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A lot has happened in football in 2021. A LOT. We’re only in April, but we’ve already had one of the biggest stories that the sport has ever seen. The European Super League proposal continues to dominate the headlines, and continues to astound just about everyone in the industry, aside from those pulling the strings of course.
The constant media attention has undoubtedly taken the spotlight off other issues that used to battle it out for the back pages. Step up VAR and managerial sackings. The former won’t go away anytime soon, and neither will the bitter feelings from those managers who have recently lost their jobs.
One man recently involved within the latter issue is former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. The Blues legend was removed from his position at the beginning of the year, with the club sitting ninth in the Premier League at the time. But his time in the headlines as a manager started long before his sacking, when the ex-midfielder was in the dugout at Championship outfit Derby County. It is where his managerial career kicked off, and it certainly kicked off with a bang, with the song ‘Stop Crying Frank Lampard’ sure to give him daily flashbacks to his time at Pride Park.
Tom Lawrence was the hero on Lampard’s managerial debut, netting a last-minute winner in a 2-1 win at Reading on the opening day of the 2018/19 Championship season. But the Rams came crashing down to earth just over a week later, when Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds side cruised to a 4-1 win at Pride Park. That defeat, however, was by no means the most famous encounter between the pair that season.
The viral parody song ‘Stop Crying Frank Lampard’ came to fruition in May 2019 when the clubs were battling it out for a spot in the top-flight, with Lampard and Bielsa going head to head in the Championship play-offs. But it was in January earlier that year when the scandal itself came to light, when the Yorkshire club beat Derby 2-0 at Elland Road to further their lead at the top of the table.
Not long after the loss, Lampard criticised his opponents heavily, after it was revealed that his opposite number had sent a spy to the Derby training ground prior to the game, with those out on the grass having spotted a person acting suspiciously on the perimeter of the facility. Bielsa took responsibility for the ordeal, nonchalantly claiming he had been using the tactics for several years. Also failing to see any problems was then-Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino – a fellow Argentine – who said the practice was commonplace in South America. Soon after, Bielsa even gave a detailed press conference to explain just how much analysis he went through when scouting out his upcoming opponents.
While many neutral fans saw the funny side, neither Lampard nor the Football Association did, with the experienced manager paying the subsequent £200,000 fine himself. Thus, “Spygate” was born, as well as one of the more modern rivalries in English football; Derby vs Leeds.
Stop Crying Frank Lampard
As mentioned, a large group of supports saw the lighter side, not least the followers of Leeds. Bielsa’s stock grew further, and that stock increased ten-fold when he guided his team to the play-offs. In a time when fans filling out stadiums was the norm, the boisterous supporters of the Yorkshire side were certainly playing their part, and they decided to collectively weigh in on the matter with a tailor-made song for the occasion.
‘Stop Crying Frank Lampard’ took inspiration from the Oasis hit ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’, poking fun at the former England star for his bitter reaction to the scandal. But it was he who was laughing come full time, with Derby overturning a 1-0 first leg deficit to defeat Leeds 4-2 at Elland Road, winning the tie 4-3 on aggregate and setting up a Wembley final with Aston Villa.
The Villans were, however, too strong on the day, coming out on top thanks to goals from Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn, with Jack Marriot’s late strike not enough to force extra time. All in all, it was a hugely successful first season in management for the former Blues midfielder, and it wasn’t long before his old employers came knocking.
Back at the top
After everything, it was indeed Lampard who managed to make his way to the Premier League before Leeds did. Although the spell was ultimately short-lived, Lampard’s second season in the dugout at Stamford Bridge pitted him against his foes once again. Bielsa’s men travelled to west London in December 2020, where the Argentine was denied an early Christmas gift, despite Patrick Bamford putting the visitors ahead just four minutes in. Goals from Olivier Giroud, Kurt Zouma and Christian Pulisic ensured a victory for the hosts, and another victory for Lampard over his new nemesis.
Since then, however, the former Chelsea star has been put out of a job, with new boss Thomas Tuchel turning the tide at Stamford Bridge. Maybe the German will take over from Lampard in the ongoing battle with the rowdy Yorkshire bunch, but an uneventful goalless draw in their March meeting may suggest otherwise.
As shown against the Blues and indeed the other so-called top six, the Whites are currently more than able to mix it with the big boys in the top division, making sure their 16-year wait for Premier League football is soon to be forgotten about. A fantastic start to life back in the top-flight currently sees them sitting mid-table and in no way in danger of slipping back down a division.
Their two fierce opponents in this particular story haven’t, however, had such luck, with Lampard currently out of a job, and Derby hovering dangerously above the Championship relegation zone. Needless to say, Leeds have had the last laugh, and proved the Premier League relegation odds wrong upon their first season back in the top flight. Many still having the words ‘Stop Crying Frank Lampard’ in the back of their minds any time the England legend’s name gets a mention in the media.