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The one to watch: Merseyside Derby

Confusion may reign at Liverpool FC, but it won't get in the way of Saturday's Merseyside derby: A chance to settle old scores or really just one big party?

Published on February 7th 2007.

The one to watch: Merseyside Derby

The derby? Isn’t that a horse race? Funny you should say that. The term “derby match” may have originated here when Liverpool first played Everton. The Anfield and Goodison Park stadiums are separated by the mere strip of land that is Stanley Park. It was then owned by one Edward “Stanley” Smith, aka the Earl of Derby, who liked to put himself about a bit, and also gave his name to the famous race.

What’s so special about the Merseyside derby? While many local derbies spark bitter conflict among team supporters – Newcastle and Sunderland fans were once banned from each other’s grounds, and Rangers and Celtic were never the best of pals – our derby is fought out in a spirit of good-natured animosity, hence “The Friendly Derby”.

How so? Families here are a melting pot of red and blue, even though, as in all families, relations have been strained at times. Both grounds are so close to each other that neither club takes its fan base from distinct parts of the city, or from religious denominations these days. So fans intermingle at work and socially.

But seeing as how Liverpool have finished above Everton in the Premiership 13 times out of the last 14, is there really anything to play for? Piss off.

I take it you’re a Bluenose? I take it you’re Red Shite?

Eh, steady on. What happened to “The Friendly Derby”? Friendly, my arse. We'll see you all outside, we'll see you all outside, WE'LL SEE YOU ALL OUTSIDE!! Well, all right, except my mum. It's not her fault Granddad Billy brainwashed her.

So, who’s going to win? Check with the bookies. Liverpool are 8-15 favourites, but the form book, as you are obliged to say on this occasion, goes out the window.

What’s the score? Of the 204 Merseyside derbies to date, there have been 79 Liverpool wins, 65 Everton wins and 61 draws. So there's everything to play for.

The most exciting derby ever? Probably the epic 4-4 draw in the FA Cup in 1991 when Everton came from behind four times. Days later, the Blues won the replay and the legendary Kenny Dalglish resigned as Liverpool manager.

The most boring? All the rest.

Surely not? Well they are frequently dour affairs in which maiming a member of the opposition draws greater applause than scoring a goal.

Not the Beautiful Game? Boot-a-few, more like.

Do say: "It's a game of two halves."

Don’t say: "May the best team win."

Main Photograph: © Rob Carter

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