Ironies abound for Leeds in the ultimate showdown
Saturday 20 May 2006
Leeds' relegation in 2004 followed the financial meltdown provoked by Ridsdale's over-spending. Supporters feared the club would continue to struggle, like Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest, but under Kevin Blackwell they have rebuilt and are now one match from a regaining élite status. Barring their way are a Watford side who have also come back from money problems and were just two points from dropping into the third tier last season.
In a further twist the man who has inspired their improbable promotion challenge, Adrian Boothroyd, was working for Blackwell only 14 months ago. Boothroyd was hired by Leeds to be Blackwell's No 3 and worked at Elland Road for eight months. He now hopes he can turn that knowledge to his advantage.
"I know Kevin, I've worked with him," Boothroyd said. "As a No 3 you do a lot more watching and listening than you do talking; I don't think Kevin will know my tactics particularly well. I think I might have a slight edge because of that. Mind you, he'd probably say he's spent £12m that gives him an edge."
Boothroyd, who at 35 is younger than players taking part tomorrow, added: "The situation at Leeds when I was there was like something out of [Sky TV's] Dream Team. One week we were wondering whether we would go into administration, one month we couldn't pay the players' wages, then Ken Bates came in and we were saved. I keep a diary, and when I look back I realise how much I learned." Boothroyd's ebullient presence, Blackwell said, helped Leeds' recovery process. "When this club came out of the Premiership it was as low as any club could be. It was not just that we had been relegated, but also the number of people leaving," the Leeds manager said.
"The atmosphere was awful. I needed to bring in people who had that little something extra - they had to handle being at a club the size of Leeds, but also bring a little bit of joviality.
"In his interview Adrian came across as bubbly. I was at a club where everything was so flat and there was nothing to look forward to. We had no money and I couldn't buy players. But Adrian was full of beans and it was that element I needed."
Blackwell, who must find a left-back to replace the suspended Stephen Crainey, is expected to retain Frazer Richardson in a five-man midfield and omit David Healy. Boothroyd is likely to match it with Alhassan Bangura keeping out Darius Henderson.
Leeds, who last lost to Watford in 1992, will have the bulk of the support but that will amplify the heavy weight of expectation. They must deal with that, and Watford's free-scoring, counter-attacking, to secure a return to dreamland.
Latest in Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo could return against Manchester United - but it won't be like previous reunions
Arturo Vidal to Manchester United: Midfielder set to force through move to Louis van Gaal's Red Devils - reports
Calum Chambers joins Arsenal: New £16m signing put through Arsenal initiation as he sings The Kooks in front of team-mates
Manchester United transfer news: Mats Hummels, Daley Blind and Thomas Vermaelen on radar as Louis van Gaal reveals he still wants to sign defender
New Liverpool signing Dejan Lovren forced to train with the under-21s after US visa mix-up
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'