It’s all good and well sitting here and passing my biased opinion but today as we look to another Manchester derby I sought the opinion of City fan.
Some of you may be familiar with Michael, he is a friend of mine who occasionally pops in to comment on the City related pieces. It has been remarked that he isn’t a run of the mill City fan (whatever that is?!) and is quite balanced in his views so I thought who better to give us an insight?
So it’s nearly derby day again. They come around quick these days, don’t they? Seems like only a few weeks since we were talking about “the most important Manchester derby in more than 30 years” at Eastlands towards the end of last season, and here we are again with the media hyping this next one as the biggest game in the Premier League calendar so far.
I’ve been asked to give some thoughts on the derby from a blue perspective; not sure how that is going to go down on a red site, but I’ll give it a go. One of the areas suggested as subject material was memories of previous games, but other than to confirm that it has always hurt badly when we lose, and it leaves me grinning for days when we win, I don’t really want to rehash the past.
Instead, I want to make a few observations. Firstly, this game has always been a bit special; all of Manchester focused on the same game with the intensity turned up to 11. I’m sure we all know that feeling; glory and triumph or pain and ridicule await just around the corner and as the day draws closer you can almost feel their hot breath on the back of your neck. If you haven’t walked all through town immediately following a derby day loss, alone and in full colours, you can’t really tell me you understand what the derby is about. It means a lot.
But in my time supporting City the derby has never been bigger than it is now. It’s starting to become something people look forward to all over the World, not just in Manchester and I think it will continue to grow. During the World cup this summer, the BBC sent Clarence Seedorf to Robben Island to discover something of it’s history and the place football played in it. His guide was a former prisoner on the Island, and at one point during the documentary he was attempting to explain the importance of the weekly football match the prisoners were permitted to play in and watch. “It’s like the Kaiser Chiefs were playing the Orlando Pirates, or Manchester United against Manchester City”, he told Seedorf. That struck me as interesting. Even just a couple of years ago, let alone 10 or 15, would the Manchester derby be the second game that came to the mind of a South African when searching for an analogy to describe the importance of a local game of football? I would say probably not; Real Madrid-Barcelona, the Milan Derby, or even United-Liverpool or Arsenal-Chelsea would probably have been more likely candidates.
Obviously, the progress City have made on and off the pitch over the last couple of years is the reason our local derby has grown in importance and appeal outside our own city. Never in the history of the Premier League, or even for the 20 or so years before the Premier League was born, have we been a bigger threat to the established order at the top of the table. The media glare has now turned to us, and it’s a strange feeling. We are in the unique position of having all the attention of a top club; wildly sensationalist headlines appear almost weekly, and yet we haven’t won anything in this new era. It makes us an easier target for lazy journalists than United or Chelsea. It’s a bit like having the downside without the upside as far as the media go. But it all adds spice to the derby, which I believe should be right up there with the most famous in the World. A strong derby is a great thing for the city.
Now, at this juncture I should point out to you reds that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t spend the week before with your players, ex-players, fans, and manager hyping the game to the hilt, celebrate and gloat like maniacs (cf Gary Neville) if you win, and still tell us “the Manchester derby isn’t a big game for us”. The cat was out of the bag on that one last year, and it isn’t going back in! You want to stuff us just as much as we want to stuff you, and you know the pain you’re in for if you lose, so man up and admit that, OK? 😉
One last point. Wednesday’s game is an evening kick off, which I’m sure Greater Manchester Police are not exactly enthused about. At the first leg of the League Cup semi-final last year (also an evening game), there was an ugly side to the otherwise superb atmosphere. I hope we can have the intensity without idiots trying to smuggle darts, fireworks and golf balls into the game; that’s a part of the derby day experience I don’t miss and we could all do without. All that said – derby day. I love it. See you there.