Leeds United player's WhatsApp group buzzing for Wembley reunion with 'unpredictable' Southampton man

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Glen Kamara is just days away from a Leeds United play-off final, a first ever Wembley appearance and a clash with one of his best pals - not that you'd know it.

If the midfielder was any more laid back he'd be horizontal, which perhaps partly explains why he remains so close with Joe Aribo, described on the Southampton website as having a 'naturally relaxed demeanour.'

Bengal Brasserie
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The pair were team-mates at Ibrox, part of a Rangers team that won a Scottish Premiership title, a Scottish Cup and reached the Europa League final. Aribo left Glasgow for Southampton in July 2022 and Kamara followed him south, just not quite as far, with a summer 2023 move to Elland Road. And though when their current clubs met back at the start of this season Aribo's late substitute appearance came once Kamara had already been withdrawn, they faced off as starters in the final game of the campaign.

That was not their first dance in the middle of the pitch, however. That came in a 2016 EFL Trophy tie, when Kamara's Colchester United overcame Aribo's Charlton Athletic. Their next encounter, at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, comes attached with stakes that could not be higher. It's the kind of event that will have a WhatsApp group buzzing.

"It's an interesting one," Kamara told the YEP. "We were at Rangers together for years and we still communicate daily so it'll be nice to play against him again. We have a lot of similar friends as well, we're in a friendship group and everyone is talking about it like 'you or Joe, what happens?' But it's just a one off game. And I'm looking forward to it."

Playing 114 times with Aribo, coming up against him and watching his games as a supportive friend is enough to qualify Kamara as somewhat of an expert in the 27-year-old Saints attacker.

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"He's a top, top player. Strengths...he's got too many," Kamara told the YEP. "You just don't expect - I don't even know how to word it - unpredictable. You don't know what he's going to do, sometimes he might hold up the ball, sometimes he might do you with pace or skill, sometimes it might be his passing. That's the kind of player he is."

Unpredictability is something the two friends have in common, on the pitch. Kamara's ability to disguise his intentions before swivelling away from pressure or turning into space, earned him the nickname 'snake hips' from Ethan Ampadu in the Thorp Arch changing room. For the most part he looks entirely unruffled by the presence of opposition players in his near vicinity. And his calmness in possession reflects the way he seems to operate off the pitch. Never one in much of a rush to share his life on social media, nor someone who rushes to answer or feels compelled to say too much. Laid back. Yet there was an urgency to his game last Thursday night when Norwich City were blown away. Kamara was central to it all, playing an important role in three of the four goals.

He was in the right place to keep Leeds on the front foot with a first-time pass, after Georginio Rutter's shot was blocked, and seconds later Joe Rodon was winning the free-kick that Ilia Gruev curled into the net for the opener.

For the third, Kamara took responsibility as his midfield partner came under pressure in the Leeds half, playing another first-time ball into the feet of Joel Piroe. Seconds later the ball was in the net, via Rutter's right boot. And for the fourth Kamara was there, yet again, with a first-time pass into Crysencio Summerville, who popped up at the end of the move to find the net.

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It wasn't just Kamara, though, because that intensity and efficiency was running through the team from one to XI. Given the struggles for confidence and poor results that marred the end of the season, from where did this performance come from?

"Good question," he began. "I think everyone just knew the importance of the game, you know, obviously the first leg was quite tight. Pitch was probably a little bit dry, it was a bit hot, but coming home our fans were a huge, huge factor as well, I think they supported us really well. And yeah, everyone just knew I think the task at hand. We played some of the bigger games like Leicester and Ipswich at home and away you know, we had some good performances then as well. So I think we just got back to that level and showed everyone what we can do."

Southampton, described by the midfielder as a 'good, good team,' pose a very different challenge to that of Norwich, or at least the Norwich who showed up at Elland Road. So what can we expect from Leeds at Wembley, in response? "If this interview is going to go out then I'm not going to reveal anything. I don't want to reveal too much but we're definitely working hard on the training pitch for this game and we've had a full week of training." Thanks, Glen.

Moving swiftly on to safer ground, then. Or rather, hallowed ground. Wembley. At 28 Kamara is one of the elder statesmen in this young Leeds United side and one with more big game experience than most. Internationals, Old Firm derbies, Hampden Park finals, European nights against Borussia Dortmund, Benfica and Feyenoord and of course that Europa League final. He has a full season of Championship football under his belt now, too, giving him appearances in all three EFL divisions. So with all that in mind, what does he make of Wembley fever?

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"It's up there, definitely," he said. "I've had a few friends ask me which one is bigger [play-off final or Europa League final] but I couldn't really tell them - I haven't played in it yet. I've been to Wembley a couple of times to watch games. It'll be nice. I grew up round the corner, not too far from there. All my friends and family can come down. I've had a lot of ticket messages but besides that everyone is just buzzing. Just going to Wembley in itself, everyone is excited about that. I didn't even know that was a thing, people taking videos when they get there. But I understand, you know, it's such a historical stadium. But everyone knows the task ahead. Everyone's so focused on getting to where we want to get to. Obviously we wanted to go up automatically, which didn't happen, but we've got another chance on Sunday. We're looking forward to it."

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