Part 1 Minus 15 - Part
2 The fightback begins - Results
and table - printer
In the history of Leeds United Football Club, 2007 was for the
most part a year to forget: relegation, the descent into administration,
bitter disputes with the taxman and a gutting 15-point penalty.
But a stunning opening to the season indicated that United might
have reached the nadir of their fortunes and could at last start
to dream of a return to prominence. Even a stuttering run of results
after Gus Poyet quit Elland Road for Tottenham in October could
not prevent their seemingly unstoppable rise and by the end of
the year they were sitting in an improbable third spot, six points
behind leaders Swansea City.
United's year kicked off poorly, New Year's Day bringing a 3-1
defeat at home to Oldham.
Richard Sutcliffe in the Yorkshire Post: "In truth, the Latics
did not have to display too much quality to smash what before
kick off had been the best home record in English football with
Leeds being so poor that their display evoked memories of the
horror shows that polluted so much of last season. United, to
be quite blunt, were unable to pass, cross or tackle during an
opening 45 minutes that drew deserved jeers from the crowd of
25,906 at the half time whistle. The defeat, which means United
have taken just one point from a possible nine since Christmas,
saw Wise's side slip to fifth and he recognises reinforcements
are badly needed."
Wise was quickly into action in the transfer window, signing
23-year-old winger Sebastian Sorsa from HJK Helsinki as his contract
expired on 31 December. He was less successful with attempts to
court Walsall left-back Daniel Fox and a £300,000 bid was turned
down. Leicester's Darren Kenton came in on loan as cover for Rui
Marques, off to represent Angola in the African Cup of Nations.
Wise also chased Bolton's Slovakian centre-back Lubo Michalik,
who had a loan spell at the club in 2006/07,
but those particular negotiations dragged on for several weeks.
The midfield was bolstered with the signings of Birmingham's Australian
midfielder Neil Kilkenny, Stoke City's Peter Sweeney and Northampton's
It was hotly rumoured that Jermaine Beckford would be on his
way to the Premiership with Derby County, but United resisted
all overtures and hung on to their man. One player who did leave
was Shaun Derry, making a loan move to Crystal Palace permanent.
Alan Thompson was also away, on a short term loan deal to Hartlepool.
Kilkenny had been on loan at Oldham and he impressed Wise with
his performance for the Latics in their victory at Elland Road.
He moved initially on an emergency loan move, so that he could
appear for United on 5 January against Northampton. He was outstanding
in a 3-0 victory and the deal was made permanent days later.
When United faced Crewe at Gresty Road in a televised fixture
on 14 January, Kenton, Sweeney and Johnson all made their debuts.
It was a telling outswinging cross from Sweeney that gave Beckford
the chance to bravely nod home the winning goal.
Phil Hay in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Beyond the result, United's
performance was another indication that Wise's activity in the
transfer market has successfully tackled the problematic areas
of his squad. Sweeney made an excellent debut on the left wing,
supplying the thrust and quality of crossing that Leeds have been
yearning. Darren Kenton was asked to fill the sizeable shoes of
Rui Marques at centre-back, and did so with the confidence of
a player who has coped at a level far above League One. He and
Paul Huntington kept Crewe in check, and though United were not
always comfortable beneath high deliveries into their box, their
clean sheet was only briefly threatened.
"Titles are not won in January, as Wise reiterated before kick
off, but this month had the
potential to break Leeds. The early weeks of the transfer window,
however, have rejuvenated United in the way that their manager
predicted, and the club have reacted responsibly to the problems
experienced in the closing weeks of 2007. A spectacular victory
was not essential last night; a win of any sorts was."
Another 30,000-plus crowd packed into Elland Road for a local
derby against Doncaster Rovers on 19 January eager to see if United
could bolster their challenge against a team who were just two
points below them. They couldn't, and Rovers were well worth a
single goal victory.
back to top
United's early season successes had often come courtesy of late
goals, but when they faced Luton at Kenilworth Road on 26 January,
the boot was on the other foot. Paul Huntington, making a fist
of things with his fourth successive start, gave United a 27th-minute
lead and it seemed that would be that, but a goal from Sam Parkin
in the fourth minute of injury time rescued an unlikely point
Two days later there came the shock news that Dennis Wise had
decided to leave Elland Road, accepting a back room position at
The move came out of the blue and a clearly disappointed Ken
Bates commented, "There was a speculative article in the Mail
on Sunday last week which we just ignored, then on Friday I got
a phone call from Shaun Harvey who said Newcastle had asked for
permission to speak to Dennis. I wasn't too surprised, but we
wouldn't allow permission until we had it in writing that they
would pay compensation. Dennis had a one-year rolling contract,
and if either party breaks it we have to agree on compensation.
I thought it only right to advise Dennis. He said he would like
to talk to them and I said he could once we had it in writing.
That duly arrived and I told Dennis first thing this morning that
he could meet the Newcastle chairman, and he said he would like
to take the opportunity if he could.
"He said he was sorry it was such short notice, but it was too
good an opportunity to miss. In football you never stand in the
way of anyone who wants to improve themselves. We've agreed that
he will prepare the team for tomorrow, but it wouldn't be appropriate
if he was at the game. He will get them ready for the game and
hopefully he will go out on a high."
With Dave Bassett dismissed following Wise's departure, technical
director Gwyn Williams was in charge for the game at Southend
on 29 January as the Dennis Wise era ended with a disappointing
Earlier in the day it had been confirmed that former United midfielder
Gary McAllister would be the new man at the helm, at least until
the end of the season.
The 43-year-old had been at the heart of the United team that
won the League title in 1992 and he made almost 300 appearances
for the club. He also played for Motherwell, Leicester, Coventry
and Liverpool, won 57 Scottish caps and managed Coventry for a
couple of years before resigning in 2004 to care for his late
wife as she battled cancer.
The Scot was delighted, saying, "When I was first approached
I couldn't quite believe it. It's a great honour to be back at
the club and I can't wait to get in and amongst it ... I'm here
until June initially and quite simply my job is to come here and
kick start it. There's a lot of hard work to be done.
"When a new manager is appointed late in January it's usually
to pick up the pieces of failure, but this is different. The boys
are in a fantastic position, they can go second tonight, and I'm
joining a winning club."
Bates was just as pleased with the move and said, "We decided
to move quickly and Gary was always in our minds ... He has a
philosophy about how Leeds should go forward. He wants to play
football and he wants his team to play football, but he also knows
that's not always easy in League One. I said 20 years ago I wanted
my team to be cheered off for entertainment and I want that to
happen here. I think Gary will give us that."
McAllister's appointment was a smart move by Bates, and he was
welcomed with open arms by fans who had never fully accepted Dennis
Wise, though he had earned their grudging respect for the way
he turned things round.
In contrast McAllister was seen as a Messiah. The talk was all
of a more cultured style, something that McAllister emphasised
after it was announced that Steve Staunton would be his No 2.
"It's not often that you're able to appoint an assistant with
the experience of management that Steve has. I've worked with
him before and what I like about Steve is that he's been brought
up in the Liverpool way. We'll benefit from that influence because
I want the players here to approach the game in the right way,
with a certain type of performances. It's an important appointment
and I'm in the process of looking for a first-team coach to work
Former Carlisle manager Neil McDonald quickly arrived to fill
Staunton was with the Republic of Ireland for more than two years,
leaving in 2007 after the country's failure to qualify for Euro
2008. His availability appealed to McAllister after a move for
Sammy Lee was complicated by the
terms of the 48-year-old's departure from Bolton Wanderers in
October. Lee left the Reebok having replaced Sam Allardyce in
April, and negotiations over the severance of his contract hampered
United's attempts to bring the former Liverpool midfielder to
McAllister had no time to make his mark in the remaining hours
of the transfer window and merely sanctioned moves that were already
in train. 25-year-old striker Anthony Elding was signed from Stockport,
while United paid £200,000 for Bolton's Lubo Michalik. Darren
Kenton's loan deal was made permanent and his former Leicester
team mate, 21-year-old Irish left-back Alan Sheehan, joined on
loan until the end of the season.
back to top
There was a positive atmosphere around the club, but the early
signs were not encouraging. McAllister's first game in charge
saw United lose 2-0 at home to Tranmere, slipping out of the play-off
positions in the process.
McAllister: "The game did not have a great deal of quality in
it ... It is obvious there is a bit of work to be done to get
us back on track. We have a free week now and will be putting
in a lot of work on the training ground. I am going to encourage
them to play football. We have to snap out of this rut quickly.
The job I expect of them is simple - to get us out of this division
in 16 games. But we will have to be better than we were against
"First of all, we have to compete and win battles across the
pitch before you have the right to get the ball down and pass.
There is loads I can work on. There were a couple of plusses with
Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson, two of the younger players,
showing little bits of bravery to get on the ball.
"We don't want to be sitting after games saying we've played
well and not won. That's the crux of it. We've got to enjoy playing
but we've got to be winning ... it's about finding the balance
between getting the ball down and playing, and making sure the
performance level is high."
||Top of League One February 23 2008
McAllister had to wait a while for his first win, with United
playing out three successive 1-1 draws following the Tranmere
defeat, slipping to ninth spot in the process.
After the third draw, at home to struggling Crewe on 23 February,
the seventh game without a win, the manager spoke out. "We're
not going to hide behind the fact that we did get a late equaliser
and take pats on the back for that. It wasn't enough. We've made
it clear to the guys that when teams in the lower half of the
division come here, they'll most definitely raise their game.
We didn't raise our game enough. As a group of guys in that changing
room, we know we've got to be a lot better than that.
"We've got 13 games left now, and we need points. Dropping points
at home is not going to get us where we want to be. I'm seeing
signs of improvement, but ultimately it doesn't matter what happens
at the training ground or what we see during the week. It's what
people can produce on match day."
On 1 March, United finally won under McAllister, by a single
Tresor Kandol goal at Swindon. The manager was delighted, saying,
"When you come back into the game after being out for a while,
there's nothing like winning. There's an old adage that I've used
all the way through my career which is that the harder you work,
the luckier you get, and these guys have been working really hard.
They deserved a break."
McAllister remained concerned about an inability to turn chances
into goals and he made overtures to Crystal Palace's Scottish
striker Dougie Freedman in the last week of February. Initially
Freedman rejected the move, but then changed his mind and on 6
March agreed to move on loan to Elland Road until the end of the
Around the same time, McAllister released Leon Constantine, Curtis
Weston, Ian Westlake and Matt Heath on loan, while Tore Andre
Flo announced his retirement.
First United goals for Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny secured
a 2-0 victory against Bournemouth, but then came an inexplicable
home defeat to Cheltenham. Freedman came on as sub in both games
and looked a good signing. He made his first start in the 15 March
visit to bottom club Port Vale and he confirmed his class with
two goals. But more important than the goals was the way that
Freedman influenced United's play with his guile and movement.
He was the perfect foil for Beckford and his experience would
Unfortunately United were brittle against Vale. They were two
goals ahead at the break, but allowed Vale to draw level with
goals in the 65th and 67th minute. A second goal from Freedman,
four minutes from time, looked to have sealed the win, but Luke
Rodgers snatched an equaliser in the third minute of injury time
to leave McAllister bemoaning defensive fallibility.
back to top
The result saw Leeds slip to tenth, two points outside the play-offs,
and McAllister acknowledged the missed opportunity. "To come away
from home and create a few chances as well as the three goals
we scored - it's just hugely disappointing. The facts are that
if you come away from home and score three goals, you should be
going home with the points. We're going to have to stick together.
We really need to have the sort of mentality the club probably
had at the start of the season when everyone was writing them
off then. People are maybe looking and saying 'their push is maybe
fading a little bit', but I can assure we'll be working extremely
hard to get ourselves back in there."
United had won just two of the previous eleven games and now
faced a crucial run of five games against teams in the promotion
The first was in a televised match at home to Walsall on the
evening of 22 March. With Freedman catching the eye, United gave
one of their best displays in winning 2-0. The goals, one in each
half, both came from smart Beckford finishes following killer
through balls from Neil Kilkenny. To round off a fine night, captain
Jonathan Douglas came on as a second half sub to complete his
recovery from the injury he sustained before Christmas.
A week later United were stymied in a goalless home draw with
Brighton, but they bounced back instantly when Alan Sheehan's
glorious free kick into the top corner of the net was enough to
earn a victory at Doncaster Rovers. Sheehan picked up a yellow
card in the game, his tenth of the season, resulting in a two-game
Gary McAllister was fulsome in his praise for the full-back:
"It was a fantastic goal. I'm pleased for Alan Sheehan. He arrived
from reserve team football and it was clear he was pretty leggy
at first. But he's worked hard to get to this level and he's showed
the qualities he's got. It's a big step from reserve team to competitive
"It was a big game for big players and we had some big performances.
We rode our luck on occasions ... During those times when we had
to defend we had people throwing their bodies and heads in front.
If we'd have done that at Port Vale when they scored three times...it
shows we have learned from that."
On 3 April, the club announced that McAllister had been awarded
a 12-month rolling contract, with Ken Bates commenting, "We've
been impressed with what Gary has done and we decided it was fair
to offer him a rolling contract to enable us to plan the future
of Leeds United with confidence and security.
"We met in Leeds a fortnight ago and went through every player
on the books, from the highest earners to the kids on £15 a week.
He told us who he thought was surplus to requirements and who
he thought we should keep. The depth of knowledge that Gary showed
about every player, and not just the senior players, was extremely
impressive. He goes to every reserve game and his knowledge showed
how dedicated he was to the job.
"Shaun and I made the decision with the board that he deserved
a new and longer contract. I'm delighted that he's accepted because,
from the club's point of view, we know the direction we're heading
in and we can start planning for next season.
"The most important thing about Gary was that when Gwyn Williams
first asked him whether he wanted the job back in January, he
said yes. Full stop. There were no questions about 'how much',
and no arguing about the contract. I think he feels as if he's
Two days later, United's impressive run continued with a 2-0
victory at Leyton Orient which took them back into the play-off
positions. The decisive second goal came from Jermaine Beckford,
who thus became the first United player to notch 20 in a season
since Mark Viduka in 2003.
The position was reinforced with a home victory against second-placed
Carlisle. The visitors took the lead through Scott Dobie in the
17th minute and were still ahead at the break, with Leeds not
getting in a meaningful shot.
They were far better in the second period and Dougie Freedman
bundled in a 50th-minute equaliser when the Carlisle keeper failed
to gather a Neil Kilkenny cross. Nine minutes later Jonny Howson
ran in to hammer Leeds ahead after Tresor Kandol's shot was parried.
On the hour Danny Graham forced home an equaliser following a
corner. Freedman volleyed home a winner in the 69th minute after
Kilkenny's free kick ran loose.
It had been a breathtaking game and McAllister praised Freedman's
contribution: "We've spoken about his guile and his touch of class,
but we have to applaud his physical state. We sent him home last
night and he reappeared this morning and wanted to play. As soon
as he looked me in the eye and said he wanted to play I had no
United came unstuck during an evening derby at Huddersfield on
15 April. Jermaine Beckford had damaged an ankle against Carlisle
and was unavailable, giving Tresor Kandol a recall, but that was
the only change to a side that was now quite settled.
Skipper Jonathan Douglas and Town's Jon Worthington were both
dismissed in the first half for two bookable offences and that
ruined the game as a spectacle. It looked like the match would
end as a tepid draw, but Huddersfield grabbed the only goal in
the second half to end the Leeds run.
back to top
Happily, United's main rivals for the final play-off spot, Walsall,
lost 1-0 at home to Bristol Rovers that same night to leave Leeds
relatively secure in sixth spot. Victory would have virtually
guaranteed the Whites a place in the play-offs.
McAllister: "Obviously there was a lot of disappointment in our
changing room, but we'd had a good run, and it's certainly not
a disaster. It was a very scrappy game and the sending offs had
something to do with that. They contributed to it being a game
of knock-downs, free-kicks, and petty tackles.
"I felt Dougie's was for two soft yellows
and their man looked to make an honest attempt when he was sent
off. It went to 10 v 10 and became very bitty. These things happen.
They are sent to test you and we didn't react well enough to Dougie
going off. We lost the calmness that he brings. When you need
to force things you need a calm head and that's what we need from
here. We'll deal with it, move on, and prepare for Millwall on
For that trip to Millwall on 19 April, David Prutton was recalled
for the suspended Douglas, while Elding and Sheehan replaced Kandol
Phil Hay in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "On the afternoon when
Gary McAllister was welcomed to Elland Road by a 2-0 defeat to
Tranmere Rovers it may not have occurred to him that Leeds United
might reach the sanctuary of the play-offs with a game in hand.
McAllister's first job was to oil United's creaking engine and
the fruits of his labour were rewarded by the sight of Leeds monopolising
sixth place in League One in London yesterday.
"A splendid volley from David Prutton and a close-range finish
from Andrew Hughes put paid to Millwall at the end of a frenetic
game at the New Den. And the assistance of results elsewhere carried
United to a position where their involvement in the play-offs
is just one more positive result away from being ratified.
"A late winning goal for Brighton against Hartlepool United prevented
Leeds from travelling home with complete assurance, but the situation
has been placed in their hands so comprehensively that it would
surprise Albion's manager Dean Wilkins if their fingers released
the prize. Brighton - the only club now in touch with sixth position
- are at the stage where divine intervention is required.
"A defeat to Huddersfield Town on Tuesday was in danger of being
followed by a goalless stalemate yesterday, a result which would
not have been disastrous but which would have cast a degree of
doubt over United's final League position. There is every possibility,
however, that United's last game of the season at home to Gillingham
will be meaningless in a competitive sense.
"If, as seems likely, a play-off position belongs to United by
the end of next weekend's game at Yeovil ... the city of Leeds
will breathe a collective sigh of relief at the end of a compelling
and exceptional year.
"It is easy, nine months on, to overlook the fact that United
have negated a points penalty which equated to five League victories,
and to forget that the win gained yesterday secured their 85th
point of the term. To be on the cusp of reaching the play-offs
at all is a stellar achievement; to do it with a game remaining
would be a creditable bonus.
"The loss of Jermaine Beckford's pace had been an obvious factor
in United's 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield on Tuesday night and he
was missing again yesterday, held back by the ankle injury which
McAllister had hoped would heal before kick off."
A 4th-minute goal by Dougie Freedman in the Friday night fixture
at Yeovil was enough to secure the required win, but they had
to cope with the dismissal of Alan Sheehan after 65 minutes. The
red card meant
a suspension that would keep him out of the play-off semi finals.
United still harboured hopes that their appeal against the 15-point
deduction would lead to an even happier outcome to the season.
The reversal of the penalty would have guaranteed automatic promotion.
Ken Bates had not been deterred when League chairmen voted to
confirm the penalty in August and had insisted that United would
They wrote to the Football Association in August asking for a
review of the case. The FA rejected that request at the end of
September. United continued to pursue their fight in October,
writing to the FA chairman to draw his attention to "what we perceived
as inconsistencies in the FA's decision and asked them to look
at it again. The reply to the second request was rejected by the
FA's director of corporate affairs. This is the same person who
rejected the original request. In effect, the same individual
confirmed his own earlier decision. There was no independent review."
back to top
The FA refused to budge their position and it was decided that
the matter should be referred to an independent arbitration panel,
which was eventually set for the week commencing April 14.
The panel was chaired by former High Court judge Sir Philip Otton,
an experienced football arbitrator. He had been involved in some
controversial hearings, such as those surrounding Chelsea tapping
up Arsenal's Ashley Cole in 2005 and West Ham's 'ownership' of
Completing the panel were lawyer Peter Cadman, who had chaired
previous Premier League disciplinary commissions, and former Premier
League Chief Executive Peter Leaver.
Originally it was thought that the hearing would last for three
days with the decision to be announced before the game at Millwall
on April 19. It was later reported that the hearing would go into
a second week and that the verdict would be returned "within three
to four weeks". The decision was announced on Thursday, 1 May,
just three days short of a year after United had entered administration.
The club argued that the Football League did not have the power
to impose a 15-point penalty, that they had acted unfairly and
unreasonably and that the chances of an appropriate CVA were dashed
by the conflicting demands of the Football Creditors rule and
The panel rejected the appeal outright. They found that the club
had freely agreed to the conditions of the League's decision to
grant them the Football Share, chief of which was the points deduction.
There had been an agreement that
United could appeal, and that this would be heard by the other
League chairmen. The panel also found that there had been an unreasonable
and inexcusable delay on the part of the club in commencing proceedings.
Click here to
read the full text of the panel's findings.
It was no compensation for Ken Bates, but the panel also criticised
the League's Insolvency Policy and appeals procedures, and the
United chairman was quick to call for Lord Mawhinney and the League's
board to resign.
Phil Hay in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "The claim by Ken Bates
that defeat in his battle with the Football League was not the
same as foregoing the war is clearly a matter of opinion, but
it was not altogether the cry of a sore loser. To all intents
and purposes Bates was beaten yesterday, outflanked on the issue
of most immediate significance to him and his club's supporters.
Vague the Football League's reasoning for a 15-point penalty may
have been, and warped its appeal process most certainly was, but
the success of Leeds United's case was bound to be judged on the
recovery of some or all of their deducted points.
"Defeat is not a sensation that will sit well with Bates, a man
who backs himself to fight his way out of any corner, but the
conclusive ruling published by the arbitration panel yesterday
served to enhance the importance of a problem thrown up and highlighted
by United's suffering. As a direct result of the hit taken by
Leeds in August and the legal case which has followed, other English
clubs may have cause in future to thank Elland Road's chairman.
"Insolvency was, until the turn of this century, a foreign language
to football supporters, and a matter over which few had any interest.
When Bates presented a Company Voluntary Arrangement to United's
creditors while Leeds were in administration last summer, the
majority were required to ask exactly what a CVA was. The arrangement
... was voted through by a fine margin ... but many commentators
assumed that the acceptance of his terms was a formality, the
final and natural step back into solvency. In the end it was anything
but, and it is clear today that the approval of a CVA put forward
by any professional club is as far from a formality as it could
"It was highly appropriate that, on the day the three-man arbitration
panel sided with the Football League, Rotherham United announced
that their own administration was likely to end without any such
CVA. Leeds United are out of the Football League's hair but a
crisis of insolvency is sticking to the organisation like glue.
It is inevitable that United's case will bring about necessary
- and perhaps fundamental - changes to its rules on administration.
"The ruling of the arbitration panel did not specifically blame
Leeds for the failure of their CVA, the catalyst for both the
sale of the club directly to Bates by KPMG in July and the 15-point
deduction which followed in August. It stated instead that the
Football League acted within its own rules and guidelines by imposing
a penalty for what it believed was a breach of its rules (an accusation
which Leeds have always contested). Whether or not United were
actually guilty appears to have been left to the judgement of
the League's board. Before even considering the validity of the
penalty handed to Leeds, the panel dismissed the club's claim
on the grounds that they had delayed arbitration for an 'unreasonable
and inexcusable' length of time and had already signed a legal
and binding document preventing them from appealing against the
15-point deduction for a second time. For those reasons, it was
ultimately a case that Leeds had no chance of winning.
"A victory for Bates was secured by persuading the panel that
it was inappropriate for Football League clubs to decide an appeal
made by one of their rivals, a system which is clearly open to
abuse and prejudice, and if nothing else yesterday's ruling will
instigate a new appeals process which relies on independent consideration
rather than the opinion of potential competitors.
back to top
"But it is on the matter of the CVA, and the stance of HMRC towards
Football League regulations, that the impact of United's case
should be most profound. Leaving administration without a CVA
was not standard practice last summer,
but Leeds have been trendsetters in that field. Rotherham appear
resigned to reclaiming solvency without the necessary arrangement
and have already admitted that they anticipate a points deduction,
possibly in line with United's 15-point penalty. Bournemouth and
Luton Town have also been in grave peril, prevented from agreeing
CVAs in part by the fact that HMRC will not support them. On the
contrary, HMRC will contest every one.
"The Revenue is often the largest creditor of financially-stricken
Football League clubs. United's arrears alone were in excess of
£7m last May. But as a result of Football League rules, which
require football creditors to be paid in full by any insolvent
club, the Revenue is no longer prepared to agree to any CVA which
sees players, managers and clubs paid every penny they are owed
while the taxman goes short. The League's reasoning for insisting
on the payment of football debts is sound in principle. It argues
with justification that its competition would lack integrity and
credibility if member clubs failed to meet their financial obligations
to those involved in it. But with HMRC adopting such an aggressive
stance, that insistence is also potentially flawed.
"Leeds predicted last summer that the absence of a CVA in their
case would be the first of many. That prediction has proved accurate,
and probably more quickly than Bates expected. The frustration
for United's chairman is that his CVA was approved initially then
scrapped because of the timescale involved in the legal challenge
made against the agreement by HMRC. Whether the Revenue would
have seen its case proven is a moot point, but Bates has always
argued that the grounds of the challenge were 'spurious'.
"United's chairman will not delight in aiding the clubs who voted
against his original appeal against the Football League's 15-point
penalty but inadvertently he has. The tribunal's ruling read:
'These proceedings have brought to light the necessity for a review
of the insolvency policy. We were told that there are 40 or more
current or anticipated insolvencies. In many cases it will prove
impossible to exit administration via a CVA. The League in the
course of the hearing appeared to recognise the need to amend
the policy to make specific provisions where there is no CVA.
It is to be hoped that this can be achieved during the coming
"One option for the Football League is to agree a 15-point penalty
as a mandatory sanction for any club that exits administration
without a CVA. Given that rule changes require the agreement of
its members, that law seems improbable. More likely is that the
insolvency rules will be relaxed in a way which is more sympathetic
to a climate in which many clubs are breathing with difficulty.
Above all, the conflict of interest between the Football League
and HMRC is one that can no longer be ignored.
"United called a halt to their struggle yesterday, declaring
in a statement that 'the matter is closed'. It will now require
a successful play-off campaign to give Leeds the promotion their
players and supporters deserve, and to ensure that a case which
may be to the long-term benefit of English clubs is not to United's
A play-off place confirmed, Gary McAllister rested some players
during the final game of the League season, at home to Gillingham
on 3 May. Frazer Richardson, Jonny Howson, Neil Kilkenny and Dougie
Freedman were all allowed an afternoon off, while Jermaine Beckford's
ankle was given further time to recover. Peter Sweeney, Anthony
Elding, Scott Gardner, Tresor Kandol and Andy Hughes were named
in the starting line up with Bradley Johnson asked to fill the
suspended Alan Sheehan's position at left-back.
United were a goal behind after 20 minutes, but blinding goals
from Johnson in the 69th minute and Kandol in the 88th secured
the points and condemned Gillingham to relegation. The points
took Leeds above Southend United and into fifth spot, confirming
a play-off semi final clash with Carlisle United.
The first leg was on 12 May at Elland Road, but Leeds were never
in it. They had plenty of chances and both Freedman and Beckford
went close in the first half with curling efforts to the far post.
Keiren Westwood, who had endured a difficult time in Carlisle's
defeat at Elland Road in April, gave an inspired display, stopping
both shots and, indeed, everything else that came at him all night.
Carlisle were smarter and sharper in midfield and took a stranglehold
on the contest. Leeds' quartet were caught between the devil and
the deep blue sea, never sure whether to hang back or push on,
and left acres of space for the visitors to exploit.
back to top
After 32 minutes, Carlisle were awarded a corner kick that should
have gone the other way, and the clearance fell to Simon Hackney
on the left wing. He volleyed it first time and the ball struck
Danny Graham as he turned his back on it, deflecting into the
bottom corner off his backside.
That left United in disarray and they struggled to get any control.
The chances kept coming but either they squandered them or found
Westwood in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Five minutes after the break they were undone when Carlisle broke
swiftly, with two men overlapping to leave Frazer Richardson in
no man's land. The cross found Bridge-Wilkinson storming in to
force home despite the close attentions of Michalik.
Gary McAllister rang the changes, throwing Kandol on for Beckford
after 58 minutes, claiming that the striker was feeling his damaged
ankle. Then Carole came on for Prutton, and in the dying seconds
Hughes for Howson.
But it all looked over for the Whites.
Five minutes of injury time had gone when Paul Huntington got
the ball around half way. He evaded a Carlisle challenge and came
inside before launching a huge lofted ball to the far post. Kandol
was in the mixer, causing panic in the back four but couldn't
get a telling touch. As it ran loose across the box, Freedman
was on it in a flash to fire home.
In a season of late goals, none had come later. There were seconds
remaining and United had pulled the irons out of the fire at the
last. They would still face an uphill struggle in the second leg,
but they went there with a fighting chance.
McAllister stood by his men,
despite the disappointing display, selecting the same eleven and
was rewarded when Jonny Howson scored in the tenth minute after
a one-two with Freedman.
After that, United got a grip on the game. Despite having a number
of chances they couldn't get a second goal and as time went on
it seemed the match would go to extra time.
Just as the extra minute's injury time began, Freedman flicked
a ball across the face of the Carlisle area and Howson controlled
it and sent a low shot bobbling inside the post to settle the
The United players and supporters went wild with excitement.
Just seconds later the game was over and Leeds were on their way
to the Wembley final.
Unfortunately, their moment of glory had passed. Though their
performance in the final against
Doncaster Rovers did not plumb the depths of the 2006
Championship play-off debacle against Watford, they were outplayed
a high quality team. They fell to a dead ball sucker punch early
in the second half when James Hayter headed home from a corner
and never remotely looked like beating former Elland Road keeper
Neil Sullivan in the Rovers goal.
It was a sad and disappointing end to an extraordinary season
when United had come back from the very brink of extinction as
a club. There could easily have been a fairytale conclusion to
the story, but that has rarely been the way for Leeds United Football
Their long-suffering supporters trudged sadly away from the scene
of yet another tragic defeat on the big occasion, but at least
they had the satisfaction of knowing that they would live to fight
another day, something that had seemed quite unlikely for a while
Finally clear of the massive debts that had dogged them for a
decade and ready to start a new season on level terms, Leeds United
could look forward to a campaign when they could realistically
hope to be starting the long and tortuous climb back to the top
of the English game.
Part 1 Minus 15 - Part
2 The fightback begins - Results
and table - printer
back to top