Leeds United: I have unfinished business - Kisnorbo INTERVIEW

Patrick Kisnorbo.
Patrick Kisnorbo.
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Patrick Kisnorbo has dispensed with his distinctive headband, heralding what he sees as a “new start”.

After a year-and-a-half of personal struggle, a new start is no less than the defender requires.

The contract he agreed with Leeds United last week drew a more symbolic line under his torment, allowing Kisnorbo to look ahead with confidence.

As a 30-year-old with a serious injury behind him, the Australian felt the need for assurance about the direction of his advanced career.

A new contract at Elland Road materialised more quickly than it might have done, or more quickly than Leeds suggested it would when Kisnorbo began pre-season training on July 4.

The club’s plan was to make him an offer on the basis of his performances and demeanour throughout pre-season. Instead, a two-year deal was proposed and signed before their first friendly at Falkirk on Wednesday night.

United’s manager, Simon Grayson, seemed as relieved as Kisnorbo to have put the matter to rest.

Kisnorbo’s hour-long appearance against Falkirk was notable for the absence of the thick bandage he wore without fail throughout his first year with Leeds.

At first, it served as protection for a nasty head wound sustained on the opening day of the 2009-10 season but the strapping soon strayed to the realms of habit and superstition.

Kisnorbo used it again on the final day of last season, 13 months after his previous competitive appearance and 19 after the cut occurred.

“There’ll be no headband this season,” he said. “It’s a new start for me and you won’t be seeing me in that again, unless I get cut. Then it’ll be a different story.

“It’s no big deal but I want to draw a bit of a line under the last year and I want to look forward. The injury took away a chunk of my career and it’s time to get going again. I won’t look back on this period with many fond memories.”

The 63 minutes completed by Kisnorbo against Falkirk – a longer introduction to pre-season than Grayson planned for him – offered no evidence of continuing pain caused by the Achilles tendon he ruptured in March of last year.

His programme of rehabilitation required repeated spells of treatment in America and was not declared complete until the final month of last season.

When he first sustained his injury, Kisnorbo spoke of resuming light training in July of the same year. Grayson was finally able to consider him for selection a year later.

The effect was a cloud around Kisnorbo’s future with his contract expired and his fitness needing fresh examination.

Leeds invited him back to Thorp Arch for the start of pre-season training and Kisnorbo accepted their invitation, on the proviso that his short-term agreement would be replaced by a more secure contract later in the summer.

In the end, he was asked to wait a matter of days before Grayson presented him with a two-year deal.

It does not appear to have been a coincidence that talk of interest in Kisnorbo among other Championship clubs reared its head around the same time.

As a manager whose defence caused him sleepless nights last season, Grayson was deeply reluctant to see United’s player of the year for 2009 stolen from under his nose.

Kisnorbo, for his part, claimed a transfer elsewhere was a last resort.

“My intention was always to stay here,” he said. “That was the plan at the end of last season and I never thought differently.

“In a way I’ve got unfinished business at Leeds.

“My first season here was a good one but it feels like a long time ago now.

“I’d like to make more of a mark. I’m grateful for the way the club looked after me and I’m grateful that they’ve given me another two years. I’ll do what I can to pay them back.”

Kisnorbo has not played regularly in the Championship for four years but the feeling in every corner of Elland Road last season was that the Australian international was missed.

The concession of 70 league goals compelled Grayson to revise his defence this summer, and he saw the availability of Kisnorbo as a crucial factor in improving a woefully porous record.

The centre-back’s brief appearance against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of last season was as much a show of faith in him by Grayson as it was a meaningful outing.

In the coming five friendlies, United’s manager will look for a series of performances which make Kisnorbo’s selection against Southampton on August 6 a viable possibility.

Having nursed him back from his injury earlier in the year, Leeds always hoped that the defender would regain match fitness before the start of the new Championship term.

On occasions, Kisnorbo must have asked himself if he would ever reach full fitness at all.

The shocked reaction of Grayson and United’s playing squad to the damage he sustained during a 2-0 defeat to Millwall exposed the extent of an appalling injury.

Even Grayson – often so coy about the fitness of his players – made no secret of the crisis Kisnorbo faced.

“You always get doubts,” Kisnorbo said. “When an injury lasts for as long as mine did, you have those moments where you wonder ‘am I going to get through this?’. But I’m not a negative person. I believed in myself and I believed in the club’s medical staff.

“Make no mistake, I’m in this position because of their dedication. The length of your recovery always depends on how bad your injury is but I don’t think any of us thought I’d take so long to get over the worst of it.

“If you’re being philosophical, you have to say that I’m in an occupation where players can get injured and do get injured. It’s one thing feeling annoyed when it happens but this is football and injuries happen. You either give into them or you fight them. I’m not the giving-in type.”