David O'Leary was named manager of Aston Villa last night after a day of wheeling and dealing remarkable even by football's standards. The former Leeds manager was appointed after Villa failed to prise Micky Adams away from Leicester City.
Doug Ellis, the Villa chairman, turned to O'Leary after problems arose over compensation for Adams. O'Leary, out of work since parting company with Leeds last June, quickly agreed to the Villa Park job. "It feels absolutely fantastic," the Irishman said on BBC Radio Five Live last night.
"I'm not trying to be arrogant in any way, but I've had lots of chances to go back last season. I've been waiting for the right opportunity with the right club and that has come along.
"It's a club that I want to turn around and make big again and I'm going to try and do that. I'm so happy. You have to start putting the club back where it belongs - at the very top - get the crowds in and play good football and I'm looking forward to giving it my best shot."
In a day of drama at the two Midlands clubs, Adams met the Leicester board while O'Leary's advisers discussed terms with Villa and quickly came to an agreement. But as late as 4.0pm Adams was still in the hunt, with the option of walking out on Leicester to start a furious wrangle over him. Adams chose to stay at Leicester and O'Leary was ushered in at Villa Park an hour later.
Ellis had put Adams at the top of his shortlist after Graham Taylor resigned last week. Villa had a poor season under Taylor, finishing 16th in the Premiership, only three points above the relegation zone.
However, Villa were forced into a juggling act over the weekend when they realised that Adams would be hard to prise from Leicester's grasp. They did, however, have a Plan B and set up a move for O'Leary as they feared the Adams wrangling would cause trouble and lead to a major hold-up in an appointment.
O'Leary, aged 45, was a free agent after settling his contract with Leeds United, where he had a dispute over his pay-off following his bitter exit after four years at Elland Road. Ellis, under pressure to find a manager quickly, made contact with O'Leary and his advisers and promptly agreed a deal.
O'Leary is Villa's 10th managerial appointment in the last 20 years. His reputation as a forthright speaker and a big spender has clearly not put off Ellis, who will make only limited funds available to his new manager. However, O'Leary is aware that Villa have an excellent crop of players coming through the ranks, perhaps the best group of youngsters to have emerged since O'Leary's Leeds team.
Ian Taylor, the Villa midfielder, welcomed the appointment and said he believed the fans would approve of O'Leary. "We've got good youngsters at the club and he did bring through a good crop at Leeds," Taylor told Sky Sports News. "He is a good up-and-coming young manager."
Adams, meanwhile, now has to decide whether to sign a new three-year deal at Leicester or let his current contract run out at the end of the season. He has made a big impression with his work this season, lifting Leicester's spirits after their relegation and leading a successful campaign to win automatic promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt.Reuse content