Leeds fans' lack of support leaves Venables bemused
Thursday 28 November 2002
Terry Venables insists he has no regrets about taking on the role of Leeds United manager as he prepares his troubled side for a crucial Uefa Cup third-round. first-leg tie against Malaga at Estadio La Rosaleda tonight.
With Sunday's defeat at Tottenham leaving Leeds languishing near the foot of the Premiership, a spiralling injury list, and suggestions that the club may have to sell up to six more players in January, Venables has come under increasing pressure.
Some reports have even suggested that defeat tonight followed by failure to beat Charlton at home on Sunday could well bring Venables' short reign as Leeds manager to a decidedly inglorious end.
"The speculation has not affected my preparations," Venables said. "It's been like it for many weeks and it's no different for this game, but I do take it personally, because it's about me. You would have thought there would be some sympathy, but the reaction [from the fans] has been surprising.
"It's like that and I don't know why, although I've had many reasons given to me by people, but which ones are accurate I don't know. I've been told it's because I come from the south, that I'm George Graham's friend – which I don't understand. But I've no regrets. You can't go through life having regrets about what things you've done. I've always gone for what I believe is right and I've never regretted it.
"You can always say: 'I could have done better' or 'I should have done better', but you don't regret things you do, otherwise you'd never do anything."
Venables is down to a threadbare squad for the first-leg tie, with six on the bench rather than the seven permitted by Uefa, such are Leeds' injury woes.
Mark Viduka, Danny Mills, Dominic Matteo, Olivier Dacourt and Lucas Radebe are out, with Robbie Fowler and Seth Johnson still not fit after their injury problems. Teddy Lucic and James Milner are ineligible, the latter as he is too young.
Venables, though, is likely to give a debut to Paul Okon. The Australian has yet to make an appearance due to knee and groin injuries sustained since his free transfer summer move from Middlesbrough.
Venables will at least be buoyed by the news Malaga's Uruguay international striker Dario Silva is out with a rib injury, which is likely to see him also miss the return at Elland Road in a fortnight, while midfielder Gerardo is suspended.
Given Leeds' plight, Venables makes Malaga the favourites, despite the fact this is their first season in the Uefa Cup.
Malaga have proven formidable on home soil this season, winning seven and losing one of their 11 matches in all competitions, including four wins and a draw in European competition. Leeds' recent record against Spanish opposition also makes for sorry reading: played four, lost four, with a combined aggregate score of 13-2. "They are favourites, no doubt about that, and so I think it will be difficult," added Venables. "They may be without Silva, who is a very good player, but we've a few players out ourselves. We've some problems.
"In truth, it's been a bad few days and, considering that, the mood is quite good and up. We're a group of guys who are very disappointed with the results and we want to get out there and do something about it.
"Whatever the challenge is we've got to face it and hit it head-on – and that's what we intend to do."
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