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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

23rd - 29th Oct 06



Monday 23rd October 06
I still can`t get over the fact that we came away from yesterdays crunch match against Bolton with nothing. It`s not as if we played bad, in fact we played very well and definitely deserved a slice of the pie.

Anyway, we start the week afresh and see what the new days bring. Our beloved Gamst Pedersen expects us to bounce back fully from yesterday`s disappointment. He reflects on the match and feels that we played well and were excellent in the first half with total control. He thinks we had a lot of chances, had the ball over the line for it not to be given and importantly it was another good performance, yet it did not happen. Towards the end Gamst was not playing due to being substituted and could only watch whilst that important equalising goal eluded us and the two penalties were missed. He said that we will have to put it behind us and think forward to opportunities that lay ahead in new games. He feels the Carling Cup game against Chelsea could be a chance to bounce back, not that it will be easy. Like everyone, I would prefer someone else to Chelsea, but if we continue to play well, there is every possibility we could conquer as someone has to beat them and if the lower league teams can continue to be giant killers, there is no reason why we can`t beat Chelsea and after all playing in a cup is a different game.

David Bentley has been on fine form of late and the way he has been playing, I`m surprised that he squandered the scoring chance he had against Bolton, hitting it square at Jussi Jaaskelainen. With his performances so far you would have put money on him to tuck it away but I guess he is only human after all! He is becoming a fine player and has the makings to become a Rovers legend, yet it is being reported that Tottenham are preparing a 5m offer to lure him back North in January. I`m sure it would be tempting for him as they are a large club, but personally I feel that it would not be a move forward as there will be more going for him staying with us. After all, I don`t feel they are any bigger than us to be honest. Click Here for Full Article

It has surprisingly been a while since it was last mentioned, but today brings more talk about Lucas Neill and will he, won`t he stay. It has been reported that he has just turned down a new Rovers contract, thought to be in the region of four years and this looks set to be possibly the final snub. So I think perhaps try once more between now and January and if anyone will buy him in January, possibly cash in then before a free. I don`t think we will get much though as you would think no club would be silly enough to part with stupid money with his end of contract circumstances. Still, if he does stay 'til summer only and helps us do something good then it won`t be all bad him walking off freely into the twilight.

Tuesday 24th October 06
I have just heard about our doubts for tomorrows clash with Chelsea. Robbie Savage is said to be a certain casualty because of the knee injury he sustained against Bolton yesterday. David Bentley has hamstring troubles and Andre Ooijer has bruised ribs. I would have liked to see Ooijer play as his debut for us against Chelsea in the league was far from plain sailing and it would have been good to put in a good shift shall we say and be a key to keeping our back door firmly locked. If he does not play then he will have to wait until we assemble at Stamford Bridge on January 31st. As for Bentley, with the form he has displayed of late, anyone would want him to be available at the best of times, let alone against the Premiership champions. Hopefully they will both have a good nights kip and surprise us tomorrow! Francis Jeffers and Paul Gallagher are being said to be given rare starts. Perhaps they could surprise us and do some magic. If not, I would put money on Benni perhaps coming on and hopefully doing what he does best. It made me laugh that Big Sam is saying that Jason Roberts dived to gain our penalties. Fair enough, I have seen worse challenges not given and he was only slightly caught for the first one, but the fact is that there was still contact. For the second he would have been clean through had his path not been chopped down by not one but two players and anyway, Bolton won the match so I don`t see why it is being made an issue as it is not as though they have been cheated of a result or anything. Missing the second penalty has not however put him off taking penalties again. He holds his hands up saying that he Benni and he are responsible for the misses but should the opportunity arise to take another, he will answer the call. He is yet to score for us but hopefully if he features tomorrow, he could become a hero. Click Here for Full Article

Mark Hughes is backing his former team mate from Chelsea Dennis Wise to be a success as new Leeds United manager. Wise leaves Swindon to take control with his assistant Gus Poyet making the move with him. Hughes believes that he has all the tools to succeed with a great work ethic as both a player and a manager. Hughes thinks that Wise is the strong personality that they need to shake the place up and that Wise and chairman Ken Bates are from the same mould. They knew each other well from Chelsea when Wise was a player and Bates chairman and they have a strong bond. Good luck Wise.

As Wise becomes new Leeds United manager, Mark Hughes is set to manage his 100th game at the reigns managing us tomorrow against Chelsea and what better way could he celebrate this than with a victory over the best. It is hard to believe that it is six-years ago today that he signed as a player for us and he has told of how he`s enjoyed all involvement with the club. Click Here for Full Article Time has flown by for him and he said that the experience has passed so quickly and you don`t realise these things. When Hughes first signed for us he considers it a strange experience as he had always played at the top level and we were in the Championship, but he enjoyed trying for promotion. His first game in charge was against Portsmouth and Hughes has moved the club along nicely in that short time. He thinks the team have not only moved forward as a team but also in the way that we are viewed as a club. People are appreciating our football and long may that continue but Hughes considers there is still work to be done. May there be many more memorable years to come. Imagine if he was to go on to be half as successful as his former boss Sir Alex Ferguson. We would all be very happy then and what better way than to start with either the Carling or UEFA Cup.Wednesday 25th October 06
Despite Hughes putting out his strongest side, we were still unable to halt Chelsea in our third round Carling Cup Clash. Click Here for Full Article Before the match, Hughes feared a long night, had it gone to penalties, but obviously at 2-0 we did not have to worry about missing more spot kicks like we did against Bolton on Sunday. No doubt the lads had been practising in an attempt to perfect the art of penalty taking, but this will have to wait and be tested at a later date. The last nine games have seen eight penalties awarded, with five of them being given against us but as luck would have it, only frank Lampard has converted.

The thought of the chance of penalties before the match was enough to get Hughes twitchy. Click Here for Full Article One thing that would have gone in our favour though is that Brad Friedel is in great form so far this season and is a first-class penalty stopper saving three out of four against him, but that`s irrelevant now as we are out. Hughes has never been a fan of taking penalties and in his time took just two at Chelsea with one scored and one missed. Hughes agrees that Friedel has been outstanding in goal and wants to take all competitions seriously and saw this as our best chance of winning a trophy.

It`s a shame we went out so early, especially as he has got us to the semi-finals of this and the FA Cup in his two seasons as boss, but after all it was Chelsea so at least we want cut short by one of the mighty lower league giant killers. Hughes was not too disappointed as he felt we played well especially in the first half. Click Here for Full Article He was a little disappointed with the second goal because he felt that the ball was handballed at the halfway line leading to the goal and should have been spotted by a well placed referee, but there was some good performances as usual which is always promising and hopefully we can re-bound against West Ham come Sunday.

Hughes did not take this match lightly seeing it as another and probably the best opportunity to get back into Europe. He fielded his strongest team, yet it was not to be. He feels that competitive competitions also help maintain form and league position as well. He expected Chelsea to field a strong side as when top clubs come to us, they tend to field a strong team as they know that they will have a match on their hands.Unfortunately there were a couple of injuries to Pedersen and Nonda but these are thought to be not too serious. Pedersen should be back come Sunday after twisting an ankle and Nonda had a sore shin and should hopefully be back soon.

When we face FC Basel at home next week, we will be playing in our unfamiliar red kit as our blue and white will clash with both their home and away kits. It will be weird seeing them in these different colours as we will have to remember which team we are following and not chant for Basel accidentally!

Thursday 26th October 06
It was good to see rare starts for four of our players who all played well. These were Aaron Mokoena, Jay McEveley and Stephane Henchoz after coming back from injury and Sergio Peter made a second half substitute appearance. Despite the loss, Hughes was full of praise for these lads and feels they all put in good performances in their varying roles despite tiring towards the end which is no surprise as they have not been playing. It is good all round though as if they continue like this when they are given their opportunities then this will no doubt provide Hughes with a pleasant choice of options and sufficient cover which will no doubt be needed as the season goes on.

With all the excitement that happens with first team affairs, on the whole we are not aware of what happens behind the scenes and how people contribute towards the club. The Head of Youth Recruitment Martyn Glover is to be leaving his post. Glover was Director of Physical Education at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School and after the hard work that he has contributed, he is keen to pursue other interests in the world of professional football. His post is yet to be filled but there should no doubt be much interest as I am sure that many people would love to be implicated with our club. As with everyone that moves on, good luck to the chap.Like many people, I feel that our beloved left-winger Morten Gamst Pedersen has not been playing to his full potential so far this season. I know it is impossible to always be consistent but he has not always, well quite a few times appeared the player that we are all use to. This has lead him to speak openly about being engaged in a constant battle to keep his place Despite starting every game played this season, he does not take his place for granted and works hard in training to learn from other players to better himself and maintain a high standard. People have been calling for him to be dropped and obviously he is aware of this but looks forward to every game and feels we will see plenty more from him this season. Hopefully he can up his game and prove his doubters wrong. I look forward to seeing more of the Gamst from last season. Click Here for Full Article

After last Thursday`s triumphant UEFA Cup win away to Wisla Krakow it is good to see that action was taken against the racist Nikola Mijailovic after racially abusing our star Benni McCarthy. Despite Mijailovic denying any wrongdoing and amazingly making out that he was a victim to McCarthy, UEFA have found him guilty and banned him for five UEFA Cup matches. It is even better that they acted so quickly and concluded this in the short space of a week based on evidence from other players as well as the referee it has been reported. There is and never will be any room for racism in football or anywhere in life. I hope they make an example of him and people think twice in future, being it players or fans; lets stamp out racism. Click Here for Full Article

Friday 27th October 06
After the decision yesterday to suspend Nikola Mijailovic for five UEFA Cup matches following his racially abuse to McCarthy, McCarthy has called for governing bodies to clamp down on racism. He feels there is so much fighting in football and sport in general and that you try to fight it happening, yet people are still racist or do things that go against what people are trying to prevent. He thinks an example has to be made of players for them to realise that these nasty things don`t happen in football anymore. Benni did not retaliate because he feels the game is about respecting people and that if he did then he probably would have hurt the player more than he hurt him. Click Here for Full Article I am glad that Benni spoke up against the racism, despite any flack he might possibly get for it. People have to make a stand and not let these bullies get away with it.Hughes has also gone on to praise UEFA for their speedy reaction in the manner they dealt with Nikola Mijailovic and that the punishment was as fair as they had hoped. Hughes had nothing bad to say against Wisla Krakow though as there was no trouble from the crowd or the rest of the club who Hughes felt were very accommodating. Even so, a lot of people might have let it slide as it was only an individual being the route problem, but I`m glad the club pursued it. They have stood by Benni and Jason Roberts has also backed the club, stating that some clubs would not have been so keen to take up the case and that hopefully people would think twice before doing something similar. I hope that if any other club were in the same position then they would follow our lead and seek out these bullies.

It does not seem long since the summer transfer window shut, yet it is only two months until it all kicks off again. I love all the speculation with players being linked to the club, be it real or just gossip. I think it makes entertaining reading. It can however be the opposite though with players leaving that we don`t want to go. I feel we have quite a strong team and that hopefully Hughes will not have to do too much in January. We might even see Egyptian Wael Gomaa finally make his move that was promised during the summer.

Two players that are being linked with exits are Andy Todd and Michael Gray. I don`t know much about who they are being linked with, just the fact that they could be either heading out on loan or on permanent deals. Hopefully we won`t be loosing Lucas Neill in January, unless we get a generous offer of course or any other of our key players. Hopefully we will still be in Europe come January and that should definitely go in our favour with keeping top players. Click Here for Full ArticleDespite the futures of Todd and Gray looking bleak, things are looking promising for youngster Jay McEveley after a good performance against Chelsea on Wednesday. It took him a while to get into his stride and keep to the pace of the game which is understandable after two years of not playing a match at top level due to injuries but he thoroughly enjoyed his first outing since the last game of the 2004/05 campaign against Tottenham, especially as it was against champions Chelsea. He was surprised to be selected as Hughes said there would not be many changes and the squad is not revealed until very late. Hughes needs a big squad this season with competing in the UEFA Cup as well and it is only a matter of time before Jay features again. He is over his injuries now and there are many games ahead and providing he stays injury free, I am sure he will feature. Click Here for Full Article

I can`t wait for the rest of our UEFA Group matches during the next couple of months. Eurosport were kind enough to contact me and let me know that the remainder of our group matches will be screened live on their channel. They will be showing the first match against FC Basel at home on Thursday 2nd November,
Feyenoord away on Thursday 23rd November and the final match which will also be at home against Nancy on Wednesday 13th December. They also let us know that the second leg against Salzburg last month was to be shown by them and we are thankful of their communication with us. We must be gaining reputation and going in the right direction if a company of their quality is contacting us. Click Here for Full Article

Also, all you season ticket holders out there, don`t forget you get both home matches for a bargain 15 and junior and senior citizens for 5. What`s 5 these days hey if you want to take the wee nippers out for a couple of quality outings?Saturday 28th October 06
As with last weekend, our lads have a Saturday of rest. Well, I guess it is not rest, more an extra day of preparation against West Ham. Click Here for Full Article I`ve already said that I don`t think this game will be easy despite West Ham`s poor form of eight solid losses in a row. They are a quality team and a win has got to come from somewhere. A team of their stature that did so well last season can`t just suddenly forget how to play football and how to win. So I don`t think our lads should take this game too lightly, otherwise it could live to haunt them; after all we have lost our last couple of games so I don`t think we can go into it saying that we have got that edge.

Hughes has urged our lads to forget the hype that is surrounding the match and to stick to our game plan. It is fair to say that during Hughes time as boss, we have not appeared to have done too well against West Ham and that they perhaps have that edge. Hopefully that can change tomorrow though but psychologically they could fittingly look at this fixture believing they could continue their good record against us and think what better place to mount a comeback and change their fortunes than against us despite our decent start, especially after our last two losses. Hughes does rightly think that it will be a difficult game but hopes we can have a solid first twenty minutes to our advantage and disappoint the crowd. We`ll have to wait and see; for some reason, despite obviously wanting a win, I would settle for a draw. Click Here for Full ArticleAs usual before a match, there is always a player that feels when their opposition is facing a poor slump that they will come good sooner rather than later. In our case it is Jason Roberts who has spoke of their ability and the good quality of the individual players. Roberts hopes that we can hold them at bay tomorrow but they are a good side and it is just a matter of time for them. I am sure he is right as I have already expressed this. I just hope he hasn`t gone and jinxed us by opening his big mouth.

Sunday 29th October 06
After recently coming back from injury with a few substitute appearances, Jason Roberts was pushing for a starting position in today`s line-up. He succeeded in doing so, but now I bet he wishes he had not. The first half saw him come off with a broken metatarsal. It is not known when he could be coming back from it, but is said to be usually a six to eight week rehabilitation period. This is a real blow as I think with him being fully fit, he could be a key player for us as he is obviously very powerful and has looked quite convincing when playing cameo roles. Hopefully he will be back quick. Click Here for Full Article

If that want bad enough, after his comments yesterday about West Ham bouncing back, they went and did just that, beating us 2-1. Click Here for Full Article Hughes felt that our first half performance was our downfall where the two goals were succeeded. Although we played a much better second half, Hughes said that you can`t play football for only forty-five minutes and expect to win. We were commanding whilst conceding the second which made it even worse and to add to that, the corner that the set peace was conceded should not have been a corner as went out off Bobby Zamora`s arm. That makes it three set goals conceded in three games so obviously we need to be registering that and work on it. Hughes thinks if we had played more like the second half all through, we could have got something from the game. He wants to look forward to next week though saying that it`s a new week and he looks forward to another European game. I guess lady luck has eluded us this week, being one that we all want to forget and move on back to winning ways, especially in Europe. I predict a win for Thursday at least and we have really got to concentrate on this as we have the ability to go far and continue to carry it over to fine league form as well.
The Journalist

Writer: Walker Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday October 31 2006

Time: 9:29PM

 

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