DARKO MILANIC last night insisted all team selection decisions at Leeds United are made by him and not president Massimo Cellino.
Elland Road hosts its second Yorkshire derby inside a fortnight today when Sheffield Wednesday are the visitors for an eagerly-awaited lunchtime clash.
United’s new head coach is hoping to make it third time lucky in the quest for a first victory at the end of a week in which social media has been alive with suggestions that Cellino has a huge say in deciding the make-up of the team.
The rumours began after the United owner watched last Saturday’s defeat at Brentford from the away end. Supporters standing nearby later claimed online that Cellino had suggested that Stephen Warnock would be replaced by Liam Cooper for the midweek fixture at home to Reading.
With the predicted change later being made for what turned out to be a goalless draw, Twitter and internet messageboards have since been awash with speculation.
Milanic, however, is adamant that the reality is very different.
He said: “If you have a president like our president and one with such experience in football then it is normal that people or (the media) talk about this. I have no problem with this, it is my decision.”
Pressed further on what form talks on the team take between president and head coach, Milanic replied: “Not in detail. That is not the job of Mr Cellino.”
For the second season running, the Elland Road meeting between Leeds and the Owls has been selected for live broadcast by Sky Sports.
This could have an impact on the attendance, while the atmosphere for lunchtime kick-offs can often be less raucous than for games that kick off at 3pm.
Despite that, the latest instalment of an enduring rivalry between the two clubs is something Milanic is keen to experience. Not, however, that he is likely to be fazed after his own experiences as a player in the old Yugoslavia.
The Slovenian, who won a host of trophies when sporting the colours of Partizan, said: “I played in a lot derbies – also a big derby, Partizan v Red Star, with 80,000 people. This is not a new thing for me.
“So I know that derbies are special. Those games (in Belgrade) were a little war – one month before and one month after the game. It was very important to win this game.
“Yes, I enjoyed the games but, in that moment, Red Star were extremely good. They were a Champions League team, a very good team. A derby is not a usual game, it is special for the fans, the president, the coach and the players. It is really important.
“In south Europe, derbies are war. In Serbia, in Slovenia, in Greece, it is war, a little war. But only a little war.”
As for the task facing his Leeds players today in the first meeting between the club since the Elland Road clash was thrashed 6-0 by Wednesday last January, Milanic added: “We have to be very intelligent, that means there’s a lot of emotion and in the same way we have to go forwards and play with a lot of tempo. We are motivated, but not too much.
“This game is special, but we have to make it and do it for ourselves. And also for the fans.”
Revenge is not incentive for Leeds’s new faces: Page 3.