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The Top TEN most explosive games in English football

Who needs enemies with friends like these?

10) Aston Villa v Birmingham – The Second City derby

The countries second city might be a little further down the pecking order in footballing terms but that does nothing to dampen hostilities between Aston Villa and Birmingham.

The Villains have always viewed themselves in higher esteem than their blue neighbours and when the clubs first met when City were Small Heath Alliance back in 1879, the Villa players described Small Heath’s Muntz Street ground as, ‘suitable only for potholing.’

Relations have gone downhill since then and although over the last half a century meetings between the pair have been relatively limited, that only intensifies the occasions when they do get together.

The two clubs traditional stadiums help create a fervent undercurrent which takes few prisoners – just ask Peter Enckelman.

9) Blackburn v Burnley – The Cotton Mill derby

These two might not be considered big players nowadays but Blackburn and Burnley were big cheese’s back in the day by being founder members of the Football League in 1888.

The rivalry between the Lancashire towns eleven miles apart stretches back to the Victorian age when the mill industry was booming and hostilities were later taken from the factory floor to the football field.

Local issues were hardly smoothed over at the turn of the twentieth century when Rovers allegedly complained about Claret’s ‘illegal number of Scottish players’ and the animosity has remained.

Clashes have been scarce in recent years but when they do meet it creates the inevitably cliché’d ‘hot-pot’ atmosphere.

8. Everton v Liverpool – Merseyside derby

The Merseyside derby is English football’s longest running top-flight rivalry with a game having taken place every year since 1962-63, but this familiarity hasn’t tapered the spice of the contests and meetings between the blue and red halves of the city of Liverpool are often some of the most highly charged contests of the season.

This game has long been coined the ‘friendly derby’ because the opposing sets of fans are said to enjoy a healthy rivalry but on the field it’s anything but.

In the last 30 Premier League fixtures between the scouse giants there have been twenty red cards, scores of bookings and more fight scenes than a Jackie Chan youtube compilation making this particular local fare the most tempestuous football match around. Who needs enemies with friends like these?

7) Manchester City v Manchester United – Manchester derby

The Manchester derby has long been fuelled by one sides dominance over the other. United have been at the forefront of English football for well over half a century whilst City have had to play second fiddle in terms of silverware and prominence.

United fans have revelled in their superior status for decades now and have been afforded the luxury of mocking the blue half of Mancunia for their almost comedic failings as City for long periods strived but largely failed to climb out of the shadows of their near neighbours.

However, the Citizens new found wealth has upset that balance and after ending their long-wait for a trophy and embarrassing the reds on their own patch, this is one confrontation which will only intensify over the next couple of years.

6) Newcastle v Sunderland – Tyne-Wear derby

The Tyne-Wear derby is another inter-city confrontation which has it’s routes through indifference to one another stretching back hundreds of years.

Newcastle and Sunderland – despite being just ten miles apart – fell into different hands following the English civil war and the Jacobite rebellions and although that historical context is largely lost present day, none of the rancor has.

There were 160 arrests in the aftermath of the 1990 Second Division play-off second leg when the Toon fans invaded the St James’s pitch hoping to force an abandonment.

Proceeding games have also fell foul to interruptions and last January, nearly 30 fans were again arrested following clashes in and around the ground surrounding a game which saw a 12-year-old Mackem run onto the turf to push over Newcastle ‘keeper Steve Harper.

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5) Portsmouth v Southampton – South Coast derby

The contentious nature of the south-coast derby gets its origins from the dockyard following centuries old confrontations between the workers from the neighbouring Hampshire ports.

Pompey fans affectionately refer to the Saints as ‘scum’ –  an acronym supposedly derived from the South Coast Union Men of Southampton, who supposedly crossed the picket line when Portsmouth dockers went on strike in the 1950’s.

The resentment has always remained and manifested itself onto the football field with clashes between the pair gaining great local and national significance whenever they play.

Games have been sporadic but reignited recently when Harry Redknapp ‘crossed the line’ from Portsmouth to Southampton and back again culminating in an potent tie when Pompey hammered Redknapp’s Saints 4-1 in April 2005 to shove the Dell boys towards Premier League relegation.

4) Leeds United v Manchester United – The Roses derby

There’s little love lost between the counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire and their most distinguished football teams.

Initial animosity between the folk either side of the Pennines has its origins in the War of the Roses from over 600 years ago and in sporting terms that has been embraced by Leeds and Manchester United.

The friction was heightened during the hooliganism heyday of the 1970’s and ’80’s when sections of both clubs fans often became involved in brutal pitch battles inside and outside of the ground.

A recent football fans census found that both Leeds and United are ranked within the top three clubs based on the number of clubs that consider them to be their rivals, meaning this tribal clash largely defines just who is the most hated club of all.

3) Millwall v West Ham – East London derby

The rivalry between east London’s two main players is less about on-field competition and more to do with terrace culture with both clubs synonymous with the infamy of hooliganism since its inception in the 1960’s.

The vicinity of the sides in the working class area of the capital has borne an enmity which frequently causes trouble between the opposing fans whenever they meet.

In 1976 a Millwall fan was killed when supporters clashed in the streets and hostilities  were inflamed from there on.

The teams have largely missed out on each others presence of late but when they were drawn together for a Carling Cup tie in August 2009, the match was played against the backdrop of some of the worst football violence in recent memory.

A number of pre-arranged battles took place around Upton Park prior to kick leading to one man being stabbed and things didn’t recede much following kick-off.

Pitch invasions disrupted the game on a number of occasions before a Hammers victory was marred at the final whistle by a full-scale pitch invasion with hundreds of fans from either side swarming the playing surface and overrunning the police in images which conjoured up memories of these two’s dark hooligan days of the 1980’s.

2) Cardiff City v Swansea – The South Wales derby

Although Cardiff and Swansea lie 40 miles apart the fact that these two clubs represent their country by venturing by-weekly into the motherland makes it a matter of national honour and pride.

Wales’s biggest clubs have endured a fairly similar history and regularly pogo past each other meaning there’s a constantly evolving battle for status and supremacy both on and off the pitch.

The South Wales derby is arguably the most volatile fixture in the English league calender and matches are frequently scarred by clashes between the rival factions.

Following widespread violence at the ‘Battle of Ninian Park’ in 1993, away fans were banned from attending games on the other others patch and although incidents have largely decreased with more intelligent segregation and policing, the arrest rate at these ties are still amongst the highest in British football.

1) Liverpool v Manchester United – North-West derby

Both Liverpool and United have fierce rivals within closer proximity but being English football’s two most succesful and best supported sides means this is the countries most anticipated and heated contest.

The two cities are 30 miles apart yet the natives view the divide as much larger and have been involved in long running discords harking back to their differing industrial upbringing.

Both clubs golden eras coincided in relative downturns for the other, leading the sets of fans to constantly goad one another during those periods to create a long running historical battle.

The duo have won well over 100 domestic trophies between them leading to a bitter and never ending dispute over who are the kings of the national game.

Follow John Baines on twitter @bainesyDiego10

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Article title: The Top TEN most explosive games in English football

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