Tomorrow’s showdown between Sunderland and Newcastle will be the first top flight derby of the new season. Derbies and other established rivalries are the first fixtures fans look for whenever the new season’s fixture list is generated. The apparent bravado presented by the fans on the outside, stating they simply ‘cannot wait for this fixture’, often belies the true feelings of fear and anxiety which remains hidden on the inside. Often, fans will quietly admit to each other in wishing the fixture rather not occur, such is the unbearable nature of these great rivalries. Everybody knows that horrible feeling of turning up to work on Monday if their team loses…
Full of incidents, talking points, clashes, excitement, and very occasionally, scintillating football, these unique fixtures are the highlights of any season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the most passionate and exciting games contested by our top flight clubs – and what is the ultimate showdown during any season.
The Tyne/Wear derby is one of the most passionate and keenly contested matches of any season with Geordies and Mackems desperate to get one over each other, in an attempt to be unofficially crowned the ‘Kings of the North East’. The two cities are separated by ten miles and the fixture has a long history, with the first competitive meeting taking place back in 1888, in which Sunderland won 2-0. Since then however, it is the Toon Army who have celebrated most in these fixtures, gaining an historical advantage with 52 wins to Sunderland’s 45.
When it comes to actually sharing a city however (with both grounds little over 0.5 miles apart), there is none more fiercely competed on the pitch than the Merseyside derby of Liverpool versus Everton. Currently the longest running top-flight derby, with every match being played at that level since 1962-63, this match was known as the ‘friendly derby’ due to families split allegiances in supporting either the Red’s or Blue’s. Indeed it was a common sight to see both sets of supporters sitting with one another during this match. However, today the ‘friendly-ness’ between the supporters has become more poisonous, since rivalries intensified on the pitch from the mid-80’s. Indeed, since the Premier League format was introduced, this fixture has produced the most red cards, earning the tag ‘the most ill-disciplined and explosive fixture in the Premier League’. With that in mind, the games rarely produce quality football and all current form often counts for nothing during this very unique fixture in which Liverpool have the upper-hand, winning 85 to Everton’s 66.
With Birmingham’s relegation, the Midlands are left with Wolves versus West Brom, which according to a poll conducted in 2008, is the officially the biggest rivalry in the country. The Black Country derby is one of the oldest, going back to 1885-86, and takes mutual dislike to another level, often leading to ugly scenes between sets of supporters in, and outside the grounds. This is despite both Villa Park and St. Andrew’s being located closer to the Hawthorns than Molineux.
London’s main rivalry throws together Arsenal versus Tottenham. Often entertaining and high-scoring affairs, these matches are not without controversy, most notably when Sol Campbell crossed the divide for Arsenal, causing him to be forever branded a ‘Judas’ by Spurs supporters. Particularly relevant to recent events however, is that Arsenal’s joint record scorer in derby matches is non-other than Emmanuel Adebayor – who may yet become a Tottenham player.
The current holders of both league and FA Cup make up the Manchester derby; City and United have a rivalry that goes way back to 1881. Surprisingly for two historical clubs from a large city, the derby has not been followed as keenly as others, outside of Manchester. However, the recent events at City and their subsequent rapid rise in challenging for honours will no doubt add extra fire and spice to this match.
Rivalries are not just formed from derby games however. When successful teams clash for honours more often than not, a natural rivalry grows – helped by the ever-growing media influence. Chelsea, whose traditional derby was Fulham, now see Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool in more recent times as threatening opponents. Similarly United and Arsenal have forged a passionate rivalry.
Perhaps the biggest rivalry of all however is the meeting of the two most successful teams in English football; Liverpool and Manchester United. The two cities have always competed against each other so naturally this transferred onto the pitch. Successful periods by both teams added to the intensity and competitive edge, with both players and fans alike often showing a dislike toward each other. Extremely passionate affairs, it is seen by the outside world as the English ‘Clasico’.
What do you think is the Premiership’s ultimate rivalry?
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