Date: Sunday, 2nd May 2004.

Venue: Reebok Stadium, Bolton.

Competition: English Premier League.

Score: Bolton Wanderers 4 Leeds United 1

Scorers: Bolton Wanderers: Djorkaeff (2), Harte (o.g.), Nolan. Leeds United: Viduka.

Attendance: 27,420.


Bolton Wanderers: Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Thome (Barness), N’Gotty, Charlton; Nolan, Campo, Okocha; Pedersen (Moreno), Djorkaeff, Davies (Stelios). Unused Subs: Frandsen, Poole.

Leeds United: Robinson; Kelly, Caldwell, Duberry, Harte; Pennant, McPhail, Matteo, Milner (Wilcox); Smith, Viduka. Unused Subs: Barmby, Lennon, Kilgallon, Carson.

Referee: Mr S. Bennett (Farnborough, Kent).

The end of Leeds United's Premiership tenure, expected as it was, was still a heartbreaking moment. Tears flowed from the vast army of travelling fans as the club's fourteen-year stay in the top-flight came to a bitter close at
Bolton's Reebok Stadium. It wouldn't have been so bad had United put up a fight, but they turned in a second-half surrender that summed up just about everything that is wrong with the club. The cause wasn't helped by the stupidity of Mark Viduka, who got himself sent-off for two moments of madness in the space of less than three first half minutes. It was suicide from Viduka and probably cost Leeds their last chance of survival, but the Aussie was not solely to blame for the Elland Road club's failure to hang on to its Premiership status. That blame should have been laid squarely at the feet of a previous board which simply couldn't say no, a series of managers who failed to make the most of the resources available, and a handful of players who had had things too easy for far too long. How those responsible, it was a collective, not individuals, slept that night was a mystery because it was their fault that this great football club was down on its knees once again.
Three years previous,
Leeds had taken on Spanish giants Valencia in the first leg of the semi-final of Europe's elite club competition, the Champions League. The chairman, Peter Ridsdale, and his fellow directors were living the high life, buzzing around the world in private jets; the Manager, David O'Leary, was put on a pedestal, and the players were handed money like it was going out of fashion. Peter Ridsdale said “we were living the dream”. Well, while he was watching his Barnsley side lose on the same day, the fans he left behind were living their worst nightmare. The ninety minutes at Bolton were the most painful spent watching Leeds.

It wasn't that United were mind-numbingly bad, it was difficult to expect much from a team which had spent the entire campaign lying on the canvas, it was just that there was an air of inevitability about the whole proceedings. Right from the moment Manchester City scored their winner against Newcastle on the Saturday, one just knew that United's time was finally up. It was easy to look back on where it had all gone wrong that season. Four-goal hidings at Everton and Leicester sprang to mind, as did the 6-1 thrashing at Portsmouth in November. There was the 3-1 defeat at Wolves at Christmas when United reverted to a 4-4-2 line-up and the defence was woefully exposed at the hands of a side which was also going down. Reality really hit home after the 2-0 loss at Fulham in March, while Easter Monday, when Portsmouth and Blackburn both re-discovered their fighting spirit, was a real killer.

But the simple truth was that Leeds had not been good enough to compete at the highest level and, week after week, the level of performance had been unacceptable. One could say what you like, but you could not put there what wasn't in there and, for all there have been times when the endeavour couldn't be questioned, you could not hide the lack of quality.

The commitment shown by the likes of Alan Smith, Dominic Matteo and Paul Robinson could not be faulted and their attitude was summed up to perfection at the final whistle when they lingered long in front of the devastated travelling supporters. Alan Smith had been a talisman all season, he was the same again at Bolton, while no-one had given more than Dominic Matteo, and their tears at the whistle were contagious. Sadly, with a few exceptions, notably the younger members of the squad, there were a handful of bodies that could have done more to aid the cause.
On paper,
Leeds had more quality in their squad than the other teams around them and should not have been relegated. Yes, they had lacked a creative midfielder and more should have been done before the season and again in January to ensure that void was filled. An often inadequate defence had also been exposed brutally at times, while Paul Robinson has spent much of the campaign seeking protection that just wasn't there. But what was more galling on this Sunday was that Bolton appeared to want it more than a team which simply had to win to stand any chance of remaining among the elite. That was despite the backing of almost 4,000 fans who never stopped singing throughout. "Going down, but we'll be back," was the defiant salute from a group of fans who deserved far more than they had had from their team that season. They had been shafted from all angles, by all and sundry, yet come Crewe and Plymouth next season, they would be there in numbers again.

The anthemic 'Champions of Europe' chant, so common at away games, was sung with vigour yesterday and that brought back the eerie memory of when it was belted out at West Brom in 1982 when Leeds were last relegated. That was twenty-two years previous. It took eight years to return then and one could only hope it would be quicker this time. The spectacular fall from grace of Sheffield Wednesday was a concern and it was down to the power brokers at the club now, whoever they might be, to ensure that that particular scenario does not repeat itself. But then, the club needed a clear-out, and it needed to re-build, and very quickly. Eddie Gray was a part of the previous Leeds side to suffer the drop and, for all he had had his critics that term, it was hard not to feel for a man who loved Leeds United deeply. He could only watch in agony as reality over took hope and Premiership survival slipped away.
The hope came when Emerson Thome hauled down Alan Smith after just twenty-five minutes of the game and Mark Viduka converted the penalty. It was a lifeline. Quite why Emerson Thome wasn't red-carded only the referee would know, but if he had been sent-off, he wouldn't have been involved in the scuffle that led to Mark Viduka's first booking. As in the pre-season
friendlies against York and Burnley, the red mist descended for Mark Viduka and, after narrowly escaping a second card for an unnecessary challenge on Ivan Campo, it was no surprise when he was sent-off for elbowing Bruno N'Gotty. It was an act of silliness that effectively gave Leeds no chance. Down to ten-men, United looked lost and the hosts were suddenly rejuvenated.

Youri Djorkaeff levelled on forty-seven minutes after good work by Jay-Jay Okocha and the Frenchman followed up Nicky Hunt's shot to make it 2-1 soon after. The third goal came ninety seconds later when Ian Harte bundled an Anthony Barness cross into his own goal and the rest of the game became a blur. It was all over for Leeds and the players and the fans knew it. The last rites were played out to the backdrop of defiant chanting from the United fans, even when Bolton managed to add a fourth. It was Kevin Nolan who rubbed salt into the wounds when he raced past a static defence to make it 4-1 with twelve minutes left. Nolan's goal was the last proper act in a devastating campaign and United had now go away and start from scratch. They had come back before and they could do it again. The hope was that it would not be as long this time.


Match Action:



Mark Viduka gave Leeds the perfect start opening the scoring from the spot



                                                                                                                                                                             Mark Viduka celebrates with Ian Harte



Then it all went wrong: he was booked for a scuffle with Emerson Thome, argued with the Bolton defenders after being sent off and the



referee for a second yellow after elbowing N’Gotty                                                                                           Reality sets in as he makes the long walk


United players try to get Referee Bennett to change his decision



Kevin Nolan completes the rout as he easily beats Paul Robinson                         Gary Kelly looks on as Jermaine Pennant surges past

for Bolton’s fourth                                                                                                       Henrik Pedersen



                    Alan Smith beats Simon Charlton to a high ball



Alan Smith fights for possession during the game and Paul Robinson and Dominic Matteo try to console him after the game

Dominic Matteo cannot believe what he has witnessed

Eddie Gray and Kevin Blackwell looked on helpless from the touchline


Dominic Matteo comforts Alan Smith                                 More tears from Alan Smith and Paul Robinson



                                                                                                                                                    The League table tells the sad story


Steve Caldwell congratulates Mark Viduka on his goal from the penalty spot





Mark Viduka scored from the spot for United.     Youri Djorkaeff (2), an own goal from Ian Harte, and Kevin Nolan scored the Bolton goals



Alan Smith, Dominic Matteo and Paul Robinson’s commitment could not be faulted                                                 



Jussi Jaaskelainen was in the Bolton goal     Nicky Hunt and Simon Charlton were the full-backs



Emerson Thome and Bruno N’Gotty were the central defence                  Kevin Poole and Per Frandsen were the unused substitutes



Kevin Nolan, Ivan Campo and Jay Jay Okocha were the Bolton midfield                                                       



Henrik Pedersen, Youri Djorkaeff and Kevin Davies were the strikers                                                                       



Anthony Barness, Javier Moreno and Stelios Gianakopoulos were used as substitutes