Last Tuesday, Sheffield Wednesday failed by a few minutes to complete their first League double over Sheffield United for 94 years, but this 118-year-old rivalry is not the oldest in British football. In fact it is not even the oldest in Sheffield; Sheffield FC and Hallam have been facing each other since 1860.
Douglas Beattie has done his homework on Britain's major football derbies, and has done an impressive amount of legwork as well, attending matches, talking to fans, club historians and – sadly but necessarily – the police as well. The reasons for such bred-in-the-bone opposition are far more complex than the usual suspects, religion and geography; Beattie demonstrates that social divides, patterns of immigration and – notably in north London and Edinburgh – murky business practices have been significant factors too. Well argued and well written, 'The Rivals Game' offers a great deal for both partisan and impartial lovers of the not-always-beautiful game.
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