Leeds United v Derby County: A look at the developing rivalry ahead of Sky Bet Championship clash

A look at the stories from last season as Leeds prepare to face Derby
A look at the stories from last season as Leeds prepare to face Derby

The highlight from the approaching Sky Bet Championship fixtures comes in Saturday's early kick-off as Leeds welcome Derby to Elland Road.

These two clubs were involved in the off-field story of the season during the 2018/19 campaign - the 'Spygate' scandal that hit the headlines across the country.

Of course, there was then the play-offs, where Derby managed to secure victory in the second leg to progress to the final at Wembley.

You would not have said that these two teams had the biggest of rivalries - but the events of last season added a whole new dimension to it.

Tom Carnduff takes a look back at the impact it could have on their forthcoming meeting.

Of course, there's some spying...

There has always been that little bit of something between Leeds and Derby, although I'll admit that you could probably say that for any team in football and Leeds.

"Leeds are falling apart" is now football's second national anthem behind "we all hate Leeds scum" - the Rule Britannia to God Save the Queen if you will.

However, that hit a new level when Derby found a member of Leeds' staff observing their training session prior to the meeting between the two clubs in January.

There was all sorts of speculation about what had happened. A Bond-esque break-in past heavily armed guards? What about dangling from the ceiling, avoiding the laser alarms on the way down? Well, not quite.

It was an intern at Leeds - someone they sent to watch training from a public path, a path that was accessible for anyone to go and stand on.

Regardless, it became the story of the Championship season. The lead story on most news sites, in fact - but it was about to get a whole lot bigger.

Bielsa called a press conference at two hours' notice. Many expected it to be his resignation - but it was far from it.

Instead, he came out and admitted to spying on every single team in the division. All 23 rivals have had the same treatment to Derby, he confessed, so while the Rams may have felt like the victims, they were in the same boat as everyone else.

Less than 24 hours later, every back page in the country had the same story on it - Bielsa has spied on everyone.

It led to a huge divide of opinion. You either saw it as cheating or innovation. One thing was certain though: Bielsa enhanced his legend by doing something only Bielsa could.

It's how he has always been from the very early days. Watching thousands for a squad of 20 at a university side or dividing Argentina into 70 different sections and sorting out trials in each of them when working in youth development at Newell’s Old Boys - that's how Bielsa operates.

He was adamant that he didn't need to observe training to win games but did it more as a matter of reassurance that they have covered all possible bases.

I was lucky to have been in that press conference. Not so much for the stats delivered - anyone could view these on scouting softwares - but the fact he went to these lengths and allowed some insight into his way of operating was gold dust.

"We do analysis too," Lampard said the following week. Not to this level though. You won't find another head coach in the EFL who does it to the same extreme.

Stop crying Frank Lampard

'Stop crying, Frank Lampard': Derby County mock Leeds song in victory celebrations

'Because all of our spies, have faded away, just try not to worry, you'll beat us some day, we beat you at home and we beat you away, stop crying Frank Lampard'.

The song that echoed around Pride Park as Leeds completed their third victory of the season over Derby in their play-off semi-final first leg.

Of course, Lampard had the last laugh. Although you could also say it was all for nothing as the Rams went on to lose in the play-offs for the fourth time in six seasons.

It signalled that the rivalry was beyond Leeds and Derby. A Chelsea legend in charge of a fellow Championship club? There's no way the Leeds faithful would willingly let that one slide.

It was almost the anthem of the play-offs. The taunts from Leeds batted back by Derby in the best possible fashion. They were entitled to the dancing, the singing, the pure joy that was pouring out of the away dressing room.

It spilled over to Twitter as well. 'I spy with my little eye, something beginning with W' dominated the Derby players' timelines - they're off to Wembley and they're definitely letting us know about it.

It brought a conclusion to the story in probably the best possible fashion. The drama that came with the whole saga was always going to end in that Derby victory, particularly having started the match behind on aggregate and away from home.

Unfortunately, the 'W' went from Wembley to Wigan - and Derby remain in the Championship despite their best efforts, and big finances, to reach the promised lands of the Premier League.

Outplayed, outplayed, outplayed

While Derby did progress when the two sides met in the play-offs, there's little doubt that Leeds outplayed the Rams over their two regular season meetings.

It's easy to forget, with how it all turned out, just how dominant those Leeds performances were. Lampard's Derby had little idea of how to stop their opponents finding a way through.

The stats during the 4-1 away victory during the meeting in the second game of the 2018/19 season make it seem like Derby had more of a chance, but Leeds' intensity proved too much as they blew away a side fancied by many for that top-six finish.

Then came the meeting at Elland Road. Engulfed in the spying story that had broken just days earlier, Leeds put in arguably their most convincing performance of the entire campaign.

It may have only been 2-0, but it is one of the easiest 2-0 wins you will ever see. At no point did Leeds look like they were going to leave without the three points.

From that meeting at Elland Road, the stats backed up the performance:

  • Shots: 15-7
  • Shots inside box: 12-2
  • Corners: 8-2
  • Accurate passes: 373-188
  • Big chances: 3-0

Obviously the same won't apply this time around. Lampard has been replaced by Phillip Cocu, a different style of play under a different head coach. However, Leeds will have plenty of confidence despite the outcome of the play-off tie.

Not seeing eye-to-eye

Andrea Radrizzani (left) in conversation with Mel Morris
Andrea Radrizzani (left) in conversation with Mel Morris

"I think Andrea (Radrizzani) is still smarting on it," Mel Morris told talkSPORT when asked to recall Spygate in the summer.

"He feels we were the ones that reported it to the EFL, and my point was once the manager (Bielsa) came out and said he did it to every club there was nothing we could do about it whatsoever.

"At the end of the day, it became a completely different issue."

Morris, though, admitted that he has no personal problem with Radrizzani, stating: "I think the world of Andrea, he is a great guy. I will always find time for him.

"He is angry with me, and at some time we will have a nice meal and we will chat over it some more, but I like the guy a lot."

It's unclear if that feeling is mutual. Radrizzani believes that Derby's sale of their stadium in the off-season was worse than any offence committed by Leeds.

Speaking at the FT Business in Football summit, the Leeds owner suggested their rivals should have been sanctioned for Financial Fair Play breaches.

"The rules should be revised if clubs allowed to sell stadium to sister companies," he stated.

"We should revisit those rules. We were judged as a cheating club when we sent a scout to watch training so they should take a similar view on what I would say is greater cheating, by these clubs.

"I wish that the execs in FA/EFL can shake this system to find a way to make the rules clear and the same for everyone."

Who wins this time?

Duane Holmes and Ezgjan Alioski battle for the ball
Duane Holmes and Ezgjan Alioski battle for the ball
  • Leeds - 2/5
  • Draw - 19/5
  • Derby - 13/2
  • Leeds to win and BTTS - 2/1
  • Derby to win and BTTS - 16/1

Odds via Sky Bet.


Odds correct at 1020 BST (19/09/19)

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