Victory at Derby closes the circle, now Leeds United move on to real rivalries

19 Jul 2020 09:52 pm, by YorkshireSquare

There is no Leeds United vs Derby County rivalry, I won’t have it, despite what Sky Sports might tell you. Even when the two clubs were competing at the top of Division one in the early 70s it was one sided, more about Clough’s paranoia that any actual feud between the two sets of fans. I doubt Don Revie ever gave too much though to Derby County, unless he had a dossier to prepare of course. Even last season with the whole Spygate saga it felt more like a feud with Frank Lampard, Leeds fans taking against him because of his Chelsea connections. But now Lampard has gone and Derby are as insignificant to us as the always were.

That said, there is some symmetry to our time out of the top-flight and playing Derby County. Sunday was Leeds United's 417th and final away game as a Football League club since relegation in 2004. Leeds’ first game back in the Football League after relegation in 2004 was Derby at home, the last game in the Championship in 2007 was Derby away, and the first game back in 2010 was Derby at Elland Road. The trend continued into last season too, Marcelo Bielsa’s first away game was against Derby! There is also the small matter of last seasons play-off semi-final defeat to Derby, so it seems fitting that the first game after we have been declared Champions was against Derby.

So, the circle closed as it were, our journey on the road out of the top-flight has started and ended with Derby County, the daemons from last years defeat exercised ready for our new future.

Another representation of the past on the pitch today was the 34-year-old Wayne Rooney. A bright young teenager at Everton when we went down, we have missed his entire Manchester United career whilst we have been out of the Premier League and now, he seems to have called time first with a move to obscurity in the MLS and now to lacklustre Derby. Overweight and plodding he stood on the halfway line for most of the afternoon, drifting forward to take the occasional corner, barely influencing the game. Schooled by Pablo Hernandez, one year his senior but in the form of his life and the twenty-year-old Jamie Shackleton, only just starting out on his journey.

Leeds took to the field with seven changes to the side that beat Barnsley earlier in the week, presumable because a large number of them were still feeling the effects of Friday nights celebrations but it seemed not to matter, they were still dominant. It was Derby though that broke the deadlock, Chris Martin hitting home after Leeds failed to clear their lines. I imagine Derby thought they could be on the way to three points against a tired Leeds side but all they had managed to was make Pablo angry and it was under a minute before he levelled the scores.

The incredibly lively Poveda (who had a great game) crossed to Pablo whose first shot was blocked. I can only assume his vision was impaired by the lethargic lump of Wayne Rooney dawdling towards him. As the ball broke back Rooney stood uninterested, but Hernandez reacted quickly to curl the ball past Kelle Roos to level the scores. Roberts would cut the Derby defence open twenty minutes later for Jamie Shackleton to score his first senior goal, the embarrassment complete under ten minutes later as Matt Clarke volleyed Gjanni Alioski’s cross into the back of his own net. Oh, how I laughed.

With on victory on Sunday the circle has been closed, the Leeds players celebrated the Championship and their return to the Premier League on the Pride Park pitch just as Derby had celebrated at Elland Road last season. Only this wasn’t hollow, it meant something. Leeds now move on to the top-flight with no unfinished business, ready to resume real rivalries, not ones dreamed up by broadcasters and the media to fill their scheduled and pages.