SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY manager Dave Jones insists he is not losing any sleep ahead of his highly-charged reacquaintance with Leeds United fans at Elland Road tomorrow lunch-time.
The reverse Championship fixture at Hillsborough in front of the TV cameras on October 19 proved a night to forget.
Football found itself placed in the dock on a variety of ‘charges’.
Home goalkeeper Chris Kirkland was infamously assaulted on the pitch by visiting ‘fan’ Aaron Cawley, who subsequently received a four-month jail sentence and a lifetime ban from Leeds.
Jones was subjected to a series of obscene chants from sections of Leeds’s travelling support, with the disgusted Owls chief subsequently labelling them as “vile animals” in an emotional after-match TV interview.
Some Wednesday supporters sang offensive songs about two Leeds fans murdered in Turkey in 2000.
The evening brought further shame on the game with rival fans clashing before and after the match and seats being ripped up and thrown by visiting fans in the West Stand.
Both United and West Yorkshire Police have issued a plea for calm ahead of tomorrow’s game when around 3,000 Wednesdayites are expected to make the short journey up the M1.
Jones feels that the matter is ‘done and dusted’ with the Liverpudlian adamant he is focusing purely on football.
It remains to be seen whether all fans of both clubs heed that advice. The overwhelming majority would wish it so, but only the truly optimistic would expect it to be so.
For his part, Jones – who endured a barrage of sickening chants from many Leeds fans relating to child abuse charges from which he was exonerated back in 2000 – says he will shut out anything untoward emanating from the stands, with his sole concern being the 90 minutes’ action on the pitch.
Jones, whose in-form side will all but rubber-stamp Championship safety if they triumph tomorrow – while plunging the hosts further into relegation trouble in the process – said: “It is done and dusted (events in October).
“At the end of the day, we are there to try and do a job which is to win a football match.
“It was all dealt with at the time. We are now four months or so down the line or whatever.
“We are there to go play football. As for the rest, if (some) people want to continue on, so be it. I am not going to lose sleep over it.
“We will move forward and try and get the three points.”
On whether he expects a hot reception from Leeds supporters, Jones added: “Let’s wait and see. But it will not affect me in my thoughts, my process of training the team or whatever.
“I managed Cardiff (against Leeds) and it was no different to managing Sheffield Wednesday or when I took Wolves or Southampton there. I certainly do not have a strained relationship with anybody and as far as I am concerned, it is over.
“You are never going to stop the odd fella saying things. It is the rest that have to control it, I have said that before.
“But having a go at me is not going to get them (Leeds) any more points or less points.
“People have to realise that sometimes. Having a go at me or anyone else is not going to guarantee them anything.
“It might give them a (personal) lift, I do not know. But it can only give the person a lift; it cannot give the team a lift.
“Whatever tickles their fancy, fine. If it means having a go at me and not the team, then fine, it is their prerogative.
“I have been around a long time as a player, coach and a manager – and played in front of 120,000 people who were baying for blood. But at the end of the day, it has never affected me in any way and it will not affect me on the day, or the players.”
Wednesday, in 14th spot – one point and three places above Leeds – head to Elland Road as the form side in the division and on the cusp of securing their Championship tenure, with some Owls fans’ sights even set on breaking into the top 10 between now and May 4.
It is a far cry from some dismal days endured in the first half of the season, most notably a nine-match winless streak and a separate seven-game losing run, which led to many fans calling for the former Cardiff manager to be sacked.
To his credit, chairman Milan Mandaric refused to budge and fully backed his manager just when he needed it.
His faith will be fully justified if – many are now saying when – the Owls, under Jones, clinch safety, which you suspect will give the pair a lot of satisfaction in the context of a rollercoaster season.
He added: “To come into this division, which is a lot tougher than people give it credit for, and survive would be a fantastic achievement.
“But we still have a long, long way to go and the more points we get on the board will help with that establishment.”