Ranked! The 30 most hated ever teams in British football: 10-1
7. Arsenal, 1919
Arsenal won the vote, getting 18 votes compared to eight for Tottenham, who had finished bottom of Division One in 1914/15
The legend of ‘lucky Arsenal’ was born with a dubious deal struck when league football returned at the end of World War I. The Gunners were elected to a new 22-team First Division, despite finishing fifth in Division Two in 1914/15. Arsenal chairman Sir Henry Norris had secretly negotiated with (and, it has been alleged, bribed) members of the FA committee.
Arsenal won the vote, getting 18 votes compared to eight for Tottenham, who had finished bottom of Division One in 1914/15. The shock of this relegation is said to have killed the parrot that had become a kind of Spurs mascot.
Chief villain: Sir Henry Norris. The Arsenal chairman, Conservative MP and estate agent was later banned for life by the FA for embezzlement and handing a brown envelope full of cash to new signing Charlie Buchan.
6. Liverpool, 1974-89
Like a proto-Mourinho, media-savvy Bill Shankly used his personality cult to belittle rivals, most notably Everton
Success breeds contempt. The widespread unpopularity of Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering Manchester United was mirrored two decades earlier by their great rivals. Each team was brilliant; each was hated.
Like a proto-Mourinho, media-savvy Bill Shankly used his personality cult to belittle rivals, most notably Everton. Although Liverpool were rarely short of attacking talent, the creators were protected by a procession of unforgiving hard men: Ron Yeats, Tommy Smith (“He wasn’t born, he was quarried”), Joey Jones, Jimmy Case, Graeme Souness, Steve McMahon.
On the other hand, it was widely accepted that any tackle at the Kop end would result in a Liverpool penalty. And once ahead in a game in the days before the backpass rule, they were seldom too idealistic to kill a close game with an endless recycling of possession between Bruce Grobbelaar, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson.
Nor were the fans popular, spawning many of the stereotypes which linger to this day. That they were so frequently celebrating victory only strengthened the hatred that reached a controversial peak after the Heysel disaster caused all English clubs to be banned from Europe for half a decade, ending the country’s unprecedented hegemony over continental competition (seven European Cups in eight seasons, 1977-84). English football never regained its pre-eminence; when Liverpool lost theirs, few felt pity.
Chief villain: Graeme Souness. As aggressive as Roy Keane but twice as arrogant, the swaggering Souness led Liverpool for seven staggeringly successful seasons as a midfielder. His equally confrontational return as a manager heralded the start of a league title-less slump which has now lasted a quarter of a century.
5. Millwall, 1885-present
As long ago as the 1930s, directors tried to improve the club’s image, with uniformed pageboys acting as commissionaires at the ground
The obvious explanation is that Millwall supporters have a rap sheet as long as Al Capone’s. The offences to be taken into consideration include major riots at home (vs Birmingham in 2002 and Ipswich in 1978) and away (against Luton in 1985, QPR in 1966, plus West Ham in 1906 and 2009).
They've also been charged with ambushing officials outside the ground, breaking a visiting goalkeeper’s jaw after he tried to stop them chucking missiles and lobbing a dummy hand grenade onto the pitch.
As extensive as this record is, does it wholly account for their pariah status? History suggests it doesn’t. In 1910, the Lions crossed the Thames and moved – albeit only a few kilometres – from east to south-east London, settling in the aptly named Cold Blow Lane off the Old Kent Road.
This desertion of the club’s original manor fuelled tensions between Millwall and West Ham. The rivalry reached a tragic climax in 1976 with the fatal stabbing of Millwall fan Ian Pratt. Leaflets were soon handed out at the Den declaring: 'A West Ham fan must die this week'.
The Hammers have escaped much of the opprobrium possibly because, unlike the Lions, they had the sense to become custodians of ‘good football’, creating the famous Academy and nurturing three 1966 legends – Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters. In contrast, the best known Millwall players are hard man Harry Cripps, Teddy Sheringham and chippy Dennis Wise.
As long ago as the 1930s, directors tried to improve the club’s image, with uniformed pageboys acting as commissionaires at the ground. But nothing has really worked: when footballer Gavin Grant was convicted of murder in 2010, the BBC News headline read: 'Former Millwall striker Grant guilty of murder' – even though he had played for seven clubs and was on Bradford City’s books when he was condemned.
Chief villain: Rotters, the bloody lot of them. Or that’s the wider perception. But would they have it any other way? As their own unofficial anthem begins: “No one likes us…”.