I don’t imagine that much love will be lost in Leeds if Sheffield United succumb to relegation.
Fans like a laugh at the expense of their rivals and it looks like Micky Adams’ Blades will be the butt of many jokes this summer.
Personally, I’d rather they stayed in the Championship, especially if Leeds United are going to spend another season in this league.
It’s one of the bigger and better Yorkshire derbies and one of the more appealing games on the fixture list. Tomorrow’s match at Bramall Lane – a thunderous affair, no doubt – should remind people of what they’ll be missing if Sheffield United descend into League One.
Quite why they find themselves in such a desperate position is anyone’s guess. They’re a club who, before the start of every season, were automatically tipped for the play-offs if not automatic promotion. They’ve been in the Premier League more recently than Leeds and they’ve got a good, solid fanbase and average crowds of over 20,000. It’s a travesty to see them in the grip of relegation with no obvious route out. They’re going to need the mother of all runs to finish in 21st place and save themselves.
Looking at the downturn at Bramall Lane, I suspect that Sheffield United have done what Leeds did several years before them – invested poorly and paid the price. There’s no doubt at all that the club have generated a lot of money and spent a lot of money, some of it on signings that haven’t worked out. Quite simply, they didn’t spend well when funds came their way.
A club of that stature doesn’t go down on the strength (or weakness) of one season. It goes down on the basis of its long-term spending plan. That’s what ruins you and that’s what gets you in the end, as Leeds found out in 2007. That was a terrible year for us in terms of results and performances but the financial crisis behind the scenes had been building for a long time. Administration and relegation to League One was directly linked to problems in the accounts going back many years.
If Sheffield United do go down, they’ll find as we did that nobody cares. Nobody offers you any sympathy or makes the effort to console you. I always laugh when I hear Football League clubs panicking and complaining about financial problems, remembering how little support Leeds were given in the build-up to our 15-point deduction. It’s a sad sight to see a major club in difficulty but football’s a game of dog-eat-dog.
Such are the respective league positions of Leeds and Sheffield United that tomorrow’s derby is one of the most important between the sides for many years. Our need for a victory is not greater than theirs and I can see both sides going hell-for-leather at Bramall Lane. That sort of prediction is usually followed by a damp squib but there’s too much riding on our seasons for this game to pass off quietly.
In the grand scheme of Leeds United’s campaign, this sort of fixture is absolutely vital – a match against a struggling side, a local club and a wounded animal. If you come through a battle like tomorrow’s unscathed, you know you’re in business.
The derby might be the last between us for a while but something tells me this particular fixture will go out with a bang.