With the farce that was our match with QPR at the weekend behind us (barring a police investigation into an incident that neither of the parties involved has said happened) conversation in the pub has returned to rivalries.
I was one of many Chelsea fans referring to Sunday’s game as “QPR’s Cup Final”, it simply means more to them than it does us, but why do these rivalries spring up?
QPR supporting drinking pals of mine revel in letting me know that “they’ve never felt more like singing the blues when Rangers win and Chelsea lose” and re-living that “Easter Day in ‘86”… and I’ve always humoured them, reminding them that our concern is with T*ttenham or W*st Sham not them.
Now they are having their moment in the sun, after 16 long years of waiting they’ve put one over on us, their ‘old enemy’. And in the league. And on their patch.
“Must be the worst Monday morning you’ve all had in a long time” was one tweet I received from a Hoop, “We’re all over your radar now” the response to me pointing out in the past two or three years alone Monday mornings having been beaten 3-1 at Wigan, after our woeful display at Middle-Eastfields last season and following losing 1-0 at Wh*te H*rt L*ne under Guus when Fulham had beaten United and our kick off was delayed due to a bomb scare were much harder to take, but he won’t have it.
Why? Because at the end of the day, yes they are our local rivals, probably more so than Fulham, but for us the intense rivalry just isn’t there. I have tried to explain it to as ‘Brentford Syndrome’.
Brentford hate QPR, they also hate Fulham, but for the past ten years Fulham have been a top flight team, so QPR have been the object of Brentford’s ‘affection’, and QPR fans know this; they find it amusing as Brentford are a local rival but not the enemy, that’s Chelsea!
We feel the same, it’s irritating getting beaten by anyone, especially another London team and one whose fans think they keep us up at night with worry, but to me it is no worse than getting beaten by, say, Palace or Charlton.
So what of our own rivalry? Growing up in the early 90’s I knew that we hated T*ttenham above all others – ’67 and all that, Morris Snr isn’t a fan of Dale Farm FC so that has always stuck with me too, and we all f***ing hate Leeds, so that’s a given, but that was about it for an impressionable 10 year old.
Most of the kids in my neck of West London wore QPR or Arsenal shirts, but they started to be replaced by Salford City ones with Cantona on the back, and whilst it grated me to see one club have so much success (and to rob us in the Cup Final, if I ever bump into David Ellery…) they genuinely were a great team to watch, especially when compared with Oldham, Wimbledon or Swindon.
With increasing fortune on the pitch, and my area becoming increasingly populated by ManUre ‘fans’ they were my first real personal rivals. I hated that they always had the rub of the green, decisions went their way, players and fans were arrogant and aloof and their manager was the worst of all – well, some things never change!
There remains a certain amount of rivalry now as we are both commonly found fighting it out for silverware come the business end of each season.
I remember Millwall coming to town in the Cup and Morris Snr ushering me out during the relative safety of the penalty shoot-out offering: “They’re worse that W*st Sham, and you know what I think about them”, but with our ever increasing fortunes rivalries change.
Soon we were vying with Arsenal to be the top dogs in London, and they had a hoodoo over us similar to the one we held over T*ttenham, we just couldn’t beat them. Shortly after my 18th birthday a trip to Cardiff was ruined, “it was only Ray Parlour…”
But the rivalry lacks intensity, perhaps both sets of fans have an inbuilt expectation that your team will ultimately let you down? Plus, we have that common enemy, nothing like a mutual hatred of T*ttenham to warm frosty relations.
Onto Liverpool, where the rivalry started when we played them 23 times in three seasons a couple of years back! Liverpool were that team that won all those league titles just before I was old enough to remember (thankfully) and were still regarded as the best team / club in England, Arsenal and QPR normally contested for the best side in London and Andre Villas Boas was about 17 years old.
On a personal level I have found some Liverpool fans to be palatable, even nice, but get two or more together and they turn into a babbling wreck who are incapable of talking about anything other than the number five – I’m never sure if they mean the channel they expect to be on every Thursday night –and, more recently, how much they never really liked Torres and what a waste of money he was because he didn’t score 30 goals in four months.
Want to mention wasting money lads, how much did that shirt you just burned cost? Oh it’s OK cos you’ve replaced it with a Meireles shirt? Hmm…
In truth it is a clash of the Old Guard versus one of the ‘new’ powers in English football. Aided by the ‘will he, wont he’ transfer of Theivy Gerrard, the Ghost Goal in 2005 and their refusal to accept we are the better team nowadays, this is a rivalry of circumstance.
For rivalry of circumstance 2, read Barcelona: Now I’m not going to say Barca aren’t a good team. Granted I personally get bored watching 67 passes all leading up to giving Messi the ball to do something – unless one of them gets fouled (tackled) first – but every time I have seen us play them, including when Tore Andre Flo had us eight minutes away from victory in 2000, we have been more or less their equals or better.
So why the hatred? Red cards, Penalties not given, Ovrebo, Frisk, that Del Horno challenge on a pre-pubescent Messi, Dani Alves… the list goes on.
Whether you, like me, feel there are evil forces at work (see Anfield, Ghost Goal), or if it is merely coincidence that every time we – or anyone else – play Barca they do so with one arm tied behind their back, their feet tied together and in a blindfold, again it is a rivalry of circumstance.
Until Jose went to Madrid I had little personal interest in el Classico, now I simply have another reason to hope Barca get a taste of their own medicine – I’m even cheering Ronaldo!
In a former life as a student I wrote my dissertation on hooliganism in football and looked at international rivalries and their formation including Spartak / CSKA Moscow being the people / army, Real Madrid / Barca being the State / Catalonia, Rangers / Celtic being Protestant / Catholic.
It is noticeable that most rivalries in England are more territorial as illustrated by this excellent piece I found over the weekend: Rivalries in London – QPR fans take note!
As touched on in that piece, rivalry can often occur when a team has no chance of success itself as a way of gaining ‘success’ and the statement of intent I heard a few times last week of “I don’t mind going down as long as we beat you” goes some way to backing that up.
So when we welcome QPR to The Bridge in April, whilst it will be their 2nd Cup Final of the season, you can rest assured that their fans will not receive the same welcome as Liverpool or T*ttenham, or should we be lucky enough to draw them in a cup, Leeds, because as the chant goes:
We all f***ing hate Leeds!