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Why Merseyside derby is so big and special?

May 2, 2013

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Imagine a scenario in a residence, where dad supports Liverpool football club and the son – Everton. This would call for a perfect recipe of a sleepless night in that house after the game, where an endless amount of discussion would take place about the nature of the goals and fouls conceded. To make it worse what if both the dad and son sit down for the weekend’s Merseyside derby game sharing the same television. But, it is rest assured that there would not only be one such family in Liverpool, where such drama would be unfurling. There would be many. With two clubs in such close proximity of about less than a mile away, both the clubs have equal number of supporters in either side of the Stanley Park. The city comes to a standstill to watch the Merseyside derby.

Only Stanley Park separates the two clubs, whose history is one of the finest in English Football. Everton has won top flight English football nine times, whereas Liverpool stands tall amongst many English clubs with 18 titles. But, both the clubs have had a slump with Everton winning the last league title in 1986-87 and Liverpoool in 1989-90. The slump of either teams would go unnoticed when the whistle is blown at Anfield in a few days time for the match with the quality on the pitch  that would be on the offering, which often makes us also wonder- how neither of the teams have not won the title for so many years? What if they treat all their matches as a Merseyside game? But, it is only when Liverpool see Everton and vice versa on the other side of the pitch that gets the better out of them.

When these two sides meet, records do not hold much significance for players, as they treat this game as their last and play to win at all cost. Sometimes the cost of a victory may be ugly as well, which may include bad injuries, red cards and even fights within the match. The players are also so desperate to participate in the derby that they even lie to their managers. This happened with Jamie Carragher when he once told his manager, Rafa Benitez that he is fit enough to play in spite of being injured and not match fit.

But, these are all part and parcel of a Merseyside derby, which has witnessed the maximum number or red cards dished out as compared to the other EPL derbies in the last 15 years or so. Not even the London derby nor the Manchester derby has seen so many red cards. The Merseyside derby is always characterized by high flying tackles, never give up attitude, fight for the ball till the last , play aggressively and great goals with the sole objective of winning the derby and flooring the opponent. One such tackle that springs to one’s mind is Steven Gerrard’s two footed tackle on Gary Naysmith, which was later described as a horror tackle. Gerrard later apologised for his act. Such tackles are common in such a high voltaged match.

Liverpool has enjoyed success in the last four Merseyside matches with Liverpool winning three and drawing one. But, the form book even goes out of the window in the Merseyside derby, so Liverpool’s current form even after thrashing Newcastle and drawing Chelsea would stand null and void. So, it is a fresh start when these teams clash at Anfield this Sunday.

In spite of such kind of rivalries between the two, there are instances when fans of both the clubs get together and show solidarity for the Hillsborough disaster. It is during this instance that these set of fans also stitch together Liverpool and Everton scarves showing respect for each other’s club. No wonder, the relationship between Liverpool fans are both bitter and sour. They reach extremes of both the sides – love and hatred.

But, one should not take the focus away from the game, which takes place on the centre of the pitch. It is expected to be one of the most entertaining games and a match packed with goals. The last time these two sides met was at Goodison Park, where the game finished 2-2. Great games along with great goals has been witnessed in this fixture. Liverpool’s 4-4 draw against Everton in 1991 ranks among the top Merseyside matches, but Liverpool’s victory over Everton in the 1989 FA cup final also deserves to be on the top of the list, where the game extended to an extra-time. Even if the match over the weekend is half of what these matches produced, it would be the game of football, which would turn victorious, irrespective of the result.

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