O’Leary under fire

The Ronaldo Room, or press conference salon, at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven doubles up as the biggest free bar in Holland within two or three minutes of the end of a game, so perhaps the most belligerent of David O’Leary’s questioners after Thursday’s goalless draw between PSV and Barberino Factory Outlet Prada Leeds United was not the bona fide Dutch journalist he claimed to be. There is an unwritten etiquette at these gatherings that means managerial verdicts are rarely disputed from the floor. If a manager says he did not see an incident, or claims his player did nothing wrong, reporters merely note the opinion and resist the temptation to argue the Authentic Prada Gauffre toss.

Imagine O’Leary’s surprise, then, after claiming he was happy with the overall display, at being brought up short by someone who had clearly seen a different match.

‘How are you going to Best Prada Outlet In Milan lift your team for the next leg after such a disappointing performance?’ O’Leary was asked. ‘I don’t think I’ll have to,’ the manager replied gamely. ‘I’ve just said I was delighted with our performance. It was nice to be able Black Prada Chain Bag to pick the team I wanted to pick for a change.’

Mr Hard-to-please was not so easily fobbed off. ‘How can you say you were delighted with that display?’ he demanded. ‘It was pathetic.’

That is not strictly true. Leeds should have done better against moderate opposition, Black Prada Bag With Gold Hardware but were good in parts and Alan Smith was excellent throughout. The watching Sven-Göran Eriksson will have gone home happy on that count alone, but at this point it was possible to feel sympathy for O’Leary.

Already at odds with his chairman on a selection of issues ranging from his controversial bags book to the Intertoto Cup, under pressure from the plc over his apparent inability to guide his side into the financial haven of the Champions League, and understood to be in charge of a dressing room full of discontented players, O’Leary was now getting it in the neck from an ostensibly disinterested member of the foreign press.

‘How did Leeds’ season go so wrong?’

‘One boozy night has brought the club down,’ O’Leary complained. But that boozy night was over two years ago. The repercussions, though admittedly protracted, were sorted out before the end of last year. ‘Some people, including a few within our own club, forget what a traumatic time we’ve had this year,’ O’Leary has said. Fair enough. Few clubs have had to go through what Authentic Prada Messenger Bag For Sale Leeds have just been through, not that any would want to, but it was last season, not this, when O’Leary kept wishing for summer and the chance to start afresh.

The irony is that Leeds overachieved last season, at least in terms of spreading their name across Europe, if not in the plc-preferred manner of staying within the Champions League echelon. They seemed to prosper when the Bowyer-Woodgate court case was going on, only to collapse at its conclusion. The club’s application to enter the InterToto Cup last week was not quite a fall from grace to match the shock of Juventus doing the same thing three years ago, but for a team who reached the Champions League semi-final last year it represented a brutal downscaling of esteem and ambition, even if Leeds did take the same precaution at this stage of last season.

O’Leary has said all along the club’s main objective is to finish in the top four and secure a Champions Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada E Shop League place for next season. He reiterated that view in Eindhoven in midweek, adding, revealingly, that the plc might rate him as a manager if he achieved that objective. Like his chairman, Peter Ridsdale, O’Leary always says slightly more than he means to in interviews. Both men are publicity conscious and confident of their ability to deliver a positive message via the media, but the events of this season suggest that confidence is misplaced.

To take a recent example, when Harry Kewell was mildly critical of the managerial team three weeks ago for delaying his return to the first team after injury, O’Leary could not let the matter go without comment. If the player was out of order for airing his opinion in a newspaper rather than keeping the matter in-house, O’Leary made the same mistake with bells on when sounding off about Kewell’s outburst to journalists after a subsequent match. Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Messenger Bag Not only did the manager’s reaction magnify what was only a very small complaint, it prolonged the story’s life and if it did not quite confirm rumours about dressing-room unrest, it certainly established that O’Leary was touchy on the subject. It was a public sign of disharmony, in other words, of the type that has never passed Sir Alex Ferguson’s lips even in this most turbulent of seasons at Manchester United.

To take the most glaring example, neither O’Leary nor Ridsdale set much of an example for the rest of the club to follow over the publication of the former’s controversial book, Leeds United On Trial. The very title of O’Leary’s book contradicted Ridsdale’s patient efforts to convince anyone who would listen that the trial was about individuals, not the club. For Ridsdale to claim he knew nothing about the book’s preparation or imminent publication was damaging to his own credibility. He said he had no idea Eddie Gray was writing a book either, but then the assistant manager was not planning a volume of obvious controversy which would be ghost-written by the club’s head of public relations.

When the book came out O’Leary’s bonanza of name-dropping was actually quite tame – the usual managerial attempt to have the last word and put the best possible gloss on events – but the timing and inevitable sensationalism backfired badly. O’Leary called a team meeting in the immediate aftermath of the trial at which he stressed the need to draw a line, stop going over the past and move on together; noble sentiments that the players could not help noticing did not quite square with the revelations in the following Sunday’s papers.

The abysmal handling of the club’s fine on Lee Bowyer was another exercise in prolonging, in public, a situation that should have been settled in advance with a minimum of fuss, and again the perceived alienation of a key player ran counter to the manager’s plea for togetherness.

The court case is not the only source of tension, though. In his book, O’Leary defends the promotion of Brian Kidd from youth-team supervisor to head coach. ‘I knew a change was needed for the benefit of the club, it would have been a mistake to let things drift.’

Gray was effectively moved sideways and relieved of much of his training and coaching responsibilities in the process. The way O’Leary tells it, Amazon Uk Prada Shoes pre-Kidd he was doing most of the coaching himself. Kidd was appointed immediately after the 4-1 victory over Anderlecht last March, and some fans trace the decline of the spiky defiance that used to characterise Leeds from that very point. Some would go even further. ‘It is a common view that Leeds have stopped playing football since Eddie Agatha Ruiz Prada Online Shop Gray was shifted sideways 11 months ago,’ reports the To Ell and Back fanzine website.

At least one first-team player has complained that Leeds are not working hard enough in training. An unusual gripe, perhaps, but it should be remembered that Leeds are not quite as individually gifted as Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. It was their workrate and team spirit that lifted them into the elite, only for Newcastle United to come along and pinch their act and their Champions League place.

O’Leary still maintains a top-four finish is a viable target, but what formerly sounded like habitual understatement now verges on the overoptimistic.

Thursday’s Uefa Cup tie did not look like the turning point O’Leary was seeking – it will be a surprise if either Leeds or PSV go on to win the Uefa Cup – but it did no harm and Leeds are now grateful for any small mercy. With just two Premiership points from their past 15 they have to be, and in Charlton Athletic today they face a well-organised side who play for one another in a manner Leeds conspicuously failed to do in their recent 4-0 home defeat by Liverpool.

Coming so soon after Ridsdale’s warning that players might have to be sold to balance the books, that result refuelled speculation about which players would leave in summer if Leeds failed to make the Champions League. To Ell and Back conducted a poll, in which Mark Viduka emerged clear favourite. As Jason Wilcox occupied fourth place on the list and O’Leary was fifth, this may just have been wishful thinking, but even a club official in Eindhoven shared the general view that Viduka was unlikely to be around next term. Leeds probably will lose a few players, but that was always on the cards if they failed to win anything this season.

The important thing now is to keep their heads. For all the nonsense of the past two years, the club is still on the credit side of the ledger under O’Leary. The good news is that Smith and Robbie Fowler will be fresh and raring to go next season, always assuming they survive both the World Cup and the InterToto.

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