Smith apologises for hitting family friend with bottle

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The Independent Football

Alan Smith yesterday apologised for throwing a plastic bottle into the crowd during Tuesday night's defeat by Manchester United.

In the final minute of extra time of the 3-2 Carling Cup third-round defeat at Elland Road, a bottle was thrown on to the pitch. Smith, believing a Manchester United player was the target, proceeded to pick it up and hurl it back into a section of Leeds supporters.

Unfortunately, Smith inadvertently hurt a female fan - ironically the sister of one of his best friends - as the returned bottle bounced off a seat and caught her on the head.

The Football Association have confirmed they are awaiting the report of the referee, Paul Durkin, and will review video evidence, although as Smith has claimed, there was no malice in his actions. If the FA do decide to take any action, then Smith, is likely to be warned as to his future conduct.

Smith has since spoken to the woman and her family and offered his apologies, and has now decided to do likewise to the Leeds supporters as a whole, should they feel he has let them down in any way.

"I am sorry if I have offended any Leeds fans," Smith said in a statement. "I have spoken to the family of the young lady concerned to make sure that she is all right and I have apologised. The family and I believe that this is the end of the matter. I only hope that this will not damage the special relationship I have with the Leeds United fans."

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said no complaint had been made and they would not become involved until one was lodged.

Meanwhile, the Leeds chairman, Professor John McKenzie, has countered the claims of financial critics who suggest the club will be out of business by the end of the season. The detractors, in particular Dr Bill Gerrard, professor of sports management and finance at Leeds University Business School, fear McKenzie would have to implement a further £20m cut to break even for the current year.

That, however, has been dismissed by McKenzie: "I've seen one or two experts say we are going to go bust. But the reality is the auditors signed us off as a going concern, and that is a very important step because there is no qualification to the audit.

"The way we are running the business, with an appropriate restructuring, will get us out of trouble.

"It would be impossible and not help Leeds in any way to take another £20m off the budget. I cannot perceive under the circumstances, unless Leeds United are relegated, that you would have to take another £20m out of the budget."

McKenzie will now turn his attention to footballing matters and is expected to schedule an emergency meeting with Peter Reid next week to discuss the manager's future at Elland Road should Leeds lose to Arsenal on Saturday. Reid's position came under intense scrutiny four weeks ago after Leeds fell into the bottom three following a 4-0 defeat at Everton.

The visit of the league leaders Arsenal will provide another difficult test for Reid, although he maintains that recent performances have increased his optimism that his side are heading in the right direction.

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