Former forward on Sunday’s clash.
Ahead of Sunday’s Sky Bet Championship clash between Leeds United and Middlesbrough, we caught up with a man who played for both clubs- John Hendrie, to preview the big match.
Playing for both Leeds United and Middlesbrough in your playing days, can you tell us about your time at the two?
“Leeds United picked me up from Newcastle United, Leeds had been out of the top flight for a long time and Howard Wilkinson signed around seven of us that summer with the intention of getting back there. It was a terrific season for all concerned because it was mission accomplished. Speaking to a lot of Leeds fans, that really got the wheels in motion for better things after being stuck in the lower leagues for a long time. It was a really enjoyable season, Gordon Strachan was at the forefront of it all, he was the main man. I liked the fact we had him, along with terrific young players coming through as well with David Batty and Gary Speed. We then had senior pros, Mervin Day, John McClelland and Mel Sterland, it was a great time to be at the football club. We certainly had terrific team spirit and the man in the dressing room for that was Vinnie Jones. Everyone knows about Vinnie’s attributes, but he was the one, who would once a month organise the social side of it, which he brought from Wimbledon and that really pulled us together. There were a lot of good characters and if you have a good spirit off the pitch, then obviously that counts on the pitch as well. It was great to get promoted, when you have achieved your goal it was a box ticked and great to be part of. Every promotion and championship you get you are proud of your achievements.”
“My time at Middlesbrough was really, really enjoyable as well, I’d had a number of clubs in a short amount of years and Colin Todd signed me and told me it was time to settle down. I certainly did settle down, I was up there about six and a half years. I had a good time up there, I had two promotions to the top flight, one with Lennie Lawrence and one with Bryan Robson as well, so it was happy days there too. I wouldn’t have stayed there as long if I wasn’t happy. I learnt a lot from the older boys and when you finish your career having played alongside the likes of Juninho and Fabrizio Ravanelli, you think okay, they were good times and it was great to be able to play with such terrific players.”
What do you make to both sides starts of Leeds and Middlesbrough this season?
“The first game I saw at Elland Road this season was the Burton Albion game and I was blown away, it was something else. Nigel Clough said after the game if Leeds could play like that week in, week out that they’d be challenging for automatic promotion. It was one of the best performances I have seen for a long time at Elland Road. It’s fair to say Leeds have some terrific flair players with the signings they made over the summer. The Championship is a very difficult league to get out of though, I’ve been there and achieved it, but over the season you play so many different opponents and you have to tweak your team accordingly. Against Birmingham, Leeds won without playing well and they need to do more of that going forwards.”
“Middlesbrough are doing exactly what I’ve just said Leeds need to do. If you’d have asked Middlesbrough fans a few weeks ago, how there season was shaping up, prior to winning at Reading, Hull and Sunderland, they were saying the season hadn’t really started yet, it had not took off and the team had been disappointing. But because you take nine points out of nine in those three games, they’ve been catapulted up the lead and have a lot of confidence. Against Reading and Sunderland they won ugly. Sunderland were on top early doors, but Middlesbrough got the goal and after that they weren’t trying to get a second or third, as a very minimum they wanted a clean sheet to secure the victory. They’ve managed to get over the line without being really convincing, they’re certainly not firing on all cylinders yet. All the teams below the top four in the division will be thinking they should be doing better then they are. Even though they’ve won their three games, it isn’t looking fantastic for them, but they are getting over the line and confidence is obviously boosted.”
Who do you feel is the one key player from both sides?
“For Leeds it obviously has to be Samuel Saiz. He’s a terrific little player and a really good find. He’s been excellent, my only criticism could be that he sometimes tries the fancy finish instead of being clinical, but he has been the star man for me. For Middlesbrough I like Martin Braithwaite. He has been unfortunate being out injury, but in pre-season you could see there was a player in there. Not only has he got the ability, but he will make things happen, he has desire and leadership qualities. Both players play in a similar role, in that number ten role.”
How much are you looking forward to Sunday’s game?
“It will be buzzing. The atmosphere will be electric and there is more added spice with Garry Monk coming back into town and I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to it. Middlesbrough have sold their allocation too. The crowds at Elland Road have been excellent this season, the owner has come in and put his money where his mouth is. He is building the club on solid foundations and has shown his intentions and the supporters have reacted in a positive manner. It is all positive, it is a shame the results have gone how they have over recent weeks for Leeds, but everyone must remember, it is a marathon, not a sprint in the Championship.”
John Hendrie will be in the East Stand hospitality at Elland Road on Sunday, with prices starting from £69 inc VAT. To purchase a hospitality package click the link below: