Chairman Ken Bates delivered a stern warning on the day that Leeds United’s fight against relegation became desperate.
“Finance is the core of the problem at this club,” he said in his programme notes before a 3-2 defeat to West Bromwich Albion. “I’ll keep writing about it until some fans accept the facts of life – namely make a profit and Leeds can invest and grow. Lose money and there will be no Leeds United.”
If that aim was dependent on the club retaining their Championship status then the future looked bleak on January 22. A line-up loaded with five players recently signed by manager Dennis Wise showed all the failings and weaknesses responsible for United’s slide to the bottom of the division.
Leeds succeeded in completing deals with Alan Thompson and Tore Andre Flo before the clash at Elland Road, and Armando Sa and Robbie Elliott were included in a defence which had conceded 49 goals in 27 league games. The three scored by West Brom on a cold afternoon nudged that figure beyond a half-century.
Wise could not have asked for a better start than Flo’s scrambled finish in the third minute. A save from Russell Hoult and a goalline block from Curtis Davies fought back a swarming Leeds attack but Albion’s defence was badly stretched as Flo scored at the third attempt, heading Elliott’s cross into the net.
It might have signalled a turning of the tide but United’s performance lost its rhythm just as quickly. Four minutes later, Jonathan Greening equalised when he pounced on the rebound from Neil Clement’s free-kick and curled a shot around Neil Sullivan, and Diomansy Kamara snatched the lead soon after, beating Hayden Foxe for pace and rolling the ball home after calmly rounding Sullivan.
When Kamara struck with a brilliant curling finish in the final seconds of the first half, Leeds looked beaten and Wise walked down the tunnel in a state of disbelief.
“I was disappointed with the goals we conceded,” he said. “You can’t defend like we did.
“At times we were asleep at the back and it’s easy to drop off and let them have the ball.
“It’s much braver to be close to them.”
United struggled through the first 20 minutes of the second half but hope came from nowhere when Thompson, in trademark style, marked his debut by drilling a free-kick into the top corner of Hoult’s net.
The mood of Elland Road changed in an instant and Albion began to struggle but Thompson’s lack of match fitness caught up with him in the 83rd minute and United rarely threatened after his substitution.
Wise, meanwhile, ended the game in the stands after confronting Kamara as the striker left the field at a snail’s pace when replaced by Stuart Nicholson in the 89th minute.
Referee Neil Swarbrick ordered Wise from the touchline, and the United boss said: “I’d had enough of Kamara and I thought the referee was very poor.
“He just wanted to get the game finished in the end rather than play the proper amount of injury-time.”
United: Sullivan, Sa, Foxe, Marques, Elliott (Kandol 57), Blake (Moore 57), Nicholls, Thompson (Einarsson 83), Lewis, Healy, Flo. Subs (not used): Heath, Howson.