'Changed' Leeds United man tight-lipped on contract but can’t hide high hopes after an eye-opener

Charlie Cresswell has returned to Thorp Arch a different person but with the same dream - to play for Leeds United.
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The centre-back spent last season out on loan in the division Leeds will call their home in the upcoming campaign, securing a temporary spell that would put hairs in the chest of any youngster.

Millwall was perhaps an ideal loan club for Cresswell, given his ambition to play week in and week out in the bear pit that is Elland Road.

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To say his time with the Lions left its mark would be an entirely appropriate summation, given the fractured eye socket that required surgery and ended his season earlier than planned.

"It was good, I enjoyed it," he said.

"It was just a shame it finished how it did with my eye socket but I loved every minute, wouldn't change a thing really. It was just getting to grips with first-team football and that need to win every week and [how] it's not just based on performances - getting the results week in week out and being able to deliver in front of lots and lots of people. I think that was the biggest experience for me, because my ability was there. And it's just me, just producing and showing on the stage."

Perhaps the biggest eye-opener for the 20-year-old was the level of demand that senior football carries, compared with the age-group stuff, and the role that fans play within that.

"It's so much different you know, fans make football," said Cresswell.

CHANGED MAN - Leeds United defender Charlie Cresswell has returned from a season on loan with Millwall and hopes to make his Elland Road dream a reality. Pic: GettyCHANGED MAN - Leeds United defender Charlie Cresswell has returned from a season on loan with Millwall and hopes to make his Elland Road dream a reality. Pic: Getty
CHANGED MAN - Leeds United defender Charlie Cresswell has returned from a season on loan with Millwall and hopes to make his Elland Road dream a reality. Pic: Getty
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"If you go and have a game outside, it's just like normal 23s game, but as soon as you get fans involved and results are needed, when it really really matters, it really makes football. It's a massive difference. I don't think you can explain really to the outside world how much of an impact it has on us in here. Because it really does."

Young defenders are not expected to coast when they 'drop down' to the second tier, because the standard is still so high and the competitive nature of the Championship rarely makes for an easy life. Cresswell had his ups and downs on loan but believes the latter became his learning curve.

"I just felt like I calmed down really, I felt like I wanted to impress so badly that I tried too hard [to begin with] so in the end, I just came to [the conclusion] myself and just said: 'Right, you're going to calm down and let my ability come to the surface', and that's what seemed to happen. And everything kind of just gradually showed, just kind of flowed, really."

The player Leeds have got back is not, he suggests, a materially different one. The person who walked back into the dressing room to reacquaint himself with Liam Cooper and the rest of the squad has changed, though.

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"I don't feel a different player but I feel a different person, knowing how I carry myself on and off the pitch," he said.

"I feel much calmer. It's hard to explain how I feel.

"[Living away from home] was big to be fair - it was the first time I've moved out of my family home so when I left my mum was all in tears and everything, but she soon came around to it and wanted me out the house every time I came home but no, it was good. I loved living down there in London. It's much different to life up here but I wouldn't change a thing."

The landscape at Leeds has changed considerably since Cresswell made his temporary move. Jesse Marsch went in February, Javi Gracia and Sam Allardyce came and went since and Premier League status has been lost. Several senior players have departured. Daniel Farke is the manager now and the way Leeds play football is about to change drastically.

The drop into the Championship could be what presents Cresswell with his best chance yet of making a sustained first team breakthrough, particularly if Leeds decide not to add another right-sided centre-back. That would leave left footers Liam Cooper and Pascal Struijk as his most natural competitors, along with right-back Luke Ayling.

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Cresswell had no comment to make on the record about the prospect of a new deal at Leeds but he's not keeping his hopes of game time under wraps.

"That's my goal - obviously, I'm not gonna sit here and lie to you and say that's not what I want to do, because that is my dream, ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to play for Leeds United," he said.

"And hopefully this season I've got a chance to do so. It's a big year for me personally in there. But it's also a big year for the lads, you know, just been relegated from the Premier League and wanting to bounce straight back up."