2 Off field setbacks - Part 3 Cup
highs and League lows - Results
and table - printer
Simon Grayson's impact as Leeds United
manager in the five months since his appointment in December 2008
had led to great expectations as the club prepared for its third
season in League One. Everyone acknowledged that Leeds was a club
playing beneath its 'true level', with a massive following and
stabilised finances at last; the outfits relegated from the Championship,
Norwich, Charlton and Southampton, were big names with recent
Premiership experience, but surely, surely, this would be the
year that United took the first steps back up the football ladder.
For the long-suffering and passionate supporters of the club,
promotion was the minimum requirement: it was a case of now or
never. In that respect, the situation was uncannily similar to
1989, indeed almost a carbon copy, with everyone then expecting
Howard Wilkinson to lead the Whites out of the Second Division
wilderness and back into Division One.
On the eve of the new season, Simon Grayson manager spoke of
his promotion hopes: "We don't want another season in League One
and I'm well aware of that. I don't need to tell the players either...
They don't want to play in this division for much longer.
"My mind has to be focused, as it has been since I came in. I
followed the club through thick and thin for years, but I'm here
now to be a successful manager - one who can take them back into
the Championship. That has to be the target. It's the level of
expectancy we put on ourselves... The bottom line is that we have
to get promoted, finishing in the top two or going up as champions
if we can. If we have to go through the Play Offs, then so be
The summer's transfer speculation chiefly related to who would
be departing Elland Road.
The overtures for gifted midfielder Fabian Delph eventually proved
irresistible; after months of speculation, United accepted a bid
from Aston Villa, an initial fee of £6m, potentially rising to
£7.5m. Delph was off for pastures new.
But, crucially, Jermaine Beckford was not.
The striker was in the final year of a contract signed in 2007
and jealously coveted by a number of clubs. In May, Beckford rejected
the offer of a new three-year deal and was transfer listed. Chief
Executive Shaun Harvey: "As a policy we will always look to retain
our most effective players, however we will only do so within
the financial parameters that we believe are appropriate. The
offer we have made to Jermaine is what we believe to be a very
good offer, but he has exercised his right to turn it down. On
the basis that he has 12 months remaining on his current contract
and could leave on a free transfer next summer, we feel we must
consider any offers that are forthcoming for him."
Middlesbrough, Coventry, Sheffield United, Newcastle United and
Barnsley were said to be interested, but no one matched the rumoured
asking price of £2.5m; on 20 July, Ken Bates announced that Beckford
would be staying at Elland Road.
"I've discussed the situation with Simon and we've taken Jermaine
off the transfer list. We're quite happy to keep him, he's under
contract until the end of the season, and we're looking forward
to him playing his part in getting us promoted this season. Hopefully
he will score another 34 goals this season!"
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The contracts of Jonathan Douglas, David Lucas and long-serving
Frazer Richardson were not renewed and they were allowed to move
on, the first two joining Swindon and the latter Charlton; Peter
Sweeney's contract was cancelled by mutual consent and he signed
for Grimsby. Promising young defender Luke Garbutt was poached
by Everton, with the Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative
Committee fixing the fee at an initial £600,000, with add ons
taking the package up to a possible £1.5m.
Grayson signed a number of reinforcements: Northampton right-back
Jason Crowe and 32-year-old Cheltenham keeper Shane Higgs took
the place of Richardson and Lucas, while Coventry's Irish midfielder
Michael Doyle arrived on a season-long loan.
Possibly the biggest new name was Leicester centre-back Patrick
Kisnorbo, an Australian international. He opted to join Leeds
despite competing offers from several Championship clubs.
Grayson: "Patrick is an experienced defender who has played regular
football in the Championship. He is strong, aggressive, and has
leadership qualities. Having spoken to him, his desire and hunger
is clear and he is just the type of character I want at the club.
It's a big coup for us… It says a lot about the player and a lot
about this club."
United had a straightforward opening, at home to newly promoted
Exeter City on 8 August. Higgs, Crowe and Kisnorbo debuted, with
Rui Marques and Ben Parker completing a new look rearguard. Doyle
joined Robert Snodgrass, Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson in midfield,
while Beckford and Luciano Becchio continued their partnership
Leeds enjoyed a host of early chances, and Beckford might have
had a hat trick. They took the lead after 13 minutes, Beckford
coolly slotting home a cross by Parker, made after an excellent
attacking burst. The striker was denied by the crossbar 12 minutes
later and even when Parker limped off after 28 minutes with a
hamstring strain, there was no hint that victory would be anything
other than a formality.
Exeter threatened a revival at the start of the second half,
but the dismissal of striker Barry Corr just before the hour promised
to derail them. Leeds had eased up, however, and Alex Russell
silenced a 27,000 Elland Road crowd when he curled home a free
kick after 73 minutes.
The visitors grew in confidence and were heading for a shock
draw until two minutes from the end when Beckford rose high to
nod home a cross from Crowe to secure all three points.
Grayson's preferred 4-4-2 formation made the most of United's
assets: Becchio's strength and ability to shield the ball, coupled
with Beckford's lightning pace offered a constant
threat. Snodgrass was given freedom to press forward on the right
and Johnson's power on the left made him a danger. Doyle's defensive
qualities provided new substance in front of the back four, while
Higgs, Crowe and Kisnorbo looked to be excellent signings.
United followed up by beating Darlington 1-0 in the Carling Cup.
The goal came courtesy of an opportunist 54th minute flick from
Enoch Showunmi, who had made his comeback as a late sub against
Exeter. The towering striker had been out for months following
the discovery of a life-threatening blood clot near his lung.
On 15 August Leeds faced a second promoted side, Wycombe Wanderers,
and secured another win via Becchio's long range strike after
61 minutes. Andy Hughes continued at left-back in place of Ben
Parker, a role he was to fill for most of the season.
Three days later, Leeds started well against Walsall at the Bescot
Stadium and an upright was all that stood between Beckford and
an opening goal in the first half. But it looked like their 100%
start was over when Sam Parkin calmly slotted home an 80th-minute
penalty after Rui Marques had brought down Steve Jones.
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But Grayson's Whites were nothing if not resilient and three
minutes later Bradley Johnson headed the equaliser following a
corner from substitute Andy Robinson. Leeds were not yet done:
in the 87th minute Beckford got to Marques' long ball and lashed
it home for a victory. It was well merited with Leeds having 62%
of the possession and Walsall never threatening a goal in open
Simon Grayson: "They have a belief in this team that even when
they go behind they can get something… We can go to the bigger
stages and perform, but promotions can be won and lost at places
like Wycombe and Walsall. We lost here last season, but we showed
the right attitude and desire on Tuesday to make sure that didn't
happen this time."
United continued their strong start four days later by hammering
Tranmere Rovers 3-0 at Elland Road with goals from Johnson, Beckford
and Becchio. All three men also hit the woodwork, in Beckford's
case on three occasions.
It was a 13th successive victory at home, equalling a sequence
achieved by Don Revie's side
in 1969. Grayson: "It's not something
you can say often as a manager, but I really enjoyed watching
that. I felt like a fan again watching some of the football we
played and it was really entertaining and enjoyable... On another
day it could have been a lot more... Sometimes you can win five,
six or seven and use all your goals up, so I'm quite happy with
how it finished."
On 25 August, United were cast in the unusual role of potential
giantkillers, hosting Watford of the Championship in the Carling
Cup. Grayson made his first change in four games, resting Becchio
to give Mike Grella a run.
There was little evident difference in class between the two
sides, and United were first to score, after 38 minutes. Robert
Snodgrass opened his account for the season, curling a beautiful
shot past goalkeeper Richard Lee from the edge of the box. Leeds
had the best of things after that but Watford's Marvin Sordell
snatched an equaliser three minutes before the end to send the
contest into extra time.
Leeds quickly regained the advantage. Snodgrass picked up the
ball from substitute Showunmi's knock down, bustled his way through
the defence and flicked the ball home to complete a 2-1 victory.
On 29 August, United faced their most challenging fixture thus
far, away to third-placed Colchester. Phil Hay in the Yorkshire
Evening Post: "Joe Dunne, caretaker of the army town's football
club, describes Colchester as a place 'built on fighting spirit'...
In a match of seven yellow cards and an underlying mood of friction,
his players were scarcely found wanting on that front, but he
is not the first coach to discover that spirit alone is a meagre
weapon with which to attack Simon Grayson's Leeds United. On occasions
last season, Leeds were justifiably viewed as a softer touch among
the more ambitious clubs in League One, but that accusation is
no longer levelled at Elland Road.
"Colchester did not go so far as to pick a fight on Saturday
but they made plain their intention to examine what Dunne might
have perceived to be a weakness in Leeds, an inability to outwit
opposition who give as good as they get... Winning ugly is a difficult
skill to explain but Saturday's victory came fairly close to defining
that talent. As a performance, United were lacking the cohesion
exhibited against Tranmere and missing the flair responsible for
their most conclusive victory of the season.
"United's defeat of Colchester was scruffy, but League One as
a whole is a scruffy division. If their opposition thus far -
Colchester, Tranmere, Walsall, Wycombe Wanderers and Exeter City
- have had one constant, it is a prevalence of elbow grease and
a lack of gold plating. Grayson has the rare distinction of being
able to see both qualities within his squad. When Leeds are in
full flow, the team controlled by Grayson does not differ drastically
to that managed by his predecessor, Gary McAllister. Both have
been capable of inspiring consummate performances on their day.
Where Grayson has succeeded is in teaching his players to smash
their way through the belligerent obstacle presented by a club
like Colchester, one who will not go quietly. Many managers have
argued that it is entirely possible for a team to play their way
out of League One; on the evidence of United's last two seasons,
the value of unflattering victories is significantly higher.
"Beckford's goal epitomised Saturday's game, coming while confusion
and disorganisation took hold of Colchester's defence with slightly
more than an hour played. The striker saw his chance when a bouncing
free kick aimed into the box by Andrew Hughes dropped in front
of him and his natural reaction was to prod the ball into the
net. Beckford's fifth goal of what is shaping into another season
of reliability was a strike that Colchester could not reply to.
"The performance of referee David Phillips and his linesman did
little to soothe the atmosphere… It was also down to Phillips'
assistant, Michael McCoy, that United did not carry a 1-0 lead
into the interval. McCoy correctly flagged for
offside when Beckford rolled Jonathan Howson's pass into the net
in the seventh minute, but his judgment erred when the striker
struck again eight minutes later, apparently legitimately. Luciano
Becchio's gentle touch played Beckford in behind Colchester's
defence and McCoy's decision to disallow the goal was dubious
in real time and patently wrong when reviewed later.
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"Shane Higgs, United's goalkeeper, produced the only save made
in the first half, beating David Fox's 20-yard shot to the left
of his goal, but the second half was only 60 seconds old when
Johnson scored. Phillips had changed his shirt at the interval,
wearing green as he left the pitch and re-appearing from the tunnel
in blue, but his contentious performance remained unaltered. The
Sussex official sided with Snodgrass when the Scot tangled with
Magnus Okuonghae on the far left hand side of Colchester's box
and Snodgrass' curling free kick reached an unmarked Johnson six
yards from goal. The midfielder applied the finishing touch, nodding
home a header he could not have missed.
"Higgs was powerless to protect United's lead after Lisbie danced
around Rui Marques and teased the Angolan defender into clipping
his heels. Lisbie's 56th-minute penalty, driven high to Higgs'
left, was beautifully placed.
"Colchester sensed an upset, but they reckoned without Beckford
and without the bloodymindedness of Leeds, typified by Patrick
Kisnorbo throwing himself in front of Anthony Wordsworth's injury
time shot on the edge of United's box. At this rate, the club's
first defeat will come over dead bodies."
On the final day of August Simon Grayson bolstered his squad
by signing defender Leigh Bromby from Sheffield United, providing
defensive cover with Patrick Kisnorbo (Australia) and Rui Marques
(Angola) both due to be away on international duty the following
29-year-old Bromby, a United supporter, was rumoured to have
cost around £250,000. He said, "Had it not been Leeds United,
I wouldn't have dropped down to League One... I'm not sure I'd
have left Sheffield United for any other club. Whatever
league Leeds are in, you can hardly call a move here a step down.
You're walking into a club where the manager and players are making
no secret of their intentions."
Bromby was given his debut on 5 September against Stockport County,
partnering Lubo Michalik in his first League One start of the
campaign. Jermaine Beckford was out injured but replacement Mike
Grella opened the scoring after eight minutes with his first United
goal. He exhibited great control to set up Bradley Johnson. His
effort was blocked but Grella followed up to curl the ball into
the far corner. Michalik added a second in the 37th minute.
The 2-0 victory was United's 14th straight League win at Elland
Road, breaking a record established by the 1969 side. It also
set a record for successive wins in all competitions at the start
of a season, going one better than the seven achieved in 1973.
The perfect record came to an end at Southend on 11 September,
a goalless draw being earned via a splendid penalty save by Shane
Higgs after 65 minutes. The Friday evening result took Leeds a
point clear of Charlton, but the Addicks drew level the following
day with a draw at home to Southampton.
There was clear air between the sides the following weekend with
Charlton held 2-2 at Norwich, while United hammered Gillingham
4-1 at Elland Road. The victory was built on two goals from Bradley
Phil Hay in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "For Johnson, his brace
was the continuation of a renaissance that seemed wholly unlikely
at the turn of the year. Even on the first day of pre-season training,
it was impossible to predict with any certainty that the midfielder
would reach his current level of involvement at Leeds, a club
where he has never before found a niche. His heading ability,
without question, is reminiscent of Gary Speed, a comparison which
has been drawn before and which was highlighted again when Johnson
ran in to nod home Robert Snodgrass' corner in the 14th minute.
Gillingham had placed Danny Jackman on the near post but the power
header gave him no time to do anything other than flick the ball
into the roof of his own net. His second goal was a more creative
strike, conjured up by a tidy exchange of passes with Beckford
on the left wing. Johnson broke into Gillingham's box and held
off Danny Fuller, maintaining his balance and forcing a low shot
under keeper Simon Royce.
"Whatever (Gills manager Mark) Stimson hoped to do with his players
during the interval did not come to pass. United took no more
than 40 seconds to claim a third goal when Beckford flicked on
Snodgrass' chipped pass and left Jonathan Howson to control the
ball with his knee and thrash it past Royce. And the keeper was
beaten again when Beckford's instinctive shot crashed against
"The temptation to showboat was evident but Gillingham replied
in the 50th minute with an opportunistic goal, tucked into the
corner of Higgs' net by Barcham after Leigh Bromby failed to apply
a firm clearance to Kevin Maher's free kick.
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"Leeds drew blood with their next attack as Michael Doyle struck
the frame of Royce's goal and Beckford cushioned the ball into
an empty net. With that, Gillingham were confirmed as the 13th
different club that has failed in succession to win at Elland
The game was somewhat overshadowed by the forthcoming Carling
Cup-tie, which brought Premier League giants Liverpool to West
Leeds worried the Reds with some strong attacking football, inspired
by Snodgrass, but Liverpool won the game through a David Ngog
goal after 65 minutes. United had one effort chalked off for offside
against Becchio as he made sure Beckford's attempt crossed the
It was back to the bread and butter battle for League One points
on 26 September, with a visit to fourth-placed MK Dons.
United seemed to have an advantage in a close contest when Jason
Puncheon was given a red card in first half injury time for a
reckless, two footed lunge on Michael Doyle. Shane Higgs injured
his thigh and was replaced by Casper Ankergren after 62 minutes,
but Leeds continued to dominate and Beckford had a strike ruled
out for offside in the 71st minute. However, a goalless draw seemed
inevitable as the game neared its end.
The referee's assistant signalled four minutes of injury time;
after three of them Johnson whipped in a
free kick from the left and Snodgrass bulleted home a priceless
The injury to Higgs left United short of goalkeeping cover with
Alan Martin on loan to Accrington Stanley, and by the time Carlisle
visited Elland Road three days later, Blackburn's England Under-21
cap Frank Fielding had arrived on a month's loan.
United dropped their first home points in a 1-1 draw with Carlisle,
which marked the return of club captain Richard Naylor after back
surgery in the summer. Beckford opened the scoring after half
an hour, but Scott Dobie equalised in the 75th minute.
Charlton's 3-0 defeat to Colchester that same afternoon allowed
Leeds to open up a three point gap at the top of the table. They
were the only remaining unbeaten team in the country, but were
held to a second successive home draw when Charlton came away
with a goalless draw on 3 October.
Goals from Andy Robinson and Tresor Kandol saw them through in
the Johnstone's Paint Trophy against struggling Darlington on
6 October, while the League One fixture at Bristol Rovers on 10
October was postponed because Kisnorbo, Snodgrass and Michalik
had all been called up for international duty. Charlton missed
the opportunity to draw level at the top when they could only
draw 0-0 at home to Oldham.
United returned to action on 19 October with a televised Elland
Road clash with Norwich City. Earlier in the day Simon Grayson
completed a couple of loan deals, bringing in striker Sam Vokes
from Wolves and Leicester winger Max Gradel. Vokes made his debut
against Norwich with Gradel on the bench. Shane Higgs returned
The game was fiercely contested: Johnson headed Leeds in front
from a Snodgrass corner in the 15th minute, but the Canaries fought
back strongly. Higgs limped off a minute later with a recurrence
of his thigh strain and Norwich went on to give an emphatic demonstration
of their accurate passing game. Grant Holt slid in to score his
tenth goal of the season seven minutes before the break and the
Canaries took command thereafter.
Nevertheless, the game seemed likely to end in stalemate until
Grayson brought Gradel on for Snodgrass with ten minutes remaining.
His pace and trickery forced Norwich onto the back foot and gave
Leeds new momentum. In the dying seconds, less than a minute after
Jermaine Beckford had missed an open goal from a Gradel cross,
Canaries keeper Fraser Forster fluffed a clearance. His scuffed
kick fell straight to Beckford who ran twenty yards unchallenged
before chipping the advancing keeper to net a winner.
Simon Grayson: "Norwich have given us the most difficult game
we've had. The way they pass the ball around and look after possession,
they're the best team who've been here... It's a big win because
they're going to be major, major contenders... The diamond system
they played in midfield caused us problems. I was settling for
1-1 at half time and sometimes you have to give credit to the
opposition and the way they played."
United's unbeaten run came to an end in the following game, at
Millwall on 24 October. Neil Harris put the home side ahead in
the third minute and though Paddy Kisnorbo's first goal for the
club brought the scores level eight minutes later, Gary Alexander
scored the winner after 83 minutes.
Happily, Leeds were back to form the following Tuesday night;
facing a stiff-looking test away to Bristol Rovers, they were
simply unstoppable, running in four goals without reply. Beckford
scored twice, Vokes got his first United goal and substitute Kandol
finished matters off with an effort three minutes from the end.
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Simon Grayson had kept faith with the starting eleven beaten
at Millwall and saw his decision vindicated: "I felt that the
players who lost at the weekend should have the chance to put
it right... I did think that we might tweak the team here or there.
I thought about that long and hard before going with the same
"It's a brilliant result for us. We asked for a performance and
a reaction and we got both. This epitomises our work ethic and
the fact that we've got an awful lot of quality when we're firing
on all cylinders.
"This was a difficult place to come after losing at Millwall
but we coped with everything they threw at us. Collectively, we
were excellent. I wanted us to crank it up and to get back to
the level that we're used to playing at. When we got possession
of the ball, we played as well as we have done for two or three
There was another 4-0 victory on 31 October, at Elland Road against
Yeovil, increasing the advantage at the top to seven points. United
followed up with a routine 2-0 defeat of Oldham at Boundary Park
on 7 November in the FA Cup first round and three days later beat
Grimsby 3-1 in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy to qualify for the
semi finals of the Northern Section.
United had the following weekend off thanks to international
call ups and when they returned to action on 21 November they
cruised to a 3-0 victory at Brighton. Simon Grayson claimed it
was their best performance of the season.
Three days later, Leeds had to wait until the 89th minute of
their home game with Leyton Orient before Max Gradel scored the
Simon Grayson sought to freshen up his squad, bringing in three
more loan signings on 26 November: Liverpool keeper
David Martin, Cardiff's Northern Irish international left-back
Tony Capaldi and winger Hogan Ephraim from QPR.
Capaldi made his debut in the FA Cup second round on 29 November
at Kettering Town.
Poppies defender Ian Roper headed his side in front after 63
minutes to hint at a repeat of the previous season's giantkilling
act by Histon, but Beckford put an end to those hopes when he
scored fifteen minutes later. It was just reward for Leeds who
dominated the game.
December began with a victory, the sixth in succession in League
One. Kilkenny and Becchio were the scorers in a 2-0 win at Oldham.
Four days later they dropped two points at home to Huddersfield,
despite twice being in front. It could have been worse with Town's
Anthony Pilkington striking the bar with a long range free kick
after 90 minutes.
On 8 December, Elland Road staged the Cup replay against Kettering.
Becchio headed United in front after 20 minutes. That should have
been the start of an easy night, but former Leeds striker Anthony
Elding equalised in the 62nd minute as Kettering unexpectedly
rallied. United could not get a second and the game went to extra
It was still level at the end of the first half of the extra
thirty, when Mike Grella came on for Andy Hughes. The American
inspired a purple patch for Leeds, scoring within a minute of
entering the fray. A further minute gone and Kandol headed home
United's third. Another seven minutes and Grella added his second,
the best goal of the night, curling the ball home delightfully.
Beckford added a fifth goal two minutes from time.
Simon Grayson would have been grateful for just one of those
goals the following Saturday when his men were held to a goalless
draw at Brentford, the home side packing midfield. Beckford fluffed
two second half chances when one-on-one with the keeper.
"We can't win every game," the manager remarked, adding, "We've
created the best chances and hit the woodwork twice, but if we
don't win then the next best thing is to draw. Their keeper made
a great save from Jermaine in the first half, and maybe if that
had gone in, things would have opened up a bit. In the first half
we didn't quite get the composure we needed and sometimes we rushed
it a bit."
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Midweek goals from Hogan Ephraim and Neil Kilkenny were enough
to see off Accrington Stanley in the semi final of the Johnstone's
Paint Trophy Northern Section to set up an appearance in the final
Of rather more import was the stunning strike from Snodgrass
after 76 minutes that won the League One clash with improving
Southampton on 19 December. The victory increased United's lead
in the table to four points.
"That is not far away (from our best performance of the season),"
said Grayson. "We competed when we needed to, battled when we
needed to, but also had the quality players to pass the ball around
too. The defence has worked ever so hard today and we
closed down excellently. I'm delighted by the performance."
The result was overshadowed by a spat with Jermaine Beckford
after Grayson withdrew him just a minute before the goal. As he
came off, he petulantly spurned the manager's outstretched hand
and stormed straight down the tunnel to concerted booing.
The matter was quickly resolved, as revealed by Grayson: "We
had a chat first thing on Monday. Jermaine explained and apologised
for his actions which I fully accept. I made it clear that I don't
need it to happen again and he's bought into what I've said. It's
been put to bed now and I expect to see Jermaine in a Leeds shirt
on Boxing Day looking to knock the goals in over the Christmas
Beckford made up for his indiscretions by scoring twice in a
3-1 defeat of Hartlepool with United having to come back after
conceding in the 25th minute.
Two days later, Leeds were even luckier, away to bottom club
Stockport. They were twice behind and with two minutes left the
game was still 2-2. Then Bromby smashed home his first goal for
the club, an absolute beauty. In the third minute of injury time,
it was Beckford on the scoresheet again, heading home from a Kisnorbo
4-2 flattered Leeds, but they were not complaining with eight
points' advantage on Charlton and a further three in hand on Norwich.
It was a perfect end to a wonderful year at Elland Road for Simon
Grayson. He offered these seasonal thoughts
to United fans on the club's official website.
"There's been some ups and downs over the past 12 months, but
for me, the big thing is that I believe we are progressing closer
to where we want to be.
"The Millwall semi final was disappointing in terms of the result,
but I couldn't fault what had gone before and sometimes you have
to take things on the chin and learn from them... I felt we could
go on and do that and this season so far has been terrific. We
have found a level of consistency and to be sitting here at Christmas
with 50 League points and one defeat is terrific - but it will
only count for anything if we build on it.
"During that time there's been some performances I've been particularly
proud of, Bristol Rovers and Brighton away were two, along with
our efforts against Liverpool at home. That night against Liverpool
at Elland Road was an indicator of what we all want for this football
club, and that's what we are working towards. Your support that
night was amazing, but that's been the case since I joined the
club, and I want to take this chance to say thank you to one and
all for your support."
With such a significant advantage on the third-placed club, it
seemed certain that 2010 would be the year when Leeds United would
finally reward their loyal fans.
Part 2 Off field setbacks - Part
3 Cup highs and League lows - Results
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