Wednesday, 16 April 2008
THE GOAL THAT NEVER WAS
It isn't often that the crowd makes the most notable contribution to a football match - at least, not in a positive way. I was at Pride Park on Saturday, covering Derby County v Aston Villa for Setanta, when the Derby fans came up with a stroke of imagination that would have impressed J K Rowling. Fed up with seeing not a single win since September, and equally frustrated that their team was now losing 0-4 midway through the second half, they decided to celebrate an imaginary goal. How they arranged this I don't know, but all of a sudden, as one, thousands of Derby fans leapt out of their seats, cheering and shouting, dancing, and generally acting as if their team had just scored the winning goal in the Cup Final. It was one of those surreal moments you see at football grounds on the last day of the season, when news comes in from elsewhere that the team's rivals in the promotion race have conceded a goal. In the press box we were all wondering what we had missed, while the Villa fans were dumbfounded for the first time in the match. After a few moments, the Villa support begain enquiring: "What the f***ing hell was that?" To which the Derby faithful responded: "You're not singing any more!" Which was plainly untrue, but it is what they would have sung if they had indeed scored a goal. At this point the Villa fans got the joke and chanted back: "Stand up for the Derby boys." Brilliant performance by both sets of fans - and it underlined the amazing fortitude of the Derby crowd, who again packed a sold-out stadium despite the team's relegation being confirmed.