> Smith Viduka
> Kewell Dacourt Bowyer <-> Batty
> Harte Ferdinand Woodgate Mills
A number of things....
Leeds overspent, particularly on strikers and Seth Johnson, so when
they failed to reach the Champions League they couldn't justify the
massive wage bill. Thus Leeds entered into a two year fire sale in
which everyone was up for grabs, not exactly a good environment for
team morale. Other factors included;
a) Bowyer and Woodgates night out.
b) Brian Kidd (changing Leeds style of play)
and c) David O'Leary
from the Yorkshire Post (article too old so I couldn't find a link)
THE toe-curling arrogance which runs from head to foot of the tall
frame was apparent within five minutes of our first meeting.
On a sunny summer day in August, 1999, I went along to Elland Road to
introduce myself to a Leeds United manager who was still feeling his
way in the
job he had inherited from his mentor George Graham.
"Listen," he said. "I don't give a f*** what the Yorkshire Evening Post
or says about me. I don't need the Yorkshire Evening Post."
It was a big mistake, and one which he was to repeat over and over
This newspaper, your newspaper, is far and away the strongest link
thousands of loyal fans and the club they adore. O'Leary can not have
oblivious to this fact, yet he believed the cultivation of such a
beneficial relationship to be beneath him.
Further, as a pre-emptive strike, he was to be party to the issue of an
immediate ban on me following my reporting of the latest developments
in the hot
potato of the time, the issue of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's wages row
Although this ludicrous exclusion was lifted almost before it had
begun, the dye
had been cast and our relations were never better than strained.
On countless occasions over the coming months I was to embark on a
trip to the club's training headquarters at Thorp Arch to be told by
staff that the manager had taken exception to something that I had
however innocuous it might have been - and I was not to be allowed in.
And O'Leary's practice on answering his mobile telephone was to pretend
could not hear me, saying "Hello. . .hello. . .hello" before switching
Jack, he is known among old Arsenal colleagues and other professionals
the game. As in, I'm alright. . .
I once asked an ex-Gunner how this had come about and he told me: "He'd
names of the directors and their wives all right and would gravitate to
In his capacity as Leeds manager O'Leary always had the strangest of
relationships with the media. Often sulking, dismissive and impetuous,
not wait to bring to an end the Friday lunchtime pre-match conferences
What often staggered me was his reluctance to talk about football, the
someone were to put to him a question concerning tactics or the
the game in, say, Italy or Spain he would bat it back with some
about that country's hotels, or city centres, or restaurants.
Never the qualities of Gaizka Mendieta or Christian Vieri, nor the
4-4-2 or 4-5-1.
O'Leary has fallen on his sword because he is too big for his boots. By
It is widely held in football circles that there are two types of
manager - good
ones and lucky ones - and further that it is better to be a lucky one.
The Irishman certainly started his life in charge in the latter
inherited a keen, young, talented squad finely tuned by the man he
made his number two, Eddie Gray, and set them loose on an unsuspecting
He sat back and took all the plaudits as those rampaging lion cubs went
eye-catching runs of success which took the football world by storm,
domestically and in Europe.
It was almost inconceivable that up-coming players like Stephen
Bakke, Michael Bridges, Alan Smith and Paul Robinson could merge with
barely out of the novice stage like Harry Kewell and Jonathan Woodgate
produce the nucleus of a team capable of reaching successive European
semi-finals. But, along with one or two experienced additions, they
did. And in
some style. Much of the credit for this was due to Gray and the
approach to the game which he instilled in the squad.
It wasn't broke, and it didn't need fixing, but once again O'Leary's
He had begun to complain that his workload was too heavy and that he
bring in another coach to allow him the time to do other things.
These were never specified, but it beggared belief among observers that
paid 1.6 million a year wished to free himself from the very duties
he was responsible.
Enter Brian Kidd, a coach who had hardly covered himself in glory at
clubs Preston and Blackburn and who had been "released" by Leeds
arch-rivals from over the M62, Manchester United.
No doubt O'Leary thought it a masterstroke to introduce his new
sidekick at the
next home game, which just happened to be against the Old Trafford
Elland Road fans were, and have remained, completely underwhelmed. Not
they recognised or acknowledged the man who is deemed to have shunted
Gray, whose name continues to ring out in an adoring crowd every game.
The fans have been further alienated by another shade of grey, the
football under Kidd's tutelage. Where, under Eddie Gray, it was score
make it two, in Grey Kidd's regime it has been score one and protect
who knows, these instructions may have come from O'Leary himself.
Leeds fans don't like that. Whether or not the dripping in of this
O'Leary's mind perpetrated a catalogue of eccentricities is open to
but his subsequent behaviour was bizarre in the extreme.
The publishing of a book entitled Leeds United On Trial when two of his
were standing trial in a court of law was outlandish. The slagging-off
Bowyer, arguably his best player, threatens to drive him away along
World Cup hero Danny Mills, whom he first castigated in public then
tried to take credit for his colossal performances in Japan.
Following a home defeat by Ipswich, in the quiet of the media centre
asked me to stay behind so that he could talk to me personally.
"From day one you walked into Leeds," he said "I thought you were a
****. Now I
know you're a ****. In fact you're a (worse expletive) ****.
I asked if it had ever occurred to him that the feeling might be
that it is sometimes appropriate to keep one's thoughts to oneself.
"Well then aren't you the gentleman," he sneered.
If his relations outside the game reflect those within the dressing
it would be a wonder if he had a single ally in the camp.