NEAR POST – THE FRIENDLY DERBY?

Tomorrow lunchtime sees the latest meeting of Everton and Liverpool at Goodison park.

My family on my mother’s side are Scousers. My uncle and cousins support The Reds and my brother Adrian is a blue nose . When my brother was young and looking to form his first footballing allegiance, he came to the decision that he would support Everton. Ever the contrarian, he did it to wind up my Bolton Wanderers supporting father and Liverpool supporting uncle, and was reinforced in this by my mischief-loving grandfather who headed down to the club shop at Goodison and bought him an adidas-style Everton shoulder bag for Christmas. This allegiance has endured, and the banter flows between the Reds and the Blues in my family every time the two clubs meet, aided by social media.

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Walking to Goodison Park, picture courtesy of Adrian Metcalfe

The derby match is often referred to in the media as the “friendly derby”, with supporters from both sides walking to the match together and swapping witty banter as they cross Stanley Park, but, in reality, football both unites and divides the city of Liverpool and its families.

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Calm down, calm down…

The Guardian describes it as having “all the fraternal toxicity of a family argument”, as the ‘Red Shite’ (Liverpool fans) and the ‘Sock Robbers’ (Evertonians) hurl insults (and socks) at each other instead of the rose-tinted, nostalgic, media perpetuated myth of “kinfolk passing each other cups of Bovril between “quick-witted” jibes”.

This from the Guardian blog piece, “The myth of the friendly derby“:

“The perpetuation of the myth suits the family-friendly Premiership, but the reality is a little different: the modern-day derby is a hate-ridden, noxious affair that should come with a health warning, lest one inhales the fumes rising off the Gladwys Street or Spion Kop. Reds and Blues are no longer compatible. Toss a Red into the Gladwys Street, or a Toffee into the Kop and the reaction is as explosive as dropping a granule of zinc into sulphuric acid. What Sky doesn’t show from 50 different angles in high definition are the few fans sat among home supporters who face phlegm-filled threats and abuse for celebrating a goal among rivals before being ejected for inciting trouble.”

That was written six years ago, but still holds true.

“It’s true that the derby has at times been a friendly encounter – most pointedly in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, when Evertonians couldn’t have done more to comfort their rivals as the city of Liverpool fell into mourning. The clubs were even physically linked by a mile-long chain of red-and-blue scarves in the days following April 15, 1989. And a month later the city travelled en masse to Wembley for the FA Cup final, where over 100,000 supporters mixed in a fitting tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives. But there had been ill feeling prior to the Hillsborough disaster that gradually returned as Everton’s fortunes spiralled downwards through the 90s.

“Much of the sourness was born of the Heysel disaster in 1985. Everton had just pipped Liverpool to the league title with arguably their greatest-ever side, containing Peter Reid, Graeme Sharp and Trevor Steven. The subsequent five-year ban prevented Howard Kendall’s team from competing for the European Cup, which many Toffees believe they would have won.”

Meetings between the two sides in the late 1990s and 2000s were marked by incident and controversy.

At Anfield in 1999, Robbie Fowler responded to chants of ‘smackhead’ coming from the Everton fans by converting a penalty in front of Toffees fans and celebrating by kneeling down and lowering his head to the penalty box white line, then pretended to snort it as if hoovering up a fat line of cocaine. Fowler was a boyhood Evertonian.

The Anfield derby in 1999 saw Everton striker Francis Jeffers collide with Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld when trying to run on to a through ball. “Handbags” ensued and despite neither player successfully landing a punch referee Mike Riley had little choice but to send both of them off.

Liverpool under Gerard Houlier won a cup treble in 2001, and the next derby saw Evertonians hurling Heysel-themed insults at their red counterparts. This brought the minute’s silence at Goodison Park to remember those who died at Hillsborough to a premature conclusion.

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Two children take part in Everton’s beautifully staged tribute to the 96 victims of Hillsborough

Liverpool and Everton did join together again for the Justice for the 96 campaign, but such niceties are soon forgotten once the invective and tackles start flying on match day. The fixture has produced more sendings off than any other in the Premier League.

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Kuyt & Neville clash, Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt clattered into Everton’s Phil Neville in the 2007 derby at Goodison Park, and the first derby of the 2011/12 season at Goodison saw Toffees midfielder Jack Rodwell slide in to take the ball off Luis Suarez. Suarez hit the deck, screaming in apparent pain and rolling around on the floor in stereotypical fashion. Referee Martin Atkinson bought Suarez’s play-acting  and gave Rodwell a straight red. Subsequent replays showed that Rodwell’s contact on Suarez was minimal and his red card was later rescinded, but that was little consolation to Everton, who went on to lose the game 2-0.

Derby matches in general are seldom free-flowing, high-scoring feasts of football, and when Everton and Liverpool meet it’s no exception to that rule. However, some hold out hope for Saturday’s game.

This from the Guardian again, “Everton v Liverpool and it’s business as usual with the ongoing derby“:

Roberto Martínez, ever the optimist, is under the impression Saturday’s game might be a treat, “a real football celebration”, but he is new to the occasion. After 51 unbroken years, or 119 years if you take the long view back to the original split, most people on Merseyside are aware that while many derbies are remembered for many different reasons – line sniffing, handbag presenting, comedy diving, classic own-goals and Clive Thomas among them – quality football has rarely taken centre stage. Martínez is a believer, though, and so is Brendan Rodgers, so you never know. There is always a first time.”

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2 thoughts on “NEAR POST – THE FRIENDLY DERBY?

  1. Always looking towards the derby match. Full of drama and excitement. A good game to watch.

  2. […] Near Post – the Friendly Derby? (nostanding13.wordpress.com) […]

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