Ahead of one of the most important Yorkshire derbies of the season, Richard Sutcliffe talks to Australian Shane Lowry about facing former club Leeds United.
SHANE LOWRY’S stint in a Leeds United shirt last season may have amounted to just 11 appearances spread over two loan spells.
But the Aston Villa left-back certainly packed plenty into his time at Elland Road.
Not only did Lowry experience the full gamut of emotions that was United’s push for promotion as Simon Grayson’s men came perilously close to blowing what had, at the turn of the year, seemed like an unassailable lead at the top of League One.
But he also missed the decisive spot-kick on the night when United missed out on a trip to Wembley by losing a penalty shoot-out to Carlisle United.
And as if that was not bad enough, the Australian’s saved effort in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Area final then sparked a pitch invasion at Brunton Park that saw Lowry assaulted by a home fan.
All in all, therefore, an eventful time in the life of the 21-year-old and one that, for all the considerable ups and downs, evokes fond memories.
“I really enjoyed my time at Leeds,” admits Lowry ahead of today’s Yorkshire derby when he will line up against his former club sporting the colours of Sheffield United.
“I played 11 games for Leeds and it was good to help such a big club get promotion. It was a special time and one I will never forget.
“I wish Leeds all the luck in the world in their bid to reach the Premier League but my focus now is on helping Sheffield United.”
Lowry is one of five Blades players who can list the Elland Road club on their CV – Neill Collins, Sam Vokes, Richard Cresswell and Michael Doyle being the others.
Manager Micky Adams is another Leeds old boy, while Leeds-born Nick Montgomery was a major transfer target for Grayson last summer before the midfield player opted to remain at Bramall Lane.
It means today’s White Rose derby – which will also see Leigh Bromby line up against his one-time employer – will have added spice as the two clubs chase a win that could make a big difference to both ends of the Championship table.
Lowry said: “The game will be competitive, that is always the case in derbies. I think it will help our chances of winning to have so many ex-Leeds players in the team.
“For me, it was a real high when Leeds went up but I am now fighting a relegation battle. My focus is fully on Sheffield United and helping us to stay up. I am trying my hardest.
“There is pressure on both teams but, obviously, of a different kind. I believe it is more vital for us to win this game than it is for Leeds to pick up the three points.
“They can afford to lose this one and still be well in the mix for promotion.”
Lowry’s move to Bramall Lane in mid-January was the third loan transfer of his career. The first came in September, 2009, when he left Villa for a three-month stint in Devon with Plymouth Argyle.
Thirteen appearances – and one red card – later, he returned to the West Midlands only for Leeds to come in just a few weeks on.
Now, two months into his stay at Bramall Lane, Lowry admits to being keen to lay down some permanent roots.
The 21-year-old, whose first-team involvement at Villa Park amounts to just two appearances against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League, said: “I am under contract until the end of next season. What happens is not really up to me. Ultimately, it is out of my hands and down to someone else.
“But I have to admit that it is frustrating being in the reserves because you don’t get that many games.
“I am 22 soon and I am getting to the stage where I need to start building a career for myself, whether that will be at Villa or somewhere else. I might get a chance at Villa because situations can quickly change or another door might open for me.”
At Bramall Lane, this season has been little short of a nightmare with an indication of the turmoil that has engulfed the club being that Adams is their fourth manager.
Kevin Blackwell kicked off 2010-11 in charge but lasted just two league games, a 3-0 hammering at home to Neil Warnock’s QPR prompting the Blades board to take action.
Gary Speed then stepped up from assistant manager but lasted just 18 games before being tempted away by the Wales job.
John Carver was the next to take the helm but his reign as caretaker lasted just three games, back-to-back defeats against Hull City and Norwich City leading to the job being offered to lifelong fan Adams.
At the time, the Blades were fifth bottom of the Championship and it was hoped the appointment of a manager who had revived Port Vale’s fortunes could kick-start a charge up the table.
Instead, Adams’s dream return has turned sour with last weekend’s 3-0 defeat at Watford meaning United have claimed just seven points from 14 games under the 49-year-old.
It means the Blades, who are six points adrift of safety with nine games of the season remaining, go into today’s White Rose derby badly in need of a lift.
Lowry, however, is adamant United can still get out of trouble and points to the club’s last home game – the 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest – as proof.
The on-loan full-back said: “If we put the effort in, we know the fans will back us. And from our point of view, it is imperative that we win our remaining home games to give ourselves a chance of staying up.
“I want to repay the faith the gaffer has shown by bringing me to the club.
“Their fans are going to be very vocal because that is how they always are. But ours can match them in that department, absolutely no problem.
“When we beat Nottingham Forest here recently it was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced inside a football ground.
“They stuck with us throughout, even when things weren’t going well. That counted for a lot.
“I know it is a cliché but they really are massively important to us right now. We need them in what will be a really competitive game.”