If someone asks you why you hate Swindon, your answer probably includes things like – they’re scum, they shag sheep, or that they search in bins for something to eat, finding dead cats which they think are a treat. But this isn’t why you hate Swindon; this just describes who they are. Let’s face it; you probably have friends who are similar.
A really good derby – and, to be honest, Swindon/Oxford isn’t one of those – are underpinned by religious, economic or class conflicts that transcend the football pitch. When it was announced that domestic violence goes up during an Old Firm game, who didn’t punch the air and shout, “THAT’S WHAT MAKES FOOTBALL BRILLIANT”? A derby is a metaphor for those divides, which levels the inequalities for 90 minutes to decide who is fundamentally right and who is wrong.
The greater the injustice, the greater the derby. I suppose there’s a mild class divide between Oxford’s educational toffs and Swindon’s more blue collar economic strictures. Incidentally, back in [Oxblogger’s rail history editor is on holiday, so enter your own year in here – anyway, it’s a long time ago] when the government were developing its railways strategy, Swindon and Abingdon were both considered to be developed as a key rail hub. Swindon got the nod igniting an economic boom in the town. Oxford v Abingdon could have been our cut throat derby – we wouldn’t have been very happy seeing Joey Beauchamp doing this for Abingdon.
Fundamentally, the injustice and inequality between Oxford and Swindon manifests on the pitch itself. As much as we’ve got our glory years and had our moments, it’s the scummers who have always just about had the upper hand. To anyone who with less than six fingers on their right hand, this is clearly unjust. It’s principally a football rather than cultural rivalry – more Tottenham/Chelsea than Tottenham/Arsenal.
I’m sure there are some who are jealous that Oxford is a world famous seat of learning and Wycombe is just famous for seats, but there is a distinct lack of inequality and injustice in our common history. Both towns are affluent, middle class and moderate. Aside from a frustrated feeling that they’ve had the better of the last 10 years, there is very little to get angry about.
This manifested itself on Saturday, nice day, big crowd, a good atmosphere and a really good game. Yes, we threw it away, but there was a sense of satisfaction that we’d been thoroughly entertained. Perhaps it’s the adrenalin rush of a rollercoaster game, but there is a visceral thrill in seeing 1500 fans going bananas. It would have been good for Tom Craddock to do a Port Vale, but in the end I can’t say I’d have felt massively different walking away with 3 points rather than 1.
I quite like the idea that Oxford/Wycombe becomes the anti-derby. A fixture in which local rivals get together like old friends and celebrate their differences. It would certainly differentiate it from the seething hotbeds of Macclesfield v Stockport or Crewe v Port Vale. It would need a major event – possibly a spiteful play-off final to ever ignite this to the level of a traditional hate-fuelled derby.