There are a lot of massive rivalries in British football.
Whether based on geography, history or recent battles, books can be written – and I’m sure have been – on the construction of these aggressive clashes.
Britain's Top Rivalries:
Plenty of fan bases will claim their rivalry as the fiercest. There’s obviously no metric for this, and it’s almost entirely subjective, but the debate rages on about the ‘biggest’ derbies in British football.
It’s a competitive field too, with potential winners of the ‘biggest derby’ title all across the nation. In this article, we’ve taken a look at the five greatest rivalries in British football…
Manchester City’s enormous investment breathed new life into the Manchester rivalry and gave a fresh significance to their derby matches.
The two teams duelled for titles in Alex Ferguson’s final seasons, with City famously snatching the trophy from United’s grasp in the final seconds of the 2011/12 campaign thanks to Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero.
After decades of United superiority, it has been turned on its head in the post-Ferguson years.
Dysfunction at Old Trafford and continued improvement in the blue half of Manchester has seen City become the new force in English football, beating all before them in the same manner that Ferguson’s sides did for so many years.
The derbies have been a bit of a mixed bag in recent seasons. We’ve seen some drama, but there have been a fair few drab encounters too.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under pressure to deliver as Manchester United manager, and that’s exaggerated by how far behind City they are. Solskjaer needs to close that gap to revitalise the Manchester rivalry once again.
Manchester United are outsiders to be the best northwest club in 888sport’s Premier League odds.
Old Firm Derby
The Old Firm rivalry between Celtic and Rangers means so much more than football. It has wider societal meaning unlike the vast majority in England.
While Scottish football has been in the shadows over the past few decades, the Old Firm Derby attracts worldwide attention in a way that few other matches can compare to.
Rangers’ 2012 demise raised questions about the Old Firm’s legitimacy, and for the first time in 120 years saw a season played without a clash between the Scotland’s two most famous clubs.
The rivalry has since been resumed, however, with Rangers still looking to end Celtic’s astonishing run of consecutives league titles. Celtic’s recent domination of the Scottish top flight has put them to within just four titles of Rangers all-time on 50.
The Merseyside derby is the longest-running top-flight derby in English football, having been played every season since 1962/63. This one is all about the geography, with Anfield and Goodison Park barely a stones throw apart.
Once considered a friendlier derby, with a pride in Merseyside uniting the two fan bases, the rivalry has altered drastically through the 1990s and into this century.
It has seen more Premier League red cards than any other fixture and the atmosphere at Anfield or Goodison on derby afternoon is certainly not friendly, it’s become a hostile occasion with tackles flying in from all angles.
Liverpool will win the Premier League title at some point (maybe in 2019/20?), and it’s unlikely to be met with rapturous applause at Goodison.
As they chase that first Premier League title, the Merseyside derby is a problem fixture.
Dropping points is a crisis as they pursue Manchester City, and clashes with Everton are a banana skin (particularly if Jordan Pickford doesn’t drop the ball to Divock Origi).
The Tyne-Wear derby has taken a hit over the last decade or so with Newcastle and Sunderland both yo-yoing.
Barring a fortuitous cup draw, there will be no clash between the two northeast giants in 2019/20. The two sides haven’t faced each other since a 1-1 draw in March 2016.
The rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland isn’t limited to football. Split by just 12 miles, it actually started in the English Civil War, but instead of Royalists and Parliamentarians, it now manifests itself at St James’ Park or the Stadium of Light.
Both fan bases create an atmosphere at the best of times. It gets cranked up to a new level for the derby matches, however.
That has a direct impact on the football on the pitch, with the opening minutes of Tyne-Wear derbies often played at a rapid pace with the ball bouncing around like crazy.
The rivalry has been home to some famous moments in the Premier League era, none more so than when Ruud Gullit benched Alan Shearer, who was named in our greatest Premier League XI of all-time, and Newcastle lost the match 2-1.
Gullit resigned before the next match after fury from the Newcastle fans.
North London Derby
Due to the standard of the two teams in recent seasons, the north London derby is one of the biggest in the world.
It all began in 1913 when Arsenal moved from Kent to north London, putting them just a few miles away from Tottenham. Since their first match in the Football League, the derby has taken place 185 times with Arsenal winning 77 to Tottenham’s 58.
Not many players have crossed the divide in the last century, but a few have in the Premier League era.
Sol Campbell departing Spurs for Arsenal is obviously the most well known, while David Bentley, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor went the other way. It’s hard to see Harry Kane switching the new Spurs stadium for the Emirates, though.
Like its Manchester counterpart, the north London rivalry has altered over the last few years. Arsenal’s St Totteringham’s Day is no more and Spurs are clearly the better team after season upon season in the shadows of their nearby rivals.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to Scott Heppell / AP Photo*