Leeds United midfielder Michael Tonge says that joining the Whites on loan has been ‘like a breath of fresh air’.
The 29-year-old joined the west Yorkshire club on a three-month loan from Premier League outfit Stoke City and has played a part in two wins and two defeats for United since joining the club two weeks ago.
Arguably the greatest win for Tonge in his short spell at Leeds was in the Whites’ 2-1 surprise victory over Premier League high-flyers Everton in the third round of the Capital One Cup. Goals from youngster Aidan White and Rodolph Austin have set the Championship side with another top-flight opponent in newly-promoted Southampton.
Tonge admits he was delighted with the performance and application his side showed in the win over the Toffees, “I was very impressed. We made a really good start to the game, played with a high tempo and we maintained this tempo throughout the whole match.”
The central midfielder doesn’t believe that Everton would have been taken aback by the quick start that Leeds made to the game, “I don’t think Everton would have been surprised because we are only in the division below.”
The former Sheffield United man believes that the early goal was key and may be imperative in helping Leeds improve their league position, “Although it’s a win the cup, it just keeps up the winning mentality.”
He admits that the fourth round tie against Southampton will be an exciting but difficult challenge, “It’s another home game which is important. Southampton are a tough team though and it will be a tough game.”
Tonge, who has also enjoyed loan spells at Preston, Derby and Barnsley, says he is really enjoying life at Elland Road, “Coming to Leeds has been like a breath of fresh air. It’s nice to see some familiar faces.”
The Leeds loanee, who played under manager Neil Warnock at Sheffield United, says that being reunited with the Whites boss played a part in him coming to the club, “It played a factor but Leeds is a fantastic club anyway.”
Tonge admitted that playing alongside former Blade Michael Brown in the Leeds midfield has been great, “It’s been nice playing with Brown again, who I thought was fantastic against Everton by the way. He was a real catalyst in the midfield and got in Everton’s faces.”
Tonge also expressed his desire to extend his three-month stay at Elland Road, “I’d love to stay for the season but at the moment I’m just taking it week-by-week.”
El Hadji Diouf, who was perhaps the stand out performer for United in their win on Tuesday night, is another of Neil Warnock’s additions to the squad this season, and Tonge was full of praise for his teammate, “I have been impressed, I think he is relishing the opportunity of playing for a club like Leeds.”
As well as Neil Warnock and Michael Brown, Tonge has also been reunited with the number 18 shirt,a number which the midfielder admits he likes to acquire, “Yes it has always been a lucky number, usually when you join a club on loan there is normally numbers available from 15 upwards. I tried to get the number 18 shirt at my other clubs but unfortunately they have been taken so I have had to settle for 19’s and other numbers.”
In the league, Leeds currently lie in twelfth after an inconsistent start to the campaign. Despite this, Tonge is confident the club can push on and sustain a promotion challenge, “The team spirit is really good. A lot of new players have come in and really gelled. Wins always bring players together. Losing Ross [McCormack] is a big blow, but overall I think our performances have been really good.”
Since joining the club, Tonge has been in a United side that lost at Cardiff and to Hull, and most recently defeated Nottingham Forest.
Tonge believes that the Hull game in particular could have been very different, “Cardiff was a tough game, they are a good side. Against Hull however we could have been three up and out of sight in the first 15 to 20 minutes if we had just capitalised on our chances.”
The United midfielder believes that the Forest game was crucial, “You don’t want to lose three games on the bounce in the Championship so it was really important. Forest are a good team and we put them under a lot of pressure.”
Tonge is also optimistic about overcoming the challenge of Bristol City on Saturday, who have played above expectations this season, “We need to use the Everton game and use it to our advantage. Derek McCinnes is a good manager and he has turned things around there. We don’t want to be worrying about them though, we need to focus on ourselves and focus on what we can do to hurt them.”