Former Leeds United manager David O'Leary will have been well pleased with Villa teenager Gabriel Agbonlahor who scored a hat-trick last night against a Manchester United Reserve team including recovering Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and promising Giuseppe Rossi.
However, whilst O'Leary's talent with young, up and coming players was well demonstrated during his early days in the Elland Road hot seat, his record with more experienced first-team players is more questionable - even leaving aside the infamous incident with Newcastle United's Lee Bowyer and Real Madrid's Jonathan Woodgate.
The latest player to thumb his nose at O'Leary's authority is ex-Man Utd midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba. Like 60 other African players he's had a nice paid holiday from the Premiership playing in the ludicrous, bi-annual African Nations Cup. However, when Cameroon were knocked out of the competition Eric didn't bother coming back to fight for Villa's cause - in fact, it is reported that he hasn't even been in touch with O'Leary. All this will be a nightmare deja-vu experience for O'Leary who had the same problem with Mark Viduka, who took a break from the irritation of playing in the Premiership to play in the Olympics for the Olyroos (or some such nonsense) and then took time to enjoy the delights of Sydney instead of coming straight back to earn the £65,000 per week Leeds were paying him.
A clearly frustrated O'Leary said:
"I will fine him. He was supposed to report back on Wednesday but we haven't heard and no one can get in touch with him. He will probably turn up and tell me some story about visiting a long lost relative."
It seems that O'Leary disciplinary talents are still lacking despite eight years as a top line manager. Maybe he should buy a more committed type of player in future. Talent isn't everything, commitment is also a pre-requisite, look at the waste that was George Best.
Speaking of whom, he is to be remembered at a thanksgiving service organised by his family and friends at Manchester Cathedral. A MUFC spokesman said the service will celebrate and give thanks for Best's life and will take place on 16 March.
Due to heavy demand, entry will be by ticket only and a ballot will be held to determine who gets a ticket. Anyone wishing to apply should contact "The George Best Memorial Service at Manchester United Football Club".
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