So, it’s here again for another year. It’s going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it and there’s no way we can get away from it. It’s like when your mother-in-law arrives just in time for kick off and proceeds to talk all the way through the first half, shut up for half time, before continuing her discussions through the second half, blissfully unaware that you’re trying to watch the match. Though, to be honest, if she wanted to distract me for 96 minutes tomorrow, she would be welcome to (bear in mind I’m single and haven’t got a mother-in-law here, so it’s going to have to be a very quick courtship and wedding at this late stage).
I hate derby day. As simple as that. I hate it. It’s a truly horrible day. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s the worst day of the football season. And some fool at the FA decided that it should happen twice a season. Clearly somebody is off their rocker.
It never fails to leave your stomach feeling the way it does after you’ve had a bug for three days and haven’t eaten. It never fails to make your fingernails shorter by however far you can physically get your teeth in behind them. It never fails to put your body under more stress than taking an exam that your life depended on you passing.
I’m not aware of such a test existing, but it’d definitely spice up GCSE exam halls.
One reason why it makes me (and I assume other Manchester City fans) feel like this is simple. The result is amplified: wins feel better, defeats feel worse, while draws feel like even damper squibs than they were. But the biggest reason of all, however, is actually that we’re Manchester City fans. Doing things the easy way isn’t in the club’s nature, so getting through derby day isn’t a simple achievement.
United fans have it easy. It’s win-win in their camp. They win, they get to taunt some City fans. They lose, they get to pretend that Liverpool is their big fixture and they don’t really care about City anyway. Though, of course, we all know they do thanks to the outrage felt at the Welcome to Manchester billboard, the (now cancelled) party to celebrate City’s lack of success and the (club endorsed) banner that shows the years where we have won nothing… thank you for showing such concern in little ol’ City.
That’s what makes the game so difficult to endure. It’s a horrible day, invented so neutrals can watch as people like me suffer nervous breakdowns and a whole manner of heart problems decades before we should. I love winning derbies, I just hate the actual playing of the game.
And then there are the neutrals! The pundits, ex-players, commentators, and fans of other clubs that don’t really care about the result, but take it upon themselves to tell us how much of a great game it’s going to be. The media build-up is incredible: you would think that no football match is ever going to be like it until the end of recorded time ever (which, at Old Trafford, will probably have about seven or eight added minutes).
The strange and ever-so paradoxical thing is that I’m now a part of that crazy build-up to the game. By writing this column, by doing this City podcast, or by being on the other City radio show that I am, I’m adding pre-match build up to the already unnecessary pre-match build up to a game that I hate watching every time it comes around.
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