The beautiful game has provided us with some truly beautiful moments over the course of the last few weeks – especially when it comes to English football. The miracles that we witnessed in Europe from Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax were just the tip of the iceberg, as performances from Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea also made the headlines that week. If you go down into the Championship, however, there was another performance that caught people’s attention last night for all of the right reasons.
Derby County went into their second leg game against Leeds United knowing that they needed a big, big performance in order to make it back to Wembley. No team had ever won an away first leg in the play-offs and not made it to the final, meaning that Leeds were both in a pretty comfortable position and a pretty nervy one too (depending on how confident you are as a fan).
What a moment
The home side were the ones pushing the pace for large portions of the game, but in the end, it was the Rams who were able to seize control of the tie. A remarkable second half saw them come flying out of the blocks, whereas Leeds just seemed to collapse. It was a complete 180 and it was really bizarre to see, although neutral fans who don’t like the Yorkshire side were absolutely loving it.
One other man who was loving it was Derby manager Frank Lampard, who is one of the central figures in this storyline. His transition into becoming a manager has gone better than most could’ve anticipated, and now, he’ll face one of the biggest games of his career at Wembley against Aston Villa – where he’ll be coming up against a man he knows very well.
Villa’s assistant manager is none other than John Terry, who has played a huge role in getting the club back to the play-off final just twelve months after their devastating defeat to Fulham. As most fans will know Terry and Lampard were a part of the same team at Chelsea for over a decade, during which time they won a series of trophies for the Blues both domestically and in Europe. Now they’ll go head to head on the biggest stage imaginable for the Football League for the right to return to the Premier League.
Of course, it’s not just Villa who have a skeleton in their closet when it comes to the play-offs, as Derby’s last trip to the big game came back in 2013 when they were defeated by Queens Park Rangers. QPR had gone down to ten men, but in the final moments of the game, Bobby Zamora popped up with a win to shock the Rams into silence.
The bookmakers have Aston Villa as the early favourites to book their ticket back to the big time, but we honestly believe this is going to be a much closer game than people believe. Either way, though, both sides are going to give it everything they’ve got, as the Midlands prepares to add another club to their Premier League representatives.