PRE LEEDS

Telegraph-sport

WE will look to extend our excellent 12-match unbeaten record against Leeds United tomorrow.
The run included a sequence of 10 straight wins and I was lucky enough to play in three of the victories.
Our 2-1 win at Elland Road in August 2010 is one of the favourite moments of my Derby County career.
It was quite a 24 hours for me.
I was fighting to get fit for the start of the season following a knee operation, but time was running out.
I had done no fitness work pre-season and managed only a couple of half-paced runs and half a dozen touches of the ball in training the day before the opening fixture at Leeds.
The gaffer (Nigel Clough) said it would be a boost if I travelled with the squad to Elland Road. He also asked if I would be on the bench although it was highly unlikely I would play any part in the game.
We started well and went ahead when Rob Hulse scored. Leeds equalised through Luciano Becchio and then Kris Commons put us back in front.
Russell Anderson, playing alongside Dean Leacock at centre back, picked up an injury just before half time and it was clear he would not be able to continue in the second half.
I kind of knew what was coming.
The gaffer asked if I was ready to play the second half. It was the question I wanted to hear even though he and I knew I wasn’t match fit.
I really enjoyed being back out there and I remember Kasper Schmeichel denying me a goal with a world-class save.
I was delighted with the way things went, and we won 2-1, but a few days later I started a League Cup tie at Crewe and scored an own goal, such are the highs and lows in football.
That Leeds game is one I will always remember and typifies me as a player, I think.
Nigel Clough did not really have to ask if I was ready, he knew what the answer was going to be and I started 44 of the next 45 games.
It was the game when Nigel stopped the team bus just around the corner from Elland Road and we walked the final few hundred yards through the Leeds fans to the ground.
We had no idea that was going happen.
I think it was something to do with the rivalry between the clubs when Nigel’s dad Brian was manager of Derby and Don Revie in charge at Leeds. We all know the rivalry.
Elland Road can be a daunting place and Nigel wanted the players to feel the atmosphere and show we were not intimidated or worried. A bit of mind games, I suppose.
The Leeds’ fans could not believe it when they saw us walking to the game.
We got a bit of stick, but it was quite enjoyable.
We beat Leeds 2-1 at our place later that season when Ben Davies scored a cracker of a winning goal.
It was Ben’s first goal since signing from Notts County and that kind of sparked his career at Derby.
He was a player Nigel Clough was after for a few seasons. He admired Ben as a player and a professional. He was technically good, his set pieces outstanding, and he scored some important goals.
He also got stick for spending a lot of time in the gym. I used to call him the ‘maintainer’, because he was maintaining his physique all the time. He didn’t mind taking his shirt off!
I also recall a 1-0 victory over Leeds on Boxing Day 2011 when Jamie Ward scored.
I had returned to action in a game at West Ham about a month earlier following a seven-month lay-off.
It took me about two or three weeks to get going again and around the Christmas time me and Jason Shackell started to form a solid partnership.
The team kept four clean sheets in five matches, including the Leeds’ game, and we were defending four our lives in away games. We certainly did in a 1-0 win at Hull when Theo Robinson scored.
Shacks and myself were very different players. He was more happy to sit back and cover things while I wanted to be tighter and try to dominate the centre forward.
I always used to say Shacks was the Rolls Royce in the partnership but he had to have somebody who was strong and aggressive alongside him so he could play his own game.
I thought we suited each other quite well.
The games against Leeds do have a different feel to them.
Forest is the biggest game, obviously, and then Leeds.
We are the two biggest clubs in this division in terms of support and history, and you get that feeling when you are out there on the pitch.

This is my site. I play football and have written this thing that you see above this box. There are likely to be typos cos I'm a footballer

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