Stamford Bridge was never a happy hunting ground for me as a Leeds player, but on a personal note, it was the place where the Leeds fans first sang my name with the San Siro song.
At Liverpool the fans had chanted “E-aye-adio-Dom Matteo” but this was something else. Here I was, still fairly new at the club, and I remember when I first heard the fans I was thinking “hang on a minute, are they singing my name here?’ I get quite emotional thinking about and it brings back some real memories. It is, however, the only memory I look back on at Stamford Bridge with any real fondness.
When you get the result in Milan and come into the game at Chelsea as we did in November 2000, it’s never going to be easy. You’re on such a high from what was a fantastic result in Europe and you’re straight back into the Premier League against a team, who traditionally made things difficult for us down there. That said, I remember watching Leeds win there the season before on TV – when Stephen McPhail scored two great goals – but that was before Dom the jinx arrived, and we didn’t win a game there during my time as a Leeds player. I scored an own goal there two years later and the following season it was where we played our final game in the Premier League. Our supporters were amazing that day, and if someone had said it would be 16 years before we would return there in top division, no one would have believed them.
A couple of things you learn very quickly as a Leeds are the rivalries with Manchester United and Chelsea. The Old Trafford one is obviously the biggie, but when it comes to Chelsea, there’s no love lost there either. It started in the late 60s, continued in the FA Cup final of 1970 when both teams kicked lumps out of each other, and has festered gently ever since. I remember Chelsea coming to Leeds a few years back in a League Cup tie and even then you feel something simmering. It’s a big rivalry make no mistake about it.
Looking at Sunday, Chelsea are a team with a lot of pace and Leeds have got to be careful on the counter. And I just hope they can rise to the occasion, fare better than we did at times, and put one over on them for old times sake.