Leeds United v Cardiff City: De Bock certain Whites can challenge at the top

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THE Elland Road experience has already left an imprint on the soul of not just Laurens De Bock, but his family as well.

Their first taste of one of the most impassioned arenas in English football showcased the famous old stadium at its raucous best just a fortnight ago.

Leeds United's new defender Laurens De Bock (Picture: Tony Johnson).

Leeds United's new defender Laurens De Bock (Picture: Tony Johnson).

Unfortunately, that was in a losing cause on a thunderous afternoon against Millwall, although the De Bock clan are unlikely to forget the atmosphere in a hurry.

Leeds United’s new left-back is eager for a second fill today against another rival for whom Whites supporters do not have a great deal of time in Cardiff City, with the caveat being that the vast majority of another bumper crowd herald a home victory at full-time.

The Belgium defender has sampled some pulsating atmospheres in his career so far. From the febrile and bearpit atmosphere of Besiktas’s throbbing Vodaphone Park in Istanbul’s suburbs to a league-clinching afternoon at former club Club Brugge.

Belgium may not be considered a hot bed of football, but speak to any European footballing connoisseur and they will say that the nation of chocolates and Trappist beers has its moments, in terms of choice atmospheres.

But two weeks ago, especially when Pierre-Michel Lasogga fired Leeds into a 3-2 lead, was something else.

On his debut, De Bock said: “It was unbelievable. To be 2-0 behind and score three goals in 15 minutes; I never had this before and I think it will never happen again. It was quite crazy.

“When we scored to make it 3-2 against Millwall, it was an unbelievable atmosphere.

“I remember I played at Besiktas, which was really amazing, and remember with my former team when we won the Championship at home against our biggest rival, Anderlecht, and won the game 4-0 and it was really crazy.

“When I enter the pitch, I play much better with a better atmosphere. It creates the fire in you.

“My family were in the stand, my son, father and girlfriend against Millwall and they said it is amazing and they had not had it before. Even not in Bruges. When we scored to make it 3-2, it was amazing.”

For those old enough to remember it, the phrase ‘here come the Belgians’ may forever be associated with the BBC’s highly popular comedy game show It’s a Knockout, which ran from 1966 to 1982.

But given the proliferation of Belgium stars who have headed across the North Sea to make names for themselves in the Premier League over the years, it has a contemporary resonance.

After the likes of Francois van der Elst and Nico Claesen made their mark in the Eighties, it was left to Philippe Albert to fly the standard in the early days of the Premier League.

Now Belgium’s creme de la creme operate in what is considered to be the world’s best domestic league, headlined by the stellar talents of Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard,

Other marquee players such as Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld and Thibaut Courtois ply their trade in a division that has always captured the imagination of Belgian football fans, including De Bock.

It is his devout hope to be playing in it with Leeds during the course of the four-and-a-half year contract that he recently signed after joining for £1.5m.

The 25-year-old, one of Leeds’s most adept performers in Tuesday’s goalless draw at Hull City, said: “I think everybody who is a football player wants to play in England.

“When you are in Belgium and a young player, they ask you where you want to go when you are older and everybody says that they want to go to the Premier League or to England.

“I watched a lot of Match of the Day before. You have BBC in Belgium and are always looking for the goals in the Premier League and Champions League.

“I remember I saw Leeds playing in the Champions League and remember (Alan) Smith, the striker. But this is a long time ago. I have some images.

“Obviously, Leeds is a very big club. I spoke to some guys who were in my team who had played in England before like Jelle Vossen, who was at Middlesbrough, and (Jordy) Clasie and asked for some advice and they said that when you have the opportunity, you need to go.

“I liked my time in Bruges and we won the cup and was very happy.

“But I was there for five years and sometimes you have the feeling for something new and new objectives and challenges.

“I think my time at Bruges was finished and I had to go somewhere else to start again.”

The immediate challenge at Leeds is to provide fresh impetus into a play-off quest that is in danger of stalling after a five-match winless streak – with the club’s February itinerary having given fuel to some doubters who have ventured that the Whites’ top-six race might be run after a poor return of points in a clutch of winnable matches.

Not so, De Bock emphatically interjects, and given the Championship’s endless capacity to surprise it is said with justification.

He observed: “In football, it can go very fast.

“Now we are four points behind and in two weeks we might be four points ahead. We know we have a lot of difficult days coming on, but we have a lot of quality in the team.

“I think when everyone is fit again and able to play, we are ready to get the points to get in the Premier League.”