Saturday, 30 July 2011

Boyhood Leeds fan Tavernier’s relishing Elland Road clash

James Tavernier dreamed of playing at Elland Road as a youngster growing up in Leeds.

And the Newcastle United defender’s hoping his dream will come true tomorrow.

Tavernier is a boyhood Leeds United fan, having grown up in the city after moving from Bradford, where he was born.

The 19-year-old – who played for Leeds as a schoolboy – has been involved in all four of Newcastle’s pre-season friendlies, most recently impressing in Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over Columbus Crew.

However, first-choice right-back Danny Simpson is expected to start at Elland Road, having returned home from the club’s U.S. tour early for the birth of his first child.

And versatile Tavernier – who can also play at centre-half – could start the game from the bench.

“I’m a Leeds fan, and, hopefully, I’ll be involved,” Tavernier told the Gazette.

“That would mean a lot, as I haven’t played at Elland Road in a proper game.

“I was born in Bradford, but I lived in Bramley, Leeds, from when I was four.

“I played a friendly game when I was at the Academy there – I was probably about 10.

“Hopefully, I can play this weekend. My mum and I are Leeds fans, and it would be incredible if I’m involved.”

However, there will be no divided loyalties should Tavernier cross the white line at Elland Road.

He went on: “I’ll be wearing a black and white top, I’ll obviously do my best for the club.

“I’ll be proud to be playing for Newcastle, but I still love Leeds!”

Tavernier played 90 minutes against Columbus Crew, and the victory ensured Newcastle ended an at times difficult tour of America on a high.

The previous two friendlies – against Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City – had been played out in intense heat, and Tavernier and his team-mates were at their best at a cooler Crew Stadium.

Goals from Shola Ameobi, Fabricio Coloccini and Haris Vuckic set them up for the Leeds game, their penultimate pre-season friendly.

“It was a good team performance,” said Tavernier.

“We really pulled it together in the last game.

“We were really energetic, and did really well. Overall, we were really happy with the performance.

“Getting up and down’s my game. Kansas was ridiculously hot, and Columbus was more our scene.

“It wasn’t too humid, so we could crack on.

“I’m delighted with my performance. I want to prove to the gaffer that he can trust me, and hopefully I’m building that trust now.”

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