Middlesbrough FC get 'under the skin' of Leeds United cult hero Luke Ayling - who has joined on permanent basis after successful loan

LUKE Ayling’s time at Leeds United was far more than just a usual playing association.

The club got into his soul. He was good for Leeds and Leeds were good for him and his service was exemplary.

The defender has only been at his next football destination in Middlesbrough for a relatively short spell after moving up the A1, initially on loan, in January.

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His impact - on and off the pitch - in a relatively short period of time is such that Michael Carrick believes that Boro are now getting under the skin, as he puts it, of Ayling. Just as Leeds did.

Middlesbrough defender Luke Ayling, who has joined Boro on a permanent basis from Leeds United following a successful loan spell. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images.Middlesbrough defender Luke Ayling, who has joined Boro on a permanent basis from Leeds United following a successful loan spell. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images.
Middlesbrough defender Luke Ayling, who has joined Boro on a permanent basis from Leeds United following a successful loan spell. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images.

Following his productive loan spell, Ayling has now signed a permanent two-year deal with the Teessiders, having rejected the overtures of Sheffield United, managed by former Boro manager Chris Wilder.

After a seismic time at Leeds which saw the club promoted to the Premier League in 2019-20, Ayling, a mainstay of that side and a big crowd favourite for his unstinting commitment in seven-and-a-half seasons at Elland Road which encompassed over 250 games, is creating more happy memories.

The 32-year-old will officially join Boro when his Leeds contract expires at the end of June with the Londoner allowed to leave United in the winter window, having seen his opportunities being limited in the first half of the 2023-24 campaign.

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Affectionately known as Bill, the Leeds cult hero, quickly established himself in the Boro ranks in the absence of the injured Tommy Smith and made a total of 19 appearances, contributing eight assists and playing a full part in the club's strong finish to the season which saw them just miss out on a play-off place.

On Ayling, who has become the club’s first signing of the close season, Carrick said: “We’re delighted that Luke is staying with us.

"After coming in on loan in January, he settled in very quickly and made a big impact, bringing his character and personality to the group. He knows what it takes to be a success in this league.

"The club has got under his skin and the supporters have really taken to him as well, so it’s great to have him on board permanently.”

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Ayling spoke of his happiness at Boro earlier this month and hinted at sticking around with Carrick having continually spoken in glowing terms about his contribution to the club.

Ayling, likely to receive a warm ovation when he returns to Elland Road next term, said: "I’m really excited about what the future holds.

"The last four months, I’ve loved being out there. It’s a great bunch of lads and I’ve loved being a part of it. It’s a young group, but that’s allowed me to come in and put my stamp on it. I’ve loved every moment of it.

"I was a little bit nervous when I first came because it had been a few months since I played. But from the first training session, the boys just took to me and I’ve loved every minute of it.

"We’ve fallen short of the play-offs this year, but it makes things exciting for next year because we’ve come so close.

"If we can keep our key players fit next year, then I’m sure we’ll be up there.”