Leeds plan for next season

WITH the season effectively over for Leeds United, manager Kevin Blackwell is already planning for the next promotion push.Whether that means the players' minds are on the beach, or that they will be determined to bring the Blues' promotion push to a shuddering halt, we will find out this afternoon.

By Derek Davis

WITH the season effectively over for Leeds United, manager Kevin Blackwell is already planning for the next promotion push.

Whether that means the players' minds are on the beach, or that they will be determined to bring the Blues' promotion push to a shuddering halt, we will find out this afternoon.

Striker Rob Hulse will, no doubt, want to keep his terrific run of good form going, after netting six goals in 10 games and, with David Healy out with knee ligaments, the stage has been pretty much left to him.


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Fellow on-loan striker Marlon King, who normally partners him when they have two up front, is out with a viral infection, so United are likely to match Town's 4-3-3 formation.

Skipper Paul Butler is still out with concussion so Sean Gregan will revert to midfield after playing at the back last week at QPR. Shaun Derry was sent off in that game and so is suspended, which will give Ian Moore the chance to shine on the right flank.

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Former Blue Jermaine Wright is set to play in place of Seth Johnson, who has been told he will not play for Leeds again this season for contractual reasons.

One-time England international Johnson has played 59 times since joining the Yorkshire side from Derby County, and a 60th appearance would trigger a £250,000 payment to the Rams as part of the £7m transfer fee agreed in 2001.

Johnson has only just returned after almost a year out with a cruciate injury, and Leeds chief executive officer Shaun Harvey said the club wanted to be sure that the player still s has a significant contribution to make to the club in the future after his injury.

Keeper Neil Sullivan scooped both Players' and Supporters' Player of the Year, which shows what sort of season they have had at the back.

Blackwell has made no secret that he hopes to strengthen and a £1m sponsorship deal with National Car Rental will help him get the funds from new chairman Ken Bates.

Blackburn's Nils-Eric Johansson and the Everton duo of David Weir and Gary Naysmith have already been linked as summer targets. The manager has also looked at improving his own coaching methods and travelled to Italy last week for a few days, where he was at Juventus as a guest of Bianconeri boss Fabio Capello.

It may be a bit early for him to deploy new tactics for the game against Ipswich, but he was left with a favourable impression of the Italian players' work ethic.

He said: “If anything, it was more of a confidence boost to see we're not a million miles away. But what sticks in my mind is the professionalism of their players. I'll be asking my players to follow that attitude, to take on board that level of professionalism not just in training but also off the pitch and the way they conduct themselves.

“Italian players also earn millions of pounds but they do the right things automatically and, if we did that, it could make us better people.

“But with regards to training and fitness, it was nice to see our own methods endorsed and, in that respect, we're on the right track.”

Discipline is something else he may preach, after the club were fined £3,000 following a skirmish with Gillingham players at Elland Road recently.

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