Past pals set to meet again

PUBLISHED: 08:24 10 March 2006 | UPDATED: 09:16 14 September 2010

Much has changed at Leeds United since Nigel Worthington spent a couple of years there during the latter stages of his playing career - but there will be one familiar face to greet him when he makes his first visit to Elland Road as a manager.

Much has changed at Leeds United since Nigel Worthington spent a couple of years there during the latter stages of his playing career - but there will be one familiar face to greet him when he makes his first visit to Elland Road as a manager.

The link between past and present is veteran defender Gary Kelly who was taking his first tentative steps on the road to a career in professional football when his fellow Irishman made the short trip across Yorkshire from Sheffield Wednesday during the summer of 1994.

Despite the age gap - Kelly was just 19 at the time while Worthington was 32 - the pair got on well from the word go and it wasn't long before they were rooming together before away matches on a regular basis.

Nearly 12 years later the Norwich City boss still has a tremendous amount of respect for the Leeds stalwart, who recently made his 500th appearance for the club, and he is looking forward to meeting up with him again after tomorrow's Championship showdown at Carrow Road.

“Gary and I roomed together before games - I don't know if he was trying to influence me or I was trying to influence him!” said Worthington as he looked ahead to his first competitive visit to Elland Road since he left the club to join Stoke in 1996.

“He's a great lad, a bubbly character who is always full of enthusiasm. He has had a great career at the football club and thoroughly deserves all the success he has achieved.

“His dedication to the game is there for all to see and I am looking forward to seeing him again.”

Worthington played 55 games for Leeds during the autumn of his career, with a good number of those featuring Kelly on the opposite flank, and although he will always be associated primarily with Wednesday he still looks back on his stay at another big Yorkshire club with a good deal of affection.

He can't wait to return there as a manager, but knows there will be little room for sentiment once the game gets under way, with an in-form home side desperate for another win to maintain the pressure on Sheffield United in the battle for automatic promotion.

Leeds go into tomorrow's game with a run of just one defeat in 13 league games behind them, and having played in front of their fans on numerous occasions Worthington knows exactly what to expect at the weekend.

“I've been there to watch games since I left but I have never been as a manager so I am really looking forward to it,” he said.

“I had two years there and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a huge football club and there are good people there. They have also got very passionate supporters.

“There's going to be a big crowd and an excellent atmosphere and it is going to be a good game, one to enjoy.

“The noise level is going to be high because of the way their supporters are. They have got great passion for the game and you have got to live with that. We've just got to make sure we focus on what we want to do - and get on and do it.”

Leeds are currently in the process of re-establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with after several extremely lean years, both on and off the pitch, and Worthington reckons his opposite number Kevin Blackwell has played a key role in what has been a dramatic turnaround in the club's fortunes.

“Kevin has built a strong side up and he has got plenty of players to pick and choose from,” said the City boss. “He has just signed a new contract and it's nice for him to know that he has got that to move forward with because the situation had been up in the air.

“Now he can fully focus on working with the team.”

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