IT may be close to 17 years since Jonathan Woodgate left Leeds United – out of necessity on the club’s behalf – but returning to Elland Road is always a special day for the Middlesbrough manager.
Leeds’ ordeal since his departure in January 2003 is well documented, but the club is now seeing its name in lights again for the right reasons and Woodgate could not be happier, even if he will be doing his level best to spoil their day today.
The canteen lady is still there and Stix (players and club liaison officer Peter ‘Stix’ Lockwood).Jonathan Woodgate
He said: “I had to leave, I had no choice. It was either than or the club would be *****d.
“I did not want to leave. The fans knew that. I am not sure about others.
“I went back with Newcastle on the first game of a season and drew 2-2. I played there for Middlesbrough a couple of times and got an unbelievable reception.
“I am not sure who is still there. The canteen lady is still there and Stix (players and club liaison officer Peter ‘Stix’ Lockwood). Alan Sutton is not there. It has been a lot of change.
“When I went to watch the Brentford game this season; what an atmosphere, it is a huge club. If they get back into the Premier League – oh my god.”
On a day for reunions, Boro also renew acquaintances with ex-striker Patrick Bamford, among others, with Woodgate of the view that he never necessarily wanted to leave when Leeds came calling in July 2018.
He said: “I did not think we wanted to leave really, but they had to make a change to make more money in and Patrick had to be sacrificed.
“I think the Leeds fans have been on him a bit this year, but he is starting to repay them now and show what he can do. Patrick Bamford is one of the best strikers in the league.
“Patrick can score goals, if you can get a confident Patrick Bamford he will score goals for you. He will score 20 goals this season.”