Ridsdale: O'Neil signed deal to join Leeds

Former Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale claims he had an agreement with Martin O’Neill for the then Celtic manager to leave Parkhead and take over at Elland Road.

Former Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale claims he had an agreement with Martin O’Neill for the then Celtic manager to leave Parkhead and take over at Elland Road.

According to Ridsdale, he struck a pre-contract deal in January 2003, with the Irishman – now in charge at Aston Villa – when Terry Venables was struggling after replacing George Graham.

O’Neill, who had six months left on his contract, would have earned £2m (€2.87m) a year but the agreement came to nothing as Ridsdale was forced out as chairman of Leeds.

The claims are made in Ridsdale’s book, United We Fall, which is being serialised in the Sun.

Ridsdale said: “Discussions over the phone led to a secret meeting at my house. Martin had come down to discuss terms and reach an agreement in a deal approved by the board.

“At long last, I’d captured the signature I had been chasing for so long – the man I’d wanted before David O’Leary, the man I’d wanted since George Graham’s reign.

“This was a coup I couldn’t wait to announce. At the third attempt the deal to bring Martin to Leeds was signed, sealed and waiting to be delivered to supporters. It was January 3, 2003.

“I’d worked tirelessly to persuade him to come and meet me ever since the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve.

“It meant he was free to discuss his future with other clubs with only six months remaining on his contract with Celtic.

“Excited and animated, he talked about the strengths and weaknesses of each Leeds player, which players he’d like to bring in.

“That day I’d agreed to pay him £2m (€2.87m) a year to become the new Leeds manager. He left me with a signed document I could take to my board as evidence he’d finally agreed to come.”

Ridsdale also claims he was offered a bung by an agent during his time in charge at Elland Road.

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