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Mountain to climb - or a long slide down

PUBLISHED: 09:00 29 May 2004 | UPDATED: 04:55 02 March 2010

YOU might think times have been hard at Portman Road this past couple of years - but there are even more interesting days ahead at Leeds.

Unless you're Neil Warnock or a football trivia nut, you may never have heard of Kevin Blackwell.

YOU might think times have been hard at Portman Road this past couple of years - but there are even more interesting days ahead at Leeds.

Unless you're Neil Warnock or a football trivia nut, you may never have heard of Kevin Blackwell. You might just have seen him in goal for Huddersfield Reserves.

In a Football League career that began a few weeks short of his 28th birthday, he made a grand total of 89 appearances.

The only club that ever paid money for him (£15,000) was Notts County, where he stayed more than three years and never made a first-team appearance.

He has worked in one capacity or another for eight League clubs - and Warnock took him to six of them. You could say they're mates.

You could also say it shows what a desperate state Leeds United are in that they've just appointed him as their manager.

Of course, many of the very best managers were never much cop as players. Neither was Sven Goran Eriksson.

Blackwell may be a top boss in the making, but there must be a suspicion he's simply all Leeds can afford.

He's in for an interesting summer, though, if the Yorkshire club are to fulfil their Division One fixtures next season.

For a start, he has no coaching or management staff. What's more, if all the players who are expected to leave do so, he will only have eight professionals left.

What price Blackwell pulling on the goalkeeping gloves again himself at age 45, seven years after his last appearance for Plymouth?

And what price Leeds for another relegation?

It's less than four years since Leeds – then with European glory in their sights – paid a preposterous £18million for a so-so defender called Rio Ferdinand. Two months ago the whole club changed hands for not much more than that, and it's already looking like a shocking waste of money.

***

SCIENCE, in its purest state, has no morals. It's neither good nor bad – it just is. Or that's what scientists would like us to think.

The trouble is, of course, that once something can be done, it's a dead cert someone, somewhere is going to try to do it.

A quicker-firing bow and arrow? Oh, go on then.

Split the atom? It'll make a big bang… Oh, what the heck.

Human cloning? It'll come.

Just six months ago the Royal College of Surgeons urged doctors not to attempt human face transplants.

Now, guess what? Surgeons at Louisville University in Kentucky have done it.

Of course, Kentucky isn't bound by decisions taken in the UK. But what they do there will impact on all of us in time.

So far, they have only transplanted the face of one dead person on to another dead person. And the results, it must be admitted, are fascinating.

For one thing, it seems to show that if you take my face and put it on your head, it won't look like me. Which must answer at least some of the social and psychological worries.

Of course, it won't look like you, either. But then, unless your face has already been severely damaged, you're hardly likely to submit to such a transplant.

The next step for the Louisville docs is to try the job on a living patient. It's a big step, of course, for all sorts of reasons.

Not least is uncertainty about whether the nerves and muscles will all work. Then there's the danger of the transplanted tissue being rejected.

But assuming the technical difficulties are overcome, I don't think queasiness about the moral issues will hold them up for long.

It's not quite a matter of life and death, like heart, lung, liver or kidney transplants. But it could be a matter of quality of life. And that's important too.

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