HUDDERSFIELD Town boss Simon Grayson says he’ll be focused on the present not the past when he comes face to face with former club Leeds for the first time since his Elland Road sacking.
Town’s manager, a lifelong Leeds fan and former player, was axed in February after leading United out of League I and establishing them in the Championship.
He’s now trying to repeat that process at Town in the wake of last season’s League I play-off final triumph and, ahead of tomorrow’s big lunchtime derby, reassured fans: “My past allegiances mean nothing.”
It’s a 12.30 kick-off for the first meeting of the neighbours since the 2009-10 season, with more than 20,000 expected for the all-ticket clash which brings Town’s 1995 League I play-off final winning manager Neil Warnock back to Huddersfield.
The John Smith’s Stadium club are unbeaten in the last five Leeds derbies, winning three of those games, and Grayson, who works with his former Leeds assistants Glynn Snodin and Ian Miller at Town, is desperate for his 11th-placed side to hit back after Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough.
A win or draw would keep Town above 15th-placed Leeds, who have won their last two games, and Grayson said: “There couldn’t be a better game coming up after the last match, when we were well below par.
“It’s a big game and while Leeds like to play it down, believe me – the result means a lot to both clubs and both sets of supporters, and it’s one we badly want to win.
“My previous ties with Leeds is no secret, but I will certainly have my professional head on, because there are three points to be had.
On his departure from Elland Road, Grayson – who confirmed midfielder Adam Clayton will return to the side after his one-match ban but was non-committal on the chances of former Leeds frontline favourite Jermaine Beckford being fit – explained: “It hurt at the time, but I began moving on as soon as I was appointed by Town (19 days later).
“Leeds were in a better position when we left than they were when we arrived, and we departed with a lot of dignity.
“Myself, Glynn and Ian worked very hard to take the club forward and we did that.”
Grayson had a pop at former Leeds player turned newspaper columnist Peter Lorimer but said he had no bitterness towards chairman Ken Bates, who is to become president in the wake of the £52m takeover by Dubai-based private equity group GFH Capital.
“Peter said things in his column after saying something different to our faces, which is the wrong way to go about things,” said Grayson.
“But I have no problem with Ken Bates. Perhaps he could have backed us more, because after finishing seventh in the Championship (in 2011), we could have pushed for the Premier League with investment, but our relationship was good.”