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I played for Man Utd and was in academy with Defoe but another ‘crazy’ striker was better – no one could touch him

FORMER Manchester United wonderkid Daniel Nardiello has opened up on what life was like training with some of the best prospects in England.

Back in the 1990s, a then 15-year-old Nardiello was sent to Lilleshall in Shropshire, where many of the country's best young footballers lived together and learnt their trade.

Nardiello was joined by the likes of Jermain Defoe and Neil Danns.

However, he reckons none of them came close to the "untouchable" talent of Leon Knight.

Speaking on the Undr the Cosh podcast, Nardiello said: I shared a room with Knighty for a year.

"I was a 15-year-old lad, just left home, sharing a room with Knighty. Oh my word, he’s crazy. No other words for it.

"He’s the nicest lad as long as you keep on the right side of him. Get on the wrong side of him and he is absolutely ruthless.

"Great player, but angry man. Get on the wrong side of him and he’ll never forgive you."

Knight was a Chelsea trainee at the time, and would go on to make one appearance for the senior team in the Uefa Cup.

However, his career would ultimately lie elsewhere, going on to star for the likes of Brighton, Swansea and Huddersfield.


The 5ft 5" striker scored over 100 goals across his career, including 80 in England's football league.

On Knight, Nardiello added: "I wouldn’t want to fight him. He’s a tough lad.

"I remember we played at Barnsley together for a few months, he came on loan.

"But what he put the young lads through - initiations and stuff like that - he was ruthless. A great lad, some good times with him.

"He was the best player there [at Lilleshall].

"There was Joe Cole who was the year above us, and obviously he was unbelievable, he was their main man - but we had Leon Knight.

"At that age there was no one that could touch him.

"Jermain Defoe was there who obviously went on and had an unbelievable career but Knighty was untouchable.

"You’d think he’d go on to be an absolute world beater because he was that good at 15, 16.

"He had a good career, but at that age you couldn’t touch him. And he was small then, obviously.

"But he just ran rings around teams. We beat everyone every week anyway, as you’d expect, but he was scoring like five, six goals a game. He was playing in the age group above, he was that good."

Knight, 40, retired in 2012.

Speaking to WalesOnline in 2006, Tony Carroll, then-chairman of Senrab, drew comparisons to Knight with ex-England and Tottenham ace Defoe - with them pairing up at Senrab in their youth days.

He said: "They were absolutely unbelievable as a partnership, just like a pair or whippets, so very, very quick.

"If I had to say which one was better when they were 13 or 14 I would say it was Leon. It was a close-run thing and there wasn't much in it, but he was just ahead on points.

"You could see he had that bit of class even at that age. Jermain was nearly as good and they just used to dish out the goals between them.

"The team would win 6-0 and they would score three each. There was always a bit of friendly rivalry to see who could score the most."