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Sheffield United: New boy hopes for Steel City derby debut as fellow midfielder prepares to depart

Ryan Leonard hopes to be involved on Friday night: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Ryan Leonard hopes to be involved on Friday night: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

He watched September’s derby at home on television.

But when Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday do battle again on Friday night, Ryan Leonard hopes to be kicking every ball for real.

“I remember thinking how I’d love to be involved in that,” the former Southend midfielder, whose transfer to United was completed yesterday, said. “Hopefully now, I’ll get the opportunity. The atmosphere, I just know, is going to be fantastic and things like that are one of the reasons I wanted to come here.”

United triumphed 4-2 at Hillsborough earlier this season and enter the return fixture at Bramall Lane a point outside of the Championship’s play-off positions. Leonard, who has signed a three-and-a-half year contract with Chris Wilder’s side, was on the verge of moving to South Yorkshire during last summer’s window but the deal was postponed when Southend refused to agree a fee.

“I was cheering when the lads scored (against Wednesday),” he continued. “Because obviously there was all the talk over the summer. Don’t get me wrong, I focused totally on doing my job for Southend because of everything they’ve done for me. But of course I wanted United to win.”

Leonard’s arrival appears to have persuaded Wilder to consider a bid for Ben Whiteman from Doncaster Rovers, where he has spent the first-half of the campaign on loan.

“We’re in negotiations with Sheffield United,” Darren Ferguson, the Rovers manager, said. “The boy really wants to come back which is a huge help.”