Leeds are quick to usher in Graham

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The Independent Online
With almost indecent haste, Leeds United confirmed George Graham as their new manager yesterday. Barely 24 hours after Howard Wilkinson's tenure was terminated at a news conference, the former Arsenal manager told a similar gathering of his determination to challenge for the championship again.

Graham, whose year-long ban from football ended in June, had been out of the game for 14 months since being found guilty of misconduct in the Rune Hauge "bungs" affair. He will oversee training today and study videos of their recent games before Saturday's visit to Coventry.

Bill Fotherby, the Leeds chairman, insisted he had not met the 51-year- old Scot until 7am that morning. Graham has accepted a two-and-a-half- year contract on a salary of pounds 300,000. He said he had been "dying to get back, but obviously to the right job, somewhere near the top of the League and where the expectations are big".

Fotherby admitted the board had considered Graham's self-confessed folly in accepting "unsolicited gifts" of pounds 425,000 from Hauge, a Norwegian agent. "We discussed what happened to him," he said, "but decided it wasn't relevant."

Chris Akers, the chairman of the Caspian Group which bought control of Leeds during the summer, said they had acted quickly because they did not want "a void". He added: "When we took over we looked at Howard Wilkinson's record and wanted to stick with him. But it didn't work out. It was a case of seeing whether he could turn things round. Unfortunately he couldn't."

Graham is expected to try to lure Stewart Houston from his caretaker manager's role at Highbury as his No 2. Some of Caspian's pounds 10m kitty for signings may go on Graham's former Arsenal charges, Steve Bould and Ian Wright the most likely targets.

"I've got to stamp my way of working on my staff and players, and bring in some new blood," Graham said. "Sometimes people get stale at their job, and it needs an infusion of new ideas.

"I'd like us to be challenging for the championship and go for trophies. I did that in my last job. I'm not promising overnight success because I don't believe in it. Success is built with good foundations and a lot of hard work on the training pitch."

Graham paid tribute to Wilkinson, whose eight-year reign ended after a 4-0 defeat by Manchester United. "Howard did a great job for Leeds, and the fans should remember the good times. There's always sadness when a manager leaves. That's the way of our profession, but life goes on in football."

Leeds, who have failed to build on their title success of 1992, were clearly attracted by Graham's record. In his nine years at Arsenal, they won the championship twice, the FA Cup and League Cup "double", and the European Cup-Winners' Cup.

Yet his teams were also labelled "boring", and despite his reputation as a disciplinarian there were problems with drink-driving (Tony Adams), alcoholism and gambling (Paul Merson) and spitting (Wright). Before his sacking, 19 months ago, some observers felt Graham had become a lame- duck manager. Results were poor and the Hauge scandal persisted.

Leeds supporters, however, are used to their team being unloved; and Don Revie, their most successful manager, was no stranger to allegations of financial misdemeanours. Speaking radio, one fan welcomed Graham, saying: "Boring, boring Leeds will do me as long as we're winning trophies."