When you find out what the fixture list for the season is going to be, there are a few games everyone looks for. The first game, the last game and the Boxing Day match.
And if you have any in the same division, you will also look to when you face your local rival. It then becomes the most anticipated date in the diary, right next to Christmas and your partner’s birthday. You use a holiday day to make sure you have the day off work. You get up at dawn to make sure you get tickets. If it’s an away game, you pay some bloke from the pub way too much to transfer his away points to you to make sure you are there. And when it turns out that guy has conned you, you hope Sky Sports disrupts everyone’s lives and puts it on TV.
But while we make it out to be one of the best days to be a football fan, it’s actually the worst.
Now if you are a neutral watching a derby match, for instance tomorrow’s Steel City derby between Sheffield United and Wednesday, it is indeed wonderful. Because tense free, they get to watch an intense match between two teams that hate each other as part of their Friday evening. But if you support either team, it becomes a day of utter dread.
Actually, it’s not a day, it’s a week. As soon as the previous match is over and the next one up is the big rival, that dark pit in your stomach opens up. Yes, if you win it’ll be great and one of those days as a football fan you’ll remember forever. I will always remember Chris O’Grady heading in that Lewis Buxton cross to completely change our season. It’s that goal which makes me smile anytime I’m on the London Underground and I hear the PA go ‘Mind The Gap’.
But it could go all so wrong. This week because Wednesday have been so crap recently, I’ve been dreaded that United get their own Boxing Day Massacre so to speak, the one game they will go on about forever and a day. And it’s not as if I come across United fans on a regular basis. This wasn’t deliberate I swear but I don’t actually talk to any United fans on a regular basis. Most of my friends at the moment aren’t even that bothered about football to be honest. So it’s not as if I’m going into work on the following Monday and getting wound up by Barry in Accounts. The worst I’ll get is seeing some people post cocky statements on Facebook, and I get that normally anyway without any derby matches.
But yet, this week is still one of the worst in football because of that dread. I know it’s the same for many others too who completely forget that this feeling exists until derby day starts coming closer and closer. I think it makes fans more frantic as well. As I said earlier, Wednesday have been crap over the last few weeks, losing a few in a row and conceding a lot in that time. Now Wednesday fans would have been baying for bloody anyway but the seeming inevitability of losing to a riding high Sheffield United has certainly made fans be more vicious in calling for Jos Luhukay’s head.
When the match starts that feeling of dread gets even worse. Every attacking move by the opposition has me hiding behind the chair like an old Doctor Who episode. But then again, every attack by my team has me on the edge of the seat thinking this is the moment when we score and go insane like no other goal could make me go. It’s swings and roundabouts.
I do still love derby days. They are one of the highlights of the year and there is very little better than winning them. But I definitely could skip all the building and even most of the match itself because it makes me feel horrific for so long. Maybe I’ll just go to bed until 9:30pm tomorrow and hope that when I wake up, the result is a good one.
And if it isn’t, well, I’ll go back to sleep for another week.