FORMER Leeds United ace Noel Whelan has stoked the fire ahead of Saturday’s Championship showdown with Sheffield Wednesday, declaring: “They’ll never be the top club in Yorkshire.”
The Owls enjoyed their highest-placed finish since their 2012 promotion from League One last term by ending the season 13th and two places above Leeds.
New owner Dejphon Chansiri has also stated his aim to get Wednesday back in the top flight by 2017 and the bookies prefer the tenth-placed Owls’ promotion prospects to that of the 15th-placed Whites’.
With Leeds still seeking their first win of the season, it all means White Rose county rivalry will be as rife as ever in Saturday’s televised lunch-time showdown at Elland Road.
But former Leeds striker Whelan says United will always be the bigger club - with the forward turned commentator fancying the feisty atmosphere to bring out the best in Uwe Rosler’s new look side.
Asked if Wednesday fans could soon be boasting of being the biggest club in Yorkshire, Whelan stressed: “They’ll never be the top club in Yorkshire. They can try.
“Of course you want the bragging rights but obviously you want to win every game whether it’s a derby or not.
“But it’s a little bit more of a special occasion because it’s a derby and it should be a fantastic atmosphere. It’s about the lads playing the game and not playing the occasion and keeping everyone on the field and really going for it.
“I think that sort of game might bring out the best in some of the players we’ve acquired this season.
“Sheffield Wednesday have spent some money but I think it’s very difficult to try and say what team is going to be a title contender this season.
“Even after five, six, seven, eight games you don’t know.
“The league is that tight and we saw that last season - you can be 12th but if you win two games you are near the play-off zone.
“As far as title contenders goes, for me Middlesbrough are the main ones - they are the ones that have spent the money and they are ones that came in off the back of a very good season.
“Sheffield Wednesday have started well but can they maintain?
“In a Yorkshire derby, anything can happen.”
Leeds approach the game having thrown away a 2-0 led in the dying stages of Wednesday night’s trip to Bristol City which ended in a 2-2 draw leaving Rosler still seeking his first win as head coach.