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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 07:11 GMT
Changing Leeds
By Dan Warren

Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell
We were the laughing stock of football
Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell
Football is famed for its ups and downs - but even so, the recent history of Leeds United has been remarkably turbulent.

It is easy to forget that as recently as May 2001, they were contesting a Champions League semi-final against Valencia.

On Christmas Day 2004, United found themselves 19th in the Championship, five points above the drop zone.

Now, despite Tuesday's disappointing loss to Crystal Palace, Leeds are back moving in the right direction. Automatic promotion to the Premiership remains a realistic possibility.

Manager Kevin Blackwell told BBC Sport about his role in turning around the club's fortunes - and how far he hopes he can take them.

TURNING THE CLUB AROUND

When I took over in June 2004, I think we were Leeds dis-United.

LEEDS' TURBULENT TIMES
May 1992: Leeds are final winners of old Div One
May 2000: Leeds earn highest Premiership finish (third)
May 2001: Leeds reach the last four of Champions League
May 2004: Leeds relegated - debts rumoured to be 100m
June 2004: Blackwell takes over as full-time Leeds boss
May 2005: Takes Leeds to 14th in first Ch'ship season
At that time everything was going pear-shaped.

Now, once again, we are working together. It's not a one-man-band here, it really is a united effort.

Everybody is working towards the same goal, from the laundry lady to the commercial department and especially the players - they deserve all the credit.

The state of the club a few years ago meant we were a laughing stock of football.

We were a bad example of how any football club should be run.

Players came here knowing there was a massive task. They all came for a challenge.

I said to them - you're not just coming to play for a football club, you're playing for bigger stakes than that. You're at a club that's got history and prestige.

I told them that this would probably be the biggest challenge they would ever have. And every one of them was delighted to have a go.

That's the key for us. Every one of these lads was up for a challenge and they've done terrifically well.

FULFILLING LEEDS' POTENTIAL

This club is steeped in history, it's a club which has achieved every top honour in the game in England.

It has won prestigious European trophies, and it was only a few years ago we were in the semi-finals of the Champions League playing Valencia. There's no doubt the potential for this club is limitless.

IN THE TRANSFER MARKET
Since Blackwell took over:
37 players have joined Leeds
61 players have left Leeds
(NB: Figure includes all permanent deals and loan deals)
It's absolutely brilliant to be part of a resurgent Leeds and being able to talk about looking for promotion.

But there is no divine right for any club to be in the top echelon of football.

We have to earn the right to be in the Premiership. We are on that route now but unless we earn the right we don't deserve it.

PRESSURE? WHAT PRESSURE?

The way to cope with the pressure of being at the top is to think back 18 months when we dropped out of the Premiership.

I had no players, no staff, no scouts. On my first day in the job, I sat at our training ground at Thorpe Arch, looked out of the window and wondered how I was going put a team together for our first Championship game against Derby.

That's pressure.

In 2004 on Boxing Day we played Sunderland, we were struggling and I knew there were no wages, I knew we'd been issued with a winding-up order.

That's pressure.

This season, we're near the top of the table, going for promotion, it's not pressure at all. That's how I cope with it.

THE CURRENT SIDE

I knew at the beginning of this season that I had to get some goalscorers.

We have three players in double figures for goals and that's important.

But defenders have weighed in with goals and the wide men have weighed in with goals. All the lads want to work together and they never give up.

We have scored a few late ones this season and that shows the team spirit.

Everyone is delighted for everyone else when they do score. It's that team spirit and camaraderie which has enabled other people to get on the scoresheet.

We have consistently been in the top six all season. I think we've been third for four months out of the last five.

We are going to keep focused on every game and try our hardest to win each game. What will be will be.

SALUTING THE FANS

The fans - not just home, but away - have kept this club alive.

Throughout all the turmoil, the constant was the fans.

Their support has been unstinting and they have been the driving force behind what I am trying to do. They have inspired me.

In our last Premiership season, I was in the dug-out and there were 35-40,000 fans singing their hearts out even when we were getting beaten every week.

I want to give them something to shout about.

They are the ones behind the resurgence in the club.




SEE ALSO
Leeds 0-1 Crystal Palace
21 Mar 06 |  Championship
Blackwell agrees new Leeds deal
07 Mar 06 |  Leeds United
Leeds appoint Blackwell
26 May 04 |  Leeds United
Leeds win Blackwell battle
12 Jun 03 |  Leeds United
Blackwell joins Leeds
06 Jun 03 |  Leeds United


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