English football’s biggest rivalries: Where does Sunderland vs Newcastle rank?

English football’s biggest rivalries: Where does Sunderland vs  Newcastle rank?

Sunderland and Newcastle United will resume hostilities on Saturday in an eagerly anticipated North East grudge match – but where does it rank in Telegraph Sport’s top 10 rivalries?

10. Sheffield Wednesday vs Sheffield United

The Steel City derby is the oldest derby in the country and that ensures it makes it on to the list. A bit like the Manchester one, where Sheffield United claim to be the club of the city and argue Wednesday are the club of the surrounding area and the suburbs. Wednesday fans will always dispute that description and this is a proper intra-city dispute. Like Liverpool, the Sheffield derby splits families but there is nothing friendly about it. There is a high risk of clashes between fans which, like it or not, adds tension and drama.

9. Wolverhampton Wanderers vs West Brom

They always seem to be playing each other and that creates drama, with a constant supply of subplots about revenge and redemption. The Black Country derby has all the ingredients for a proper ding dong, between two clubs of a similar size and stature. The games tend to be evenly matched affairs and bragging rights switch hands all the time. That is a good thing. It is also the same for Burnley vs Blackburn Rovers which just misses out on this top 10.

8. Ipswich Town vs Norwich City

East Anglia is generally regarded as a rather sleepy, laidback part of the country but not when it comes to the two football teams. There are rivalries and then there is hatred and that is what the relationship between these two clubs is. Both side have spent a lot of time competing in the same division and the centuries long disputes between Norfolk and Suffolk, the “Old Farm” derby conjures up images of lynch mobs and pitchforks.

The sleepy backwaters of East Anglia come to life when Ipswich Town and Norwich City meet each other
The sleepy backwaters of East Anglia come to life when Ipswich Town and Norwich City meet each other - Getty Images/Stephen Pond

7. Cardiff City vs Swansea City

Yes, in Wales, but they compete in England’s second tier. This used to be a horrible fixture to police with away fans banned from attending games for a long period because of the violence that had accompanied so many matches. In 1988 Cardiff fans were chased into the sea near the Vetch Field and Swansea fans still taunt them with swimming hats and armbands. Things have quietened down a little, but the two biggest cities in Wales have been in conflict with each other for hundreds of years for a reason.

6. Manchester United vs Manchester City

The popular view is that Manchester United are the nation’s team and Manchester City are Manchester’s. That makes for an intriguing dynamic. Has undoubtedly risen to national prominence since City were turned into a trophy winning juggernaut by Abu Dhabi’s oil riches and now transcends a mere tussle for civic supremacy. City used to be the plucky underdogs looking to bloody United noses. Over the past decade, the balance of power has shifted and that makes it even more intriguing. City fans still absolutely love beating their more storied rivals. Roy Keane’s X-rated tackle on Alf Inge Haaland is also one of football’s most notorious red cards, while Mario Balotelli’s “Why Always Me?” celebration in 2011 went down in folklore.

Roy Keane and Alf Inge Haaland
Roy Keane leans over Alf Inge Haaland following the Manchester United midfielder's infamous tackle on his City counterpart in the derby at Old Trafford in 2001 - PA/Phil Noble

5. Aston Villa vs Birmingham City

A bit like the North East version, the Birmingham derby matters more because neither club has regularly competed for silverware so victory acts as a substitute to silverware. It is also extremely toxic on and off the pitch. From Dion Dublin headbutting Robbie Savage, to Jack Grealish getting punched by a Birmingham fan on the pitch to Alex McLeish receiving death threats when he left to manage Villa, it is not for the faint hearted.

4. Liverpool vs Everton

This has tended to be a little too one-sided in Liverpool’s favour in the modern era and has previously been called the “friendly derby” as so many families are split blue and red in the city. There is a shared sense of Scouse identity that bonds the two, but the fact it has had more red cards than any other derby fixture in the Premier League era suggests it is more volatile than we think. For those of a certain vintage, the memories of the 80s when they were the best two teams in England also gives it the nostalgia vote.

Ian Rush
Liverpool beat Everton in the first Merseyside derby FA Cup final, in 1986 - Getty Images/Bob Thomas

3. Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur

One of the great things about the north London derby is that it tends to be contested by two relatively evenly matched sides which makes the outcome difficult to predict. That adds a healthy amount of drama to the occasion. Certainly that has been the case in modern times. There are plenty of London derbies but this is the one that matters the most to fans outside of those two clubs which gives it the edge.

2. Newcastle United vs Sunderland

Intense, hostile and with an undercurrent of violence. Probably the best atmosphere of all the derby clashes. When Sunderland beat Newcastle in the Championship (then Division Two) play-off semi-final in 1990, Newcastle fans rioted trying to get the game called off. These two clubs really do not like each other and the long history of conflict between the two cities, stretching back to the English Civil War, in a football obsessed, geographically isolated part of the country makes this the most passionate of the lot.

1. Manchester United vs Liverpool

It is the biggest game in English football, between the two best supported clubs, as well as the most successful. It has to be No 1 for that reason. The extra spice comes from the fact the two cities do not have time for each other either. There is no denying the extent of the rivalry and no regular season game draws in a bigger global audience than this one. Sir Alex Ferguson arrived once declared he wanted to knock Liverpool “off their perch” as the most successful club in the country. He did just that but Liverpool are in the ascendancy again now.