FOOTBALL: Lure of Leeds beckons O'Neill

LEEDS UNITED will use the tactics Tottenham Hotspur employed to prise away George Graham from Elland Road to appoint Martin O'Neill as his successor. The club made an approach to Leicester City to speak to O'Neill yesterday and although permission was not forthcoming, "no" will not be regarded as the definitive answer.

The Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, last night vowed to emulate Spurs' Alan Sugar in capturing O'Neill and, as he revealed in Saturday's match programme (against Leicester), that involved four approaches after an initial rebuff.

"I am certainly not going to give up after one telephone call," Ridsdale said. "I spoke to Alan Sugar a number of times before the Graham situation was resolved. It may be that I end up doing something similar."

"I'm not downcast. I'm very pleased that we made a speedy resolution at board level and I'm pleased that it was unanimous. Now we target our man and I hope I'm as successful as Alan Sugar on two counts - firstly, he did it within the rules and secondly, he got his man, and that's what we intend to do."

Leeds did not say O'Neill, 46, was their choice but Filbert Street later revealed the news in a terse statement to the Stock Exchange. "Leicester City Football Club confirm they are the club approached by Leeds United in respect of their football manager, Martin O'Neill," it read. "The boards of Leicester City PLC and Leicester City Football Club are resolute in their refusal to allow Leeds United to speak to [him]."

However, O'Neill, who was last night in talks with the chairmen of Leicester City football club and its plc, John Elsom and Sir Rodney Walker, only has to say he wishes to see what Leeds have to offer - just as Graham did with Spurs - to set the wheels in motion.

His contract, which has two years to run, is understood to contain a clause guaranteeing his release on the payment of pounds 1m in compensation. That figure falls to around pounds 300,000 after 31 October, which may persuade Leicester to release him.

There have also been suggestions that O'Neill is less than happy at Filbert Street. Last summer he asked for financial commitments from the board in terms of buying players before turning down an offer from Everton, and on Saturday his comment that he felt he was "reasonably popular with the fans" did not convey an impression of perfect harmony.

"You can turn things down for so long but it gets to the point where people stop asking you," Casey Keller, Leicester's goalkeeper, said yesterday. "I don't want to speak for [O'Neill] but if Leeds ask him and the deal is right I assume he will go, and so do most of the players.

Leeds are hardly likely to be deterred by financial demands from either Leicester or O'Neill. Graham was reportedly the highest-paid manager in the Premiership at Elland Road, while they received around pounds 3m in compensation from Tottenham. The Leeds board, which has spent pounds 23m in just over two seasons, has also committed itself to providing the new manager with new funds to buy players.

Certainly Ridsdale's relaxed attitude yesterday suggested he was confident he would get O'Neill, probably before Leeds' next game, against Nottingham Forest on 17 October. "I will sit and reflect on the situation," he said. "That's exactly how Tottenham did it and I'm hoping the other club I am talking to will also sit and reflect. They know where I am if they change their position. They know where to reach me.

"I would very much like to get our man, but given that the person concerned is currently under contract, it's out of my hands. We're talking about a long-term appointment, we don't have to rush and we don't have to worry too much. We will see."

Ultimately, contract or no contract, it will depend on how much O'Neill wants to join Leeds. For the time being, David O'Leary and Eddie Gray remain in charge of first-team affairs although whether they will survive the new appointment is debatable.

O'Neill is almost certain to bring in the backroom staff who work with him at Leicester - John Robertson, Jim Melrose and Steve Walford - which would place both O'Leary's and Gray's positions under threat.

There is a vacancy as Graham's assistant at Tottenham, of course, and the post of manager at Filbert Street might also interest O'Leary should it become available.

The managerial merry-go-round keeps on turning.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence