Tony Dorigo recalls brilliant stories about David Batty at Leeds – including the pillow fight gone bad
Dorigo and Batty were team-mates at Leeds from 1991-93, during which time they won the First Division in 1992 and played together for England.
The pair also roomed together during their spell at Elland Road – a particularly colourful experience for Dorigo, who recalled a string of hilarious anecdotes in the excellent latest episode of '90s podcast, Quickly Kevin; will he score?.
Famously, Batty has distanced himself from football since ending his distinguished career at Leeds in 2004, and was the only member of Blackburn's 1994/95 title-winning side not to show up for their reunion in 1995. Former team-mates have since recalled a player who didn't particularly love the game, and who could deal with disappointment – missing a penalty at a World Cup, for example – with almost amusing disregard.
Though Batty is now living a quiet life in North Yorkshire, former Leeds club-mate Dorigo has recalled a time when the local favourite was anything but.
“He was a nightmare," said the Australian-turned-England-international in the latest episode. "We went to New Zealand once, playing friendlies against them and Malaysia, and we had a day off. You had the choice of either playing golf or going fishing. I thought, ‘Well I like my golf so I’ll play golf’. Batts went fishing, and we met back at the room afterwards.
“He came in and his tracksuit was just covered in fish guts. I said, ‘Batts, your tracksuit… it’s absolutely disgusting.’ He says, ‘It’s not my tracksuit, it’s yours,’ just took it off and gave it back to me.
“The problem was the one time I did question him. We started mucking about, playing cards for ages, and I kept winning and winning – I tried to lose but I just kept winning – so he was getting more and more annoyed.
“So then he whacks me with a pillow. So I get a pillow, and I whack him with a pillow. He then got a rolled up magazine and he’s whacking me with that.
“Next thing he picks up a silver tray that the food comes on and just flings that across and smacks me right in the teeth. I’m thinking, ‘I'd better stop here, because this could get really serious!’ It didn’t matter what you did, he was coming back with something harder.”
Then there was the infamous episode in which Batty broke team-mate Keith Curle's jaw in a training game – if there was such a thing for the former midfielder.
"I think he went up for the ball, elbowed Keith right in his jaw and broken it. Keith Curle is holding his jaw, clearly broken. So he goes off to hospital, training continues and that’s it.
“Curley comes back to the table at dinner after getting his jaw done and Batts is there sitting next to me. Of course, all Curley can actually eat is soup through a straw. So we’re all laughing, obviously, and we’re thinking Batts is going to say something.
“Batts said absolutely nothing and just got up, finished his meal and went back to the room. I’m thinking, ‘Batts, just say sorry!’
“There was no sympathy. He played like that, but that’s just the way he was: ultra-competitive, a great player. But if you get out on that pitch… watch out.”
Earlier in the interview, Dorigo discussed joining Leeds from Chelsea, where he'd spent four years and won the Full Members Cup in 1990 – scoring the winning goal against Middlesbrough at Wembley.
After a somewhat acrimonious departure from Stamford Bridge following a written transfer request and swift rebuttal from chairman Ken Bates, he found a willing new manager in Howard Wilkinson – although their first meeting was peculiar to say the least.
“I went up to Leeds, and he started talking to me about golf holes. What I liked was that he’d done a bit of research on me and knew I liked to play. But we then verbally started playing golf.
“So he started saying. ‘Right, we’re on the first tee...’. We’re in a hotel in Leeds, this is our first meeting. He’s trying to convince me to join and we’re now going through golf holes! We verbally played two holes, which was really strange.
“‘Listen, there’s a lake 280 yards away, but let’s ramp it down. Take a three wood, hit it into the wind…’ I’m thinking, ‘My god, this guy’s nuts’.
“What he was trying to do was say that we use the right club for the right opportunity - in that, whatever tools you’ve got, you use them in the best way. If he’d had just said that we’d have saved half an hour…”
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