Leeds and Millwall: a rivalry born simply from the inability to stand each other

In the New Den parking lot, police horses line up and each bus snakes through the space between them. South London fashion is present on the streets, either side of arriving coaches; Top Boy meets Flannels, that sort of thing. Here, as a journalist said yesterday on Twitter, is the XL Bully of EFL calendar, a game that could change at any time.

Leeds United stop and enter the stadium, obscenities flying towards them. The welcome party is vaguely nice to Jamie Shackleton And Charlie Creswell. These two were on loan here last season. Luc Ayling it wasn’t and someone cuts his hair, prompting the Leeds captain to flash a wide smile in return. He loves some of it. It’s not like Ayling wasn’t warned. And he’ll end up laughing full time too, with a collector’s coin of a victory in his back pocket.

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Millwall fans react to taunts from Leeds fans (Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Millwall-Leeds; three years apart, but it was still the same thing at Sunday’s reunion, without a ticket for the upcoming match.

How can we categorize this rivalry, other than to say that it arises from little more than a fundamental inability to tolerate each other.

The uninitiated would watch the match and wonder why this date of all dates – South East London v West Yorkshire, a club four hours’ drive away from each other – needed a prior call for calm behavior , retained and above the belt edge; why the enmity runs deep. The initiated know this very well.

There is no real genesis of the antipathy between Millwall and Leeds, no tinderbox moment that drew the battle lines. They became acquainted in the 1980s, at a time when their followers were active in the hooligan scene, but before 2004 they had only played competitively 10 times, four of which were in the 1930s and 1940s. The competition has a story, but not in the way that phrase suggests, nor in the sense of an album.

Their mutual contempt, which has deepened over the years, is more a product of the early 2000s; a time when Leeds were adrift below the premier league.

Two years apart between 1988 and 1990, life outside the top flight was all Millwall had ever known and Leeds’ relegation to the EFL brought together two teams who, deep down, had no desire to be loved by strangers. People hated Millwall and people hated Leeds. Unconsciously or not, being hated wasn’t a problem for either of them. It wasn’t much effort to hate yourself either.

In short, there was a specific competitive advantage – the League One promotion race between 2007 and 2010 – and one of the tiles on Millwall’s message wall refers to Jimmy Abdou taking them to the half -play-off final at Elland Road in 2009. But the significance of these meetings only increased the friction that was already there, regardless of the fact that there is no geographical aspect between Millwall and Leeds, no posturing local to the root of their needle.

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Police escort Millwall supporters to Elland Road in 2010 (Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

He regularly experienced moments, many of which were unhealthy: songs and poisonous references to, the murders of two Leeds fans in Istanbul in 2000, which is why players from both clubs participated in a video last week to call for an end to the tragic chants; the violence at Elland Road in 2007, made famous by two skinheads photographed smashing a bus window and remembered as a tribute act to Right Said Fred; racist abuse aimed at Leeds striker El-Hadji Diouf 10 years ago; their goalkeeper Casper Ankergren was punched by a fan during a pitch invasion at the New Den a few seasons earlier. In this environment, you cannot turn your back.

These were examples of why, as contests became inflammatory, West Yorkshire Police sent plainclothes officers to London the night before a visit from Leeds to Millwall, spotters were used to identify who had done the trip and if there was a problematic element. among outside support.

But for a while now, the risk of unrest at the New Den itself has been mitigated by the logistics of the stadium. Leeds are never assigned the lower tier on the away side. This policy limits their fans to the upper part of a stand. Most of them are transported by bus, and security operations are a fairly fine art.

Sky Sports’ choice of a midday kick-off slot for a live broadcast yesterday will have suited the authorities, although it was a problem for anyone traveling a long distance to be there: supporters’ club from Leeds in the North Yorkshire coastal town of Scarborough has set 4am as their morning pick-up time for the 400km coach journey to the capital.

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Millwall fans wave a flag saying ‘No one likes us’ (Mike Egerton – PA Images via Getty Images)

There is also another reality for Leeds: at the New Den, Millwall are so often better at playing both the game and the occasion. Season after season, Leeds have gone and wilted. Season after season, Millwall found their inner thunder and turned it around.

The land was sold yesterday, still ready. Daniel Farke, the Leeds head coach, addressed the atmosphere with his players beforehand, trying to impress upon them the importance of composure. “We talked about the physical and the crazy,” he said, which is completely standard.

At the top of Zampa Road, outside the stadium, not far from the Millwall Cafe, a group of three Millwall supporters chat among themselves hours before kick-off. They don’t want to give their names and one of them has a very brief answer about why, from their perspective, this competition generates more hostility than the typical championship game, about why there is a full house.

“It’s Leeds.” That’s all that needed to be said.

There is no particular science here, no big picture. Millwall take him out of Leeds, Leeds take him out of Millwall, as has been the case for almost two decades, especially when they meet in London. They don’t lose sleep over each other day to day, but once they enter each other’s airspace, the old feeling returns.

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Police monitor fans before a match between the clubs in 2013 (Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Only four Leeds managers had won at Millwall before yesterday. One of them died in 1952.

Marcelo Bielsa failed to control the premises, but partly because Gaetano Berardi was sent off after 14 minutes of his Leeds side’s second visit.

The way it is happening here in the Bermondsey district is a marker not only of the quality of Leeds, but also of the strength of its backbone. Laminated sides are made in these regions. But after a frenzied first five minutes, Farke’s men asserted themselves with confidence. The first goal in the 15th minute is a thing of beauty, a counter-attack at its best, completed by Joel Piroë. Millwall try to cause chaos but Leeds bring the quality – only in isolated moments, but enough to make it count.

A classic Championship brawl developed and it took until the 78th minute for Leeds to finish it off, with Dan James crossing into space in the center of the pitch, Georginio Rutter‘s takedown attempt slipped off the Welshman’s feet and inadvertently gave Piroe a keeper which the Dutch striker pushed away.

Rutter adds a ruthless third for good measure, a shot past Bartosz Bialkowski with Millwall’s defense nowhere.

The stands are starting to empty. The crowd abandons ship.

More than once, they have had the gift of turning a daily meeting into a crazy event that they love. But not this time.

(Top photo: Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images))

Source link: https://theathletic.com/4869789/2023/09/18/leeds-millwall-rivalry-efl/

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