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West Ham and Chelsea’s fierce rivalry and how Lampard’s move caused bad blood


For longer than most Chelsea and West Ham fans can remember, there has been a bitter rivalry brewing underneath the surface. Like an active volcano for the majority of its existence, it keeps the fiery atmosphere inside. But from time to time, it threatens to erupt spectacularly.

It will be Thomas Tuchel’s first trip to the London Stadium with fans present and, as the history of this fixture suggests, it will be more hostile and unwelcoming for his side than perhaps at any other point in the season.

Why? Because it’s Chelsea visiting.

Geographically-speaking, Chelsea and West Ham are not close rivals. Stamford Bridge is around an hour away from Upton Park on the District Line on the London Underground. And there are plenty of west London teams that are much closer, with QPR, Brentford and Fulham to name a few in the same borough alone.

But sometimes, rivalries are not formed based on where you live; they are based on life experience and history.

Frank Lampard joined Chelsea for £11million from West Ham back in 2001

Even back in the 1960s, when there were several West Ham players representing England in the World Cup and winning honours at club and individual level, the two clubs were in close contact in Division 1 and 2.

There were times when their relations would thaw and other clubs, such as QPR, would become the focus of Chelsea’s distaste. The hooliganism era in the 1980s and 90s saw various clashes occur, but the reunion of West Ham and Chelsea in the top flight meant they carried on when they left off.

But that feeling of nastiness only truly manifested itself when a 22-year-old Frank Lampard opted to bid farewell to the his boyhood club to link up with the Blues in 2001.

It was a transfer that triggered all kinds of emotions from West Ham fans. Sadness, betrayal and relief, but mostly hate. They had no hesitation in hurling abuse at a player they once called their own and took aim at Chelsea for robbing them of their talent.

Lampard paid tribute to the club, saying: “A lot happened at West Ham but I will always be grateful to them – they gave me my chance.”

But if there was peace between the east and west sides of London, it had quickly evaporated.

These kinds of transfers are more commonplace in the modern era of football. But 20 years ago, footballers would have been content to stay with the same club for their entire career. Gary Neville and Paul Scholes did it with Manchester United. Steven Gerrard stayed at Liverpool, having turned down Chelsea in 2005.

But Lampard didn’t.

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Frank Lampard began his career with West Ham before moving to Chelsea

It wasn’t that he was chasing Roman Abramovich’s money — that would come two years later when the Russian bought the club for £140million. He saw the direction the club were taking under then-boss Claudio Ranieri and, after snubbing interest from Leeds, made the controversial move across London.

To no one’s surprise, on his return to Upton Park in 2001-02, he was booed with every touch and after missing a great chance to score, he was substituted. That day, the Hammers would secure the bragging rights with a 2-1 win.

But as the years went by, Lampard’s decision to leave was justified as he won back-to-back Premier League titles with Chelsea under Jose Mourinho in 2004-05 and 2005-06. Then in 2008, the west Londoners reached the Champions League final. He lost on that occasion, but would add the European triumph to his career highlights in 2012 in Munich.

When he finally left the club after 13 years and a staggering 212 goals from midfield, Lampard had earned his name in Chelsea folklore. He was never the most talented player, but his work rate and desire to succeed was second to none.

Frank Lampard is regarded as one of Chelsea’s best-ever players

And he used that to silence those who cursed him every time he set foot in east London. Not every fan despised him, but the chorus of boos were reserved for him and him only whenever he returned to his former club.

There was one particular moment that stood out. With Chelsea leading comfortably against West Ham at Upton Park in 2007-08, the midfielder was shown a straight red card for a push on Luis Boa Morte after the pair tangled.

The West Ham fans had seen their side outplayed, concede four goals and score none themselves on their home turf.

And yet, the sight of Lampard heading back towards the dressing room for an early bath prompted the biggest ironic cheer of the day. The red card was later rescinded, but they had their moment on the day.

Frank Lampard was sent off on his return to Upton Park in January 2008, prompting ironic cheers from the West Ham fans

The next season, Lampard sunk a twice-retaken penalty to keep Chelsea at the top of the table. West Ham, under the management of Blues legend Gianfranco Zola, were struggling to stave off relegation. It was a theme that continued until David Gold and David Sullivan took over the club in 2010.

The anger and pain they felt can be directly sourced from these events. West Ham fans have been forced to sit back and watch while Lampard and Chelsea bask in the glory that arrived as a result of Abramovich’s millions and eventual billions. To them, the 42-year-old represented everything they stood against in modern football.

Even recently, there have been ugly scenes which have threatened to steal the headlines from the football. The two sections of supporters clashed in a EFL Cup tie back in October 2016, leading to seven arrests and riot police getting involved. It showed that the bad blood had not completely drained away.

Riot police intervene as Chelsea and West Ham fans clash during an EFL Cup clash in October 2016

To their credit, the Irons have fought their back to the top flight with hard-fought promotions via the play-offs. Now, after establishing themselves as a solid Premier League outfit with some shrewd signings and a top manager in David Moyes, they are more ambitious than ever.

The club were once viewed as the butt of the joke, the yo-yo side that set up temporary camps in the Premier League and Championship because they couldn’t stay in one place. Now they are competing for European honours, finishing above Arsenal and Tottenham last season to secure a Europa League place.

The recent investment from Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky for a 27 per cent share in the club is significant. Not only does it hand Moyes the funds to take his side to the next level, it gives more substance to the idea that West Ham are slightly closing the gap on their capital rivals.

David Moyes and Thomas Tuchel bump fists on the touchline as Chelsea beat West Ham 1-0

Their next challenge is to put Chelsea behind them, although doing so may prove difficult with Thomas Tuchel is in charge. The west London outfit won the Champions League last season and are top of the Premier League as they look to finish ahead of Manchester City and Liverpool in the title race.

But it would prove to be a huge step in the right direction if West Ham can inflict a defeat that damages Chelsea’s progress in working towards a third title in seven seasons.

Moyes will be confident about his side’s chances, armed with the potent attack of Michail Antonio and Said Benrahma, and the supporting cast of Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals. Equally, Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna had formed an indomitable partnership before the latter’s injury.

Chelsea will have Romelu Lukaku back and stars such as Kai Havertz and Timo Werner on the bench, showing that even 18 years on from takeover, their ability to capture the best talent in the world is still unmatchable. There is even a feeling that, if they wanted to, they could steal another Lampard-like character in Declan Rice.

The London Stadium will be loud and hostile when Chelsea come to visit on Saturday lunchtime

Relations between the two managers are somewhat magnanimous. Tuchel and Moyes will shake hands, as will the players. There will be no Gary Neville versus Phil Neville style blanking of each other in the tunnel.

But the undeniable aspect of this clash is this: when Chelsea and West Ham walk out onto the pitch at the London Stadium on Saturday lunchtime, there will be a deafening atmosphere. Insulting chants will reverberate around the arena for hours on end and it will be enough to fire up the players.

For this is a battle fuelled by those in the stands. There is no love lost between West Ham and Chelsea fans but, in reality, there was no love there to begin with.

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