'I couldn't ask for anything better' Clarke Carlisle became Kevin Blackwell's second Leeds United signing earlier this week. The ex-QPR defender speaks exclusively with the YEP's PAUL DEWS about his return to the north
CLARKE CARLISLE cannot wait to get started at Leeds United.
It's a familiar shout from any new signing, but the former Queens Park Rangers centre-back is literally chomping at the bit to pull on a white shirt and make an impression at his new club.
The 24-year-old cut his summer holidays short to fit in with Kevin Blackwell's packed diary and wasted little time in pledging his future to Leeds after spending a couple of hours speaking with the new boss.
He was awestruck as he looked around the club's Thorp Arch training complex on Monday and is already making attempts to immerse himself in the area before the real work starts on July 1.
A smiling Carlisle said: "I'm absolutely delighted to be here. It's been well known for a while now that when my contract expired at QPR I was keen to come back up north.
"For me to land a club like Leeds United is tremendous. I couldn't have asked for anything better than this.
"My agent had been talking to Eddie Gray during the last transfer window, but there was nothing concrete. When Kevin got installed my agent put a phone call to him and things have gone from there.
"I came back from Tenerife to speak to Kev because it was the only time we could really get together before he went away. I didn't have any doubts - we had a chat and things have moved quickly.
"Leeds is a magnificent club. I was almost in awe of the facilities when I looked around Thorp Arch and I've not even been around Elland Road yet.
"Kevin talked about what he wanted to do here and he says there will be 35,000 there and the ground will be packed next season - I just can't wait to get started."
Carlisle fits in with the Blackwell ethos for new players. He is young yet experienced and is willing to learn and develop as a player.
He joins Danny Pugh in putting pen to paper on a two-year deal and the manager is currently scouring for further experience as he looks for the right blend to give Leeds a fighting chance next term.
"That's the way to go," said Carlisle. "The manager wants that blend and he wants people who want to play football and give their all. He doesn't want pay cheque players who don't want to do that."
Blackwell's mission is to change the culture and that will be centred around what will be a new-look side next season.
The incoming players have little to lose after the struggles of the past cou ple of years at Leeds, but Carlisle is only too aware of the expectancy facing the new troops.
He said: "The expectations will be huge and that is understandable.
"I experienced it to a certain extent at QPR last season because we were seen as the team to beat in the second division and were viewed by others as a big club.
"Leeds will be a huge club in this division and everyone will want to beat us."
QPR fans are already in mourning for the loss of a player they hoped would be a key figure next season.
Carlisle played 33 games as the Hoops edged their way to promotion last term and hopes were high that the consistent central defender would extend his stay in west London.
The club offered him a lucrative deal to stay on at Loftus Road, but the Preston-born player had already made his mind up that he was prepared to take a drop in wages in favour of a return to the north.
"QPR was a fantastic club," said Carlisle. "Ian Holloway did a great job and I have so much time for 'Ollers'.
"he was brilliant and it wasn't nice telling him I was going to leave.
"But this is about geography and I wanted to come back up north.
"QPR offered me a better contract and wanted me to stay, but it was never about that. It's about geography and my career.
"The prospects at Leeds are awesome and I just thought if I can be a part of what Kevin is trying to achieve here then I'll jump in with two feet."
Like Leeds, Carlisle was hoping the move could be completed on the quiet.
Speculation was at a minimum and the strapping defender did not want to be seen as turning his back on QPR.
He spent four seasons with Rangers, making in excess of 100 appearances after leaving Blackpool and endured a whole range of emotions during his stay in the south.
A knee injury almost wiped out his career and a knock-on effect from those dark days was a lengthy battle with alcoholism that saw him undergo extensive treatment to cope with his addiction.
QPR were loyal to the last and Carlisle says leaving was a wrench.
"I did feel I owed QPR something," he explained. "I've been through some traumatic times there with the injury and the addiction and they looked after me.
"I never envisaged being somewhere like Leeds. This is beyond my wildest dreams.
"The people who looked after me said something like this might happen one day and thoughts like that kept me going through some pretty tough times."
But Carlisle, who also won a televised competition to be named Britain's Brainiest Footballer, never made any secret of his desire to return north at the end of his contract.
His girlfriend is from Roundhay - the family are all Leeds United fans - and the Yorkshire city is already like home from home.
Now Carlisle just cannot wait to make it a happy homecoming by knuckling down to work.
Leeds United is a magnificent club. I was almost in awe of the facilities when I looked around Thorp Arch and I've not even been around Elland Road yet.
- CLARKE CARLISLE