To boo or not to boo? (Derby County – NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

 

To boo or not to boo? That is the question.

Over the past few years, the East Midlands derby has been played out to a symphony of jeers and catcalls, the like of which would make even Mussolini blush. What’s more, the thunderous boos will most likely provide the soundtrack to today’s encounter, no matter what happens on the pitch.

Football stadia become but poisonous pantomimes when two bitter rivals such as Nottingham Forest and Derby County meet. But what is it that compels grown men and women to boo with such verve and conviction when derby day comes around?

Personally, I just don’t have it in me to pull off a good old fashioned boo. I have tried to master the art but I just can’t muster up enough hatred, even when faced with our fiercest foes.

As I have mentioned in previous episodes of ‘The Red Revolution’, I practise my booing technique whilst passing fields of sheep on the motorway … but for all my endeavour in the pursuit of an aggressive battle cry, my feeble boo sounds more like a cow that’s been kicked in the groin.

If truth be told, I rarely feel the urge, or see the need, to express myself in such a way. Though, many fans seem to boo whether the occasion warrants it or not.

Over recent years the increased hissing and hollering has been largely down to the number of players (and managers) who have, bravely or foolishly, crossed the divide from one side of ‘Brian Clough Way’ to the other.

In light of the inevitable abuse that accompanies moving to your club’s arch nemesis, why is it that so many players opt to venture over to the ‘dark side’?

Some Reds fans have suggested that Derby has become something of a feeder club for Forest. All Derby’s best players eventually end up at the City Ground, whilst Forest give the Rams first refusal on any players who become surplus to requirement.

Perhaps, more realistically, the reason is purely geographical. These players fear going too far South, where people drink strawberry flavoured lager and jig about on chimney tops with Dick Van Dyke. And they fear going too far North, where life is nowt but battered Mars bars and Byker Grove. So they stay in the East Midlands; where it’s safe!

Footballers do not necessarily want to uproot their families and migrate to a different part of the country every time they move clubs. There are many factors that can force a player’s hand – quality of schools, availability of houses and, in the case of Kris Commons, proximity of KFC.

Often, though fans cannot necessarily be expected to sympathise, a move to local rivals is the most practical choice for the modern footballer … especially when the old enemy are desperate to have you!

Although I know I risk a public flogging for this mutinous announcement, I don’t think Nathan Tyson, formerly of Forest, is a player who warrants being booed. He was an essential member of the squad that got us promoted from the dank cesspit known as League One, he was ‘Man of the Match’ in his last game for the club against Swansea in the playoff semi-final defeat (2010/11 season) and, whilst wearing the famous red shirt, Tyson gave everything he had to the cause.

Had he signed for any other club, his return to the City Ground last year would have been met with polite applause. As it happened, and precisely because he had joined the Rams, Tyson’s substitute appearance was greeted with vicious hostility.

The negative reaction of the fans is even stranger when you consider what a gentleman Tyson used to be. He even helped out the groundsman by collecting the corner flags up at the end of games.

In truth, the man who provided that precious flag-waving memory would have known exactly what was in store when he signed a contract at Pride Park. Similarly, Kieron Freeman will expect the same treatment here today, should he feature. Neither truly deserve your boos.

I fully expect my words to fall on deaf ears. Fans have an irrational contempt for players who dare return to their former club donning the enemy colours. Over the past few seasons the heckling has become even more intense and uncompromising. Even Nigel Clough, who went from Forest hero to Derby’s chief shepherd over the course of sixteen years, can’t escape the frenzied jibes!

Whilst I disagree with what you boo, I will defend to the death your right to boo it.

Football supporters pay enough money, and invest enough time and emotion, to boo whoever they wish.

And of course, very occasionally it’s actually deserved!

Robbie Savage, former Derby captain, used to bask in the glory of his own villainy. Whatever club he played for, whatever club he played against, Savage was a magnet for abuse and hatred throughout his career. He minced around the field with the thick skinned arrogance of a man who was booed out of the womb!

Then, of course, there was Kris Commons, the tubby winger who all Forest fans love to hate. Having publicly declared himself a loyal Forest fan whilst secretly plotting an escape to Pride Park, Commons was relentlessly taunted as nothing more than a pie-eating mercenary … or words to that effect.

The chorus of boos that greeted both Savage, when he mockingly waved his Derby scarf in the City Ground centre circle, and Commons, when he wobbled his belly like a bowlful of jelly, were completely justified. They pretty much demanded it.

So, I’m not saying there is never a cause to boo. I’m asking fans not to cheapen the boo by going gung-ho on any former Forest player whose ever had a lamb dinner or watched an episode of Shaun the Sheep.

Some will say that I’m taking the whole issue too seriously and that meaningless booing is all part of the pantomime that is modern football. I ask only this … do we really want to draw comparisons between our beautiful game and a worn out old pantomime? I can’t think of anything worse.

Do we really want players dressed in sequins, with silly blonde wigs, spouting irrelevant camp drivel? We’d just be playing to Robbie Savage’s strengths.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss

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