English Football’s 5 Greatest Rivalries

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There is nothing like a rivalry clash to get the juices flowing both among the players and fans, and here are our top five.

The Merseyside derby can get heated

Football is such a passionate sport, for both the players and the fans, and we have picked out what we believe are the five greatest rivalries in English football.

Before we delve into our select five, there are some notable mentions for a few rivalries that just didn’t make the cut but are still seen as a big part of English football history.

The first being the Manchester derby between United and City, which has brought about numerous classic moments and enthralling fixtures over the years. Anyone remember Mario Balotelli’s Why Always Me celebration?

Another rivalry narrowly missing out is that of AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons. There is real hatred between both teams and this all started from the formation of the two clubs due to the relocation of Wimbledon F.C. to Milton Keynes.

Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday, the Steel City derby, is another that deserves a special mention, while the M23 derby between Crystal Palace and Brighton is one that has a long, incident-packed history.

Let’s not forget Portsmouth and Southampton either as fan polls have shown that there is no love lost between the fans of these two south coast teams.

Millwall vs West Ham

The Dockers derby is the fixture between Millwall and West Ham United and, to this day, remains one of the biggest football rivalries in England.

Both clubs, formally known as Millwall Athletic and Thames Ironworks, originated in the East End of London and were just three miles apart. Despite Millwall moving south of the River Thames, these two clubs still maintain a fierce rivalry.

This is not a fixture that is regularly played, as both teams have been operating in separate divisions for some time, but it is always an incident-packed clash when they meet.

Such is the rivalry between the two clubs, it has been depicted in books and films over the years that focus on the animosity and hatred they have for each other.

Aston Villa vs Birmingham

Aston Villa and Birmingham are regarded as each other’s most fierce rivals and this fixture, known as the Second City derby, has produced some shocking incidents over the years.

In March 2003, during the game at Villa Park, Villa striker Dion Dublin was sent off for a head-butt on Robbie Savage before Joey Gudjonsson was given his marching orders for a reckless two-footed tackle on Matthew Upson.

In a more recent incident in the March 2019 clash, a Birmingham City fan invaded the pitch during the game at St. Andrew’s and punched Villa captain Jack Grealish in the back of the head – actions which were labelled as “disgraceful and cowardly” by supporters of both teams.

Also, in June 2011, there was uproar when Birmingham manager Alex McLeish swapped the Blues for Villa, prompting anger from both sets of supporters.

Several hundred Villa supporters protested with bedsheets at Villa Park when it emerged that Villa owner Randy Lerner had begun talks with McLeish, who received death threats from followers of both teams following his appointment.

Liverpool vs Everton

Although Liverpool and Everton often come together off the pitch to support local causes, the rivalry between the sides on the pitch is something else and there is a need to claim the bragging rights in this fixture.

With less than a mile between Goodison Park and Anfield, the Merseyside derby is the longest running top-flight derby in England and has been played continuously since the 1962-63 season.

Since the mid-1980s the rivalry has really intensified between the two clubs, though, and this derby has seen more red cards that any other game since the inception of the Premier League.

Newcastle United vs Sunderland

With just 12 miles separating the two cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, the Tyne-Wear derby, also known as the North East derby, is regarded as one of the most fierce and hostile rivalries around.

There is certainly no love lost between these two teams and this has often resulted in violence spilling out in the stands between the two sets of supporters, while incidents also happen outside of the grounds.

On the pitch, there is often huge, often questionable, challenges put in and there has been no shortage of red cards in previous fixtures. The first meeting took place in 1883, with the first competitive fixture being an FA Cup tie in 1888 which Sunderland won 2-0 over Newcastle East End.

As things stand, there is nothing to separate the two teams. Having played 156 times, Newcastle and Sunderland have both picked up 53 victories, while the spoils have been shared 50 times.

Manchester United vs Liverpool

Although this is not a derby, Manchester United and Liverpool are arguably the two biggest rivals in English football despite the two major cities sitting 35 miles apart.

It is perhaps the fact these are two of England’s biggest cities that the rivalry is even greater, as they vie with each other in terms of culture, commerce and various other aspects of life.

These two clubs are the most successful English teams in both domestic and European competitions. The Red Devils have won a record 20 English titles and three European trophies, while the Reds have one less league crown but have triumphed three more times in Europe.

United and Liverpool both want to be the top dogs, something which neither look like they will be this season, and it is this need for success and bragging rights that makes this such a fierce rivalry.

A single-handicapper, James always offers an interesting insight to the world of golf, with extensive knowledge of both the US and European Tours. James also has a wealth of information about the domestic and international football scene.
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