PERHAPS it is the fact that we have been away from Ewood for what seems like an eternity.

Or perhaps it is the fact that this week’s internationals have served as a reminder of why we love British football at its blood-and-thunder best.

But I cannot wait for Saturday’s clash with Leeds.


It has the potential to be every bit as feisty and breathless as the Celtic Park showdowns that have captured the imagination of the nation over these past seven days.

A big reason for that is the numbers in which Leeds will travel.

You’ve got to take your hat off to the Whites.

Nearly 7,000 of their fans will be making the trip across the Pennines in what will be the biggest away support the Championship has seen so far this season.

But there would be no better sight than to see our Roses rivals traipsing back to Yorkshire with their tails firmly between their legs.

It will be what Gary Bowyer’s boys do out on the pitch that will ultimately decide whether that happens for a second season running.

But, make no mistake, Rovers supporters are going to have an important role to play.

They were brilliant against Reading three weeks ago, encouraging and inspiring their side after witnessing an increasingly characteristic indifferent first-half performance.

More of the same will be needed on Saturday.

Leeds are showing signs of improvement under Neil Redfearn, a manager who, like his opposite number, Rovers boss Bowyer, knows his club inside out and will therefore understand just how a big a match this is.

Redfearn, of course, may never have been given the chance to manage his beloved Whites if their owner, Massimo Cellino, had got his man in the summer.

It was reported at the time that the Italian had been impressed by the rebuilding job Bowyer is doing at Rovers and wanted him to repeat the trick at Elland Road.

Nothing came of the link, Bowyer no doubt thinking to himself, ‘why jump from the frying pan into the fire?’ But he is proving what can be achieved when given time to build a team.

Rovers are very much that now.

Whereas even as late as last season they tended to be over reliant on individuals, they now have genuine competition and threats across the field.

The rise and rise of Rudy Gestede and Ben Marshall show that.

But I would not bet against Jordan Rhodes and Tom Cairney, Rovers’ best two players last season, emerging from their sidekicks’ shadows on Saturday.

Rhodes will be refreshed and raring to go after the best part of three weeks on the sidelines while Cairney will readily admit that a meeting with Leeds, the club who foolishly released him at 16 for being too small, is one that brings the best out of him.

His majestic performance in January’s meeting between the sides, in which Rhodes opened the scoring with one of his typically brilliant finishes, was proof positive of that.

Intriguing subplots on and off the pitch, Saturday’s match has all the hallmarks of being a cracker.