Ranked! FourFourTwo's top 10 most exciting derbies in British football
Off-field shenanigans, both fun and furious, can distract some supporters from the actual football. But not FourFourTwo, because we now present Britain’s best derbies by on-pitch entertainment over the past 25 years.
Now, don’t be angry: providing for the neutrals doesn’t mean we forgot your favourite rivalry. Some classic clashes – such as the Edinburgh derby between Hearts and Hibs – just didn’t make the cut. As nawty as Millwall vs West Ham can be, they’ve met all of nine times in 25 years, and being two divisions apart makes it less relevant in 2017. It’s the same, but even more so, for Southampton vs Portsmouth.
Elsewhere, the hard-to-fathom rivalry between Brighton and Crystal Palace brought play-off excitement in 2012/13 but little in the two decades before it, while Ipswich vs Norwich rarely catches the interest of those outside East Anglia, and it’s a similar situation with Northern Ireland’s biggest derbies. As for Blackburn vs Burnley and West Brom vs Wolves, the matches are often just dull. Sorry.
So, here’s our Top 10 British derbies for on-pitch entertainment since 1992. Enjoy.
10. Aston Villa vs Birmingham
The Second City Derby’s proud history began with a controversial win on a dodgy pitch in 1879, and featured a League Cup final clash in 1963 – won by Birmingham – but in terms of pure entertainment its reputation these days only marginally trumps the Black Country Derby across the way. While England’s top two levels average around 2.75 goals per game, the Birmingham derby manages a pitiful 2.1 in all competitions since 1992.
Still, the contests are usually close (Villa’s 5-1 hammering of the visitors in 2008 aside) and the rivalry did create a hapless Villan in goalkeeper Peter Enckelman, whose pair of cock-ups, six months apart, gifted Birmingham a league double in 2002/03.
9. Cardiff vs Swansea
Not long ago, this was the most passionate (read: violent) derby in the UK. However, Swansea earned the right in recent years to forget their South Wales enemies even exist, while Cardiff focus instead on Severnside Derby matches against Bristol City.
Neither side has ever done the league double over the other (and they’ve each had a good 30 opportunities)
Yet matches between the Swans and the Bluebirds are generally entertaining and less one-sided than a prospective fight between their avian representatives, seeing as neither side has ever done the league double over the other (and they’ve each had a good 30 opportunities).
Following skirmishes in the third division, regular meetings in the Championship brought last-minute winners for Cardiff, consecutive red cards for Stephen McPhail and goals aplenty for both sides. Their two Premier League meetings produced a win apiece and a full-back (Swansea’s Angel Rangel) in goal.
Entertainment crosses the gender divide, too: Swansea City Ladies won both of this season’s derbies 4-3.
8. Derby vs Nottingham Forest
The Brian Clough Trophy regularly changes hands between two teams that are falling a long way short of his achievements. Nottingham Forest – back-to-back European champions under Clough – are fighting relegation to the third tier. Derby – the club he led to promotion, then the league title – have spent eye-watering sums in order to move sideways. As such, the derby has a wistful nostalgia about it.
Even so, the matches are hard-fought, with only four of the last 20 being settled by more than one goal. Don’t leave early: this season you’d have missed Daniel Pinillos’ 94th-minute Forest equaliser, and in 2015 it would’ve been 20-year-old Ben Osborn slamming home a last-minute winner.
For their part, Derby turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 FA Cup victory at Forest’s City Ground in 2009, and two years later recovered from being 1-0 and a man down after five minutes there in order to win 2-1. Crikey.