David O’Leary appears to fancy another crack at the Leeds United job.
A 2-1 home defeat to Derby County on Easter Monday all but ended the Whites slim hopes of earning a playoff spot this season, and as a result, Neil Warnock handed in his notice so the club could appoint a new manager to oversee the remainder of the season and beyond.
A number of names have already been linked with the position, including obvious candidates such as Mark Hughes, Brian McDermott and Steve McClaren. However, not many pundits immediately thought of the name O’Leary when considering who could be next in line at Elland Road.
But speaking on Sky Sports, the former Republic of Ireland international appears to be interested in making a sensational return to the club he coached from 1998 to 2002, at one point leading them to the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League where they lost to Valencia in 2001.
“I still live in the area and they (the supporters) have been absolutely fantastic,” said the 54-year-old. “I don’t want to influence anyone but it wasn’t my decision to leave and the supporters have always been there for me. That’s why I’ve stayed in the area. It’s a fantastic place to live.”
O’Leary took charge of Leeds during the 1998/99 season, and led them to a fourth place finish in the Premier League. In first full campaign in charge this position improved to third, and he also took them to the semi-final of the Uefa Cup, in which they missed out on a final place in Galatasaray.
Their Champions League run followed in 2000/01, but their league form suffered and they missed out on a return to the competition when they ended up in fourth position. A bid for a first league title since 1992 was on the cards the following year, and they even topped the table as 2001 turned to 2002, but a dip in form saw them finish fifth and 21 points behind champions Manchester United.
Having spent £100million on his squad during his four-year reign, O’Leary was dismissed by chairman Peter Ridsdale in June 2002. He remained out of work for twelve months, until he was appointed Aston Villa manager, finishing sixth, tenth and 16th during a three-year spell.
During his playing career, the former defender progressed through the youth ranks at Arsenal and went on to make a club record 722 first appearances for the Gunners during a 20-year association. He also had a brief spell at Leeds, but an Achilles injury restricted him to just 14 outings in two years.