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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Chelsea Dish It Out To Leeds. 5-1!!!

I took my son out for his Christmas treat yesterday, and halfway through the evening, it didn’t look as though it was the brightest idea I’d had. I’d bought him (and myself) tickets for the League Cup quarter-final, Leeds v Chelsea at Elland Road. At halftime we were cold, wet, surrounded by 30,000 aggressive, ugly, crowing Leeds supporters, and losing 0-1.

The rivalry, and bitter feeling, between these two giants of the English game goes back to the mid-1960s, when Leeds were the team everybody outside of that city hated with a passion. They were seen as dirty, cynical and (this was the hard part) very, very effective. They won an awful lot of games, although very few trophies. They were the perennial runners-up, and we felt that that was only just. There was something about them….

Later, in the early to mid-seventies, they blossomed into a superb football team - but we’d all got into the habit of detesting their earlier ‘professionalism’ and were reluctant to give them any credit whatsoever. In any case, it seemed that our suspicions had been right all along when the late Bob Stokoe (manager of the Second Division Sunderland team that famously beat Leeds in the FA Cup Final, 1973) revealed that, when his Bury team met Leeds in a vital promotion game in the early 1960s, Leeds’ manager Don Revie offered him a bundle of cash to ensure a result.

In 1970, of course, Chelsea met Leeds in Wembley’s first drawn FA Cup Final, managed a 2-2 draw - by virtue of a lot of gutsy striving, a deal of good fortune, and some vicious tackles, then beat them 2-1 after extra time at Old Trafford. The second game has of late been reviewed by a professional referee who suggested that, were the same fouls committed today, somewhere in the region of eight players from each side might have been dismissed from the field of play. I attended both games, and can say that he was dead right. It was a horror show. But… we won. Who cares?

On to last night, then, when Chelsea, on the back of a rocky run that has seen them dump one manager (Roberto Di Matteo) and hire the derided Rafael Benitez on a  temporary contract, played poorly in the first half and deservedly went a goal behind. With the rain lashing down and the crowd taunting every Chelsea move - and making hideous accusations about the sex-lives of their higher profile stars - we feared the worst, but in the second half the Blues found their form, defied the conditions and the hostility, and thumped home five goals in forty minutes. It pains me to concede anything to Leeds, but they never gave up trying to play football, and the fans, to their credit, never gave up singing and chanting their support - and those vile slurs.

We repaired to the delightful Angel pub, just off the Headrow, and celebrated in the traditional way.

Saturday I’ll be at York to watch the Minstermen take on table-topping Gillingham. The atmosphere should be a little less febrile.

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