Sheffield United: Oli McBurnie reveals why some Leeds fans will be cheering The Blades on in the Premier League
It might sound strange, particularly given the rivalry which exists between their clubs, but a small band of Leeds fans will be cheering Sheffield United on when they begin their battle for Premier League survival at The Vitality Stadium.
Not, Oli McBurnie admits, because they are over last season. Or reconciled with the fact Bramall Lane, not Elland Road, is now a top-flight stadium. Rather, the centre-forward explains, because they want him to do well after swapping Swansea City for South Yorkshire earlier this summer.
"It is good to be back home," McBurnie explained yesterday, acknowledging his West Riding roots. "Plenty of friendly faces and hearing the Yorkshire accent every day. It feels great, honestly it does.
"Most of my mates are Leeds fans so they're not too chuffed about me playing for Sheffield United. No, seriously, they are buzzing for me to be back. They used to come down to Swansea. It was a long drive for them so they are chuffed I am back up here."
McBurnie became Chris Wilder's record transfer signing by some considerable margin when he returned north this month. The move - a £17m down-payment with a further £3m payable in installments - was only made possible because, nearly 96 days earlier, United had won their duel for automatic promotion with Marcelo Bielsa's side. The scramble for second place, behind Championship champions Norwich, became increasingly acrimonious as the weeks wore on. Words were exchanged. Verbal punches traded. But it was United, showing nerves of steel during the closing few matches, who crossed the finishing line first.
McBurnie, who watched two of the region's footballing heavyweights slug it out from afar, now finds himself tasked with spearheading United's attack as they bid to establish themselves at the highest level. Speaking ahead of tomorrow's match against AFC Bournemouth - his new club's first in the division since 2007 - the Scotland international explained why, for a whole host of reasons, he thinks joining United will bring out the best in him.
"I have about 25 of my pals in the crowd every time I play in Yorkshire," he said. "That brings more expectation.
"I don’t know. I just feel at home up here in Yorkshire. I am a Leeds lad and all my family are up here.
"One of the main things the gaffer said to me was that I would fit in with the boys. And that the fans would take to me."
"He said I wouldn’t have to change too much," McBurnie added. "That is always nice. I have to learn a bit about how Sheffield United play. It is a bit different to what I am used to. I am excited to get going. I want to get out there playing.
"It was tough playing against Sheffield United. They have a different way of playing to everyone else. They do not hold back, are always on the front foot, and very tough to play against. So now I'm a part of it, I can't wait."
McBurnie, aged 23, scored 22 league goals for City last season, with two of those coming against United.
"I always enjoyed playing Sheffield United," he said. "Every time, I think I scored. Am not sure why. It is nice for the fans to be cheering with me, rather than at me, though now."
Wilder overhauled United's attack during the recent transfer window, with Callum Robinson, Lys Mousset and Luke Freeman also arriving before McBurnie's deal was processed. They join David McGoldrick and Billy Sharp in a forward line which, he believes, provides Wilder and his staff with a number of exciting combinations.
"Some of the boys have never played in this division and I think that will help," McBurnie said. "It means you have no fear and go in with an open mind, determined to take it as you find. It is exciting.
"This is a hungry group and a great dressing room. I do not feel any nervous energy in the dressing room.
"Our job is to score goals. Obviously, the rest of the team will chip in here and there but, as strikers, it is our job.
"We are confident among ourselves we can do that. There are a lot of different qualities between these strikers and we all bring something different."