Leeds go back to drawing board

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The Independent Online

Leeds began the task of picking up the pieces of their shattered season when they reported back to Elland Road yesterday.

Their manager, Howard Wilkinson, booed by his own supporters after the 3-0 Coca-Cola Cup final defeat against Aston Villa on Sunday, faced up to the task of lifting morale for the rest of the term.

He said: "It will take a while for the hurt inside me to subside but the remaining nine games have to be used in the best interests of Leeds United. That means picking up as many points as possible and finishing as high up the table as we can."

Wilkinson's task will not be easy. Tomas Brolin's agent is actively trying to find the unhappy Swedish World Cup striker another club, while Carlton Palmer's outburst against some of his team-mates after Sunday's defeat suggests a rift that will be hard to heal.

Wilkinson refused to comment on his own future, despite assurances from his chairman, Leslie Silver, and the managing director, Bill Fotherby, that he is not facing the sack. "I will have my say in due course," he said.

Much could depend on the Leeds crowd's reaction during Saturday's home game against Middlesbrough.

The Rangers manager, Walter Smith, could be poised to add a third Danish player to his Ibrox staff. The striker Mikkel Beck is set to join the Scottish champions, according to recent reports. Beck, who currently plays for Fortuna Cologne in Germany's Second Division, will move to Rangers in a pounds 1.3m deal, according to Danish newspaper reports.

The 22-year-old would join fellow countrymen Brian Laudrup and striker Erik Bo Andersen at Ibrox. Andersen was a recent pounds 1.5m recruit from Aalborg and scored twice in his home debut in a 3-2 win over Falkirk last Saturday.

On Monday, Beck scored once and helped set up two other goals in eight minutes as Fortuna Cologne defeated Carl Zeiss Jena 6-0 in the German Second Division.

Smith is reported to have watched that game and also saw Denmark in action against Germany in the friendly in Munich last night.

Beck's adviser, Kurt Behrens, said yesterday that there is also interest from Hamburg and a top Spanish club, but that the striker wants to go to Glasgow if personal terms can be sorted out.

"Mikkel kind of likes the idea of going to Scotland and joining up with Brian and Erik Bo at Rangers," Behrens said.

"I do not know the position of talks between Rangers and his club, but everyone is telling me it is very positive.

"As for between Mikkel and Rangers, there are a few things to be sorted out but it may not take too long."

So many clubs will be contesting next season's Uefa Cup that two preliminary rounds are planned to accommodate them all.

A spokesman for the governing body of the game in Europe, Salvatore Cuccu, said yesterday that about 117 clubs were expected to enter this year's competition. The draw for the first preliminary round will involve clubs whose federations have been the least successful in Europe over the past five years. It will be staged in Geneva on 6 July and those matches will be played over two legs on 17 and 24 July.

The draw for the second preliminary round will then be made on 26 July along with the preliminary-round draws for the Cup-Winners' Cup and European Cup.

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