Leeds United Bygones: Wider club issues reflected in final days of Reid’s reign

Peter Reid and Kevin Blackwell
Peter Reid and Kevin Blackwell
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Peter Reid was employed by Leeds United to solve a crisis but he lost his job on a dire afternoon at Portsmouth with a bigger storm brewing.

The former England midfielder protected the club’s Premiership status in the spring of 2003, picking up the pieces from Terry Venables and fending off relegation after a brilliant win at Arsenal.

But United’s survival was a short reprieve.

The following season, Reid discovered that the problems at Elland Road were critical and endemic.

Leeds muddled through the early weeks of the term, winning two of their first 11 games, and they were losing the plot by the time they travelled to Fratton Park on November 8.

Eleven years ago this week, Reid must have seen the end coming. His team had conceded 10 goals in three previous matches – albeit against Liverpool, Manchester United and a Thierry Henry-inspired Arsenal – and their visit to Portsmouth was a shambles from the start.

Reid left Mark Viduka behind after a bitter argument during training at Thorp Arch, and kick-off at Fratton Park was delayed for 10 minutes by traffic congestion.

Floodlight failure caused another 20-minute wait. When the game finally began, Reid felt creeping death all around him.

Leeds were in touch for 45 minutes, helped by Alan Smith’s equaliser two minutes after Dejan Stefanovic opened the scoring, but Gary O’Neil scored for Portsmouth moments before half-time and the second half became a procession. Hayden Foxe volleyed home Teddy Sheringham’s flick and O’Neil struck again in the 71st minute. Further goals from Patrik Berger and Yakubu left Reid staring at a 6-1 deficit with four minutes to play. As the ball flew in for the sixth time, Reid famously turned to assistant Kevin Blackwell and admitted that his time was up.

Beleaguered at the final whistle, Reid put a brave face on. On entering the press conference, he looked up at the ceiling and joked: “Has anyone got a noose?”

The following day he travelled to watch Manchester City play Leicester City but more out of duty than hope of leniency from his board

“It could be over,” Reid said, “but before anyone asks, I have no intention of resigning.”

The matter was taken out of his hands as United sacked him 48 hours later.

“While the board acknowledges that Peter did a sterling job towards the end of last season, the recent run of results has clearly been unacceptable,” a statement from the board said.

Eddie Gray stepped in as caretaker, tasked with salvaging the unsalvagable.

“The process of identifying a longer term first-team manager is underway,” the board’s statement added, but Gray would remain in his post until the end of the season. Without a plan and without a prayer, the club were duly relegated.

FRUSTRATION: Leeds United's Pierre-Michel Lasogga after his close-range header was saved against Nottingham Forest. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

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