City must realise local pride and bragging rights are at stake
On the day of Exeter City's second Devon derby in the space of a week, you have to question some of the cliched comments coming out of the Grecians' camp this past fortnight.
Before the game with Plymouth Argyle, everyone connected to the club was playing down the significance of the game.
Whether it was on the advice of the local police or not, to minimise the threat of trouble, is unclear, but to suggest that the game was "just another game" and "only another three points" was way, way off the mark. The same is being said ahead of today's trip to Torquay United.
The Plymouth players certainly seemed more aware of its importance and knew what a result would mean to their supporters, judging by their words in the build-up, and the talk from the Gulls' nest is similar. They are not shy in stating that they want to beat the Grecians.
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Quite simply, these games are not "just another game". It was Argyle. Today is Torquay. It is a derby and the Exeter fans need to see that extra little bit from those wearing the shirt against their closest rivals.
That is not to suggest the players throw themselves into reckless tackles, but it would be nice to see them working as hard as Plymouth did when the Pilgrims did not have the ball last week.
In terms of the league, then, yes, the reward for a win is the same: three points. But a win against your local rivals means so much more than success against Wimbledon or Fleetwood, for instance.
Local bragging rights and pride are at stake, which makes a derby game no ordinary fixture.
If the Exeter team genuinely went into last Saturday's game against Plymouth thinking it was an ordinary game, then it was a huge error to send them out for battle with that mindset. At times, it looked like it because, over the course of 90 minutes, City did not play well.
They were up against a poor Argyle team, one of the worst in their history, and this was a great chance for Exeter to gain some sort of revenge for the derby beatings suffered during the 1990s and early noughties. Perhaps those on the footballing side, many of whom do not live in the city, are unaware just how much it really means to the club and its supporters.
Argyle were always going to disrupt Exeter from the rhythm of their game and be in the players' faces. Why?
Because that's what happens in derby games. It's more often than not a battle of attrition than footballing theatre.
It was always going to be a game where space would be at a premium and players would have no time on the ball. Unless you were wearing green, it seemed, with Exeter gifting Argyle far too much space to play in, especially in the second half.
It was equally important to stay disciplined, which City were, but also to be competitive, without being reckless.
After the game, I heard it said that Argyle "wanted it more", another oft-used cliche. I don't believe for a second that 11 footballers ever want to win a game more than the opposition, certainly in derby combat. But the approach and the way a game is played can often portray a team that seems more "up for it" than the other.
Last week, for instance, the Exeter players wanted to win, I have no doubt. But they were second to most second balls, slow to close down and, it might be said, a yard or so off the pace.
With Argyle in their faces, harrying and closing down with urgency, it came across that the Pilgrims "wanted it more".
Today, City face Torquay, who, just like Argyle, will be more than up for the game. Just read the words of Lee Mansell in today's WMN, who certainly has an added incentive.
Tickets have sold well for this game, there will be a bigger crowd than usual and the Grecians will be cheered on by 1,500 travelling supporters, which should create a good atmosphere. So please don't kid me that this is just another game and another three points, because it's not.
It's a Devon derby, the fans want to get one over on their nearest and dearest, whether it be Torquay or Argyle. Hopefully City will learn the lessons from last week and realise that it is not just three points at stake, but local pride and bragging rights as well.