Derby Day?

With some already referring to tomorrow’s match as a “derby”, football fan and derby day expert (sort of!), Stephen Peacock explains what makes a true derby and provides the evidence for you to decide whether or not Chonburi v Samut Prakan City meets the criteria.

Q – OK. Let’s get the first question out of the way: Is it “derby” or “Derby”?

Definitely derby, unless Derby are playing and then it becomes a Derby derby.

Q – You appear to have this fascination with what constitutes a derby, when did this begin and why is it so important to you?

I genuinely don’t, I just questioned a friend of mine on Twitter once and it seems to have run and run a little bit. However…growing up in the footballing hotbed of Lancashire/Greater Manchester I did always get really annoyed when listening to the radio and they’d say they were at the derby between Rochdale and Wigan, or Rochdale and Accrington or Rochdale and any other local side. Seems like they were trying to big up the game a little by using the word derby when a derby is so much more than that.

Q – So, as far as you’re concerned, what is required for a match to be considered a derby?

I think a derby has many, many ingredients – the more a game has, the more of a derby it is. For a game to be a derby it has to have passion, hatred, despair and joy. It generally has to be local but a derby constitutes so much more than that. A derby is the one game (well, usually two games) in the season that means more than any other. It’s the one you look forward to and the one you cannot bear to lose. It splits families, friends, colleagues and losing hurts so much more than other games. It’s the game that, years later, you still remember. It sticks in your head because it matters more than anything. A derby rivalry cannot be manufactured, forced or casually entered into, it is part of every fan. And the thing that probably matters more than anything is that the other side feel exactly the same.

Q – Please can you give us some examples of matches that you consider to be derbies?

Growing up, Rochdale never really had a derby game. Our localish rivals were Burnley and Stockport but those were just local games. Our two nearest towns were much better at football than us and so Oldham and bury didn’t really have that kind of rivalry (Please note the lack of capital B in bury – an old Rochdale fanzine started that when the derby rivalry began to develop and I still can’t quite get out of the habit). Over time bury dropped down to our level and the rivalry built. The towns are close and the hatred and the passion is definitely now there. Seeing ex bury players celebrating in front of bury fans after their fans had hurled abuse at them will live long in the memory.

Other definite derbies in my eyes are Wigan v St Helens (not even a football derby but a Rugby League one. I lived in Wigan and you can feel the anticipation building before the games). I worked very close to St Helens, bragging rights were so important.

The Old Firm derby of Rangers v Celtic, covered by so much more than a pure footballing rivalry but that is definitely a derby.

Arsenal v Spurs, local to North London and two sides who hate each other.

Here in Kuwait the derby is Qadsia v Al Arabi. From where I live I can get to every ground but one in a 20 minute drive so every game is local but Qadsia and Al Arabi have the history, the support and the time-served rivalry to be classed as a derby.

Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday, the Steel City derby. The two games a season when they play each other are the two biggest games of the season to their fans.

Q – All good. Please can you now give us some examples of those matches you don’t think should be classed as derbies?

As you’re an Oldham fan and I’m a Rochdale fan I’m going to put the Flat Cap Classico in there as not quite a derby. The towns are close and border each other but we’ve got very little history. In fairness it’s beginning to build and may eventually become a true derby but it’s not there yet. I even used to go and watch the Latics with my best mate who was an Oldham fan – you can’t do that when it’s a real derby rivalry.

And one that definitely isn’t a derby is Notts County v Lincoln. This is how the whole thing started with renowned South East Asia football writer, Antony Sutton claiming this was a local derby. It isn’t a derby without some hatred.

Q – In Thailand we are quite often “sold” matches as derbies when clubs share the same sponsor (“Chang Derby”) or kit manufacturer (“Nike Derby”). What is your opinion of this and what would you like to say to those people who come up with such ideas?

You can’t force a derby using sponsors, utterly ridiculous. I get why people would push it, because true derby rivalries make the game so much better and more intense but you’ve got to have the history and the geography to make it a proper derby.

Q – Tomorrow we will play the team – Samut Prakan City – that is closest to us geographically (49kms – 30 miles, in old money), however, they are a brand new club, we have no history with them, there doesn’t appear to be any animosity between the fans. Derby or no derby?

Right now, no derby. Over time it might very possibly be a derby. Time will tell whether it becomes a derby but you’ve definitely got the first ingredient in the right geography but none of the other ingredients – yet. 

Q – Finally, the club tomorrow’s opponents replaced – Pattaya Utd – came from the same province as us, were owned (originally) by the same family and we had been playing against them since 2009. To their fans, this was a big match. Our fans were ambivalent – at best. The two grounds were 58kms (38 miles) apart. Derby or no derby?

If the fans didn’t really care too much then it isn’t a true derby. Maybe you could call it a local derby but if both sets of fans didn’t feel it then it isn’t really a derby. Derby games and derby rivalries are about the fans. Sadly many get ruined by fans, as they are the games the idiots turn up to with the hope of a little scrap – but that’s not what makes a derby either. 

There endeth the lesson on my thoughts about what makes a derby in my little warped mind. Good luck on Saturday.

With thanks to Stephen

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