FOOTBALL: Leeds hurry O'Neill

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MARTIN O'NEILL has been set a deadline by Leeds United to walk out of Leicester City and join them as their new manager.

O'Neill must leave Leicester today or the Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, will ask the caretaker, David O'Leary, to take the job on a permanent basis. Ridsdale is unhappy at the delay in the O'Neill appointment and wants the matter resolved inside 24 hours. After two official approaches were rebuffed by Leicester, it is now down to the Irishman to quit.

O'Neill is reluctant to take that course of action, and has had a personal meeting with the Leicester chairman, John Elsom, at his house to plead with him to allow his departure. His wife, Geraldine, has even made a call on her husband's behalf. O'Neill is fully aware that Ridsdale wants an answer today.

Leeds may face the hurdle of persuading O'Leary to take the job as second choice. The former Arsenal defender, who was George Graham's assistant, initially denied he wanted the post on a full-time basis before O'Neill was approached. He may have to be talked into accepting the position.

Ridsdale is determined his players should go into tomorrow's Premiership match at Nottingham Forest and Tuesday's Uefa Cup second round first-leg game against Roma in Italy free from the controversy which has shrouded the attempt to prise O'Neill away from Filbert Street.

O'Leary and the acting assistant manager, Eddie Gray, have been handed total control for those two matches, with Ridsdale and the board due to convene again after the first leg European game against the Serie A side.

Meanwhile, the Premier League has promised to back Leeds in their attempt to postpone O'Leary's one match Uefa Cup ban from the touchline and dressing room. Ridsdale is continuing the fight to have the ban lifted until after Tuesday's game.

"I have spoken to Peter Leaver at the Premier League and he agrees it would be unfair to expect us to go into such an important match possibly without a manager, so he is taking up our case with Uefa," Ridsdale said.

Leeds were initially told they would not be able to overturn the ruling, but Uefa's Appeals Commission is now looking into the case and should reveal its findings late today.