By Mike Courtney
What a difference a year makes. Last November Leeds welcomed Watford to Elland Road where the then manager Neil Warnock tried out a 5-3-2 formation with Paul Green as one of the centre backs. Jason Pearce saw red, Warnock made three quick substitutions and Rudy got a nasty injury which saw Leeds play out most of the second half with nine men on our way to a 6-1 thumping.
A year or so on, new board and new manager in place and Watford come to Elland Road tomorrow to meet a Leeds side brimming with confidence and playing that same 5-3-2 formation, albeit with better results. Things definitely are looking good at the moment at Elland Road, five home wins on the trot, Ross Mac named Championship player of the month, new investment on the horizon and more importantly Alex Mowatt signing a new three and a half year deal; which keeps him at the club until the summer of 2017. It all seems too good to be true.
As a Leeds fan you are always expecting the next knock, but for now we should accentuate the positives and go around with wide beaming smiles on our faces. Wednesday night's win over Wigan kept us in touch with the top six, it may not have been our best performance of the season, but it was a good way to bounce back from the weekend defeat at Ewood Park. I love this time of the year, games come thick and fast and it gives us supporters lots to talk and blog about. It also helps the side to build on the momentum that our latest good run has created, so we should be very confident about facing a Watford side who haven't reached the heights of last season.
I wrote a few weeks ago about hating Charlton after our Playoff defeat in '87. I don't have the same hatred for Watford even though they were responsible for one of my worst days spent as a Leeds fan. The Playoff defeat in 2006 at the Millennium Stadium was heartbreaking for every Leeds fan, the team just never showed up that day. What made it worse for me was that I was stood in the Watford end amongst the Yellow Army as they went about destroying Blackwell's boys dreams of promotion. How did I end up there? Very simple really, I had travelled ticketless from Ireland with a group of friends who were going to the Heineken Cup Final (egg chasing) to see Munster play Biarritz on the Saturday. I went to that game and though it was a good omen as Munster won their first Heineken Cup, I was expecting more of the same for Leeds against Watford.
I trawled the streets of Cardiff that morning for a ticket and managed to locate a Watford fan in a pub who had a spare ticket. I had to deny my allegiance to the mighty Whites (which was akin to Peter denying Jesus) to secure the ticket at less then face value (I played the poor Irish man over for the rugby card) and sat speechless as the Watford fans jumped for joy following their 3-0 win. Still it didn't hurt me as much as the Charlton defeat. Maybe I was maturing or maybe I was still on a high from Munster's win the day before, or maybe I was just still drunk. Whichever one it was it didn't make me hate Watford like I hate Charlton.
So back to tomorrow's game after that trip down bad memory lane. Can Leeds make it six wins in a row at Elland Road? From the evidence so far this season I can't see why not. We seem more solid at the back with the introduction of Zaliukas. Kenny is showing why he is considered one of the best keepers in the division and playing with wing backs seems to be working well. The midfield trio are set in stone and with RossCo on fire up front and full of confidence, most observers can't see beyond a Leeds win. If results go our way we could see ourselves back in the top six again and even if they don't, we need to keep winning the home games to keep within touching distance of the top six.
We have a tough run of fixtures between now and the new year. I keep saying it, there are no easy games in this division and with two Yorkshire Derby's to come, away at Donny and home to our bogey team Barnsley between now and Christmas, a win tomorrow is a must.
I feel we have the fire power, the momentum and the confidence within the squad to do just that and I expect Leeds to win 2-0 with Ross again on the score sheet.
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds
As a footnote I'd like to remember the legend that was and will always be; Nelson Mandela. Most Leeds fans have a special affinity to the great leader as he was the hero of one of our own heroes Lucas "The Chief" Radebe.
RIP Mandiba you are finally free and your long walk is over