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David Anthony O'Leary is a football manager. He is currently manager of Aston Villa F.C.. He became a manager after a long and successful career as a defender.

Playing Career

O'Leary was born in Stoke Newington, London on May 2, 1958 and he moved to live in Dublin at the age of three. His father was born in Ireland and O'Leary later decided to play for the Republic of Ireland.



O'Leary signed for Arsenal as an apprentice in 1973. He soon progressed through the ranks at Highbury, playing in the reserves at the age of 16. He made his debut for Arsenal against Burnley on August 16, 1975, and despite being only 17, went on to make 30 appearances that season. For the next ten years he was a near ever-present in the Arsenal side, playing more than 40 matches each season (except for 1980-81, where he was injured and only played 27).

A calm and collected centre half, O'Leary was noted for his positional sense and elegant style of play. He won his first major honour with Arsenal when he played in their 3-2 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final. He also played in the 1978 and 1980 Cup finals, and the 1980 Cup Winners' Cup final, all of which Arsenal lost. In 1982 O'Leary became club captain, but reliniquished it to Graham Rix eighteen months later.

O'Leary broke numerous appearance records at Arsenal; he was the youngest person to reach the 100 and 200 match milestones, and he made his 400th appearance while still only 26. He passed George Armstrong's all-time record of 621 first-team games in November 1989. By this time, O'Leary was no longer automatic first choice (with the partnership of Tony Adams and Steve Bould at the centre of George Graham's defence), but he still turned in over 20 appearances as Arsenal won the 1988-89 First Division title.

O'Leary won another League title in 1991 and an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993, though by this time he was mainly used as a sub. He holds Arsenal's all-time record for appearances, with 722 first-team games, and over 1000 games at all levels, in a twenty-year long association with the club.


Leeds United

He joined Leeds United on a free transfer in 1993 after 19 years at Highbury. Throughout 1993-94, O'Leary was a regular player in the Leeds side until he suffered an achilles injury, which ruled him out for the whole of the following season. He was still on the club's payroll at the beginning of the 1995-96 season but that September he gave in to his injury and announced his retirement from football at the age of 37.



O'Leary's international debut with the Republic of Ireland came as a teenager in a 1-1 draw with England in 1976, but the highlight of his 68-cap international career came in the 1990 World Cup. With Ireland in a penalty shootout with Romania, Packie Bonner saved Daniel Timofte's last penalty. It was O'Leary who then stepped up to take the decisive final penalty to win the shootout 5-4.


Managerial Career


Assistant Manager

When the former Arsenal manager George Graham was put in charge at Leeds United in September 1996, O'Leary was installed as his assistant. He remained in this position for two years until Graham moved to Tottenham.


Manager of Leeds United

The Leeds directors made an offer for Martin O'Neill to take charge at Elland Road but the deal fell through and O'Leary was promoted to the hot seat. At the end of 1998-99 Leeds finished fourth in the Premiership and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Their 1999-2000 campaign ended in the semifinals with defeat to the Turkish side Galatasaray, and it was after the game in Turkey that two Leeds fans were stabbed to death by Turkish hooligans. But on the domestic front, Leeds finished third in the Premiership and qualified for the Champions League - it would be their first campaign at this level since they were losing finalists in the European Cup in 1975.

Leeds reached the semifinals of the Champions League, where they lost to eventual runners-up Valencia. Their Premiership form also dipped slightly and David O'Leary's men had to settle for a UEFA Cup place.

2001-02 began well for Leeds. They constantly topped the table during the first half of the season and come the new year of 2002 they were Premiership leaders. But a loss of form in the second half of the season saw them slump into sixth place - the last automatic UEFA Cup place. They had secured their place in Europe much earlier because seventh-placed West Ham had collected 12 less points.

The season was thrown into turmoil by the involvement of four players, including first-teamers Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer, in an incident in Leeds city centre that ended in the assault and injury of an Asian student.

By June 2002 David O'Leary had spent £100 million on new players in less than four years for relatively little reward. The club was in serious financial trouble and had relied on qualifying for the Champions League. Chairman Peter Ridsdale sacked O'Leary. O'Leary had to some extent alienated the fans, and importantly Ridsdale, by writing a book, Leeds United On Trial, that some saw as cashing in on the troubles the club had suffered. O'Leary had never finished outside the top five as a manager.

His departure signalled a downhill spiral for the club which would see three more managers (Terry Venables, Peter Reid and Eddie Gray) come and go before it was finally relegated at the end of 2003-04 with £80 million debts.


Manager of Aston Villa

O'Leary, meanwhile, was linked with various other vacant manager's jobs throughout the 2002-03 season. He was hot favourite to become manager of Sunderland (who finished the season bottom of the Premiership with a record low of 19 points) when Peter Reid was sacked in October and again when Howard Wilkinson was sacked in March. But O'Leary remained out of work until June 2003 when he was appointed manager of Aston Villa.

Aston Villa are one of England's elite clubs with a long and rich history, but in comparison to their early years they have under-achieved, although they were European Champions in 1982 and during the 1990s finished runners-up of the first Premiership in 1993 and won the League Cup in 1994 and 1996. In 2002-03 they had endured perhaps their worst season since relegation from the old First Division in 1987. They had finished 16th in the Premiership and manager Graham Taylor's second spell as manager had come to an end after just over a year. So the famous Villa chairman Doug Ellis turned to David O'Leary in a bid to see the club's fortunes turn around.

By the beginning of November 2003, Aston Villa were hovering just above the relegation zone and it looked as though O'Leary would be another of the club's unsuccessful managers. O'Leary remained at Villa and managed to get an already good squad to perform successfully so that by the final weeks of the season they were pushing hard for at least a UEFA Cup place and possibly even a Champions League place. But in the end their early season form had caught up with them and they had to settle for sixth place - this season one place too low for European qualification.



In 2004-05, Aston Villa have hovered just below the European qualification places, lacking the consistency that would maintain them as one of England's elite clubs. O'Leary occasional complains towards just about everything has drawn the nickname 'Dreary O'Leary' to some fans, who feel that he has not learnt from his contribution to the financial downfall of Leeds United. However, he is generally thought to have spent well, creating a Villa side that sometimes bears his trademarks: a solid team that plays neat football, sparked to life by a sprinkling of younger players keen to make their mark.



The 2005-06 season has brought a turn for the worse for O'Leary. Increasingly under-fire from fans and media, a series of poor results has seen his side hovering dangerously above the relegation zone with just 17 points from 17 games.


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