Football Rivalries, Derbies & Grudges

Rivalries in sport are what makes it such a fascinating past time. The likes of Frazier v Ali, Nicklaus Palmer, India v Pakistan (cricket), Federer v Nadal, Woods v Mickelson, McEnroe v Borg and Bird v Johnson, are just a few of the all-time greats.

Football is no exception to great rivalries and whether they are based on logistics or success, the sport thrives on them and for many, they are the highlight of the season. Below we have included some of the biggest footballing rivalries in the UK, taking a look at what’s made them so fiercely competitive over the years.

Liverpool v Manchester United

Liverpool v Man UWhilst the meeting between Liverpool and Manchester United is sometimes referred to as the “North West Derby”, it’s one that has grown in its pure passion over the last couple of decades. It’s quite unique n that both clubs have a strong fixation with neighbouring clubs in tehri respected cities, yet still, many fans from both sides will consider this rivalry to be the biggest game of the season.

Like many, the rivalry stems on the back of successful periods for each team. Between them, they are the two most successful teams in England, with 38 league titles, 9 European Cups, 4 UEFA Cups, 5 UEFA Super Cups, 19 FA Cups, 13 League Cups, 2 FIFA Club World Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 36 FA Community Shields.

The fans often waive comparisons back and forth, with United stating that they have won 20 league titles to Liverpool’s 18 and Liverpool coming back with 6 European Cup wins to United’s 3.

One of the biggest controversies between the two clubs came in 2011 when it was reported that Liverpool Striker, Luis Suarez, had racially abused Patrice Evra in the match. The following season, Evra and many of the United players refused to shake Suarez’s hand prior to the game. Untied went on to win 2-1, setting off wild celebrations by Evra right in front of Suarez and then causing a huge melee between the two sets of players.

Celtic v Rangers

Celtic v RangersRarely do footballing rivalries get any bigger than that of Celtic v Rangers. The two Scottish based clubs have been battling it out since 1890, with both dominating Scottish football in that time.

What’s probably as iconic about this derby is that even though they are based in the same city of Glasgow, the competitive nature actually stems from a religious viewpoint, with Rangers fans being protestants and Celtic fans being Catholic, although to lesser extreme these days.

Being that both have been hugely successful in the Scottish game, the two teams have played out a number of memorable matches over the years. The Scottish cup final in 2002 was one of the bigger games, mainly because both teams were so strong at the time. Rangers were able to snatch the victory in the 89th minute and in turn, got to within 1 Scottish Cup victory of Celtic at the time and also, probably most importantly, deny Celtic a league and cup double that year.

Arsenal v Tottenham

Arsenal v TottenhamThe North London derby has to be one of the highest profile derby matches in the country. It takes place between that of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and has been running since 1909.

Whilst many derby’s or even footballing rivalries are based on a platform of two teems being at the top of their game, with this it’s just a general hatred that has been built up by two neighbouring London boroughs located in North London.

The games often follow a strong home advantage with this, understandable given just how worked up the fans get. Spurs have only beaten Arsenal at wither Highbury or the Emirates twice since 1993 and Arsenal have only beaten Spurs once at White Hart Lane since 2007.

Even though the teams have never featured in a cup final against each other, there have been several semi-finals, with Spurs winning just 2 of them. In 2004, Arsenal famously clinched their second and most recent Premier League title at White Hart Lane, securing the point they needed in a 2-2 draw, much to the dissatisfaction of the away fans.

Manchester United v Manchester City

Man U v Man CityThe “Manchester Derby” is one of the biggest in England, if not the world. The divide between the great city of Manchester is that of red or blue and there have and always will be a serious following for the fixture.

They’ve been playing against each other since 1881, with United winning 73 games and City winning 51 games. But, it could be argued that it’s only really been in the last few years that the Derby has really started to heat up again.

You see, during United’s dominance throughout the 90’s and since the turn of the millennium, City weren’t really ever able to compete, at least not in terms of silverware won. Some would, and still do, argue that the game between United and Liverpool is a bigger rivalry for United fan than City, but this is often thought as a little taunt to their neighbours in blue.

The recent success that City have had in the Premier League and the rapid decline of United since Sir Alex Ferguson retired has definitely seen the bragging rights shift within the city.

Liverpool v Everton

Liverpool v EvertonIf in Manchester there is some doubt about if the City v United derby is bigger than the rivalry between United and Liverpool, in Liverpool there is no doubt that the team that they are gunning for is that their neighbours, Everton.

Another city that is split between red and blue, games between the two teams have been taking place since 1894. Liverpool currently have more wins with 92 to that of Everton’s 66. Everton’s last win against Liverpool was back in 2010, highlighting Liverpool’s dominance in the fixture, but also their overall performances within the league and also maintaining the longest unbeaten run in the derby of all-time.

Whilst the two teams have played out many fascinating encounters, one of the best has to have been the 1-0 win for Everton at Anfield in 1999. A goal from Kevin Campbell was enough to win the game for the Toffee’s, but the fact that 3 players were sent off, including Liverpool keeper Westerveld and club stalwart Steven Gerrard, added particular spice.

Liverpool v Chelsea

Liverpool v ChelseaLiverpool and Chelsea are definitely more of a modern-day rivalry and with it have seen some immense clashed over the years. You think that there was little to link the red of Liverpool and the blue of Chelsea and you would be right, that was until a certain Jose Mourinho took the reins at Chelsea.

You see, it was rumoured that before taking the Chelsea job, Mourinho had shown great interest in moving to Anfield. The move failed to materialise and instead he went on his way to Stamford Bridge, to reaffirm the fact that he’s one of the best in the business. Mourinho’s feud with Liverpool manager Rafa Benetiz, the Champions League semi-final in 2005 that included Luis Garcia’s “Ghost Goal” and who could forget the slip by Steven Gerrard that allowed Demba Ba to run through on goal and scuppered any chances of Liverpool winning the title that year?

Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham

Tottenham v West HamThe “beef” between Tottenham and West Ham is a bit of an odd one to be honest. They’re two teams that have won very little in recent years and one that have never really been anything more than two teams based in London, but whilst Spurs definitely have a hatred for all things Arsenal, the rivalry between them and West Ham, although not as fierce, is right up there.

For many years the two teams were actually quite equal. They were both well in arsenal’s shadow and with it had very few bragging rights. Whilst spurs fans really hated just about everything to do with Arsenal football club, it was more the link with West Ham fans and their delusional status about where they stand in the London pecking order that used to really grind their gears.

But, even though Tottenham have been the stronger teams of the two in recent years, West ham’s victory over them in 2006, scuppering any Champions League ambitions still lives long in the memory for Hammers’ fans.

Man United v Chelsea

Man U v ChelseaWhilst many rivalries in football or even sport for that matter, are based on a longing tradition of two successful or locally-situated teams, the rivalry between that of Chelsea is one that has “blossomed” over the last decade or so.

In fact, prior to Chelsea winning their first Premier League title in 2005, the two clubs would hardly bat an eyelash as the fixtures got drawn. But, with success brings great responsibility and finally Chelsea are now on an even-keel with one of the most successful clubs in the business.

The first meeting between the two teams where you could say that the rivalry really started was in 2005. Man United had to form a guard of honour at Old Trafford to see Chelsea crowned as Champions. Chelsea also went on to beat them that day 3-1, something that United fans have never got over.

Arsenal v Liverpool

Arsenal v LiverpoolSuccessful teams bring in strong rivalries, and that’s exactly what you have here. But, the fortunes of the two teams haven’t always ran smoothly and probably most notably, haven’t always ran at the same time.

The teams have been playing against each other since 1894 and whilst it was Arsenal who were able to dominate throughout the 1930, Liverpool were very much dominate through the 70’s and 80’s. Fortunes switched again the Premier League era, when Arsenal, under manager Arsene Wenger, picked up multiple league trophies, as well as domestic success in the cup competitions as well.

One of the most notable meetings between the two teams came about in the 1988-89 season where the two teams came into the final game of the season, against each other, with Liverpool needing to win by 2 or more goals and Arsenal just needing to keep Liverpool out for one to win the league. Liverpool managed to record a 2-0 victory and clinch the title in the last few minutes of the match in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest top-level English football matches of all time.

Derby County v Nottingham Forest

Derby v Nottingham ForestThe rivalry between that of Derby County and Nottingham Forrest is often dubbed the East Midlands derby. It’s a fierce rivalry and apparently is ranked as the 9th “fiercest” derby in the county.

But, what is unique about this derby is that the teams actually play out for a trophy. The trophy is that of the Brian Clough trophy, named after the great manager who had massive success at both teams and one of very few to have done so.

The record between the two teams is staggeringly similar, with Derby winning 38 and Forrest winning 39 of the 100 league games played so far. Games have been marred in recent years with several clashes of fans, often set up at local pubs surrounding the ground several hours before kick-off and often before the local police can get wind of what’s going on.

Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Utd v Sheffield WednesdayThe Steel City derby is between that of Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United. The two clubs are located in the city of Sheffield, famous for it’s links to the steel industry (hence the name) and with it are situated just a few miles from the stadiums, Bramall Lane (Sheffield United) and Hillsborough (Sheffield Wednesday).

Fixtures between the two sides have taken place since 1890 when Wednesday were able to win the friendly match 2-1 and claim bragging rights within the city. Games have been turned up several notches since the amateur days and now have seen them meet 129 times, with United winning 46 and Wednesday 42 in a remarkably even number of results.

The 2017-18 Championship season saw the two teams play for the first time in 6 years following the promotion of United from League 1 the previous season.

Aston Villa v Birmingham

Aston Villa v BirminghamThe “Second City” derby is in reference to Aston Villa and Birmingham, who are both located in the countries “second city”, Birmingham. This is often thought to be one of the most fierce derby’s in the country and whilst success has been limited for both teams, it’s one of those games where form is thrown out the window and the games are full of emotion.

The grounds are located just 3 miles from each other, but it’s been Aston Villa that have certainly been able to say that they have been the most consistent of the two teams over the years. In fact, due to the meteoric decline of Birmingham, no league Second City derby was played between 1987 and 2003, with another break between 2010 and 2017.

Crystal Palace v Brighton and Hove Albion

Crystal Palace v BrightonBrighton and Crystal Palace are actually two teams that have no particular links at all. They are 45 miles from each other, both have plenty of teams closer that would be better suited as derby’s or rivalries, yet, when you ask either sets of fans who their biggest rival is, each will tell you it’s the other.

The beef was said to have started in 1976 and in the year they played each other a staggering 5 times. These were the days when no extra time or penalties were played, and replays decided who went through. After 2 draws, Palace went on to win the third game 1-0. The then Brighton boss, Alan Mullery, stated that he had hot coffee pouted on him by Brighton fans.

In Mullery’s retaliation he dragged a handful of change from his pocket, threw it on the ground and as said “that’s all you’re worth” to said Palace fans.

And so, the rivalry between the two clubs was ignited.

Arsenal v Man United

Arsenal v Man UThe success of both Arsenal and Manchester United in the 2000’s was the catalyst to what is now deemed to be one of the biggest rivalries for each club. Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson were deemed to be two of the greatest managers the Premier League had seen but had a distinct dislike for each other at the time, which many think is the catalyst for the two clubs dislike of each other.

Naturally when teams play in big games and are challenging for leagues and cups, a rivalry is going to start to brew, which is what happened in this case. Arsenal will be best known for their invisibles run in 2003-04, going the whole season unbeaten before winning the league. The game in September 2003 was about as heated as a game can get, with Viera being sent off for a clash with United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. It was van Nistelrooy who would be centre of attention again when he missed a last-minute penalty, much to the delight of the Arsenal team and Martin Keown in particular jumping in front of van Nistelrooy almost goading him after his miss.

Since then, you could say that tempers have flared several times. Not least the following year where it was United who were to finally beat Arsenal the folwoing season and ending a run of 49 games unbeaten. Although, even this victory was marred with off the field incidents, namely “pizza gate” after the United manager was hit by a slice of pizza whilst walking down the tunnel, although no one to this day admitting to it.

Arsenal v Chelsea

Arsenal v ChelseaWhilst both Arsenal and Chelsea have strong ties geographically with them both being based in London, they actually haven’t always been that strong rivals throughout the years. Arsenal has always been seen as the more successful of the two teams, but as Chelsea began tom improve and challenge for titles and cups, just like Arsenal, the rivalry between the two teams started to intensify.

What’s interesting is that now Chelsea fans see Arsenal as their main rivals, even though Fulham and Tottenham are closer, but Arsenal fans still see both Spurs and Man United as their two main rivals, with Chelsea third in the pecking order.

One of the biggest games between the two teams came in 2017 where they met in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium. Arsenal were able to win a record 13th FA Cup title beating Chelsea 2-1 and taking the bragging rights back home with them, before then repeating the feat just a few months later in the Community Shield winning 4-1 on penalties.

Ipswich Town v Norwich City

Ipswich v NorwichThe “Old Farm Derby”, a spin on the “Old Firm” between Celtic and Rangers in Scotland, brings together both Norwich and Ipswich in a battle for bragging rights in East Anglia. As the two teams are bordering counties in that od Norfolk (Norwich) and Suffolk (Ipswich), the game is one that for both sets of fans, is the one that they look forward to most in the season.

Interestingly, this rivalry is one of the most competitive that you will find and their last 5 results alone from 2016 through to 2018 have all ended as draws. This theme has continued through the years, with both teams winning around 40% of games and drawing the remaining 20% from the 100 or so fixtures they have played.

The biggest game in most recent times has been that of the 2015 Championship play off semi-final, which Norwich came out on top of, eventually gaining promotion to the Premier League after beating Middlesbrough in the final.

Hearts v Hibernian

Hearts v HibernianThe Edinburgh derby is one of the oldest in modern-day football. The two teams have been fighting for bragging rights within the city since 1875 and with it comes a rivalry that can only be matched by their Scottish cousins based in Glasgow.

Hearts were able to win the first encounter between the two teams, held on Christmas Day in 1875 and since then gone on to win 140 Edinburgh Derby’s to that of Hibbs’ 84. The pair have struggled in recent times however, and even though both teams were relegated from the Scottish Premier League in 2013-14 season, both are now firmly back in the big time of Scottish football.

The game was actually famed for many years as the New Year Derby, with the match taking place on either the 1st or the 2nd of January each year. Fixtures on those days in more recent years have been a little more limited due to scheduling, but it’s still often a game that is celebrated within the city as the new year is opened.

Leeds v Millwall

Leeds v MillwallLeeds and Millwall are able to attract two of the most die-hard groups of football fans in the country. They both have a huge following both at home and away from home and given that neither team have had an awful lot to shout about in recent years, both mid-table Championship teams, it makes the support and desire even more impressive.

But, it’s been this following that has lead to one of the most hatred-filled football rivalries in the country. The link is more of a dislike than anything to do with football or being remotely competitive in their respected leagues over the last few decades.

Unfortunately, the teams and the rivalry are best known for what goes on off the pitch rather than on the pitch. Hooliganism is rife between both sets of fans and throughout the 70’s and 80’s saw many clashes between two sets of fans, often leading the stadiums being vandalised and several fights. These days, huge police escorts are on hand to try and make sure that fans are able to get to and from the ground safely. Realistically though, this one’s not a family day out!

Aberdeen v Dundee

Aberdeen v DundeeThe Aberdeen v Dundee rivalry is one of the newest on our list of matches. The game actually gets called the “New Firm” derby, in a doff of the cap to that of the Old Firm between Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow. Even though Aberdeen and Dundee are both on the east coast of Scotland, the two cities are actually 65 miles apart, but beyond that of the Old Firm, we often referred to as the two best Scottish teams during the 1980’s.

From the 239 meetings between the two teams, Aberdeen have come out on top, with 96 wins in total to that of 76 for Dundee. The matches in recent years have been very even, but due to the relegation of Dundee, no New Firm game has been played since 2015.

Grimsby Town v Lincoln City

Grimsby v LincolnThe Lincolnshire Derby has been running since 1884 and takes place between Grimsby Town and Lincoln City. But, whilst this is the biggest of the two, the term is actually also applied to any games that includes Boston United, Gainsborough Trinity and Scunthorpe United.

Although, the number of times that the likes of Boston, Gainsborough and Scunthorpe have played against each other are minimal, hence the link with Grimsby and Lincoln due to their positions in League 2.