Less Than A Game: “You hate us, we don’t care"

Not every team's angst is necessarily reciprocated by the other side, as Nick Moore explains...

Fulham vs Chelsea

Has anyone ever really disliked Fulham? Consider the immaculate, homely sounding Craven Cottage, its delightfully bucolic park and river surroundings, and the thoughtful neutral area for randoms who just want to stroll along and take in a match: it’s always been a frankly lovely place to go and watch football, and its fans tend to be a pleasant bunch, too.

No genuine malice ever really flowed back towards the Cottagers from Chelsea, who’d rather look north and east to Spurs and West Ham for some fireworks

Even old moneybags Mohamed Al-Fayed came across as a fairly harmless berk rather than a predatory oligarch. Brentford try to give not loving their Thames-mates a punt, but you sense that even their heart isn’t really in it.

And while Fulham undeniably have a genuine antipathy for their much wealthier and flashier very-near-neighbours, and despite this being a regular Premier League fixture for many years, no genuine malice ever really flowed back towards the Cottagers from Chelsea’s loyalists, who’d rather look north and east to Spurs and West Ham for some fireworks.

"Oi, d**khead! You dropped your coat"

Notts County vs Nottingham Forest

When FourFourTwo visited Nottingham for a League Cup derby between the two back in 2011, we were hard pushed to find anyone with a bad word to say about the other – there was even a eccentric wearing a mad half-and-half boater hat, covered in Subbuteo figures, who supported both sides.

Forest enthusiasts also generally look upon the ‘Pies as a likeable, daft little brother: many even cheer at the City Ground when it’s announced at half-time that County are leading

After extensive probing, we did discover the odd County fan happy to say they “dislike” or “resent” their more successful city-mates (steady on, there!) and even admit that such distaste was largely down to jealously, but at one point in the fixture, the whole ground joined together to sing “Nottingham, Nottingham, Nottingham!”

Forest enthusiasts also generally look upon the ‘Pies as a likeable, daft little brother: many even cheer at the City Ground when it’s announced at half-time that County are leading. Red bile is reserved for Derby, and even given Leicester’s recent successes, the Rams remain their primary foe.

Even the mascots get on

Bolton vs Manchester United

The genuine ire of Trotters fans just isn’t properly reciprocated, and would probably be better directed at someone like Wigan (a rugby town without the history for Bolton to consider them worthy)

This fixture might have been a tasty one back in the days of Nat Lofthouse, but the problem since has been that United have such a busy to-do list when it comes to other sides to detest: there’s the eternal, irresolvable loathing of Liverpool; the brotherly intercity bother of City – only made worse by the Blues’ resurgence – and a properly bitter War Of The Roses with Leeds (currently on ice).

The genuine ire of Trotters fans – who lustily declare “we only hate Man United” –  just isn’t properly reciprocated, and would probably be better directed at someone like Wigan (a rugby town without the history for Bolton to consider them worthy), Blackburn (sometimes lively, but Rovers concentrate more on Burnley) or Bury. Heading down to League One won’t keep them on any radars at Old Trafford.

Millwall vs West Ham vs Spurs vs Arsenal

Millwall against West Ham – when it happens – is probably the planet’s Superclasico of proper naughty, Danny Dyer-voiceover argy-bargy that gets condemned by the Home Secretary

A nasty little daisy chain of outfits not quite operating on the same level. Millwall against West Ham – when it happens – is probably the planet’s Superclasico of proper naughty, Danny Dyer-voiceover argy-bargy that gets condemned by the Home Secretary (2009’s riot being the worst recent example). But while the Hammers certainly have bile to spew for the Lions, their true nemeses are Spurs.

Likewise Tottenham have a robust repugnance of West Ham, but consider it a secondary affair to the more pressing matter of raging at Arsenal. Ultimately, everyone is left even more bitter and wound up than if they could just arrange some nice, equal ill will.

"Come on then, you slaaags"

Bradford vs Leeds

While the Whites’ subsequent implosion of their own has perhaps softened their neighbours’ fervour, the average Elland Road loyalist still doesn’t really register Bradford anywhere on their hate spectrum

To Bantams, the team down the road are Leeds scum, L**ds, or L666ds. A geographical dislike was reinforced by the ‘Dirty Leeds’ of the 1970s, then worsened by a 1983 winding-up petition (caused by an unpaid transfer fee to the Elland Road board), and an incident in 1986 where hooligans set fire to a chip van inside Valley Parade.

United’s subsequent success didn’t help: in 2001, Leeds were in a Champions League semi-final the same season as Bradford were relegated, and began their terminal decline.

But while the Whites’ subsequent implosion of their own has perhaps softened their neighbours’ fervour, the average Elland Road loyalist still doesn’t really register Bradford anywhere on their hate spectrum, with traditional rivals – especially Manchester United – still dominating, despite over a decade outside the top flight.

Champions League semi-finalists Leeds hit relegated Bradford for six

Torquay vs Plymouth vs Exeter

They’d love a war with the Green Army – but find themselves getting patronisingly patted on the head in return by many Argyle fans, who claim to quite like them

A West County shambles to almost match the complex London one: older generations of Plymouth fans preserve a historic docking-related detestation of Portsmouth, and others disapprove of Bristol City – who have been a club of a similar stature to varying degrees over recent years, but don’t really repay the sentiment, because they’re got cross-city rivals to lob missiles at.

Exeter remain scorned, and resent the Pilgrims back heartily, but all this leaves poor old Torquay United hopping mad on the sidelines. They’d love a war with the Green Army – but find themselves getting patronisingly patted on the head in return by many Argyle fans, who claim to quite like them. Infuriating.

"I don't think they're coming"

Carlisle vs Preston

They sometimes try to annoy Preston, but the Lancastrians only have hate-filled eyes for Blackpool

Cumbria’s finest have always had a problem getting anyone to generate enmity against them due to their isolation: Newcastle are their nearest club, but are still 60 miles away and uninterested; and Carlisle have yo-yoed among the divisions too much to find the time to build up a rivalry. They sometimes try to annoy Preston, but the Lancastrians only have hate-filled eyes for Blackpool.

Joe Garner

Joe Garner enjoyed three separate spells at Carlisle but now plays for Preston

Leicester vs Forest / Derby / Coventry

It’s now official national policy that everybody in the England has to love Leicester, admire their plucky underdog owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (who only has £2.2 bn), and weep hysterically with joy whenever they think about their miraculous, Premier League-saving exploits.

But even before they became the People’s Princesses, the Foxes had trouble getting anyone to feel much bona fide malevolence for ‘em: Forest and Derby aren’t keen, but focus more on each other, and the geographic spread of Leicester’s fanbase – they’re situated in a one-team county with many out in the sticks – means that even City fans themselves can’t focus their animus.

Many in the north of the ‘shire disapprove of Forest the most, those out west often dub Derby their public enemy, while further south, there’s often a preference for objecting to Coventry. It’s all very confusing, but keep the success going, and they may actual start to attract some big-hitting haters.

More features every day • FourFourTwo’s 50 Biggest Derbies