The hatred – and former players from both sides admit that the feelings were that intense – was replicated on the terraces. In the hooligan era a section of supporters of both clubs prided themselves on being the most violent group in the country. Chelsea’s Headhunters and the Leeds Service Crew clashed regularly. In 1982 the West End erupted in a series of skirmishes between the supporters. Two years later, when away fans damaged the scoreboard at Stamford Bridge, Ken Bates, the Chelsea chairman said: “I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the Football League. Their fans are the scum of the earth, absolute animals and a disgrace. I will do everything in my power to make this happen.”
Little more than two decades later Bates became the principal owner at Elland Road and very quickly got into a series of rows with Chelsea, first alleging his former club tapped-up youth players at Leeds. Later Bates defended himself against an accusation from Stamford Bridge that he had made antisemitic comments about Roman Abramovich.
Relations between the fans remained tense but the antagonism was largely theatrical compared with the excesses of the 1980s. These days the headhunters in West London are more likely to be highly paid recruitment specialists.
But the hostility could be reignited from the dugout. Frank Lampard crossed swords with Marcelo Bielsa and his team during the Englishman’s stint in charge of Derby County. A member of Bielsa’s staff was caught watching Derby’s training in what was referred to as ‘Spygate’. Leeds were eventually fined £200,000 and their supporters mocked the Derby manager during the first leg of the Championship playoffs two years ago by chanting “Stop Crying Frank Lampard” to the tune of “Stop Crying You Heart Out” by Oasis. The Chelsea legend got his own back by singing the same words ironically in the dressing room after Derby won the second leg to advance to Wembley.
Like the last time Chelsea and Leeds met, the managers are at the epicentre of the feud. Decades have passed since the two clubs first clashed but there is life in the old rivalry yet.
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