Anton Rippon: Pre-match build-up was great – pity about the game
LAST Saturday, as ever, I enjoyed my pre-match walk around the outside of Pride Park. The chatter of supporters heading for the turnstiles, the shouts of programme sellers and other vendors, the smell of hotdogs – vegetarians can still inhale – it added up to that age-old atmosphere around any big sports stadium.
Whether it's a snappy winter's afternoon in Derby, or a balmy summer's evening outside Fenway Park as fans flock to watch the Boston Red Sox, it is the same. The smells and the sounds of Championship football or Major League baseball – the day is more than simply what happens on the field.
The only blot on my "match-day experience" last week was the football I'd paid to see. Derby and Wolves produced a game that, if it lives long in the memory at all, will be for the wrong reasons.
Still, I enjoyed seeing people who, after 15 years of ups and downs at Pride Park, have become my friends – for forging bonds there's nothing like sharing adversity – just as I enjoyed seeing faces familiar from those Baseball Ground days, memories of which we still treasure.
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As we filed out at the final whistle, one pal muttered: "To think, I could have been nice and warm this afternoon, wandering around Westfield with the wife." I think he was only half-joking.
Are we simply expecting too much? Are Bristol City or Peterborough United supporters as despondent as us? I should imagine more so. And if we become really depressed, then we can always think about what is happening at Nottingham Forest these days (stop laughing at the back).
On the bus home there was criticism that Derby's squad is desperately thin. One supporter pointed out that the Wolves squad printed in that day's match programme was one-third bigger than that of the Rams. So what? Wolves are haunted by the threat of relegation, whereas Derby are at least cloaked in mid-table mediocrity.
What would he rather have? Well, some else altogether, of course. But that's for daydreams.
My interview with former Rams star turned into a real dogfight
THE other day, someone mentioned Dai Astley and it reminded me of the time I went to interview the former Rams and Wales forward at his home near Margate, for a radio series I was working on to mark Derby County's centenary season of 1984-85.
Astley was a good host that afternoon, contributing a fund of memories. Not least that he didn't want to leave Derby when, in January 1939, manager George Jobey told him that he must be transferred to Blackpool.
After joining the Rams from Aston Villa in November 1936, Astley scored 49 goals in 98 appearances. His first club, Charlton Athletic, had wanted to re-sign him from Villa but the number of international players then on Derby's books attracted the Welshman to the Baseball Ground. Indeed, on two occasions he was part of an all-international Rams forward line.
After his playing days were over, he coached several foreign clubs including Inter Milan, so he had some great stories to relate.
But my main recollection of that interview was conducting it while trying to keep apart the Astleys' two dogs. As the tape machine recorded our conversation, the smaller dog took a dislike to the larger one. It took skilful editing on the part of BBC producer Ashley Franklin to remove much canine growling and snapping.
Come to think of it, I'd had a similar problem with goalkeeper Ken Oxford's parrot. Again, Ashley was equal to the challenge.