'They've saved my life' - ex Leeds United defender's emotional tribute to city, club, fans and current team

I was back at Elland Road recently to meet Angus Kinnear for a chat about where I'm at, how I'm getting on with stuff and how Leeds United have done this season.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 7:12 am
HAPPY DAYS - Leeds United fans celebrating after Dominic Matteo's goal against AC Milan at the San Siro in 2000. Whites supporters have played a huge part in his life and recovery from brain surgery. Pic: Getty

We covered everything from when I played for Leeds to where the club is now, writes Dominic Matteo for the YEP.

Leeds have played a massive role in my life. There were times when they weren't sure if I was going to get through my brain tumour situation and the support I've had from Leeds, the club, the city and the fans has been huge. They've saved my life. I was being treated in the city and spoke to a lot of people going through similar things, which was tough and rewarding, but it showed me again how big Leeds are. I always think people don't know who I am anymore, I played for Leeds so long ago, but it felt like coming home.

It's a brilliant city and the fans are a brilliant bunch.

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There's two couriers who come round here, one supports Liverpool and one supports Leeds. Those conversations, the ones I have when I meet Leeds fans, and the support I've had is just amazing.

Without the support I've had from Leeds United and others I probably wouldn't be here. I always thought I would get through it somehow, but there's a part of you that says 'I don't know' and you're a bit vulnerable.

I can't believe how many people have wanted to reach out or help, it's overwhelming. It tells you a lot about what Leeds is like.

I've noticed the way the fans get behind each other and support their own. They got behind me, not just friends I know but people I've never met. A fan sent me a drawing of my son and I, beside Billy Bremner's statue, someone else sent a signed shirt from 2000 and I asked if he wanted it signed but he told me I already had, he wanted me to keep it.

FORMER STAR - Dominic Matteo still feels close to Leeds United and the club's supporters. Pic: Getty

At the moment I still can't read or write, it's improving, but I hope to help people realise that they can still move their lives forward no matter what, they can get on with stuff and talking to people, letting them help is key.

From the club hierarchy to Liam Cooper sending me messages wishing me well or sending me a birthday message, it's been quite inspiring to be honest. It's hard to explain, I don't expect to get anything from anyone, but the support has shown me just how much I love being involved in anything to do with the club. It makes sense, in my head, to be involved with the city and the club.

There's a bond between players who have played for Leeds and the city, and a bond between the players themselves too.

I'm close with Lucas Radebe. I speak a lot with Ian Harte, Eirik Bakke was my close mate. I'm hoping one day we can all get together at Elland Road and watch this new era and this team doing so well.

I had a chat with James Milner recently and he remembered me at Leeds, when he was coming through, and said I would give him advice and help him out. It was a really nice, uplifting conversation.

When I talk to people like James, about Liverpool going through a tough period, just like I did in my own life, it's about finding ways, passageways through tough moments.

Any top player, they've all had issues, it doesn't matter how much money they've had or goals they've scored. I know footballers who have suffered with mental health problems, of course I do, it's a massive thing for society in general.

Football has a big part to play. When fans are back in stadiums it will help, bringing people together again, getting them out of the house and around others, allowing them to express themselves and enjoy their football. The city is going to come alive again when people can get out and about and the football is such a big part of that.

Leeds have a big part to play in that and the team they have right now can put some happiness or even a welcome distraction in people's lives.

The performance against Spurs was outstanding and I was expecting a tougher game. We've actually had a bit of luck with VAR for once but the players deserved that result.

It's got to be right up there. Manchester City away will stand out because it was with 10 men but this was equally as impressive because we really did go for them. If Jack Harrison or Mateusz Klich had their shooting boots on we could have hammered them.

We got into some great positions and played ourselves into the area beautifully, the work rate was outstanding, but if you want to be picky we've got to hit the target a bit more.

Robin Koch was impressive in that defensive midfield role where games can be won or lost. Kalvin Phillips is a top player but everyone needs a little bit of competition.

Diego Llorente took a bit of time to settle and get over his injuries but look at him now. He's good on the football and the way Leeds play that's so crucial.Collectively it was excellent, from back to front. Players came off the bench and made an impact, which is a huge thing to have in the back of your mind.

It was another game I watched and said: "Wow."

This team bounces back. After poor performances or results, they're back at it. They find a way through difficulty. Leeds United is a club providing inspiration on and off the pitch.