Football: O'Neill will try to forget emotion

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The Independent Online
MARTIN O'NEILL must ignore his heart as he contemplates his future and a way out of his managerial tug-of-war. As Leicester City and Leeds United wrestle for the services of the former Wycombe Wanderers boss, O'Neill recognises that he must put the crowd reaction from Monday's 2- 1 win over Tottenham Hotspur behind him.

Before and after the match, Leicester supporters held aloft banners pleading with O'Neill not to leave - a moment which moved the manager. "The night was fantastic, very emotional and I have to say the crowd have been brilliant," O'Neill said. "A lot more than I could have expected in many aspects, but I will try to divorce myself from all that and make a decision one way or another."

After the Spurs match, O'Neill promised that a decision would be reached in "the next 24 hours", but he later joked: "That could be an Irish 24 hours, though - maybe a month."

Leicester are still refusing to shift their position over O'Neill. Sir Rodney Walker, Leicester City's plc chairman, is adamant that Leeds have no right to speak with him.

"We have remained absolutely adamant that no permission has been given for Leeds to talk to Martin," he said. "That has been the position for two-and-a-half weeks and it's still the case. I am hopeful Martin will stay with Leicester."

Peter Ridsdale, the Leeds chairman, had reportedly invited O'Neill to call him - a move which would contravene the League Managers' Association code of conduct - but Sir Rodney does not believe action will be likely.

"Having made certain inquiries, I am not certain in my own mind that the comments attributed to Peter Ridsdale are in fact what he actually said," Sir Rodney revealed. "Before I make any comment, I want to establish the facts."

But John Elsom, Leicester's club chairman, has been less convinced by Ridsdale's behaviour. "The Leeds chairman can say what he likes, but it seems he has now broken the Premier League chairmen's code of conduct which prevents the poaching of managers during the season," Elsom said.

John Barnwell the LMA chief executive, wants to "wait and see" before taking action - if any was needed.

"Until I have confirmation and clarification of Peter Ridsdale's comments then I can't comment myself," Barnwell said. "If they are confirmed, then of course it is a concern. But as yet we haven't been down that road. It is one of those things with O'Neill - and with Leeds - that we will have to see how it pans out."

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