Selling Smith would be 'last straw' warn Leeds supporters
Friday 28 November 2003
Leeds supporters warned the club's board yesterday that selling Alan Smith to ease their financial crisis would be the last straw and leave them "screaming for blood".
The announcement that Leeds stand on the brink of administration has prompted fears that the club will instigate another fire sale in the January transfer window.
The former chairman Peter Ridsdale made himself Leeds' public enemy No 1 by selling the fans' favourite Jonathan Woodgate to Newcastle United for £9m 11 months ago. That was after Lee Bowyer, Olivier Dacourt and Robbie Fowler were also moved on.
History could repeat itself, because Leeds are £81m in debt and struggling to restructure their finances with their major creditors. Smith is likely to be the most sought after asset, along with the goalkeeper Paul Robinson and the youngster James Milner. While Mark Viduka is widely expected to leave the Premiership's bottom club, his sale would not cause as much uproar as Smith's. The chairman, John McKe-nzie, has insisted Smith will not be sold while he is at the helm, but he may have little choice.
John Boocock, the chairman of the Leeds United Supporters' Trust, said: "The fans are that punch drunk with all the blows they've had to take, they will not be surprised at anything. When Woodgate was sold people were shocked and amazed, but I don't think that would be the case with Smith.
"I think the only way we can hang on to the likes of Smith, Robinson and Milner is if some kind of sugar daddy comes in, but nobody is going to buy a company on the brink of receivership. If Smith were sold the fans would be screaming for blood. It would be the unthinkable happening."
Ray Fell, chairman of the Leeds United Supporters' Club, believes it would be "the last straw for Leeds fans" if Smith did move on.
"Selling Woodgate was a big blow, but losing Smith would be even bigger.
"The money generated [from Smith's sale] wouldn't help the club to any great extent. The transfer market is not what it used to be and although Smith is a star player, we are talking about the club needing millions more than anything he would generate."
Boocock added: "We are calling a public meeting of supporters within the next fortnight to discuss the present situation and the way forward.
"We want to look at any potential purchase of the club should they be sold off by any administrator as it would give us the chance to bid for control.
"As far as the supporters are concerned we don't have any faith in the board at all and the time has now come for them to call it a day."
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