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David Prutton article

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he certainly seems a character

David Prutton lets his hair down for Leeds Rick Broadbent If you are in a spot of bother and the “Hand of God” is unavailable, the next best thing is probably the “Hair of Jesus”. David Prutton was the bad boy famed for shoving a referee, but he is resurrecting his career at Leeds United and believes that he can do the same for the club’s play-offs hopes away to Carlisle United this evening.

Prutton is not your average footballer. Not only has he been likened to the Son of God by fans because of his flowing locks, facial hair and dead-ferret sideburns, but also he peppers his interview with references to David Brent, Bettys Tea Rooms and the skinny legs of the Kaiser Chiefs.

“When people start saying you’re a character, then it sounds ridiculous,” Prutton said, before Leeds’ attempt to overturn a 2-1 deficit from Monday’s first leg of the Coca-Cola League One play-offs semi-final. “But I’ve never minded talking about things beyond football. I mentioned that I was getting called Jesus in an interview and my mate rang and said I sounded like David Brent. I don’t know about the new image. They’re carrying crucifixes apparently. Jesus!”

The hair is more a reflection of Prutton’s love of Seventies rock. He is 26, but cites Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and the Rolling Stones as favourites, while insisting his taste does not stop at 1982. “The Kaiser Chiefs came into training,” he said. “Lovely lads, but they all looked very bizarre in shorts. They’re used to skinny jeans, I guess. One of them said he’d never sit in the crowd and hammer the team because if you put a football in front of him, he’d fall over. But then I’ve been to gigs and ignored the support band. Yeah, I’m guilty of that.”

Prutton is a former England Under-21 midfield player who has appeared in the Premier League with Southampton, but he is relishing his new life down among the “dead men”. He has tattoos, a faded Beatles T-shirt and a skull ring, so he fits in well with Leeds’ outsider status. “It’s that ‘us against them thing’. No one likes us, we don’t care,” he said.

“If everyone hates you, you’ve got nothing to lose. You might even turn a few. That mentality gives the fans a sense of identity, it brings people together. As long as it doesn’t flow over into something daft, it’s great.”

Leeds played well below par against Carlisle on Monday and, given that John Ward’s team have the best home record in League One, the odds are against Prutton and Co. However, if anyone can inspire his team-mates to overcome adversity, it is a man who was vilified after receiving a ten-game ban for shoving Alan Wiley, the referee — he just happens to be tonight’s official — during a game against Arsenal in February 2005.

“There was something on TV the other day when the whole Ashley Cole and respect thing was going on,” he said. “My mug flashed up. You know, as soon as it happened, I felt horrible inside. It was not because of the implications, but because I knew it was a horrible way to portray yourself. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t sit at home thinking about it, defacing pictures of Alan Wiley on my walls.”

The fire still burns, though. “I was running to the back post the other week and this player pulled my hair,” he said. “It was quite clever, but for a moment I lost it. My mum was in the crowd with her head in her hands, saying, ‘no, don’t’. But the ref was cool.”

Whatever happens tonight, Prutton is looking forward to the future at Leeds. “I love it here. I live in Harrogate and, I tell you, the queues for Bettys go on for miles in the summer. It’s very pretty. It’s chilled. You get a lot of bus trips with older people getting off and, occasionally, you’ll come cross one who’s lost, so you put them back on track.”

Prutton believes that the severing of the Gus Poyet-Dennis Wise double act when the former went to Tottenham Hotspur sparked their mid-season stumble. “When the change came [Wise's departure to Newcastle United] the time was right.” He never expected an independent panel to restore the 15 docked pointsfor violating league rules, but thinks that the club have made massive strides this season. It will take one more push tonight. A minor miracle should do it.

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