Part 1 Minus 15 - Part
3 Return of the Mac - Results and
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So crippling was the wrangling that followed Leeds United's decision
to enter administration in the spring, that it would be difficult
to imagine how the club's preparations for the 2007/08 season
could have been less ideal. At a time when the Elland Road club
desperately needed to pull together, they were in the gravest
danger of falling apart completely.
As if contemplating a first ever campaign in English football's
third tier wasn't bad enough, there was a multitude of barriers
put in their way. They were barred from signing any new players
until the first week of August when they were finally granted
the League Share, though an earlier clearance would not have dispelled
the uncertainty that left any transfer target knowing a move to
Elland Road represented a massive gamble.
The turmoil was perhaps best illustrated during the pre-season
win at Darlington when Leeds took to the field in shirts with
tape covering the name of the lapsed sponsor. Only six of the
starting line up - including two youngsters who had never appeared
for the first team - were contracted to the club. The club's financial
strictures meant that they had to ask players to defer their wages
until the sale to Ken Bates was agreed.
Then there was the biggest demotivator of all: the League's decision
to impose a 15-point penalty. It was enough to make a grown man
cry and there was enough weeping and wailing at Elland Road to
last anyone a lifetime.
United fans were in despair at what was happening to their club.
They had been suspicious of the motives of Ken Bates since his
takeover in 2005 and the crisis caused by administration just
made matters worse. They decided to take a stand.
On 21 July, with the team in the Czech Republic and the club
still not certain of being granted the Football Share, a number
of fans launched one of the most well orchestrated demonstrations
of supporter togetherness ever seen in the English game.
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In a spontaneous demonstration of support, hundreds of fans began
laying white, yellow and blue
flowers around the statue of Billy Bremner at Elland Road, together
with football shirts and messages appealing for the club to be
rescued from its current plight.
The management claimed it as a show of support. The protesters
were quick to disabuse them, as reported in the Evening Post:
"Leeds United fans reacted with dismay today to what they saw
as the club's attempts to hijack a flower power protest staged
at the Billy Bremner statue on Elland Road ... the official website
was quick to claim the laying of flowers and shirts as a spontaneous
show of support for the current regime, ignoring the fact that
many of the messages penned alongside the flowers and shirts call
for chairman Ken Bates to go."
An e-mail to the club from Norman6 was copied to the Waccoe website:
"I've just read your biased report about the Flower Protest at
Elland Road. You fail to mention the number of messages telling
Ken Bates to get out of Leeds United. This protest is about the
way the club has been allowed to plummet into the position we're
in. It also about telling the world that Leeds United fans want
their club back. What you are doing is perpetuating the myth that
Leeds fans are behind what the club are doing. Most Leeds fans
are convinced that the way the club has been run for many years,
including all the time that Ken Bates has been in charge, is the
reason we are in the current situation. Make no mistake we support
the club and not the owners who have ripped the heart out of Leeds
United over many years. Any attempt by the club to spin this otherwise
will only increase the contempt that most feel towards the temporary
There was a 'Love Leeds, Hate Bates' website set up and T-shirts
printed contrasting Billy Bremner's 'Side before self every time'
mantra, with a 'Self before side' slogan attributed to Bates.
Then came the sight of supporters waving their footwear in the
air during a friendly at Burnley at the end of July, chanting
in unison, "Shoes off if you hate Ken Bates".
The exodus of players began with the lapse of a number of contracts.
Among the leavers were Ian Moore, Neil Sullivan, Robbie Elliott,
Hayden Foxe, Stephen Crainey, Armando Sa and young Sam Hird, while
loanees Radostin Kishishev, Michael Gray and Jemal Johnson all
returned to their host clubs and long serving Gary Kelly announced
A number of players were sold when United began trading, with
David Healy to Fulham, Richard Cresswell to Stoke City, Kevin
Nicholls to Preston North End and Robbie Blake to Burnley the
biggest names, though young starlet Danny Rose moved to Tottenham
in a £1m deal and another youth team player, Ben Gordon, turned
down the offer of a new contract to sign for Chelsea.
United had a poor run in pre-season, winning just 2 of 9 games,
and a low point came during a tour of Germany when Jermaine Beckford
and Jonathan Douglas were dismissed for dissent and assistant
manager Gus Poyet sent from the dugout as United lost 2-1 against
Energie Cottbus. Happily the players only received
bans from reserve team games.
When United received clearance to start signing players they
quickly took advantage. Alan Thompson, Casper Ankergren, Tore
Andre Flo and Matt Health all made short contracts or loan deals
permanent, while youngsters Ben Parker, Gavin Rothery, Scott Gardner,
Tomi Ameobi and Tom Elliott were given new deals. A number of
players were still under contract: Frazer Richardson, Eddie Lewis,
Rui Marques, Beckford, Douglas, Ian Westlake, Jonny Howson, Gylfi
Einarsson, Seb Carole, Rob Bayly, Tresor Kandol, Shaun Derry and
Fabian Delph. There were new arrivals in the shape of Leon Constantine,
Curtis Weston, David Prutton and Andy Hughes as Dennis Wise assembled
something resembling a first team squad.
Striker Constantine signed a two-year deal after being released
by Port Vale, for whom he had scored 32 goals in 72 games. Unfortunately
he damaged ankle ligaments during pre-season and missed the first
three months of the campaign.
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20-year-old midfielder Weston had played under Dennis Wise before,
at Millwall and Swindon, and was the youngest player ever to feature
in an FA Cup final, coming on as sub for Wise in the 2004 final.
25-year-old Prutton was the best known newcomer, having made
over 300 League appearances for Nottingham Forest and Southampton.
He earned notoriety in 2005 when he was sent off against Arsenal
and then argued vehemently with the officials, pushing referee
Alan Wiley as he tried to get at assistant referee Paul Norman.
That earned him a 10-match ban and a fine of £6,000.
Hughes moved from Norwich in the last few days before the season
began. He had made over 300 League appearances for Oldham, Notts
County, Reading and the Canaries.
With a mass clear out of United's big name strikers and Constantine
and Flo injured, it was clear much would depend on Kandol and
Beckford. Dennis Wise was impressed with Beckford in pre-season
and expected great things of him, opting to give him a run in
the side after loan spells at Carlisle and Scunthorpe.
Wise told the Yorkshire Post: "We have missed out on targets,
there is no hiding from that. But the players I have got so far
... are very much together as a group. Last season, the group
was not together. I want people here who want to play for Leeds
and want to be part of it. A lot of them maybe couldn't get their
head round League One and felt they were maybe too good for it,
and that is why they left. The one player I would not argue with
is David Healy. It was pretty obvious that David was not going
to be here because he wanted to progress and I would never stop
that. David was probably the only one who said 'I don't want to
leave a sinking ship'.
"He now has a chance to play at the top level, but I think there
are some that have just decided to get out for the sake of it.
Kevin Nicholls was someone who told me he wanted to go south,
but has stayed in the north. It really is amazing, isn't it? He
claimed to be homesick and a lot of other things, but maybe that
was not the truth."
Asked about the points penalty, Wise said, " Not only have they
taken my arms and legs off, now they've cut my b***s off as well.
It's just not funny at all. I'm disappointed with the whole thing.
Minus 15 points. We have to get 106 points to win the league,
92 points to get in the play-offs and 70 points to stay up. Lovely.
Thank you very much."
United kicked their season off on 11 August at Tranmere, one
of the teams fancied to be in the promotion shake up.
Wise had named Alan Thompson as skipper and he lined up in midfield
alongside Ian Westlake and debutants Andy Hughes and Curtis Weston.
Casper Ankergren was in goal behind a back four of Frazer Richardson,
Rui Marques, Matt Heath and Eddie Lewis, with Kandol and Beckford
forming the expected striking partnership.
Rovers started the better and deservedly took the lead after
21 minutes. Calvin Zola had already gone close on two occasions
in the first ten minutes and some wretched defensive play allowed
Chris Shuker to break into the area from the left. He drilled
across a low ball for Chris Greenacre to slide home at the far
Shortly afterwards Shuker had a penalty appeal rejected despite
appearing to be held. It was a lucky escape and Dennis Wise left
his players in no doubt that things had to improve. They had taken
a hiding and were jeered as they left the field at the break.
Wise admitted afterwards, "We didn't play well in the first half,
and we had a little argument at half time. That sorted a few things
out and we were so much better second half."
United came out fighting and were level after ten minutes. From
a free kick on the angle of the Tranmere area Thompson curled
the ball to the far post. It was clearly a rehearsed move as Heath
raced from behind the defensive wall on a curving run to nod home.
The confidence came oozing back, accompanied by a new aggression
that saw Kandol, Beckford, Thompson and Westlake all receiving
It looked like the game would finish all square, but Leeds kept
going and earned their reward with a last minute winner. Richardson
took a quick throw to Hughes who sent a looping cross to the far
post, where Kandol stooped low to nod home before going into a
trademark acrobatic celebration.
It had looked most unlikely in a grim first half but a summer
of despair ended with a memorable triumph. Wise said afterwards,
"It was nice to get this game out of the way, because of all the
hype and everything that's happened. What you don't want is a
situation where you're waiting to win a game after so many games,
and you're miles behind."
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Wise was SO right in his assessment; a decent start was vital.
To have lost their first game would have been a doomsday scenario,
pointing to a relegation struggle.
Another late goal, but this time with 12 minutes remaining, was
enough to see off Macclesfield in a midweek Carling Cup-tie and
then came a tremendous 4-1 victory against Southend United.
Alan Thompson opened the scoring in the third minute with a trademark
swinging free kick from 30 yards. Leeds dominated the first half,
but could not add a second and jangling nerves took over as they
started to defend the lead. Then, when Southend captain Adam Barrett
equalised after 69 minutes, the alarm bells started ringing.
Dennis Wise had already brought Seb Carole on for Ian Westlake,
and now he threw on Tore Andre Flo for David Prutton. It looked
like desperation stuff, but a pre-season spent building the players'
fitness and stamina paid off.
With five minutes remaining, Carole crowned a long run with a
telling cross. A Southend defender nodded it back across goal,
but Flo hammered the ball home on the volley.
The Norwegian had struggled with injury since arriving at United
in January, and said later, "This has been the most frustrating
time of my whole career. At first, we thought it would be a small
thing but it ended up being seven months. I broke the bone, had
an operation and then broke it again at the end of the season
... I did not want to give up, but we needed to see if I could
come back because I was in plaster and not even close to playing
again. This goal makes everything worthwhile. It is nice to give
the manager something back."
Three minutes later, Rui Marques headed his first goal for the
club from a corner and in the final minute Jermaine Beckford broke
his United duck after running on to a long ball.
It was a startling transformation and had Dennis Wise quipping,
"Only 99 more points now to win the League." He went on, "Momentum
is an important thing ... It was important we won at Tranmere,
and again on Saturday ... but there's a long, long way to go."
Days later Eddie Lewis was sold to Derby County, with Wise commenting,
"I wanted to keep Eddie, but this is a wonderful opportunity for
him ... I was never going to stand his way ... I think he would
have been annoyed with me if I'd have done that. He's been a good
Wise moved swiftly to replace Lewis, taking Wolves left-back
Jamie Clapham on loan. He tried to sign Hibernian centre-back
Rob Jones, Tranmere winger Steve Davies and Blackpool full-back
Shaun Barker but was unsuccessful on each occasion.
Undaunted, he pulled off three transfers in the hours before
the transfer window closed, signing Motherwell's 18-year-old Scottish
youth international keeper Alan Martin, young Newcastle centre-back
Paul Huntington and Portuguese winger Filipe Da Costa from Greek
club Ionikos. The latter deal was not completed until October
with Ionikos claiming Da Costa was on contract until 2011.
Departing Elland Road was Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Einarsson,
whose contract was cancelled by mutual consent. He eventually
earned a deal with SK Brann of Norway.
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Just before the flurry of late moves, United pulled off a third
straight League win, away
to fancied Nottingham Forest. Tresor Kandol had given them a 17th
minute lead after smart combination work with Jermaine Beckford
before Kris Commons equalised. There was another late winner as
Beckford found space in the area to meet Carole's mishit shot
and fire home from close range with 30 seconds remaining.
It was a smash and grab raid but Leeds were getting into good
habits. Their knack of snatching late goals was an enviable one.
There was an ugly altercation when United met Luton Town at Elland
Road on 1 September. Leeds won a tight game by the only goal,
and at the end Town boss Kevin Blackwell was fuming. It might
have been the result, or bitterness at the way he was sacked by
the club in 2006, but Blackwell got so close to Wise that the
men's foreheads touched briefly.
Wise remained calm throughout, refusing to react, but said afterwards,
"I don't think Kevin wanted to shake my hand. He told me to F-off
… The emotion was very high, but if you don't get the result you
want you don't spit your dummy out in front of everyone … I don't
know why John Carver was about, and I don't know why he needed
to grab me by the neck."
Blackwell played the incident down, saying, "Nothing happened
really. If you don't have passion for the game you shouldn't be
in the game. I don't think Dennis heard what I said. He brought
his head forward to hear. Maybe it was misinterpreted. The game
was entertaining and it was entertaining afterwards too, so the
fans have enjoyed it."
A week later, Beckford and Kandol again made the difference,
each scoring in a 2-0 win against Hartlepool. United had been
under the cosh for long periods with Pool hitting the woodwork
three times but Beckford's sweet lob from the edge of the area
was a goal fit to win any game. The win saw the 15-point deficit
nullified. Leeds were still bottom of the table, on zero points,
but clearly on the march, the only side left with a 100% record.
Two more Beckford goals and one from Kandol saw United win their
Friday evening game at Bristol Rovers 3-0 and edge their way up
to fourth from bottom.
Beckford had been the subject of a bid from Scunthorpe and the
goalscoring returns of the strikers (both had five to their name)
had persuaded Wise to extend their contracts. It took a while
for terms to be settled, but
in October Kandol extended his contract by a year to the summer
of 2011 and Beckford signed a deal committing his future until
2010. An easier negotiation had been done with ex-Sheffield Wednesday
keeper David Lucas. The 29-year-old signed a short term contract
after being released by Barnsley. Wise signed Lucas as cover for
Casper Ankergren with young Alan Martin likely to be unavailable
for a number of fixtures through Under-19 commitments with Scotland.
22 September saw fourth-placed Swansea visiting Elland Road with
United needing just one win to equal the record run of seven successive
opening victories set by Don Revie's formidable championship-winning
men of 1973/74 and their confidence was sky high.
Leeds comfortably dominated the first half, with Tresor Kandol
shooting against the post and the Swansea keeper saving a Rui
Marques header on the line. They also had legitimate claims for
a penalty waved aside after David Prutton had his legs taken from
The game reached the break without a score, but United took the
lead after 62 minutes when Carole's free kick was volleyed home
by Jermaine Backford.
Swansea complained in vain that the free kick had been taken
from the wrong spot, and they were still moaning when Prutton
settled the game five minutes later, firing home a loose ball
from 25 yards.
A crowd brushing the 30,000 mark cheered as United matched their
illustrious predecessors, climbing to 18th place in the table
as a result.
It had been a breathtaking start, and all the more astonishing
as the team had yet to hit full stride. They had been carried
forward on a wave of righteous indignation, determined to exact
revenge on the Football League, but at times the luck had been
with them. Nevertheless, it was difficult to argue with a goals
record of 16 for and just 3 against in 7 League games.
Just as the doubting Thomasses were starting to believe that
United would sweep all before them, there was a nasty shock, away
to relegation-threatened Gillingham.
Things looked good after Seb Carole's 28th-minute goal; Beckford
had already had an effort chalked off for offside and it seemed
Leeds would just steamroller their way on.
Kandol was booked two minutes before the goal for appealing that
he had been fouled, and five minutes before the break he was shown
the red card for sarcastically applauding when referee Danny McDermid
awarded him a free kick.
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Nevertheless, United continued to look good with Beckford playing
alone up front. The referee booked him for chipping the ball past
the keeper after the whistle had gone for offside. Beckford was
fouled a few minutes later, by Sodje, who had been involved in
Kandol's dismissal and had been relentless in his challenges.
The referee awarded the free kick without cautioning the defender.
However, when Beckford challenged Sean Clohessy, the red card
was waved and United were down to nine men.
Dennis Wise immediately made a double substitution, introducing
Huntington and Westlake in place of Clapham and Hughes. The latter
had already been booked and Wise didn't want to lose anyone else.
Douglas was next to see yellow after Gillingham's Graham fouled
Carole and escaped with only a free kick. On 68 minutes Ankergren
was handed a yellow card for reasons unclear, and the game threatened
to become a farce.
United were still ahead, and set out their stall to defend the
lead. They almost made it, but conceded in the first minute of
injury time. Veteran Neil Cox rose to nod home a corner and a
remarkable run was over.
The referee's display had Dennis Wise fuming. He had been sent
to the stands at half time after criticising McDermid and Wise
claimed that the official had sworn at him at the end of the game:
"When a referee tells a manager to f-off after a game, it's not
acceptable. I've got five witnesses, and three security guards
heard him say it ... I will be reporting him."
With Kandol and Beckford both banned, and Flo and Constantine
injured, United's only fit striker was 19-year-old Tomi Ameobi.
Wise had little option but to dip into the loan market and he
signed Wayne Andrews from
Coventry and Mark De Vries from Leicester. Both men were given
their debuts in midweek at Oldham.
It was an uneventful occasion and was drifting to a goalless
draw until Ian Westlake came on for Alan Thompson in the last
minute and scored with his second touch. United climbed to 14th
and a 1-0 defeat of Yeovil on 6 October saw them rise two more
A header from a corner by Paul Huntington in his first start
on 9 October was enough to beat Darlington in the Johnstones Paint
Trophy, but Leeds struggled when they hosted second placed Leyton
Orient at Elland Road on 13 October.
The Londoners took the lead when midfielder Sean Thornton scored
from a free kick in the ninth minute and nearly went further ahead
when Demtriou hit the post. But United had a lucky break when
Thornton was sent off for using his elbow in an aerial clash.
That let Leeds back in and Seb Carole struck the equaliser in
the 55th minute, working a short corner with Alan Thompson before
firing into the top corner.
The referee awarded United a penalty with ten minutes remaining
but Kandol hammered
it over the bar and then the home side had a lucky escape. Orient
broke away and Adam Boyd got in a shot which Ankergren got to,
but he allowed the ball to slip under his body and over the line.
He quickly fished it out and amazingly got away with it, the referee
waving away all appeals.
Suitably relieved, United won 1-0 at Brighton on 20 October.
The three points left them ninth in the table, just six points
off top spot, and when they beat Millwall 4-2 a week later they
were in the play-off positions after 13 games. It was an astonishing
However, matters off the field now took a hand.
Tottenham Hotspur had parted ways with manager Martin Jol after
a poor start to the season and when they appointed Sevilla coach
Juande Ramos it quickly became clear that they wanted United assistant
manager Gus Poyet, a fluent speaker of both Spanish and English,
as his number two. After the customary assertions that Poyet would
not be leaving the club, United agreed a compensation package
for the release of the Uruguayan.
With Dennis Wise facing a touchline ban, it was essential that
United found a replacement as quickly as possible. On 1 November,
63-year-old Dave 'Harry' Bassett, who had worked with Wise previously
at Wimbledon, Leicester and Southampton, joined the club on a
fixed term contract to the end of the season.
United also brought in former Notts County assistant John Gannon
as first team coach.
Poyet's departure had a lasting impact on United's season, with
many critics claiming that he was the brains behind the team's
revival rather than Wise.
United's first challenge following the departure of the Uruguayan
was a visit to table topping Carlisle on 3 November. The Cumbrians'
biggest crowd for more than thirty years flocked into Brunton
Park to witness an intriguing clash.
It looked like the juggernaut would go rolling on when Beckford
put United ahead in the 28th minute with a tap in, but the home
side came storming back over the last 30 minutes. Simon Hackney
powered home a half volley from 25 yards. Nine minutes later,
Joe Garner nodded home at the near post to put Carlisle ahead.
Up until that time, Leeds had been giving one of their best performances,
pounding the home defence. After the goals it was Carlisle who
had the impetus and the 13-game unbeaten run was clearly coming
to an end long before Bridge-Wilkinson hit a third goal in the
fourth minute of stoppage time.
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United bounced back immediately with a 3-1 midweek win at Bournemouth,
but were clearly off colour in the weeks that followed.
They were lucky to emerge with a goalless draw from a televised
FA Cup-tie at Hereford on 9 November,
but things went even more poorly the following Tuesday, when they
hosted Bury in a Johnstones Paint Trophy quarter final. With fans
dreaming of a trip to Wembley for the final after Leon Constantine's
8th-minute opener, United were shaken by two Bury goals in five
minutes and then were down to ten men when Filipe Da Costa was
red carded for a dangerous tackle. They were fighting a lost cause
from then on.
The cups were not a priority, and Dennis Wise gave first starts
to Constantine and Da Costa as well as Simon Madden, with David
Lucas, Mark De Vries and Paul Huntington making rare appearances.
Nevertheless, the result did nothing to boost flagging spirits.
They had a narrow 2-1 win at home to Swindon on 17 November,
but then contrived to lose 1-0 to Hereford in the Cup replay.
Worse still, they were undone by a single goal four minutes from
time at Cheltenham, rooted to the bottom of the table with only
Dennis Wise said afterwards: "We dominated the game - I think
we had 19 efforts at goal, while they only had two shots and one
of them ended up in the back of the net. We should have won it
- Jermaine Beckford's disallowed goal was very tight. To lose
in the last couple of minutes was frustrating, but I can't argue
with the commitment or the way they played."
United were still fifth and on course for promotion, but a 13-game
run that had seen them drop four points had given way to a spell
of four defeats in seven games. It was an extraordinary turnaround
that corresponded exactly with the departure of Gus Poyet.
Wise would only comment, "It's a big month, and we need a strong
run through December. It's such an important part of the season."
Just as it seemed the train was coming off the rails, they bounced
back with two impressive home wins, 3-0 against Port Vale and
4-0 over Huddersfield. Beckford got three of the goals and Flo
two as United left themselves just a couple of points off top
United had to rely on an injury time goal from a 25-yard Alan
Thompson free kick to snatch a draw at Walsall on 15 December.
On the downside, Jonathan Douglas twisted his knee in the closing
minutes and was likely to be sidelined for three months. In his
absence, Leeds struggled to overcome Bristol Rovers a week later,
requiring an 84th-minute own goal to secure the points.
On Boxing Day, Beckford got a goal in the closing seconds at
Hartlepool to snatch a 1-1 draw. It might have been a case of
two points dropped, but the early kick off meant that for a few
hours at least the one they secured left them top on goal difference.
Later in the day Swansea and Nottingham Forest overtook them,
but it had been a remarkable recovery from their disastrous close
Unfortunately, United's five-game unbeaten run came to an end
three days later when they visited pace setters Swansea.
The Welshmen took the lead in the ninth minute but Beckford quickly
equalised. Gary Monk headed the home side ahead, but they were
down to ten men when Ferrie Bodde was sent off for a foul on Jonathan
Howson seven minutes before the break. It didn't unhinge them
and they went 3-1 ahead on the stroke of half time when Jason
Scotland fired home.
United were back in it when Alan Thompson scored from a free
kick a minute after the resumption and he hit the post from another
set piece moments later, but Leeds could not fashion a comeback
and lost the game 3-2. Dennis Wise was seething with Bodde's foul
which left Howson fearing he had suffered a broken leg. It wasn't
as bad as he feared but he was out until the beginning of February.
Wise: "It was a disgraceful tackle. He's gone straight over the
top of the ball and you could see how upset everyone was. My players
were disgusted. He knows exactly what he's done, and it's very
clever of him. I'm pleased that the referee was on the ball. It
was a broken leg tackle and he deserved to go.
"Swansea played very well but overall our defending was what
let us down. We gave away silly free kicks at the wrong times,
got caught at a corner, and the one that really killed us was
30 seconds before the end of the first half. I don't know what
my two centre-halves were doing. They made a mess of it and it
put (Swansea) in a good position for the second half. If we'd
gone in at 2-1, it was a different game.
"The players are disappointed, but we've had 23 games and we've
got 52 points. I think they've done fantastic so far. We've got
to produce exactly the same in the second half of the season."
It was a desperately disappointing way to end the year, but there
is no doubt that Wise would have taken third place had he been
offered it during the close season. United were nicely poised
for a promotion push if they could maintain their early season
Part 1 Minus 15 - Part
3 Return of the Mac - Results and
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