Leeds United: My Whites playing days - Dorigo INTERVIEW

CLASS ACT: Former Leeds United left-back Tony Dorigo.
CLASS ACT: Former Leeds United left-back Tony Dorigo.
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Leeds United’s 1992 First Division title-winning left-back, Tony Dorigo, tells the YEP’s Lee Sobot how he bounced back from a failed property deal to forge a career in the media.

AFTER a nightmare ending to a venture into the Algarve property market, former Whites great Tony Dorigo is back on UK soil, earning his corn covering live matches for various TV and radio channels.

All that is now needed are regular visits to his old home Elland Road – the Australian ace hoping Leeds will once again become Premier League regulars in years to come.

United were just that during Dorgio’s six years with the Whites, the left back enjoying a fairy-tale first season at Elland Road when Howard Wilkinson’s side won the league in 1992.

And it was generally something of a fairytale professional career for Dorigo who joined Leeds following spells at first club Aston Villa and Chelsea – ultimately leaving the Whites in 1997 for a season in Torino.

After a year on Italian soil it was back to the UK for the defender who ended his career with spells at Derby County and Stoke City before turning his attentions to becoming a property developer in Portugal.

The dreaded credit crunch ultimately put paid to those aspirations – Dorigo and associates building a five-star 85-villa resort that ultimately could not find a buyer – but the 45-year-old’s interests now lie in covering top-flight football and hopes the same will soon be true of his former team Leeds.

Explaining developments in his life since his playing days ended, former crowd favourite Dorigo told the YEP: “When I retired I got into TV and I then got involved with a business developing property in Portugal in the Algarve.

“But unfortunately with the old credit crunch and everything else, I pulled out of it about a year ago

“Now I work for Al Jazeera TV, I work for Absolute Radio and I do the BBC as well doing the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga so that’s what I get up to these days.

“I enjoy it and it’s certainly a lot less stressful than running a business!

“Fortunately, I also got to go out to Qatar for the Asia Cup as well and I have done internationals and it’s great getting around all of the different grounds.

“I haven’t come across Elland Road yet with our coverage but hopefully that will change!”

Dorigo has actually experienced coverage of United from the ‘other side’ though fond memories they are not – the Melbourne-born ace having been a pundit home and away with the Whites for Radio Aire during the season of their relegation from the Premier – 2003-04.

Dorigo remembers it well and in particular the 6-1 drubbing at Portsmouth on Saturday, November 8.

“I actually did the radio for Leeds with Radio Aire a few years ago but unfortunately I did them the year they got relegated,” he said.

“That was pretty depressing I have to say with some of the phone-ins afterwards and I remember one game I did where we played Portsmouth away and we lost 6-1 or something ridiculous like that!

“I remember the start of the game was delayed by 15 minutes so there I am thinking ‘thank God for that, the phone-in has now gone down from about 40 minutes to 25’. I was thinking ‘we are okay here’.

“But then the producer rang and said ‘look here lads, we have got an extra hour!’

“We had an hour and 25 minutes of calls from Leeds fans going absolutely crazy so that wasn’t great!”

Better memories though come when reflecting on a near perfect six years at Elland Road – during which time Dorigo made 175 appearances for the Whites and scored five goals.

The Australian may have arrived from bitter rivals Chelsea but there is no doubting he left as something of a Leeds United great.

“It was incredible,” said Dorigo of his time at Elland Road.

“I was leaving Chelsea and I was always going to leave Chelsea because there were quite a few off the field problems at that time when I was there.

“I had one or two offers and Glasgow Rangers kept chasing for me quite a while but I didn’t really want to go north of the border.

“When Leeds came in they showed a great desire to sign me and Leeds had just done quite well that year. It was their first season back in the top flight and they had finished fourth.

“They had some very good players there and I also felt very much wanted which obviously came into consideration and it was great.

“I moved up from London to Leeds and I didn’t really know what to expect but it was absolutely fantastic there and to have the season like we had was just incredible. I went on to have another five or six years there and it was wonderful. I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Leeds.

“It wasn’t what I was used to in London where you had this big city with so much going on and everyone doing their own thing.

“The feeling here in Leeds was that everyone was behind you and everywhere you went it was all about the football team.

“It was wonderful and I always felt certainly at Elland Road that it was such a difference to run out to that crowd.

“You could look the other team in the eye and think ‘are you going to stay for the fight with this crowd behind us’ and that really helped, I suppose. We beat a lot of teams in the first 15 or 20 minutes because they really couldn’t cope with the atmosphere and everything else.”

Dorigo certainly could, a man for the big stage and a footballer named player of the year at four of the clubs he represented as a professional – Villa, Chelsea, Leeds and Torino.

In total the defender who first arrived in the UK aged 15 went on to make 535 professional appearances and score 20 goals.

He admitted: “If I’m being honest I thoroughly enjoyed playing everywhere that I went.

“It was a good way of earning a living and everywhere that I went it went well.

“I really enjoyed it and I didn’t ever really feel that much pressure as it’s not like I was a striker who had to score loads of goals.

“You just gave 100 per cent as a defender and it seemed to all work out.

“Nothing really went bad and I really do have fond memories of everywhere I played at.”

Fortune

The Aussie was blessed with nothing but good times and fortune during his spell in the beautiful game but that good luck then run out when attempting to make a living from the Algarve property market.

Fun in the sun it ultimately was not.

“About six or seven years ago we developed an 85-villa resort which was five star with a spa and restauarant and all this sort of stuff,” said Dorigo of his Algarve jaunt.

“But the timing was just wrong, unfortunately.

“The credit crunch really hit bad and the worst affected markets where the UK and Irish with the Irish initially.

“We were flying back and forth to the UK and we had to finish it all but unfortunately we just couldn’t sell it so literally we just had to call it a day and come back.

“That was it really, it didn’t work for us but the risk of being a property developer is that you are going to come unstuck.”

But the property market’s loss has been the football media’s gain with Dorigo’s job also enabling him to avoid answering a dicey question of whether his allegiances are now more with Chelsea or Leeds.

Now living in Rushton, Cheshire, Dorigo insists as a football pundit, discovering every team’s result is as important as each other’s though an indication of his allegiances may lie in the example of the team now followed by eldest son and University Of Leeds graduate Luca, aged 23.

Dorigo, who has two more sons in Todd, 20 and Sasha, 17, said: “I always look out for the Leeds and Chelsea scores, but I must admit now I am doing what I am doing, I always look out for everyone’s scores!

“But the good news is my eldest son has been converted from a Chelsea fan to a Leeds United fan!

“It’s funny because he obviously likes Italian football as well and of course Chelsea were one of the first ones to get the big Italian players.

“But he got on very well with a lot of people in Leeds, he followed the team and I think he now sees the light!”

Chelsea or Leeds? Quite clearly Leeds.

Kyle Bartley

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