Imag­ined derby ha­tred can still flare up into ugly re­al­ity

Just what in­spired the 11 ar­rests and van­dal­ism as 4,000 Stoke fans fol­lowed their Un­der-21 side to Vale Park for the lit­tle­played

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport / Premier League -

Strange old game, the derby of the Pot­ter­ies. When this mys­te­ri­ous ri­valry was ig­nited on Tues­day night in the Check­a­trade Tro­phy, it had not been played for 16 years and, re­ally, when one checks the his­to­ries of Stoke City and Port Vale, it has, rel­a­tively speak­ing, sel­dom been played at all.

Be­tween 1887 and 2002, there were just 51 meet­ings of these two clubs, English foot­ball’s

El Ceram­ico, and no more un­til the Foot­ball League Tro­phy game this week when Stoke’s Un­der-21s lost 4-0 at Vale Park. There were 4,000 Stoke fans in the Hamil Road Stand that night and, in­deed, Port Vale could have sold more tick­ets to their lo­cal ri­vals had they wished to, although by yes­ter­day morn­ing they will have been glad they did not.

There were 11 ar­rests, lava­to­ries and win­dows smashed and Port Vale were fairly sure check­ing the dam­age that some­one had tried to start a fire in the stand, although it could have been con­nected to the smoke flares that the away sup­port also brought. At the very least, there will be much work for those trades­men rep­re­sented by the tro­phy spon­sor, although the wider ques­tion does beg it­self: what is it about these sel­dom-played der­bies that sees un­fa­mil­iar­ity breed such con­tempt?

It was the same on the south coast where Brighton faced Crys­tal Palace, an­other ac­tive ri­valry, the roots of which no one can quite agree upon, and 10 ar­rests were made. When West Ham played Mill­wall in the League Cup in 2009, the first east Lon­don derby in more than four years, there was a stab­bing and 54 sup­port­ers banned for life. An­other one of those ri­val­ries that is pros­e­cuted with a ma­ni­a­cal fer­vour that makes the Su­per Sun­day blue-riband derby events look tame.

There were seven ar­rests around the game at the north Lon­don derby on Sun­day, in­clud­ing the ba­nana skin episode, and, gen­er­ally speak­ing, any oc­ca­sions when the ar­rests reach dou­ble fig­ures stand out in the modern age be­cause of the ever-di­min­ish­ing oc­cur­rences of that be­hav­iour. In the Home Of­fice fig­ures re­leased for foot­ball-re­lated of­fences com­mit­ted last sea­son, the club with the most ar­rests were Birm­ing­ham City, and those were over the course of 51 games.

The num­ber of ar­rests at foot­ball matches has de­clined year on year for the past five sea­sons, with the to­tal for 2017-18 stand­ing at 1,485 out of an es­ti­mated 42 mil­lion vis­its to sta­di­ums over the course of the sea­son. It works out at 3.5 ar­rests per 100,000 match-go­ing fans, so when one looks at the smashed win­dows and bro­ken loos at Port Vale, it might be an em­bar­rass­ment to the Stone Is­land devo­tees of a new gen­er­a­tion but it is by no means rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a trend.

Ex­actly what was at play at Vale Park on Tues­day is not clear, be­tween two clubs who faced each other most reg­u­larly dur­ing the end of the last cen­tury when both were go­ing through rough patches – and one might ar­gue Port Vale are yet to emerge from theirs. The games be­tween the two from that era are less re­mem­bered for trou­ble and more for a 1992 FA Cup first-round re­play at Vale Park when the Stoke striker Dave Regis saw his goal­bound shot stop in a pud­dle.

Of­ten, when a well-sup­ported club such as Stoke drop out of the Premier League, their big away fol­low­ing is re­garded as a lu­cra­tive source of in­come for smaller clubs they might en­counter in league and cup games. Ste­ward­ing can of­ten be less thor­ough. Port Vale orig­i­nally con­sid­ered ac­com­mo­dat­ing the Stoke fans in the Rail­way Stand – tra­di­tion­ally for the home sup­port­ers – un­til there was a con­sid­er­able out­cry. Even so, by the time the gates were closed, the sta­dium ac­com­mo­dated the big­gest crowd of the sea­son, de­spite just three sides of Vale Park be­ing open.

As for the game it­self, the only player in the Stoke side with any con­nec­tion to the first team was goal­keeper Jakob Hau­gaard, who has been an un­used sub­sti­tute. The

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