Michael Tonge enjoying return to Leeds United action

 

Forgotten man Michael Tonge is enjoying being back in first-team picture at Leeds, and is thankful a problematic shoulder injury has not ruled him out of tonight's Capital One Cup tie with Southampton.

A decade ago the Manchester-born midfielder was one of the rising stars of the game as he made his name with Sheffield United, excelling in an unfancied team which made the semi-finals of both domestic cups while in the Championship and under the management of Neil Warnock.

International honours duly arrived with the England Under-21s before a move to Stoke in 2008 - after over 300 appearances for the Blades - gave him a shot at the big time.

Injury and the form of others means he has made just one league start in over four years for the Potters, though, and a number of fruitless loan spells have seen him hawked back around the Championship.

He returned to the wing of former mentor Warnock at Leeds earlier this season, however, and has excelled for the Whites, returning to the form he displayed all those years ago.

After shaking off a shoulder injury he feared would disrupt his time at Elland Road, he is now looking forward to tonight's fourth-round tie with the Saints.

"I was pleased to get back in the team for Saturday's game with Birmingham," he said. "I didn't start in midweek against Charlton because of the injury, but I am just enjoying being back playing and playing in every game I can.

"My shoulder has knocked me back a bit, but I am getting better by the day and am over the worst of it. Hopefully I will get more chances to play over the coming weeks because we have a lot of games.

"The injury was a frustrating one, but also fortunate because it came against Barnsley the week before the international break. It was an unusual one, really sore, but I'm glad to be back playing and involved now."

The 29-year-old is expected to be in the starting line-up named by Warnock tonight as the manager looks to make his daughter Amy's wish of seeing him manage at Wembley come true.

The veteran boss was a regular visitor to the national stadium in the 1990s, but has yet to man the touchlines at the rebuilt arena.

That is why, according to assistant boss Mick Jones, Warnock's interest in the competition is higher than his coaching staff's.

"I think it's brilliant for the club and its profile" Jones said. "The win over Everton in the last game was tremendous and everybody loved that, but to be honest, my mind is 30% tonight and 70% on Friday night against Brighton, because I know which is the most important.

"But Neil... Neil would love to manage at Wembley, love to. Top managers don't set sights on preferences but if Leeds United get to Wembley with Neil Warnock as manager, he would absolutely love it."

As one of Warnock's long-standing foot soldiers, Jones knows Warnock better than most too.

"It's spoken about (making his daughter's wish come true)," Jones added.

"Sometimes with Neil you can read between the lines, I can anyway, and I have no doubt what he wants tonight."

PA

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