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Local Rivalry - Rats and Dogs to Wusster....
..by Sheffield Harrier...20-03-03


The word 'derby' is often bandied around when two teams who are geographically close play each other.  But what actually constitutes a 'derby game'?

By definition it is 'a contest, usually referring to football matches between rival local towns' clubs'.  The word Derby comes from the fact that the phrase 'local Derby' originates from Ashbourne in Derbyshire.  This is all very well, but I'm not sure the people of Ashbourne would have had Kiddy versus Cheltenham (towns 40 miles apart) in mind when they coined the term.

Cheltenham logo Purists may claim that the only games that can truly be called derbies are those between teams from the same town or city, which would mean the Harriers, would be without such a fixture.  Others would claim that a derby game is between two teams with a fierce hatred of each other and a history of infamous battles.  Brighton's rivalry with Crystal Palace springs to mind.

My opinion is that for a game to qualify as a derby you have to have a mixture of the two.

Shrewsbury are probably our closest neighbours in League 2 - this game has been described as a local derby in the press but I don't think many Harriers fans have ever got that worked up about it.  There is no real history between the clubs and we're not even from the same county.  The most significant thing about any game with the Shrews in the last couple of seasons is the fact that last years home game seemed to be the straw that broke the camels back as far as Lionel Newton was concerned.  In a crowd of 3625, about 1300 were from Salop, which only goes to show that the people of Kiddy didn't consider this a derby.  The turnout from the Harriers was, however, pretty awful considering we were pushing for the play-offs.
Shrewsbury have got Wrexham to think about now, so I really can't see the Kiddy - Shrews games taking off in any big way in the future.

Telford logo A fixture that has certainly produced more interest than Shrewsbury has been the games against Cheltenham Town.  Despite the 40-mile distance between the towns, both sets of fans seemed quite keen to put some meaning on the games.  This is probably due to the fact that we both come from non-league and have enjoyed a few tussles over the years.  I think Kiddy and Cheltenham were both pleased with the other when they pipped Rushden to the Conference and, despite what some over-excited Robins might think, both clubs are of similar size and have similar financial worries.
It is because of this that I will never wish Cheltenham too much harm as it would be like wishing an illness on a cousin.  Victory over Cheltenham will always feel good but it is not the 'be all and end all'.  I'm sure we will lock horns with them again in the near future.

Rivalry with Rushden and Diamonds obviously goes back to the promotion season when we were vying with the Rats and Dogs for top spot.  We are certainly not alone in non-league circles for disliking them for their single tactic to world domination; throwing money around.  There was something strange about this amalgamation of two small Northamptonshire teams.
How were they suddenly pulling in 4000+ every week?  Where the hell had these fans come from?  It would have probably been easier to accept if Max Griggs had pumped money into Kettering, a team with a bit of non-league history.
The journey to Nene Park isn't exactly easy and neither team takes hordes of fans to each other's ground.  But, because of the view that they are a 'plastic' team, it will always be sweet to put one over on them and the games are eagerly anticipated.
Unfortunately, we have been unable to taste success over them this season despite having 4 goes at it.  In all honesty, it is likely Rushden will be in a higher league than us soon and I can't see too many league fixtures between the clubs in future years and the game will never be considered a derby in my eyes.

Hereford logo Our days in the Conference are fondly remembered and one thing that I think we all miss is the double-header local games arranged for Boxing Day and New Years day.  These games always brought in good crowds and produced a good atmosphere.  In my memory, Telford, Bromsgrove and Hereford have provided the opposition in these games.
In fact, my first memory of opposing fans getting particularly upset was against Telford.  It probably had something to do with the fact that their status as one of the forces of non-league football was fading and ours was growing as we moved into the nineties.  They liked beating us and we liked beating them but fans usually mixed happily and a Telford defeat wasn't and isn't the first thing you'd look for at 5pm on a Saturday.

Between the time of Hereford coming down from the league and us getting promoted we played them six times in the Conference.  We had of course played them on numerous occasions before (notably during our Welsh Cup forays in the 80's) but I am too young to remember most of them!  Both games against Hereford in our last season in the Conference produced attendances of around 4500 so there was certainly plenty of interest in the tie (both games finished 1-1 that year).
The fact that they were a team featured on Hereford & Worcester radio seemed all the more reason for us to beat them (and shut up Trevor Owens).  Personally, I certainly came to dislike Hereford over the three seasons and my reasons stem from the arrogance of their fans (thinking they were on loan to the Conference), their 'we're a real club' attitude towards us, and the nasty nature of some of their 'fans'.
Even the managers tried to get in on the act as both clubs threw rubbish players at each other (James McCue and Mark Druce).

In my eyes, this was a derby game.  The journey to Edgar Street wasn't particularly short (especially if you got stuck behind a tractor), but we took good numbers there (for us) and the atmosphere was tense.  The two games that stand out for me are the 4-1 home defeat (when Leadbeater got a hat-trick) and the 3-1 away win when Leroy scored the goal of his careerN aaaaaaah memories!

Bromsgrove Rovers logo Bromsgrove Rovers got promotion to the Conference for the 1992/93 season and the cheeky beggars promptly finished runners-up to Wycombe so becoming the highest placed Worcestershire side.  The Green Uns also went as far as having scarves made with "Pride of Worcestershire" all over them! Fortunately, in that first season we didn't lose to them - we have current youth team manager John Deakin to thank for a one nil win in our first game against them in the Conference.

So began a happy tradition of Boxing Day and New Years Day trips up and down the A448.  I could write another article talking about my memories of games with the Rovers and its only now that I realise how lucky we were to have such exciting derby games with little or no crowd trouble.  Harriers' greats such as Richard Forsyth, Delwyn Humphreys, John Purdie, Lee Hughes, Paul Davies have all scored against the Greens in the 90's.  We were quite pleased when they went back to their rightful place and got relegated in 1997 but I would definitely relish the chance to play them again one day.
Perhaps they'll reach the FA Cup first round next season?!

The term sleeping giant was probably made for Worcester City.  They slipped out of the top league of non-league football in 1985 and have been signing Harriers rejects ever since.
Worcester City logo By Doc Martens standards Worcester have decent crowds and any WCFC fan will tell you how they would get big crowds if they were in the Conference.  Its difficult to tell exactly how many they would pull in if they ever made it to the league but the potential to financially support must surely be there.  Worcester have a first class cricket team and a rugby club forever on the brink of the top Union league so you could argue that football isn't the number one sport in the city.  I don't think we'll know until Worcester City do make it big and they are surely ripe for a Max Griggs like figure to come along and transform them.
Former Harriers favourite John Barton is the boss at St Geroge's Lane and he has done a good job in the last couple of seasons establishing the club as one of the best sides in the Doc Marten's Prem.  I have no memory of big games against Worcester (friendlies and Worcs Senior Cup don't count!) but you'd think that a proper Kiddy v Worcester game would create massive interest.

I hope I get to see one in my lifetime- preferably with us still in the league!

Sheffield Harrier.

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