An entire decade has passed since Leeds and Chelsea faced each other at Elland Road; tomorrow night a generation of supporters brought up on a diet of Championship and League One football will finally have their first experience of one of the game’s most bitter rivalries. But can the impending League Cup tie have the same resonance for those who have only ever experienced the rivalry through TV replays and the words of others?
Jenny Berry is one those supporters and her thoughts suggest that it very much will…
It was an inevitable fixture at some point, like another ink splodge on the script of Leeds United under the rule of Ken Bates. The timing is unfortunate in the least; given that he is due to complete the sale of the club just two days after this final showcase but it provides the man with one last show of defiance in the face of those who have reviled him in all his years involved with both clubs.
There are many flashpoints in the history of Leeds and Chelsea and for this generation, Bates has been at the very epicentre. In his attempts to make Elland Road into Chelsea Village, bringing Dennis Wise to the club and the rest, Bates has won few admirers.
It was okay for Chelsea though, they won; they got a Russian billionaire to buy them as they teetered on the brink of a financial crevasse. We however, got stuck with a tight-ass, Santa-lookalike who nearly liquidated us and is set to walk away with a friggin’ fortune despite getting us no further forward than when he took over. Thanks, Roman. Frankly having to suffer Bates is enough of a reason to dislike Chelsea.
The fact that Chelsea got away from him is hard enough to stomach given how he ended up at Leeds United but there is plenty to dislike about how they’ve done since he left. Bankrolled by a fickle billionaire, they’ve bought some of the best talent in Europe, been managed by the most arrogant man in Europe and been as flagrant with money as an MP on an expenses spree.
But it goes much deeper than that. For the more recent Chelsea fans/glory hunters/fair weathers/etc, the rivalry was born in the 1960’s when Leeds under Don Revie were becoming a force in English football while Chelsea were enjoying a new beginning under Tommy Docherty. The battles were hard fought, on and off the pitch as the ‘dirty Leeds’ from the gritty North took on the ‘flash cockney wide-boys’ Chelsea from the fashionable south. Off the pitch, there were running battles between the Leeds Service Crew and Chelsea’s Headhunters in one of the most notorious periods in football hooliganism.
Back then, When Saturday Comes described the two clubs, “Chelsea were the Beatles – clean cut, attractive and fashionable to Leeds as the Rolling Stones – surly, sexy and violent.” The tags still stand too; well on the terraces certainly. It almost seems that the football itself is a sideshow to the rivalry, the loathing, the seething jealously… and Ken Bates.
Despite the gulf between the two clubs, in league position and financial terms, the underlying feeling between the fans is still very real. The fact is, it shouldn’t even be a contest on the pitch; they spent £50m on one player, it’s just a shame we don’t still have Billy Paynter.
Personally speaking, the 60’s was a bit before my time; instead most of the pain we’ve suffered since has run hand in hand with Chelsea’s bankrolling billionaire. It’s almost like they’re the one in the social group who lives off the very wealthy bank of mum and dad; their money has no merit and yet they flaunt it brazenly on every occasion. You feel jealousy, but then on the other hand, you know if you had the money, you’d be a ***t as well.
Like Manchester United before them, they bought their way to glory; it’s the only possible way now but with every billionaire you feel that what football should be, disappearing. It should be shiny, it shouldn’t be bought, it should be gritty and real. There is nothing real about what Chelsea are though; the sums of money are unimaginable, stretched to the very limits of what is reasonable. Money can buy you everything. Like a new manager every year. And being able to sack the manager who won you a double, which included the Champions League. It’s madness.
I suppose that is the crux of it from my point of view. Chelsea in the main, have become so much of what I hate about football. A glance at Chelsea forums on the internet tells you too many of those fans have no idea about the history of the club they profess their love for. Few of this generation know of the history which involved two of the most infamous firms in football hooliganism, they ask if it is true; the battles, the pitch invasions, the windmilling, the wrecked scoreboard. These are the Sky generation; the generation who could switch allegiance at the toss of a coin, who follow the victorious and know little about the game itself.
That’s not to tar them all, absolutely not. For they amongst themselves will recognise the fickle, and the glory hunters in their ranks. Leeds cannot be excused from this either, one only needs to glance fleetingly at the attendance figures and the one from this game to know too many only come back when the glamour is on show.
And glamour it cannot be denied is what they will bring. The reigning European champions and FA Cup holders have wealth Bates himself could only dream of; there are few more glorious examples of juxtaposition than Juan Mata and Michael Brown; but hey, give me an Andy Hughes, a Michael Brown, a Paul Green any day than a Fernando Torres and £175,000 a week. Ridiculous.
If nothing else, Elland Road will have an atmosphere again because these are the fans who understand, who appreciate and who revile. Leeds vs Chelsea is about much more than the football.
You can read Jenny’s own blog, Three Colours White here
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