'Lee wants to stay,' says O'Leary

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The Independent Football

David O'Leary last night said that Lee Bowyer had given him assurances he did not wish to leave Leeds United or play for any other manger.

The Leeds manager insisted that he was hopeful the midfielder, suspended and transfer-listed for refusing to pay a fine of some £88,000, would settle his differences with the club while revealing he had been given a message of support by the recuperating Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier.

"Lee knows that everybody, from the chairman to the ladies in the canteen, don't want him to go," said O'Leary after a night in which Bowyer's name was chanted repeatedly. "Now he knows the crowd don't want him to go; he has a great rapport with them.

"Lee does not want to go. He told me yesterday that he respects me a great deal and told me straight out: 'I don't want to leave here, boss, I don't want to play for any other team. I love the club'."

The Leeds manager said he was unaware of the show of support given to Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate by his players, who turned to applaud the pair who were watching in the stands after scoring. "We have great solidarity here. We are a close-knit unit and that has helped us to come through the situation. I don't set the fines but I do agree with what has been done."

Despite accusations that Bowyer is both a liar and a thug, O'Leary said he found the 24-year-old "a revelation to deal with". He said: "I've had to have a go at him only once and that because he missed training to take his dog to the vet's. He's polite and mannerly, even my secretary has a soft spot for him."

However, the Leeds manager admitted he had been "naive" in dealing with a serialisation of his forthcoming book, entitled Leeds United on Trial. A sensationalised chapter, dealing with the trial, appeared two days after the verdict.

"Maybe I was naive," he said. "I was surprised by the title of the book and maybe I should have checked it. I have not been paid any money yet, although I will be paid and I will keep the money because I am proud of the book."

Earlier yesterday the Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, whilst reiterating that the club did not want Bowyer to leave, admitted that he had already received enquiries regarding the midfielder. "We've had two phone calls from representatives of Premiership clubs enquiring as to what the position is. But I've had no formal offers at this stage," Ridsdale said.

The PFA chief executive, Gordon Taylor, is unhappy with Leeds for taking matters into their own hands and imposing fines without consultation with his organisation. "It would have been good if we had become involved beforehand," he said. "This is a mess and we are trying to resolve it, but it's not going to be easy."