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Leeds disunited

Don’t blame the players for what’s happened at Elland Road.

Tony Cascarino, 29 Jan 2004

People have been having a go at the Leeds players saying they’re greedy so-and-sos who don’t care whether or not the club goes into administration, but I can understand them not liking the idea of wage deferrals. Why should they play ball with the men upstairs when it’s the men upstairs who’ve been negligent and cocked up the finances? I wouldn’t agree to my wages being deferred unless I knew exactly how the money was going to be managed and spent.

Secondly, there are players like David Batty who are out of contract and being told, “We’re letting you go at the end of the season but until then can you give us 20% of your wages so that we can get out of a mess that we, not you, created?” David Batty doesn’t want Leeds United to go under any more than the fans do, but at 35 and staring unemployment in the face he doesn’t want to be left out of pocket. He’s made a good living out of football, sure, but if he doesn’t get into management or coaching or find a pundit’s job, he’s going to need that money.

Personally, I think Leeds should raise £10 or £15 million by selling Robinson, Smith and Milner, gamble on a couple of lower division players like Robert Earnshaw at Cardiff who’d you’d probably get for £2 million a pop, and use what’s left to keep the club afloat. They’ll all be free agents if they go into administration, so why not give it a go?

Personally, I think it’s highly unlikely that Leeds will be a Premiership club next season. They had a little revival before Christmas but since then their heads have dropped, and there’s a defeated look about the team that just says “relegation” to me.

I imagine there’ll be great excitement in Dublin when Brazil come calling next month, especially if they field a full strength team with the likes of Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos in it. Supporters should soak up as much of the Lansdowne atmosphere as they can because it doesn’t look like we’re going to be playing our World Cup qualifiers there or anywhere else in Ireland.

Never mind the fact that you’d probably get sell-out crowds for Ireland games at Anfield or Old Trafford – it’s an absolute disgrace that a country who’s been to as many finals as we have doesn’t have a national stadium. The obvious solution is for the G.A.A. to say, “Tell you what, you can use Croke Park for the next couple of years for competitive games only”, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. The upside of having to play in England is that there’s going to be a lot of very embarrassed politicians and FAI officials who might finally pull their fingers out as a consequence.

As for Brazil, I think Brian will use the game to give Liam Miller and Andy Reid a run-out against top quality opposition. It’d be brilliant for Ireland right now if a Premiership team came in and bought Reid before the transfer window closes. I’ve seen him a couple of times playing for Nottingham Forest and he was easily the most creative player on display.

Brian Kerr’s biggest concern, though, has to be up front. Clinton Morrison hasn’t been able to get a decent run in the Birmingham side and to get the best out of David Connolly you need a couple of big lads alongside him like West Ham had on Sunday when they beat Wolves in the Cup. Besides Gary Doherty we haven’t got anybody to carry out the Niall Quinn role, so I think goals are going to be a big problem for us.

He’s got his critics but watching him play for Man City this season, I think Richard Dunne is worth starting at centre-half. I don’t want to be defeatist but, really, Brian doesn’t have that many options at the moment outside of the obvious 13 or 14 players. I’m sure they’ll give their all against Brazil but if the Brazilians play at anything like their best it’s going to be an exercise in damage limitation.

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