Leeds United vs Cardiff City, A Modern-Day Rivalry
As a Cardiff City fan, playing Leeds United seems to have become a bit of fun for us. Even in last season’s FA Cup games, we were seconds away from beating Premier League opposition. But where did this rivalry start?
That FA Cup Game
Cardiff City vs Leeds United, FA Cup Third Round at Ninian Park, 6th January 2002.
This was a classic David vs Goliath tie, with Leeds United having a multi-million-pound side that included Mark Viduka, Rio Ferdinand, Nigel Martyn, Robbie Fowler and Jonathan Woodgate. They were also top of the Premier League, with David O’Leary leading them into the Champions League.
As for Cardiff, it was a different story; a team put together of local lads, free transfers and a crazy owner, we had just seen Sam Hammam start using his buying power to bring in Graham Kavanagh, Peter Thorne and others at the start of the season as they looked to move up from the second division.
These transfers would haunt Cardiff for years after, as Hammam used questionable means to secure the funds for all his Cardiff dealings, but that is for another time.
The game started as expected, with Mark Viduka firing Leeds ahead after 12 minutes, and at that point, I think most Cardiff fans feared the worst. I know I did. But that fear didn’t last long, and Kavanagh produced a free kick that sent the Bluebirds faithful into crazed celebrations. We’d pegged the mighty Leeds back. Could we get something out of this?
O’Leary wasn’t happy with what happened next to swing this game in Cardiff’s favour, and it was a moment of recklessness from Alan Smith, and he lashed out at Andy Legg just before halftime. Premier League referee Andy D’Urso didn’t hesitate in sending the Leeds man off just before halftime.
Happily cheering and singing just about every Cardiff song during the second half in the Bob Bank, we had a second half to remember with Scott Young writing himself into Cardiff’s history forever with his 87th-minute volley. What happened after that was a bit of a blur just because we were grabbing anyone around us to celebrate.
Fans on the pitch at the end of the game, Hammam walking around the pitch doing the Ayatollah in front of the Leeds fans, and Henry Winter described the result as “One of the greatest upsets in FA Cup history.”
As Cardiff fans, we see this result as the beginning of an infamous time for Peter Ridsdale at Elland Road and the fall of one of the big teams in English football. Is this why they now look at us with such disdain?
The Bogey Team
Since 2002, Cardiff seems to have a good record against Leeds. Even in the Bielsa promotion season, we drew 3-3 at Elland Road and won at the Cardiff City Stadium 2-1. This was, of course, the first game after everything stopped due to covid. I was lucky enough to be sat in the PA room to hear the echo around the ground when Robert Glatzel smashed the ball in off the post to make it 2-0 in the second half.
The head-to-head reads well for fellow Bluebirds, with Cardiff winning 10 of the last 18 and Leeds only winning four and four draws in that time. Returning to the first Championship clash between the two sides in 2004, 24 games have taken place, with Cardiff winning 14, six draws and four defeats over Leeds.
At one point, Cardiff put together a 15-game unbeaten run stretching back to the famous FA Cup victory.
The game that broke that run was one with both sets of fans probably not liking the man in charge of their teams, Steve Evans was the manager at Elland Road, and Russell Slade was the manager at Cardiff. Leeds won at Elland Road thanks to a 63rd-minute Alex Mowatt goal.
Slade lost both games that season, with Evans able to say he did the double, igniting a previous rivalry with Slade. Evans was the successful manager in the play-off final between Rotherham and Leyton Orient only two years before locking horns in the Cardiff and Leeds dugouts.
Player and Manager Links
You can’t talk about Cardiff or Leeds without mentioning John Charles, one of the game’s greatest players and a Welsh Icon. He played over 300 games for Leeds, scoring 160 goals on either side of a five-year stint in Italy playing for Juventus. Charles spent three years at Cardiff in the mid 60’s before moving to Hereford United (1966-71) and Merthyr Town (1972-74), where he became a player-manager to end his career.
Neil Warnock is another name linked to a more recent history of managing both clubs with a different record. Warnock lasted just over a year at Elland Road, even after signing an 18-month contract. Taking over from Neil Refearn in February 2012 and finishing 14th in the Championship that season, it was a summer rebuild from the experienced manager. However, after getting drawn into a relegation battle, Leeds parted company with Warnock in April 2013.
His story was hugely different at Cardiff when he replaced Paul Trollope in 2016. Cardiff were bottom of the Championship, and the club was pretty disjointed from top to bottom, with fans unhappy with petty much everything. Warnock seemed to fix that link, even if it was paper thin.
Guiding Cardiff to a 12th-place finish in his first season, he did the unthinkable the year after and got us into the Premier League, and what a season it was! Doing the impossible with a team of what some would have classed as misfits, it clicked!
Ross McCormack has been successful with both Cardiff and Leeds, scoring 30 goals in 88 appearances for the Bluebirds and 58 goals in 157 appearances for The Whites over four seasons before heading off to Australia.
Stephen McPhail is another crucial link between the two sides, with the Irishman coming through the youth system at Elland Road, playing in Europe for Leeds and making over 100 appearances from the Yorkshire side before signing for Cardiff in 2006, making 219 appearances and leading them out as captain in the 2008 FA Cup final against Portsmouth.
When Sunday Comes
This will be the first league meeting between the two sides since that football restarted in 2020, with both having a different look to the sides that took part that day.
For Leeds, Daniel Farke has been brought in to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking and has brought in one of my favourite players currently wearing a Welsh shirt, Ethan Ampadu.
Leeds fans will probably be quite hopeful of bouncing back at the first time of asking with someone who has a record of getting promotion, doing so twice with Norwich. Still, as we all know, the Championship is a crazy league where almost anything could happen. Fans will know more about his style, having been against his former side several times.
For Cardiff, we know little to nothing about Erol Bulut, except he’s managed in Turkey with Fenerbahce, Alanyaspor, and Gaziantep FK. It’s another rebuilding season for the Bluebirds after hanging on to Championship status by a thread last season, only staying up by Reading’s points deduction.
Aaron Ramsey’s return is a massive boost for the entire club. Add in the recruitment of Yakou Meite, Josh Bowler, and Karlan Grant to bolster a fragile attacking line last season and Dimitrios Goutas in defence, and it’s looking a lot more positive than any Cardiff fan would have thought after last season. I know that’s how it is for me.
“Two thousand of our supporters is a good number, and we need them. Of course, at home they’re always great at supporting us, and it will be good to have them with us at Leeds. We want to make them happy after the game.”Erol Bulut