him or his agent, Hayden Evans. He was such a good footballer that he could have made some big demands but all you got was sensible discussions and reasonable expectations. Things used to be done in a couple of hours. “A lot of that was down to Hayden. I’ve dealt with every type of agent and I don’t have good things to say about some of them but Hayden always made sure that lads like Speed and Batty had their money in the right place. I think Gary took a bit of a leaf out of Gordon Strachan’s book. Gordon never had an agent and he didn’t want contract talks to be any more complicated than they had to be. With Gary, you knew fine well that when Hayden came knocking on your door, a deal would be done.” When I call Fotherby, he admits that he’s been waiting to pay tribute to Speed in the days since the 42-year-old’s death was announced. “There’s so much I want to say and so much I want to thank him for,” he says, “but now that it comes to it, I can’t really find the right words. “He was perfect, absolutely perfect. I think of him as the Paul Madeley of Howard’s squad. There wasn’t an outfield position he couldn’t play in. Howard would put him at left-back one Saturday and he’d perform as if he’d been playing there for months. That’s a special talent. He’ll be remembered as someone who was part of a period in Leeds United’s history which is second only to the Don Revie era. No wonder so many people love him and feel so devastated by his death.”Fotherby was present at a special dinner staged by Leeds in October to mark the 20th anniversary of their title-winning season. Speed was unable to attend and Fotherby admits sadly that he had not had the pleasure of his company for several years. Speed’s funeral will be his chance to say farewell. A diplomatic Fotherby says that “every player who played for Leeds is my favourite” but his fondness for the Welshman is not difficult to spot. He found news of Speed’s death difficult to digest and says the country has lost a “great manager in the making”. “Back in those days when Howard talked tactics, I felt certain that Gary was going to manage at a very high level,” Fotherby says. “He was a thinker and a man of real intelligence. He understood the game so well and he’d learned from the best. “It was clear to me that he was already on the road to becoming a top manager. You’d have seen him at the heart of the game for years. I just can’t get my head around it – such a beautiful man with so much to live for. I’m devastated for his wife and his children and I feel devastated for him. You’d like another chance to tell him what he meant to us all and what he means to us still.”