Leeds United v Hull City: Grant McCann aims to turn back the clock

Big threat: Hull City's Jarrod Bowen celebrates last season's victory at Leeds.
Big threat: Hull City's Jarrod Bowen celebrates last season's victory at Leeds.
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IF Grant McCann has shown anything in his time in management in Yorkshire, it is that he gives short shrift to any suggestions that his teams cannot defy the odds.

He did it when he took over at Doncaster Rovers in the summer of 2018 when he instantly cast aside all talk of consolidation and had an icy Ulster stare for those who dared to question Rovers’ League One play-off credentials.

That same defiance was prevalent to those who scoffed at his declared top-six aspirations for Hull City in the close-season.

It is also in evidence to any doubters who choose to write off the Tigers’ prospects ahead of tonight’s trip to a Leeds United side who are brimful of momentum and self-belief after a six-match winning streak.

A tough task for his Hull side, without question. But not an impossible one for a team who have won at Nottingham Forest and Fulham in 2019-20 and whose memories of last season’s visit to Leeds are glorious ones.

Hull famously spoiled the party for Leeds on their last visit almost 12 months ago, thanks to a brace from Jarrod Bowen and the Tigers and their attacking talisman will not be short of confidence tonight.

McCann said: “I saw the game when Jarrod got two and watched it during the week. It is not impossible to get a result.

“We will go there with belief that we can; not sitting back. We will go there to try and win the game as it is the only way we know how to play.

“I do not think it will be any sort of marker. It is just a game where we can just go and see if we can upset the odds. They have won six in a row and have real confidence at the minute.

“I am sure no-one will give us any hope going there and winning. But we will go there and play with a smile on our face and with freedom and enjoyment and see if we can cause an upset.”

As well as viewing a DVD of the Tigers’ outstanding victory at Elland Road last term, McCann also watched footage of Leeds’ derby win over Huddersfield Town on Saturday ahead of his side’s game against Stoke City.

It confirmed McCann’s opinion that Leeds can go one step further after last season’s promotion near-miss, although his sole concern is giving them some food for thought tonight.

He added “They can have three or four injuries and still adapt to a centre-half playing in midfield and still look as comfortable.

“I think the difference in Leeds this season is that (Marcelo) Bielsa has been there for a season now. They understand exactly how he wants to work.

“We are quite young still and 20 games in and he has that full year and disappointment of not going up last time and now you sense that group have the bit between their teeth and want to turn it around this time.

“It is also the energy they play at and way they adapt to games. I think it is everything really, as well as having very good players for every position.”

After chewing the fat with a figure he respects in his one-time Northern Ireland manager in Michael O’Neill on Saturday, McCann is hoping to tap into the brains one of the most revered names in world football tonight in Bielsa, hopefully on the back of a famous result.

“Pitting your wits against the best managers is what you want to do and you want to learn off them,” added McCann.

“I spent about an hour-and-a-half with Antonio Conte when Chelsea played Peterborough in the FA Cup. If I get the opportunity to do that with Bielsa after the game, that would be great – hopefully after getting three points.”