Derby is a teeming, busy city in the centre of England. A place steeped in sporting history, owing to the exploits of the Derbyshire County Cricket Club and, of course, Derby County Football Club, the city’s people live for days like the East Midlands derby.
In the shadow of the cathedral in the city centre, those not lucky enough to get a prized ticket for the battle against Nottingham Forest at Pride Park on Sunday came together in the local pubs to watch their side win 2-0.
The city centre never seems to be quiet or sparsely populated; it is a sea of white Derby home shirts, mixed with representatives of some of the biggest teams in the country – and this weekend, the red of Forest.
But as a one club city, the signs of how much passion there is in Derby for its football club is very prevalent. Posters around the city bare photos of Derby’s stars, such as Richard Keogh, Tom Huddlestone and Curtis Davies and manager Gary Rowett, market sellers gather near the city’s shopping centre to sell memorabilia such as badges and scarves, and conversation everywhere, from the queues in the takeaways to the organised chaos at the train station, comes back to football.
The journey to Pride Park takes fans away from the centre of Derby to the outside of town. With nearby hotels, shops and a velodrome, a teeming metropolis can be seen over the horizon from the road leading to the ground, and every week, the large Rams flags are coupled with the sounds of chants that bellow on the walk through the car park to the stadium itself.
The front entrance is a striking large window with a dominating badge mural that oversees the hoards of excited fans entering the ground. Pride Park, which is celebrating its 20th birthday this year, is a Premier League-quality stadium playing host to Championship fixtures. Inside it is luxuriously modern, and the sounds of the devoted Derby following’s favourite songs echo beautifully.
As is often the way in English domestic football, Derby’s fans are notoriously passionate – especially on derby day. The fixture against Forest is a tie famous in English football folklore. Of course Brian Clough who, with the help of Peter Taylor, guided Derby to Division One success immediately after earning promotion from Division Two before leading to Forest to two European Cup successes later in his career remains as one of the most symbolic figures of the tie. The two cities are linked by Brian Clough way.
These days, though, the fixture is played in the Championship. Derby began Sunday, albeit with two games in hand over much of their league opposition, in 17th place. Their win saw them climb the table, and, happily for the fans, overtake Mark Warburton’s Forest whilst moving closer to the prized play-off spots.
Matej Vydra’s goal inside the first 30 seconds, before David Nugent added another early in the second half for his third goal of the season, calmed Derby’s nerves after Forest laid siege to their goal for almost the entirety of the first period.
Both Nottingham and Derby are packed, vibrant and diverse student cities with busy night scenes and tourist areas – but only one side of Brian Clough way will be celebrating tonight. For all neutrals that we were watching, it was a superb advert for Championship football.