LEEDS UNITED: Whites come first for Kilkenny

Club comes before country for midfielder Neil Kilkenny – who has accused Australian team manager Graham Arnold of telling lies during the Socceroos' quest for Olympic glory in Beijing.

The Whites schemer admits he is still aggrieved at his alleged treatment at the hands of Arnold in the summer, which he insists has had the knock-on effect of hampering his quest for full fitness this term.

Kilkenny – who played a leading role in the qualifying campaign for the Olympic finals – claimed that Arnold reneged on his promise to make him a vital part of the team, with the former Birmingham and Oldham ace featuring in just one of the Socceroos' three group matches – a 1-0 defeat to eventual winners Argentina.

After devoting much of his off-season to a pre-tournament training camp and the event itself, Kilkenny was left to reflect on a sorry summer when he flew back to Leeds in time to watch the 2-0 home defeat to Oldham, United's second league match of the season.

And upon joining up with his team-mates, he was forced to play catch-up in terms of fitness after being absent in all but one of the Whites' warm-up matches, while missing the bulk of the squad's invaluable pre-season conditioning programme.

Kilkenny – born in North London, but brought up in Brisbane – admits it's only now that he's managing to find his feet after a stop-start first few months of the season.

And hitting his straps with United, and not looking on the immediate international horizon with Australia – currently in the latter stages of qualification for the 2010 World Cup – is occupying his attentions.

After his China crisis, turning a negative into a positive on the domestic front is what is inspiring Kilkenny, 23 next month.

He said: "They've (Australia) had a few games lately. But I'm not really concentrating on that, I just want to get promoted with Leeds.

"To be honest, they didn't do very well with me when I went to the Olympics. I feel Graham Arnold lied to me and I don't want to concentrate on that.

"I think it knocked my confidence a bit; going away to the Olympics and not playing as much as I wanted to.

"The Australian manager promised me certain things and went against his words.

"I'm a big confidence player and hopefully, I can get my confidence back and get a good run of form going."

And on playing catch-up following his unfortunate Olympian experience, he added: "Pre-season is a big thing for players. You get a base in terms of fitness. I never had that base.

"I went over with Australia and the Australian manager said we were going to have a real strong, hard pre-season.

"The hardest I worked was when I was back here for a week.

"I worked harder here for a week than I did in six or eight weeks with him. And that was another thing that annoyed me."

Yet to fully hit his stride this term, fans have at least been afforded a few glimpses of the playmaking talent that Kilkenny displayed in the run-in last season, over the past few weeks.

While Jermaine Beckford stole the headlines at Sixfields on Monday, a telling and encouraging contribution from Kilkenny was not lost on many of the United contingent who headed down the M1 to Northamptonshire.

Kilkenny had a noticeable spring in his step and produced some incisive off-the-cuff passing and is the first to admit that he felt an air of confidence in his performance for one of the first occasions this term.

And fans will be hoping for more of the same from the midfielder in Tuesday's quick return to Sixfields for the second time in eight days for a league fixture against Stuart Gray's troops.

United eased through the gears impressively at times against the Cobblers – and the top-notch attacking performance won't have been lost on the watching public and particularly supporters of rival League One sides.

Kilkenny insists the challenge now is taking on the head-turning performance into the league arena and making the division sit up and firmly take notice.

Do that and United will take the division firmly by the scruff of the neck, according to Kilkenny, who chose to head to Leeds in preference to Doncaster Rovers in a 150,000 move from Birmingham in January.

He said: "We got a good win the other night against Northampton and hope to keep it going now. I played a bit more without fear. I played certain passes that at the start of the season, I was sort of thinking about them.

"Last season, I probably played passes without thinking and that's probably when I do my best things.

"My form has been very up and down this season, whereas in the last 10 or 15 games of last season, I was very consistent over a long period of time.

"So far this season, I've maybe had two good games, two average ones and maybe a bad game.

"Hopefully I can get a string of performances together now and do well.

"We need to get out of this division. The league is the most important thing for us.

"We know we are good enough to go on an unbeaten run of games like we did earlier in the season of about eight or nine games."