Geography, Culture And Derby Daze.

IS THE Newcastle game a derby? Only if Boro win.
Victory either way will spark passionate open top bus paradesque gloating on the Three Legends and in workplaces region wide from one side and that will be met by furiously feigned indifference and a series of history and geography lessons proving conclusively that the result is irrelevent on the other. You know the script; the scoreline just determines who plays which part.
Of course it is a derby. The fierce denial of that by terrace ideologues on both sides is just soccer spin doctors trying to distance themselves from the glaringly obvious fact that this is a match of paramount parochial importance. It is pre-emptive damage limitation aimed at reducing the pain should the unthinkable happen.


Derbies are not about distance, not now anyway. Historically it was always taken to mean games within the same city: Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bristol, Milan, Rome, Glasgow. Those games still have the power to divide communities and can stand for local pride, intense passion and high-profile policing.
By strict geographic criteria Boro are from a one team town and have never had a true derby – yet we all know that there have always been teams it matter more that we should win against. Or at least not lose. When I was a kid it was Leeds that was the chief rival and with Boro in the second division there were coach loads of Teessiders heading south every other week, the glory hunting Man U fans of their day so playground pride demanded we beat them. Of course, that was when Middlesbrough was still very much politically and culturally part of Yorkshire but as we know the entire town was moved north in 1968 to become part of a different entity and so new rivals have been created.
Relaxing the city rule and stretching it by ten miles or so there are people who would argue that Boro have only ever played two real league derby games, in the old third division against Darlington in 1986-87: won 1-0 away (Stephens), drew 1-1 at home (Slaven). These fundamentalists are backward Luddites who need a sharp dose of the new reality.
The world is bigger now, our horizons wider and social mobility and transport links have blurred loyalties that were once sharply defined by the city boundary. The concept of the derby game has been broadened. We have Thames Valley derbies, East Anglian derbies, South Coast derbies, East Midlands derbies, West Midlands derbies, M62 derbies and North-east derbies and while the local element has faded the other ingredients have increased in inverse proportion, especially the intense passion and the high-profile policing.
Now derbies are about shared accents, shared culture and shared radio and television transmitters. The Tyne-Tees derbies are named after the TV station that defines the area.
Our current mental universe has been shaped by Kenneth Wolstenholme on Shoot, Roger Tames late night commentaries of the Rioch revival and by the inane chatter and schoolboy banter of the regional juggernaut that is the Three Legends.
If we lost to Leeds now we would never hear a peep, unless possibly we wandered into the no-mans land of Northallerton or Scarborough wearing a Boro top. There would be no price to pay, no squirming and no need to listen to smug former Elland Road legends gloating about it for the rest of the season.
But lose to Newcastle or Sunderland and there is a very public humiliation that must be endured at the hands of idiots through a variety of mediums. Every game is added to the common body of knowledge that determines the local pecking order, that informs the arguments in pubs and workplaces and underpins the banter, the chanting and the folklore of a region fired by football.
That is what makes these games derbies. They are public property shared with other people who also believe that they really matter. The sting of defeat is more painful than with other teams and it is dragged out for weeks by malciously minded neighbours. It is inescapable because the victors are in our orbit and in our face, rubbing it in and using it as a weapon to beat us and a wonder tool that invalidates every other achievement for the foreseeable future.

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11 thoughts on “Geography, Culture And Derby Daze.

  1. Keep trying to big yourselves as rivals up all you want mate, but Newcastle only have one proper derby match and it aint against the Boro.

  2. Ah Denton….that well know stream of pseudonym – if not consciousness!
    Your very appearance here proves Vic’s point.
    Big ourselves up as rivals? No need – Woody and Huth did that for us in the transfer window.

  3. Ah sweey irony. Bright and early on a Sunday morning and the first person on a Boro blog is an irate Geordie fuming over a match he doesn’t care about.
    To claim Sunderland as the only true derby kind of proves Vic’s point. Sunderland isn’t technically a derby at all. It is not in the same city. Historically it isn’t even in the same county.
    Newcastle’s true derby matches would be against Benfield Saints and Blue Star. You get to play them once a year in the Northumberland Cup.
    But Sunderland are a ‘derby’ for you because it is the closest team geographically of similar status. Or it was. Maybe you think you are of similar status to the Mackems or prefer lording it over a struggling second division side.
    Look, Boro are the big boys in the region now. We are the team of similar status. Or maybe higher status. Lastin the region to win a cup. Last to play in a European final. Players turning you down to join us. Deal with it.

  4. Hi Denton!
    Gerrin there!!!!!!!! I’m sure you’re not too bothered though as it’s just an ordinary game. Another ordinary game that you’ve lost!
    Love,
    Jay

  5. I hope their is going to be no gloating because as we will be told it wasnt a derby. In the words of Super Mac we ought to be concerned because Toon were the better team and that will result in a little smirk in this household tonight.
    Just checked the BBC website and it says 1-0 to Boro, I guess it will say the same in the morning papers. According to the stats I have seen we had 50% more attempts at goal and twice as many corners.
    Checked skysports news, yep, we still won 1-0, no gloating just a happy smirk.

  6. Ian – Oh, come on – let’s have a gloat! By the way, Denton, I forgot Yakubu in my earlier posting.
    You have done one bit of good business recently, though – getting big Nigel Person on your coaching staff. You beat us to that one and he’ll do a job for you – too late for yesterday, though.
    Yep – it’s still 1-0 in the newspapers this morning.

  7. Ian and John we will hear no more from Denton because as you say all the papers, web sites etc show a scoreline of Boro 1 Skunks 0.
    It matters not how many shots, corners or tackles were made, all that matters is that Yakubu scored and the Skunks did not.
    How many games have we all been to when you go home thinking how the hell did we not win that match? Well yesterday we all went home with a smile on our faces.
    Even after watching MOD and the normal biased coverage and no praise for Boro (if Downing had played for Arsenal or Man U yesterday he would have got more coverage than the Boro game was given) it was still 1 – 0.

  8. No, I will not be gloating about the fact we beat the skunks, I will just be having a quiet smirk. I am not the type to keep rubbing it in.
    What is especially upsetting is that the skunks claim to have played quite well and lost. It really is a shame for them. Just checked the papers, still 1-0. Just checked the league table still reads 11 points to Boro and 7 to the skunks, cant find any columns in the table for played quite well.
    Never mind I will just have to sit and smirk for a few days, no gloating though.

  9. Ian
    You may not gloat for as long as you don’t want to, but I’m gonna enjoy this one for weeks to come!!
    I can now wave my virtual V-signs at the telly with impunity whenever the Barcodes get a mention, and I must say I am delighted that Mr Rodent and Mr Sheep’s Head and all their sadly disillusioned fans (who mistakenly think they’re a big club) are sick as parrots.
    I keep teling all my Barcode mates that Woodgate joined Boro because he wanted to stay with a big club. And do you know the real reason why Zidane butted Materazzi? Materazzi asked him, “Is it true you’re going to sign for Newcastle?”
    Gloat? Me? You bet I’m gonna gloat !!

  10. Just a matter of facts, Anthony.
    Weren’t you around in 1966 when Boro won 3-0 at Feethams on Boxing Day and 4-0 at Ayresome the very next day? This was our only season in the third division. Ray Snowball had to be borrowed from Crook Town to play in goal for Darlo in the second game because their regular keepers were injured. Poor old Ray got well pelted. Boro, of course, went on to get promotion. I think Darlo sadly went down.
    **AV writes: Thanks for for the information. I will add it to the databank. You keep me right.

  11. Clive
    I will not be gloating but must go cos I have a recurrence of my ‘twigs and leaves on nose’ disease. Off to the garage to get the pruning shears.
    Odd thing is the leaves are dropping off my nose as quick as the Toon in the premiership.
    By the way the true reason for the Zidane insident is that Materazzi started chanting ‘are you Bowyer in disguise?’ The response was a head butt to which Materazzi said ‘told you so’

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