Willo Flood: Knifepoint burglaries, Celtic anguish and a deep love of Dundee United

Willo Flood
Willo Flood is fulfilling his fourth spell at Dundee United

Listen again to the extended interview with Willo Flood on BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound podcast from Tuesday, 24 January.

Dundee United and Willo Flood share a bond that's rare in modern-day football.

The slight midfielder is now in his fourth spell at the club. It's the place he's always been content. That's why he'd rank restoring United's top-flight status this season as his "biggest achievement in football", if he can indeed help the Terrors return to the Scottish Premiership.

Flood, 31, is a well-travelled veteran, having also played for Manchester City, Cardiff City, Celtic, Middlesbrough and Aberdeen, but Tannadice has proved something of a magnet throughout his career.

Last season, he watched on with anguish as the club so close to his heart slid inexorably towards relegation, their demotion finally confirmed in the most humiliating fashion, a 2-1 defeat at Dens Park, inflicted by their fearsome city rivals Dundee.

So when new manager Ray Mackinnon reached out last summer and asked Flood to play a pivotal part in his rebuilding job, it proved too tempting an offer to resist.

"When you've been to a place and you've had good memories you always want to go back," he says. "That's what Dundee United is for me.

"I watched about seven, eight games last year and for me there was too much negativity about the club. I never experienced that at Dundee United. It was horrible to see, just a mess."

'A boy walks in with a big knife'

Flood has been shaped by experiences on and off the field. At Manchester City as a youth he was burgled at knifepoint in his own house.

"I was 19, I had just bought a house and had a plasma on the wall - they were the thing back then," he recalls. "I was watching TV and a boy walks in with a big knife. It wasn't his own knife, it was a knife he took from my kitchen!

"I jumped up, and I was like, you've gotta run for him. Then I thought, nah, nah, don't be doing that, Willo."

Willo Flood and Cristiano Ronaldo
Flood pitted himself against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo during his time at Manchester City

Flood was told to take the television off the wall. He laughs as he's retelling the story but it was a serious and frightening incident.

It turned out the burglar was a City fan who insisted, "don't take this personally".

"He ended up getting a screwdriver out, taking the plasma off the wall," Flood continues. "The plasma took two days to get up, and one minute to get off the wall.

"I remember carrying it outside and the knife was to the back of me. As soon as I got to the front door I threw it on the floor. There was one house lit up down the end of the road - I've never ran so fast in my life.

"Man City found out within two minutes and they were round to my house looking after me. It had a massive impact (on me). At the time it was a traumatic experience but you become stronger after it."

'Who cares about the money? Just go and play games'

Flood's meandering journey through football has also taught him what's important.

"If I could give any advice to anybody I'd say, 'Who cares about the money? Just go and play games,'" he says.

That's something that eluded him after hesitantly moving from Tannadice to Celtic. It turned into a personal disaster.

Speculation about the transfer was rife as Dundee United faced the Hoops in the League Cup semi-final of 2009.

Willo Flood
Flood endured a frustrating time at Celtic under Tony Mowbray

It ended 11-10 in a penalty shoot-out in Celtic's favour. Flood missed the decisive kick having already netted. His medical at Celtic was the following day.

"I was at Celtic for three months and thought, 'you shouldn't have done this Willo,'" he admits.

"I just wasn't playing and I was hating it to be honest. People say, the green and white hoops, it's great for a Dublin boy, but I absolutely hated it. I just wanted out.

"Maybe I wasn't (good enough). I never got a chance to prove whether I was or wasn't."

Tony Mowbray had replaced Gordon Strachan as Celtic manager and did so again once Flood had moved to Middlesbrough. Talk about bad luck.

"He just didn't fancy me as a player," Flood says. "I just wish he was honest with me at the time and said, I don't fancy you."

'Get United back where they belong and I'd retire happy'

Willo Flood
Flood helped Aberdeen to the League Cup in 2014 under Derek McInnes

For that bad experience under a manger, there have been several others that Flood beams about. Craig Levein, Peter Houston, Gordon Strachan and Derek McInnes.

Under the latter at Aberdeen, he won the League Cup in 2014 and can't compliment the Dons boss enough.

"He was good for me," he says. "He was brilliant, he can't do enough for you. He's one of those managers that helps his players big time.

"For me, I was signing for Derek McInnes. Derek McInnes could have been manager of St Johnstone at the time. I think I would have signed for him.

He's endured hard times on and off the pitch but has returned to the place he feels is home.

His strength, experience and influence at Dundee United shines through. Promotion is everything.

"Get the club back where it belongs," he says. "And I'd retire a happy man."

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