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Michael Duberry Column: I loved those local derbies
6:00pm Wednesday 4th September 2013 in Sport
What a fantastic ‘Super Sunday’ of football there was on display last weekend.
Liverpool against Manchester United and Arsenal versus Spurs were the fixtures on show – not just football games, but massive grudge matches with plenty of history behind them.
Real Madrid v Barcelona, AC Milan v Inter and Rangers v Celtic are some of the other big rivalries that everyone knows about. Whatever the country, they all have the same thing in common – they are the fiercest and the bitterest of rivals, with a long history of hatred between both set of fans that gets passed through the generations.
Hate is a strong word, but it’s the best way to describe these feelings.
When a player signs for his new club, the fans make it known that whatever happens, you MUST overcome these rivals. I played in some big derby games where the rivalry was massive. London derbies while I was at Chelsea were always big and very important for the fans.
Bragging rights and that claim to be London’s best were paramount to the fans.
To me, each London derby had its own identity, with its own spice. There were those against Fulham and QPR, when it wasn’t so much hatred from Chelsea fans towards them, just a simple dislike!
Against West Ham and Spurs, there seemed to be more venom in the rivalry. You could sense the loathing towards those clubs from the Chelsea fans and they told you to.
As for the games, the intensity and atmosphere were brilliant.
TThere was no love lost between Chelsea and Arsenal fans and it was exactly the same on the pitch.
When I moved to Leeds United, I sampled some deeper hatred towards other fans and one club in particular.
The fans at Elland Road just couldn’t abide Man Utd and they didn’t hide it from anyone.
Those war of the roses fixtures, as the games were sometimes billed, were exactly that – it was war and the hostile atmosphere sometimes spilled onto the pitch as players tried to match the passion of the fans.
It was the same atmosphere and build-up when Leeds played Chelsea. The fans weren’t shy in telling how much they despised my old club. It did not take long for me to discover the fans’ dislike of Swindon Town when I joined Oxford United. Only minutes after signing for the U’s, it was drilled into me that WE don’t like them and you HAVE to beat them.
In the two games I played against them for Oxford, you could feel the bitterness, and it was just as bad from the Swindon fans.
But I loved the hostile atmosphere in those games and loved the fact that we won them both even more.
Every player realises the importance of these type of matches when you go into them. Sometimes you don’t know the reason for the hatred, you just know the importance of the win. You know that a good game can turn you into a cult hero among the fans, or a bad game into the terrace villain.
So those Manchester United and Spurs players will feel they have let their supporters down as well being gutted by their defeats. The Liverpool and Arsenal players will feel on top of the world and know they now have hero status.
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