STEVE BRUCE, no stranger to how intimidating Elland Road can be for visiting teams from his playing career, believes Hull City could be travelling to Leeds United at a favourable time.
Another turbulent week for Leeds both on and off the field could culminate today in a mass walk-out by fans angry at how the club is being run by Massimo Cellino.
Bruce, a former Manchester United captain, views the plight of Leeds as a “genuine shame” but, nevertheless, is determined to capitalise on any unrest among the home supporters.
“If you talk about the big clubs of English football,” the Tigers chief told The Yorkshire Post, “Leeds are one of them.
“Everyone likes to play against Leeds because they have got that respect. I think that is why they have found it so difficult.
“They are a club with a huge history and a fantastic fan-base. Everywhere they go, they take a few thousand fans.
“It is a shame what is happening because people thought the madness might have disappeared with the new owner but, unfortunately, it is one disaster leading into the next.
“Mass walkouts and all the rest of it isn’t great for a club the size of Leeds, I have to say that.
“I have been to Elland Road many times and what an occasion it always was. They weren’t overly fond of Manchester United, let’s put it that way.
“It was hostile as soon as you got off the bus. They were proper games and you had to play well to win there because it was a cauldron when Manchester United played there.
“What it will be like this time with Hull, I don’t know. But, obviously, the supporters want to make a stand and they are entitled to protest because it means so much to them.”
Should a sizeable contingent of United fans answer the call to leave en masse for 17 minutes in the 17th minute – the number is considered by the superstitious Leeds owner to be unlucky – it is likely to provide a further distraction for a team that has won just once on home soil in nine months.
Bruce added: “It distracts the players, it must do. We hope it is a good time to play Leeds though we will have to play well.
“On paper, they have still got some good players. (Chris) Wood and (Mirco) Antenucci up front, the three young lads.
“Make no mistake, Steve Evans wants his teams to mirror him and to be up and at you. He will demand that.
“He is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I have always got huge respect for people who achieve something in management, especially when they have come up through the divisions like him.
“What he did at Rotherham, who could have done a better job? He did well at Crawley as well. For him to get Leeds United, he is like a kid in a sweet shop. It is good to see.”
Bruce faced Evans in his first game as Hull manager in 2012, the Scot’s Rotherham United being knocked out of the Capital One Cup at the KC Stadium in a first-round tie that went to penalties.
On the same day, Leeds were beating Shrewsbury Town in their first competitive fixture since the sale of Robert Snodgrass to Norwich City a week or so earlier.
The Scot, a talismanic figure who has never been replaced at Elland Road, will be back in West Yorkshire today as a Tigers player after making his return from a 15-month injury lay-off as a substitute in the midweek Cup defeat to Manchester City.
Snodgrass spent four years at Leeds and admits to finding his former club’s ongoing travails difficult to stomach.
“Leeds are a club that brought me down from Scotland as a youngster and gave me my chance,” said the Scotland international. “It isn’t nice to see.
“When I was there and Ken Bates was in charge, there were a lot of things being said about how we needed someone to come in and invest a lot of money.
“But, sometimes, the fans wish for something believing the grass can be greener and that hasn’t proved to be the case, as you can see now. That is how football can be, sometimes. Change can work for you or against you.”
In Snodgrass’s four years at Elland Road, he played under three managers. Since Cellino took charge in April last year, United have had six different men at the helm.
The former Leeds wideman added: “The club was a lot more stable when I was there. Now, it is no surprise when managers come in every few months. That makes things difficult.
“It is tough to see what is happening but I have now moved on.
“I have had a few years at Norwich and this is my second season at Hull. My main is to focus on what I can do for Hull City.”
The Tigers will be without top scorer Abel Hernandez after the £10m record signing suffered a hamstring strain in midweek as the East Riding club look to bounce back from defeat at home to Derby County in their last league outing.
Bruce added: “Christmas and the run-up to it is a hugely important time. It is about the accumulation of points and staying with it until the last 10 or 12 games when things start to get interesting.
“We lost against Derby so can we respond? Let’s hope we can go on another decent run before our next defeat.
“On paper, we have got a good run of fixtures. But this is the Championship and we know it will be difficult.”
Match preview: Page 3.