James Riach catches up with Lloyd Sam, a man who has returned to his roots at Leeds United.
Last Updated: 03/09/10 11:13pm
Returning to your hometown club is seen by many as a final swansong to end your career on a high note - time for one last hurrah before hanging up the boots.
It is a different situation for Leeds United's Lloyd Sam though, as while he has made the journey back to the city of his birth, he is the first to admit that he remembers nothing of his first spell up north.
The 25-year-old was just two months old when he left West Yorkshire and headed to London back in 1984, and after a brief spell living in Senegal, he has been a capital man ever since.
Snapped up by Whites manager Simon Grayson on a free transfer this summer, Sam is part of the rebuilding project at Elland Road as, following their dramatic promotion from League One last season, the once Premier League big-boys try and restore their top-flight status after a lengthy absence.
Eleven players have come into the club during a busy summer, while a number have either been sold or released, including the prolific Jermaine Beckford.
Sam has been one of the new additions to shine so far this term following his move from Charlton Athletic, where he spent seven years and made 119 league appearances in all the top three divisions, and regulars at Elland Road's old Gelderd End are certainly seeing signs of promise.
Having scored three goals in his first five appearances for the club, including a superb equaliser at Nottingham Forest, his form has put Grayson's men sixth in the Championship table - a position that they would gladly take at the end of the campaign.
In a division where any team on their day can come out victorious, it is difficult to predict where Leeds will end up come May, especially so early in the campaign.
But it is not only a new chapter in the club's life, as having taken the big step of relocating, Sam is keen to prove himself at the highest level and, like Leeds United itself, get back to the Premier League where he once played for the Addicks.
The former England Under-20 international has settled in well to his new surroundings, and during the international break took the time out to tell skysports.com's James Riach that things could not be going better.
"I couldn't have asked for any better, it's been good. All the boys are cool, it's gone well so far and I've scored a few goals," he said.
"It's been very enjoyable. I like the city too, it's a nice place, I'm just moving into my house now and I couldn't have asked for a better start.
"I've been welcomed back even though I don't remember it the first time! It's been a good welcome back."
While Sam has made a comfortable transition to life back in Leeds, he has been overwhelmed by the size of the fanbase and support of the team.
Being brought up in London where there are currently 13 clubs in the Football League, coming to a one-club city is something that he finds a novelty.
"The main difference is Leeds is a big city and the main team is Leeds," he added. "In London you're overshadowed by all the big teams but everyone supports Leeds here.
"The support is unbelievable. I'm still surprised how many fans I've seen singing and everything - they're so up for it.
"I don't see it as extra pressure. I like playing in big games with great atmospheres so it is not any extra pressure. It's more enjoyable because you feel more important."
When asked how it compares to playing for Charlton, Sam remarked: "You can see the difference, it's just such a bigger club. The facilities are ridiculous, you don't really see them (like this) outside the Premiership and the training ground is really nice.
"I love it up here."
The pacey attacker only scored seven goals during his total Charlton career, and he has almost halved that tally in less than one month's competitive action with the Whites.
He is delighted that his personal form has helped the team to a decent start so far and puts his good performances down to the input of boss Grayson and all the coaches at Thorp Arch who have given an extra attacking impetus.
"I've scored three in five games so I'm very happy with that," he admitted. "I've been trying to get more goals this season and I'm going to keep getting in the box.
"Personally, as long as I'm scoring goals and playing well I'll be happy. My first goal in the league was my favourite goal so far, the header against Nottingham Forest.
"It's not really a goal that I would normally score; wingers don't really score like that so I was really proud of that one.
"It's a team effort on the pitch. The whole team is playing quite well right now. After losing the first game of the season (against Derby) we've turned it round.
"I've been linking up with Sanchez (Watt) quite a bit. He's a good player and a good prospect for the future definitely."
On Grayson, he added: "He's a good guy, he's probably the reason why I'm scoring goals. He's encouraging me to attack.
"Not just him but the whole coaching staff too. That's probably the reason why I'm scoring goals, they're encouraging me to be positive, to run with the ball and focus on my attacking more than anything else.
"That's one of the main things that I've noticed since I've been here."
One game at a time
But Sam, who holds hope of earning a cap for Ghana after missing out on an international friendly with the Black Stars last year because of injury, insists that the only danger at Leeds is overconfidence.
When asked if there was a blueprint for back-to-back promotions, he said: "I think it's more take every game as it comes. Obviously you want to stay in the division at the least, but we haven't really talked about that.
"The team is good enough to push on and see where we are at the end of the season - hopefully in and around the play-offs.
"There's a lot of good teams in the league but hopefully that can happen."
With the likes of Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest currently occupying positions in the bottom-half, Sam is certainly correct in his appraisal of the league situation.
Solid performers last time out such as Leicester and Bristol City are struggling in the bottom three after four games, while relegated Portsmouth are rock-bottom and Hull City are 18th.
Sam remarked: "The Championship is a funny league. There are a lot of good teams near the bottom right now, so I wouldn't even know who to guess.
"If you asked me halfway through the season I might have a better idea. It's just so unpredictable.
"Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough, you'd probably expect them to be higher up with the money that they've spent over the last few years. They're the ones at the start of the season that I would have predicted."