Ridsdale era led to Leeds decline, insists Blackwell

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The Independent Online

The under-fire Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell has reopened old wounds by blaming his side's dreadful run of form on the ill-fated Peter Ridsdale era.

Blackwell's position became ever more perilous after Wednesday's morale-sapping 3-0 home defeat by resurgent Sunderland. It was Leeds' third straight home loss and condemned them to their lowest league position since 31 August, 1985 leaving fans again calling for Blackwell's head on Wednesday night.

But the Leeds manager, who took over following relegation from the Premiership in 2004, insists his hands are tied. Although Ken Bates' takeover in January 2005 transformed the club's finances, there is little or no money available to fund the loan signings which Blackwell needs to offset his side's injury list.

"The squad is paper-thin and we've been trying to bring in loan signings, but the chairman says the finances at the moment are quite tight," he said. "Two years ago, we didn't have a team to start with and we haven't been afforded the finances to develop the club as I would like it to. As a manager, it frustrates me - and it's very difficult to accept - but you have to.

"This isn't about Kevin Blackwell; this is about the safety of Leeds United Football Club. That's what I did when I came in to save the club. But we haven't been able to strengthen in the areas that we knew we needed to because we have a financial burden at the football club which needs to be addressed." The "financial burden" Blackwell refers to is the debt with which Leeds became saddled following the overspending of Ridsdale's tenure which drove the club to the brink of liquidation.

Blackwell said last week that the debt could be reduced from £121m to as little as £4m within a year. In the mean time, he is being forced to work on a shoestring after last season's play-off final defeat against Watford. He spent little money during the summer and saw striker Rob Hulse sold to Sheffield United for £2m.

But Leeds supporters are showing little sympathy for his plight and chants of "Blackwell, time to go" again rang out around Elland Road for the second time in four days on Wednesday.

"I'm going to keep on doing my job and I've already turned this club around from nothing," Blackwell said. "If you look where we've come from, with no players, then I think I can turn this around - no problem.

"I think the fans are fed up with what has happened at Leeds. They can see a situation at Sunderland, where someone comes along and pumps millions into the club - and they think 'why can't it be us?' They've had four or five years of being kicked where it hurts and they've seen their best players being sold."

He added: "I think the fans need to know the real truth about this football club - but I don't think it will come out in the short term. I think in the long term people will realise what a good job has been done at this football club."