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Saturday, 25 October 2014, 15:00

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Public enemies

skysports.com is going to get inside the minds of the players this season.

Last Updated: 25/09/13 at 12:23 Post Comment

As well as a weekly blog from Crystal Palace striker Kevin Phillips, we will also be speaking to three seasoned campaigners in the Football League.

On-loan Millwall midfielder Shaun Derry, Preston frontman Kevin Davies and Plymouth defender Guy Branston - who all appear on Sky Sports News Radio's Football League Hour - will be chatting to us about all manner of footballing issues.

This weekend's Premier League action includes two derbies live on Sky Sports starting with the West London clash between Chelsea and Fulham on Saturday Night Football and then mouth-watering prospect of the first Manchester derby of the season which is live on Super Sunday.

With local rivalries and dangerous derbies in mind, we asked our Football League panel about their experiences of facing the enemy...

SHAUN DERRY

I was never fortunate enough to play in a south coast derby when I was at Portsmouth because when I was there it didn't coincide with Southampton being in the same league. I missed out on a Sheffield derby when I was at Sheffield United, so I would say that it's the London derbies that stick out in my mind as the best.

Obviously during my time at Crystal Palace we played against my current club Millwall - that was an exciting derby. Then there was also my time at QPR, playing against the London teams. Wherever you're situated throughout the country, whatever team you support, whatever team you play for - there's no other game in the league that is as hostile and means as much to the fans as your local derby. It's the standout game in the competitive season.

It helps if you live within the local area. As a player if you live in the area and in close proximity of either the stadium or the training ground and you're mixing with both sets of fans when you go down the high street for a coffee - that week leading up to the game you seem to get a lot more people stop you in the street and tell you their expectations in no uncertain terms!

But also as a player, form goes right out the window; regardless of how you're doing in the league or how you're doing individually. Sometimes I've been at clubs where it means more to win the local derby than where you finish in the league! It's a strange thing when you think that you play 46 games in a season, but everyone just remembers when you play the local rivals.

I've watched a Millwall derby against West Ham and the hostility in those games is quite frightening. We're not going to meet them this year, but we're looking forward to playing QPR and the Charlton game this Saturday. The win against top of the table Blackpool on Tuesday has given us real confidence, because before that our results were poor. We'll go in to Saturday's derby believing we can win - both clubs will be really looking forward to the game and so am I - it will be fantastic!

GUY BRANSTON

I think the biggest derby I've played in was Plymouth v Exeter last season. It was a massive as we had to win to stay up. There was a huge crowd and the whole of Devon was looking at that game. Exeter brought a big following away from home and I think there was a good 13,500 fans there which is huge for a game on a Saturday afternoon in League Two.

The fans play a massive part in a local derby and if no one turned up it would still be a local derby, but it wouldn't have that fierce atmosphere when you come out, with the away fans behind your back shouting and swearing at you. You feel it as you lead out the tunnel and the crowd are going mad at seeing the heroes and idols come on the pitch - it's a beautiful occasion. The nervousness and the apprehension should be building through the week as normal and once you get out there, there should be that added incentive to really stamp your authority on the game in your area.

I'm a big believer in playing the game rather than the occasion. You can set yourself up for it being a big game and it can be the worst game you've ever played in, so just play the game. The occasion is more for than fans than the player, because you're out there to do your job - to get three points

We will go in to the Exeter match on October 5 in a better position than we were before. It's so early on in the season that we're still finding our feet with the players that we've got. We're not winning week in week out which is a disappointment but we're clicking on the training pitch, which is usually something that takes a lot longer than normal. We're now waiting for that catalyst to get starting, it will happen soon and if we get wins in the games beforehand we can go in to the Exeter game full of confidence.

KEVIN DAVIES

I've played in a few derbies in my time, including many Chesterfield v Mansfield games - they were always quite fierce. I think they're due to play each other again this year and that will be a tasty affair!

Bolton v Blackburn and Bolton v Burnley were always big games. But the Preston v Blackpool Capital One Cup game this season was absolutely amazing, it was one of the best atmospheres I've been a part of for a long time.

As players you know what it means to the fans and as it was live on Sky Sports it had a huge following. Blackpool are in the league above us and when we scored the late winner everyone went berserk and starting running on the pitch - it was like we'd won the cup or something!

They are always good games to play in and I've always enjoyed playing in them. If you're living in the town that you play for, you go on the school run and even the lollypop man is telling you 'you've got to win this game' and your friends that are big fans from school help encourage all the build-up from the time your last game finished.

When you get to the game on the day you can feel the atmosphere and then you have to get on the pitch and soak that up - hopefully you can give your fans the bragging rights with a win.

You have to be careful in a derby game, you don't want people to go out on the pitch and purposefully injure people with two-footed or dangerous challenges. But if there's a 50/50 ball there the fans love to see two players going in and being committed, sometimes that means more to them than a great passing phase or a goal because it shows commitment to the club and pride at representing the club against the rivals.

Sometimes players can get a bit over zealous and you sometimes need to calm them down if you think they're getting a bit excited with the atmosphere. You have to try and control yourself.

I think the rivalry between United and City is huge. I live nearby and I took my son down to one of the games last year, there's a great atmosphere because Manchester City are now up trying to match what United have achieved over the years.

Don't forget to tune in to the Football League Hour every Thursday night at 7pm on Sky Sports News Radio or download the podcast here on Friday morning.

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