O'Leary set to open Leeds' cheque book

 

An eventful week at Leeds United was concluded yesterday when the club chairman, Peter Ridsdale confirmed that money is to be made available to David O'Leary to buy in new players.

O'Leary, who had made this a condition of his agreement to replace George Graham at a meeting with the chairman on Sunday night, is expected to announce the first of his signings within 48 hours.

Ironically, it was the club's refusal to release money to strengthen the team which influenced, in part, Graham's decision to move to Tottenham. Now Ridsdale is apparently, ready to meet the demands of the new manager in full.

"David has already mentioned the players he would like to bring to the club and I am in total agreement with him," he said.

"We want to demonstrate to everybody that we are ready to back the new manager to the hilt and I'm hopeful we'll be exercising the cheque book as early as this week."

Top of O'Leary's priorities is the acquisition of an experienced midfield player and, almost certainly, he will also be seeking to increase his options up front.

The introduction of new talent will be partly financed by the sale of some players.

The new manager is committed to nurturing some of the younger talent he has inherited at Elland Road and his choice of Stephen McPhail, the Republic of Ireland youth player, for the club's last three games, may be interpreted as an endorsement of McPhail's long-term prospects at the club.

Three other Irish players, Gary Kelly, Ian Harte and Alan Maybury, who won his first full cap in the Czech Republic last February, are currently recuperating from injuries and in the current climate of uncertainty, they will be anxious to get back as soon as possible.

Within hours of being confirmed in the post, O'Leary was defining his immediate targets. "Obviously, I want to see the championship trophy back at Elland Road but that is something which is not going to happen overnight," he said.

"I think its more realistic to set the club's ambition at finishing in the top five in the championship, just as we did last season. I'll also be looking to prolong our run in the UEFA Cup and hopefully, take the club to the final of either the FA Cup or, at worst, the League Cup.

"I'm thrilled to be in a position to take over the team, particularly in the light of the conversations I've had with our chairman, Peter Ridsdale. There is a hunger for success at the club, and with luck, I believe that I can deliver it."

On speculation that his appointment will lead to a reappraisal of the cautious tactics employed by Graham, he said: "I've learned a lot under George and have a lot of reasons to be be grateful to him.

"But I'll be my own man now, producing a team playing my kind of football. Our performance in Rome last week was very encouraging in this respect and I intend to build on it."

O'Leary, who joins fellow Irishmen, Joe Kinnear and Martin O'Neill in charge of teams in the Premiership, will not be unmindful of the managerial experiences of the other two Dubliners who started out with him at Arsenal more than 20 years ago, Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton.

Brady, catapulted to one of the top managerial posts in Britain when he was appointed by Celtic, lasted less than two seasons in the job and after a brief sojourn with Brighton, is now heading up Arsenal's youth programme.

Stapleton won respect for a reasonably successful spell at Bradford on his first managerial assignment. It didn't save him from dismissal, however, and he is now working as a commentator on the game.

Their experiences will serve to sharpen O'Leary's sense of urgency and convince him that at this level of the game, casualties are frequent. Yet, he admits that he can't wait to tackle the challenge.

"It is of course, a hard job to start with but it's one that many others would like to take on," he said. "I'm going into management at the very top but if I didn't have the self belief to know that I can do it, I wouldn't have got involved in the first place."