5 Reasons the Liverpool vs. Everton Rivalry Comes with Mutual Respect
Liverpool travel to Goodison Park this coming weekend to play Everton in the 219th Merseyside Derby. It is a contest which, regardless of league position, remains one of the biggest and most hotly anticipated matches in the English football calender.
The Merseyside Derby and the rivalry between Liverpool and Everton truly is like no other.
It is a match played between two teams whose home grounds are a mile apart. It is a match that possibly never would have taken place had it not been for a falling out between Everton and the owner of Anfield, Mr John Houlding, in 1892.
Having been the original tenants of Anfield, the Blues were forced to move across Stanley Park and found Goodison Park, which remains their home ground today.
The roots of the rivalry were formed from that point on and began to develop even further with the first meeting of the teams in 1894.
In the 118 years since that first match, there has rarely been a season where the two clubs didn't face off against each other. Currently, it holds the record for the most consecutive seasons featuring a league derby between two neighbouring clubs, having been played every season since the 1962/63 season.
The match itself has known several names; initially it was the City of Liverpool Derby, and many referred to it as a Lancaster derby. Then it became the Merseyside Derby.
Despite the fact that the county of Merseyside wasn't established until the mid-1970s, the term "Merseyside Derby" actually pre-dates that by some 20 years.
These titles have never been much more than media names for the match. The locals have always and will always simply refer to it as "The Derby."
The main thing that separates the Merseyside Derby from all others is the relationship between the fans. It is truly unique, much like the city that stages the event. It is a match, and indeed a rivalry which, despite whatever may happen on or around the football, is built on respect between the fans.
Go to the Manchester Derby, the North London Derby, the Glasgow Derby or any other you can think of and you won't see scenes like you will at a Merseyside Derby. You won't see opposition fans sitting amongst each other, you won't see young fans of one club helping an elderly fan of the other to and from their seat.
So why such ingrained respect? Here are five reasons for it.
A Family Affair
Soccer is part of the culture of the city of Liverpool. It is part of what has shaped the city, along with music, into the single most unique city in the United Kingdom.
The people of Liverpool have, for over a century, thrown themselves into their love for soccer. Many have shaped their lives around following their club, Red or Blue, not just all over England, but Europe too.
There's an age-old tale about people "taking their work home with them" and in Liverpool, soccer fans take their obsession home with them. It engulfs the household and the family within and all generations gets involved. They get involved in soccer, and develop a love of the game.
Which team they support is a little more complicated.
In most other cities a single household will support a single club. The allegiance to the club will be passed from generation to generations and won't waver. This isn't the case in Liverpool.
In the city of Liverpool, on every street in every area, you will find sets of brothers whose allegiances are mixed. One will support Everton, the other Liverpool. You'll find husbands and wives walking to the match together, him in a red scarf, her in blue. Or vice versa.
Derby day in the city of Liverpool is a special occasion and you will see families travelling to the match together. They will often enter the stadium and sit together. Some in red, some in blue. To witness this serves as a reminder that some things in life are more important than soccer.
The Friendly Derby
Liverpool vs. Everton has another name that I didn't mention on the opening slide. It's a traditional name and not one you'll hear very often these days. The Friendly Derby.
Many people will hear this and assume it means that the match is played in good spirits. Far from it. Liverpool versus Everton matches have seen more red cards than any other Premier League contest in the past 20 years. This match makes other so-called "hotly contested derbies" look like tickling contests.
The Friendly Derby tag comes from the fact that sets of friends will, as with families, be divided between Liverpool and Everton. Childhood pals, best mates, brothers-in-arms will find themselves on opposite sides of the Stanley Park divide with their allegiances sworn to the Reds or to the Blues.
As with families, you'll see groups of friends walking to the match together. There will be no aggro; there is no real need for police to be on site.
What makes the Merseyside Derby different from so many others is that there are no political or social differences between the two clubs. There is no great geographical distance between the clubs.
There are no religious differences between the fans. Sure, there are people with different beliefs, but there's no sectarianism in the city as there is in Glasgow.
There is no dispute, as there is in Manchester, about one club being from the city and the other being from outside. There is none of that.
These are simply two sets of fans from the same city who support teams from the same city, and who are, by and large, very similar.
The Era of Mersey Dominance
If you attend a match at either Anfield or Goodison Park you will see thousands upon thousands of men and women, in their 30s and 40s who have been going to watch their teams play for most of their lives.
These people will have grown up during the 1980s when Liverpool were unquestionably the best team in England and arguably the best team in Europe throughout the decade, and Everton experienced arguably the most successful period in their history.
Such was the social climate in the city of Liverpool during the 1980s, when the Thatcher-led government and their policies were crippling northern cities who relied on industry for employment, that football became somewhat of a sanctuary. It was an escape from reality and depression. And during the '80s, it was a fantastic escape.
From 1980 to 1989, Liverpool won five league titles, two FA Cups, four League Cups and two European Cups. The new of European cups could well have been doubled if not for the ban on English clubs following events at the Heysel Stadium before the 1985 European Cup final.
Everton for their part won two league titles, an FA Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup. Had it not been for the aforementioned ban, they would have entered the 1987/88 European Cup as one of the strong favourites.
Seven league titles, three FA Cups, four League Cups and three major European honours between the two clubs in a 10-year period. And as I said, those European honours likely would have been added to had the teams been allowed to compete in Europe, as Liverpool and Everton would have done almost every year.
A generation of football fans grew up during that era and, while the relationship between the clubs and fans grew extremely strained following Heysel, there was a mutual respect for the achievements of each team. That respect and the relationships that were re-formed towards the end of the '80s remain prominent today.
Players Who Have Crossed Stanley Park
Another thing that sets this derby apart is the number of players who have represented both teams.
Throughout the history of both clubs, there have been 30 transfers between the two clubs. While that may not seem a lot over a 120-year existence, you won't find many other derby matches where the teams have had that many transfers between them.
The 1970s is the only decade since the formation of Liverpool Football Club that there was not a direct transfer between the two clubs. There have been 20 players who have left Everton to join Liverpool, and 10 who have made the opposite journey.
Abel Xavier was the last player to move between the clubs. In 2002, he swapped Blue for Red and joined Liverpool despite the pleas of Paul Gascoigne.
The most notable player to move between the clubs was perhaps Peter Beardsley, who Graeme Souness decided to sell to Everton for reasons which remain unknown to all bar patrons.
There are also a number of players, most notably Steve McMahon, who have played for both clubs but not directly moved between the two clubs.
Having players who are heroes to both sets of fans helps with the respect between the two groups. A player like Beardsley, for example, received warm receptions from the Liverpool fans whenever the Reds played Everton during his time there. The same is true of other highly respected players like Gary Ablett.
Even if none of the four reasons already given existed, respect would still flow between the clubs and their supporters due to the tragedy which took place at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989 and the actions which followed.
There are a couple of misconceptions about the events at Hillsborough that I want to clear up before I go any further.
Firstly, people believe that this was a football tragedy. Secondly, they believe that this was a tragedy which affected only Liverpool Football Club as it was their fans who lost their lives on that day.
Both of these trains of thought are completely wrong and should not be uttered aloud.
The Hillsborough tragedy was a human tragedy.
Ninety-six people lost their lives that day as a result of police negligence and incompetence. Hundreds more were injured and thousands upon thousands were affected by it.
The event also affected the entire city of Liverpool. Children of the city, many of whom were literally children, never returned home. Husbands, fathers, sons and daughters never made it home that day. They went to a football match and were failed by those they put their trust in. As a result of these failings they lost their lives.
The city of Liverpool was brought to its knees that day due to the loss of life and the subsequent cover-up and smear campaign that followed. The city begged its government for help and it's government turned their back and looked away.
Such was the level of that cover-up that it is only now, 23 years later, that the truth has finally come out. A truth which has always been known within the city, is now known around the world.
When Thatcher and her cohorts turned their back on Liverpool, the people of the city came together in a show of defiance the likes of which had never before been witnessed in the United Kingdom. A city smeared became a city united. The people of Liverpool decided that they would not simply accept what had happened, and move on.
No matter how many doors were slammed in their faces, they kept fighting for the truth and for justice.
Now the truth is out and justice is coming. Those who have committed crimes during and after the tragedy are going to finally get their long overdue comeuppance.
It would never have gotten this far if it had simply been Liverpool fans fighting for this cause.
The campaign for justice has been dependent on donations and volunteers, and while the fans of many other clubs such as Manchester City, Manchester United and Sunderland have all done fantastic work, Everton Football Club and their fans have been truly incredible.
Everton fans lost friends and loved ones in the tragedy. They experienced the grief which gripped the city first-hand. They felt the tarnish of the smear campaign which hung like a cloud over the city for more than two decades. They stood side by side with their red counterparts and refused to back down.
Throughout the 23 years since Hillsborough they have never wavered in their support of the quest to find justice for the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy.
And it is this reason, more than anything else, that has build an unbreakable respect between the fans of Liverpool Football Club and Everton Football Club.
Justice for the 96.
If you haven't read the report published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel and want to learn more about their findings, as well as view all the disclosed documentation that was assessed during their research, I suggest you follow this link.