'Oil tanker' Leeds still in danger with £80m debts

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The Independent Football

Leeds United would struggle to survive as a club if they were relegated from the Premiership and may yet go into administration because of debts approaching £80m, their chairman, Professor John McKenzie, has admitted.

Leeds, in 17th place after their fifth defeat in nine matches on Saturday, are to publish their half-yearly accounts next month and McKenzie warned that they will not demonstrate a marked improvement in spite of a spate of player sales. "They are not going to show a dramatic turnaround," he said. "You can't turn an oil tanker round in two minutes."

McKenzie said that administration remained a possibility. "I've thought about it. Every time a goal goes in against us, I worry about the direction we're going in. It would be difficult to survive [if Leeds went down] and there would have to be savage cuts. We would have to make big changes. It would be sad day for Leeds, and I know that everyone would find it difficult to accept."

McKenzie, who succeeded Peter Ridsdale at Elland Road late last season, maintained that Leeds had been justified in looking at Peter Reid's position as the manager, though he conceded that the matter had been mishandled.

"I don't think anyone would want the amount of media we have had, but I still think the club was right to look at the issue," he said. "We had a bad pre-season, losing almost every game, and then had heavy defeats at Leicester and Everton. We also didn't do well against Birmingham either.

"Where I went wrong was that, in consultations with the fans' representatives, perhaps I didn't stress enough the confidentiality of the discussions. So then it became a bit of a media circus. The problem was exacerbated because Peter Reid didn't want to meet at Elland Road or Thorp Arch [training ground]."

Asked whether he had been naïve, McKenzie said: "Probably. I've learned from it and wouldn't want that to happen again. But I still think we did the right thing in taking time to stop and reflect."