Leeds only club mum would let me join, says Delph

MISSING out on transfer targets is something Leeds United fans have grown wearily accustomed to in recent years.

The Yorkshire club are not alone in that, of course. Transfers break down every day right across the country for all manner of reasons, leaving managers and club officials as frustrated as anyone at seeing hours of hard work slip down the drain.

But at Leeds there have been an unusually high number of potential deals that have either stalled at the 11th hour or seen the club’s target opt to join another club. Keith Southern and Michael Brown were among those United missed out on last season despite their best efforts, while in the summer Lee Bowyer, Keiren Westwood, Keith Andrews and Jason Puncheon all remained out of Simon Grayson’s clutches.

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It was, therefore, possibly understandable for the Elland Road faithful to fear this week that Leeds might miss out on Fabian Delph after it was revealed on Monday that talks were under way with Aston Villa over a possible loan deal.

They need not, however, have feared with United having one very influential supporter fighting their corner: Delph’s mother Donna.

“My mum was over the moon when she found out Leeds wanted to sign me again,” admits the 22-year-old to the Yorkshire Post in the only newspaper interview he has conducted since sealing his return to Elland Road.

“There was no way I could sign for anyone else once she heard about me possibly coming back home.

“She is delighted that she will see more of me, though she will probably bug me more and annoy me more. When I was in Birmingham, she was a long way away but she is already making up for it now I am at Leeds.

“Seriously, it is great to be near her again. She has been brilliant for me. We never had a car when I was younger and she would take me everywhere on a bus or in a taxi, to make sure I got to my games.

“She really looked after me and now I can really look after her.”

Delph’s return, initially for a month but with Leeds hopeful the midfielder will remain for the rest of the season, was a welcome cause for cheer at Elland Road after what has been a difficult week.

The expected sale of Jonny Howson to Norwich City for £2m left supporters angry enough to hold a protest at the Billy Bremner statue on Thursday night. Chairman Ken Bates is likely to come in for further criticism today when Ipswich Town are the visitors to Elland Road as Delph prepares to make his second ‘debut’ for the club.

Manager Grayson is delighted to have Delph back, as he made clear at his weekly press conference yesterday at Thorp Arch.

The United chief said: “We have been speaking about possibly getting Fab back since before Christmas but we were at the mercy of Villa. It was only in the last two or three days that they decided what they wanted to do with him.

“It was a signing we were looking to do regardless of Jonny leaving but it has been a must to get him in to try and raise morale in the city and the club.

“These players don’t come cheap (due to wages) but if a signing comes from the Premier League then they earn a lot of money. This is an expensive deal for Leeds but that shows our intent.”

Delph was given his debut by Dennis Wise on the final day of the 2006-07 season but it was under Gary McAllister that the Bradford-born midfielder really began to shine.

He did, though, make 25 of his 54 appearances for the club under Grayson as Leeds reached the League One play-offs only to be beaten by Millwall in the semi-finals.

He said: “I enjoyed playing for Simon when I was first here so I am looking forward to getting the chance again. He sat down with me on Friday morning before training and said, ‘You’re here to play football’. That was exactly what I wanted to hear.”

Delph left Elland Road in the first week of the 2009-10 season that ended with Leeds winning promotion to the Championship. The initial £6m fee that has since risen by almost another £2m brought much-needed funds into not only the Leeds coffers but also those of Bradford City, the club who he joined as a junior before moving to Leeds at the age of 11.

Under the terms of the deal that took Delph across West Yorkshire, Bradford were due 12.5 per cent of any fee over and above the £125,000 they initially received – meaning the Bantams have since received a seven-figure sum, money that has kept the club going during difficult financial times.

Delph said: “I joined Bradford when I was seven. I wasn’t a fan as such, I just enjoyed playing football and running about trying to kick people.

“They then sold me to Leeds and managed to negotiate a very good deal. It has been nice to hear that the money Bradford have earned from my move to Villa has helped them a lot because I had some enjoyable times there and I learned a lot.”

Since moving to Villa Park, Delph has been unfortunate with injuries.

At the end of his first season, he snapped his Achilles and was out for eight months.

Once back, the then teenager hoped his luck had turned only to then damage his medial ligament just two games after returning to incur another lengthy absence on the sidelines.

His bad fortune was not over then, either, with a second return to action bringing more misery courtesy of ruptured ankle ligaments.

Now, though, Delph has been fully fit for more than half a year and eagerly looking forward to wearing a United shirt once again,

He said: “This is a chance to get things going again. I started the season quite well at Villa and played the first eight games. But then someone else came in and did really well.

“The manager (Alex McLeish) has played him ahead of me. I have been in three or four times since then and I am sure I would have got my chance if anyone got injured. I would like to think so anyway.

“But, on a personal level and in terms of my career at Villa, I felt it best to go out and play games on loan. I need to try to rediscover the spark I had here and what better place to do that than Leeds.

“When Villa said I could go out on loan, there were a number of clubs but there was no way I was going anywhere else. My mum wouldn’t have let me.”