Matt’s Monologue: The Benefit of a local derby

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching Derby’s home match against Nottingham Forest in the Championship and it got me thinking how much you can miss a local derby, a game with real, intense rivalry.

This fixture has just that – there is a distinct dislike between the two sets of fans, possibly the players too.

So when Forest, on a desperate run of form, came from behind to win late on, the packed away end was quite a sight. The celebrations were special.

When did Tranmere last enjoy a game with such rivalry? Obviously there have been games against Oldham and there is no love lost from a supporter’s perspective when these two teams face each other.

But it is almost as if that disdain for each other is manufactured, or at least it has only grown since 2006, after Ronnie Moore was sacked by the Latics, only to turn up at Prenton Park a few weeks later.

It could be argued, then, that Rovers have not had a true local derby since hammering Wrexham 5-1 at the Racecourse under Brian Little. A quick check of the statistics shows that this game was nearly a decade ago – how time flies.

I think teams thrive off games like this. Tranmere’s 3-0 win over Everton was 14 years ago, but it is still celebrated by the fans. It shows how important local rivalries are.

It is the same everywhere. Sheffield Wednesday still chant about what they call the “Boxing Day Massacre” of Sheffield United, a 4-0 victory back in 1979 and Manchester City will be speaking about their 6-1 win at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 2011 for years to come.

If your team is enduring a mediocre season where mid-table obscurity is the best you can hope for, the competition of a local rival can add some spice to the campaign.

It is a game on the horizon that players, fans and the club alike look forward to. There is much more than three points at stake. There is pride too, bragging rights in the pub afterwards – until the next time the two teams meet at least.

The games are often played in front of an increased gate and that in turn should lead to a much better atmosphere, and they can be played at a somewhat intense pace too.

With Tranmere meandering their way towards relegation from League One for five years (it looked fairly inevitable from 2009 onwards), I think two matches against a Chester or a Wrexham could have just made seasons so much more enjoyable.

Who knows? Perhaps even a local rivalry could have made a difference to the team’s performance on the pitch – as well as having the stand out aim of trying to avoid relegation, much like there is over the water with Liverpool and Everton, there would be that mini-battle to finish above the enemy in the table.

Maybe that little bit of extra motivation (although you could argue it should not be needed).

Sadly, those days look some way away at the moment. But I for one would like to see a big local derby at Prenton Park soon…as long as it does not mean Rovers getting relegated!

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