When, and what, are the top English soccer derbies for the 2017-18 season?
To answer that, let’s start with something more basic: What the hell is a derby?
A derby — which is pronounced “darby,” not like they do it in Kentucky — is just a rivalry, usually between two teams close to each other. The word comes from either a horse race in the town of Derby that’s been going on since the 18th Century, or for a medieval “game,” also in Derby, that was basically a brawl involving hundreds of people.
Either way, a derby is the combination of English
soccer football fans, proximity, a general dislike, and lots of beer. So it’s something you absolutely want to catch if at all possible.
Top Derbies in English Soccer
There is no real ranking system for this, because after all, what would you rank? Importance? These days that would be the Manchester Derby, City v United. Number of occasions? Probably Everton-Liverpool. Bitterness? Cardiff-Swansea, from what I hear. It was bad enough that for a while they didn’t allow away fans!
So what I’ve got here is a list of some notable ones, along with a few words on why you might care. Down further I’ll go through this year’s calendar and make some notes.
- The North London Derby is among the most famous and bitter. This is Arsenal v Tottenham, two clubs separated by five miles. The whole thing started when Arsenal moved to the neighborhood in 1913. They’ve played 183 times total.
- The West London Derby, since we’re in the capital, is any game between Brentford, Chelsea, Fulham, and Queens Park Rangers. They all disagree on which is their biggest rival, but you can visit all four stadiums in a nine-mile drive. All but Chelsea are in the Championship this year.
- The South London Derby is any game between Charlton, Crystal Palace, Millwall and AFC Wimbledon. Sadly, only Charlton and Wimbledon are in the same league at this point.
- Speaking of Wimbledon, they play in the wonderfully named Derby That Shouldn’t Exist. That’s because the original AFC Wimbledon moved, which is almost completely unheard of in England, to become Milton Keynes Dons. So Wimbledon fans started another Wimbledon. There was some arguing over the nickname and mascot, but they’re back in the same league again, so it’s on.
- A General London Derby can involved any two teams from London, and there are many. In the Premier League, Arsenal and Chelsea have played 190 times, Spurs and Chelsea 104, West Ham are in there … you get the idea.
- Man United v Liverpool has little to do with geography, though the cities are less than an hour apart by train, and a lot more to do with the fact that they are #1 and #2 at winning the league.
- The Steel City Derby is back this year! Sheffield United made the Championship, where Sheffield Wednesday await, and they will contest the oldest rivalry in the game again this year. The first match, in 1862, ended … in a fight.
- The M23 Derby is back, as well! That’s the road that connects South London, home of Crystal Palace, with Brighton, where Brighton and Hove Albion have made it to the Premier League for the first time. They’re not too close to each other, but they’ve played a lot, and sometime back in the 70s there was a thing between the Brighton manager and Palace fans, and things were thrown, and in 2013 they played in the playoffs, and somebody took a crap in the Palace locker room. I’m serious.
- The Tees-Wear Derby is part of a three-way hatefest between Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough in the Northeast of England. Newcastle went up for this year to the Premier League, and both Sunderland and Middlesbrough went down to the Championship. So there’s no Tyne-Wear or Tyne-Tees Derby, just Sunderland v Middlesbrough.
- The Manchester Derby is, of course, between United and City. It’s gotten to be a really big deal since City got into the real money.
- The Merseyside Derby is so named because it takes places alongside the River Mersey, which is to say in Liverpool. To most people, this is Liverpool v Everton, clubs separated by a less than a mile (and a park.) It could also involve either of them playing Tranmere Rovers, but that seems unlikely.
- The Second City Derby returns again for this year, as neither Aston Villa nor Birmingham City got out of the Championship. Expect many rousing renditions of “Shit on the Villa” at St. Andrews.
- The East Midlands Derby, Nottingham Forest vs Derby County, is heated because they are only 12 miles apart, and also because they share the greatest manager in history, Brian Clough. The winner takes home a trophy bearing his name.
- The East Anglian Derby is another in the Championship, between Norwich City and Ipswich Town. It’s one of those that, since nobody else cares and there’s nothing else to do, is really ugly. It has a sense of humor, though. Owing to their shared agricultural heritage, and with a nod to the Old Firm Derby in Glasgow, they call themselves the Old Farm Derby. I have also heard it called the Combine Clasico. I love English people. I also saw this game once.
Noteworthy Derbies That Don’t Happen Much at the Moment
When two teams spend time in different leagues, it takes a Cup tie to bring them together — like when Leicester City and Derby County bumped into each other in the FA Cup last year. Otherwise, these classics are on hold:
- The Bristol Derby, City (Championship) vs Rovers (League One)
- The South Coast Derby, Southampton (Premier League) vs Portsmouth (League One), which I hear is an ugly one. They are separated by two leagues at the moment.
- The South Wales Derby, Cardiff (Championship) v Swansea (Premier League), is by many accounts the worst of the lot. I went to a game at Swansea, and my God, some of the shit they sang about Cardiff. They were playing Burnley, by the way.
- The Nottingham Derby involves the two closest teams, at least geographically. Standing outside either the Notts County or Nottingham Forest ground, you can see the other right across the River Trent. Separated by two leagues, though, they haven’t played since 2011.
- The Tyne-Wear Derby, or the Wear-Tyne Derby. Sunderland and Newcastle have been arguing crap like this since the English Civil War in the 17th Century. I know people in both cities, and they all clearly lose their minds when they play each other. One Newcastle fan punched a police horse one time! They switched leagues this year, so this one is off for now.
- The Black Country Derby, Wolverhampton Wanderers vs West Bromwich Albion, is also the worst nightmare matchup of the guy who puts the winner’s name on the FA Cup Trophy. It’s is off since Wolves are in the Championship. They still get to play Aston Villa and Birmingham City, which can be fun.
- Millwall vs West Ham used to be all about the action on the terraces and in the streets, back in the 1970s. They also rioted in 2009! Now Millwall has just dragged themselves back into the Championship, so all of us non-police will have to hope for a Cup tie.
Derbies During the 2017-18 Season
I’m just going to do the Premier League and Championship here, because really, I’m tired of writing, and you’re probably tired of reading!
- August 20: Spurs-Chelsea
- September 15: Bournemouth-Brighton
- September 17: Chelsea-Arsenal
- September 23: West Ham v Spurs, Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield United
- September 30: QPR-Fulham
- October 14: Wolves-Aston Villa, Liverpool v Man United, Derby County v Nottingham Forest
- October 21: Ipswich-Norwich
- October 28: Crystal Palace-West Ham, Brighton v Southampton, Birmingham v Aston Villa
- November 4: Spurs v Palace,Middlesbrough v Sunderland
- November 18: Arsenal v Tottenham
- November 25: Fulham v Millwall, QPR v Brentford
- November 28: Brighton v Crystal Palace
- December 2: Bournemouth v Southampton, Birmingham v Wolverhampton, Brentford v Fulham
- December 9: West Ham v Chelsea, Liverpool v Everton, Man U v Man City
- December 13: West Ham v Arsenal
- December 26: Palace v Arsenal
- December 30: Spurs v West Ham, Millwall v QPR
- January 1: Brighton v Bournemouth, Arsenal v Chelsea
- January 13: Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday
- January 20: Arsenal v Crystal Palace
- January 30: West Ham v Crystal Palace
- January 31: Southampton v Brighton
- February 10: Tottenham v Arsenal, Aston Villa v Birmingham
- February 17: Norwich v Ipswich
- February 24: Palace v Tottenham, Sunderland v Middlesbrough
- March 10: Chelsea v Palace, Man U v Liverpool, Aston Villa v Wolverhampton, Millwall v Brentford, Nottingham Forest v Derby County
- March 17: Fulham v QPR
- March 31: Chelsea v Spurs
- April 7: Everton v Liverpool, Man City v Man U, Chelsea v West Ham
- April 14: Palace v Brighton, Fulham v Brentford, Wolverhampton v Birmingham
- April 21: Arsenal v West Ham, Millwall v Fulham, Brentford v QPR
- April 28: Southampton v Bournemouth