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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 6, 2003

Martyn: This season's a 'disaster'

Life at Leeds has been a disaster this season, according to sidelined goalkeeper Nigel Martyn.

The England shot-stopper has endured a frustrating nine months personally at Elland Road after he was dropped by former boss Terry Venables for opting out of a pre-season tour of Australia and the Far East.

Martyn has since watched Paul Robinson cement his place as Leeds' number one and also replace him in the England squad, while sitting on the bench as the club - beset by huge debts off the field which has seen star players sold off - tumbled down the Premiership table.

'To say the situation at the club is not ideal would be an understatement,' Martyn told The People. 'It's been nothing short of a disaster.

'It has felt very strange all season because of everything that's happened off the pitch and it's played a part by being on the players' minds.

'It's (the club's league position) as much the players' fault as anyone else's. I know the board have taken some responsibility for what's happened off the pitch, but we have to stand up for what happens on it and it has not been good enough.'

Captain Dominic Matteo, meanwhile, has admitted that Leeds had been playing as individuals all season.

'You try not to think about relegation but, to be honest, it hit me when I heard that Bolton result and we were down in 17th place,' admitted Matteo. 'Then I thought we really needed to get a result. That might have been a turning-point for some of the boys.'

Matteo was still honest enough to admit that the ensuing team performance - reminiscent of their best displays two years ago - is something that had been lacking for most of this season under Terry Venables.

'We've been playing as individuals for most of the season. Now we have put in a team performance,' he conceded. 'I don't really know why. I think the one thing the gaffer has given us since he came is that we've got to defend as a team and attack as a team.

'He's definitely given us that work ethic. I don't know why it hasn't been there but we definitely showed now that we have got it and we're looking forward to the next game now.'

Reid had accused the team of feeling sorry for themselves in the wake of their 3-1 defeat at Anfield a fortnight ago and he has certainly made an impact in training since then.

'Don't get me wrong. It was great to work under Terry Venables and Peter Reid is good as well,' revealed Matteo. 'But Peter has come in and given us a breath of fresh air and changed training a little bit. We're just back to playing football, enjoying ourselves and working a bit harder.

'He's great to have about the place. He's one of those characters who is good to have on your side. Obviously, the club thought he was the right man to bring in and this has proved it.'

Matteo believes that Leeds must now get back to the qualities which took them to the verge of the Champions League final two years ago.

'That's what we need to get back to. Let's be honest, all our success in Europe came from closing down from the front right through the midfield to the back,' he said.

'Beating Charlton in that fashion was one of our best performances in a long while. It felt like Leeds of two years ago.'

Matteo is willing to continue in his own emergency central midfield role, but insists that Alan Smith must stay up front rather than moving back to the right-midfield position used by Venables.

'He's got it all and I'm sure he'll get back in the England squad soon as he's a fantastic talent. His work rate for the team is unbelievable,' he added.

While Mark Viduka scored a hat-trick, Harry Kewell struck twice and Ian Harte converted a penalty, Smith did not get onto the scoresheet against Charlton but set up his side's first five goals.

'In my opinion, he was man of the match,' added Matteo. 'He's very competitive and he's such a handful. He's got a great temperament and I think he will go to the top, no doubt about it.'

The Scotland international admits that Leeds, who are now six points clear of the relegation zone, are not completely out of trouble yet.

He declared: 'We're not soft as we know there are still important games to be won. But we're full of confidence now, which makes a change.'