It’s a titanic head-to-head of the Yorkshire Uniteds at Elland Road on Saturday, just a half hour after High Noon. Some are building it up as a promotion decider, others are being more circumspect. I want us to win, and I think it’s the biggest game since that decisive match against Bristol Rovers almost nine years ago – but I believe all the pressure is on the Sheffield side this time around.
The fact is that, if Leeds United win, they’ll be five points clear of third with eight games to go, and that’s a significant gap. Even a draw would leave Sheffield United two points off second place. Only a win for the Blades will see them edge ahead of Leeds United, by just a solitary point. Both teams need the win, but for Sheffield United, beaten once by the Whites already this season, it’s vital.
Little more needs to be said. Leeds United and Sheffield United both know what they have to do, both will be wary of the hype – and both will carry the confidence of a good recent run into this Yorkshire summit meeting.
As United boss Howard Wilkinson said in brilliantly brief and succinct programme notes when these two teams met at Elland Road towards the end of both clubs’ 1990 promotion season: “What can I say about today’s game that has not already been said or appeared in print? Including this afternoon’s encounter, we have five matches to go in what can turn out to be Leeds United’s most important season for a decade. So let’s get on with it.”
The rest is history. Leeds beat the Blades that long ago afternoon by 4-0, going on to clinch the divisional Championship. Both teams went up, but Sheffield United had not been able to withstand the pressure or Leeds United’s own mental readiness and competitive spirit on the day.
May it turn out the same this weekend.