Leeds hoping rumours of McAllister's return can lift the gloom

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The Independent Football

There are miserable anniversaries at every turn for Leeds United just now, the latest of them recalling how just six years have passed since they were narrowly deprived of a Champions' League win over Barcelona by a 95th minute equaliser from Rivaldo.

From those heady heights, and the more modest accomplishment of a Championship play-off final place against Watford in the spring, the side could find themselves bottom of the Championship tonight if the worst start to a season in the club's 87-year history continues with defeat at Luton Town.

The caretaker manager John Carver, who harboured genuine hope of securing the post full time after beginning life after Kevin Cresswell with a win at Birmingham City in what seemed like fantasy football compared with Cresswell's pragmatic 4-5-1 system, insisted yesterday that the chairman Ken Bates had not discussed his future since telling him to "just go and do the job".

But after three successive defeats, rumours are rife that Gary McAllister, an Elland Road favourite in the 1990s before his £3m move to Coventry, may be ready to resume the management career which has been on hold since he left Highfield Road to care for his ill wife. McAllister's odds shortened to 4-1 in Leeds this week, though another tip for Carver's seat is Graeme Souness. There are unsubstantiated rumours that a he is looking for a house in Leeds. Of the two, McAllister is certainly the more affordable.

Carver, who since his side's 4-0 thumping at home to Stoke last Saturday has taking advice from a number of friends in the game, including Peter Reid, would not be drawn on what has changed since that play-off final. "That was a different era and I won't talk about it," he said. But with the Elland Road faithful desperate for success and Mr Bates unable to provide spending money, it had only taken a few defeats to create almost unbearable pressure on his young side.

"[Now that] Kevin [Cresswell] has gone it can be a lonely place and this is not a great time in my life," admitted Carver, who was a coach during the Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson eras at Newcastle. "In some ways, it's a consolation that we're playing away at Luton this weekend. Elland Road can be an intimidating place for us when we're not playing well."

Bates, resident in Monaco for most of each week for tax purposes, is doing little to help the stasis. His programme notes for the home defeat against Leicester City midweek (the side's eighth defeat out of 12 games this season) offered no hint of what the future might hold and in phone interviews conducted from Monaco yesterday he was keeping strictly to his own agenda: a forthcoming review of ticket prices.

Carver's own discussions with Bates also seem to be on a parallel universe. His recent visit to Monaco resulted in talk about politics and history as well as "the business of the club," he says. Today may focus minds at Elland Road a little more. Defeat at Luton combined with a draw for Hull City away to Preston would leave Leeds contemplating nights at Doncaster Rovers and Rotherham in League One.