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Friends and Neighbours?

By Dave Roberts :  20/01/2009 :  Comments (0) :
I've not taken much notice over recent years when the so called sad decline of the 'Friendly Derby' into something more caustic and abusive has been lamented in some quarters. This was probably because I only heard such sentiments expressed on Radio Merseyside, a station which has always sought to impress the unity of Merseyside upon everybody who would listen. While there is, undoubtedly, considerable unity on Merseyside I don't think it extends to football allegiances.

The 'Friendly Derby', I concluded, was just a myth and part of their (local BBC) agenda. So I ignored it because I didn't recognize it.

The myth may have been assumed to have substance following the very special circumstances of Hillsbrough, with Everton mementos appearing in rememberance on the streets and on the Kop and the divide temporarily bridged by grief. Perhaps this was further fortified by the chanting of 'Merseyside, Merseyside' at Wembley. But these were very special circumstances and if there was ever the prospect of our Derbies being friendly, that possibility was killed stone dead by the snide and sarcasm of the late 'grate' (sic) Bill Shankly. (I won't repeat the remarks, we all know them...)

I have just read the article in the Times concerning the loss of the 'Friendly Derby', by following the link on the home page and I was amazed that the myth of the 'Friendly Derby' was being perpetuated there too! What they confuse with friendliness are the differences between our football divide and those of other similar rivalries. Ours has nothing to do with religion or politics.

Ours has nothing to do with race or culture or what part of Rome or Milan we live in or whether we believe our part of the world should be independent of where the other club live. Ours cuts across families but is nevertheless just as tribal. Some of us will have parents of differing persuasions, I know I did, and while I love my brother, he is still a Kopite (and an arrogant one at that) and I can't stand him when football is the issue.

This strange sort of partizanship, probably unique on a scale as large as this, did allow the events after Hillsborough to happen when they wouldn't have happened on such a scale anywhere else and has probably served to keep physical violence between supporters to a minimum which is exceptional when compared to other such rivalries.

But this doesn't mean I want to be friendly at a Derby match. I loathe our neighbours with a passion and their result is always the second I look for in the hope that it was a defeat. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see them go to the wall as a result of their massive debts and their owner's inability to pay them back to the Bank. I will never physically assault a Kopite nor join in the Gerrard chants which have become so infamous, but that doesn't mean I do not hate the buggers with an everlasting passion.

Friendly Derby? In 46 years of watching them they have never been friendly to me... it is just that we have a peculiar way of showing our unfriendliness on Merseyside don't we?

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