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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Ridsdale's Barnsley quest
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Peter Ridsdale looks set to return to the football fray with his impending takeover of Barnsley Football Club.

And, although the Second Division club are in need of a new lease of life, you could forgive Tykes fans for having mixed emotions about whether Ridsdale is the right man for their club.

The doubts surrounding Ridsdale emanate from his spell as chairman and director of Leeds United who he left in April 2003.

Ridsdale lived the Leeds United dream - the lifelong Elland Road fan who pulled the purse-strings and led the club back into Europe's elite.

But a graph of Ridsdale's six-year reign will be a testimony to his tenure. A rapid rise followed by an equally dramatic decline.

So is Ridsdale about to become the saviour of Barnsley - or are worries over his expected takeover justified? A look back at his Leeds tenure may provide some answers.


The Galatasaray aftermath
Ridsdale may have been branded "Publicity Pete" during his closing days, but even his harshest critics must have admired his conduct in the wake of the murder of two Leeds fans before a Uefa Cup semi-final against Galatasaray in Istanbul in April 2000.

Leeds fans Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were stabbed, and amid the sadness and anger Ridsdale emerged as a truly statesmanlike figure.

He helped the grieving families and became a touchstone for Leeds fans looking for calm and leadership in this period. This must always be remembered.

The Leeds revival
Ridsdale was a lifelong fan who slept outside Elland Road to queue for a ticket for the 1965 FA Cup Final against Liverpool.

He joined the Leeds board in 1987 when he was managing director of the club's sponsor, Burton's Top Man chain.

Ridsdale became chairman a decade later and embarked on his five-year plan for success, and his blueprint won almost unanimous approval from the Elland Road faithful.

The plan suffered a blow when George Graham quit for Spurs in 1998, but his decision to appoint the previously untried David O'Leary as boss was a massive success initially.

O'Leary, with the unstinting backing of Ridsdale, took Leeds into the Champions League semi-finals and the last four of the Uefa Cup.

Ridsdale's fierce ambition saw him bankroll the massive spending required by O'Leary's rebuilding programme.

He happily broke the British transfer record to sign Rio Ferdinand from West Ham United for 18m in November 2000.

Ridsdale continued to bankroll the big-spending as players of the calibre of Olivier Dacourt, Mark Viduka, Robbie Keane and Robbie Fowler arrived at Leeds.

He may have had his faults - lack of ambition was not one them.


Spend, spend, spend
Ambition is one thing - wild over-spending is another.

He was the man known as "Father Christmas" for his financial generosity.

If he did learn to say "no", it was an art he discovered too late.

Ridsdale's detractors accused him of acting too much like the man in the stands, sanctioning spending left, right and centre in almost fantasy football fashion.

He clearly should have called a halt to incoming transfer activity earlier than he did - otherwise there would not have been football's version of a fire sale forced on Terry Venables this season.

Mixed messages
Too many mixed messages. Too often he said one thing and was forced to do another.

Rio Ferdinand was not going to be sold, Terry Venables was going to have money to spend, Jonathan Woodgate was staying at Leeds.

The reality was different and Ridsdale may have garnered greater sympathy when the sales began if he had been brutally frank with fans.

Communication breakdown
Ridsdale appeared close to O'Leary as he talked of their plans, but their parting turned sour after the Irishman's sacking.

He could not realistically sustain any form of relationship with the sacked Terry Venables after assuring him Woodgate would not be sold.

Woodgate's subsequent departure reduced a once respected man's credibility to virtually nil.

The departure of Venables, following on from Woodgate's sale, meant there was no way back for Ridsdale.



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