David O'Leary O'Leeds
The Leeds United kids are on the verge of greatness.
So whose that quiet Irish bloke they're knocking around with?
It's hard to believe that David O'Leary
took on the Leeds job less than eighteen months ago. It really
does seem like a century has passed since George Graham signed
his contract extension and pledged his future to the club, then
walked out to take the Spurs job. There was a rash of speculation
about a big name replacement - Martin O'Neill and Gordon Strachan
were prime suspects - then the Leeds board went for the quiet
man, George's assistant, David O'Leary.
It wasn't the most popular decision at the time. Most fans were
still smarting from Graham's cocky attitude to the walkout and
his attempt to take credit for Howard Wilkinson's youth policy
ground work. True, he was the boss-man when the kids won the '97
FA Youth Cup, but the extent to which he paid them much attention
is debatable. Eddie Gray, now assistant manager, and Paul Hart,
the director of youth team football, had a hand in all this too.
Then, all of a sudden on Match of the Day, O'Leary began to talk
of his 'babies' and George was suddenly forgotten. The green shoots
of real success were beginning to grow tall.
David O'Leary's background is instructive. He joined Arsenal
as a teenager from north Dublin's St Kevin's, coming through the
ranks with a clutch of home-grown players. He was a one-club man
until his move to Leeds as a player in '93, eighteen years after
his Arsenal debut. Internationally he got an early start too,
when Johnny Giles picked him to play at Wembley against England
in 1977. That he's given the likes of Alan Smith so many opportunities,
and Jonathan Woodgate such a run, is completely consistent with
his own career.
In January this year his babies' FA Cup dreams were dashed at
Villa Park by some magical footwork - as they were against Ginola's
Spurs a year ago - but hopes of a Champions League place this
year are beginning to be realised as they push Manchester United
all the way. Crowds are up. Spirits are soaring. And their rivals
have another round of midweek Champions League action at a crucial
time of the race. True, there's no silverware yet. And true, it
could all go pear-shaped as the pressure begins to rise. But things
really do look as bright as the club colours for once.
The only cloud on the horizon could be
the alleged Bowyer/Woodgate involvement in a nasty late-night
fracas, described by the police as a 'racist incident'. Bad news.
Harpal Singh is flying through the ranks and is bringing the local
Asian talent and fans along with him. The last thing Leeds need
now is their best players showing the club up in the courts. Riding
the club of its racist reputation has been hard and the players
need to be showing an example. Howard Wilkinson was quoted in
the Guardian last year on his attitude to the Leeds youth staff.
"You teach them how to play and live... and I'll show them how
to win!". Wise words that the highly paid teenagers should heed
more than ever now that they are in the spotlight.
O'Leary reckons that beneath the nice guy act he's as hard as
the best of them. Now that the young lads are on the verge of
greatness perhaps it's time to crack the whip a little. You Behave
like Champions. You become Champions. In O'Leary O'Leeds, it looks
as if Leeds have the boys for the battle and the man for the job.
I think that we're about to find out.
David Hirst Quits
Former Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and England
striker David Hirst has quit the game. He's been struggling to
recover from a knee injury sustained during pre-season at his
current club Southampton. Poor bugger's been plagued with injuries
throughout his career. A Cudworth lad discovered bty Allan Clarke,
he went on to get three caps for England. Scored against France.
Got 128 goals in 309 games for the Owls. Best of luck mate. Beats
going down't pit, eh David.
Sam Vision hits out at the Pampered Pro's
Go on, click it then..Dare you.
Saint or Sinner
Kevin Davies is praying the bad
days are over
fee, a seven year contract and a twenty grand a week pay
deal is going to get any Northern lad back up north. For
Kevin Davies, a Sheffield lad who had gone from a Chesterfield
Cup run to the England Under 21 team it was a dream come
true. It was a deal that mirrored Alan Shearers journey
to glory a few years ago, and looked as if lightening was
indeed striking twice.
Then the nightmare.
Roy Hodgeson's Blackburn went into total freefall. Davies
got the full force of the Lancashire fans bile as the former
Champions were relegated. Not surprisingly he began to feel
lower than a snakes arse.
Davies is still only
22 years old but must surely know the hard way how it feels
to go from hero to pariah. Ill, injured and forgotten, consigned
to club history as a one-goal flop. Talk about too much
too young. It begs the question of "what if" John
Duncan's Chesterfield had been dumped by Bristol City in
the first round of the 96/97 FA Cup, rather than going all
the way to that glorious semi-final 3-3 against Middlesborough
at Old Trafford (surely one of the greatest FA Cup runs
in recent memory). And "what if" Chesterfield
had been promoted from that years second division?
Now he's back at Southampton
- the team who plucked him from that Chesterfield cup team
three years ago - and he seems to be back on form. Three
goals in three games and with Glen Hoddle at the helm at
The Dell things can only get better for the lad. With so
few local kids playing in Sheffield lately it's always nice
to see one of our own showing the southerners how to play.