Date: 13th January 2006 at 10:22am
Written by:

I was chatting to a red acquaintance the other day when the conversation, not surprisingly, turned to this weekend?s Manchester derby. Besides the usual arguments over who will win, who has the better support etc, the thing we both found ourselves agreeing on was the lack of a ?derby atmosphere? at recent derbies, both at Eastlands and Old Trafford. Last year?s home derby was particularly poor, in my opinion, although that wasn?t helped by the result.

So why has there been this decline in the atmosphere? Well the all seating issue must take centre stage. When the primary aim of the stewards is to make you sit down and shut up it doesn?t really lend itself to a good atmosphere. Those of you over 30 will know what I?m talking about if you had the good fortune to stand up at a Manchester derby. Take yourself back to the bad old days, as most PC journalists will tell you, of the 70?s and 80?s. Stadiums may have been ramshackle, as opposed to today, but terracing lent itself to larger capacities, and consequently, larger away allocations. It was perfectly natural for each derby to have 10-12,000 away supporters officially allocated. The supporters stood and made a noise, sacrilege to today?s football planners.

As well as reduced away allocations and all seating stadiums however, is the part played by the state of the modern game. United?s 20 something support just doesn?t care for a Manchester derby as it does its games against Arsenal and Chelsea. (It used to be Liverpool and may well be again when they become a threat). They may spend 90 minutes of every game singing of City but they just haven?t been brought up on a diet of meaningful Manchester derbies. Nor for that matter has City?s younger support. Of course the vitriol is still there but there is little in the way of recent history between the two clubs. Add this together with the new and improved sanitisation of football and perhaps it becomes understandable why the atmosphere of old is lacking.

These are the warning signs that football should be taking on board but are failing to see because of their greed and arrogance. When a Manchester derby fails to reach levels of passion of years gone by, and is even at this late stage not a sell out, then football is in trouble. Those of a certain vintage, from both sides of the divide, know what tomorrow is about, I?m not sure many younger supporters do.