All derby games are special to the fans of the clubs involved whatever level you are playing in however for me the all Brummie Ding Dong Derby has always been extra special since growing up as a kid in the predominately Villa area of Summer Lane. I went to St Chads RC School and it was virtually all Villa fans. It was tough at times with lots of banter but without any hate or violence.
It’s the raw passion and emotion of derby games that is all encompassing not only during the match but for weeks before and weeks afterwards. To be honest as a young man I loved away derby games where you were out-numbered but still tried to out-sing the home fans.
One thing is for certain promotion or reaching the playoffs will not be decided on the result of Sunday’s high noon shoot out. However, for the fans, everything else takes second place to holding the bragging rights with a win. Performance, flair, possession, shots on target, shots of target, corners, expected goals (whatever that is) is totally secondary to the result.
What fans expect and demand from players in all games but especially in a derby game is ninety minutes of hard work, desire, passion and commitment while a little rub of the green is always welcome. Players and fans will be hoping for a strong referee who understands what derby games are all about and referee’s accordingly. That doesn’t mean letting players kick and injure each other but calling the game correctly with an understanding that emotions run high in derby games.
For a week or so before the game the banter is flying around between neighbours, friends, work colleagues and school mates. Most fans will be positive but with a nervous twitchy feeling about the outcome irrespective of current form.
This week in the build up to the game the feelings and emotions are hotting up. I was at Villa Park last week covering the game against Fulham for talkSPORT. All anyone wanted to talk about was the derby game not Fulham, not promotion, just about how important it was to them personally that they win the derby. On the way out one woman was singing “we’re coming to get ya” at me and I have to say I love the banter.
Derby games are rarely classics as the occasion, atmosphere, tension and the importance of not losing can get to players. The biggest challenge of the managers is ensuring the players play the game and not the occasion although I am sure that no fan could ever do that if he were ever playing in a derby game.
It has always been a game where no quarter is asked, given or expected and that is exactly how it should be. They are games to savour as they take you on an emotional roller coaster ride and I am certain fans will experience every known emotion in some form or other during the ninety minutes.
Days like Sunday are why we love this great sport. It will be nothing to do with money, nothing to do with how rich the owners are, nothing to do with how much players cost or where they are from. It is to do with generations of family history and tradition and. Most of us had no choice who we supported it was down to our Dads. Unlike players fans are not here for the length of a contract or for what they can get out of it. We don’t move onto another club because they are in a higher league or have better players. No sir! A fans contract is for life whatever league the club is in, whoever the manager is or owners are. You are born one and die one sticking with them through the good times and the bad times end of story.
This is the same for fans of any club anywhere in the country and I am sure the Baggies and Wolves fans see their derby as just as special as any other.
One or two idiots have in the past spoiled some of these great footballing occasions but 99.9% only want to enjoy the game while giving their team 100% passionately vocal support and then to go home safely.
For a week after the game whatever the result all the talk is about how good or bad the team or individual players were. All of us will be picking better teams than the managers did we will all know what he did right or wrong and how we would have chosen different tactics and or formation. That is how we fans are and rightly so as the game is all about opinions. As Mick McCarthy once said opinions are like backsides everybody has one and why not.
Fans of the winning team will be wearing their replica shirts or scarfs wherever they go be it pub social club or workplace while fans of the losing side will be keeping their heads down from their friends and neighbours who support the winning side. Don’t you just love it?
In my opinion (sorry Mick) Blues v Villa is as passionate as any derby in the country. Let’s hope Sunday highlights not only that but also how it is a very special footballing event that the City of Birmingham and the two clubs can be proud of. We are all Brummies so show the rest of the watching country that we football fans know how to behave with no trouble in or outside of the stadium whatever the result.