Leeds United: Plenty at stake for Yorkshire rivals, says Andy Ritchie

Mirco Antenucci
Mirco Antenucci
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today will be a little bit strange for both Steve Evans and Neil Redfearn. It’s one of those things that football always seems to throw up.

You are always going to get it these days with the managerial merry-go-round being as it is.

Both managers have a bit of extra spice added to the game, both will be wanting to prove a point.

It’s a big game.

Rotherham have not won yet under Neil, so he will be itching to break his duck against Leeds. I’m sure there is no motivation needed for him. It’s whether he can channel that motivation of his own into winning the game.

There will be players on both sides as well that will not have seen eye to eye with the respective managers for either team. Some will be thinking, ‘I am a good player, and I should have been in the team when you were here’.

I came up against Oldham when I was manager of Barnsley and Huddersfield, but it had been a longer period since leaving Oldham than for these two managers. It can be a bit of a strange feeling.

As a player, you get that as well. When you have left a club and play the old club very quickly after, you want to show them that you should still be there.

Hopefully, that will not overshadow the game, as it is a real six-pointer. That is especially the case for Rotherham after Leeds’ two wins in a row.

Leeds will want to keep that consistency going. I know Steve quite well, and all he will be thinking about is the next win. If he gets somewhere close to the top 10, then you can start pushing it into the players, telling them they are good enough to do this. It’s all about giving them confidence.

If they want to push up the league, Steve will know that. After a win, you are up in the air. Then they got the other win, they will have been cock-a-hoop. It’s about keeping the consistency. They do not want another run of win two, lose, draw, win. They have had that for a long time now Leeds. They will want to put a run of wins together.

Steve will not care how they get it. People always talk about wanting to see attractive football, of course you do. At the end of the day, attractive football sometimes does not win you points or get you where you want to be. It’s effective football that gets you where you want to be.

The game might end up being a taut, tense affair, but it might be a thriller where everyone seeks to outshine each other.

Kyle Lafferty would have been a great signing for Leeds, but if it is not going to work out, I’m sure Steve will have other targets. I’m not surprised that Norwich do not want to let him go, as he is a goalscorer.

The one thing that has really stood out at Leeds is a lack of quality up front. Billy Sharp came, he did not really produce what they thought he would produce. Chris Wood is on a good run at the moment. Mirco Antenucci is probably the one who has been the most consistent in his form, the way he has played and his goals, but you need somebody else. Souleymane Doukara is hot and cold. You need strikers.

When I was at Oldham under Joe Royle, we had six. He used to say you can never have enough strikers. I used to have four, if not five that you could rely on. You knew they would hit a barren spell at times.

It’s getting the right one at the right price, because you know strikers are a premium commodity. I think Antenucci is worthy of a new contract, despite his age. Leeds have lacked experience over the last few seasons.

The players that have gone this summer, for example Rodolph Austin, were experienced heads in a young squad. Leeds have got a very young squad, with the likes of Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor. They need somebody in and around the dressing room.

Sol Bamba will be one of those now.

Antenucci is a bit of a wily old fox, and I could see him playing in a bit of a deeper role if his age calls for it.

He could play as a number 10. I think he has more to his game than just playing as a striker. He could be a playmaker if needs be to keep him going, as he has a bit of guile to open up defences.

I’ve seen some of the speculation surrounding Cook’s future, but I think he is best off getting games at Leeds at the moment.

He’s a young lad learning his trade.

The Championship is the best place for him for me. It’s the hardest league to get into and the hardest league to get out of.

There are so many fixtures that are not a given.

There are none that you turn around and say that’s a definite three points for Leeds.

It’s such a competitive league. I think that’s the best place for him.

If he goes up to the Premier League, he will be playing Under-21s football and I do not think that would benefit him at all.

The only way it could benefit him is if he was loaned straight back to Leeds.

I do not see any advantage from him going to a Premier League side.