January 23, 1915
Rivalry which is good providing it is clean and honest.
I have heard it often said that there is no war so terrible for fierce hatred, ferocity, and cruelty, as civil war. The innate and primitive passions of men seem somehow to get the better of even the calmest judgment, the mildest temper, when a man’s hand is raised against his brother, when one’s quarrel and conflict is against his own mother’s son. And I have often though that it is exactly the same with football.
Ernest Peake, Liverpool F.C. (Joint Everton and Liverpool Match Programme: January 18, 1913):
There chance to be several towns in this country which have two distinguished exponents of football within their ranks in the shape of local clubs. Thus in Manchester we have “United” and the “City”; in Sheffield we have the “Wednesday” and the “United”; in Liverpool we have “Liverpool” and “Everton.”
In Birmingham we have “Aston Villa” and “Birmingham.” Also we may include “West Bromwich” in this latter category; in London there are “Tottenham Hotspur,” “Chelsea,” and “Woolwich Arsenal”; and we may certainly add “Newcastle United” and “Sunderland,” “Bolton Wanderers” and “Preston North End,” “Blackburn Rovers” and “Oldham Athletic” to the list, in addition to “Notts County” and “Nottingham Forest.” Even then I do not pretend to have put down all local rivals that might be given in such an account as this.
Local rivalry in football is intense, exciting, provocative of much enthusiasm, discussion, and often severe heartburning. If you wish to know what it can become you should just see the crowd and hear their words when the fight for the supremacy of the First League is being waged, say, by Newcastle and Sunderland, and the forthcoming Saturday is the “settling” day whereon the contest between those two clubs will decide the venue of the championship for another season.
There will be there evert element of excitement, every variety of thrill, every sort of argument and skill, both in actual play and in words, that you can possible wish for. No lover of Spanish bullfights, no devotee of American baseball, no followers lower of African big-game, will ever get more tremendously enthusiastic, wrought-up, agitated at the lust of battle and victory, than do such a crowd.
Each man present will have his views, his opinions, his stubborn ideas, his favourites amongst the players, according to the town he belongs to, patronise, or desire to win.
The innocent cries of “Johnny’s got it!” “Charley has it!” “Now then, George!” “Throw it out, Jimmy!” “Shoot, Tom!” – all these are quite sufficient for those who know the various players in the two teams to recognise on which side the shouter advisor, or encourager is in the fateful struggle.
You can never mistake the average football enthusiast at Socker when it comes to telling which side he supports. He is always far too vigorous and noisy in his advaice and encouragement for that!
And what I have said about Newcastle and Sunderland applies equally well, if not more so, to the two chief clubs or any great town which have to oppose one another in a classic League or Cup tie contest. When the Wednesday are doing well, and are drawn to meet Aston Villa in the fourth round of the ties, at Sheffield, you may rely on there being anything between thirty and forty thousand folks present to see the game. But if both the Sheffield club have survived to that round, and then are pitted against one another, you need not be surprised if sixty thousand people make up their mind to see the struggle.
Moreover, in such an event it is certain that all Sheffield will have discussed nothing else but this historic meeting for at least a week previously. Every workshop, every warehouse, every train, every street in the town will have been full of it for days beforehand.
Families will have been divided as to their support of, and confidence in, the two teams. The father will go all out, perhaps for “United”; the eldest son will fancy “Wednesday”; the mother – yes, mothers know a great deal more about football in the North than many fathers do in the South! – will think “Kitchen and Co.” are sure to win; the daughter will be much disappointed if McLean’s eleven do not come off top dog! And thus you have local rivalry in its most intense and serious form!
Two great teams in the same town usually cause a house to be divided against itself. For seldom indeed do father, mother, and children think all alike, and favour exactly the same things! Local rivalry arouses jealousy, enthusiasm, excitement, and stirs the blood in ways that distant competition never does. It is when you are up against your intimate friends, your own comrades, your very neighbours, that the struggle for supremacy becomes keenest.
There are hardly ever such crowds of spectators in games as when the local teams are pitted against each other. There is never such a glorious chink of money at the gates as when local rivals take the field.
There is never such a stern struggle for victory as when brother may be up to fight brother, or when one team of a big city are engaged to try to upset the other. Then all pity, all gentleness, all byplay goes by the board; each team are out altogether to prove themselves the better.
This same feeling inspires a crowd or mass of folk whenever local rivalry comes into play, in many other things than football. And the strange intensity of it, the increased interest and excitement, are the same. Leeds does not care two pins whether Ipswich is made a bishopric or not. But let Leeds learn that Bradford is to be made one whilst Leeds itself is not, and the question immediately becomes a burning one, a matter for all the town to rouse itself about.
Manchester sits serenely quiet when it hears that Glasgow is to have a kingly visit, whereas it was passed by when it asked for one. But if only Manchester heard the faintest whisper that Liverpool was to be honoured after Cottonopolis had been passed by – good gracious, what a rumpus there would be!
Cricket as found out exactly the same thing, which is why the county authorities have very wisely nowadays put up a special programme of cricket for Bank Holidays, by which system local rivals all play each other at that time, so as to get the very utmost benefit thereby from large crowds, big gates, and neighbourly enthusiasm and rivalry.
Indeed, the whole world of work, sport, and civic affairs is today moving on this same line, using local rivalry for all it is worth towards attaining certain desirable ends.
Local rivalry, then, in “Soccer” football is not at all a bad thing so long as it is not allowed to obsess the mind, or to lead to improper methods or tricks in order to obtain the victory each of the combatants naturally desires.
Local rivalry leads to keener play, to greater enthusiasm, to sterner training, to more careful thought and practice, to higher success in new styles of play, in club finances, in widening the scope of a game, and increasing supporters in any district.
For, as they say, “More makes more,” and so the more exciting, the more thrilling, the more talked about, the more competitive the struggle in any sport, the more will public interest in that sport be increased, the more will people be prepared to pay to witness the fight for supremacy between the contestants.
I am not sure that I should be able to answer the question, if you asked it of me, as to where local rivalry is most strong in England. I have often thought that it shows itself more in Yorkshire and Lancashire than elsewhere, but perhaps I may be wrong. Indeed, when I find, as has happened, that something like 75,000 folk have paid to see the thriller between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, I am bound to confess that it does not appear as if even London – generally regarded as very lethargic in sporting matters by Londoners! – is at all behind us in enthusiasm and excitement.
At any rate, I believe strongly in local rivalry. It makes for real advantage in so many ways. It gives one something to look forward to for weeks beforehand. It makes every player go all out to win.
(Sport Argus: January 23, 1915)