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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 08:58 GMT
O'Leary brought to book
BBC Sport's Ian Payne reviews David O'Leary's new book
BBC Sport's Ian Payne, a self-confessed Leeds United fan, reviews David O'Leary's controversial new book "Leeds United on Trial."

There are quite a few new revelations in this book.

David O'Leary considered signing Steve McManaman from Real Madrid; O'Leary's wife does not like football; O'Leary wants his Leeds team to emulate Kevin Keegan's Newcastle, combining success with exuberant, vibrant football.

But it is the things we already know about that will grab the headlines.

Indeed they already have.

Leeds hired a private detective to investigate Woodgate and Bowyer's stories; O'Leary does not want the Manchester United job, but he did write to Sir Alex Ferguson during one infamous feud last season; his wife received a death threat.

Reading a book in its entirety after serialisation, it never seems as sensational as has been made out.

That is not to say it is not eyebrow-raising at times.

As a Leeds fan, I was taken aback by the strength of David O'Leary's thoughts on some issues.

Criticises players

For example, during the investigation of Woodgate and Bowyer he says: "I got the impression that if the police could put one over the club they were keen to do so."

O'Leary claims there was: "An element of 'The Sweeney' to their approach... as though the police wanted to recreate a touch of the old television programme.

He is equally damning on the Football Association's refusal to allow the two to play for England during the trial.

"This was the new FA in action. There were elements of New Labour in the way it formed its policies."


O'Leary uses the book to criticise players.

He also, memorably, lays into former centre-forward Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for not trying hard enough.

O'Leary reveals the truth behind Hasselbaink's departure, claiming the Dutchman wanted to be the club's highest paid player.

He then claims Hasselbaink refused to play for Leeds, as Eric Cantona did under Howard Wilkinson.

David O'Leary reveals the reasons why Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink left Elland Road
Why did Hasselbaink leave Elland Road?

This is the sort of stuff fans want to know about, grist to the biggest rumour mill in the world.

You get the thoughts of those involved with the big stories.

And they do not avoid the subject as they do when you attempt to interview them during the season.

The media often spouts most of the nonsense when a so-called controversial book is published.

But if you work in the media and you are a fan, you cannot get hold of such a book quick enough.

We all loved reading Mark James' account of the Ryder Cup, or Glenn Hoddle's revelations from inside the England dressing-room during the World Cup.

Leeds United on Trial is a good read.

It does not pretend to be Dickens, or Dostoevsky, it does exactly what it says on the tin.


It tells the story of the year; the trial, the investigation and the football in a season when it should not be forgotten that Leeds reached the Champions League semi-finals.

It also comes straight from O'Leary's heart, dedicated to all GENUINE Leeds supporters, not the fainthearts who criticise the club when the going gets tough.

O'Leary admits the book's title is not what he would have chosen, but all power to the publishers for going with it and striking while the iron is hot with public interest in the trial.

This book will attract criticism for lack of taste and poor timing.

But in a newsworthy year, a newsworthy book that causes a reaction will sell a lot of copies.

After all, if Jeffrey Archer produces a book in prison, we will tut-tut and condemn it as tasteless.

But we will all want to read it.

  • Leeds United on Trial by David O'Leary is published by Little, Brown, price 14.99 (ISBN 0-316-86065-4).

  • Links to more Leeds United stories are at the foot of the page.


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