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MARCHING ON TOGETHER

The Yorkshire Evening Post
Leeds
Jan 6, 2000

BY MATT DONLAN

YOUNG gun Alan Smith reckons Leeds United have taken a huge step along the road to glory and success over the last 12 months - but says they need to lift themselves out of their current Premiership rut in order to take the next all important stride.

The star striker believes people are starting to see that David O’Leary’s men are not a bad team.

But he is aware that while they are enjoying a fascinating time in the Champions League, the Premiership results must improve if they are to become a serious threat to the strangle hold placed on domestic glory by the likes of Manchester United.

And now the Rothwell raider is aiming for a big 2001 to help United forward and towards some silverware.

“Europe has been the major stepping stone for us this season,” declared the 20-year-old.

“Our league form has been a bit disappointing, but hopefully we can pick that up.

“I want to see us push on in the league because it’s vital we qualify for the Champions League again.”

United’s Premiership form has cast doubt over that prospect.

They are currently languishing in 14th place in the table after a run of just two wins in the last nine Premiership games - and that’s their lowest league placing since 1997.

But with 54 points from 18 league games to play for, there is still every chance they could start a charge up the table.

And, of course, if they managed to win the Champions League they would be straight back into the money-spinning competition next season.

Smith remains upbeat and is aware that people are starting to sit up and take note of United and added: “People have realised that we have come a long way over the last year.

“They are starting to see, especially in Europe, that we’re not a bad team and that puts pressure on.

“But that’s how we like it.”

His own wonderful 2000 has also left Smith smiling, although he says he is keen to kick on this year and make an even bigger impression.

“Last year was pretty good for me,” he said. “The win in Rome against Lazio was obviously the biggest game I’ve played in.”

“We put in a great performance. That was a real highlight.

“I think I’ve grown up really in the second part of the year. And to be honest it’s vital that I am doing that because every club in the country is bringing in foreign players and better English players.

“So we need to develop as players ourselves and to keep upping that level.”