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West Ham United star Michail Antonio has credited Leeds United fans for helping him to realise just how much he loves the game of football.

Friday, 4th February 2022, 7:57 am

The striker, who has a goal and two assists from three games against the Whites this season, made his professional debut at Elland Road in 2009.

Having shone in non-league for Tooting & Mitcham United, Antonio was snapped up by Reading and sent out on loan for a month to League One side Cheltenham Town.

His first game was special.

“Leeds at Elland Road - 22,000. I’ve walked out and the roar… it was unbelievable, it was unreal. Going from non-league to professional football… within three months I’m at Elland road in League One. It was an amazing day… Even though after 12 minutes I tore three ligaments in my ankle, it’s still today an amazing day for me.”

An innocuous challenge by Paddy Kisnorbo early in the fixture kept Antonio out for the next five weeks, although the forward initially played on through the pain barrier.

“I started the first 10 minutes on fire – beat my man every time,” he said.

“I was about to bang it from outside the box, Kisnorbo puts his foot on the other side of the ball and I’ve kicked it. The pain in my ankle instantly… I knew I’d done something. Fifteen minutes I played on with broken ligaments.

“It was still an amazing day. Me playing my first professional game after 18 years of trying. Just the roar of the Leeds fans as I was walking out. It made me realise how much I loved football.”

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