THE STRAITS TIMES STAND-OFF: Everton fan v Liverpool fan


The Merseyside derby is the longest running top-flight English derby, having been played at that level since the 1962-1963 season.

But just which is the greater side on the Mersey - Everton or Liverpool?

The Straits Times Sportsdesk's editor Marc Lim, an Everton fan, and assistant editor Chia Han Keong, a Liverpool fan, give their reasons ahead of the 221st Merseyside clash on Saturday, Nov 23.

On Saturday from 8.45pm, follow Twitter @STsportsdesk for Marc and Han Keong's take on the match too.

By Marc Lim, sports editor

You can't argue with more than 100 years of consistency.

Yeah, so Liverpool may have won more league titles (18 is impressive and trumps our nine, but that's still two fewer than Manchester United's 20). They may have more FA Cups (seven beats our five, but again, Man U leads with 11). But when it comes to who's been doing the business at the top level of the English game for the longest time, no one comes close.

At 110 years and going strong, Everton are the undisputed kings of top-flight football in England, with Aston Villa a distant second at 102 and our poor neighbours across Stanley Park third at 98.

The Reds may be flying high now (one wonders when vertigo will set in since it's been some time now in that unfamiliar No.2 spot).

But for almost a decade in the 1950s, Liverpool were living life in the second tier of the English game.

So while Pool fans may point to the bigger trophy cabinet at Anfield and their European success (I'll admit 11 European trophies is one helluva statistic), it still must have been painful to be a Liverpool fan during those dark years in Division Two.

It takes a special club to find the right balance of managing finances while still putting sides good enough, season after season, to stay competitive among the best. To do it and succeed, for 110 seasons, that's truly special.

Mind you, we have never quite enjoyed the same kind of riches Liverpool have in the transfer market, especially the last few seasons. Unlike Liverpool and many of the other top clubs, we haven't been able to attract foreign investment. Yet, we still managed to put out good sides every season, ones which give even top teams a run for their money.

When I first started supporting Everton in the early 1980s, both Merseyside teams were dominating English football. Liverpool were the far more attractive option, with the big-name players and trophies. It was easy to go with the popular choice, but what drew me to Everton was the Everton fighting spirit.

Kevin Ratcliffe, Neville Southall and Andy Gray were massive characters. They could lift the side just from the way they conducted themselves; never one to shy from full-bloodied challenges or disappear when things got rough. Everton sides have been peppered with such players ever since, with the likes of Barry Horne, Thomas Gravesen and now Phil Jagielka and even loan signing Romelu Lukaku.

Under new manager Roberto Martinez, Everton have added some guile and style to their game and I expect him to come up tops in his first Merseyside clash.

Liverpool fans will probably cite the league table as a reflection of which is the better side. I would then point to the league tables of the last two seasons, when we finished ahead of Liverpool, despite them boasting the likes of Luis Suarez.

If that's still not enough evidence to show that Everton is the better team, then I'll leave you to chew on this compelling fact: Who can claim to have crippled the mighty Manchester United dynasty overnight?

We can - by giving United David Moyes.

Nuff said.

By Chia Han Keong, assistant sports editor

There are Liverpool fans, and then there are old-school Liverpool fans.

How to tell them apart? Simple. Old-school Reds fans like me get more fired up over Everton than Manchester United.

Sure, Alex Ferguson can sometimes be antagonistic and some of the United fans can be unbearably smug, but the fierce rivalry with the blue half of Liverpool runs much deeper, ever since Everton quit Anfield in a huff over rising rent way back in 1892, forcing the landlord to set up Liverpool Football Club to play at the hallowed field.

For proof, just watch the Merseyside derby - by far the tie with the most red cards dished out in English Premier League history (20).

Bone-jarring tackles are the norm, while fans trade insults - both witty and tasteless - with aplomb.

Indeed, these full-blooded affairs are what drew fans to support the two clubs in the first place. It did for me, although in my case, it was in the setting of the FA Cup final in 1986. Liverpool won 3-1 then, and that cemented my allegiance.

Thankfully, the Reds were the more successful Merseyside team since then. Yes, Everton fans will boast that they stayed in the top English divisions for 110 straight years (they had a few close shaves, but full credit to them for the feat), but Liverpool have had much more giddy highs (18 top-tier league titles, 11 European trophies).

While Liverpool's league dominance was nearing the end when I began supporting them in the late 1980s, they still had a few outstanding years left in them. The likes of Ian Rush, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley thrilled us with flowing football, stirring victories and, of course, joyous title triumphs.

Even when they eventually ceded dominance to Man United in the 1990s, they still could be counted on provide memorable victories, like the 2001 Cup Treble and the 2005 Champions League triumph.

Ah, the 2005 Miracle of Istanbul. From 0-3 down to mighty AC Milan at half-time of the Champions League final, the Reds roared back to draw 3-3, then won the extraordinary tie on penalties. These priceless memories make supporting Liverpool a one-of-a-kind experience which few, if any, clubs can enjoy.

While league titles are tough to come by nowadays, Anfield still saw a steady stream of exciting footballers in the last two decades - Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez.

But nothing beats being among fellow Liverpool fans - and there are quite a lot of them everywhere in the world - and cheering for the Reds whenever they go up against Everton.

Indeed, the Merseyside derby unites fans in a rivalry that is so natural, so obvious - two illustrious clubs vying to be the top dog in their magnificent city.

In a way, I'm glad that Everton are a tough-to-beat side nowadays, compared to their moribund years in the 1990s. We always relish the battles across Stanley Park; we celebrate victories like we've won a Cup competition, and we despair in defeats as if we are being relegated.

And that's why, despite my disdain for Everton, I've come to realise that they are the perfect pantomine villains for my football club. They are absolutely essential in making me stay fervent in my support for Liverpool.

Red versus Blue - there is indeed no in-between.

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