ARGUMENTS have raged for years over just which of football’s many derby games is the most strenuously contested and most heartfelt by the fans.
From Liverpool to Glasgow, and from the Tyne and Wear to North London, fans will claim that their local showdown transcends them all.
Having friends either side of the Mersey divide, having lived near Glasgow, having studied down south with avid followers of both the Spurs and the Gooners, and after a short spell at college in the north east, I would hand the ‘Auld Firm’ a points win – but only marginally. This debate, though, regularly misses the biggest of them all.
Now I know you think that ‘the Manc so-and-so’ has deliberately left out the City v Salford showdown, well yes I have – but that is not the Titanic clash I’m thinking of.
The Manchester derby doesn’t count because the Reds regard City as a joke, but over the years so have Blues fans and have been far quicker (and been far more witty and eloquent) in putting down their own club – thus spiking United’s guns and taking all the fun out of it.
On Sunday, for the first time, the biggest derby of them all will be played out in the Premiership as the cotton mill clash is staged at Ewood Park.
I know for many of you East Lancashire is merely a mythical land that lies over the Pennine hills, but believe me when I say Blackburn v Burnley is a rivalry that is second to none.
The phrase ‘you have to see it to believe it’ has never been so apt than when it comes to Rovers and Clarets fans.
Having committed a reasonable percentage of my working life to East Lancashire, I have witnessed first hand the outrageous levels of acrimony that exist because of the pride in town and club over the eight-mile divide down the A678.
Of course there is animosity in all local rivalries, but the back-biting between Clarets and Rovers fans is continued almost on an ‘every minute of every waking hour’ basis judging by the office I worked in – and the clubs have rarely been in the same division of the league for the last couple of decades.
In fact the pressure to declare which side you are on, even if you don’t come from East Lancs, is incredible.
After being branded a ‘closet Claret’ I took the only sensible option and declared unswerving allegiance to Accrington Stanley – or copping out as it is otherwise known.
Remember these two clubs were founder members of the Football League in Manchester’s Royal Hotel back on April 17, 1888 – 121 years is a long haul when it comes to being derby rivals.
And things were so hot back in 1891 that FA president Sir Charles Clegg travelled from Sheffield to referee the derby at Turf Moor, a game in which Rovers refused to hand the ball over in protest at a disallowed goal.
Now I can’t promise the sight of Sam Allardyce picking up the ball and refusing to play on until some perceived injustice has been put to rights on Sunday, but if you tune in for the ‘derby of all derbies’ you will not be disappointed.
It won’t be one for the purists, it won’t be a classic, but there will be passion both on and off the field and all I can say is – ‘Come on Accy!’
WHAT has football come to when the chief executive of South Africa’s World Cup organising committee can say he is desperate that Portugal and Argentina must qualify for the finals.
That man, Danny Jordaan, has made it plain he wants to see Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi out on the veldt next summer.
He is getting plenty of help as FIFA have already moved the goalposts in Europe, having decided belatedly to seed the play-offs after the qualifying group stages.
Now I may be getting forgetful in my dotage, but I don’t recall in 1974 that there was any big push from FIFA to ensure that Tony Currie and Colin Bell would be on show in the finals in West Germany.
Equally I also fail to recall a FIFA edict in the 1960s that only a team wearing green shirts could qualify from a certain group to ensure George Best was at the finals, or in the 1990s that only a team whose supporters could conquer the close harmonies required to deliver a rousing version of ‘Land Of My Fathers’ would get through to allow Ryan Giggs to play – who knows how the rules would have needed to be changed to put Liberia through and let George Weah have a run out?
Surely the competition is about teams (or nations) and not players – and the governing body’s manipulation is as unwelcome as it is unfair.
I just hope that the Republic of Ireland stuff the side that is put in front of them in the play-offs and leave Sepp Blatter to ponder the fact that football is a game and not something he can control – and that being president of FIFA does not actually imbue him with the powers of a deity.
AS A Red Rose cricket fan it is wonderful to see you Yorkists getting back to what you are best at – falling out in lumps!
Plenty has been said about Matthew Hoggard’s departure from Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Both sides have put across their arguments and it has seen a return to the kind of fractiousness (if there is such a word) the Tykes have been famous for over the years.
The in-fighting has been so limp in Yorkshire cricket in recent seasons that Lancashire have been forced to step in over several campaigns – hence the Stuart Law and Dominic Cork fiasco – just to keep the levels of conflict in the northern counties ticking over.
But what worries me more is the insinuation that the ECB have been putting financial pressure on the counties to dispense with ‘senior’ players (i.e. those over 31) to allow young talent to come through.
This surely has to be a step in the wrong direction.
If there is any sport in which experience counts it is cricket, and I am sure as much is achieved in the handing on of knowledge in the dressing room as there is in addressing the situations that arise out on the field of play – therefore 32-year-old Hoggard’s involvement and input should be invaluable to Yorkshire.
Sadly I haven’t met Mr Hoggard, but I am sure he could have the same influence at Headingley that Peter Martin – both a giant and a gent – had at Old Trafford.
While Accrington legend Digger (I’m beginning to think this particular column would be better published in the Accrington Observer rather than the Huddersfield Examiner) played fewer games for England than Hoggard by a country mile, his experience was valued and he was retained by Lancashire until 2004 when he had reached the ripe old age of 36.
What he had to impart to the likes of Jimmy Anderson, Saj Mahmood et al will have helped these players no end in their formative years.
The same truth will apply all around the counties and I’m sure that Andy Caddick never ‘kept Mum’ at Somerset when it came to telling some up-and-comer the best way to lull a batsman into an all-consuming sense of insecurity.
Whatever the politics in the Yorkshire camp, and whatever the edicts from the English game’s governing body, I can’t help but think that letting Hoggard go is most simply described as crazy.