AFTER THE EFL Cup ‘fizz’ of midweek and a few glasses being consumed last weekend too, will a toast be raised for a number of Yorkshire’s sides tomorrow? Here are five pre-weekend observations on the footballing front - ahead of the clocks going back.
1. A juicy one at Oakwell as LJ prepares to run the gauntlet.
Lee Johnson’s reign at Barnsley lasted just under a year. But no-one can say it was uneventful.
The sugar-rush of two intoxicating winning runs alongside a draining run of autumnal losses which sapped the lifeblood out of the Reds this time last year.
Johnson is back at Oakwell with Bristol City tomorrow after walking out on the Reds to head back to a club which tugged upon his heartstrings the most, with that lure being something he found impossible to turn down last February.
Memories of that swift exit will no doubt be in some home’ fans minds tomorrow - coming in the immediate wake of Barnsley clinching a Wembley berth in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final - with some supporters, somewhat harshly, booing Johnson when he was the club’s guest at the final.
That said, Paul Heckingbottom has taken on the baton in outstanding fashion following Johnson’s exit and has raised the bar further, many would venture.
He may not say it and has played things down ahead of Johnson’s return, but putting one over the ex-Reds boss would give him an inward sense of satisfaction tomorrow.
Johnson said he was offered the chance to manage a club who were his ‘Real Madrid’ in City early this year. Well, Barnsley are certainly Heckingbottom’s Barcelona and maybe there will be a ‘Classico’ tomorrow..
2. Middlesbrough have not won at home in the top-flight since April 2009. Saturday would be the perfect time to end that statistic.
A dogged, diligent display which bore all the classic hallmarks of Aitor Karanka’s time on Teesside saw Boro smother and saturate Arsenal last weekend in a performance that Karanka’s mentor, that great pragmatist in Jose Mourinho, would doffed his cap too.
Now, Boro need to add a bit more beef as they seek their maiden home win at this level this season at home to Bournemouth tomorrow.
For the providing two seasons, the Riverside was an inhospitable fortress for Boro. But the walls have been destroyed this season with Watford, Crystal Palace and Spurs leaving with victories where the home resistance pretty minimal and lacked any sort of artillery.
Boro must bring some hardware to the table tomorrow.
3. Do not let it be said that Garry Monk misses a trick.
Amid the hype and hullabaloo of Leeds securing a dream of an EFL tie at Anfield, which rewound the clock to some nostalgic days of the noughties and many more before that as well - a grounded Garry Monk struck.
Like an old managerial sage, Monk spoke about tomorrow’s match with Burton as being a ‘big, big game’. Psychologically, it dropped a seed in the mind of players.
It was also a subtle way of reminding supporters not to get carried away, in the nicest possible sense, while also being mindful of the banana-skin nature of the game with the Brewers on their first ever visit to Elland Road.
Attitude will be massive tomorrow. Following the exhilaration of a dramatic penalty shoot-out cup success over Norwich - learning the prize of a last-eight draw with Liverpool - and a noteworthy win at Molineux last weekend, Monk is clearly conscious of complacency against a side who are without an away win this term.
These games can knock you down, as Monk well knows. It is all about staying ‘on message’.
4. Can Kenny Jackett put the wedge in the door at Rotherham.
It was another one-time Millers boss in Ronnie Moore who used to utter the phrase ‘wedge in the door’ on occasions.
It was his way of saying that when you are on a bad run that you need to somehow stop the slide by any means possible - whether that be by way of a dogged, ugly performance or a more eye-catching performance; it does not matter.
To give themselves any sort of chance of inspiring a recovery in a hitherto grim 2016-17, new Millers chief Jackett knows that Rotherham simply have to get back to basics with a defence who have conceded a horrifying 23 goals en route to seven successive road losses so far in the Championship in 2016-17.
Jackett would gladly take a scruffy 0-0 at Portman Road tomorrow as a starting point. Reality rules, more especially with the Millers on a wretched seven-match losing streak.
5. Chris Wilder - singing from the same hymnsheet as Monk.
Just as Monk is keen for Leeds not to get carried away, so his Sheffield United counterpart Chris Wilder is ultra-keen for his troops not to take managerless MK Dons lightly in any way, shape of form.
The formbook may point to a home win with the Blades boasting an eye-catching ten-match unbeaten run in League One, but Wilder is right to be weary.
MK Dons may have not won in four, but they have won on their last two visits to the Lane. These sort of games have a nasty habit of biting you on the backside if you take them for granted. Something Wilder knows full well..