Carlisle is ready for more cold shoulders from family

As someone who knows all about negotiating the long road back to the top after hitting rock bottom, Clarke Carlisle can readily empathise with Leeds United's plight in recent years.

The 31-year-old Burnley defender's interest in the goings-on at Elland Road is understandable as not only is he a former United player but his wife's family are such ardent supporters of the club that he jokes about how he was temporarily ostracised following his transfer to Watford after just a year in West Yorkshire.

Such strong links meant Carlisle could not fail to watch from

afar as his old club went through such a spectacular implosion

that the phrase 'doing a Leeds' has since become shorthand

for what can go wrong in football if the finances do not add up.

Now, however, a revival seems to be underway with United making the short trip to the home of Carlisle's current employers today sitting sixth in the Championship and hopeful of pushing on to clinch a place in the play-offs.

Beating a promotion rival is, of course, Carlisle's priority but he does admit to being pleased to see his old club's recovery after the dark days of recent years.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post ahead of a game that seems set to attract Turf Moor's biggest crowd of the season, the former Leeds defender said: "This is a big game for both clubs and one I have been looking forward to.

"I do have contrasting memories from my time at Leeds, in a football and personal sense.

"Coming to a club like Leeds United was huge for me, especially as my wife and her family are all big Leeds fans. I was ostracised by them when I left a year later.

"I was so keen to join that I even took a 40 per cent pay cut to sign for Leeds rather than accept the contract on offer from QPR. I also rejected a move to Sheffield United despite Neil Warnock making it clear he wanted to sign me.

"The chance to join Leeds was a massive one. The stadium, the training ground and everything were just first class. I went there just after Leeds had been relegated (from the Premier League in 2004) and really thought we would have a great chance of bouncing back first time.

"Unfortunately, my relationship with the then manager didn't work out and I left. But I still enjoyed playing for a club like Leeds."

The often chaotic nature of that one season Carlisle spent at Elland Road is perhaps best illustrated by manager Kevin Blackwell giving a staggering 26 players their debut for the club.

Such had been the enforced fire-sale during the summer that followed United's demotion from the top flight only Gary Kelly and Michael Duberry of the established Premier League players remained when the campaign began with a 1-0 win over Derby County.

Perhaps understandably, results were up and down throughout a season that saw Ken Bates take charge in the January after the previous board had been unable to stabilise a debt that at one stage had peaked at 110m.

Carlisle, who continued his successful battle back from alcoholism during his time at Leeds, said: "It was really strange in a way because everyone was new to the club. Usually, when you join a club in the summer there are a few of you in the same boat as the new boys. But at Leeds it was all of us.

"That created its own difficulties as it meant everyone having to get to know each other. No-one was accustomed to playing together or accustomed to playing in the Championship. The club was also going through a period of transition.

"Despite that, I was still optimistic we would do well and so were a lot of people. Unfortunately, there were just too many things to get used to – each other, the new manager's ideas and so on and we finished in mid-table.

"Looking back, though, 14th place was a decent finish. It represented consolidation, which with hindsight was not a bad achievement as it meant the club's downfall was not instant."

The downfall the Clarets defender alludes to began in earnest a year later with defeat in the 2006 Championship play-off final to Watford, who, ironically, boasted within their ranks not only Carlisle but also several other Leeds old boys in Marlon King, Matthew Spring and manager Ady Boothroyd.

Carlisle said: "It was a wrench to leave Leeds in terms of I had a heavy heart. But, from a personal and professional point of view, I am not someone who can stay at a club and just take the money when not playing. That is not who I am and I never will be. I believe I am worth much more than that and I love playing football.

"Joining Watford turned out to be a really good move for me and saved my career. We were a real bunch of misfits but a really good team. Of course, at the end of my first season we won promotion and it was ironic that it should come at the expense of Leeds.

"I didn't play in the final due to injury, though I wouldn't have been able to anyway as Ken Bates and Kevin Blackwell had insisted a clause be included in the transfer that said I couldn't face Leeds. It was why I didn't play in either of the league games.

"By the time of the final, I had picked up a serious injury that would keep me out for a year so it is not as if they denied me a chance to play in the final. If they had, I would have been quite bitter. Thankfully, the injury meant I could let it go. We had the last laugh anyway by winning in Cardiff."

Redemption for missing the 2006 play-off final came for Carlisle three years later when, once again, his club defeated Yorkshire opposition as Burnley clinched a place in the Premier League by beating Sheffield United at Wembley.

He said: "That day did help make up for missing out when Watford beat Leeds. At least it meant I got the chance to experience such a wonderful occasion. It was the highlight of my career.

"It was the same with playing 30 games in the Premier League (last season). With Watford, I missed most of their season in the Premier League with the injury I had picked up during the run-in. With Burnley, I was able to savour the experience.

"It is a wonderful league to play in, there really is nothing like it. That is why we are all desperate to get back there next season. There are probably 10-12 teams thinking the same but we feel really positive."