Leeds United: Clearing air fine as long as there’s no fighting! - Ritchie

PIC: Simon Hulme
PIC: Simon Hulme
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MUCH has been made of Leeds United having enjoyed an upturn of form since a clear-the-air meeting in the wake of the Brighton game and I for one don’t mind that sort of thing.

I have had a few, not lots, in my time. But certainly one or maybe two at each club that I have been at.

Andy Ritchie believes Toumani Diagouraga has helped transform Leeds United and has taken them on to a new level (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

Andy Ritchie believes Toumani Diagouraga has helped transform Leeds United and has taken them on to a new level (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

Sometimes, I think it is a good thing for players to have a go at each other.

As long as there’s no recriminations or throwing your dummy out of the pram, it can really work in your favour.

I have been in particular ones as a manager and I have not had to say anything, which was great!

And I remember things seeming to lift from there, with training better and the games improving.

I don’t see a wrongness with these meetings. Some people may say these things shouldn’t happen, but I don’t see anything wrong with it.

As long as things are still in control and there’s no fighting.

For me, a few home truths and clearing the air is a good thing every now and again.

Things happen at all clubs. Look at Middlesbrough with the things with the players there and it makes you think, ‘Are they bottling it again’.

But Leeds are finishing strongly and if they keep on the run they are on, they won’t be that far off the top 10 of the Championship.

Steve has challenged his players to try to get in the top ten and they seem to be responding to that remit a bit.

The biggest key player for me looks like Toumani Diagouraga. He seems to have transformed Leeds a bit and has been fantastic since arriving.

When Rudy Austin left last summer, there was a big debate about whether he should have gone and maybe Diagouraga is the player of a similar stature and calibre that Leeds have lacked ever since.

Diagouraga, no disrespect to Rudy, is taking things onto another level and he looks just what Leeds have needed in terms of a power.

He is similar in that respect to Rudy, but he seems to have brought a little bit more to the plate.

It’s obviously derby day today and in terms of the Leeds United versus Huddersfield Town rivalry, it is something you become more aware of when you get involved in it and you get that feel through both sets of supporters, as I should know.

It’s things like a few more coming down to watch training sometimes and they are all up for it, saying, ‘You have got to beat them’. Probably not so much in those kind of words either.

I have plenty of my own memories. Obviously, I don’t like to dwell on when I was manager of Huddersfield and we lost 4-0 at Elland Road!

I actually thought we played alright that day, but we got sucker-punched. It was obviously the debut of Alex (Smithies) as well and hopefully it made him a better player. Although he would not have enjoyed that day and I didn’t...

It’s a game that has a lot in it. I remember playing in them for Leeds and Keith Hanvey always reminds me when I see him that I broke his nose playing for Leeds against Huddersfield – and I can’t remember!

I certainly didn’t do it on purpose, but I always get a bit of stick about it when I meet him at games or at ‘Q and A’ sessions. He always mentions it.

These derbies are just big games, aren’t they, and Leeds are in form at the minute and Huddersfield have not had a bad run since David Wagner went in. While they lost last weekend, it was no disgrace getting beaten by Burnley.

Both clubs have a big tradition and it’s always a game in the local area that everyone enjoys.

Both sets of fans will turn out in their droves and it’s actually unusual with it being at 3pm on Saturday. They might have left it like that because of all the moaning that Leeds have done about changing the kick-off times!

I have co-commentated on a number of the games for Radio Leeds in recent years and there have been some really good ones. They have the blood-and-thunder, but at this moment in time, they are pretty evenly matched, although Leeds have hit a bit of form at just the right time.