Leeds United have something that is completely unique and top-flight status vital for the city - Tony Dorigo

The sporting pride and united nature of this city hit me straight away upon joining Leeds United back in 1991.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 5:08 am

I had previously played at Aston Villa where we had huge rivalries with Birmingham City and, then, three miles down the road was West Brom and eight miles down the road was Wolverhampton Wanderers.

There was so much competition on the sporting side and then it got even worse as I went to London playing for Chelsea!

Good luck because there are so many big clubs there but it’s not only the football there with so many other things going on in London.

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SPECIAL BOND: Leeds United celebrate Raphinha's 93rd-minute penalty in front of the club's passionate fans in Tuesday night's clash against Crystal Palace at Elland Road. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

But then you come to Leeds and, wow, right at the forefront and right at the centre is Leeds United, simple as that.

There is a new thing in Leeds that has been set up by Gary Hetherington which is a business and sports excellence group and we had our first meeting on Monday.

I am involved as one of the ambassadors which is great and we have Leeds Rhinos, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Leeds United and all the expert business people around the city.

There are one or two sponsors from Leeds and what have you and we all get together in a room and we are going to meet every quarter and just try and bring together the excellence of the city and see what ideas we can cross over to each other.

We were talking and saying that without Leeds United being successful and in the Premier League, it does take the gloss off everything else around the city.

But being back in the Premier League helps with absolutely everything.

I remember going to Turin and playing for Torino and, obviously, in Turin you have got Juventus so there is all this rivalry.

There were these different restaurants that you would go to and you would know that one was a Torino restaurant and that the other one was a Juventus restaurant.

But, even in your own restaurant, when you won you never paid for anything but when you lost the food was rubbish, it was cold, it was late, and you got next to nothing. And that was in your own place!

But, in Leeds, I never felt that, straight away I felt like everyone was rowing in the same direction, everyone is behind you, everyone is with you and it was all one big family.

Every time I have come across, for example, the rugby league guys at an event it is all positive stuff and they are all big Leeds United supporters and we also want to see Leeds Rhinos do well.

Anyone from Leeds, whatever it is, you want to see them do well and that is unique.

With Leeds United, it’s absolutely vital that we keep our Premier League status and that is the crux of the whole thing.

At the meeting, Angus Kinnear came out and said exactly the same thing.

As fans and ex players, we clearly understand just how difficult it was to get back into the division, how long we were away and no doubt the club and the players will do every single thing they can to stay in it.

We always thought that the second season was going to be a difficult one and I think everyone is waiting to see what is going to happen in January as well with the club.

But what is clear is that we need to get our best players back and that we need to get away from that bottom three.

The Leeds sporting community once again came together at the weekend as we all paid tribute to my former team-mate Gary Speed.

Tributes were paid before and during Saturday’s game at Brighton with the players warming up in t-shirts with Gary on the front of them and the fans singing his name in the 11th minute in memory of his shirt number.

Even after that, they kept doing it as well and just kept going and going and going.

It was absolutely wonderful and Bryn Law, my co-commentator, was close to Speedo and knew him really well as well so we had a good chat before the game and afterwards a few drinks and another chat.

It was just lovely and we all came out with our nice stories and that’s what we all remember.

I just remember this big beaming smile of just light and happiness when he walked into a room. He just lit up the place and, as a player, when you go out on that pitch, there are lots of things to worry about.

But Speedo was never one of them, he was always one by your side.

You just thought, ‘great, I have got him alongside me, we will be alright today’ so all of those kind of nice memories came out.

I am sure everyone can’t believe it has been 10 years since he left us.

But, for me, those memories are like yesterday and, when the club does things like they did at Brighton and remembers things like that, that is what makes Leeds United great.

Those sorts of things are so important and someone like Speedo will always be remembered.

In my head I am lucky; I have got some very personal memories which will stay there and they are really good ones.

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Thank you Laura Collins