London has some of the best football clubs in England. Many of the most notorious club rivalries are between London football clubs. Many of these are based on geographical location and have a long history drawing on complex social factors.
Rivalries can also spill over into ugly scenes of violence between supporters, as was the case during the heyday of football hooliganism in the 1970s and 1980s. This regrettable tendency has not entirely disappeared, but today, many of the rivalries between clubs are thankfully settled on the pitch rather than in the grounds or on the streets outside.
Taking into considerations various factors such as history of the rivalry, intensity of the games, passion among the crowd, attendance and other social facors , here are the Top 10 Biggest Rivalries In London Football –
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10. Brentford v QPR
The first and most obvious reason of the rivalry is the proximity of both clubs to each other as Griffin Park is a mere four and a half miles away from Loftus Road. After the Second World War, they spent practically every season in the same division for the next 20 years. At the time, the fixture was each side’s biggest game of the season and always attracted a big crowd
However, the bad feeling between the clubs runs deeper than locality. In 1967, QPR attempted a takeover of Brentford, which would have resulted in QPR moving into Griffin Park and Brentford F.C. ceasing to exist. The story infamously broke in the London press but Brentford supporters rallied to save their club. Since then, relations between the clubs have been frosty. It is one of the biggest rivalries in London football outside the Premier League.
9. Millwall vs Crystal Palace
People talk about the Eagles rivalry with Brighton. But local rivalry is simply another thing. It’s about the banter in the workplace, at school, down the pub, places where you have to spend time listening to the gloating of the derby defeats or doing a bit of gloating yourself.
Palace-Millwall is the oldest South London rivalry, dating back to 1906. The close geographical proximity of the teams contributes significantly to the rivalry, with Selhurst Park being only six miles from The Den.
A crowd of 37,774 turned out for the Fourth Division clash between Crystal Palace and Millwall at Selhurst Park on 31st March 1961 – a figure that remains the record attendance for the fourth tier of English football.
8. Chelsea vs West Ham
The east-west rivalry between these two London sides heated up with the Blues’ habit of poaching some of the Hammers’ best players, most notably John Terry, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard. The latter was sold to Chelsea for an £11 million transfer fee. Lampard took a while to find his feet at Stamford Bridge but turned out to be one of the best top ten Premier League signings ever – despite being a regular whipping boy for Hammers fans.
Both sets of fans share dislike for each other, a Chelsea fan was quoted saying ” this game is right up there with Arsenal and Tottenham. A victory against West Ham, especially away, is almost always more satisfactory than beating other teams outside the top four”. All these things makes this one of the biggest rivalries in London football.
7. Chelsea vs Millwall
During the 70s and 80s ,Chelsea and Milwall boasted two of the most feared followings in London. There was rarely a game when violent clashes didn’t take place. Supporters running down the streets clashing with each other. The last time they played each other, a mass pitch invasion took place in 1995. Now because of the differences in their league tiers ,they don’t meet often. And we should be thankful for that.
6. QPR vs Chelsea
As local rivals you would expect Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers to be at each other’s necks, but due to the difference in stature between the two that has not been the case for a long time. Over the last few decades Chelsea have flourished meanwhile the Rangers have bounced up and down between leagues. However, QPR fans still consider Chelsea as their main rivals. Their fans consider it as one of the biggest rivalries in London football.
During the start of the 2011-12 season, Chelsea lost 1–0 to a newly promoted QPR in the first Premier League match between the sides since 1996. In a feisty encounter during which the Chelsea players were unable to cope with the hostile atmosphere generated by the QPR fans, players clashed on several occasions, with nine Chelsea players and two QPR booked, with Chelsea’s José Bosingwa and Didier Drogba being sent off. What more intensified the game was that John Terry allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, for which he was charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.
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5. Tottenham vs Chelsea
While they never considered each other primary rivals, the rivalry dates back from the 1967 FA Cup final, which was the competition’s first final to be contested between two teams from London. Tottenham won it 2–1. For Chelsea fans, it was a major blow to see two of their former players, Jimmy Greaves and Terry Venables, win the FA Cup with Tottenham
Since then , matches between them would often attract large attendances and would sometimes end up in violent clashes between supporters. This boiled once again in 2015-16 season when Chelsea put an end to Spurs’ title challenge just a few games from the end of the season, which opened the door for Leicester City’s remarkable title triumph.
4. Arsenal vs Chelsea
While they never considered each other primary rivals, as two of the biggest and most successful clubs in London there has always been strong needle between the fans dating back to the 1930s. Matches between them would often attract large attendances.
The Arsenal and Chelsea rivalry has been more recently considered an important derby, after Chelsea’s rise to the top class of the Premier League in the 2000s, when the two started to compete constantly for the Premier League title. Both fancy themselves as the biggest and most successful: Arsenal have won 13 league titles and 13 FA Cups, while Chelsea are the only British club to have bagged all three European trophies as well as being the defending champions. It’s swings and roundabouts. As such, they don’t get on very well.
3. West Ham vs Tottenham
While many Irons and Spurs supporters would consider Millwall and Arsenal respectively to be their arch-enemies, this derby has also proven to be pretty fierce for a number of decades. Without a doubt, this rivalry earns a place in this list of ‘biggest rivalries in London football’.
The Tottenham supporters’ condescension feeds the Hammers fans’ disdain and the bubbling animosity exists not so much for football or geographic reasons, but for how each side views the other. Spurs belittle the Irons, West Ham fight to prove their relevance. But the rivalry has nevertheless proven to be a reliable source of entertaining plot points and intriguing narratives.
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2. West Ham vs Millwall
The rivalry between Millwall and West Ham United is one of the longest-standing and most bitter in English football. In 1885, Millwall FC was formed by dockers and shipbuilders on the Isle of Dogs in London’s East End. Ten years later, on the other side of the Thames river, a team was formed at Thames Ironworks, which would later be called West Ham United, to boost the morale of the workers. The teams were supported by shipmen and workers, who were anyway rivals in their business. Football just intensified everything.
They first played each other in the 1899–1900 FA Cup. The match was historically known as the Dockers derby, as both sets of supporters were predominantly dockers at shipyards on either side of the River Thames. In 1910, Millwall moved south of the River Thames to New Cross and the teams were no longer East London neighbours. Both sides have relocated since, but remain just under four miles apart. Millwall moved to The Den in Bermondsey in 1993 and West Ham to the London Stadium in Stratford in 2016.
The rivalry between the teams is deeply embedded in British football hooliganism lore and culture, and has been depicted in films that focused specifically on the animosity between the clubs’ two hooligan firms, the Inter City Firm and the Millwall Bushwackers. Violence has occurred sporadically between the fans, once resulting in the death of a Millwall supporter in 1976. Most recently in the 2009 Upton Park riot, widespread disorder between supporters in and around West Ham’s Upton Park ground led to numerous injuries and a Millwall fan being stabbed before the match began.
They don’t meet often now-a-days but when the clubs actually clash, all the pent up hatred just blows away anything that comes in its way. Probably, if the teams go on to meet more often, a time may come when this derby takes the shape of a rivalry such as the one between Arsenal and Tottenham, in which although there is boundless passion and hatred, the fans don’t let it transform into violence or hooliganism.
1. Arsenal vs Tottenham
The rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur has all that anyone could want: uncomfortably close home grounds, season-defining clashes and a long list of traitors and heroes to play with the emotions of both sets of fans. As a spectacle, the north London derby is as good an advert for as you could get for English football, with high-intensity football on the pitch and an infectiously loud atmosphere in the stands every time the two sides meet.
Although the two teams first played each other in 1887, the rivalry did not begin until 1913 when Arsenal moved their ground to north London. Fans of both clubs like to claim that they are the true “pride of north London”, but it is only after each derby that this claim can be vindicated.
This fixture has produced many memorable events, like Paul Gascoigne’s free-kick in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, Arsenal clinching the league title at White Hart Lane in 1971 and 2004 and some pretty poisonous abuse directed at Sol Campbell following his move from Spurs to Arsenal in 2001. It is generally the biggest game of the season for both clubs and their fans.
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