7 August ~ In May 2007 Derby County hosted Leeds Utd in the final game of the season in the Championship. Buoyant County fans, assured of a play-off place, enjoyed themselves at the expense of their visitors who had just been relegated while lurching into administration. Three months later Derby were sharing four Premier League goals with Portsmouth while Leeds set the sat nav for Tranmere and Macclesfield. The long-distance rivals were suddenly two divisions apart for the first time since their initial horn-locking in the Brian Clough-Don Revie era. The contrasting fortunes were brought even more painfully into focus for Leeds fans by the controversial Damned Utd reimagining of those Seventies skirmishes.
As Michael Sheen was welcomed to Elland Road to begin his recreation of Clough's famous 44 days at Leeds for the big screen, the modern club were still struggling and had to face up to two galling play-off failures before league leadership and a giantkilling at Old Trafford rekindled the heady days of Bremner and Lorimer. Even then new drama could not be avoided as Simon Grayson's team all but squandered automatic promotion only to snatch it back thanks to a Jermaine Beckford strike clinching a final-day win against Bristol Rovers.
Meanwhile, Derby's Premier League dream turned into a nightmare with 15 unanswered goals against Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool heralding relegation by March and a collection of unwanted records. They were at least able to arrest the decline without following Leeds through the trapdoor as stability was eventually achieved under the stewardship of Brian's son Nigel.
Shortly after The Damned Utd made its terrestrial TV debut, fate reunites the perennial antagonists for the start of 2010-11 with a televised match against one another. Someone who'd been away from football for three years could be forgiven for assuming that, actually, nothing much had happened to Derby and Leeds in the meantime. The two clubs' supporters have remained constant through the intervening bad times, each regularly drawing 20,000 in circumstances where gloryhunting was the last thing on their minds. Both sets of fans will hope that this could be the first chapter in a brighter story. Duncan Young