BARNSLEY manager Keith Hill has labelled Leeds United counterpart Neil Warnock a managerial ‘magician.’
Hill is looking forward to pitting his wits against Warnock, who managed him briefly in the mid-90s during his playing stint at Plymouth Argyle, one of a host of clubs that the 63-year-old has taken to promotion.
Warnock is seeking to orchestrate a record eighth promotion of his career at Elland Road to crown his epic tenure in management and Hill, for one, is not putting it past him achieving it.
He said: “Neil does not take fools for granted. I suppose you cannot trick the ultimate magician.
“He has seen all the card tricks and sleight of hands that players try and deceive you with.
“He wants 100 per cent of everything all of the time and he gets it. And if he does not get it, he changes it.
“He has done exceptionally well at Leeds. They have got the best manager, who has got a proven track record at every club he has been at on getting promotion.”
Barnsley have proved a bogey side for Leeds in recent years and have beaten their neighbours from up the M1 three times in their past four outings since the Whites returned to the Championship for the 2010-11 campaign.
All told, the Reds are unbeaten in their last six encounters against Leeds, famously trounced 4-1 on the last occasion they met – at Oakwell on New Year’s Eve.
But Hill is not reading much into those particular statistics.
He added: “It is not a consideration what we have previously done. But the players will obviously be motivated by the fact it is a local derby and they are playing on behalf of the supporters, as they are every game.
“Elland Road is brilliant. You thrive on the atmosphere. And I have got no inhibitions going to Leeds with the players I have got.”
A haul of one point from back-to-back home matches against early strugglers Peterborough United and Ipswich Town may have taken some gloss off Barnsley’s magnificent 5-0 televised destruction of Birmingham City a fortnight ago, but Hill is painting a different picture.
While a disappointing week may have left them down in 17th spot as opposed to knocking on the door of the play-offs, Hill insists the club have already surpassed expectations, especially given all they have had to contend with so far this term.
If one of the smallest playing budgets in the Championship – if not the tightest – was not enough to contend with, an early-season injury crisis, which left Hill down to the bare bones, exacerbated matters.
So, all things considered, Hill is happy with the progress of the Reds – tipped by many pundits for relegation before a ball was kicked – especially with several players currently sidelined in line to return for action after the forthcoming international break.
He said: “I think everyone was disappointed with us losing the game on Tuesday. But, realistically, I think the majority of the footballing world expected us to be in the bottom three.
“The players have been magnificent. We are in quite a healthy position and I am optimistic that we will achieve our goals this season.”