What The Locals Say.........

Last updated : 03 November 2003 By Kevin Markey
This is what Paul Dews of the Yorkshire Evening Post wrote;

The cancer that is slowly eating away at Leeds United reared its ugly head once again at Elland Road on Saturday.

At the end of a week that has seen more turmoil off the field, United striker Mark Viduka stormed out of the ground just 45 minutes before Arsenal strolled to one of the easiest Premiership wins they will ever record.

It was another painful day in United's recent history and one which only served to underline how far the club has fallen and how those that remain are still paying the price for the incompetence of the previous management.

Sadly, there is no immediate cure for the illness which is ripping the heart and soul out of this great club and the guilty culprits are going about their business elsewhere while those that love Leeds United are fighting hard just to keep things alive.

The people watching from the directors box, the dug-out and those on the field are doing their best to keep things afloat while the magnifcent supporters attempt to keep spirits up in the stands.

The chairman and the manager cannot be held culpable for what is proving one of the toughest seasons in the history of the club - they have simply inherited a legacy that leaves Leeds United fighting for it's very life.

Off the field the club is in a financial mess of drastic proportions while on the pitch the current Leeds side is but a shadow of the team which stood toe-to-toe with Arsenal in the not too distant past.

The two problems are entwined and only serve to make life harder for those that really do want the best for this football club.

It's easy to say that off-the-field matters don't affect players, but there won't be one individual at Elland Road who isn't concerned about the club's precarious position.

Manager Peter Reid is fielding a side largely comprising of squad players, loan stars and youngsters who are still cutting their teeth at the highest level.

The majority of the players are giving their all and, as the fans showed on Saturday, their gutsy efforts are not going un-noticed.

The manager can work 24 hours a day on tactics and motivation, but you can't put there what isn't there and, to put it bluntly, United are just not good enough to compete against the likes of Arsenal.

There is nothing wrong with the spirit and the attitude and if points were awarded for guts and endeavour then the Elland Road club wouldn't be propping up the Premiership.

But when all your best players have been sold and you are £80m in debt there is little room for maouevre, whoever you are.

It doesn't help matters when the big star player still at the club chooses to attack the team spirit on the morning of such an important match, but it's symptomatic of the problems that Reid is facing at a club where things have been free and easy for too long.

Failing to turn up on time is just not on and Mark Viduka let his manager, team-mates and, most importantly, the supporters down.

It's sad because Viduka is a great goalscorer who is capable of having a massive influence on United's season.

This was just the latest in a catalogue of problems to hit the people in power. Whether or not Viduka's absence mattered is debatable, but it was another kick in the teeth, particularly for Reid who is playing a major role in holding things together in the dressing room at this troubled time.

On Saturday there was no lack of effort, but United's shortcomings were in evidence once again. They struggled defensively in a big way.

Without Dominic Matteo, Leeds lacked a leader at the back and Roque Junior, who went walkabout frequently, sorely missed the guidance that his skipper would have provided.

In midfield, Leeds were busy and industrious, but the quality and cutting edge was missing against a side who looked like they could score at will.

It wasn't until the arrival of local lads Aaron Lennon and James Milner that United found a spark and, by the end of the game, there were four hometown players in the white shirt.

It was ironic, but not surprising, that all Arsenal's goals came after Leeds attacks broke down. Like last season, the Gunners streamed forward and were simply too good.

For the biggest part it was like watching men against boys and that is a sad indictment on what has happened over the past few years.

When the outstanding Thierry Henry outpaced Zoumana Camara to put Arsenal 1-0 up after eight minutes there was only going to be one winner. When Robert Pires made it two after 17 minutes it was game over.

Arsenal didn't stop there however. Henry made it three after another counter-attack well before half-time and you could only feel for a Leeds defence, sorely missing Matteo, who were well and truly outclassed.

Henry even missed a sitter before half-time, but Arsenal soon continued the onslaught and the fourth goal came on 50 minutes when Gilberto tapped home a Pires cross.

That was the cue for one of the best displays of support ever seen at Elland Road. The United fans visibly lifted Reid's bunch of triers and the noise was deafening.

There were defiant chants of 'Champions of Europe' and tongue-in-cheek calls asking 'Can we play you every week'.

But the most poignant moment came on 66 minutes when the Revie Stand turned to the dug-out chanting 'Reidy'.

It was a clear message that even if those in the boardroom are concerned, the fans understand the limitations and difficulties facing the manager and most are fully behind him.

United were rewarded for their spirited display when Alan Smith side-footed home a Lennon cross, but it was no more than a consolation.

Reid put a brave face on things afterwards, but he knows the next month is crucial both to him and Leeds United.

With games against Portsmouth, Bolton and Charlton on the agenda Leeds simply have to start turning their undoubted effort into points. Failure to do so will only increase the problems at the club.