CARLOS CARVALHAL today plans to put to good use his past experience of coaching in the “crazy” derbies of Istanbul and Lisbon when Sheffield Wednesday head to Elland Road.
The 49-year-old Owls chief will sample an all-Yorkshire clash for the first time since succeeding Stuart Gray during the summer.
A white hot atmosphere is expected for the 90th meeting of these two great rivals and Carvalhal is eagerly looking forward to what, in the absence of the Steel City derby, is likely to be one of this season’s highlights in the White Rose football calendar.
“I like the derby environment and these games are special,” said the Wednesday chief, whose coaching CV includes stints in charge of Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon.
“I have been fortunate to be in some big derby games. Sporting-Benfica is unbelievable. We would have 45,000 at Sporting and 65,000 at Benfica.
“In Istanbul, Besiktas against Galatasaray or Fenerbahce would fill 60-80,000 stadiums. All the people are crazy round those games, they are the moments we are in football to enjoy.
“As a player, I was in the Braga-Guimaraes derby. They are 20km apart but the environment was a bit crazy. It was unbelievable, as it was when I was (coach) at Besiktas.
“We would leave the (training) facility (before a derby in Istanbul) with 2,000 fans there. Sometimes, the cars followed the bus all the way.
“They are not crazy people, they are just crazy, positive people. They follow the bus to the stadium and when we arrived there were 5,000 fans singing from about 1km away. That is how it is in those countries.
“Probably here, it will be a little different. The fans enjoy the game more in the 90 minutes.
“I do not know which is better or worse, just different. I enjoy the atmosphere and I will enjoy it at Leeds. It will be good.”
Carvalhal may be right in suggesting that the frantic scenes that surrounded a team’s arrival at the stadium in Istanbul or Lisbon are unlikely to be repeated outside Elland Road.
But the Owls chief is certain on one thing – his own preparations will focus on the game and not the need to claim local bragging rights.
“What I will do is focus on my work,” said the Portuguese. “I do not read too many newspapers, watch too much television or listen to the radio before a derby game.
“I have a lot of things to do in a week like this, when we have two games in three days. That can be a difficult environment.
“I don’t think too much about what the fans are thinking or talking about. I cannot. I have to do my job and focus on the game. I have to get the team to get the three points.
“The pressure, to me, is completely on the sides (in the stand). I only start to feel the game when I arrive at the stadium. In that moment, I will sense how the people around me feel.
“Of course, to win (a derby) is a great feeling. The people around you are happy. It is like this in all derbies in the world, it is the same.”
The head coach in the home dugout today at Elland Road is also well versed in intense derby occasions. Uwe Rosler spent a little over four years at Manchester City, where he was a hugely popular player.
A big highlight of his time at Maine Road came in a derby clash at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, when the East German-born striker opened the scoring with a sublime chip over Peter Schmeichel at the end housing thousands of City fans.
Even though the Blues went on to lose that fifth-round tie, supporters in the blue half of Manchester still talk fondly of Rosler’s goal. Asked about his own experience of derby football, the Leeds head coach said: “I enjoyed derby games, especially in Manchester.
“There was a special build-up, not only over a week but over several weeks. People would fly in from all over the world. Family would also come over.
“To be honest, it could be a lot of distractions and difficult to prepare. Suddenly, I would be thinking, ‘By the way, I have a game’. But I loved every minute.”
Both Leeds and the Owls played on Wednesday night, meaning neither will have had much recovery time. Those two fixtures saw United and Wednesday feature several foreign players but Carvalhal insists everyone will today understand the importance of prevailing.
“All the players know what it means,” he said. “Alex (Lopez) played a lot of Celta Vigo-(Deportivo la) Coruna so knows exactly what a derby means.
“Marco Matias and Lucas Joao played in Nacional-Maritimo. That is a derby with a big atmosphere. The players have lived these derbies and know they are an emotional environment.
“We have a lot of British players and they understand. If we did not have this, I may be worried.”
Match preview: Page 3