On the Pitch with an American Novice: What’s in a Derby?

Conflict drives a plot forward. But we don’t use the term conflict in sports, we use rivalry. And they don’t use the term rivalry in soccer, they use derby. Although they may use a different name across the pond, the reasons are all the same.

A bitter, often belligerent past, like that of the Yankees and Red Sox. Short distances causing territorial conflict, like the eight miles separating the campuses of Duke and North Carolina. Desire to claim oneself as the best-of-the-best, like the many championships and Heisman winners between Ohio State and Michigan. And many times it just comes down to tradition, like Harvard and Yale or Army-Navy. We can always expect superhuman efforts from these games and assured overflowing crowds that create an atmosphere unlike any other.

Until you’ve watched a derby game, you truly haven’t given soccer a fair shot. Here’s a rundown of some of the greatest derbies in the UK in hopes you’ll try and catch one this premier league season:

Merseyside Derby
Everton vs. Liverpool
There’s two types of people in Liverpool, England: a blue (Everton) and a red (Liverpool) – two teams separated by ten city blocks and roots deeper than any red oak in California. Many stories surround how these two clubs came to be, but here’s my favorite: Everton was the original club in Liverpool, but after a dispute over the stadium, Everton players bolted across town for a fresh start. Those who stayed began the Liverpool Football Club.

North London Derby
Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur
The only two clubs in the north of London and perhaps the most heated London derby. Tottenham defeated the Gunners last year 5-1 for the first time since the 1999 campaign. Spurs fans hold on to fewer and much older accolades than their neighbors, Arsenal, but this rivalry could be rejuvenated after last year’s result along with Tottenham’s many summer signings.

North-West Derby
Manchester United vs. Liverpool
The two most successful clubs in England have a right to have their own derby, even if they are separated by more land than any of these others.

Tyne-Wear Derby
Newcastle United vs. Sunderland
From the Northwest derby to one in the Northeast of England. Two cities in the same region only ten miles apart. Many factors play into this derby and some run as deep as those supportive of the English Parliament and those supportive of the Royalists.

London Borough Derby
Chelsea vs. Fulham
It’s a treat any time two London clubs get together. This one parallels the small farm school against the big city school. Chelsea is known worldwide and consistently signs top players and enjoys the riches of international success, while Fulham stays humble in a much smaller stadium yet loyal fan base. The allure of this rivalry is the day Fulham can pull of the monstrous upset at their home park, similar to Milan beating Muncie Central, or Hickory defeating South Bend for you movie buffs.

Lancashire Derby (Manchester)
Manchester United vs. Manchester City
The Lancashire region of Northwest England has many derby games, like the battle for Manchester. Usually dominated by United, this derby gained some validity last year when City took the first match against the defending and eventual champions.

Old Firm Derby
Celtic vs. Rangers
This derby comes form the Scottish Premier League and is my personal favorite for several reasons. Both have dominated Scottish soccer, winning a combined 127 Scottish titles. In the late 1880’s when Catholics wanted to play football in Glasgow, the Protestant affiliated Rangers were not very welcoming. So naturally, the Catholics started their own club in 1888 and called it the Celtic Football Club. Nothing more bitter than religious strife! This derby has been a whirlwind, but the mid 1900’s brought change that saw Catholics play for Rangers and Protestants play for Celtic, originally brought about with international signings. The people of Glasgow haven’t forgotten about history and continue to support the club originally allied with their church. My grandfather is a native Protestant of Glasgow and when I asked him if he went to games as a child, he answered with conviction, “I went to Ibrox to support Rangers.” To this day, fans of the away side need police escort to enter the stadium before the game and if you’re an outsider, you’d better know how to dress and not get caught wearing Protestant orange at Celtic Park or green at Ibrox Stadium.

6 Responses to "On the Pitch with an American Novice: What’s in a Derby?"

  1. Casey   September 8, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Great stuff!

    Should we explain that in Scotland it is pronounced KEL-tic.

    And to think plans are in the works to replace Anfield. I saw a match there – very spacious.

    Also had the privilege of seeing one in Goodison – the blokes were out of control!

  2. Casey   September 8, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Oh yeah – top notch references to Hoosiers.

  3. Rey   September 8, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    This is true – Anfield is on the outs. I think a new stadium is set to open in 2010.

    Did you know Goodison is also fighting a losing battle? They want to move to a new stadium in Kirkby, just outside the city. Many fans are against the move and just want money to improve Goodison.

    Casey – call me a dreamer but I still want to go over and catch an Everton and Celtic game. You said you were in so start saving. Now that you’re a Muskie dad we may have to wait a few more years, but that’s fine with me.

  4. Casey   September 8, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Me a Muskie dad and you…do you have something to share with the Clipboard?

  5. Casey   September 8, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    I like the picture at the beginning of the post.

  6. Rey   September 9, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    January 31st we will be adding a little Reynell to the fam.

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