The upcoming weekend installs a great amount of exciting matches for football fans throughout Europe as Barcelona meet Real Madrid in the Superclassico, Liverpool face their inner city rivals Everton, Genoa meet Sampdoria in the Derby della lanterna, Crevna Zvezda host Partizan for the fierce and notorious eternal derby of Belgrade and Chelsea meet their North London rivals Arsenal in Stamford Bridge. But they all mean nothing next to the mighty M55 derby between Blackpool FC and Preston North End FC. (If you live round there).
In a more realistic perspective, The West Lancashire Derby can’t really be compared to the Liverpool or the London derbies in terms of game quality or general public interest, but is certainly their equal in terms of passion and hatred between both sides.
The rivalry is generated from the geographical proximity of the two cities (Preston being declared a city only since 2002) within the Lancashire area, also dubbed as the M55 Derby because of the mentioned road being a connector between the two cities.
Some Brief Statistics
The teams meet this Monday for the 92nd time since the first derby in the 1901-1902 season and for the 44th time in the upcoming match venue, Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road.
The tie ended 30 times in favor of Blackpool, 44 times in favor of Preston and 14 times ended in a draw, Blackpool scoring 145 goals and Preston scoring 151. In 44 matches in Bloomfield Road, Blackpool won only on 16 occasions scoring 72 goals on the way while Preston won on 17 (!) occasions scoring 63 goals on the way (An interesting fact is that Blackpool scored 73 goals away at Deepdale, one more than their home goal record and another reason for their negative home record). Blackpool’s biggest home victory was in the 1929-1930 season when they have beaten Preston 5-1. Their biggest lost came in the 1955-1956 season when they lost 6-2.
Unlike most derbies t,he transfers of players between clubs is common as throughout history 27 players represented both clubs with famous names such as prolific striker Tony Ellis, Blackpool’s current striker Brett Ormerod, famous winger Gordon Milne, the two O’Donnell brothers and Blackpool’s third highest scorer of all time, Ray Charnley, just to name a few.
Blackpool FC – The Seasiders
Almost half of the season gone and Ian Holloway’s debut season as a Tangerine is looking pretty bright as The Tangerines sit in 7th place playing attacking minded football and are the 4th highest scoring team along with Watford. After a bit of a slow start with 4 consecutive draws, came a 4-1 win over Wigan in the Carling Cup and a 3-0 win over Coventry. After a mediocre September came two consecutive losses against Bristol City and Crystal Palace, but a 5 match unbeaten run which included a 3-0 victory over The Blades put Blackpool back in the Playoff picture. One reason for the relatively successful season so far is midfielder Charlie Adam who signed in August from Rangers, after a loan season at Bloomfield Road (scoring last season’s winning goal at Deepdale) for a fee of half a million pounds, breaking Blackpool’s transfer record on the way. Having Scored 5 goals and adding 4 assists in 15 games so far, Adam leads the club’s goalscoring and assists tables.
Apart from Adam, Holloway’s squad consists of striker Brett Ormerod (Who signed from Preston last January), fans favorite Keith Southern AKA Gnashers, Scottish experienced defender Stephan Crainey, fresh World Cup qualifier, Algerian striker Hameur Bouazza, newly recruited midfielder Jason Euell (who was the center of attention after the Blackpool Vs stoke game in which a fan shouted racist remarks at the player causing a huge mayhem) who scored thus far 3 goals, and defender Alex Baptiste who scored 3 goals as well so far.
Last week’s disappointing loss to Reading held Blackpool back a bit, however they are generally experiencing a good period and seem to come to the anticipated derby highly motivated and with an excellent unbeaten record at home (haven’t lost at home since last April). The Tangerines will want to end their cursed luck at Bloomfield Road against the Northenders as they haven’t managed to record a home win at the derby since the December 1997 2-1 win.
Preston North End- The Lilywhites
Preston, the eternal Championship Playoff loser (having lost 4 times in the last 9 years), are heading towards another attempt to grab the coveted Premiership spot. Since last year’s semi final defeat to Sheffield United, Scottish manager Alan Irvine hasn’t made to many changes in the squad bringing Welsh midfielder Paul Perry, the “Balkan Gerrard” Velica Sumulikoski, and two loanees Michael Tonge and Neill Collins from Stoke and Wolves respectively.
Preston are currently in 12th position, but have put in good performances this season (like impressive wins over Leicester and Swansea) as they started with a 7 match unbeaten run, but since then the Lilywhites suffered defeats to Scunthorpe, Q.P.R, Reading, Watford and Newcastle.
Preston’s leading scorer currently is the Sheffield born striker, Neil Mellor, who was top scorer for the club in the last two seasons, and scored thus far 6 goals in 14 starts adding 4 assists as well. Leading the strike force along with Mellor are fellow Englishmen Chris Brown and Jon “The Beast” Parkin (who scored 5 goals in 8 starts so far). At the back we can find the Talented Billy Jones (scoring 2 goals and making 2 assists) and Liam Chilvers along with club captain and injury prone Callum Davidson.
Preston are heading into this derby as underdogs (although historically they are definitely on top), however a win against their bitter rivals can perform miracles to their form and help them build a platform for a long battle en route to promotion.
Supporters – The Nobbers vs The Donkey Lasahers
As the headline from above shows, both sets of supporters are not lacking in sense of humor towards their counterparts, and the taunting, hatred and animosity can be seen in every derby.
Blackpool got their nickname because of the donkeys that are walking on their beach. Preston’s real derogatory nickname is the nobbers in reference to their nickname The Northeners.
When did the rivalry become fierce and full of hatred? Some say that the heydays of the 50’s, when Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney were playing for Blackpool and Preston respectively, were the cause as the supporters argued who was better. The other belief is that after the 1970 famous match, when Blackpool’s 3-0 win promoted them while it got Preston relegated.
Since then the rivalry became very ugly, sometimes getting out of line. For example, an incident in 1978 derby – the stabbing of a Preston fan during riots between both sets of supporters during The Vibrators concert. Another incident was when Blackpool fans returned from an away game at The Den as Preston fans returned from another match in Manchester. The encounter ignited a major riot.
A Final Word
Both teams are similar as they both have a strong attacking and midfield line and a weak defensive line, surely that can suggest a high scoring game on our hands but a look at the history of the derby can suggest that Preston will have the upper hand as they haven’t lost a match at Bloomfield Road since 1997.
The derby deserves every positive superlative for the passion of the supporters, the level of football, and the history of both clubs but a riot between fans will spoil the great event and will be the main focus of things instead of the football side.