Leeds United F.C. History
Leeds United F.C. History : Foreword
1919-29 - The Twenties
1930-39 - The Thirties
1939-46 - The War Years
1947-49 - Post War Depression
1949-57 - The Reign of King John
1957-63 - From Charles to Revie
1961-75 - The Revie Years
1975-82 - The Downward Spiral
1982-88 - The Dark Years
1988-96 - The Wilko Years
1996-04 - The Rollercoaster Ride
2004-13 - Down Among The Deadmen
100 Greatest LUFC Players Ever
Greatest Leeds United Games
Players' Profiles
Managers' Profiles
Leeds City F.C. History
Leeds City F.C. Player and Manager Profiles
Leeds United/City Statistics
Leeds United/City Captains
Leeds United/City Friendlies and Other Games

Okon: Paul Michael (Paul)

2002-2003 (Leeds Player Details)(Player Details)

Central Midfield

Born: Sydney, Australia: 05-04-1972

Debut: v Fulham (a): 07-12-2002

5’9 1/2” 13st 3lb (2003)

Okon, Australian born of German and Italian descent, grew up in the Sydney suburb of Bossley Park. He attended Patrician Brothers’ College, Fairfield and in his schoolboy years excelled not only at Football but also at athletics, particularly the high jump. Okon was a childhood friend of Italian striker Christian Vieri, who grew up in the same area of Sydney. The two were both later to play together at SS Lazio in 1998/1999. His first professional team was Marconi Stallions in the Australian NSL and in the season of 1989-1990 he scored twice in twenty-five League games, of which three were from the bench appearance, and by the end of the following season had brought his record to four goals in forty-nine appearances before joining the Belgian Club FC Brugge in 1991. He won the Papasavas Medal for best Under-Twenty-one player in the NSL in both seasons. He was first called up to the Australian team when he came on for Ernie Tapai with three minutes on the clock in a Friendly in Sydney against Yugoslav side Hajduk Split on 3rd June 1990. His first involvement in games between two international nations was on 4th February 1991, when he replaced Branko Milosevic in the seventy-second minute of a 0-2 loss to Czechoslovakia in Sydney. He was also in the Australian team that won the Oceania Football Confederation Under Twenties Championship in 1990. The latter gained Australia a place in the 1991 Under-Twenties World Youth Championship in Portugal and they topped their Group C to advance to the Quarter Finals. Okon captained the team and it was he that scored Australia's first goal seven minutes into the second half as they went on to defeat Trinidad and Togago in Braga on 15th June 1991. Three days later there was a 1-0 win over the Soviet Union again in Braga and the Group games were completed two days later in Guimaraes with a 1-0 win over Egypt to top the Group with maximum points and no goals conceded. The Quarter-final draw saw them face Syria on 23rd June in Braga and it ended at 1-1 after extra time. Okon converted the second Austalian penalty as they went through 5-4.This left the semi-finals to be contested by Australia, the hosts Portugal, Brazil and the Soviet Union, who had eliminated Spain in the quarter-finals. In the Semi-finals Australia had to face Portugal in Lisbon on 26th June 1991. The Portuguese team was full of players whose names would became household names in the near future. Luis Figo, Joao Pinto and Rui Costa, who got the only goal of the game to mention but three. So while Portugal went on to lift the championship with victory over Brazil on penalties, Australia faced the Soviet Union in Porto on 29th June 1991 for third place and were beaten 4-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw after extra time. Okon again converted Australia's second attempt after top marksman David Seal had missed the first. He was also a member of the Australian Under-twenty-three side that took part in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The side was captained by Ned Zelic, who had virtually single handedly won the Olyroos passage to Barcelona with a sensational double strike in the second leg play off against the much fancied Netherlands team. Australia and Okon got off to the worst possible start with a 1-3 loss to Ghana in Sabadell on 26th July 1992 with Okon being substituted by Steve Corica after fifty-eight minutes. He remained unused on the bench in Australia's 1-1 draw with Mexico in Barcelona two days later, but two days after that he was restored to the team in a 3-0 win over Denmark in Zaragoza which saw Australia qualify by the narrowest of margins as runners-up to Ghana. On 2nd August 1992 at the Camp Nou Stadium Okon was again included as Australia beat Sweden, who had Tomas Brolin in their side, by 2-1. Three days later, in front of 45,000 at the Camp Nou, the Olyroos were convincingly beaten by Poland 1-6 but that gave them a chance at the Bronze medal, as Spain took gold by beating Poland 3-2 in the final. Ghana prevailed 0-1 on 7th August 1992 in front of 15,000 at the Camp Nou and Australia had to be content with fourth spot. In November 1992 he was called up to the Australia "B" squad for a training camp in Europe and on 11th November 1992, he played the second half, in place of Ned Zelic in a game against Dutch side FC Twente which ended in a 0-0 draw and three days later he played a full game against Belgian side Germinal Ekeren and he got the second Australian goal in a 2-1 win. In February of 1992 there was a similar camp for the "B" team and on 11th February he played against Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem and replaced Jason Van Blerk in a 1-0 win in Papendaal. There was a full game two days later as Borussia Dortmund, who had Ned Zelic in the team, beat them 0-3. On 21st July he played a full game in a 1-0 win against NEC Nijmegen of Holland in preparation for a World Cup Qualifier with Canada, in which he also played a full game on 31st July 1993 at Edmonton, Canada in which Australia were defeated in the away leg. He was next called up for a Friendly International at the Hindmarsh Stadium Adelaide for a 1-0 win over South Africa on 8th June 1994 and then for the game in Sydney on 18th June 1995 in which Ghana was defeated 2-1 and then as captain in a friendly with Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on 9th October 1996, which resulted in a 0-0 draw. Though still not twenty when he joined FC Brugge, it took a while to establish himself with his new club, but he remained in Belgium for five seasons, scoring once in seventy-two appearances, and helping FC Brugge to the Belgian League Championship in 1995-96 and the Belgian Cup in 1994-95 and again in 1995-96 and, due to a series of excellent performances at sweeper, he personally won the Belgian Golden Shoe in 1995-96 as their ‘Player of the Year’ and was also elected Oceania Footballer of the Year in the same season. It was those performances that attracted the attention of other European clubs and after Dino Zoff flew out to Belgium to personally sign the Australian, and stipulated in his contract that Okon would play sweeper and promising first team football, he moved to SS Lazio in the Serie-A and played fourteen games in the 1996-97 season before sustaining injuries which kept him out of football for a long time and at one point looked to have ended his career. Unfortunately, with the departure of Roberto Di Matteo to Chelsea, which forced Zoff to renege on his promise as he was forced to play Okon in midfield, and a succession of knee injuries due primarily to a misaligned pelvis, which was the result of an injury sustained in a childhood car-crash, saw his availability severely reduced. He was not able to return until the 1998-99 Scudetto decider in one of the final games of the season against Juventus. Lazio lost the game and handed the title to A.C. Milan and that summer he left the club after adding just five games to make his final tally nineteen appearances, including three from the bench, in three seasons. He joined Fiorentina and once more he was not on the pitch for long with just three starts and eight games from the bench in the 1999-2000 season. With Middlesbrough in dire straits their Manager, Terry Venables, who had worked with Okon when he was Captain of Australia while Venables was the coach of the Socceroos, brought him to the Riverside. He played his part in keeping Boro in the EPL and made twenty-four appearances in the League and two more in the F.A. Cup that season and a further four League games before being released after Venables' departure early in the 2001-02 season. He joined Watford and made fifteen appearances for them in that season before departing on a free-transfer on 13th August 2002 to rejoin Venables, who had just become Manager at Leeds. He was sidelined by injury and did not make his debut until 7th December 2002, by which time Leeds were in deep relegation trouble and beset by injury problems to many of their stars. Slowly they clawed their way back with Okon playing the anchor role in midfield and had a fine run of form over the festive period, which saw United rise to eleventh position, despite their continuing injury crisis. Okon was there, week in, week out, providing the steel and the glue which kept the Leeds team together. Okon further showed his capabilities by leading the Socceroos to a 3-1 victory over England at Upton Park on 12th February 2003. It was a highlight of his international career which had suffered like his club career due to injury. It was in 1999, after a break of three years, that he was recalled to the Australian "B" team on 12th June 1999 for a showpiece encounter with a World Stars XI, which included Jurgen Klinsmann and Lucas Redebe, at Stadium Australia in Sydney, which Australia won 3-2. He started in the 0-2 loss to Brazil at Stadium Australia on 14th November 1999, but gave way to Brett Emerson with fourteen minutes left and similarly three days later at the Melbourne Cricket Ground he made way for Richard Johnson with ten minutes left on the clock in a 2-2 draw with Brazil. The full Australian side had seen little recent action, but the year 2000 saw eleven more caps for Okon, mostly as Captain, as he played on 9th February in a 1-2 loss to Chile in Valparaiso, three days later in a 0-0 draw with Slovakia at the same venue. Back in Europe on 23rd February there was a 3-0 win over Hungary in Budapest, on 29th March a 1-3 loss to the Czech Republic in Teplice, before returning to Australia for a 0-0 draw with Paraguay at the Sydney Football Stadium on 9th June. Olympic Park Melbourne was the venue on 15th June for a fine 2-1 win over Paraguay before a series of Oceania Cup games in Papeete, Tahiti. Okon was one of the few Australian players that didn't score in a 17-0 romp against the Cook Islands on 19th June and four days later he repeated the feat in a 6-0 win over the Solomon Islands. On 25th June there was a narrow 1-0 win over Vanuatu and three days later a 2-0 win over New Zealand saw Australia qualify for the Confederations Cup as the top team in Oceania. The final fixture for the year was at Hampden Park on 15th November and Australia well deserved their easy 2-0 victory, despite the absence of Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell, with Okon widely acclaimed as "Man-of-the-Match", while future team mates Dominic Matteo was inconspicuous and Jason Burns came on after sixty-seven minutes for Australia. 2001 saw him gain nine more caps, as Australia decided to use just home-based players in the Oceania qualifying section for the World Cup which produced many landslides in favour of Australia. His first game was in the Confederation Cup which was held in Korea and Japan, and in Korea on 30th May 2001 he again captained the Australian team and Mexico were defeated 2-0, two days later there was another prestigeous victory as a full strength France were beaten 1-0, in Korea. But, unfortunately they were beaten by one of the host nations, South Korea on 6th June at the Suwon World Cup Stadium by the only goal of the game, as Okon gave way to Aurelio Vidmar with nine minutes left, as Australia chased the game. The defeat meant that as France had beaten Mexico 4-0, they won the group on goal difference from Australia and South Korea. This saw Australia having to face Japan in monsoonal rain and the hosts maintained their record of not having conceded a goal but a goal two minutes before half-time assured them a place in the final. In the play-off for third place, there was another famous Australian victory as they beat Brazil 1-0, but Okon did not play in that game and it was Tony Vidmar that led Australia to victory. Okon was back, however to lead Australia to victory in both their World Cup Oceania qualifiers with New Zealand, as they won 2-0 in Wellington on 20th June 2001 and 4-1 at Stadium Australia, Sydney four days later. Despite protests from European clubs, both Australia and France fielded full strength teams in a 1-1 draw on 11th November 2001 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This was a prelude friendly fixture prior to Australia's two-legged World Cup Qualifying match with Uraguay. These were played on 20th November at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 84,656 people and it reslted in a 1-0 win for Australia, but sadly in the reverse fixture, five days later in Montevideo it was Uraguay that won 3-0 to see Australia eliminated and the team went into temporary hibernation, with the 2002 Oceania Nations Cup being contested by home-based players. It was not until they played England at Upton Park on 12th February 2003 in front of 30,590 fans that the main team came out of moth-balls as England fielded their best available team in the first half, only to find themselves 0-2 in arrears and second placed in all areas of the game. For the second half England fielded their first choice Under-twenty-three and managed to keep the final score to 1-3, as Frank Farina made a token gesture to Terry Venables by taking off Harry Kewell ten minutes into the second half and Mark Viduka, with five minutes left, and Okon, two minutes later. He played his final two games for his country on 19th August 2003 in a 1-2 loss to the Republic of Ireland at Lansdowne Road, Dublin in which he made way for Vince Grella after sixty-seven minutes and on 7th September 2003 with a 2-1 win over Jamaica at the Madejski Stadium, Reading. It was last of his thirty-seven Australian caps and he marked it, when he split the defence to set up Harry Kewell's winner. He was captain yet never got another call-up. However, Leeds, who had managed to reach the Sixth Round of the F.A. Cup, lost three consecutive League games and dropped back towards the relegation zone and were knocked out of the Cup by Nationwide League Sheffield United. Venables was sacked and Peter Reid kept faith with the Leeds team and Okon played as Leeds lost his first game in charge. It proved to be his last game for Leeds as he never figured in any team picked by Reid, not even as substitute. He left on a free transfer as the club paid out his contract and he went to Vicenza in Serie B in Italy before the transfer deadline. He lasted five months in Italy, scoring twice in twenty-eight games. He later played with KV Oostende (Belgium) in 2004-05, making thirty-three appearances, and Apoel Nicosia of Cyprus in 2005-06, where he played nine times, before returning to Australia to play for the Newcastle Jets in the A-League. Okon fitted into a well constructed Jets side and helped them make the playoffs. He made seventeen appearances in 2006-07 before retiring in June 2007 at the age of thirty-five. He cited injuries as his reason saying he had intended to play in the following A-League season but that his body could no longer cope with the injuries and demand of professional football. The defender-midfielder had polarised opinion during his career and, by his own admission, would be remembered as a player "with an enormous amount of talent but who wasn't able to reach his full potential due to injury". When he was twenty-five he was told by two surgeons that he wouldn't have a long professional career and it went on for another ten years, he was able to claim. On 24th June 2008 he was named as one of the recipients of the inaugural three year Elite Coach Development Scholarships given by the FFA. It meant spending time with the Italian Under-Twenty-three side under Pierluigi Casiraghi in the lead up to the 2008 Olympic Games, and the youth setup of PSV Eindhoven. He was appointed Assistant Coach to Miron Bleiberg at Gold Coast United on 2nd September 2008 and took up the temporary coaching position with APIA Leichhardt in the NSW Premier League prior to the Gold Coast's season starting in August 2009. On 30th October 2008 Okon was also appointed to lead the Australian Under-eighteen side at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in January 2009, in their preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. He was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2009. On 23rd February 2010 Gold Coast United did not renew his contract as coach. He remains the head coach for the Young Socceroos.

AppearancesGoals
League 150
F.A. Cup 50
Europe 10