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Harry Kewell Details Insane Intensity Of 90s Leeds Training

Harry Kewell Details Insane Intensity Of 90s Leeds Training
By PJ Browne Updated
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Harry Kewell says an intense training pitch atmosphere created a strong bond between players at Leeds United from the mid-90s to early 2000s under the management of George Graham and David O'Leary.

Kewell moved from Australia to England as a teenager, making his Leeds senior debut as a 17-year-old. Several young Irish players also came through the Leeds ranks at the same time.

"When I first came over to Leeds, I had to learn very quickly how to survive," Kewell told Graham Hunter's The Big Interview podcast.

"I grew up in an environment where I always played with my older brothers as well. I knew how to deal with myself.

"If I didn't play well, I didn't have that comfort of my parents being near. I had to go back out on the training park, and that was what I wanted anyway.

"We had Alan Maybury, Stephen McPhail, Damian Lynch, Lee Matthews, Paul Robinson. Even our youth team training sessions were intense.

"The one thing I did get taught when I was young was to jump high and run quickly because then you won't get caught. At least I had that in me. Some of the challenges, even at that level, were intense.


"When we went and trained with the first team, there were about eight of us who were shining. Sometimes, we'd play the first team off the park. They would get annoyed. When we used to play young vs old, it was terrible.

"I remember one time where Alan Maybury made Carlton Palmer [look foolish], and Carlton Palmer looked at him and said, 'If you ever do that again, I'm going to fucking kill you'. Maybs was just like, 'Well I was just trying to get out of a tight area'.


"I also remember one time where I got cheeky in one of the games. The ball got played over, I controlled it well, put the ball on the ground, got down on my hands and knees, and tried to head it. Big David Hopkins tried to two-foot me. I ended up ducking, and missing him. He goes says, 'If you ever fucking do that again, I'll make sure to catch you'."


3 August 2001; Stephen McPhail of Leeds United in action against Brendan Kelly of Dublin City during a pre-season friendly match between Dublin City and Leeds United at Tolka Park in Dublin Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Kewell said training at that time was often tougher than the actual games.


"We had the likes of Lee Bowyer come in, the likes of Alan Smith coming up, then we had David Batty come in, and Gary Kelly who was a feisty person anyway," he said.

"We just started to have this intense training group that was very professional. We were great mates off the park. On team buses now, everyone's on the phone and not talking to each other. When you were on that Leeds bus, everybody would be talking to everybody - it was chaos. The manager must have been thinking, 'Are these guys actually concentrating or mucking around?'

"We had a huge bond. If we went out, everybody went out, and everyone stayed out until a certain time. If you didn't stay, you were in trouble.


'If there wasn't a fight a week at Leeds, it wouldn't be the same'

"As soon as we crossed the white line, everyone just changed. Everyone wanted to play. We had Viduka, myself, Smith, Bridgey, Robbie Keane, Robbie Fowler - they were the strikers and only two can play.

"Talking would be flying in, and there would be tension because players wanted to play. If there wasn't a fight a week at Leeds, it wouldn't be the same. That's how intense it was.

"As soon as training finished, it never went off the pitch. It never went into the game because you knew the team was ready to fight at the weekend, and they had your back. If they were kicking lumps out of each other, what do you think they were going to do to the opposition?


"People thought, 'We'll pass this young team off the park'. They couldn't because we could play. Then they said, 'We'll bully them' but they couldn't because we had some of the nastiest players in the league."

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