The all-important South Yorkshire bragging rights are up for grabs at Hillsborough tomorrow.
Both Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United are requiring points for different reasons. The Owls, without a win in their last three matches, are bidding to cement their place in the Championship’s top-six while the Millers are looking to pull away from the drop zone.
I caught up with ex-Wednesday boss Brian Laws and Rotherham legend John Breckin ahead of the derby.
Dom Howson (DH): What are derbies like to be involved in?
Brian Laws (BL): I always felt that derbies had that extra little bit of spice and I made it very, very clear to the players that it doesn’t just mean three points. These games matter so much to the fans so the players have to look to start the game at a very high tempo.
John Breckin (JB): These games are fantastic occasions. When I assisted Ronnie Moore in 2002, we beat Wednesday twice, scoring winners in the last minute and third minute of added on time. Rotherham fans still talk about those wins now.
I will never forget when Darren Garner hit that shot as Ronnie jumped on me and said ‘it’s in that!’ We were just happy Darren hit it. We were thinking it if went into the Kop at least we could have got the draw!
It was an unbelievable feeling playing a part in those successes. You can’t put a price on it. It was great in the dressing room and then going out in the town afterwards.
DH: Wednesday will be without their leading goal-scorer Fernando Forestieri tomorrow due to suspension. How much of a loss is that for them?
BL: If the creativity is good enough on Saturday, it doesn’t matter who is in there. It’s not like Forestieri has been creating the chances. He’s finishing them off.
They have got Atdhe Nuhiu or Lucas Joao who they can put in Forestieri’s place. There will be a slight change in the style Wednesday will play but they have still got effective players in and around the team to create enough chances to win the derby.
DH: Rotherham are just three points adrift of safety after beating Brentford last weekend. What’s going to be the key to them building on that performance?
JB: The boys put in a tremendous display against Brentford and the win gives them a little confidence. We have got the experienced players back and they have played in big derbies before which is a big, big thing.
Rotherham have a few former Wednesday players in their ranks in Richard Wood and Joe Mattock. They will know what to expect and be fired up going into the lion’s den.
Wednesday have had a great season so far and will be looking to keep their momentum going. They are pushing for a play-off place and we are trying to get the survival points on board. We have to be up for the fight and give a good account of ourselves.
DH: With Cardiff, Birmingham and Ipswich breathing down their necks, is this a must win for Wednesday?
BL: It’s not the be all and end all, however, if they don’t win, the pressure will start mounting even more. To relieve any tension in and around the place, they’ve got stamp their positivity and ability on the pitch.
DH: Given his Sheffield United connections, Neil Warnock expects to cop some flak this weekend. Will that help or hinder Rotherham?
JB: I think his presence will actually take a little bit of pressure off the players and Neil knows that. Neil is an experienced guy and will relish it. He did a wonderful job at Sheffield United but Rotherham are also a club he holds dearly to his heart, having played for them. I’m sure he will get a fantastic reception!
BL: With Neil being a United fan and a former United boss, it will undoubtedly add a little bit more spice to the game. I bet he thought his days of going back to Hillsborough were over. You can’t knock him. He will probably be disappointed if the fans don’t give him a lot of stick!
DH: How do you see it going?
BL: I expect Wednesday to win. I can see it being tight but they have been brilliant at home this season.
JB: I can’t wait for the game. Everybody is looking forward to it. I can see it being a tight game. One more goal than them will do us!