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 neighbors. 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 nowadays 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 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.