Danny Wilson and Brian McDermott are long-standing friends who would gladly do each other a good turn. But at this time of year, sympathy among managers ebbs away as the season comes down to a few weeks and a handful of a pivotal games.
Leeds United’s term is dead in the water and devoid of any competitive tension but with four fixtures left, Barnsley are as low down the Championship as they have ever been so late in the day.
Their attempt to sidestep relegation is more frantic than usual and the death knell could sound if they fail to beat Leeds at Oakwell tomorrow.
McDermott watched Wilson’s team scrap for “every inch of the pitch” during a 2-1 victory over Charlton Athletic on Tuesday, and on top of fighting United’s horrible record of capitulation at Oakwell, the Leeds boss is prepared for an onslaught from a club with no margin for error.
Wilson was a mid-season replacement for David Flitcroft, appointed as manager in the week that Leeds and Barnsley drew 0-0 at Elland Road, but the South Yorkshire club have done little more than keep themselves alive since then.
For how much longer depends in no small part on this weekend’s derby.
“They’re fighting for their lives and they certainly fought for their lives against Charlton,” McDermott said.
“They fought for every inch of the pitch.
“We have to be aware of that and we have to do the same because tomorrow’s game’s about pride. It’s a derby but we’ll be able to handle that, I’m sure.
“Danny doesn’t need my sympathy. He’s a top bloke, he’s a top manager and he’s trying to get his team out of trouble. He’s got every chance of doing that having seen what I saw of them the other night.
“They won’t be looking for sympathy from us because no-one looks for sympathy in football. It’s not what you want. We’ve got four games to go and apparently our history at Barnsley isn’t very good. We need to make amends for that. We’ve got to do right by ourselves and the fans.”
McDermott’s appraisal of United’s most recent results at Oakwell is underplaying the reality.
Historically Leeds have been dreadful there, losing all of their last four visits and losing by a three-goal margin in 2011 and 2012.
The club have suffered some equally depressing defeats at other grounds this season, including their own, but a 2-0 win over Blackpool last weekend ended a streak of five straight losses and effectively moved Leeds beyond the reach of the clubs in the bottom three.
McDermott’s side can finish no higher than ninth in the Championship and are unlikely to improve on 13th, their position at the end of last season, but the Leeds boss said: “We’ve had too many games where we’ve let ourselves down this season. For these next four games, we want to restore some pride.
“We’ve have a quiet week here, the first in a long time.
Everyone feels better about themselves when you win because we’re all in a results business but I felt that last week was a defining moment for the club (after the takeover by Massimo Cellino).
“That’s done and dusted and it’s the best feeling.
“Barnsley need the points tomorrow but we want the points. We have to be absolutely spot on.”