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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
O'Neill plays down Leeds link
Martin O'Neill shares a laugh with his players at training
Martin O'Neill back in training with Celtic
Celtic manager Martin O'Neill has dismissed as "speculation" reports linking him with the vacant Leeds United manager's post.

Rumours that Leeds were to make an announcement about the position to the Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning proved to be wide of the mark.

O'Neill, who was back in Glasgow for the first day of pre-season training on Tuesday, told Celtic's official website that no contact had been made between the two clubs.

But he stopped short of underlining that he had no interest in the Leeds job.

"I have had a chat with our chief executive Ian McLeod about a number of things.

"I understand from him that there has been no approach from Leeds, or any other club for that matter, so the speculation continues to be simply that," O'Neill said.

"We have just completed the first day of training and I am back to work with the staff and players.

"We are all looking forward to the start of the season and our Champions League qualification tie."

Earlier reports suggested that Celtic were to offer O'Neill a new, improved contract in an attempt to ward off Leeds' interest.

Leeds announced on Monday that they had identified the man they wanted to replace the sacked David O'Leary as manager.

O'Neill is understood to be Leeds' main target, just ahead of Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.

And Leeds confirmed chairman Peter Ridsdale would make his approach over the the next two days.

But Celtic are desperate to keep O'Neill, who has masterminded the club's revival as the dominant force in Scottish football, and will give him a transfer kitty for their Champions League campaign.

Celtic chief executive Ian McLeod told the club's website on Monday that he was confident O'Neill would remain at the helm at least for the final year of his current contract.

"We think very highly of Martin and as such we are committed to ensuring that he remains at the club and that Celtic continue to enjoy the success we have had over the last few seasons," said McLeod.

Celtic boss Martin O'Neill
O'Neill is hugely popular with the Celtic fans

"We have said we will discuss his contract and that remains our position.

"We have had a few discussions before he left last week about one or two players that we are interested in for next season," added McLeod.

"That doesn't seem to me like someone who is preparing to leave the club.

"Martin enjoys a good relationship with the board and there have been no disagreements over transfer funds.

"There is money available to the manager to strengthen the squad for next season, as we have seen with the addition of David Fernandez, and there have certainly been no fall-outs with the board over what cash is available to him."

A poll of supporters on the Leeds United website has O'Neill as the clear favourite, with 57% of the votes.

Guus Hiddink, who led South Korea to fourth place at the World Cup, is second choice, but he has confirmed that he plans to return to manage PSV Eindhoven.

McCarthy is the other name in the frame, with Terry Venables thought to be an outsider.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Alastair Eykyn
"It's thought that Martin O'Neill is the man Leeds want"

Venables era begins

Leeds in turmoil

O'Leary dismissed

YOUR SAY
See also:

02 Jul 02 | Scotland
01 Jul 02 | South Korea
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