AS Leeds United prepare to bid farewell to a true great, Alex McCarthy is ready to say his own goodbyes to Elland Road.
Gary Speed’s death last Sunday has unleashed a torrent of grief throughout the club, who are determined to mark the passing of their former player in fitting fashion today.
A minute’s applause will take place in Speed’s honour ahead of kick-off, while both Simon Grayson and Millwall manager Kenny Jackett will lay a wreath at either end of the pitch.
Following on from the touching scenes at Nottingham Forest in midweek when the travelling fans chanted ‘4-0 for Gary Speed’ at the final whistle, the visit of the Lions is again expected to be a highly-charged occasion.
McCarthy, who joined on a month’s loan during the first week of November, is expected to make his last home appearance in a Leeds shirt before returning to parent club Reading.
With Andy Lonergan on the verge of returning to full fitness and the next visitors to Elland Road a fortnight today being the Royals, the 21-year-old loanee admits an extension to his stay in Yorkshire is unlikely.
McCarthy said: “My loan is up after Watford (away next week). It would be great to sign off with two wins. I have really enjoyed it here and the lads have been great.
“We have gelled together really well. I won’t say it is hard to go into another team or anything like that. But it can be strange at times.
“People at Leeds have made sure it was as easy as possible. If this is the end, I will go away with happy memories as I have really enjoyed my time here. I am from down south but have loved it here.”
Part of the reason McCarthy has enjoyed himself so much in West Yorkshire has been United’s results, his four appearances having so far brought three wins and just one defeat.
That came a week ago in what has been the only home game of his loan spell when Barnsley triumphed 2-1, a result that extended United’s winless run at Elland Road to four games.
McCarthy said: “Barnsley was disappointing, especially as it means the only game I have lost is the one at Elland Road.
“I want that to change against Millwall, though the most important thing would be to keep the decent run we have been on going.
“It should be a good game as Millwall won again in midweek (against Doncaster) and have come into a bit of form. I am expecting the atmosphere to be something special.”
Leeds go into today’s lunchtime clash with Millwall buoyed by a tremendous display in midweek as Forest were thrashed 4-0.
McCarthy added: “The key was we didn’t give ourselves that uphill struggle from the start, like we did against Barnsley. The lads deserved the win.
“Getting a clean sheet was great. To be fair to the boys, I didn’t have a lot to do.”