THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

9 November ~ You wait eight years for a Devon derby with your hated rivals, and then the Johnstone's Paint Trophy – a competition neither side would ordinarily be concerned about – gives the two teams an extra match for good measure. Exeter City and Plymouth Argyle last met back in 2002 in very different circumstances. The Grecians were perennial strugglers at this point, where a good season constituted wins against their local rivals and not getting relegated. Plymouth, under Paul Sturrock, were very much a team on the up and romped to the Division Three title that year with two games to spare.

The following year, City tumbled out of the league and came close to extinction, while the Pilgrims continued their ascent up the football pyramid. Since then, the two clubs' fortunes have almost come full circle. Exeter stabilised after an FA Cup draw against Manchester United and achieved back-to-back promotions under Paul Tisdale, while Argyle first flirted with the Championship play-offs before dropping out of the second tier last season with mounting debts and surrounded by continual rumours of administration.

The Devon derby might not be as high-profile as the recent Midlands or Tyne-Wear derbies, but the dislike between both sets of fans is just as strong and it's typically the Grecians who, over the years, have come off worse, with a few exceptions – most notably the late Alan Ball doing the double over Plymouth in 1991. And, with Plymouth struggling to adapt to League One under Peter Reid, while Exeter were recently talking themselves up as an outside bet for the play-offs, it's understandable that City fans believe this could be their year.

But these could be the most competitive games between the two for a good few seasons to come. If Plymouth's financial problems catch up with them or the Pilgrims get relegated, it would leave the Grecians bereft of a local rivalry once more (neither Yeovil nor Bristol Rovers have much in the way of history with Exeter). And while it's always fun to revel in beating your hated rivals at their lowest ebb, part of it feels a bit like a large group of schoolchildren ganging up on the kid nobody liked anyway – nobody has any qualms about doing so, but it leaves you feeling slightly hollow afterwards.

Given Exeter's own recent near-demise, it's hopefully not too much to ask for a bit of solidarity when it comes to off-the-field problems. After all, there's nothing quite as satisfying as a derby victory when the two sides are evenly matched, while there's no point in having a rivalry if one team ends up going out of business. Gloating is best reserved for battles on the pitch. Gary Andrews

Comments (9)
Comment by Jonny_Bananas 2010-11-09 12:35:53

Having lived in both cities for a time, I can assure people that there is very little love lost between the two clubs. Exeter fans feel they are forgotten about by the regional media whilst Argyle hog all the coverage and Plymouth, constantly talked of as a 'sleeping giant' with a huge fan base, constantly fail to live up to those expectations. Incidentally, I remember going to an FA Cup tie at St James's Park between Exeter and Bristol Rovers in the late 90s and, judging by the scenes in the city centre afterwards, there IS plenty of history between Grecians and Pirates.

Comment by Greenlander 2010-11-09 12:57:18

It was the 1992/3 season when Exeter did the double under Alan Ball. Most Argyle fans of that vintage still bear the scars of the 3-0 at Home Park.

11 competitive games between the two since Exeter last tasted victory.

Don't expect that run to be extended much further.

Comment by super furry dice 2010-11-09 18:13:41

As a Plymouthian I'll always feel honour bound to question whether or not Bristol is in the West Country. Assuming that it is I'm firmly of the view that the only West Country derby is City v Rovers. There's plenty of Argyle, City and United fans who only dislike one of the other sides but which team that is varies wildly. I worked with Argyle fans who grew up when Torquay had a brief stint in the old Div 3 at the turn of the 70s and they hated them whilst being totally indifferent about City.

Me? Well given I'm of the generation who had a spell when our nearest league opposition was West Bromich Albion so my real dislikes are for sides that have really damaged us. Of course that's most teams but for those reasons Burnley are my most despised.

Having worked in Devonport Dockyard for 8 years then for me the nearest Argyle have ever had to a proper banter based, bragging rights at stake derby (which is were Bristol City v Rovers gets my nod) were the games we played against Gillingham and Pompey. I worked with plenty of fans from those sides, I've never worked with a City or United fan. There'll be no one waiting to mock me tomorrow as there used to be when we played either of the marmites.

All of that said if Argyle and City end up playing each other for a few seasons like we did at the turn of the century then the game will assume meaning if only 'cos there'll be little else for either side to get worked up about. I share Greenlanders view that Argyle's run of derby dominance is about to end and that'll probably be tonight. Still new Wembley looks like an office block so who really wants a day out there anyway?

Comment by Liffrok 2010-11-10 14:48:47

Let's pretend that yesterday didn't happen.

Comment by El_Guapo 2010-11-11 00:36:52

@super furry dice - not your big derby match, playing little old us? No bragging rights at stake?

Seemed to me that you GAWs were pretty worked up over it last night, a very ugly minority were far too 'up for it'. Just like when you play Gillingham, eh? Seems like you (along with this lot http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-11724388) need your head checked.

One team in Devon. UTC. We own our football club xx

Comment by super furry dice 2010-11-11 08:44:10

I clearly said in the opening para that to who the supporters of each club choose to hate does vary. There are clearly people in Exeter and Plymouth who hate each other most but there's plenty of fans of either club - myself included - who don't. That's just how it is. And no amount of people like you getting worked up over people like me just not being that bothered is going to change that. Sorry, and sadly, its Plymouth v Exeter and short of a few people in Newton Abbot who quite probably do work or live near fans of either team it will never have the proper banter appeal of a Bristol City v Rovers clash.

And, yeah, when faced with going to work with Gillingham or Pompey fans who could spend weeks winning the verbal bragging stakes if they beat Argyle then defeat to them was more painful.

Given that the tone of your post suggests that I look at your club as “little old Exeter” (something that having re-read what I posted I honestly struggle to know how you’ve read it that way)… Believe me I'm under no illusion about my painfully average team now and never have been. And as for the current shambles we are where we currently are because we've been appallingly managed off the pitch since Peter Jones and Michael Foot left the board. Frankly our support needs to show the spirit that yours did over John Russell.

Comment by El_Guapo 2010-11-11 13:09:21

@Super Furry Dice - fair play, Sir, you seem to be more sussed then many of your Green and White associates. Apologies for my defensive post (I did misread your intended point), but over the last few years the overwhelming attitude prevailing from Gnome Park has been one of ignorance towards our club and belief from many in Plymouth that we would never play you again, but the truth is that football is a cyclical beast (for lower league clubs such us Argyle & City) and our resurgence highlights the fact that you shouldn't delight too much in another clubs misery, as things can change pretty quickly.

When do you think there will be some sort of organised stand against your current owners? I fear for the situation you are in - the separate holding company for the stadium, a disinterested foreign owner, over reliance on the World Cup Bid (and I wouldn't have thought the trouble on Tuesday night would have done you any favours in that department) etc, it all stinks. As much as it is in my blood to hate everything Green and White, I would never wish you to go through the turmoil that we did in 2003.

With regard to there not being much 'banter' in the rivalry, as few Grecians and GAWs mix in 'real' life, I'd tend to agree. I also think that this adds fuel to the fire for violence to erupt on nights such as Tuesday - Brizzle Rovers & Brizzle City supporters have to live and work amongst each other, so tolerance is greater by necessity, as is the realisation that not all of the rival fans are 'scum', but are, in the main, decent football supporters. For our support, not having much first hand experience of Argyle supporters outside of the Devon Derbies, the overwhelming impression we get is from the 'Zoo Corner' in Gnome Park, who I'm sure you agree really are scummy knuckle-draggers.

Comment by Greenlander 2010-11-11 13:49:28

@El_Gaupo - I'm with you on the cyclical nature of football and even when the unprecedented two division gap opened up between us knew enough about the nature of Argyle to know we'd be back down again within a few seasons. Even the speed of our reaquaintance doesn't surprise.

The general feeling around HP at present is apathy with fans deserting the club in droves. The motivation to rise up against the New World (as they so snappily name themselves) seems almost non-existant.

It's hard to believe that the club made a profit of £1million just 5 years back, but an inverse relationship of slowly edging up the championship saw attendances fall and the money dry up. The previous board made much of being 'run by the fans for the fans' yet when further investment was offered by wealthy Argyle fans they chose to reject the offer. Why they saw the foreign group as the way forward is beyond anyone. Being chairman of Plymouth Argyle, like Exeter City, should be one of a custodian, keeping it safe in your care until your time passes. Well the previous chairman failed and the blame for the malaise should rest squarely with him.

I have nothing but contempt for the actions of the Zoo Corner both inside and outside HP on Tuesday. The 'enemy' never has been and never will be Exeter City, it's the people who sold us out and put their pockets over their club.

Comment by super furry dice 2010-11-21 21:59:07

A belated reply but mainly because greenlander said as much as needed to re: our speedy demise. It looks like the groundswell of support that is still bothered is finally waking up to what's going on and I think the majority of our support now wants anyone but England in 2018. Protest are being talked about and I think if Dagenham become (I think) the 31st team in 62 home games to win at Home Park it could be the tipping point for everyone to act. If they do then I will drive down the m5/a38 to join in, otherwise and 'til Stapleton and his ground robbing chums have left our board I'm going no way near. They don't deserve my cash.

As for Zoo Corner I think that along with those that ripped seats out of the away end its the product of a handful of pathetic forum raiders who seem unable to do anything deeper than mock either excretia or swilly. As a PL2 the latter always annoys because I just think poverty ain't something to mock but the use of excretia is equally, well, shite.

I've also seen the "You'll never play us again" t-shirts and to be fair, they were due given the singing at the 3-0 in 2002. And if you do venture west in December then here's hoping both sets of fans are belting out y viva espana or attempting to yell out the tune of flight of the bumblebee :-)

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