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We#x26;#8217;ll play without fear against Manchester United, vows Leeds United boss Simon Grayson

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02 Jan 2010 01:22:26

We#x26;#8217;ll play without fear against Manchester United, vows Leeds United boss Simon Grayson

Leeds hero: Grayson acknowledges the fans Leeds United's legion of supporters would not wish for anything different ahead of a trip to Old Trafford. Their manager is on the front foot. 'We set out to try and beat Liverpool in September and we gave them one hell of a game,' said manager Simon Grayson. 'We'll go to Manchester United to enjoy it, but we're going there to try to win. We're not going there to sit back and defend.' Those words would have hadlittle resonance six years ago when these two clubs last locked horns in the Premier League at Old Trafford. That was in February2004 when Leeds drew 1-1 with their arch rivals. Grayson is now speaking as a League One manager of a Leeds United side who are into their third season in the third tier of English football.Facing Liverpool and United was nothing out of the ordinary earlier in the decade, but meeting the big guns is a rarity these days, and it is to be savoured. Leeds gave Rafa Benitez's side a stern test in the Carling Cup when the Anfield outfit scraped home 1-0, and tomorrow Grayson's side have the chance to test themselvesagainst Sir Alex Ferguson's Premier League Champions in the third round of the FA Cup. Grayson, Yorkshire born and bred, is in danger of smashing the doom and gloom which has gripped Leeds on their downward spiral. Elland Road is a happier place nowadays because they top the table with a healthy 56 points, well clear of nearestchallengers Charlton Athletic and Norwich City. Yet Old Trafford will witness the resumption of a notoriously bitter rivalry tomorrow when the clubs collide. Looking back: Grayson during his playing days Eight thousand Leeds supporters will see to that.Kicked out after two appearancesfor the club he supported as a boy, Grayson now holds the key to a few hundred thousand dreams at Leeds. It is almost a year since he left Blackpool to step down to League One and take the hotseat. 'We're looking for the next batch of Leeds United heroes,' he said, 'Gary McAllister had some good players here when he was boss. Perhaps they were just weighed down by the expectation. Because it was Leeds United, it was automaticallyassumed they would be promoted. 'Most of us in football know that it doesn't work like that. You need a special type of player to be able to handle that. To block it out and just get on with the job. You have to handle playing in front of 20,000-plus week in, week out. 'If you are nice and comfortablein front of 4,000, then this isn't the place for you.'In football, you don't pick up many compliments. And not if you're Leeds. All we try to do is get our reputation back through our football. 'We were clapped off by Bristol Rovers supporters a couple of months ago when we won 4-0. It was a generous gesture.' Grayson enjoyed a Premier League career at Leicester City, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers during a decade in which he played for some highly-respected managers: Martin O'Neill, Brian Little, John Gregory, Graeme Souness. But it was never easy.And that stands him in good stead as he tries to inject the same mettle he showed as a player into his squad after sufferingrejection at Elland Road as a player. 'I wasn't one of the superstars,' he said. 'It broke my heart when I walked out at 21 but I had to leave and enjoy my football. 'In my last game, I was on the bench at QPR with a certain Eric Cantona. When we got up to do a warm-up there was a huge round of applause and cheering.  Notorious: Ken Bates 'I called over to him and shouted, 'Just so you know Eric, that lot is for me, not you'.' Grayson is now working for former Chelsea owner Ken Bates. Notorious, out-spoken, colourful. A few terms that could be applied to him without fear of legal action. A difficult taskmaster? 'Well, first of all, I know that he reads this paper,' he added, smiling. 'He's got a certain reputation which I think he secretly enjoys but he's a football man. He brought the club back from the brink. 'I speak to him on a daily basis and he's knowledgeable about our players. I think he prefers me to say it how it is. I know that's how he operates.  A decade on, Luke Chadwick gets a look in as former Manchester United fledgling reinvents himself at MK DonsFletcher relieved to see Vidic and defensive pals return for Man United Posh winger George Boyd hopes to earn his Spurs 'Last season we lost at Hereford. It was about the same time as the film, The Damned United, came out. I remarked to him later that at least I'd got past Cloughie's 44-day mark. 'He said I nearly hadn't! I'm not sure he was joking, either.' Interview over, Grayson is reminded of what he had jokingly told me when he was at Blackpool. He said he had perfect balancein his life as he earned his money in Lancashire and spent it in Yorkshire. And now? 'I earn it in Yorkshire ... but I don't spend it,' he replied. A Leeds United manager issmiling. Now there's a thing. THREE LEEDS PLAYERS TO WATCH...Jermaine Beckford: Age 26: Joined from Wealdstone in 2006 after 35 goals in 40 games. Arguably now best player in League One, 73 goals in 127 appearances. Contract up in summer. Robert Snodgrass: Age 22. Scotland youth cap, signed in 2008 from Livingston. Used on either wing for Leeds, but is also capable of playing as a forward. In 76 appearances has 18 goals. Patrick Kisnorbo: Age: 28. Spent four years at Leicester before joining in summer on a free. Australia centre-back has been ever present and they have conceded just 13 League goals.  A decade on, Luke Chadwick gets a look in as former Manchester United fledgling reinvents himself at MK DonsFletcher relieved to see Vidic and defensive pals return for Man United Posh winger George Boyd hopes to earn his Spurs


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