All of you wondering when Al Ahli is going to turn it on and become the sort of Pro League big winner much of the world would associate with Fabio Cannavaro and the former Premiership manager David O'Leary ... well, be patient, O'Leary said tonight.
Two days ahead of Ahli's home match with table-topping Al Jazira, Ahli has four points from three matches -- but dropped points on the road to lightly regarded Al Dhafra (a 2-0 defeat) and at the promoted Kalba (2-2).
Asked at a press conference about the slow start, the former coach at Aston Villa and Leeds United said the plan never was for an instant turnaround.
"This is a three-year project," O'Leary said, "and at the end of three
years we want to have won everything there is to win in the UAE and we
want to build a team that is built to last."
He said he is still trying to gain a feel for the Pro League experience. "I've watched a lot of tapes but I'm still not seeing enough live football yet. With tapes, you only see what the camera sees."
And from what he has seen, Jazira looks formidable, he said, making for a game ... how big?
"Incredibly [big[," he said. "This is a big, big game for us. This is a big, big club down the road. In fact, the next three games are very important for us, and I'm looking forward to watching them all. I'm still learning here. I'm looking forward to seeing Al Jazira in particular."
Ahli's next three games are home to Jazira, at Al Ain and home to Dubai. The first two certainly rate as key matches, because Jazira and Al Ain share the top spot. Dubai, however, is the only club in the league without a point. But after losing to Dhafra and tying Kalba -- accounting for the only points those clubs have won -- perhaps O'Leary is assuming nothing.
He is at the start of his learning curve, he said. "In 12 months time we can all sit down and have a press conference and I will happily tell you what I have learned, but I am still in the process of learning very much."
And for those who have noted that the manager rarely rises from his seat in the dugout, during matches, leaving the shouting to his assistant, Roy Aitken, O'Leary light-heartedly said: "
I've stayed in the dugout so far and want to stay there,
because if i get up I'll probably say something I shouldn't say and
I'll probably have to watch the game from upstairs, like [Arsenal manager] Arsene [Wenger]
last night. I want to sit and watch the game in the dugout, not the