Head of Content Keith Ingham recently got the chance to speak to a former academy star about Leeds' current performance and a little nostalgia.
Ben Parker was another player to come out of the famed Thorp Arch academy that has given us countless stars over the years. First given his chance by Dennis Wise, Parker went on to make the left back position his own in the 07/08 season and has given the supporters some good memories over the years.
Ben, who was your inspiration in starting playing football, your first idol?
My first idol was Harry Kewell. When he first broke into the side I thought he was fantastic. At that time I was playing in the academy in a similar position to him and just wanted to play like him, have the same boots etc.
Apart from family, who was the first person to encourage you to take up the game as a professional?
I was very fortunate to not only have a very supporting family, but also a great set of coaches throughout the academy. Names that stand out when I was younger are Gary Chapman, Dave Harrison, Dennis Oates and when I was a bit older Malcolm Shotton and Warren Joyce. All of them were top blokes and you wanted to do your best for them.
When you made your debut, what was it like to run out in front of the crowd at Elland Road?
Growing up being a Leeds fan, it was all I wanted to do. So to actually get the chance, it's difficult to put into words what it felt like. Everyone who goes to Elland Road dreams of it and I was one of the lucky ones to make that dream a reality.
At your time at Leeds who were the players that you spent the most time with outside football?
We had a close knit group during my time so socialising with everything was pretty easy. But the Yorkshire boys stuck together so spent more time with the likes of Jonny Howson, Leigh Bromby and Frazer Richardson.
We all remember your run down the wing to set up Luciano Becchio in the playoff semi final versus Millwall, is it your biggest disappointment that we didn't make the final?
100%. There was a huge confidence within the squad and around the club. The fans believed in us and everyone just thought it was going to be our year. Personally, it's a strange one for me because everyone stops me and talks about that goal and yes, it was a great moment and the noise the crowd made was unreal. But ultimately we lost the tie and everyone was gutted with that.
It's been a encouraging season, who do you think is the most underrated player in the 2016/17 squad?
There's been quite a few lads that have gone under the radar and in a successful squad and season you need more than 1 or 2 that do the basics well. I think Luke Ayling has been fantastic and probably the buy of the season. But I'd have to go with Berardi. If you said to any Leeds fan at the start of the season that Charlie Taylor would be missing for a large amount of time then I think most would of been worried. But the way he has slotted in and performed has been hugely impressive.
We've had a lot of Head Coaches since Massimo Cellino bought the club, what is it about Garry Monk that makes him stand out from the rest?
I think he just gives out a confidence to his players and has an ability to get the best out of a squad, that most would of thought would be hovering around mid table, to perform to a high level on a consistent basis. The next challenge for Garry and his staff is can they maintain it from now until the end of the season when the pressure will be high but from what I've seen so far, I think he will take that in his stride.
Who're your two to be promoted automatically this season?
I'd have to say the top 2 at the moment, Newcastle and Brighton. After we beat Derby, I thought we had a chance of catching them but it's going to be difficult for anyone to reel them in.
Your player of the season so far?
I have already mentioned Ayling earlier and the obvious name that comes to mind is Pontus. He's someone Leeds have been missing for years. But if we do go up then the goals of Chris Wood would have been a major part in us getting there so he would get my vote.
Finally, where do you think Leeds will end up at the end of the season and if it is in the playoffs do you think they will get promoted?
We should comfortably get in the play offs, if we apply ourselves the correct way between now and end of the season. And personally I'm not too bothered where we finish between 3rd and 6th because from what I've seen so far, no team scares me. But this is Leeds United so it won't be as simple as that but come May 29th, I can see a big party in Wembley and Leeds taking place.
Just a reminder of Ben's favourite moment inside Elland Road;
We'd like to thank Ben for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him the best of look with his continued career in football.
By Keith Ingham
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