Josh Warrington on sitting next to Victor Orta, befriending players and what Take Us Home did for Leeds United

Josh Warrington is an Elland Road regular
Josh Warrington is an Elland Road regular
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Elland Road has been his workplace, it will always be his home and Leeds United his family.

Josh Warrington has never played football for Leeds but enjoys a far closer association with the club and its stadium than many who have pulled on the White shirt.

Warrington with pal and Leeds United skipper Liam Cooper

Warrington with pal and Leeds United skipper Liam Cooper

One of the stars of the recent Amazon-screened documentary about the dramatic 2018/19 Championship season, the world champion boxer is a friend to players, an invited guest of Leeds United's powers-that-be and an ordinary fan.

Leeds' IBF featherweight title holder Warrington, who won his belt at Elland Road in May 2018 with victory over Lee Selby, admits he would have loved to have lived the dream of every White and made his name with his feet.

Settling for the career and the success he's had, all the while linked so heavily with the club he loves, isn't a bad consolation prize.

"I would have liked to have laced up the boots, walked down the tunnel and scored goals at the Kop end but I'm better with my hands, let's just say that," said the 28-year-old from Rookwood.

Warrington showing off his belt to his fellow Whites at Elland Road

Warrington showing off his belt to his fellow Whites at Elland Road

"Being able to be associated with the club, invited to game, being on the walls in certain lounges at the stadium, it's fantastic.

"I've created a bit of history down there myself, it's the next best thing."

Warrington was brought out onto the pitch and addressed the crowd at half-time during last weekend's game against Swansea City.

He might now enjoy the finest hospitality Leeds United have to offer on the occasions he's invited to matchdays.

Yet he recalls scrimping and saving to afford a ticket in his youth, and still includes himself in the rank and file of the fanbase.

"I remember me and a pal of mine scraping money together in my late teens and early 20s, running down Beeston Hill to go to the game, getting there just before kick-off and watching us on Tuesday nights in front of barely 20,000," he said.

"I'm a fan myself and the rest of the fans thinking I'm something special, I don't take that lightly, I really enjoy being part of the Leeds United family."

His own fame has allowed him to form relationships with some of the club's players.

Captain Liam Cooper visits him in the gym and accompanied the fighter on his ringwalk before the December 2018 title fight against Frampton at Manchester Arena.

READ: Liam Cooper on the 'chalk and cheese' differences between Leeds United then and Leeds United now.
That proximity to the men he cheers on a Saturday and his own experience as a sportsman might not have dampened his ferver as a Whites fan, but they have altered the way he reacts publicly to results and performances. Particularly on social media.

"It has for two reasons; one, because I know them and two, because I'm a professional athlete in the limelight.

"If I think Liam has had a bad game, I'm not going to defend him to the hilt, but people do have a bad day at the office, I'm not going to jump straight on social media and start calling him all the names under the sun. He's human, like me.

"On Twitter and Facebook, sometimes they can be the best player one week and the next week we need to get rid of them.

"I'm always honest when it comes to performances but the season is long, it's gruelling.

"People will say they're professional footballers, but it's the mental side as well, it's the expectation of a city, a one-club city.

"Everyone expects us to be back up there and as time goes on, we become more desperate to get back there."

Warrington's friendship with Cooper was one of many fascinating tangents of Take Us Home, the six-part Amazon series.

He was just as enraptured by it as many of his fellow supporters and believes it has allowed fans to better understand the men making decisions on behalf of the club and tempered reactions to failure on the pitch.

"It was absolutely fantastic, what a great insight.

"I played a part myself and spoke to Lee Hicken and a couple of the guys involved about it.

"But when it's there on the screen it's different looking altogether.

"I've been lucky enough to sit alongside Victor Orta and Andrea Radrizzani at matches in the directors box.

READ: Promotion was the second thing on Andrea Radrizzani's agenda when he talked Leeds to Angus Kinnear
"I say this to my mates all the time, having sat there with Victor, seeing his passion and emotion - some people might say he's not bothered about Leeds United, I don't think you can put that on.

"He cares, he's passionate about the club - that was shown in the documentary.

"Victor came in for stick last season, especially during the transfer window but we saw the Daniel James saga and it brought him to tears.

"If you weren't bothered about your job, you couldn't put that on.

"The little things as well, when Forshaw, Ayling and Cooper were talking about social media, their families and their missus seeing it, them seeing it themselves, I think that has had an impact.

"Look at the cup game against Stoke, Jack Harrison misses the penalty and I think last season people would be booing him, this season they're all behind him, standing up and chanting his name, that's what it's about.

"The documentary gave a great insight. It's brought us all together."

During the Swans game Warrington told the Elland Road crowd of his excitement about the new campaign.

That game, a cruel defeat inflicted by a 90th minute sucker punch, threatened to derail the unity and momentum with which Leeds and their fans have approached the early stages of the season.

Warrington cautions against letting the heart overrule the head before the Championship promotion race has really got going.

"I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and start panicking after the result at the weekend," he said.

"[Eddie] Nketiah is finding his feet, Bamford is getting goals, alright he didn't score last week but he's still got goals - there's no need to start panicking this early in the season.

"We know from experience, last season, how we can get carried away.

"We've got to stay optimistic and believe in Bielsa."

It is when talk turns to Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentine head coach so beloved so quickly by Leeds fans, that Warrington's passion for his club spills over.

For all the talk of not getting carried away, it is abundantly clear that Bielsa and the style of football Warrington so enjoys watching, has allowed the Leeds fan to dream again.

The expectation is always there at Leeds United. Now it is firmly attached to belief.

"I started following the club and really understanding it when David O'Leary was manager and there's been a string of managers. He's one of the best.

"I don't think we've played football this entertaining for a long time.

"The Simon Grayson era was entertaining because we got goals, but we often conceded them as well.

"The way we play is such a joy to watch, we're doing things beyond this league.

"I think that's why fans have taken to him that much.

"He's made a massive change. I've seen that myself, I speak to the likes of Cooper and Berardi and they say it's unreal what he's done behind the scenes.

"I've been fortunate enough to see a bit of the changes at Thorp Arch and even the nutritional side, you would have thought it was taken care of all the time but it wasn't.

"He's brought belief, he's no nonsense, it's not all about him, he's not egotistical and puts the club first.

"We've had a year under Bielsa and we go again.

"Over the long run it'll all be worth it."