Lilywhites & Tangerines

There is a long tradition at Blackpool FC and Preston North End of upholding all that is good in the game, writes Michael Hodkinson, who has penned a book on the historic rivalry between the two clubs

Football is famous, some would say infamous, for matches between local rivals. In the cities, it can be Celtic and Rangers, Arsenal versus Tottenham Hotspur, Everton against Liverpool or City v United in Manchester. In slightly less populated areas, it can be between neighbouring towns and football’s longest running rivalry worldwide is between Blackburn Rovers and Burnley. These games became so significant that the Daily Express, in 1914, first coined the words which are now part of folklore: ‘There is a local derby between Everton and Liverpool today.’

The word ‘derby’ stems from the horse race instituted by the Earl of Derby in 1780, the Epsom Derby. Gradually the word came into the English language to mean a sporting contest and when the word ‘local’ was added, these football matches became red hot – the most anticipated, the headline grabbers of the season.

The west of Lancashire has its own derby which historically can be feisty, closely contested and sometimes downright hostile. What goes on in and around the grounds, whether at Bloomfield Road or Deepdale, can often fill both the front and back pages of a newspaper.

At the onset of the Football League in 1888, one club dominated the nation’s conversation. It was Preston North End, the Great Invincibles. Blackpool FC was in its infancy, playing in the Lancashire League, and although there was the occasional derby game pre-1925, the Seasiders were never victorious. Then in the mid-thirties, the battle for ‘bragging rights’ between the two clubs began. For many years it was purely banter, mickey-taking amongst the fans as Blackpool joined Preston at the summit of the English game.

Without a shadow of doubt, Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney were two of the very best footballers in the world. They plied their trade locally and working out who was superior became a hair-splitting exercise for the neutrals or depended on the colour of shirt – tangerine or lilywhite. But listening to those who watched them in the 50s, the impression gained was one of great respect for them both.

Football violence reared its ugly head in the seventies, a considerable minority beginning to attend matches to fight. Fortunately for this area, it coincided with a 13-year gap in Football League derby games because the two clubs were in different divisions. Police, stewards and those living in the vicinity of the grounds were thus saved from these outrages. There were several cup ties between the two clubs, but only one attracted a gate of over 6,000.

This is a rivalry which is deep-seated, with incidents which have shown supporters of both clubs in a poor light. There was a pitched battle on Moor Park after one game. A group of so-called fans from Preston visited Blackpool after a game and wrecked a pub. The trains and buses bringing Blackpool fans to Deepdale were trashed and, until enforced segregation on the terraces, there would be constant fighting. After a long period of trial and error, the police, the clubs and the Football Authority worked together to prevent the worst excesses of thuggery which ruined the day for the majority of law-abiding fans.

There is a long tradition at Blackpool and Preston North End of upholding all that is good in the game. They have achieved much and are well established, giving a rich sense of pride to the locals. There is always something uniquely special about supporting your home town team and defeating the unfriendly neighbour is always icing on the cake. Treasuring memories of the great players from your youth, re-kindles the excitement from your past and cements your position as a true Blackpudlian or Prestonian.

And here is the question. Which has been the better club? Checking back to 1925, because prior to that, Blackpool were also-rans, they have bragging rights in 46 campaigns, Preston in 44. But in terms of derby wins, it is Preston 38, the Seasiders 29 with 17 drawn. But which club has bragging rights at the end of the current Championship programme? Victories were one apiece in the recent derbies but the Lilywhites finished three places ahead of the Tangerines in the League. Fans of North End will claim the honour but as per the last 97 years, it is far too close to call.

‘Lilywhites and Tangerines: Preston North End v Blackpool’ by Michael Hodkinson, will be published by Legends Publishing in the run-up to Christmas



Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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