Grayson's Leeds far from the damned United
TOTTENHAM were one of the main beneficiaries of Leeds United's self-induced decline from European powerhouses to lower-league makeweights and the presence of so many Elland Road old boys on the White Hart Lane payroll represents a salutary reminder of the Yorkshire club's dramatic slump.
By his own admission, that fall from grace still saddens Simon Grayson, but he intends to use today's FA Cup meeting with Harry Redknapp's side to show that the jaw-dropping victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford was no one-off and that he is on track to dispel the years of misery and show that Leeds are climbing back towards the upper echelons.
Spurs captain Robbie Keane will be the most obvious reminder to travelling supporters of the good old days at Elland Road, when Leeds threatened to conquer Europe, as will the presence in the stands of former players Jonathan Woodgate, Aaron Lennon and teenager Danny Rose, who left Grayson's club as financial meltdown followed wild spending.
"I think, regardless of what's in the opposition squad, there's a sadness of what's happened to the club and the decline," said Grayson -- Leeds fan turned player turned tracksuited manager -- in a classroom at Leeds' Thorp Arch training ground.
"Not so long ago this club was in Europe and they were in the top six and wanting to improve to get to where they were 30 years ago under the likes of Don Revie, Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles.
"It is sad, but it's happened and you can't do anything about it. We have learnt from the experience, as a club. Now we are trying to take it back to the next level and beyond.
"I would like to think that the club had sunk as low as it could have done two or three years ago when (chairman) Ken Bates came in and saved it and now we are trying to get back up and make sure we never go to those depths again.
"We've got everything here that's geared to the Premier League. All these facilities (including an impressive swimming pool and spacious gym) are from the Premier League days and we are averaging gates of 25,000, which is really excellent.
"If we went to the next level we would get up to 30,000, and beyond that if we got back to the Premier League. But we've got to take things one step at a time. It is a big club in the wrong division, but we are in that division for the reasons that we are."
On a potentially pivotal weekend, Leeds could find themselves knocked off the top of League One by Norwich by the time they go out to face Spurs. Grayson, however, is unfazed by that prospect.
"By the time we come to play Swindon (on Tuesday) we might not even be top, but that is part and parcel of the season," he said. "We have been up there all season but Norwich and Charlton deserve credit because they have been on impressive runs. We have still got 21 games to go and hopefully we can win the majority of them.
"There are tough teams and tough places to go but hopefully the FA Cup can kick-start the rest of our season. Whatever happens, we've just got to make sure we try to do the same things we've done before.
"If we come off the pitch with no regrets and still lose, then so be it. As long as we've given ourselves a great opportunity to do the best we can then you can't ask for more than that."
'The Damned United', 'Dirty Leeds', call them what you want, but Grayson is striving to change perceptions. "There are a lot of people who like Leeds to suffer, but we are trying to do something about that.
"We are not here to be popular, don't get me wrong, we are here to win matches. If we win every game between now and the end of the season and everybody still hates us then I'm not too bothered, because we'll have achieved our target of getting promotion and being successful.
"But I'd like to think we're winning over the neutrals. There's a lot of people I've met at games over the past couple of weeks that have said we deserved to win at Manchester United and that the team was a credit to me; that we play the game in the right manner.
"That's encouraging. That's my philosophy as a manager, to try to do the right things and entertain people and get people saying nice things about us." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Tottenham v Leeds United,
Live, ITV/Setanta Ireland, 5.15