Viduka and Kewell hold the key - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Viduka and Kewell hold the key

By Brent Read 25/12/2002 04:44:35 PM Comments (0)

Influential Leeds United figures believe their Australian contingent may hold the key to the club avoiding English Premier League relegation this season.

Assistant coach Eddie Gray has earmarked Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell as the men to save Leeds from the drop, while Socceroos captain Paul Okon's belated return to first-team football has coincided with the club's improved fortunes.

Kewell, who already has eight goals this season, including seven in the Premier League, scored a goal and noticeably lifted his game when Viduka came on the field during Leeds' 1-1 draw with Southampton at the weekend.

And Gray believes the pair would complement each other in an all-Australian forward line.

"Mark holds the ball up so well and takes the pressure off our defenders," Gray said on

"He gives Harry that bit more room to play off him and that makes the two of them a very good partnership."

Viduka scored 38 goals in his opening two seasons with Leeds, but has been restricted to only 12 starting appearances this season due to a shoulder injury and a loss of form.

He is still the club's second leading scorer - behind Kewell - with five goals.

However, his mixed season has once again prompted speculation he could be transfer bait once the window opens again next month.

Viduka has been linked with Spanish giants Real Madrid in the past.

However, Italy looks a more likely destination, with Roma and AC Milan also in the picture.

But the 27-year-old from Melbourne, who signed a five-year deal with Leeds in July last year, has said he would be happy to stay and fight for his spot in the team.

And statistics indicate Viduka has some claims on a starting spot at Leeds.

He is the most efficient striker in the Leeds squad, scoring from 30 per cent of his shots at goal.

Kewell, meanwhile, has scored with just over ten per cent of his shots, although he has taken three times as many as his Socceroo teammate.

"In the last two games, we've got four points and we're happy," Kewell said.

"Hopefully we can go on from this and win the matches against Sunderland and Chelsea.

"We don't think we're in the right place in the table, but quite a few times in the last five minutes we've conceded goals.

"We've just got to stick together and we know we're going to get through this.

"We know what we've got to do and we're going to do it. We created quite a few chances and, on another day, they might have gone in."

Leeds boss Terry Venables has given Okon a resounding endorsement on the eve of their relegation battle with Sunderland.

Okon has overcome a slow start at Leeds to play in the club's past four games, helping it edge clear of the danger zone.

And Venables has given Okon a pat on the back for his contribution.

"I am delighted for him," Venables said.

"I'm disappointed he wasn't able to be involved earlier but now he's here he's had four games and in each game he's got better.

"He takes a lot of care with his passing."

Venables rescued Okon from the soccer scrapheap after the veteran midfielder was released by Watford at the end of last season.

Early injuries restricted his opening to the season, but when given his chance, Okon seized it.

The Venables-Okon partnership first blossomed when the Englishman was coach of the Socceroos before Australia narrowly missed the 1998 World Cup in France.

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