Nothing in English soccer beats a derby match, when two sets of supporters who loathe each other find themselves in the same ground for 90 minutes of yelling, taunting, singing, and occasionally even some good football.
Updated 10-12-2018 with December/January TV changes
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 supporters, proximity, a general dislike, very high stakes 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, I guess, 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.
- 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. Brentford and QPR 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 (League One) at this point.
- Speaking of Wimbledon, they sometimes 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, and now Wimbledon is in League One, one above MK Dons.
- A General London Derby can involved any two teams from London, and there are many — in addition to the North London, of course. In the Premier League, you’ve got Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, West Ham and Crystal Palace.
- Manchester 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 came back last year after a six-year layoff. Sheffield United made the Championship, where Sheffield Wednesday awaited, and I got to see that rather amazing encounter. They will be back at it again this season.
- The M23 Derby came back last year, as well. That’s the road that connects South London, home of Crystal Palace, with Brighton, home of Brighton and Hove Albion. 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.
- In the Northeast is a three-way hatefest between Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough. But this year none of of them are in the same league: Newcastle are Premier League, Middlesbrough are in the Championship, and Sunderland are League One.
- 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.
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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 Potteries Derby is between Stoke City and Port Vale, currently two leagues apart
- The Cotton Mill, or East Lancashire Derby, is between Blackburn Rovers (now in the Championship) and Burnley (Premier League).
- 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 (Premier League) v Swansea City (Championship), 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 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 Premier League, but West Brom 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 in the 2018-19 Season
With the usual disclaimer that actual dates might change a bit for television or Cup ties, especially in the Premier League, here are the best rivalry games to watch for this season in the top two tiers:
- Manchester (United vs. City): November 10 at City, March 16 at United
- Merseyside (Everton vs. Liverpool): December 2 at Liverpool, March 2 at Everton
- North London (Arsenal vs. Tottenham): December 2 at Arsenal, March 2 at Tottenham
- West London (Chelsea vs. Fulham): December 2 at Chelsea, March 2 at Fulham
- London (Chelsea vs. Tottenham): November 24 at Tottenham, February 27 at Chelsea
- London (Arsenal vs. Chelsea): August 18 at Chelsea, January 19 at Arsenal
- London (West Ham vs. Chelsea): September 22 and West Ham, April 6 at Chelsea
- M23 (Crystal Palace vs. Brighton and Hove Albion): December 4 at Brighton, March 9 at Palace
- Northwest (Liverpool vs. Manchester United): December 16 at Liverpool, February 23 at United
- East Anglian (Norwich vs. Ipswich Town): September 1 at Ipswich, February 9 at Norwich
- West London (QPR vs. Brentford): November 10 at QPR, March 2 at Brentford
- East Midlands (Derby County vs. Nottingham Forest): December 15 at Derby, February 23 at Forest
- Second City (Birmingham vs. Aston Villa): November 24 at Villa, March 9 at Birmingham City
- West Midlands (Aston Villa vs. West Bromwich Albion): December 7 at West Brom, February 16 at Villa
- West Midlands (Birmingham vs. West Bromwich Albion): September 15 at Birmingham, March 30 at West Brom
- Steel City (Sheffield United vs. Sheffield Wednesday): November 10 at United, March 2 at Wednesday
Top 2018-19 Derbies by Date
(Updated October 5, 2018 with results and TV changes)
- September 1: Norwich City (1) at Ipswich Town (1)
- September 14: West Bromwich Albion (1) at Birmingham City (1)
- September 22: Chelsea (0) at West Ham (0)
- November 9: Sheffield Wednesday at Sheffield United
- November 10: Brentford at QPR
- November 11: Man U at Man City
- November 24: Chelsea at Tottenham
- November 25: Birmingham City at Aston Villa
- December 2: Everton at Liverpool, Tottenham at Arsenal, Fulham at Chelsea
- December 4: Crystal Palace at Brighton and Hove Albion
- December 7: Aston Villa at West Bromwich Albion
- December 16: Man U at Liverpool, Nottingham Forest at Derby County
- February 9: Ipswich Town at Norwich City
- February 16: West Bromwich Albion at Aston Villa
- February 23: Liverpool at Man U, Derby County at Nottingham Forest
- February 27: Tottenham at Chelsea
- March 2: Liverpool at Everton, Arsenal at Tottenham, Chelsea at Fulham, QPR at Brentford, Sheffield United at Sheffield Wednesday
- March 9: Brighton and Hove Albion at Crystal Palace, Aston Villa at Birmingham City
- March 16: Man City at Man U
- March 30: Birmingham City at West Bromwich Albion
- April 6: West Ham at Chelsea