Wootton’s strength of character helped pave his route to Leeds

Leeds United new signing Scott Wootton
Leeds United new signing Scott Wootton
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NEVER let it be said that new Leeds United signing Scott Wootton is scared of making big decisions.

The central defender may only be 21, but he has crossed bitter divides in football not once but twice in his embryonic career.

His move along the M62 from the red side of Manchester to Leeds on Wednesday ensured he became just the eighth player to switch from Old Trafford to Elland Road – following in the illustrious footsteps of the likes of Johnny Giles and Gordon Strachan.

The last player to switch between the two arch rivals was Liam Miller in 2005.

It is fair to say the main rancour has been reserved for players heading from West Yorkshire to Greater Manchester, something to which messrs Smith, Cantona, Ferdinand, McQueen and Jordan will testify.

While moves between Leeds and Manchester United can be classed as infrequent, a transfer between players at Anfield and Old Trafford is pretty much unheard of, the last one being Phil Chisnall, who headed across the East Lancs Road to Liverpool almost fifty years ago in 1964.

But Wootton, albeit in his guise as an Academy player at Anfield, did make the journey from Merseyside to Manchester, joining the Red Devils in 2007 after turning down a youth contract at Liverpool.

Then, just as now, the only concern for the Birkenhead-born player was his career development, and the centre-back did not hesitate in joining Leeds when he heard of the club’s interest, turning down three other Championship sides to sign.

Hopeful that his previous professional allegiance to the Premier League champions will not be a factor with Leeds supporters, Wootton – behind such as Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones in the Old Trafford pecking order, said: “I have had a good education, but I am a Leeds United player and I will be giving all I can for the shirt.

“It is all I can do. I’m sure they will not hold it against me (being at Manchester United).

“There were a few clubs interested, but once I knew Leeds were interested they were definitely top of my list. They’ve got great fans here and why wouldn’t you want to play in front of 30,000? It is a no-brainer.”

On his earlier controversial move, he added: “That was probably a more difficult decision at the time. I was 15 and I hadn’t really done anything at that stage, so to make that move wasn’t easy.

“I had been at Liverpool for four or five years. I just felt that Liverpool had won the FA Youth Cup for two years on the run and players from that team were struggling to even get into the reserves.

“I was Under-14 at that stage and I felt that the path into the first team was blocked by quite a large influx of foreign players who were not necessarily better than the players coming through the youth team.”

Wootton’s CV is already impressive and incorporates Champions League experience, having featured for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the group stages against Romanian side Cluj last term. In terms of character, Leeds manager Brian McDermott insists Wootton also ticks the right boxes.

On landing Wootton, who has joined on a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee with the Red Devils having inserted a sell-on clause in the deal, McDermott said: “It has been going on for a little while and it is good that we don’t have to talk about our fourth signing because it has been made. It is bordering on relief for me. It was a position I was nervous about because of the lack of numbers. We have brought in someone with pedigree.

“I don’t think (moving to Leeds from Manchester United) will be a problem. He’s a Leeds United player and that’s what our fans will see. He’s wearing our badge, our shirt. He will be welcomed with open arms.

“He is a good defender, he can pass it off both feet and he is a really good character. I have asked two or three managers who managed him what he’s like as a character and they told me he is first class. One of the most important things is that he wants to get better and wants to improve. He wants to kick his career on now.”

McDermott confirmed the club are continuing in talks with striker Ross McCormack regarding a new contract and feels the resolve shown in rebuffing the persistent advances of Middlesbrough, who saw another big-money offer turned down this week, underlines the club’s strong desire to keep the Scot.

He said: “The club are talking to him (McCormack) regarding his own contract.

“Middlesbrough are making offers and the club are turning down the offers and that tells you something. We want him to be here.”