Ahead of a key match tomorrow with table-topping Al Jazira, the Al Ahli coach David O'Leary has called for patience with his reconstructed side. The big-spending Ahli, who signed Fabio Cannavaro in the summer from Juventus and assembled a sizeable backroom staff, have won one, lost one and drawn one so far and will be under pressure from their ambitious owners to perform well at home against Jazira. "This is a three-year project," the former Aston Villa and Leeds United manager 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." O'Leary feels it will take time for him to become familiar with the teams and players in the Pro League. In a recent television interview, the 52-year-old former Republic of Ireland international said he went into the opening game of the season against Al Dhafra "blind" having not seen his opponents play.
"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. 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." From the evidence he has seen, O'Leary is under no illusions about the size of the task his team face against Jazira. "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 games after that are at Al Ain and home to Dubai. The first certainly rates as important because Al Ain share top spot with Jazira. Dubai, however, are the only club in the league without a point. But, perhaps, after losing to Dhafra and drawing with Kalba, O'Leary is taking nothing for granted. * With agency