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By ESPN Staff

Ridsdale hits back in row over Leeds book

Peter Ridsdale has hit back at the attacks over allegations he made in his recently-published account of his time at Leeds, claiming 'the truth hurts'.

Aside from outlining his belief he should not have been left to shoulder the entire blame for a financial crisis that engulfed the Elland Road outfit and eventually saw them drop down to the third tier of the English game, in his book

`United They Fall' Ridsdale also revealed Martin O'Neill had signed a pre-contract agreement to leave Celtic and become Leeds manager in the summer of 2003.

And he also questioned David O'Leary's role in appointing Rune Hauge as sole agent in the deal which saw Rio Ferdinand join Leeds from West Ham and also claimed he effectively blocked a proposed #14million transfer for Olivier Dacourt to leave for Lazio.

O'Leary immediately branded Ridsdale 'deranged' and has suggested he will consult his lawyers.

O'Neill, in accepting he signed a contract which was not legally binding, which has been seen by PA Sport, said he felt he had been coerced and strongly denied Ridsdale's suggestion the deal was conditional on him remaining as chairman, something which did not happen.

However, now clear to speak about Leeds after a Department of Trade and Industry investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing, Ridsdale can only offer a rueful smile at the retorts.

'The truth hurts,' he said. 'There are some people, who when they see the truth, either deny it or try to reinvent it.

'I cannot be 100% convinced Martin O'Neill would have joined Leeds because it had not been announced, even though he had given us the authorisation to do so, but I stand by my belief he would.

'But Martin always said we were destined to work together. We had already tried twice, so why would he come down to see me? Why would he and (his wife) Geraldine sit and have dinner with myself and my wife? Why would he sign the contract?

'Martin is one of the most loyal managers I know. To suggest I somehow coerced him into signing a contract just does him a disservice. He is a far stronger man than that.'

In the end, Ridsdale was ousted from his position in March 2003, before becoming the victim of what he perceived to be a smear campaign aimed at pinning the blame solely on him for all Leeds' ills.

But it is his allegations against O'Leary that have caused the biggest stir.

O'Leary, a prime candidate to replace Steve Staunton as Republic of Ireland boss, has vowed to defend his reputation, arguing: 'I am prepared to undergo any kind of scrutiny because I know I have done nothing wrong.'

But Ridsdale said: 'All I have done is say what happened and leave other people to make their own conclusions.

'We, as a club, never gave exclusivity deals to agents. Once we found out what had happened in the Rio situation, I should have been a lot tougher on the amount we paid.

'But when you are talking about a world record transfer fee, you have to sit down and explain why it has fallen through, so we sat down, as a board, and decided what to do.

'In terms of Dacourt, I have many questions which have not been answered satisfactorily which will always worry me. I have my own private thoughts and I am sure others do too. In both cases I know David knows the answers.

'In David's own book, he actually says how transfers were conducted at Leeds; he told me who he wanted and played no further part, while I and the board did our best to try and secure the services of the player.

'It would appear to be on those two occasions, it was inconsistent with the way he said things worked in his book.'

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Ridsdale's argument, he remains public enemy number one in Leeds.

However, while he accepts that situation is unlikely to change, he does not think it should be interpreted as a sign he no longer cares, or somehow left Leeds without a backward glance.

'It was the most difficult period I have ever had in my life,' he said. 'I did not sleep at night. How could I? It was my football club. It wasn't a job, it was a love affair.

'When it is going wrong and you are the man who is paid to fix it, you do not sleep. I didn't talk to my family and no-one spoke to me in Leeds because the supporters were turning against me.

'It was pretty apparent no one on the board would stand shoulder to shoulder with me. It was the most lonely experience you can imagine.'