When you think of English football derbies, you think of hooligans lining the streets near the stadium and smashing everything in their path. This is not the case though. Many English fans live for their football team and will get animated whenever a big derby is on the horizon. It creates an atmosphere unlike any other spectacle in the sport particularly when some of the rivalries stretch back decades. With many of these passionate affairs involving some of the biggest clubs in the world, it’s not hard to see why many people get so excited. But what are the top ten English football derbies?
10 biggest rivalries in English football
- East Anglia Derby – Ipswich vs Norwich
A rivalry that defines two counties – The East Anglia Derby is one of the biggest events to take place in Norfolk and Suffolk every year. Contested between Norwich City and Ipswich Town, this rivalry has generally defined which team will make the breakthrough and earn promotion to the Premier League.
The fans have wicked hate for their rival cities with Ipswich fans stretching as far as to refuse buying certain brands of mustard due to where it is made. Recently, Norwich has had more success in this rivalry using it as a way to boost their promotion hopes to the Premier League whilst Ipswich struggled against relegation.
- Potteries Derby – Port Vale vs Stoke City
Nestled in the heart of the midlands, the city of Stoke-on-Trent finds itself the home of one of England’s most underrated derbies – the Potteries Derby. Fought between Port Vale and Stoke City, the cross-town rivals have often been at the centre of heated battles to have bragging rights over one another.
With both clubs being two of the oldest teams in The Football League, this clash has seen both sides battling for success in the town for over 3 centuries. Stoke have always been the more successful of the two sides but the backing of Robbie Williams helped Port Vale earn greater recognition in recent times. Game on in The Potteries
- Steel City Derby – Sheffield United vs Sheffield Wednesday
Sheffield is one of England’s traditional sporting hubs so it’s not surprising that it is home to one of the most heated inter-city rivalries in English football – the battled between The Blades and The Owls.
The rivalry stretches back to a financial dispute between Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday when United charged more for Wednesday to rent Bramall Lane for home fixtures. Since then, the rivalry has been contested up and down the footballing ladder with almost an even split between both sides.
The most famous clash came in the 1993 FA Cup Semi-Finals where Sheffield Wednesday triumphed 2-1 in extra time at Wembley – a game that had to be moved from Elland Road due to the demand in tickets. That is what makes a derby!
- South Coast Derby – Portsmouth vs Southampton
There is no clearer derby in the South of England than the one between Portsmouth and Southampton. The rivalry is stemmed in the classes with Portsmouth seen as a working-class naval town in comparison to the more upmarket shipbuilding hub in Southampton. It has led to a fierce rivalry between the two teams who are only 30 miles apart.
The rivalry has had some tense moments including when Harry Redknapp ditched Pompey to manage Southampton only to see The Saints get relegated the following season much to the joy of their rivals. Southampton is very much the more prominent side in recent memory due to their constant presence in the Premier League but Portsmouth are slowly recovering from their financial strife and could soon be reigniting the passionate clash in the not too distant future.
- Tyne-Wear Derby – Newcastle vs Sunderland
If you go to the north-east of England, there is only one event you need to witness – the clash between Newcastle and Sunderland. Separated by the River Tyne and Wear, these two rivals have a fierce rivalry stretching back decades.
Tensions are always high with both sets of fans being some of the passionate anywhere in England. There have been several fierce clashes between fans during their Premier League games in the early 2000s with away fans even being banned for the pair of fixtures in the 2013/14 season. A real barnburner whenever both sides meet.
- The Dockers Derby – West Ham vs Millwall
Violence is almost always guaranteed when West Ham and Millwall clash against each other. These two sides have fierce hate that stretches across both sides of the Thames. An FA Cup tie in 2009 saw 20 people arrested in one of England’s worst football riots in modern times, underlining that the rivalry is far from over. If you ever attend one of these games, try not to embrace your inner Vinnie Jones as the East End of London comes alive in one of the fiercest rivalries and derbies in English football.
- Northwest Derby – Manchester United vs Liverpool
A match involving two of footballs biggest names, the North-West Derby between Liverpool and Manchester United is one of the biggest games in world football. Always featuring some of the biggest stars in the game, the clash between these Premier League giants has a massive bearing on the fate of the title race and top positions.
The fixture has been seen in almost every competition from the FA Cup to the Champions League making it a must-see event no matter where the two sides may meet. Box office viewing at its finest.
- Manchester Derby – Manchester City vs Manchester United
If you head to Manchester on derby day, be prepared to see the city in just two colours – blue and red. The clash between City and United brings the city to a standstill as thousands descend on either Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium for these huge clashes.
United have always been the bigger name on a global scale much to the chagrin of City fans, but City have been the dominant side in the Premier League over the last decade, making the rivalry even spicier. The epic title clash in 2011/2012 season defines what the rivalry means to both sides with Sergio Aguero’s last gasp winner to deny United the trophy for themselves goes down as one of the Premier League’s greatest moments. A true saga in every form.
- North London Derby – Arsenal vs Tottenham
There is perhaps no derby known better in London than the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham. The rivalry has been bubbling ever since Arsenal moved to Highbury in the early 1900s stealing the thunder away from Spurs.
These clashes are always some of the most exciting to watch with goals galore often being at the centre of each match. Fans are particularly loyal to their side and any player that makes the switch to the other side will be in for a tough time – just ask Sol Campbell. The Gunners have been the more successful of the two sides in recent memory but the resurgence of Tottenham has made this one of the must-watch games in the Premier League.
- Merseyside Derby – Liverpool vs Everton
It’s fitting that the rivalry that top entry of our list of football rivalries comes between the two closest sides in the Premier League as less than a mile separates the two teams.
Everton have always been trying to emerge out of Liverpool’s shadow, making for many tense affairs between each side. It has been a clash led by many local players with many homegrown stars leading out their boyhood clubs giving the game an added sense of pride whenever the two sides clash.
It has been evenly contested too with both sides very rarely achieving a double victory in a season – it has happened just 27 times in a rivalry that spans over 150 years – a proper sporting contest in every way imaginable! Not many would argue that this is king of the English football derbies.
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