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All involved at St James' Park must 'keep calm and carry on'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 15, 2012

StJamesPark_Pinnacle

St James Park. Photo: Pinnacle

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Everyone is aware of the phrase: "Keep calm and carry on." It was a propaganda poster produced by the British Government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the event of a Nazi invasion of the United Kingdom.

Today, some 73 years later, the slogan beneath a crown is again commonly used for all manner of things, with variants to the second part of the phrase commonly seen. And on the day Plymouth Argyle's "Green Army" invade the region's capital for an eagerly-awaited Devon derby, players and fans of both Exeter City and Argyle would be best advised to "keep calm and carry on" in the intense cauldron of derby combat.

Matches between Plymouth and Exeter are not for the faint hearted. Sadly, what should be a sporting and keenly contested affair between the two biggest footballing cities this side of Bristol have been spoiled by crowd trouble over the years, to the extent where families think again before deciding whether it is a safe place to take the children.

Today's game can only be watched by those on a database and known supporters of either club as Devon & Cornwall Police flex their muscles and do all they can to combat the threat of hooliganism.

It is a crying shame. For neutral football supporters in the Westcountry, it is a game with huge appeal. But unless they are on the database of either football club, or are prepared to go out of their way to register and purchase tickets, then realistically, today's encounter is only really available to a minority of people.

All-ticket games of this nature always have an impact on attendances and Exeter will do well to sell more than 7,000 tickets.

There are those that can't be bothered to go out of their way to purchase tickets and register on a database and the truth of the matter is that Exeter-Plymouth games never sell out. There are always tickets available and today is no exception.

History dictates the reasons why it is a all-ticket game and you can't blame Devon & Cornwall Police for insisting it is made so. They are the ones responsible for the safety of supporters outside of the stadium, especially those Plymouth fans travelling up from the other end of the region. The police want to make things as safe as possible and who can blame them when such hostility has been seen on both sides over the years?

The sad thing is that unless there is a considerable change in attitudes from supporters of both clubs, then these draconian measures are here to stay.

Three years ago, some Exeter fans genuinely feared for their lives on leaving Home Park after a last-minute Johnstone's Paint Trophy win, the first encounter between the two clubs in almost nine years.

Fireworks, rocks and all manner of things were thrown at them, while buses were smashed and cars vandalised. It was a frightening experience, especially for the generation of supporters attending their first such fixture.

Since then, both clubs have worked hard to improve relations between the two and, to an extent, it has been fruitful. Unfortunately, not to the extent where the all-ticket insistence of the police is relaxed and supporters can pay at the gate like they once used to.

Let's hope that today's match is remembered for all the right reasons. Derby games have a special place in sport and while football means so much to so many of us, it is only a game after all. So on a day when tension is sure to be high, remember what our ancestors were told back in 1939 in the face of a genuine storm: keep calm and carry on.

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