Leeds United manager Simon Grayson today played down the significance of their clash with Norwich City, insisting a victory at Elland Road would be “a waste of time” if the club lose to Barnsley on Tuesday night.
Grayson warned his players to treat tomorrow’s meeting between two of the Championship’s promotion candidates with a sense of perspective after stressing the value of a six-point return from two home fixtures in the space of four days.
United and Norwich are at the centre of an intense fight for second place in their division, and their prospects of promotion were improved in midweek by disappointing results for Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest, two of the other clubs inside the Championship’s top six.
Leeds face a similarly crucial match away to fifth-placed Swansea next weekend but Grayson placed as much emphasis on Barnsley’s visit to West Yorkshire after denying that Norwich’s appearance at Elland Road carried exceptional importance.
“People look at it that way when you play the teams around you,” Grayson said. “They can pull away from us if they beat us and we can leapfrog them if we win.
“But there are too many games to be played yet for us to be talking about the significance and importance of it all. It would be a great boost to win the game because we are playing one of our rivals and they’ll be thinking the same. But if we don’t win, it’s not a problem – we just start preparing for the Barnsley game.
“The thing about six-pointers is that if you win against Norwich and lose against Barnsley then it’s been a waste of time to a certain degree. What we’ll look to do is get three points tomorrow but ultimately take six out of the next two home games.”
Norwich denied Leeds the League One title last season, winning the division by nine points, but City manager Paul Lambert repeatedly voiced his frustration at what he said was a tendency among the media to pay greater attention to United’s season than City’s.
Grayson said: “I’m not bothered about headlines, I’m only bothered about where you finish at the end of each season and what you achieve as a manager and a team. Norwich were champions of League One last season and rightly so.”
Leeds will start tomorrow’s fixture with a four-point lead over Leicester, the team who currently pose the biggest threat to the sides inside the play-off positions.
A mark of 70 points is usually enough to ensure a top-six finish – Leeds hold 52 with 15 games to play – but Grayson admitted that he expected renewed pressure to come from beneath the play-off zone.
“I’ve said all along that a dozen teams can get promoted,” he said. “Anyone could put a run together – Leicester, Burnley or another side who are out of the top six.
“You’ve still got to earn the right to finish in the top-six and come the end of the season I hope we’re in the mix.”
Leeds, meanwhile, have extended the trial of former Manchester United and Heart of Midlothian midfielder Michael Stewart.