Football: Leeds emphasise the class divide

Celtic 1 Leeds United 2
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The Independent Online
THE ONE decent contribution of the day from the Leeds United fans transported everyone inside Parkhead on Saturday back almost 30 years to a less-affluent but more fulfiling time.

"Billy Bremner!" bawled out the Yorkshire hordes in homage to the legendary Scot who grew up supporting Celtic, but went on to captain Leeds to their greatest glories and died two years ago. Thoughts drifted from this pre- season friendly back to that classic 1970 European Cup semi-final between the clubs when Bremner's stunning goal had silenced 134,000 people inside Hampden.

Quite what Bremner would have made of the rest of the shameful Leeds songsheet - ranging from abusing Manchester United's dead in the Munich air disaster to taunting home fans with Rangers-style "Rule Britannia" chants - is anyone's guess, but it is a fair bet he would have been saddened by the lack of grit in the modern-day Celtic.

Bremner's tempestuous nature served Leeds well in the Don Revie era, but even he had to accept second-best to an awesome Celtic in that classic Battle of Britain. The first team selection of the John Barnes era contained just two players born in Scotland and when the going got tough, the cosmopolitan green-and-whites simply found it tough to get going.

Pre-season friendlies are a notoriously bad barometer of championship form, but it was impossible to escape the fact that Leeds harbour more genuine ambitions on that front than Celtic. Fitter, better organised and with a prodigious work-rate, David O'Leary's side can improve on their fourth place in the Premiership last season.

More importantly, O'Leary's side now has a heart to go inside the new strips of the modern era - Leeds modelled a Lazio-style change kit on Saturday - in the shape of David Batty.

Batty's trademark crunch on Lubomir Moravcik in the 20th minute was as pivotal as Alan Smith's strike or the own goal from Celtic's Oliver Tebily in deciding this contest. The gifted but fragile Celtic playmaker thereafter spent the remainder of his performance looking over his shoulder.

In an instant, Celtic's clever one-touch football evaporated and Eyal Berkovic, Celtic's record pounds 5.75m signing from West Ham, got the message too.

Celtic may traditionally play with style, but they have bred their share of enforcers too. Bertie Auld, a dapper passer who also had the slyness of Roberto Duran, was the man in Jock Stein's celebrated European Cup- winning team who took care of Bremner all those years ago. Bobby Collins and Pat Crerand were two more hard men who cut their teeth at Parkhead before moving south.

Artists like Barnes could not have survived without the muscle of Steve McMahon. It is something the new Celtic coach has to sort out soon, as much as his novel playing system (4-2-2-2) which saw his full-backs badly exposed by their bewildered midfield, unless he wants to chase Rangers' tail for the next 10 months.

"You had a team which has played together for two years and which understands what is expected of them," Barnes reflected later, "and another which is still in the planning stages. Leeds were highly organised, but we simply gave the ball away too cheaply and did not play our passes quickly enough. But these are early days, and it will come."

For Barnes' sake it has to. The 52,715 crowd will not be as charitable if the Parkhead revolution fails to bring reward.

Smith's opener was courtesy of Jonathan Gould's imitation of Gary Sprake in dealing with Danny Mills' shot, and that was compounded by new defender Tebily turning Smith's cross into his own net. Another recruit, the substitute Bobby Petta, curled an 85th-minute shot past Nigel Martyn in a sublime reply which was the only echo on the pitch of Celtic's good old days.

The programme, though, tried its best, with copious pictures of Kenny Dalglish in 70s green-and-white action. But the coach's column would have had Stein shaking his head, adorned as it was with a picture of Barnes in stubble and shades looking more like Will Smith.

It was left to O'Leary to restore some traditional values. "I've no advice for John," said the Irishman. "I am just a naive young manager myself." Stein would have approved of that.

Goals: Smith 10 (0-1); Tebily og 48 (0-2); Petta 85 (1-2).

Celtic (4-2-2-2): Gould; Riseth, Mjallby, Tebily, Boyd; Lambert, Wieghorst; Berkovic, Moravcik (Petta, 66); Viduka, Brattbakk (Burchill, 46).

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Mills, Radebe, Woodgate (Kelly, 40), Harte; Bowyer (Bakke, 37), Batty, Hopkin (Haaland, 76), Kewell; Hasselbank, Smith (McPhail, 66).

Referee: J McCluskey (Stewarton).

Attendance: 52,715.