In a short while, a football match kicks off between two clubs neither of which should exist. Most neutral fans, including myself will be rooting for the League 2 side against a team most commonly known as Franchise FC.
On the Crystal Palace messageboards (the catchment areas of Palace and AFCW intertwine a little so their views are slightly more rooted in reality than the romantic view of the plucky Dons) people have been a little more ambivalent. You’ll find plenty of coverage elsewhere but here are some unjoined-up thoughts:
- Yesterday was derby day in the Championship. Palace vs. Brighton*, Millwall vs. Charlton, Leicester vs. Derby, Huddersfield vs. Leeds. Each of these fixtures is steeped in history and tradition, not all of which is positive or sanitised, but which is, however, real
- This game cannot be a derby day. Both Milton Keynes and AFC Wimbledon are clubs born out of violence. Not physical violence of course (which has been known at some of the fixtures above) but violence none the less
- Both clubs have attempted to deal with the fixture; each has done so awkwardly
- Karl Robinson’s statements about dancing with excitement at the prospect of the fixture, and about ‘respecting’ AFCW for having less money, were ridiculous at best
- For AFCW, a bigger danger comes from defining themselves only by the emotional crimes committed against them. The media (which is by and large in their favour) don’t help them – they encourage this – but their achievements should by now speak for themselves. They will need at some point to create a positive self-image
- AFCW are preachy, pious and not always unhypocritical (it can be argued that they trampled over smaller sides in their reach for the Football League). However, if you want a really tendentious, inaccurate, self-serving, illogical, special-pleading version of events, try what is served up by the MK Dons Supporters Association
- In the interests of balance, here’s a piece from the MooCamp (Franchise and Proud): defiant and graceful. And a slightly less graceful piece from the same site
- Finally, a small point about rivalry. For most of the last few decades I have wanted Palace’s real rivals, Brighton, to be promoted. That’s because they have been in a lower division than us. There’s no pleasure in rivals if you can’t play them and beat them. The majority of Wimbledon fans (and I suspect a sizeable number of MK fans, despite the comments of their manager) will not have wanted this fixture. These clubs, born in unhappy circumstances, are not rivals.
* In the further interests of balance I should remind you the result of this game, a proper derby:
Palace 3 (Murray 2 (1 pen), Garvan pen), Brighton 0
Thanks for your comment Chris. Surely a rivalry exists where both sides agree that it does? Charlton loathe Palace but most Palace fans don’t really care about them. The Palace/Brighton rivalry is accepted by both sides, even if geography means – to your point – that families and workplaces aren’t divided. Interestingly, Brighton fans at North Stand Chat have been discussing whether Crawley or Southampton would be more suitable rivals, but the consensus seems to be against change. Though I agree that it’s only a matter of time before Brighton are back down in the same division as Crawley!
Brighton have had no rival of their own, so created a phoney rivalry with Palace as they were the nearest team to them. A real rivalry is one where school frends, workmates and even families can have split allegences. This is common in Cities and neighbouring towns, but in this case in reality it is probably restricted to a couple of hundred Sussex based Palace fans. The time is surely near where we will see Brighton and Crawley Town in the same division and a real rivalry can be established!