Smith apologises for 'letting down' O'Leary

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The Independent Football

The Leeds United striker Alan Smith has issued an unreserved apology after incurring the wrath of his manager, David O'Leary, following his sending off in Sunday's Premiership 1-1 draw against Aston Villa.

"I don't want to play for anyone else," Smith said in response to O'Leary's reported threat to place him on the transfer list. "The last thing I want to do is put my Leeds career, or anything else, in jeopardy. I just want to go out there and play my football."

"I know that I let a few people down getting sent off, but I'm just trying my best, and I would like to apologise to all the lads and everyone else I let down. I didn't mean it."

The 21-year-old scored Leeds' goal on Sunday but was later sent off for elbowing the Villa defender Alpay Ozalan. It was the fourth time Smith has been sent off for his club since breaking into the first team just over three years ago. He has also been ordered off whilst representing the England Under-21 side.

After Sunday's game O'Leary described Smith's disciplinary record as "disgraceful" and said that his temperament could lead to him becoming "a big liability to both club and country".

Smith is now facing a three-match ban that will see him miss Premiership games against Blackburn and Leicester, but he will be available for selection tonight as Leeds take on Chelsea at Elland Road in the Worthington Cup – a fixture that has traditionally produced a high number of cautions.

In the two clubs' previous meeting this season O'Leary himself was sent off after protesting at the referee Paul Durkin's failure to dismiss Chelsea's Graeme Le Saux for a two-footed lunge on the Leeds right-back Danny Mills.

Yet the Leeds manager is convinced there is no lingering animosity from October's 0-0 draw. "I'm not concerned there will be any knock-on effect after what happened last time," he said. "It hasn't even been talked about. There's been so many games since then and it seems such a long time ago anyway."

Leeds will still be without the Australian pair of Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka against Chelsea after their World Cup play-off defeat in Uruguay. With Seth Johnson ineligible, the only likely change to Sunday's team will see Olivier Dacourt return to midfield.

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