This Sunday lunchtime, while most of us will be tucking into our roast dinners and contemplating walking the dog, two tribes from opposite ends of the country go to war. It's West Ham v Leeds United, the vintage El Clasico.
I very much enjoyed, in particular, the second leg of the most recent, and probably about the 4,357th El Clasico – what with it’s shiny players, relentless passing, furious atmosphere, quality goals, light tripping leading to incessant rolling and, of course, massive bundle at the end – made all his own with pure baddie wrestler aplomb by Jose Mourinho and his brand new eye-gauge-followed-by-trout-pout manoeuvre.
All of which adds up perfectly reasonably to Real Madrid and Barcelona referring to their rivalry as ‘classic’. And all of which makes a clash between West Ham United and Leeds United what I would see as much more your ‘vintage’.
Those of you who recently passed their geography A Level will be aware that a meeting between a chunk of London, and a bit of Yorkshire is not a derby match. Nevertheless, there is certainly something that resonates about a game between these two teams; with enough history in each club, and between each set of supporters, for it to earn that ‘vintage’ tag, in my (oh, look. Claret and blue-tinted) opinion.
However, sadly for fans of both clubs, vintage translates rather too easily to ‘nostalgic’; a trip down memory lane to when both teams weren’t quite so distinctly average, and supporters could hold their heads high as being at least up there with the big boys. Equally, lest we forget, some of those fans with high heads still couldn’t quite manage to stop their knuckles dragging on the floor.
Make no mistake, that strange clicking noise you might be able to hear is the sound of loins being girded by a relatively small, yet thoroughly earnest group of ex, old, reformed, retired, retarded and brand spanking new trouble-makers. So those Geography A Levels aside for the moment, this is perhaps what you might call an ‘old firms’ derby – a clash that can often have supporters watching the action around the pitch, as much as on.
Leeds have only lost one of their last thirteen visits to Upton Park
And whether all that is a thing of the past, or not? Whether it was every that bad in the first place, or not? Or whether it was ever really that many who really get involved, or not, the fact remains it will still spice the atmosphere come Sunday lunchtime like chilli powder in a roast dinner.
On a personal level, as a West Ham fan living in Kent in the seventies, my formative years were blighted by 2 teams. One was Chelsea, what with the proximity, FA Cup win and flash players with luxuriant Kings Road haircuts. The other was Leeds United – their losing opponents in an epic two-game Cup Final affair, but with a couple of titles under their belt and a Fairs Cup win in ’71. This means that for those of you who can’t believe how many Arsenal and Man U shirts they see down their road these days, in my day, it was all them. And even though it‘ll take me a week and a half to remember what I did last Wednesday, I could still reel off the Xl’s both clubs reeked havoc with during that era. But like I say, the Blue lot were just up the road. While Leeds... I mean, Leeds?!
Just to add to that sense of trepidation, West Ham’s track record against Leeds quite frankly stinks the joint out. Leeds have only lost one of their last thirteen visits to Upton Park, and are unbeaten in their last six. In the last ten games between the two, Leeds have won 6, West Ham 1.
I suppose those neutrals and Leeds fans watching on Sky Sports Sunday lunchtime will be reminded, and hoping for a repeat of the 3-4 thriller from nigh on ten years back. West Ham had the likes of James in goal, Joey Cole and Carrick in midfield and Defoe and Di Canio up top. Leeds, the young Paul Robinson, rampaging full backs Kelly and Harte and a pair of Aussies leading the line – Kewell and Viduka. Di Canio and and Kewell got a brace each and, oh did I mention, West Ham didn’t bleedin’ win.
I hear rumblings from around Elland Road that dear old Ken Bates hasn’t given Simon Grayson the chance to build a decent enough squad for a serious challenge this season, while the arrival of Sam Allardyce, some key new men and the (current) retention of some key ‘old’ faces at The Boleyn Ground has generated a sense of optimism not felt in these parts since...what DID I do last Wednesday?
Which can mean only one thing come Sunday – a Leeds win.
Bloody typical! No, sorry...vintage.
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