There was some dispute as to whether today’s 0-0 draw with Wycombe was a derby or not. With my, perhaps too literal head on; I think it is. After all Oxford to Wycombe is 30 miles compared with traditional rivals Swindon (also 30 miles) and Reading (42).
Apparently there’s a Football Rivals Index, I’ve read the report from 2008 and we’re not mentioned once. In fact, Macclesfield v Stockport makes the grade above us. Suspicion about its validity is raised immediately due to the cover featuring West Brom and Wolves mascots arm in arm drinking champagne and not trying to cut each others’ throats out.
The index reassuringly uses a ‘complex formula’ based on a series of arbitrary criteria to measure the derby-ness of any derby. Interesting that although the report says that the rivalries must go deeper than the game itself the index doesn’t measure sectarian or class tension.
The first criteria – the feelings of the supporters – would suggest that the Oxford/Wycombe fixture does not have much derby-ness. Oxford looks towards Wiltshire and Berkshire, Wycombe fans’ heads are turned by Colchester, of all people.
However, the record between the clubs is considered another factor. Although we’ve clearly met many more times in the past, the truth is we haven’t played Swindon or Reading for a decade in the league and have only met them occasionally in the cup during that time. Wycombe, we’ve met 6 times in the same period.
Our record against Wycombe is pretty balanced. But so is our record against Reading. Against Swindon, however, we trail by some way. The inferiority complex is significant. We have, in the main, failed against Swindon. By pinning our frilly knickers to a yellow mast we’ve been proven to be wrong over and over again. It makes us more desperate to prove that our loyalties are rightly placed. The desperation is what breeds the rivalry.
The imbalance breeds a sense of injustice or, indeed, power. This is what gives a derby its greater purpose. Whether today’s game added to that required folklore is doubtful. But it was a highly satisfactory outcome. In the context of this season, it bodes well that we have now travelled to two well tipped teams, in pressurised circumstances, and came away with a point and clean sheet. Bring on you ‘ammers.