Peltier debt of thanks to Clark for paving way to captaincy

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HIS first manager in senior football boasts a Champions League success on his CV, while another he played under, Sven Goran Eriksson, needs no introduction to football fans after a career spent at the very top of the game in Europe.

Unsurprisingly, both had a tremendous impact on Lee Peltier’s career but the Leeds United captain is in no doubt as to the debt he owes to the manager who will occupy the away dugout at Elland Road today.

Lee Clark was seven months into his reign at Huddersfield Town when he signed the then 22-year-old Yeovil Town full-back in the summer of 2009.

It proved an astute capture with the pair going on to enjoy a thrilling, if ultimately frustrating, two years together at the Galpharm Stadium before parting ways in the wake of the Terriers’ play-off final defeat to Peterborough United, after which Eriksson and Leicester City came calling.

“I owe Lee Clark a lot,” admitted the Leeds captain ahead of today’s Championship encounter with Birmingham City.

“He did a lot for my career, putting on good training sessions that helped me improve and I really enjoyed the two years we had together at Huddersfield.”

In those 24 months, Peltier missed just 10 of Town’s 92 League One outings. He also featured in all five of their ultimately unsuccessful play-off games under Clark. “It was a great time as Huddersfield were a club becoming more and more ambitious. The chairman (Dean Hoyle) was ploughing money in and that allowed the manager to bring in who he wanted.

“I enjoyed it and had a great time under Lee. When all the new players came in, it was a bit like a revolution. Lee Clark turned things round and created his own team.

“For me personally, he was great. Lee brought me on as a player and we had a great relationship. Terry McDermott and all the coaching staff were the same. I have nothing but good words to say about Lee.

“We also got on really well. He was the type of manager who would always ask about your family and how things were going and even after I left, we stayed in contact.”

As enjoyable as Peltier’s two years at Huddersfield were, the abiding memories are those back-to-back play-off defeats.

In 2010, Town drew 0-0 at the Galpharm with Millwall before being swept aside at The Den as Kenny Jackett’s Lions booked a trip to Wembley with a 2-0 victory.

A year later, a pulsating semi-final with Bournemouth saw the Terriers edge through on penalties before coming a cropper against Peterborough United at Old Trafford.

That 3-0 defeat at the home of Manchester United marked the end of Peltier’s time at Town as Leicester snapped up the defender for £750,000.

Clark’s own time in West Yorkshire was destined to last just an additional seven months with the former Newcastle United midfielder being sacked by Huddersfield in the wake of the Valentine’s Day defeat to Sheffield United earlier this year.

Peltier said: “I was sad to see Lee get the sack as he did a lot of good for Huddersfield Town.

“Lee brought a buzz to the club that probably hadn’t been there before. He signed a lot of good players and qualified for the play-offs two years on the spin.

“Obviously, he didn’t achieve what he set out to do, which was get to the Championship. Maybe if he had stayed, they would have gone up anyway. I don’t know.

“All I know is that I had a great time playing for a manager who loves his football and is so passionate about it. That much was obvious after the two play-off defeats.

“Everyone was upset after losing to Millwall and Peterborough but Lee was particularly gutted.

“To go out like that after a long season is awful and Lee really felt it. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is a very emotional man. It is great playing for someone like that because you feed off it.

“Those two defeats were both bad but Peterborough was the worst. It was my last game. He knew if we didn’t go up then there would probably be a few players moving on.

“Lee was fine about that. Basically, he said to a few of the lads with interest in them, ‘Give us until the end of the season and if we don’t go up then you can go in the summer’.

“As a player, you can’t ask any more than that. He is that sort of guy, very honest. I went with his blessing and that of the chairman. I can only thank them both for that.”

Peltier may feel indebted to Clark but all that will be put to one side today as Leeds host Birmingham looking to extend their unbeaten run to seven games.

Since moving to Elland Road, the 25-year-old has filled a variety of roles, including every position in the back four. He has also missed just one game, the midweek draw at home to Charlton Athletic, and been handed the ultimate accolade by Neil Warnock.

“Being given the captaincy at Leeds was unexpected but brilliant,” he says. “To be captain of a club like this is something else. I have been captain a few times before but to get the armband at Leeds is very special.

“I feel honoured. You only have to look at all the captains this club has had to realise how special it is.

“I haven’t changed my game at all. There are a lot of vocal lads here anyway who say what they have to say. I will say my piece, when I think it is needed.

“We all have a great respect for each other and this is an easy team to captain. It would be fantastic to take Leeds back up. In fact, I’d imagine that would be the pinnacle of my career.”

As much as Peltier admires the manager in the visitors’ dugout today, he also admits to relishing life under Warnock.

“I’ve been really fortunate to play for some great managers. I started at Liverpool and made my debut in the Champions League under Rafael Benitez.

“In the Liverpool Academy, I was signed by Steve Heighway. He was brilliant, a great coach with loads of experience. You only have to look at the lads who he helped to bring through to see what a job he did there.

“It is great working for the gaffer here. He is a great man-manager and knows how to get the best out of us. That’s where I’ve been lucky, as the managers I have played under have all been different so I’ve been able to take a bit from all of them.

“Maybe, in years to come I might use that. Though not for some time yet. I am still young and love playing football. But who knows about the future?”

richard.sutcliffe@ypn.co.uk