Who are the biggest football rivals in London?

Part of the excitement of following football is the rivalries between clubs. When your team meets a side with which it has a score to settle, then tensions are high, and victory, if it comes, is all the sweeter. Of course, club rivalries can also spill over into ugly scenes of violence between supporters, as was the case during the heyday of football hooliganism in the 1970s and 1980s. This regrettable tendency has not entirely disappeared, but today, many of the rivalries between clubs are thankfully settled on the pitch rather than in the grounds or on the streets outside.

Many of the most notorious club rivalries are between London football clubs. Many of these are based on geographical location and have a long history drawing on complex social factors. When almost any combination of the 13 London football clubs meet in a local derby, you can be sure that there’ll be some long-standing passions raised, and obviously some derbies are going to be more heated than others.

Millwall vs. West Ham 

The most notorious and ferocious rivalry of them all is between these two clubs on opposing sides of the Thames. It all started in the Docks, with West Ham fans working in the Royal Docks on the northern shore and Millwall fans working in the London and Surrey Docks to the south. When London and Surrey broke the 1926 Dockers’ strike, the animosity grew more intense, and in the 1960s it was reflected in the gangland warfare between the Krays (West Ham) and the Richardson’s (Millwall). During the 1980s, Millwall’s Bushwhackers and West Ham’s Inter City Firm were the two most feared crews in the country, and their confrontations were always physical. Even recently, the 2009 League Cup tie between the two teams led to the worst football violence seen for over a decade.


Chelsea vs. West Ham 

Chelsea fans are also notoriously hot-blooded, and the east-west rivalry between these two London sides heated up with the Blues’ habit of poaching some of the Hammers’ best players, most notably John Terry, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard. The latter was sold to Chelsea for an £11 million transfer fee. As the article on 888sportsbetting points out, Lampard took a while to find his feet at Stamford Bridge but turned out to be one of the best top ten Premier League signings ever – despite being a regular whipping boy for Hammers fans.


Arsenal vs. Tottenham

This long-running rivalry goes all the way back to 1913, when Woolwich Arsenal moved to Highbury, just four miles from Spurs’ own ground, and broke Tottenham’s North London monopoly. It continues to this day as both teams vie for Champions League qualification and Premiership glory.


Tottenham vs. West Ham 

There is genuine and recent bad blood here between the two clubs’ management as well as their fans. West Ham narrowly beat out Tottenham in securing the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, prompting accusations of industrial espionage, fan protests and an unofficial transfer embargo between the two clubs. West Ham’s new home also led to a lawsuit from East End rivals Leyton Orient (settled out of court in 2014), who accused the more successful side of moving in on their turf.

 Chelsea vs. Tottenham

While they never considered each other primary rivals, as the two top clubs in London there has always been strong needle between the fans dating back from the 1967. Matches between them would often attract large attendances and would sometimes end up in violent clashes between supporters.  This boiled over last season when Chelsea put an end to Spurs’ title challenge just a few games from the end of the season, which opened the door for Leicester City’s remarkable title triumph.

1 Response

  1. The Arsenal Tottenham rivalry goes back to before the time Arsenal moved north of the river, for although in the days of playing at Plumstead Arsenal ‘s main rivals were Millwall – who until 1910 played on the Isle of Dogs, and then moved south of the river – there seems to have been a real tension between Arsenal and Tottenham. In 1902 at an Arsenal/Tottenham game, for example, the Tottenham keeper left his position in goal and moved into the crowd where he assaulted a man whom he accused of barracking him. There was another such incident in 1904.

    The first game between the two was in 1887 and a match in 1898, 15 years before Arsenal’s move, attracted a crowd of around 15,000 – a huge number for a friendly at the time.

    There is more on this on the Arsenal History Society site http://www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk

    Tony Attwood

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