Yeboah awaits chance to prove crowd appeal

football: Ghanaian blocked by men in form
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The Independent Online
Tony Yeboah has promised the Leeds United faithful that he will become the next Elland Road idol. The Ghanaian has just one minor problem in setting off on the road to such exalted status - he has to find a way into the starting line-up.

Yeboah is already a hit with the fans after inspiring Leeds to their biggest win of the season, a 4-0 trouncing of Queen's Park Rovers on Tuesday, from the substitutes' bench. The £3.4m signing played for only the final six minutes, but his presence in the wings produced a sparkling response from Philomen Masinga and Brian Deane, who combined to break the club's Premiership goal drought.

"Everywhere I have played the fans have loved me," the 28-year-old said. "They did in Ghana, then in Saarbrucken and after that in Eintracht Frankfurt. I am sure it will be the same in Leeds. It was good to get on for the last few minutes and the reaction I had from the crowd was great."

But Yeboah knows that he will have a fight on his hand to claim one of the front-line positions after seeing the South African Masinga score twice to take his tally to seven in the last eight games.

Deane, Leeds' record buy at £2.7m before Yeboah, and David White also got on the scoresheet to give Howard Wilkinson the first signs of a selection headache.

"The strikers did very well, with plenty of fight and so on," added Yeboah, who finally arrived after his transfer from Frankfurt had been held up by red tape. "I think it will not be easy for me - I will have to work extra hard to get in. As far as the strikers go there is now more competition for places."

Yeboah admits he still lacks fitness - he has not played since the Bundesliga began its winter break at the end of November - and that is likely to delay his full debut. "I have not played for a couple of months and I need to spend the next couple of weeks on my conditioning. I think after that time I will be ready to play from the beginning."

Wilkinson is likely to keep Yeboah on the bench for Saturday's FA Cup fourth round visit of Oldham, with Soweto-born Masinga and Deane continuing the partnership up front.

George Graham, the Arsenal manager, has already had a scoring return on his investment in a striker, John Hartson. He has, nevertheless, come under pressure for the team's overall performances, but not from the supporters. Graham insists he cannot hear the fans said to be calling for his head.

He was backed up yesterday by Barry Baker, the secretary of the 9,000-strong official Arsenal Supporters Club, who said: "To be honest, I can't hear them either."

Graham also rejected criticism by players turned TV pundits Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen, accusing them of "not having the pedigree in coaching or management to tell me what to do".

In a staunch defence of the Scot, Baker said: "It is obvious there will always be a few fans who want to see a manager replaced when things are not going well. There are one or two so-called action groups around the place who like to moan all the time and stir up unrest. But we are talking here about just dozens of people - nothing like the number who belong to the official supporters club.

"I'm hearing the boos that now seem to accompany the end of every game at Highbury - but that is simply because the team is not winning, not because the majority of fans feel George Graham should go."

Baker thought many had been spoilt by success over the last eight years and are finding it hard to put up with things at the moment.

"But our official policy is that we still back George and the club to the hilt until it is proved he can't turn things around," Baker said.

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