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The magic at Merseyside: a look at England’s oldest rivalry

February 26, 2021

For those of you who don’t know me personally, let me preface this article by telling you a little bit about myself as a soccer fan. In 2013, I became an Everton fan and developed my first true love affair with English football by watching my American hero Tim Howard in goal behind young, exciting stars like Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley tearing up opposing defenses. My initial affinity for Everton was frankly a bit arbitrary, but over the years it’s grown into a deeply rooted love for the club and the ups and downs that come with being a fan. So, this past Sunday, after getting brunch from Thorne, I sat down on the couch at 12:30 p.m. and flipped on NBCSN to watch my boys (the Blues) take on their cross-town rivals, Liverpool (the Reds) in their storied derby match, the Merseyside Derby.

Before talking about the most thrilling 90 minutes of my recent memory, time for a quick history lesson. Everton was founded in 1878 in Liverpool, a port city nestled on the west coast of England, and originally played their games at Liverpool F.C.’s current stadium, Anfield. After a dispute between the club’s chairman and board boiled over, Everton moved across the road to play at Goodison Park, where they still play to this day. In response, the former chairman created a new club, Liverpool F.C., which inherited the Anfield grounds. The Merseyside Derby is the longest running top-flight derby game in England, having been played continuously since 1962, and its full history dates all the way back to 1898. Everton dominated in the early days, but by the early 1970s, Liverpool began to catch up. During the 1982-83 season, they surpassed Everton’s lead in the wins column, and they have continued to reign supreme to this day.

Now, the Merseyside Derby is one of the most passionate rivalries in sports. The biggest reason is shearly due to the close proximity of the two clubs. Everton’s home, Goodison Park, and Liverpool’s home, Anfield, are just a 15-minute walk apart—a closeness rivaled by almost no two other teams in the world. For that reason, the array of divides that typically exist between fans of bitter, intra-city rivals elsewhere in the world aren’t particularly present in the city of Liverpool. There’s no geographic divide, no cultural divide, no class divide. Take any given person in the city, and there’s practically a 50-50 chance they support one of the two clubs. In fact, the Merseyside Derby is often dubbed the “Friendly Derby,” as it’s typical to find family members and friends supporting opposite sides. But don’t let the nickname fool you—while the off-field relationships between Everton and Liverpool F.C. fans might make the rivalry sound like a petty affair, it makes the atmosphere all the more potent come game day.

Now, I didn’t grow up in Liverpool. I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing the Derby first hand. But being an Everton fan means cultivating a disdain for Liverpool F.C. no matter where in the world you’re located, and I know Liverpool fans feel the same way about me. In recent years, this hatred has only been amplified for us Everton fans—we’ve watched our boys lose time and time again to the Reds. And, they haven’t just beaten us. They’ve beaten everybody in their path over the past few years, winning a Premier League title during the 2019-20 season and taking home a Champions League trophy in 2019, which is why it was all the more thrilling to watch Everton put two goals past them and secure our first derby win since 2010 this week—the first during my tenure as a fan. I’ve spent the last couple days reading an overwhelming amount of social media remarks from Liverpool fans citing poor refereeing, injuries and COVID-19 circumstances as the reasons for their loss. And sure, those things may have impacted the game. But frankly, I don’t care. The way the past decade has treated me as an Everton fan, I’ll take anything I can get.

After our first win in 11 years, I’m cautiously optimistic about our future. Before I go any further, though, I’ll take a second to knock on wood. I’ve been optimistic before, but so far, that optimism has been misplaced. Hopefully this time is different. Right now, we sit in seventh place in the Premier League, with a legitimate chance to challenge for a top five spot in the league and, by extension, a shot at playing European football once again. Obviously, we’ve got a long way to go to get back to being the club we were when we won two league titles back in the 1980s, but hey, Liverpool is finally blue again. I think that calls for a little excitement. In the words of our bossman, Carlo Ancelotti, “every Evertonian is happy tonight.”


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