Lack of fitness foils Fowler's Leeds comeback

Robbie Fowler has been ruled out of Leeds' plans for the Uefa Cup third-round tie in Malaga tomorrow. The news dashed hopes that he would be fit for this first-leg match following his successful comeback in the reserves on Monday night, when he scored in the 1-1 draw against Sunderland.

Fowler, who had hip surgery in the summer after the World Cup, had played 68 minutes of reserve team football this season prior to Monday. But that was five weeks ago as he later suffered another problem with his hip, and it is due to lack of fitness that he is being left behind.

The same applies to Seth Johnson, who also made his comeback from injury in the reserves on Monday. Their fellow striker Mark Viduka is also out after failing to shake off the foot injury he sustained in Sunday's 2-0 defeat against Spurs, while Danny Mills is also absent with the ankle problem he picked up in training last week.

Ian Harte returns and Paul Okon is available to make his debut after having knee and groin injuries since his free transfer from Middlesbrough in the summer. But Venables has only 17 players to choose from, leaving him one short on the bench.

Teddy Lucic is again ineligible as he played for AIK Solna in the qualifying round of the competition, and so remains at home along with long-term casualties in Dominic Matteo, Lucas Radebe, Olivier Dacourt, Nick Barmby and David Batty. Good news for Venables, though, is that Malaga are without their injured Uruguay striker, Dario Silva, and the midfielder Gerardo, who is suspended.

Meanwhile, Venables has criticised as "not helpful" the war of words between the Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, and Venables' predecessor, David O'Leary, which continues to undermine his position. The feud flared up again at the weekend with O'Leary saying that he was not to blame for the situation at Leeds, after Ridsdale had suggested the current decline started under him.

"There are lots of problem areas around the club," Venables said. "I mean the chairman has had a lot of publicity. Of course he and David O'Leary seem to constantly have this battle, which is not helpful."

He added: "I know if you lose games the fans are not going to be happy. It's as simple as that. Whether they have made their mind up that if even if you have a run and you then lose one, and they feel the same, then that's not good for the club in general. Something will have to happen, maybe. But it helps if they support the team. That is why they are called supporters."

Ridsdale has denied reports that he is interested in succeeding Adam Crozier as the chief executive of the Football Association.

Ridsdale said: "I am one of four FA directors, plus the FA chairman, charged with the task of appointing a new FA chief executive. I would not have accepted that role if I had any ambitions regarding the vacancy. My whole focus has always been to ensure that Leeds United prosper both on and off the field. That continues to be the case."

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