Belfast Telegraph

Billy Weir on the Box: The derby and moan club

By Billy Weir

It was derby weekend as football's nearest and dearest locked horns with each other in all nooks and crannies across Europe, with one thing in common - bragging rights.

This is the first of many clichés that are always trotted out on derby days no matter where they hail from, along with blood and thunder, passion, intensity, local pride, badge kissing and a healthy dollop of bad-natured bile-ridden badinage between opposing hordes of fans.

Appropriately then we start our derby weekend in Derby as they took on Nottingham Forest in the Championship on Sky on Saturday lunchtime, another facet of these parochial battles being that the police insist on early kick-offs. The way this is going Rangers' cup game with Celtic will see both teams line up in pyjamas.

There was something new though in the East Midlands derby or the Workingclasico as I like to call it, as Harry Redknapp had arrived earlier in the week as an 'advisor'. For Derby's sake we have to hope this was football and not financial, but he wasn't around long afterwards as he scarpered to take charge of Jordan.

Many, many men have attempted this task, and his chances of success are probably worse than Peter Andre's, but hold on, we haven't had a cliché for ages, so presenter Simon Thomas, over to you.

"Whatever the context it is a massive game, that goes without saying," he said, in a saying manner. Trying to get someone to say something wasn't easy though as he asked a man who played with a fair bit of passion, pride and intensity (tick these off on your Derby Cliché Bingo cards) as to how he got the Forest players up for these occasions.

"Well, I run a leadership and motivational speaking company and if I was to give you privy to that, it wouldn't be fair on my customers," said Stuart Pearce, former Forest player and boss and as mad as a badger dandering around Sherwood Forest in ram-skin undergarments.

"It's Forest-Derby, that's all you need to know," he growled in badgery-fashion and then we were all set (badger joke alert) for the game, which was, well, brock (another badger joke, this one in Ulster-Scots).

But if it's really angry black and white beasts you're after you need to head to the north-east, Newcastle in fact, where they welcomed Sunderland to St James' Park, and Sky in part one of their Super Sunday Derby Day, as we opened up with presenter Ed Chamberlin joined by Jamie Carragher, Graeme Souness and Niall Quinn in a deserted stadium.

Not much passion or blood and thunder here, but it turns out they were in Manchester, probably near enough though to hear what was going on 147.5 miles (thanks Google Maps) away.

"This is as big (cliché alert) as I can remember in my lifetime, the big elephant in the room in relegation, the reality for the loser is it is one big step towards oblivion," said big Niall emphasising that this was a big game, but more worryingly that the badger had been replaced by an elephant, not good news for Magpies or Black Cats in the immediate vicinity.

Carragher concurred that both sides had 'a mountain to climb', if only they had a canny bag of Tudor to see them through, while Souness agreed that it was a 'big job'. So, it's big, don't forget that.

"It's massive," added Quinn, thus throwing some doubt on just how big is big, while Souness was back up the mountain again.

"If you haven't got a goalscorer, it's an uphill task, it's a double, double, double, treble, quadruply difficult job," he said, which I reckon is 13 times bigger than big, like the size of an elephant, perhaps?

With that in mind Davie Provan, a man who played in many Old Firm skirmishes, was flown in as co-commentator and he agreed with his partner Rob Hawthorne that the atmosphere was fantastic. Indeed, both teams will be a credit to the Championship next season.

Not many friends, but there was a Defoe among the enemies, as Jermain scored before a late equaliser from Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was promptly booked for whipping his shirt off in celebration, meaning half the Newcastle fans should also have been shown a yellow card.

Then the Serbian striker was clattered, although I'm sure he used to be the meerkat in those adverts, although he appeared more as he staggered about like a stranded stag abandoned by his chums in Newcastle city centre.

"What a big goal for Newcastle," concluded Chamberlin, before we were back in Manchester for the 'a special day in this city, it's Blue against Red'. Mega bingo points there. Commentator Martin Tyler couldn't resist joining in.

"Neighbours, but not friends for the next 90 minutes," he said and there was a fairytale ending as a Manchester lad done good, Marcus Rashford scoring the winner with Tyler cramming in 'local hero' to complete his full house.

BT Sport were not to be denied their ride on the derby rollercoaster, with a couple of offerings of their own, and up in Dundee, Derek Rae was out of the cliché blocks like a fat bairn after a battered macaroon bar.

"You can always learn plenty about the character of Scotland's fourth city from the ebb and flow of this encounter; a battle of tangerine and blue-clad warriors and there's rarely a dull moment," he said.

And he was right, as the neighbours knocked several shades of something neither tangerine or blue out of each other, with four goals, a sending off, yellow cards galore and United boss Mixu Paatelainen taunting the Dundee fans after Billy McKay's last-minute equaliser.

Lovely stuff, except in the eyes of the 'polis' as they say in those parts, as two boys in blue (not tangerine) approached the misbehaving Mixu with a mind to booking him, then hastily changed their mind when they realised what his name is.

There was name-calling too even further away as I swapped Tayside for Turin and the clash between Torino and Juventus, also on BT Sport, but this was nothing to do with the players but the commentary team as I hurled blue (not tangerine) language at the screen.

Jonathan Pearce was joined by Nigel Spackman, who was chosen for the game on the back of once opening a jar of Dolmio, but I wasn't around long enough for the pasta to boil after Pearce's opening.

"Juve are traditionally allied to the city's bourgeoisie, the nobility, to the Agnelli Fiat bosses," he said, and with that I was off quicker than a scalded Punto. Then again, Torino's nickname is 'The Bulls' so Pearce was right at home.

So that was football's derby days, a bit dull if being honest. If you want blood, thunder, passion and intensity, there was one clash of neighbours that beat them all - India v Pakistan in the World Twenty20. Now that's big, and not a badger in sight.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: Congratulations to BBCNI for Thomas Niblock’s excellent True North programme Field of Dreams about two years in the life of Crossmaglen Rangers in their mission to win the All-Ireland title. No-one got the fairytale ending they wanted but sport isn't perfect, I mean look at Final Score every week, but at least Field of Dreams got the right scores.

The jury is out: A new F1 season and Channel Four jumping into the highlights seat to replace a skint BBC. Some good early points, having Mark Webber on board for Australia was a masterstroke, keeping David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan a good move too, but including Murray Walker and keeping the opening music - genius. We'll see how they do on their first live outing in a fortnight.

The bad: "Well done to Victoria Pendleton for getting round, but it's all about Nina Carberry," said AP McCoy as he attempted to bring some sense to proceedings at Cheltenham on Channel Four. It fell on deaf ears though, Clare Balding et al swept away in the wave of hype for the cyclist turned jockey. Then again, what does the greatest person ever to set his backside on an equine know?

The ugly: England, Grand Slam, beating France and Brian Moore - all the words in a same line that would stop you watching rugby ever again and sadly they came true on Saturday, with Moore's particular highlight of impartiality coming after Dan Cole's dubious try. "If I was French I would be very unhappy with that … but I'm not," he said as 66 million Gauls said Dieu Merci!

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph