Leeds prepared for hostile reception at Lions sell-out

OVER the past four seasons, the chant ‘we’ve filled your ground for you’ has become a common feature of Leeds United away games.

The boast emanating from the away seats has been far from an idle one, as a quick glance through the record books illustrates. This season, for instance, 11 Championship clubs have posted their highest gate when Leeds were in town.

A 12th seems certain tomorrow when United travel to Millwall after the last few tickets were snapped up by fans of the London club earlier this week.

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It means stepping into the Lions’ Den, where the natives delight in reminding visitors that no-one likes them, is likely to be an even more hostile experience than usual for Grayson’s men.

Not, however, that the Leeds manager is losing any sleep over the prospect of having to silence one of football’s most intimidating crowds.

“I haven’t spoken about it all week,” said Grayson to the Yorkshire Post yesterday when asked if the players had been given any special instructions ahead of tomorrow’s clash.

“The Den can be lively but so can Elland Road. We are used to playing in front of big crowds every week.

“Plus, no matter where we go, it is a sell-out and everyone is hostile towards us. My players are used to that.”

Only Swansea City and Crystal Palace have been the star visiting attraction on more than one occasion this season, making Leeds clearly the Championship’s big draw. It is a feeling they are used to after three years in League One.

Grayson added: “I am sure it will be the same this weekend. Even when Millwall have local derbies, there won’t be as many at the game as when we go there.

“It is a passionate place and the fans are trying to help their team win football matches. But I expect my players to stand up and be counted. They know what to expect and what needs to be done to win the game. Our away record this season shows that.”

Leeds will go into the game sitting fifth in the table, four points clear of a chasing pack that is led by Nottingham Forest. Millwall are three points further adrift of Billy Davies’s men so know that beating the Yorkshire club is paramount if they are to stand a chance of gate-crashing the play-off places.

Grayson, whose two previous visits in charge of United have ended in defeat, said: “Games between us have been very close. We have had some real competitive games.

“None of them have got out of hand and the rivalry is healthy. There is a good amount of respect between the two teams.

“People say Millwall turn games into a scrap but that is not the case. Maybe in the past when Terry Hurlock was going up against David Batty, then they were real battles.

“But if you look at our team and Millwall’s, there aren’t any real strong tacklers. Just because we are going to Millwall, James Henry, who is a good winger, is not suddenly going to turn into a maniac right winger that is kicking lumps out of people.”

It has been an eventful week at Elland Road, starting with a 4-1 victory over Nottingham Forest that saw Chris Cohen red carded for the visitors – a decision that Grayson was accused of influencing by charging on to the pitch.

Then, after the dust had settled, Leeds were suddenly dragged into the national headlines when Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said the club would have to reveal exactly who is in overall charge if they won promotion.

This led to fears among supporters that United could be prevented from going up if Grayson’s side were to finish second or win the play-offs.

The Leeds manager, however, has no such concerns. “I have no problems with what was said,” he said “This football club is conducted in the right manner. It is run correctly by the chairman and Shaun (Harvey, chief executive).

“Whoever runs the club will be disclosed, if and when it needs to be. I am sure there are many things that have had to be run past the Football League in the past weeks, months and years.

“So, for me, it doesn’t alter anything I am trying to do on the football pitch.”

As for the rumpus that followed Cohen’s sending-off in the Forest game - a dismissal that was upheld following appeal – Grayson added: “I would like to think my actions were vindicated because the red card was upheld.

“One, I didn’t have a charge against me (for going on to the field after Cohen’s tackle on George McCartney) and, two, the red card was upheld.

“If it had been overturned then I would have been the first to come out and apologise that I got it wrong.

“From where I was stood, if George had been a milli-second slower then it would have broken his leg.”