So which is the biggest footballing derby? Manchester United taking on Manchester City? Celtic against Rangers? Real Madrid versus Barcelona? For me, it’s got to be ‘El Clossetto‘.
Now, before I begin, I should point out that I don’t actually live in Ossett. I’m a few miles up the road but this small market town, with a population of not much more than 15,000 that lies between its larger neighbours, Wakefield and Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, has something of which neither of those two towns can boast. It has a team that plays in the eighth tier of the English game. In fact, it has two. Both Ossett Town and Ossett Albion currently play in the Northern Premier League, First Division North and the non-league football fan in Ossett is therefore truly blessed and the town becomes a town on fire (not literally), come derby day.
When I began watching non-league football in Ossett, I was faced with a choice. Albion or Town?Being an outsider, I decided to abandon convention and follow both. That way I could watch twice as much football in the town and at least I’d always have something to celebrate come derby day.
However, as the matches went by, I found myself drawn towards Ossett Town. Was it the ground? the clubhouse? The pies? Or was it the fact that there were more pubs close by? I’m not sure but when I went to my first El Clossetto, I was, by then, definitely a red. Needless to say Albion, in their black and gold (or is it yellow?), won but at least it was just a short walk to the pub for my consolation pint.
To be honest, neither side is particularly well supported. For the current season, Albion lie 21st out of 22 in the attendance league table with an average attendance of 146, whilst Town lie 15th with an average of 185. By the end of the season Albion are likely to show the larger support as we have already had one derby game which was at Town’s Ingfield Stadium and has therefore inflated their average home gate. A crowd of 448 attended on August Bank Holiday and, to my dismay, Albion won that one as well.
Unlike last season, Ossett Town are faring better than Albion and, after 12 games, they lie 12th in the league. This is a far cry from last season where they spent most of the time fighting relegation. When Grant Black took over as manager of Ossett Town in February, they were odds on to go down but a sensational change in form, brought about six victories from eight games and they were safe. This season, Albion are the ones that are struggling and after 13 games they lie 20th in the table, whereas last season, they achieved their highest ever league standing.
I truly hope Albion manage to turn things around. There’s plenty of time yet and things must surely start by improving their home form. It has taken seven games at their Dimplewells home ground to achieve their first league win of the season.
Now I may have confessed to being a Town fan but the Ossett supporters are unlike their Mancunian and Glaswegian opposites. In Ossett they (generally) have support for their near neighbours and both sets of supporters hope that both teams remain in the same league. Derby day is genuinely something special. Crowds of over 600 are not uncommon and the atmosphere is one of friendly rivalry rather than tribal hatred.
So, if you’re ever considering a trip to West Yorkshire, or perhaps you live there already and you want to watch some quality football on a Saturday afternoon or a Tuesday night, and you want to park for free next to the ground and enjoy sensibly priced refreshments and choose whether to sit or stand or wander round the ground, with a pint if you so wish, then come to Ossett. Either Town or Albion. You won’t be disappointed.