‘Ten goals, four reds, and 11 yellows – two games I’ll never forget’

We look back to two extraordinarily bad-tempered afternoons for West Ham and Leeds United

Dirty Leeds, that Damned United, the team that thought they were so great they changed their kit to all white so as to emulate the then great Real Madrid. 

The side that one of the greatest English-born managers of all time Brian Clough said: ‘You lot may all be internationals and have won all the domestic honours, but as far as I’m concerned, the first thing you can do for me is to chuck all your medals and all your caps and all your pots and all your pans into the biggest dustbin you can find, because you’ve never won any of them fairly. You’ve done it all by cheating.’

That quote was taken from the film Damned United but as a child growing up in the sixties it summed up my own feelings on our FA Cup opponents. 

And my opinion didn’t change as I got older. Games against Leeds were always thwart with trouble. 

A trip to Elland Road was a risk I often took and usually meant as a West Ham supporter, being locked in long after the game had ended due to the thugs waiting for us outside.

They even took away one of our greatest players when Rio Ferdinand ended up leaving us for the Yorkshire club. 

For many of us of my age it was great to see the team throw the kitchen sink at European football and ultimately collapse and fall through the divisions.

With the decline of Leeds United it meant that until last season, we had not played the Yorkshire team in over eight years.

Since their return to the Premier League we have played them three times winning every encounter including the recent visit to Elland Road where we came away with a 2-1 victory.

Now we find ourselves this month meeting with the team in all white twice in less than a week, once in the league and once in the FA Cup third round. 

Until their recent financial collapse, we were playing Leeds in the league on a regular basis but when we look at our match ups in the FA Cup, they have been few and far between.

We have to go way back before World War Two to 1930 to find our last FA Cup game against Leeds, a 4-1 victory at the Boleyn with Vic Watson scoring all four goals in front of 34,000 fans.

Our only other fixture was way back in 1924 when we lost 1-0 in a replay after drawing 0-0 a few days earlier. Thus it’s fair to say our FA cup games have been a rarity.

Even in the League Cup the draw had rarely matched us up with Leeds United. Our ties have been extremely rare. 

In 1966 we beat Leeds 7-0 and then five years later, thanks to a Cyde Best goal, we beat Leeds 1-0 after a 0-0 draw in Yorkshire. 

It does seem odd that our results in both cups are very similar. Of course this time in the cup there will be no replays so we know that there will be a result on the day and no return trip to Yorkshire this season.

I may be old but I am not old enough to have been present at any of those cup games but I have been to many of our latest encounters.

There are a few that really stand out the greatest of which was the infamous game that occurred at the Boleyn in May 1999, a game which has since found itself in the top 10 infamous Premier League games. 

I travelled to that game not yet a season ticket holder and with my regular match day companions all unavailable.

I decided rather than waste the spare ticket, I gave it to a Leeds fan who worked for me. Our seats were up in the old West Stand and by the end of the game I almost wished one of those infamous pillars that held up the stand had blocked my view. The game was not one for the faint hearted. 

From the off it was clear that Leeds were planning to live up to that earlier incarnation of Dirty Leeds as just minutes into the game Eyal Berkovic was targeted by Lee Bowyer and rather than call play to a halt, the referee Rob Harris waved play on and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink slotted home the first Leeds goal. 

Immediately on the restart John Moncur lunged into Bowyer in what was clearly a revenge tackle and he found himself now in the referee’s book. 

Cometh the game, cometh the man and in stepped ex-Arsenal legend Ian Wright, who was now seeing out his playing days in a claret and blue shirt. 

Wrighty’s enthusiasm led him to be the second Hammer in the book after an elbow went awry.

Then just fifteen minutes into the game Wright was in trouble again and found himself getting another yellow which meant he was off. 

It was then that it well and truly kicked off with Wrighty losing the plot. Not only did he refuse initially to leave the pitch but he almost struck the referee and once off the pitch, went straight to the referee’s dressing room and wrecked it.

We showed some spirit but we ended up being 2-0 down at the half. But there was more wild action to come. 

Amazingly we pulled a goal back but soon after disaster struck and our keeper Shaka Hislop pulled Jimmy Floyd down in the penalty box. 

It was a straight red card. A converted penalty duly followed and it was 3-1, and we were down to nine men. 

By now the referee had completely lost the plot. By the final whistle West Ham were down to eight men after Steve Lomas too had been sent off.

The final score was 5-1 to Leeds. On top of the three red cards, we also had four players booked. Amazingly Di Canio was one of the few West Ham players not to be booked.

With Leeds also having three players booked, the game ranks as one of the most penalised in Premier League history.

What made this game particularly bad for me was not just that I had to travel home with a jubilant Leeds supporter but also that I had been at Elland Road earlier in the season, sitting in amongst the Leeds contingent, when we lost 4-0 in a game where Leeds had three players booked along with Moncur for us and a Ruddock red card. 

In just those two games we had lost by a combined score of 9-1 with four red cards and five additional yellows. Not a great memory.

Add all that to the fact that I was also at Elland Road for the last game before the Yorkshire club bought Rio and I do not have great memories of our games against the Yorkshire men.

That last game featuring Rio was actually a win for us Hammers with Nigel Winterburn bagging the only goal but my memory of that game was the half-time ‘entertainment’ where the kid who plays David Platt on the television programme Coronation Street was interviewed about his love for Leeds and came across almost as obnoxious as his on screen character.

Our up-and-coming matches will be my 20th and 21st games that I have witnessed us play Leeds but it will be those games at the turn of the century which will always stay in the front of my mind whenever I think of our games against Leeds United.

With Leeds currently struggling in the league, it will be intriguing to see what emphasis they place on the cup as surely their league status will be of greater importance.

This will not distract from their fan base’s desire to visit the London Stadium as a reported 9,500 Leeds supporters have bought tickets and it’s rumoured that the Met have already made the game a high risk and anticipating a return to the bad old days of the early eighties.

Looks like we may need body armour for this one. But which game is the most important for the Hammers?

Well in my mind I still love the history of the FA Cup and so I would lean towards that one as my preferred fixture for us to be victorious. But then again can I really accept nothing but a win in the league against that ‘Damned United’? 

Two wins please West Ham and let’s confine those games from years ago to a dark and distant memory please.

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