James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: The dangers of derby football

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Tomorrow, for those with bad memories or a dodgy grasp of geography, is derby day.

Bradford City versus Sheffield United. Two Yorkshire teams harbouring genuine aspirations of competing in the Championship next season and, as they prepare for the latest meeting in a rivalry stretching back some 106 years, separated by just three places and a point in the table.

Okay, so this fixture might not boast the intensity of, say United and Sheffield Wednesday. Or perhaps even a clash with Leeds.

But, for purely selfish purposes, it will be afforded exactly the same treatment. Because I want to try and test the theory that the form book goes out of the window on these occasions.

Should folk walking beneath Phil Parkinson’s office at the Coral Windows Stadium in 24 hours time don a hard hat or keep watch for flying paperbacks? The answer, according to my rudimentary and admittedly not-so-scientific calculations, is yes.

During United’s present stay in the third tier of English football, they have contested 13 games against clubs located within the Broad Acres and also Chesterfield who, despite being across the border in Derbyshire, are only 19 miles away.

Taking their respective League One rankings before kick-off into consideration, coupled with a hypothetical points total from their preceding five outings, (some of these were in cups), it is possible to ascertain whether they produced the predicted result. In 2012, for example, Huddersfield Town were below United in the table but had accumulated more points and lost. So that bucked the form trend but not the pyramid, if you get my drift.

Only 15 per cent of these matches were won by teams both higher in the table and in better form.

When their was a decisive scoreline, (i.e. not a draw), seven went against league position compared to two for. Taking stalemates into account, nine saw the club supposedly in worse form secure some reward for their efforts.

What does seem to have more of a bearing is where these neighbourly disputes take place. Forty-six per cent saw the home club emerge victorious. Twenty three per cent were won by the travelling team.

Unfortunately for United, City are the hosts tomorrow.

But who will prevail? No one, as these figures show, can bloody well tell.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1