mersey sides

words: Peter Macia

Photography: Nils Ericson

The city derby between Liverpool and Everton is the longest running and most local of all rivalries in England’s top-flight football. The two storied clubs are separated by a mere 971 meters as the crow flies, on either side of bucolic Stanley Park. On most days, the space between them is a pleasant green expanse with terraced gardens and flowerbeds. But on derby days, it becomes a battleground covered in lager and tears. On September 27, 2014, the Reds and Blues fought once again for the bragging rights of Merseyside.

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The Shankly Gates at Anfield are located next to the club’s memorial to the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. Off the pitch, the derby is one of the most civil of world football’s many civil wars. Merseyside families are often split between Blue and Red, and it is one of the few derbies that does not segregate the supporters inside the stadium. Though it is unacceptable to switch allegiance, in times of hardship and tragedy, the clubs support each other as one.

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Even in these cosmopolitan days of the Premier League, derbies often resemble a savage scrap between disgruntled brothers. Local lads like Everton’s Leighton Baines, born in Kirkby, and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, from Whiston, Merseyside, are heroes as much for their loyalty and fighting skills as for their ability and technique. Combined, Baines and Gerrard have made nearly a thousand appearances for their teams. In the 122 years of Everton and Liverpool’s coexistence, only 30 players have played for both clubs.

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Anfield was originally home to Everton between 1884 and 1892, after John Houlding, a brewery-owner, politician, and Everton supporter, bought it from a fellow brewer and rented it to the club for a small fee. When Houlding’s attempt to purchase adjacent land resulted in accusations of profiteering, Everton Football Club’s 297 members voted to move to the newly constructed Goodison Park. In response, Houlding founded Liverpool F.C. (but only after being denied the name Everton Athletic by the Football Association).

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The 223rd Merseyside derby at Anfield ended in a draw, 1-1. Liverpool dominated for long stretches, and captain Steven Gerrard opened with a bending 30-yard free kick in the 65th minute. But an astounding injury-time strike from Everton center back Phil Jagielka leveled the game just before the final whistle, after the American goalkeeper, Tim Howard, produced many fine saves to keep Everton in the match.

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A statue of William ‘Dixie’ Dean stands outside the Park End of Everton’s Goodison Park. Dean, who played there between 1925 and 1937, still holds the English record for goals in a single season (60), and he scored an astonishing 390 times in 447 appearances. For a time, he lived in one of the club-owned row houses built into the back of the Park End’s stands. Dean died of a heart attack in 1980 while watching a Merseyside derby at Goodison. Everton lost the match 1-2.

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