It’s Matchday 33 in the Premier League, and we’re treated to three of the best local derbies English football can offer. It’s the Manchester and Merseyside derbies, and an East vs West London derby between Chelsea and West Ham.
But why are there even clubs so close to each other? And for these three pairings, it’s always red vs blue (or claret, if you’re West Ham). What gives?
London being England’s primate city can explain the fact why there are a lot of football clubs there, and more so that there are five teams from there at the top flight. West Ham, founded in 1895 as company team of Thames Ironworks, was disbanded in June 1900, then relaunched a month later. This is where “the Hammers” and “the Irons” nicknames came from.
Chelsea were founded a few years later, in 1905 by Gus Mears, who just bought the Stamford Bridge stadium. When Fulham refused his offer for them to use the ground on a lease, Mears figured he should just found his own club. He has a problem, though. Stamford Bridge is in Fulham, and he can no longer use “Fulham FC”, so he used Chelsea, the name of the borough next door, for his new club.
Chelsea leads West Ham all time in the league, with 41 wins and 19 draws, with the Hammers winning 37.
In the northwest of England, Everton were founded in 1878, and moved to Anfield in 1884. Anfield’s owner, John Houlding, owned a brewery, while several members of Everton’s board were in favor of the temperance movement. Inevitably, there were disagreements, and Everton left Anfield in 1892. Houlding, who has a stadium with no tenant, founded his own club.
As the team that left is already using the “Everton” name, he had to go through “Everton Athletic” first, then eventually as “Liverpool FC,” as the Football League refused to admit a name called “Everton”. Liverpool would then be associated in the 20th century with its Carlsberg sponsorship, which kind of makes sense with how they were founded.
Liverpool has more wins than Everton in the league, with 76 against 57, with both teams sharing the points 64 times.
While Chelsea and West Ham are in Greater London (and none are in the square mile that is City of London), and Everton and Liverpool are in Liverpool, the two Manchester sides can lay claim to be in Greater Manchester, but only City fans can claim to be in the actual city of Manchester, rubbing it to the faces of their United rivals with an aptly named “City of Manchester Stadium”. United’s Old Trafford is just outside Manchester’s city limits.
United was founded in 1848 as a company club of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway at Newton Heath, hence named as “Newton Heath FC,” After financial restructuring, the club was renamed into “Manchester United” in 1902. By 1909, United were in Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, Manchester City were founded in 1880 as a way for the youth to turn away from alcoholism and gang violence; originally a cricket team, a football team was created to keep fit for the winter months. In 1894, the club was reformed into “Manchester City”, and became the first team from Manchester to win a title, by winning the 1904 FA Cup.
In the league, United has 61 wins and 45 draws, with City winning 45 times.
These weekend’s fixtures are sure to decide the fates not just for these six teams, but all other teams. Manchester United can make the season interesting with a win against City, otherwise City are on a lock for the title. Chelsea can salvage any hopes of Champions League qualification with a win, while West Ham can pull away from the relegation zone with a result. Liverpool can solidify their hopes of Champions League qualification with a triumph, and can beat out United if they win, while Everton have Europe on sites with a victory.