There are many games of football that are referred to as a “derby”. The mere association with the term implies that the game is going to be one of high tension and passion with the outcome meaning a great deal more than the normal game of football.
The “derby” is often played by two teams sharing the same town or city. However, this is not always the case as shown by the North–East “derby” which is played between Sunderland and Newcastle. The two sides come from separate cities that are 15 miles apart, yet the “Geordies” from Newcastle and the “Mackems” from Sunderland regard this as the biggest fixture in their calendar.
There are some sides that play in the same city that do not regard as playing games each other as a “derby”. West Ham play on the east side of London and when they play Fulham, from the west side of the city, the game is not seen as a local derby. However, when they meet their local rivals Millwall, the game produces one of the biggest rivalries in English football.
As well as being close residents, just separated by the River Thames, the two teams share a deep history that has as much to do about culture as it does about football. Many of the clubs fans worked for the London docks with the Millwall fans working on the south landing boats, and the West Ham fans working on the north landing boats.
The two teams possess the most feared supporters in the country with the West Ham being associated with the hooligans that are known as “the inter-city firm”. The Millwall hooligans are known as the “Bushwackers” and their ground has been closed on seven occasions as a result of their supporter’s actions. There is always a big police presence for these games.
This game is not the only big derby in London with the north area of the capital experiencing the Tottenham and Arsenal matches. Both these clubs have huge numbers of supporters and their teams are usually in the top five places in the league. The competition between the two clubs is fierce yet it rarely spills into violence between the rival sets of fans.
Another derby game where there is rarely any crowd trouble is the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton. Often same household will be divided by club loyalties and it is not unusual to see the rival fans sharing the same terraces.
Strangely the peace of this “derby” does not resonate onto the pitch. The match is so keenly contested between the two sets of players that it has produced more sending offs than any other game in English football.
The richest “derby” is the Manchester affair between City and United. For a long period of time Manchester United had the bragging rights as they were far more successful than their near neighbors. However, since the acquisition of Manchester City by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, they are now one of the richest clubs in the world. The two sides now compete fiercely for the top prizes in both England and Europe. This rivalry is fuelled by the clubs close proximity to each other and they both see their annual matches against each other as one of the biggest matches in their calendar.
There are many other big “derby” games in England. Sheffield sees United against Wednesday, Bristol has Rovers playing City and Birmingham produces Aston Villa challenging Birmingham City. It does not matter the league position of the clubs the supporters will regard these matches as the biggest and most important fixtures of their season.