Throughout Frank Lampard’s managerial career, there has been one constant enemy: Leeds United.
Spied on at Derby, manager at Chelsea when the intense Premier League rivalry with the Whites was reignited, and now locked in a relegation battle between Everton and the Yorkshire faithful.
Staying up is the priority for both clubs, but relegating Leeds will provide extra motivation for Toffees boss Lampard.
Whites supporters, meanwhile, would love to send the Chelsea legend back to the Championship.
The unique football feud began during the 2018/19 season in the most bizarre way imaginable.
A Leeds employee was caught spying on Derby training ahead of a clash between Lampard’s Rams and Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites in January 2019, sparking mass outrage.
Bielsa twisted the knife by giving an impromptu PowerPoint presentation, which lasted more than an hour, exposing the depth his knowledge on Lampard’s side – and then beating them 2-0.
The Chelsea legend did his best to act unaffected by the whole saga, but his displeasure was clear.
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“Of course I don’t think it’s right,” he said in the immediate aftermath.
“I’m not sure anyone who plays sport at any level could think it’s right, to send people crawling on their hands and knees with tools to break into your private land and look at what you’re preparing to do the next day.”
He added: “I wouldn’t say I was angry before the game. I was a bit surprised for sure. Very surprised at it.
“I was even surprised by the very frank admission that it’s what happened, it’s fine and it’s been done before. That was surprising to me.”
Leeds fans, of course, loved the whole thing – especially the two victories over Derby which followed.
It felt like they were in Lampard’s head as the first-leg of their Play Off semi-final resulted in a 1-0 win to Leeds at Pride Park.
And there was only one song the away fans were singing throughout, to the familiar tune of an Oasis classic…
“All of the spies are hidden away.
“Just try not to worry, you’ll beat us some day.
“We beat you at home, we beat you away.
“Stop crying Frank Lampard.”
But Lampard and Derby would ultimately have the last laugh. A thrilling comeback victory over Leeds at Elland Road felt like so much more than qualification for the Play Off final.
The Rams and their manager made no secret that this was revenge, celebrating with spy goggles, and signing Leeds’ chant back to them in the dressing room after the game.
Neither Lampard nor Leeds won promotion to the Premier League that season, but they’re both here now – and it there is unfinished business.
Everton carry a slender one-point and one-match advantage over 18th-place Leeds, who are in the relegation zone courtesy of a worse goal difference than 17th-place Burnley.
Of course, they could both survive at the expense of the Clarets. But like their attempts to escape the Championship in 2019, the battle between Lampard and Leeds has an edge to it.
Both have infuriated and mocked each other in equal measure – and inflicting relegation would feel extra sweet.
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