Leeds United host Woodgate’s Middlesbrough at Elland Road on Saturday, the Whites cult hero pitting his wits against Marcelo Bielsa.

Leeds United cult hero and Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate has waxed lyrical about the Whites following his visit of Elland Road for their Championship game against Brentford (Yorkshire Post) and ahead of Saturday’s meeting between his side and Marcelo Bielsa’s charges.

The 39-year-old made his breakthrough at Leeds after coming through the Elland Road club’s ranks and was one of the best young defenders of his day, but amid a perilous financial situation at the club at the time, he reluctantly left for Newcastle United in January 2003.

Although it’s been almost 17 years since he left Leeds with a heavy heart, Woodgate is still very fond of the club – a feeling reciprocated by the fans – and, ahead of Saturday’s Championship meeting between the Whites and Boro at Elland Road, he recalled his time there and his thoughts on how things are at present.

“I had to leave, I had no choice. It was either than or the club would be *****d,” Woodgate is quoted by the Yorkshire Post as saying. “I did not want to leave. The fans knew that. I am not sure about others. I went back with Newcastle on the first game of a season and drew 2-2. I played there for Middlesbrough a couple of times and got an unbelievable reception.

“I am not sure who is still there. The canteen lady is still there and Stix (players and club liaison officer Peter ‘Stix’ Lockwood). Alan Sutton is not there. It has been a lot of change. When I went to watch the Brentford game this season; what an atmosphere, it is a huge club. If they get back into the Premier League – oh my god.”

Leeds are favourites against Boro in Saturday’s game at Elland Road, Bielsa’s charges sitting second in the Championship table, two points off top spot, compared to the visitors’ lowly 20th-placed ranking, just one point above the relegation zone.

The Whites are unbeaten in their past six league meetings with Middlesbrough at Elland Road, since a 1-0 reverse in August 2011, but Boro have lost just once in their past six matches against Leeds (BBC Sport).

In other news, Report: £12.5m star appoints new agent after interest from Liverpool, tempted to leave