It won’t be a patch on the Old Firm derby, but Hailsham Town manager Kenny McCreadie is expecting the unexpected when his side travel to Eastbourne United on Monday (11am).
United sit rock bottom of County League division one and while the Stringers are only three places ahead they are 17 points better off and one of the league’s most capable sides in front of goal.
But Town’s Scottish boss knows all about derbies. “Anything can happen,” he said, “They (United) are not playing well but they’ll be up for it, they’ve got some players out but the ones that come in will want to do well.
“I’ve been brought up on Celtic v Rangers and you often see the team that’s not doing so well will win.”
Meetings between the County League rivals have threatened to boil over in recent years. In 2007, United midfielder Matt Jones was punched after a heated exchange with McCreadie following a Boxing Day clash at the Beaconsfield. But Town’s boss isn’t expecting anything akin to an Old Firm game this time around.
“No chance! Not in it’s lifetime,” he said. “There’s not any other derby than that. We just need to prepare properly, get the three points and get home. I’m looking forward to playing a game, the same as the players are.”
And after two weeks without a match, McCreadie is relishing the festive schedule. He said, “We used to play Boxing Day, now it’s the day after and New Year’s Day – brilliant.
“Listening to people saying they should be spending time with their families; well don’t be a manager then. This is what we’ve got in English football, this is the way it is, if you don’t want to do it, go and play badminton or something.”
United manager Paul Daubeney shares his counterpart’s views on that score, but admits his squad is feeling the strain.
He said, “I could do with no games until the boys (including defender Ashley-John Baptiste) get back for university on January 4, but we’ve got two games to deal with.
“We’re looking forward to the derby, there’s been previous before I was here. It all depends on who they’ve got playing. It’ll be nice if we could get a win to go into the New Year. Once you get in that losing mentality it can stay with you.”
However, Daubeney has been handed a boost with the news of Nik Chamberlain’s international clearance. The midfielder, who is currently struggling with a knee complaint, had been playing in America and Iceland and could feature in the New Year.
Meanwhile skipper Tony Russell and ‘keeper Grant Fitzgerald are battling to be fit for Monday’s match at the Oval.