After washing their dirty linen in public, Leeds United resisted the urge to hang Peter Reid out to dry yesterday. By a "unanimous decision", taken after consulting the club's fans, the Elland Road board opted to keep faith with their manager of six months and 16 games.
Reid, whose patchwork side have won just one of seven Premiership fixtures, now has the task of launching a revival in fixtures against some of the country's outstanding teams. After Blackburn at home tomorrow, the 18th-placed side face a run that features Manchester United in both the League and Carling Cup, Arsenal and Liverpool.
It remains to be seen how Professor John McKenzie and his directors will react if those matches go to form and November starts with Leeds in bottom place. Reid would surely be under pressure again, although McKenzie maintained there was "no timescale" to his tenure.
Yet by subjecting the Merseysider's position to unnecessary public scrutiny, and leaving his viability in doubt after Wednesday's hotel-bar talks between chairman and manager, Leeds merely added to the atmosphere of uncertainty enveloping the financially stricken club.
McKenzie's finger hovered over the panic button overnight but did not press it. Instead, he informed the Stock Exchange of the decision and called Reid. "I woke him up at 7.30 in the morning," the chairman said. "He was a bit sleepy and I said to him, 'Why aren't you at work?'"
He added: "Everybody is concerned about our League position. As a club that cares about people, we've consulted widely - talking to players, supporters and the manager - to see how we could move forward.
"The final decision was the board's and we came to the unanimous conclusion that Peter should remain as manager to lead the recovery. My concern now is that we start to move up the table. That has financial implications and enormous fan repercussions.
"It has been an interesting week in that the players have acknowledged the situation. Any fan watching this season and last has probably noted their inconsistency. They can be fantastic or pretty awful. I hope now they will get behind Peter and that we'll have a really successful time in some difficult games over the coming weeks."
It all amounted to an unconventional way of arriving at the traditional - and often deadly - vote of confidence for a manager sacked a year earlier by Sunderland. Particularly unusual was McKenzie's canvassing of public opinion by phoning fans' organisations. One of those he spoke to, John Boocock of the Leeds Supporters' Trust, called the backing for Reid a "stay of execution". He had told McKenzie that there were "no fans calling for the manager's head - all we're looking for is better performances and stability on the pitch".
Boocock added: "It's a sensible decision and I think we influenced it. Reid has had to work with what he could cobble together because of the previous administration. He deserves longer to sort it out."
Simon Jose, of the Leeds Independent Fans' Association, suspected the cost of paying off Reid, so soon after the substantial compensation given to David O'Leary, Terry Venables, Eddie Gray, Brian Kidd and Peter Ridsdale, was a factor in Leeds pulling back from the brink.
"We used to complain that Ridsdale never asked our opinions when he was chairman," Jose said. "At least McKenzie sought views from outside the club. But a lot of decisions relating to Leeds are dictated by financing. Paying off Reid would have taken a hefty sum."
Reid was suitably grateful for the supporters' response to McKenzie. He called them "absolutely brilliant", compared them favourably with those in Liverpool and the North-east and concluded: "Now we have to go out and win matches for them. That's the most important thing for this club. When we're all dead and buried, Leeds United will still be here."
LEEDS' NEXT FIVE GAMES
Saturday: Blackburn Premiership (h)
18 Oct: Man Utd Premiership (h)
25 Oct: Liverpool Premiership (a)
28 Oct: Man Utd Carling Cup (h)
1 Nov: Arsenal Premiership (h)
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