PAT BALDWIN: We all love local derbies – a good job really
It's 10.10pm on Wednesday and I'm sat looking blankly at my computer screen, desperately searching my brain for something interesting to talk about for my first column, writes Exeter City defender Pat Baldwin
As I'm sat thinking, I receive a text from my brother saying: "Tesco ran out of burgers today but said they were expecting a delivery at 10-1."
A very bad joke about horse racing, I'll agree, but the story only broke on Wednesday morning about Tesco's horse-meat burgers yet it amazes me how my brother sends me jokes within hours of any major incident happening.
I've learnt my lesson. My phone is now switched off but you will have to forgive me for still struggling as I have just sat through a good couple of hours of tax organising as I'm late in handing in my self assessment form. Whoever said life as a footballer is dull?
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I am yet to tell any of the lads in the changing room about my column so they will find out when they read it. I have no doubts I will be in for some serious ribbing from certain quarters (namely the Bristol contingent) but I am certainly ugly enough to handle it.
In recent weeks the main theme for us has been playing in local derbies. We played Plymouth a few weeks ago, Torquay on Tuesday night, should have been at Bristol Rovers today and Torquay again the following week. I have never known a club to have so many local derbies.
A common question you often get asked in interviews is: "How much does this game mean to you and your team-mates?" or "Will you try that little bit harder against them?" I often think to myself that these are stupid questions as you should always try your best in every game you play, but in local derbies you invariably find that little bit extra for some reason.
I guess the atmosphere generated by the fans has a lot to do with it. The atmosphere at home to Plymouth was fantastic and again at Torquay. When the Grecians' faithful really get behind us, it makes a massive difference.
When people ask me about Exeter City I tell them about how different the feel is around the place from any club I've played for. The fans seem to have a unique love for Exeter that you can't help but get swept up in.
Seeing first-hand all the people that run the club, mostly on a volunteer basis, really does make you want to achieve something here.
Getting back to local derbies, I have been lucky enough to play in a few. Being at Colchester, for the most part of my career to date, has enabled me to play against Southend and Ipswich. Tackles do seem to be that little bit harder and the atmosphere that little bit more electric.
They are the type of games that remind you why you love playing the game so much.
As much as you try not to be, as a player, you are very aware of how important local derbies are to fans. It means everything. I only need to look at my two brothers, who are big West Ham fans, whenever the word Millwall is mentioned. Veins in necks start popping through anger and you need to leave them for five minutes to calm down.
Local rivalry brings out, for most parts, the best in supporters I think. How better can life get when you beat your biggest rivals? You walk ten feet tall into work with a big spring in your step and you get to have bragging rights until the next derby game comes around. Football, even life to some, does not get any better!
In the coming weeks I will try to give you an insight into dressing room life as best I can without getting myself into trouble – or without Deep Heat ever touching my underwear!
You know who you are Danny Coles...