Reid's reign hit for six

Leeds' slide to oblivion drives manager to brink
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The Independent Football

"Cheer up, Peter Reid" was the taunt he used to endure from rivals when he was manager of Sunderland. There is nothing particularly cheery about Peter Reid's new life in charge of Leeds. Nearly £80m in debt, they are pinned to the bottom of the Premiership after their fifth successive defeat. Losing 6-1 at Portsmouth was no laughing matter.

That humiliation appears to leave little room for debate about Reid's future, but he was never one to retreat from a challenge. "At the age of 47 I'm not going to start resigning now," was Reid's defiant message to the club's supporters and board of directors as he surveyed the ruins of another fruitless pursuit of three points. "But that second half was the worst 45 minutes of my managerial career and the players don't deserve to pick up their wage packets after that performance.

"I won't resign but I'm certainly not happy about the lack of desire. I can't speak for the players but I've had my say in the dressing room and that's private."

But the gist of his comments was all too apparent when he said: "The white flag ran up so early it was untrue. If we get another of those 45 minutes it's going to be very difficult for me. I'm not sure the players understand the situation we are in. If we don't battle and roll our sleeves up we are deep trouble."

Some may think that Leeds are in deep enough trouble already. Harry Redknapp, Reid's opposite number at Fratton Park, was bemused by the ease with which his side had won. "Who would have thought just a few months ago that we would beat Leeds United 6-1?" he said. "Two years ago they were in Europe and going great guns and we were going nowhere. What a turn-around. We've had a great day but I have every sympathy for Peter Reid. He can only work with what he's got and maybe he's stuck with a few players who are not earning the money they are getting."

Mark Viduka certainly is not, thanks to the simmering dispute between Reid and the Australian striker appears to be undermining Leeds further. "We had a disagreement and he was left behind," Reid said in explaining Viduka's absence.No player is bigger than a club but Viduka played an important part in the run to the Champions' League semi-finals in 2001 under David O'Leary. Since then, a host of players have been sold to ease the club's financial problems, but even so the collapse on the pitch has been startling.

Redknapp thought Portsmouth, inspired by Teddy Sheringham and Patrik Berger and blessed with two goals from the 20-year-old midfielder Gary O'Neil on his Premiership debut, were superb. "Leeds are bottom but very few sides would have lived with us today," he said. The question for Reid is whether he or the board can live with Leeds being bottom. The answer may lie in another question. Could anyone else do better than Reid?

But if Reid's days at Leeds are numbered, Sir Alex Ferguson looks likely to enjoy the same privilege as his fellow knight, Bobby Robson, by working at least until the normal retirement age. Ferguson is about to sign a new deal that will keep him in charge at Manchester United until he is 65. The multi-million pound contract should ease any pension problems.