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The Significance of the Melbourne Derby

What makes the Melbourne derby a special occasion? We asked two former players – Archie Thompson of Victory, and Matt Thompson of Heart/City for their memories in the build-up to the big day on Saturday.As told to Simon Hill

ARCHIE THOMPSON (6 goals in 15 derbies for Victory)

On the derby’s early days…

“We were pretty lucky that we had Melbourne to ourselves before the derby, so it added something for us as players. Whether you played in the old NSL or overseas, the hometown rivalries added something different. It then built up over time because of the clashes we had. I think Heart won the first one, and for them it was bringing in the fans that didn’t like us. So, it resonated immediately for the supporters. Throw in a bit of the trash talking from the players, and it built organically over time. Initially, Heart had nothing, they hadn’t built anything. Now City have had success and taken a bit of the shine away from Victory, so the Victory fans want us to do a number on City – it used to be the other way round”

On the first meeting – Melbourne Heart 2-1 Melbourne Victory, October 8th, 2010…

“I missed the first derby – I was injured – but I was in the stands, jumping around. The way the game played out made it more exciting. Maybe if the result had been different, it might have taken the sting out of it a bit. They were riding off it. The rivalry might have taken longer had Victory won it”

On his shirt-fronting of a Heart fan in the stands after scoring the late winner for Victory in a 2-1 win in December, 2012…

“It was just spur of the moment. When you run along the sidelines and someone catches your eye – plus, he might have had the finger up at me! He was pointing at the linesman on the other side, so I turned around to look, but I wasn’t offside…so I went right back up in his face. A few years later, I saw him again in Ballarat – he asked if I remembered him and said he was the guy who’d stuck his finger up at me. We actually had a photo taken together. Some young boys made a tee shirt of the moment – and the guy bought one – he sent me a private message on Instagram and said look what I got! That was after I’d seen him in Ballarat. That’s what I love about football. I think he might be a Western United fan now though, so he’s not loyal – haha!”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 22: Archie Thompson of the Victory is challenged by Josip Tadic of the Heart during the round 12 A-League match between the Melbourne Heart and the Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on December 22, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

On whether the rivalry with City is Victory’s biggest…

“For me, it was the games against Sydney or Adelaide that were very much the ones that we wanted to win. But I haven’t played the games more recently, in the era in which City have been successful, so it might be different now for the players. In my day, Sydney were the ones that looked like the team who got given a lot of stuff – they were like the “Galacticos” of the A-League in that first season. Adelaide resonated too, because they were just tough games – the characters in that team made it so. Michael Valkanis, Robbie Cornthwaite, Sasa Ognenovski, Scott Jamieson, Ross Aloisi – they were hardened men that you don’t see so much in the A-League now”

General memories of the derby…

“Scott Galloway plays for City now – but when he made his debut for Victory in the A-League, it was against Heart at the Etihad. There were 40,000 there, and I could see that he was nervous. To try and break the ice I said ‘mate – it’s your debut, there’s 40,000 people out there, so don’t f*** it up!’ I ran with it and then pulled back…just told him to have some fun. I think we ended up winning, so that sticks in my mind. My toughest derby opponent? Probably Paddy Kisnorbo. He was one of the hardest men in the competition around that time. If we lost a derby? I tried not to wander around Melbourne just in case in the days after, but I didn’t dwell on things too much”

Who wins on Saturday?

“My heart wants to stick with Victory, but my head says City…they have had a good rest, and they’ve got all their players back. Victory have had a tough game in Japan against Vissel Kobe during the week. I’m worried about the flight, the recuperation. If they had a week’s rest, it’d be harder to pick. But bloody hell – what a game it’s going to be!”

MATT THOMPSON (2 goals in 8 derbies for Heart/City)

On the build-up to the first derby in 2010…

“I got the impression that we could lose every game, but so long as we beat the Victory it would be ok. In the build-up to that initial season, nearly every interview was focused on the games we were going to play against them, and how important it was for us to get one over on the neighbours – especially as they were the biggest club in the competition. So, that first date was on everyone’s calendar”

On the difference between the F3 and Melbourne derbies…

“The F3 derby was completely different. With the Mariners and the Jets, I was mates with a lot of their players, so it was more of a sibling rivalry. I lived with (then Mariners defender), Paul O’Grady for six months in The Entrance, so I was actually based on the Central Coast. I was good mates with Dean Heffernan too, as a lot of us had gone north from Sydney. So going for a coffee, I probably had more catch-ups with their players than my Jets team-mates. It was like you were playing your brother. But with Melbourne, it was different. I didn’t know them. You had no option but to dislike them – it wasn’t personal, but that was the way it was”

On his role in that inaugural Melbourne derby…

“I don’t remember a lot about what John Van’t Schip said pre-game – but he was pretty calm with everything. It was the Melburnians that were more fired up – he was just about playing well. I was playing as a stopper, and I hadn’t played there that long. I had never concentrated so hard in a position in my life…I hadn’t figured it out yet, so it was mentally draining. I marked Ricardinho, who was always behind me. He was looking to be clever off the shoulder with his movement. I also remember, they scored a quick free kick through Robbie Kruse via Musky – and we’d spoken about this all week. When the whistle blew for the set piece, all of us said ‘quick free-kick’ – and yet they still scored. We all looked at each other and were like, what the hell?!”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 08: John Aloisi of the Heart celebrates a goal during the round nine A-League match between the Melbourne Heart and the Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on October 8, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Lucas Dawson/Getty Images)

On that first-ever derby goal, scored by John Aloisi…

“I remember when JA scored, I celebrated like never before. It was huge – it was like I had scored it myself. At that moment it was like, we are a chance! We are the little brother and we can win it. Within the space of ninety minutes, all of a sudden there were two quality clubs in Melbourne. If we had lost – everyone would have said, this new franchise might not work, why did they do it?”

On his two goals in the 3-2 win over Victory on December 23rd, 2011…

“Archie (Thompson) scored with a lob on 21 minutes, but I had the chance to do something similar about three minutes earlier, and I did a complete air swing! I remember Leigh Broxham running back for the restart after the goal, and he said to me, ‘that’s how you do it!’ But then I got lucky enough to score ten minutes or so later – so I went up to Broxy and said, ‘no, that’s how you do it!’ There was more adrenaline behind those goals – because you’re playing against Victory. You score one, but it feels like you have scored two”

General memories of the derbies…

“I look at the circumstances behind it too. I was older at Heart. At the Jets it was different – I was younger. At our first Heart lunch, I felt like I was in the national team. I was sat there beside Josip Skoko, Clint Bolton, John Aloisi, Simon Colosimo – I was like, what am I doing here? I felt a bit overwhelmed by it. But I took that into every game – I had to try and learn, and be the best I could”

Toughest opponent in the derby…

“I have to say Archie (Thompson) – we all knew that he could do nothing the whole game, but he only needed half an opportunity. He could be dangerous from nothing. As a midfielder (mainly), I was someone he was looking to run past, so he was always someone we had to watch. Carlos (Hernandez) didn’t move a lot – but he was clever on the ball”

Who wins on Saturday?

“I know Victory have done better this year than last – but it’s hard to go past City. I was a part of it in the past, so I’ll stick with City”.

Watch the Melbourne Derby live and free on 10 play with kick off at 7:45pm AEDT on Saturday night

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