Boyhood Sheffield Wednesday fan Rory McArdle seeks Sheffield United scalp with Bradford City

AS A boyhood Sheffield Wednesday fan, Rory McArdle wanting Steel City rivals United to win promotion back to the Championship comes as something of a surprise.

Rory McArdle in action for Bradford City against Sheffield United last season (Picture: SportImage)

But he does – providing, of course, that it is alongside Bradford City, the team that the defender has represented so admirably for the past five seasons.

“It would be nice if United could go back up,” admitted McArdle to The Yorkshire Post ahead of tomorrow’s eagerly-anticipated derby clash.

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“I realise a lot of Wednesday fans would want them to be kept down. But derby days are great and everyone enjoys them. I certainly did when I was younger.

“I remember the gaffer here (Stuart McCall) playing for Sheffield United in one of them at Hillsborough. I asked him about it the other day. He reckons he ran the game, using his experience. I wasn’t sure about that!

“But derby days are great in Sheffield and it would be good for the clubs to play each other again. That’s if Wednesday don’t go up this season, of course.”

McArdle’s last comment is said with a big smile, as is his response to a subsequent enquiry as to whether, as that teenage Owls fans on derby day, he might have shouted an unsavoury thing or two at McCall.

“No,” he insists. “If I’d done that, my dad would have told me off!”

It is no wonder McArdle is smiling again. Tuesday brought his first league outing for the Bantams in five months.

An operation on a shoulder he had dislocated in February before playing through the pain barrier in the final few months of last season was behind the 29-year-old’s lengthy absence. That and City’s impressive start to the campaign.

“I never thought I’d be out so long,” admitted the Northern Ireland international. “I had the operation straight away, more or less as soon as the Millwall (play-off) game finished.

“The surgeon then said I would be out three to four months, but hopefully three. A bit of stiffness held me up but my aim was always September.

“That wasn’t to be, though, due to how the lads started the season. It has been incredible and, rightly, I had to wait for my chance.

“But it was great to be back against Southend. I had played in the Checkatrade Trophy but the business of the season is the league so to get that first game under my belt was great.

“A lot had changed since my last league appearance. The new gaffer came in, along with a lot of new players. For a few of us – lads like myself, Stephen Darby, James Meredith – we had only known the same thing since joining Bradford. But it has been great and everything feels freshened up.

“The only disappointment of Tuesday was the result (a 1-1 draw). But that, sometimes, is how football can be. We got a point and moved straight on to Sheffield United.”

Ah yes, tomorrow’s meeting with the Blades. McCall insisted yesterday this will be the biggest game so far in League One this season and it is easy to see why.

A crowd of more than 20,000 is expected at Valley Parade for a clash between two Yorkshire rivals who sit second and fourth in the table, and are separated by just one point.

Chris Wilder’s Blades have taken 23 points from a possible 27 to soar up the table after being dumped at its foot in mid-August.

Bradford, meanwhile, have lost just once in 14 outings and are full value for their second-placed standing. The scene is set for a potentially titanic clash.

“This is a big, big game,” added McArdle, who was brought up in the Tinsley area of Sheffield. “They are on a good run and so are we, despite our last two results. It is a massive game and, to me, the biggest so far in the division.

“Both clubs probably think they should be in a higher division but this is the reality. Even if you look at the Championship, there are so many clubs you look at and think, ‘Why are they in this division?’

“Teams are there for a reason. Sheffield United have been down for six years – yet you look at the fanbase plus the stadium, and each year they are favourites to go back up.

“For whatever reason, it hasn’t happened but that just shows how tough it is. Teams can’t just expect to bounce back up. It is the same at every level, Premier League included.

“In League One, a few teams have had to rebuild here and then go back up. Teams like Norwich, Southampton, Nottingham Forest and Leeds. They have all had to take a step back before taking two forward.

“I am looking forward to it. I support Wednesday and enjoy playing United. I come from Tinsley, which is more of a Wednesday area. But a lot of my friends are split between Wednesday and United. Hopefully, we can get the right result for that side of the city. If we can do that then, first and foremost, I’ll be delighted for Bradford City but it will also be nice to get one over the Blades on a personal level.”