Football:Graham's unlikely crusade against mercenary motives

Leeds United 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2
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The Independent Online
Clive White

Leeds United 1

Sheffield Wednesday 2

It was probably the glaring absence of a committed central striker as much as the mercenary attitude of modern footballers that prompted the Leeds manager, George Graham, in a fit of pique, to stick Rodney Wallace on the transfer list the moment the final whistle sounded on Saturday.

Watching old Leeds favourites Johnny Giles and Norman Hunter in animated discussion afterwards about the match, it was hard to imagine Wallace paying a visit to Elland Road 30 years on just to watch a game.

Apparently, Graham had been trying for weeks to get Wallace to the negotiating table to discuss a new contract but the player was not interested. "It's a very small profession we're in, said Graham, "the whispers are soon passed around. We know his agent has been hawking him around to other clubs."

According to Graham, the "Dublin disease" is going to become increasingly common. Soon, he said, clubs would be looking to renegotiate a contract two years before it expires rather than one. Wallace's contract is up at the end of the season.

Graham, a great traditionalist, appeared to be on something of a loyalty crusade on Saturday. In typical upbeat mood after a defeat, he also volunteered the information that Lucas Radebe had been withdrawn from next week's African Nations' Cup due to a back injury. The fact that Graham had gone to great lengths in his programme notes to berate the South African federation for what he saw as its selfish attitude towards call-ups was purely coincidental, of course.

In the case of Wallace, though, one wonders whether the player is really worth hanging on to. Leeds have pace to burn in attack with Harry Kewell and Jimmy Hasselbaink, and Wallace only gives them more of the same. What they need is an old fashioned centre-forward in the Mick Jones mould. Come to think of it, Wednesday's match-winner, Andy Booth, would not be a bad choice.

The Huddersfield-born striker, one of numerous players unavailable to Ron Atkinson's predecessor, David Pleat, earlier in the season following a cartilage operation, was tailor-made for a dour Yorkshire derby like this one.

Mind you, he needed his wits about him. With seven minutes remaining and the game heading for an honourable draw, he spotted the chance to get involved in a Wednesday move while receiving treatment behind the Leeds goal. Even Graham had to appreciate the smartness of mind - "their scorer seemed to come out of the crowd", he mused - as Booth quickly got himself into an onside position to sweep home Ian Nolan's inviting diagonal ball.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the Leeds equaliser was an own goal, in fact there was not another Leeds player in sight when Kewell's whipped cross rebounded off Mark Pembridge into the net. Unfortunately for him it undid another piece of quick Wednesday-thinking when, after a short free-kick, the Welshman played in an early cross which Booth met on the volley. Mark Beeney, playing his first senior game in nearly a year in place of a suspended Nigel Martyn, could only paw it away and Jon Newsome was on hand to enjoy a simple tap-in against his former club.

Leeds fans had better get used to such things. Next time it could be Wallace.

Goals: Newsome (51) 0-1; Pembridge og (63); Booth (83) 1-2.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Beeney; Maybury (Halle, h-t), Wetherall,Molenaar (Wallace, h-t), Robertson; Kelly, Radebe, Hopkin, Ribeiro (Lilley, 88); Hasselbaink, Kewell. Substitutes not used: Bowyer, Robinson (gk).

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Atherton, Newsome, Walker, Nolan; Alexandersson (Whittingham, 67), Hyde, Pembridge, Rudi; Di Canio (Humphreys, 80), Booth. Substitutes not used: Stefanovic, Magilton, Clarke (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (Ferring, W Sussex).

Bookings: Wednesday: Hyde.

Man of the match: Pressman.

Attendance: 33,166.

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