From nervous to nerveless as ice-cool Ben White outlines no-nonsense Leeds United aims

BEN WHITE and nerves have not belonged in the same sentence since the Brighton loanee stepped out for Leeds United this term.

By Lee Sobot
Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 6:00 am
CLASSY: Leeds United's Brighton loanee centre back Ben White with his man of the match award following Saturday's goalless draw at Sheffield Wednesday.
CLASSY: Leeds United's Brighton loanee centre back Ben White with his man of the match award following Saturday's goalless draw at Sheffield Wednesday.

There were few cooler customers at Hillsborough on Saturday as the six-foot-one defender stood firm to Sheffield Wednesday’s aerial threat before walking away with the Sky man of the match award.

The 22-year-old then proved equally cool in a post-match press conference. The aims? Simple. Keep winning, with White integral to a Whites defence that has been breached just eight times in 14 league games. The division’s best.

The Poole-born centre-back arrived at Leeds without a single appearance in English football’s top two divisions only to produce displays befitting an established Championship pro’.

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Yet White says there were definite nerves beneath the cool exterior upon joining Leeds with the centre-back hailing the welcome of his team-mates for a smooth transition to life at Elland Road.

To most, White arrived as something of an unknown quantity upon signing for Leeds on a season-long loan from Brighton on July 1.

The centre-back checked in with no shortage of experience as far as the Football League was concerned but with those outings having arrived in either League Two for Newport County or League One for Peterborough United and from a handful of games for the Seagulls in the Football League Trophy or EFL Cup.

Leeds, though, through head coach Marcelo Bielsa, director of football Victor Orta and managing director Angus Kinnear, were confident they knew exactly what they were getting in the defender who joined Brighton aged 17 having been released by first club Southampton the previous year.

Four months after arriving at Leeds, White has played every minute of all 14 of United’s league games, stepping seamlessly into the big shoes of summer departure to Brentford, Pontus Jansson.

White, though, says he is not immune to nerves with the defender now able to reflect on a rather different feeling to the current settled nature upon arriving at Elland Road on July 1.

“Obviously it’s nerve wracking coming into a new team; it’s like going to a new school,” said White.

“But all the boys are so nice, I get on with them so well so as soon as I played my first game everything changes. You get more in with the lads and it was easy to fit in.”

Assessing the glowing reviews he has received so far, White pondered: “It’s nice. I’m doing all right at the moment but when I don’t do so well I’m going to get it then, so I don’t take too much notice of what happens.

“We’re only 14 games into the season and still learning how to play the manager wants me to play. I’m just picking up little details of what he wants me to do.”

White’s presence for every single minute of every single league game so far speaks volumes about the regard that head coach Bielsa holds him in.

Even his one rest so far this season, for the second-round Carabao Cup clash at home to Stoke City, did not last long with White called for from the bench as a half-time substitute with United 2-0 down

'White & Co’ fought back to seal a 2-2 draw, only to exit the competition on penalties but this season’s main aim is clear – promotion to the Premier.

“I think we’ll definitely be up there,” said White, assessing United’s promotion prospects after Saturday’s Owls draw.

“It’s the details and the points that we pick up like today. It’s the little things that count. I’m happy here so hopefully we can do something this season.

“It’s a very special club. Everyone knows that. It’s an honour to play for such a big club like Leeds. Winning promotion would be amazing.

"The aims are just to keep winning. I haven’t really thought about the long-term goals, I’m just taking every game as it comes.”

Saturday at Elland Road against QPR is next and, for White, already a 17th Whites outing with another 32 games of Championship football set to decide United’s fate.

In the rough and tumble of English football’s second tier, for White, further stern physical and aerial battles are likely to present themselves.

But that’s quite all right for a defender who has already learned the hard way. Assessing Saturday’s battle with Owls’ front two six-foot-five Atdhe Nuhiu and six-foot-one Steven Fletcher,

White mused: “I played League Two so it was every week for me. That’s definitely done me a favour...”