James Lawton: Old-style Leeds never destroyed the ground beneath Don Revie's feet

As one of their former players, John Giles, says, the idea of Leeds United holding a "crisis meeting" to discuss the work of their manager, Peter Reid, is wildly surreal - a bit like George W Bush fussing over urban renewal in Baghdad.

One of Giles' old team-mates, Peter Lorimer, is equally bemused. "You keep thinking we've hit rock bottom, then another farce occurs," he says. "I gather the directors met urgently because of alarm in the City of London. They should check out the pubs of Leeds."

Eventually, that's what they did and the overwhelming response was in support of the embattled Reid who, after the second straight away 4-0 defeat last Sunday, looked as if he had been hit by a runaway truck. The result has been a reprieve for Reid, but one theory - which would earn only derision if Leeds hadn't already broken every rule of decent club management - is that Reid's escape was inspired not by any re-evaluation of their current manager, or fan support, but the need to protect his certain successor, Paul Hart of Nottingham Forest, from the initial firestorm of a run of fixtures against Blackburn, today, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Lorimer, a fierce shooting hero of a great Leeds team in the Sixties and Seventies and now a publican, can only shake his head at the possibility of such delicacy of feeling for a new man. He may also, like the rest of us, wonder from where Leeds would produce the money to pay another lump of compensation plus the wages of a new manager.

Lorimer says: "The fans are punch drunk now, and you can understand why after the last few performances. Nothing coming out of Elland Road could now be bizarre enough to surprise any of us. I don't blame Peter Reid. I agree with John [Giles], I don't think Don Revie could make a hell of a lot out of the current situation. The big worry is that there just isn't any feeling of hope around the club now, and given the latest performance you have to say that relegation is a likelihood rather than just a grim possibility."

As he talks, you are reminded of those days when Revie pulled all the strings at Elland Road, when his command was, however reluctantly conceded by directors used to running an indifferent show, just about total. After years of success under Revie, one director, the proprietor of a chain of laundromats, asked: "Why is it that the manager gets all the praise around here?" Thirty-odd years on, perhaps a little credit might be given to that old boardroom. They never destroyed the ground beneath their manager's feet.

Old Leeds players like Giles, Lorimer and Norman Hunter, a local broadcaster, have certainly seen the most dismal evidence of the passage of the years these last few weeks. Appalling performances at Leicester and Everton have exposed just a shell of a team.

"It was a particularly horrible performance at Everton, but when you think about it there's really not a lot you can expect from this particular dressing-room," Lorimer adds. "Before the season started, Mark Viduka's agent said that he wanted to get away, and it now seems he will go in the transfer window in January. What does he do in the meantime. Break a sweat or a leg? I don't think so.

"It's tough on someone like Alan Smith playing alongside someone who plainly has no investment in the club. You can run your balls off only for so long without wondering about the point of it."

Today Lucas Radebe and Dominic Matteo should be back against Blackburn, which means that at least one or two meaningful tackles should go in. Lorimer is mild in his criticism of the performance of Reid and the chairman, Professor John McKenzie, because, he says, they have simply inherited the wreckage of a football club. "I don't think the current chairman is really a football man. He's been told to get whatever money he can into the club, and Reid has just had to try and make the best of not very much at all," Lorimer says.

"A week or so before the season started, Reid had to pick up what he could in loan players. Roque Junior, a World Cup and European Cup winner, comes from Milan, and you might say, well, here is some great material. But think about it. Milan are still in the Champions' League. Why would they want to get rid of a player who might do them some good? It doesn't happen.

"Roque Junior might have classy credentials, but he looks terribly ill at ease in the hustle and bustle of the Premiership.

"We have three players from Marseilles. They, too, are still in the Champions' League. Reid's problems are clear enough. The loan players have no commitment to the club. Everybody knows they will drift off back to where they came from. Why should they care?"

Meanwhile, Reid, grey-faced with anger and dismay six days ago at Goodison Park, where he always fought with such determination and pride as an Everton player, looks down the gun barrels wielded by Graeme Souness, Sir Alex Ferguson, Gérard Houllier and Arsène Wenger - managers who might be dropping in from another, infinitely better organised planet.

What can he do? He can talk about pride and honest effort and the duty a player has to a game that has brought enviable rewards, a little, perhaps, in the fashion of Revie demanding that Billy Bremner kneel down in his hotel room to thank God for the blessing of playing for Leeds United. Who knows, even Viduka might see the funny side.

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