On this day in 1998: David O’Leary is appointed Leeds manager

The former Republic of Ireland international replaced George Graham.

By Press Association Published: 25 October 2020 - 6.00am
Football

Leeds United

David O’Leary was announced as the new manager of Leeds on this day in 1998, replacing George Graham.

Having been Graham’s assistant, O’Leary was put in caretaker charge at the club after the Scot departed for Tottenham, before being handed the job permanently on October 25.

The former Republic of Ireland international guided Leeds to a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League in 1998-99, and that improved to third a year later.

O'Leary (left) guided Leeds to third place in the 1999-2000 Premier League, which took them into the Champions League qualifying rounds (Tom Hevezi/PA).
O’Leary (left) guided Leeds to third place in the 1999-2000 Premier League, which took them into the Champions League qualifying rounds (Tom Hevezi/PA).

The team also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1999-2000, and the following season, in the Champions League, there was another run to the last four.

That famous campaign included O’Leary’s men beating AC Milan 1-0 and drawing 1-1 with Barcelona at Elland Road in the first group stage. They ended up losing 3-0 on aggregate to Valencia in the semis.

Leeds came fourth again domestically, then fifth the next season before O’Leary’s tenure came to an end in June 2002.

Leeds’ plc announced the club and O’Leary had parted company “by mutual consent”, but it soon became clear he had been sacked.

After O'Leary was sacked by Leeds, chairman Peter Risdale (right) spoke about the money invested in players and failure to qualify for the Champions League (Nick Potts/PA).
After O’Leary was sacked by Leeds, chairman Peter Risdale (right) spoke about the money invested in players and failure to qualify for the Champions League (Nick Potts/PA).

Chairman Peter Ridsdale subsequently spoke about the feeling that it had been time for a change with around £100million invested in players and the team having failed to qualify for the Champions League for two years running.

Ridsdale also made reference to a lack of silverware and “pressure off the field”. The Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate court case had cast a huge cloud over Leeds’ 2001-02 season.

O’Leary – who went on to manage Aston Villa from 2003 to 2006 and later had a brief stint with United Arab Emirates outfit Al-Ahli – was succeeded by Terry Venables. Peter Reid and Eddie Gray also had spells in charge before Leeds were relegated in 2004.