On Friday night, West Bromwich Albion lost 2-1 to Huddersfield Town, confirming Leeds United’s promotion to the Premier League for next season, Leeds’ first in 16 years since their relegation in 2004.
It’s certainly been a dramatic journey for the club over the past couple decades, from a Champions League semifinal in 2001 to administration in 2007 and a few years in the third division, even, as well, to now being coached by the legendary madman, Marcelo “El Loco” Bielsa himself — but now they’re “back where we belong” as the non-socially distanced celebratory signs read and that means next season just got a bit spicier for Chelsea as well.
The rivalry between the clubs, like many of Chelsea’s biggest rivalries, is competitive rather than geographic, based (at least initially) on games and results rather than location, and then expanding and evolving from there. Fueled by a perceived class and cultural divide, it dates back to the 1960s and the iconic 1970 FA Cup final, but was very much a thing throughout the next two decades as well during the height of hooliganism (Headhunters vs. Service Crew). We’ve only met once since 2004 however — Chelsea winning easily, 5-1, in the League Cup — and that will only heighten the emotions of that upcoming first meeting next season.
Incidentally, the 1970 FA Cup final is being commemorated by this season’s (one-off?) 50th anniversary FA Cup shirts.
And that’s before we get to the fresh blood in this rivalry, which dates back to just last season, and Frank Lampard specifically. Coaching Derby County at the time, Lampard and Bielsa clashed in the media over “spygate” — Bielsa sending some dude to hide in the bushes, literally, at the Rams’ training ground — then met in the promotion playoffs where Derby recorded an unlikely win, which resulted in some iconic celebratory scenes, including a mocking rendition of Leeds fans’ “Stop Crying, Frank Lampard” song, led by the man himself.
In case you’re wondering, Lampard is still living rent free in their heads.
So that should be fun!
BONUS CHELSEA CONNECTION:
Leeds’ leading goalscorer is none other than former Chelsea hopeful Patrick Bamford, who finally managed to replicate his 2014-15 breakout season and will now be hoping once again to get it done at Premier League level, too (1 goal in 27 tries so far). Bamfordinho will be 27 by the time next season starts.