Leeds United: Derby battle renders all other sagas irrelevant - Ritchie

Matthew Connolly and Chris Wood challenge for a high ball during Tuesday's 1-0 win over Cardiff. (Picture Bruce Rollinson)
Matthew Connolly and Chris Wood challenge for a high ball during Tuesday's 1-0 win over Cardiff. (Picture Bruce Rollinson)
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LEEDS UNITED make the trip to Huddersfield Town this lunch-time and normally you would be talking about a big derby game like this all week.

But given recent developments, instead we have all been talking about the events with Massimo Cellino and now Chris Powell being sacked.

It does appear as if people may have forgotten about the derby football.

It is certainly fair to say that both clubs have had these ‘extra-curricular’ activities in recent weeks that have taken attention away from the actual game.

Looking at it, it is actually a massive game and both sides really need the points, let alone it’s a derby and all the emotions going along with that.

Given the stakes and the way things have gone recently, you might expect a tense and edgy affair with not many goals as both sides aren’t hitting the heights. But football is a funny thing and sometimes, you can get the polar opposite.

Over the years, I have come to realise that derbies between Leeds and Huddersfield do mean a lot for both sets of fans.

At Huddersfield back in the day, you would see Leeds take eight to ten thousand fans and it was a massive game.

I always used to think it was THE derby game around here. Maybe some used to think Bradford was a bit more of a derby, but when I was playing, we didn’t seem to play them that many times.

I don’t know whether it is a good or a bad thing, but to get rid of a manager in the lead-up to a derby, as Huddersfield have done, does it demoralise the players? You might get one or two who might be made up a manager has gone. But you would say the majority would be disappointed. It might put a downer on Town’s display.

Given that Leeds won the other night and Huddersfield were pegged back twice, you might say that Leeds go in with a very slight advantage in terms of the morale of the players.

Leeds players will also now be getting used to Steve Evans and the way he wants them to play. Looking at Leeds, it’s wholly about results at the minute. If they can get another win after Tuesday, then it just might give a bit of momentum and belief to the players.

The players will be thinking that the club is going to be sold, although I am still sceptical about that and we will just have to wait and see. But hopefully, the players will get that bit of a boost if they get a result against Huddersfield.

The Cardiff win was a big one for Leeds, moreso given that they have not beaten them since 1984! I looked at the statistic before the game and as a manager, you hate those ones when they are stacked in your favour. When you hear talk that one side hasn’t beaten another for so long, it’s the law of averages that you are going to get beat at some stage. If I had been on the Cardiff side of the fence hearing that stat, I’d have been thinking: ‘Oh no, this is going to be the one..’

And fortunately for Leeds that’s how it worked out with a cracking goal from Alex Mowatt. With young players like Alex, things can come quickly and you have a bumper start and you get in the team, but to do it in the next few seasons can be difficult as the big thing with young players is inconsistency.

It’s backing it up and taking that next step. Look at Harry Kane. He had a fantastic season last year and started a bit slowly in this second season, which is the big test. It’s the same for a lot of players.

Obviously, there’s also been a bit of an issue with the recent form of Chris Wood, who came in for a little bit of stick in the recent Blackburn game.

Centre-forwards can be the target for Leeds fans. You look at Steve Morison, who was a big, strong and willing lad who would run all day and put himself about. But he didn’t score the goals fans expected and he got a little bit of stick.

Let’s hope Chris is a big enough character to take things on the chin. If the manager has got faith in you and thinks you are doing a good job, in my eyes that’s all that matters and all that bothered me when I was playing.

I didn’t worry about anybody else – even if I wasn’t scoring. It is about being appreciated by the team and coaching staff and the players. That was good enough for me.