Rivalry matters more to Terriers but I fancy Leeds United to take the win - Ritchie

DECEMBER 2007: Tore Andre Flo scores against Huddersfield Town.
DECEMBER 2007: Tore Andre Flo scores against Huddersfield Town.
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I’d say the rivalry between Leeds United and Huddersfield Town matters more to Huddersfield than it does to Leeds. And as the Championship stands, Huddersfield are more in need of the points tomorrow.

But derby games are always the same. When you get to the last hour before kick-off, there’s no pretending it’s not important.

There won’t ever be a day when Leeds are happy to lose to Huddersfield and the same is true in reverse.

As a player, I tried my best to treat derbies as I treated your average game. That was my way and other lads were very different.

It’s quite easy to get swept up in the occasion and I worried that focusing too much on the atmosphere and the expectation would have a negative effect on my performance.

Managing a club is slightly different.

Again, in the lead-up to a derby I’d keep things calm and collected right up until the day of the game.

The final team-talk was when you started laying it on the line and making sure everyone was properly switched on.

That wasn’t so much because I wanted them to get wrapped up in the rivalry. It just felt important to make sure that none of the players were half asleep or caught cold.

Derbies tend to rage at 100 miles an hour and you’re guaranteed to get turned over if you’re not alive to the fact that the opposition are going to come at you.

It’s common sense when you think about it.

Tomorrow’s derby is intriguing because we’re talking about two sides who’ve undergone massive change.

There have been times in the past when Leeds and Huddersfield knew each other inside out but not any more.

There’s a caretaker at Elland Road and Chris Powell’s gone in at Huddersfield.

The supporters at Leeds didn’t know much about some of their summer signings so it’s unlikely that Huddersfield will be familiar with them either, despite the scouting clubs do.

And in truth, the advantage is in Leeds’ favour.

We always go on about form going out of the window in a match like this, and to an extent it does, but Leeds are coming off the back of a very good win at Bournemouth and a decent little spell under Neil Redfearn.

I wasn’t in Bournemouth on Tuesday but by all accounts the win was well deserved and pretty convincing in the end.

Confidence comes from good results but you gain far more from knowing that you’re worth those results. Guys like Souleymane Doukara seem to be coming into their own and settling in.

Doukara could be an important player tomorrow. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s quick and he’s direct and strikers like that always cause a problem when they’re in the mood. As long as he’s got his head on, Huddersfield will need to watch him.

But the key to winning a derby is in midfield. I always feel that.

You expect a high tempo and the ball can fly up and down the pitch so you looking for your lads in the middle to take some control, establish some rhythm and help the whole team tick over.

And of course, from Leeds’ point of view, they’re looking for the crowd to get into it.

I know what it’s like to be in under the cosh at Elland Road. Back in 2007, I was manager of Huddersfield for Leeds away. We had a young Alex Smithies in goal – who, to his credit, played really well that day – and we ended up on the wrong end of a 4-0 defeat.

Looking back, I still think my Huddersfield side were much better than that.

We didn’t deserve to lose so heavily and it wasn’t a 4-0 game.

But Leeds were deadly with their chances and once the crowd smelt blood, it was impossible to hold them back. Everyone expects derbies to be tight but as Huddersfield found out last season, they can be seriously punishing when they get out of hand.

My money tomorrow is on Leeds, though only by a narrow margin.

It’ll be a tight game but I also think it’ll be a very good game, despite the way the clubs have started the season.

That’s probably put the kiss of death on it but we’re talking about two sides who are feeling their way in, prone to the odd mistake and still not 100 per cent settled.

That’s a concern if you’re a manager but a recipe for plenty of entertainment.

CHIN UP: Stuart Dallas consoles Pablo Hernandez after missing a late penalty in the 1-0 defeat to Reading at Elland Road on Saturday. Picture: Tony Johnson.

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