As a Blackburn Rovers fan, I’ve got used to losing derby matches.
This season, I’ve watched on as Burnley twice beat Rovers, both times after being outplayed.
I also saw the shambles at the Macron straight after Christmas when a much fresher Rovers team were destroyed by a hungrier and, on that evidence better, Bolton side.
Look how that one turned out.
And yet, with Rovers pressing the self-destruct button to lose 2-1 at home to neighbours Preston North End today, for me, it’s the most painful derby defeat of the season.
When I was growing up, there was the usual prevalence of Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle supporters (they were good back then!). However, there were also plenty of Preston fans, including both my best mate and my brother.
They were never the quietest of fans; even though they were stuck down in Division Two and Division Three, they loved the fact David Beckham played a month there and the bit of success David Moyes brought gave them all sorts of excitement.
As a Rovers fan, Preston were never really in our league, both metaphorically and physically. We were Premier League title winners, full of quality players. Preston very rarely came close.
The only times their paths crossed was 2000-01 when, having come up from Division Two, North End rode the crest of a wave and threatened promotion to the Premier League. I vividly remember a January evening game at Ewood when Rovers put them in their place by racing to a 3-0 lead before half time only to be pegged back by early second half Preston strikes. They held out, but the fear of throwing that away stayed on.
For a few months at least. And then Matt Jansen swivelled in a Deepdale penalty area to score the goal which sent Rovers up and my club was partying on the North End pitch. Preston went on to lose 3-0 in the playoff final and their paths were on different tracks once again.
Until this season though. With Rovers in the doldrums and Preston coming up from League One, they’ve come up against each other and Preston are on top.
And I bet my noisy old schoolmates are absolutely loving it.
Not to mention my brother.
Today, with Blackburn academy graduates Joe Garner – I interviewed him once! – and Paul Gallagher spearheading their attack, they came to Ewood and stole away with all three points. I say stole. It was gifted to them by Shane Duffy’s instinctive handball on the line which saw him sent off and a penalty duly buried by Garner. Sickening.
Now, North End are flying high in 10th and sit a full 10 points clear of Rovers in 15th. They’re looking up towards the final playoff space – which they won’t get – while we remain looking anxiously over our shoulders.
From pride of Lancashire to mid-table stagnation.
And Preston of all teams having bragging rights.