Vinnie’s reunion with Leeds will be emotional

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The phone call, when it arrives, is even later than one of his trademark bone-crunching tackles.

Busy promoting a forthcoming tour of the UK, Leeds United hero Vinnie Jones is a good 20 minutes delayed ringing the Yorkshire Evening Post from Los Angeles.

Discretion being the better part of valour, we don’t complain at the midfield hardman-turned-movie star’s tardiness.

It’s perhaps just as well, for as soon as he is on the line, Vinnie is waxing lyrical about his love for Leeds – both the club and the city.

He made fewer than 60 appearances and scored only five goals during his one full season at Elland Road.

But, crucially, the season in question was the Second Division title-winning campaign of 1989-90 – regarded as among the most memorable in United’s history.

It was one of the biggest, best and proudest decisions of my life.

Vinnie remains an idol for fans of a certain age thanks to his role in a side that also featured the likes of Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Gary Speed – a midfield trio he fondly refers to as Strach, Batts and Speedo.

And he is now set to renew aquaintances with Leeds at two exclusive events that come in the year that marks the 25th anniversary of the title triumph.

Vinnie, who has a United badge tattooed on his ankle, tells the YEP: “It’s just fantastic to come back – I’ve still got lots of friends in Leeds.

“They send me articles from the Evening Post when that team gets a mention, it’s always lovely to see that we’re remembered.

“It really is like coming home. When I came up last March [for an appearance at half-time during a United game] it was so emotional. Going on the pitch, I got goosebumps.”

Vinnie keeps in touch with a fair few of his former Leeds team-mates, speaking with Batty about once a month.

He also had a recent reunion with Strachan in LA, with the pair playing golf and discussing old times.

“We spent four hours just talking about that season,” says Vinnie.

Asked for his favourite memory of his spell at Leeds, the 50-year-old plumps for the celebrations that followed the club’s promotion and title-clinching win over Bournemouth.

He says: “Me and Speedo and Batts went driving round and round Leeds, hanging out the windows and the sunroof with all the fans going crazy.

“I often have a look at the tattoo and give it a rub and think about what we achieved.

“I suppose it was my first real taste of stardom. We were legends that season – and some of us have stayed legends ever since!”

Fans have been snapping up tickets left, right and centre for a 350-capacity lunch event with Vinnie at the city’s Queens Hotel on Wednesday, April 29.

The response has prompted organisers to stage a 300-capacity black tie night-time dinner at the same venue with him the following day.

He tells the YEP: “What can people expect? Vinnie wearing his heart on his sleeve.

“That’s how I came to Leeds and that’s how I left.”

Talking about his exit from United after just 15 months, he says: “Not even being on the bench for the first couple of games of the [1990-91] season, I wanted to run and that’s what I ended up doing. I ran before I thought about it.”

Vinnie left Leeds for Sheffield United, managed at the time by his old Wimbledon boss Dave Bassett, who he describes as his “football godfather”. He also played for Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers.

The Watford-born star branched out into acting after hanging up his boots, appearing in hit films such as Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Gone In 60 Seconds.

Vinnie’s dates in Leeds have been organised by Olexy Productions, the same company behind cinema legend Al Pacino’s eagerly-awaited appearance at the Centenary Pavilion at Elland Road on Saturday, May 16.

The wit and, yes, wisdom of Vincent Peter Jones

On his move to Leeds: “It was one of the biggest, best and proudest decisions of my life.”

On his contract talks at Elland Road: “I was on £500 a week at Wimbledon and I didn’t really know what figure to go for so, thinking in a hurry, I just trebled it then thought that was a bit much so I knocked off a hundred quid and said ‘I want £1,400 a week’. I was a Leeds United player, just like that.”

On the staff at the club: “They were on this massive, positive thing. No jolly up, 110 per cent or nothing. I thought ‘If you cut [them] in half they’re going to bleed Leeds United’.”

On his Leeds skipper Strachan: “I became a better player because of Gordon. I became a better person because of Gordon.”

On his film career: “I’d like to be the romantic lead one day but I’ve got to grow my hair first.”

On fashion: “I buy hats like women buy shoes.”

As debt collector Big Chris in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels: “It’s been emotional.”

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