Top 5: Are Millwall truly Leeds' Fiercest Rivals?
08 Jun 2020 11:50 am, by YorkshireSquare
Many neutrals would cite Leeds United as one of the most despised clubs currently playing in the lower divisions. Like other clubs, every effort has been made to gentrify its fanbase, but the hard core of fans remains as vocal and uncompromisingly passionate as ever. Their rivalries with some clubs still transcend mere hatred, and the supporters of these five rival teams would happily see Leeds United fold as Elland Road burns.
Some would disagree, but based on fan behaviour over the past fifteen years alone, this is perhaps the most vicious rivalry of the lot.
The two clubs boast traditionally working-class fanbases, both of which represent their respective halves of the UK's North-South divide with ferocious pride. They did not meet at all between 1988 and 2004, but with Leeds’ relegation from the Premier League in the latter year, the old animosities were revived with aplomb.
Even in the relatively-gentle mid-2000s, the two fanbases were itching to maim one another, and but for stellar policing, there would almost certainly have been numerous fatalities. The modern iteration of this rivalry reached its peak in the spring of 2009, with both clubs by then in League One, and destined to face each other in the two-legged promotion playoffs.
On the pitch alone, Leeds United's recent clashes against Millwall have been close-fought, with six of the last seven being won/lost by a one-goal margin.
Leeds vs Derby is one of very few football rivalries to have made it to the big screen. Released in 2009, The Damned United captures perfectly the early 1970s, during which provincial underdogs Derby rose from the depths of the second tier. After doing so, the Rams developed a serious rivalry for the league title with a seemingly invincible Leeds United side.
The venomous personal animosity between Derby manager Brian Clough and his Leeds counterpart Don Revie undoubtedly helped to fuel this rivalry. Every all-white meeting of this ilk invariably provokes recollections of meetings past, and if you also remember them with a glint in your eye, then why not check the fixed odds here surrounding their next meeting?
This saga was revived as recently as last season’s Championship promotion playoff semi-finals, which saw Derby triumph against all odds at Elland Road after losing their home leg.
Geographically, Wednesday are the closest team in this list. Curiously though, this is not the most venomous rivalry of the quintet we’re focusing on – nowhere near. Naturally though, there is some bad blood, with an infamous example playing out in 2012, when Leeds supporter Aaron Cawley leapt from the stands and brazenly attacked Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.
Along with Huddersfield, Leeds and Wednesday are also the two most successful Yorkshire clubs in terms of combined league titles won. With Leeds and Wednesday also appearing in more combined Premier League seasons than any other Yorkshire duo, the Owls and the Whites are perceived as the ‘traditional’ kings of the county fighting for their domain.
Recent results have been close, and as of June 2020, four of the previous five meetings had ended level or produced a mere one-goal margin.
Popular culture sees the rivalry as one that largely fermented during the peak of hooliganism in the 1970s, after a 1960s decade in which both clubs enjoyed a revival in fortunes. The commonly-held ‘genesis’ of this rivalry is said to be the replay of the 1970 FA Cup final, which often descended into vicious skirmishes.
According to former referee David Elleray, that particular showdown would have resulted in six red cards if contested in the post-1992 Premier League era, with a further 20 bookings.
Fan violence was also a constant feature of Chelsea-Leeds clashes in the 1980s. While that culture abated drastically in the 1990s, there was always a heated atmosphere whenever they met. That was especially true during the late 1990s, when both clubs enjoyed periods as title challengers to Manchester United and Arsenal.
Clashes with Manchester United are known as the ‘Roses Derby’, as named after the War of the Roses. Man United, representing the red of Lancashire, are seen as the ultimate scalp by Leeds fans. Back in January 2010, Leeds memorably dumped United out of the FA Cup in January 2010, and the fact that they did so at Old Trafford – and ended a 29-year winless run there – made it all the more resounding.
While Man United have easily had the better of Premier League meetings overall since 1992, there have certainly been some classics. Leeds beat them 2-1 in September 1994, and thus unknowingly did their bit to deny United the league title by a single point. There was also a win in September 1997, which not only helped to achieve the same effect, but also saw the birth of Roy Keane’s four-year feud with Alf Inge Håland.