As soon as the fixtures come out it’s the one you pan down to straight away, the one team who you get as much joy from their defeats as your own victories. Where a goal against the old enemy can put you in club folklore for life. Every club feels their rivalry is the fiercest and frankly I think it is impossible to rate one rivalry over another. This is in no order, merely a compilation of the most hatred filled, intense matches that the Football League has to offer.
Nottingham Forest v Derby County
A rivalry that stemmed originally from geographical proximity and has only intensified throughout history. The late 1970’s was a catalyst to intensify the hatred between the two neighbours. The late great Brian Clough crossed the divide after managing Derby County and led Forest to two European Cups. The match has been marred by off the field incidents with both sets of fans clashing for a number of years.
A hatred that has developed in quite a short time in comparison to some of the other rivalries on this list, the first competitive encounter not occurring until 1960. The loathing intensified during the 1980’s through the increased regularity of matches, industrial rivalry between the towns and a number of controversial incidents. 1982 seen a late Swindon winner assisted by a smoke bomb obscuring the United keeper. A street party in Swindon celebrating Oxford’s relegation out of the Football League in 2006 highlighted how the two clubs feel about each other. Recent Swindon manager Di Canio also did little for relations with a number of antagonistic comments.
The nastiness of this particular rival has its roots set in the 1950’s where arguments were rife about who was better, Preston’s Tom Finney or Blackpool’s Stanley Matthews? ‘The M55 derby’ has overtaken other rivalries within the area as both clubs see the other as their arch nemesis. Karl Oyster the chairman of Blackpool spoke volumes about how he felt when he stated after a defeat that he felt like ‘feeding his players raw meat all week.’ As the recent League Cup encounter showed, this particular rivalry shows no sign of reducing over time.
Also known as ‘El Lanclassico’ these two old founder members of the football league have been slugging it out for 125 years. Supposedly started by Blackburn reporting Burnley over illegal numbers of Scottish players in 1890, time has certainly not been a healer. With Blackburn holding the candle over their Lancashire rivals for 34 years now the bragging rights are firmly with the side from Ewood Park. Local –lad-turned hero David Dunn is not afraid to be public on his opinion of the Burnley fans, referring to them as ‘Dingles’ on a regular basis. One of the oldest rivalries in English football is as fierce as ever.
The Steel City Derby is widely considered one of, if not the most passionate and hotly contested derby in English football. Almost 120 years after the first encounter these age old enemies still hold particular contempt for one another. Both have fallen from grace in recent years, for many years a top division encounter both sides have found themselves in the football league for several years now. Wednesday currently have the upper hand after pipping the Blades to promotion from League One. In an area where football means everything, these matches are one of the main dates on the British footballing calendar.
In terms of numbers these two may not be the best supported clubs on the planet but this match has developed into one of the most hostile in the whole of the Football League. Traditionally Exeter would have classed Torquay as their rivals, with the Seagulls still classing Exeter as their enemy, but due to the consistency of matches against Plymouth this has become the premiere match in Devon. Crowd violence has been rife during the last few meetings of the West Country clubs .Explosive rivalries and football violence wouldn’t be the first thing to associate with Devon, but this fixture has a growing reputation for one of the nastiest encounters around.
Imagine your club are stolen beneath your feet. Rebranded, packed up and moved 56 miles down the road. This situation inexplicably came about in 2002 when the FA approved the relocation of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes. Loyal Wimbledon fans started again, trials on the Wimbledon Common, we know the story, one of the true happy endings. But because Wimbledon MK II have reached the Football League does not mean scars have healed. Only one meeting between the clubs have taken place, an FA Cup tie at Stadium:MK where the home side triumphed. The day was an emotionally charged one, some ended the day fighting, the wounds all too recent. Although this match is relatively new in terms of fixtures between the two the uniqueness and the hurt behind the stories mean it is one of if not the most hate filled matches in football.
Bristol City v Bristol Rovers
‘The last great underachieving metropolis of English football.’ With such a massive city it is strange that neither club has had much success in their history. But in Bristol it is simple; you are a Gas head or a Robin, with only four miles separating the old enemies, hostilities are still at their peak. The recent irregularity of fixtures means every time the two clash is a special occasion. Six years have passed since the red and blue have met but all that is set to change in the JPT first round, where two sensationally, loud, proud and loyal fan bases will meet again.