Sadler: Nationwide Beckons Leeds

Last updated : 29 July 2003 By Kevin Markey
THERE are comforting signs for Premiership newcomers Portsmouth, Leicester and Wolves ahead of the inevitable struggle to delay their return to the Nationwide League.

For one ticket to ride, destination First Division, has been allocated already to a club that has relegation written all over it before a ball has been kicked in anger.

Hello and goodbye, Leeds United.

Peter Reid’s team have all the ingredients of a side heading for humiliation.

Unthinkable a mere three years ago when David O’Leary led that thrilling bunch of youngsters from Elland Road all the way to the semi-finals of the Champions League.

O’Leary has since been sacked by the muddled thinkers on the Leeds board.

Terry Venables has been and gone — and so has former chairman Peter Ridsdale.

So it was left to Reid to scrape together the handful of points needed to keep out relegation last season while accepting the considerable challenge of turning Leeds into a respectable force again.

Burnley 4, Leeds 2: The scoreline in itself from Turf Moor on Saturday is of no more significance than other friendly matches that are used more as a training exercise than a meaningful form guide.

On this occasion, though, we can read far more into it because I suspect the distasteful nature of the encounter told us a great deal about the way Leeds intend to survive.

The crude attempt at a tackle by new recruit Jody Morris, which was the signal for a 20-man brawl, should have surprised no one.

Morris, you will recall, is the mild-mannered chap Leeds hired from Chelsea who was leaving all his baggage behind.

He, apparently, had “matured” since those late nights out, one of which landed him in court and taught him the relief of acquittal.

Somehow, Morris seems to be at home at Leeds already.

Bought for his competitive edge as much as his ability to pass the ball. Personification of the Peter Reid school of management.

But it was Reid’s reaction to the defeat at Burnley that gives cause for concern among the Leeds support and justification to the real fear that the west Yorkshire side will be fighting their lives at the wrong end of the table.

This was at the dawn of a bright new campaign — yet Reid was left to drone on about all the familiar short-comings, reminiscent of his depressing later days at Sunderland that landed him the sack and left the club hurtling towards relegation.

Reid dismissed the result but condemned the performance saying: “That wasn’t good enough. I can’t protect the players this time.

“You want to see desire, passion and commitment but we didn’t have it. If they want to play for Leeds United they do it my way.”

Leeds fans worried when their club, horrendously in debt, understandably bit off the Manchester United hand that offered them £30million for Rio Ferdinand.

They worried more deeply when Jonathan Woodgate followed him. And Lee Bowyer. And Olivier Dacourt.

Most recently, of course, Leeds flogged off another prize asset and managed to make a terrible mess of the sale of Harry Kewell ending up with £3m for a player worth almost three times the price.

Still, they have hung on to keeper Paul Robinson, who insists he wants to stay with the club — though I can’t understand why unless he feels he needs plenty of practice.

They also retain the services Alan Smith and Danny Mills, excessive in their display of those Reid demands for desire and commitment.

Oh, and they now have Morris. What a mix. What potential for a season of mayhem.

A 20-man fracas in a friendly and the manager is left complaining about a lack of passion and desire.

Now can’t you just see the kind of season Leeds have in store?