Richard Sutcliffe: Ten years on and little has changed for Leeds United old boys

United's Souleymane Doukara turns Rovers Matthew Kilgallon.' (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

United's Souleymane Doukara turns Rovers Matthew Kilgallon.' (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

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MICHAEL DUBERRY was the first, starting a trend that was continued just a couple of nights ago by Matthew Kilgallon.

Leeds United’s travails are enough to drive even the most level-headed of supporters to despair, as was evident from the howls of anguish that met Blackburn Rovers making it 2-0 just six minutes into Thursday night’s game at Elland Road.

It is the same for those players fortunate enough to have been at the Yorkshire club during happier times.

Most, even those whose spell may not have proved as successful as initially hoped, are invariably aghast at the 
struggles being endured by Leeds.

Having covered United for the past 15 years or so, I have got to know many of those who have passed through LS11. Post-match, I am usually to be found in the tunnel area so bumping into a familiar face or two among the opposition ranks is a common occurrence.

Some sought out a chat, such as Ian Harte, whose affection for the club endured no matter where he was playing. Others I have spoken to in the more formal setting of an interview but all have been united in a sadness at how things are panning out at their old club.

Duberry, then of Stoke City, was the first to lament United’s demise to this correspondent early in the 2006-07 season. The Potters had just won 4-0 and ‘Dubes’ was warning that unless something changed dramatically then his old club could be heading out of the Championship.

He was right, Leeds being relegated at the end of that campaign.

Since then, a host of former Elland Road stars have relayed the same message of regret at how things have panned 
out.

Kilgallon, the sort of character United need right now, was the latest in that long line of ex-players to voice his concern to this newspaper. “I have a lot of mates who are Leeds fans who come to games,” said the 31-year-old after coming off the bench for the final 20 minutes of Blackburn’s comfortable win. “They say it is either brilliant and they have a great day or they can’t speak for a couple of days.

“I come back and see faces I know, and wish it was different. But I don’t know exactly what is going on.

“It was packed again, almost 20,000 here, but it doesn’t sound like the fans are too happy. It is hard, you are looking in and it always seems to be something else happening. This is a great club and, hopefully, they can turn it round.”

Asked if Elland Road was now a place visiting teams fancied their chances of collecting all three points, Kilgallon, whose Leeds debut came in the UEFA Cup as a teenager, replied: “Maybe a little bit, yes.

“But I did think it might have been different before kick-off. There was a new manager taking his first home game and I know how the fans can get behind the team. So, I thought they might come out at 100 miles per hour.

“But, then we got the first goal (after 17 seconds) and they lost confidence. It was a great start for us but terrible for Leeds.”

What is perhaps most damning about Kilgallon’s words is that they came almost a decade after Duberry’s own lament. United is, as it was then, a club in trouble.

Steve Evans is the man tasked with trying to lift Leeds out of the mire. Having assessed the current squad during his first three games at the helm, the Scot – 53 yesterday – admits fresh blood is needed.

Initially, that means getting in two or three new faces before the loan deadline expires towards the end of next month. Then, in January, Evans wants to start a major overhaul.

“I don’t think it is five or six (signings) by Tuesday or five or six in this (loan) window,” said Evans, who will be without suspended captain Sol Bamba in Tuesday’s game with Cardiff City and the ineligible Tom Adeyemi.

“The window in January will be a massive one. But before then there are lot of points at stake. I can certainly bring in two or three. To go where we want to go, we have to be much better in a lot of areas.”

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