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David O'Leary

Managing: Aston Villa
Nationality: Irish
Date of Birth: 02/05/1958


David O'Leary was installed as Graham Taylor's successor at Villa Park on May 20, 2003, a few days after the former England boss's resignation.

The articulate Irishman made a welcome return to management after nearly a year out of the game and admitted he was looking forward to helping transform one of the country's biggest clubs.

David began his managerial career with Leeds United, in 1998, when, at the age of 40, he accepted the opportunity to succeed George Graham, who returned to London with Spurs after 25 months at Elland Road.

Initially, he was not the board's first choice to succeed Graham, but after Leicester City steadfastly refused to give the Yorkshire club permission to speak to Martin O'Neill, O'Leary was appointed as Leeds United boss in October 1998.

He responded immediately by promoting a number of the promising youngsters he had worked with at reserve team level, and adopting a new exciting attacking policy both home and away, which won Leeds a host of admirers amongst the neutrals and took them on an adventure that saw them threaten to challenge the top three in the Premiership.

Despite failing to really catch Manchester United and Arsenal at the top, Leeds' fourth place finish in 1998/99 guaranteed a UEFA Cup slot for the following season and O'Leary ended his first campaign as the most popular Leeds manager since Don Revie left the club in the 1970's. The start of a new era had really just begun.

He had played only ten games for Leeds before injury forced him into premature retirement, having joined the club in the summer of 1993 from Arsenal - his only previous club in a career spanning 18 years and 558 league games.

His time at Leeds as a player was, by his own admission, a bit of a nightmare. However, when the offer came from George Graham to become his number two, he didn't even have to think twice. "It took me about 30 seconds to make up my mind to join Leeds," David confirmed.

There is certainly no questioning David's experience; two League Championships, two FA Cup wins, two League Cups and 67 International caps for the Republic of Ireland. Famously O'Leary was the unlikely hero, as Eire won through to the last eight of the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy, scoring the vital final penalty in a 5 - 4 penalty shoot-out win over Romania.

Over the summer of 1999, fully backed by the board, he embarked on a spending spree that confirmed Leeds were ready to challenge for all the top honours in years to come, both home and abroad.

His policy of signing the cream of Britain's home-grown talent, as illustrated by his 18 million investment in Rio Ferdinand, was bold and imaginative, and the squad he assembled at Elland Road looked ready to take on the big guns, as their success in the 2000/2001 Champions League showed.

Having taken Leeds to a third place finish in 1999/2000, as well as the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, O'Leary's side were surprise semi-finalists in the following season's Champions League.

They lost out to Valencia, who were themselves beaten by Real Madrid in the final, but had enjoyed a marvellous - and lucrative - run in Europe's most prestigious competition.

Off-the-field problems had plagued Leeds United's season - mainly those regarding the court case involving Lee Bowyer, Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Duberry - and they continued into the 2001/02 season, which otherwise promised to be another successful one at Elland Road.

Leeds had also had to overcome a host of injuries to key players, which recurred the following year, again denying O'Leary the chance to field his strongest side.

Despite flashes of the form they had shown the previous two seasons, Leeds could not find the consistency needed to mount a challenge for the league title, and had to be content with a fifth placed finish.

Nevertheless, O'Leary remained optimistic, and was looking forward to his fifth season at the helm when the club announced, on June 27 2002, that he had been dismissed.

Rumours surrounding the possible transfer of Rio Ferdinand - who had been imperious for England in the World Cup - were thought by many to have caused problems between O'Leary and the Leeds plc, but the official statement released by the club denied such reports.

David spent the next 11 months out of the game, appearing regularly as a pundit on Sky's televised matches, as he fought for compensation from his former employers.

A settlement was eventually agreed - almost eight months after his departure - and David looked forward to returning to management.

He did so in May 2003, at Aston Villa, taking the vacant post less than a week after Graham Taylor's surprise resignation.

(info as at 01/10/03)

Reproduced under permission from the League Managers Association.
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