Many people believe London is England's most successful footballing city. Not so.
Not even a combination of Manchester and Birmingham can match the record of Liverpool, the country's foremost soccer metropolis.
Boasting two of Europe's most famous teams, Everton and Liverpool, the league title has made its way to Merseyside on no fewer than 27 occasions.
Everton are founder members of the Football League and have a proud history. With nine championships, five FA Cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup to their name, their Goodison Park home has been graced by some of the game's greatest talents, such as legendary striker William Ralph 'Dixie' Dean, who once netted a record-breaking 60 league goals in one season.
Across Stanley Park, the piece of land that separates the two clubs, is Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club. The Reds are England's most-titled team, with more major trophies than any other side, including 18 championships and five European Cups - a British record.
On Saturday 9 September 2006, these neigbours went head to head at Goodison in their 175th league meeting, which Everton won 3-0. In terms of the statistics, Liverpool now have have 65 wins to Everton's 56, with 54 draws. The Toffees, however, enjoy a better record at Goodison, winning 33 compared to Liverpool's 28.
Everton and Everton Athletic
Bill Shankly, the Liverpool manager between 1959 and 1974, once said with a smile: "There are two teams in Liverpool: Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves." In fact, the two teams in Liverpool should have been known as Everton and Everton Athletic.
Everton Football Club were formed in 1878 and played at Anfield from 1884. Seven years later, John Houlding, the leaseholder of Anfield, purchased the ground outright and proposed to increase the rent from £100 to £250-a-year. The Everton members objected, left Anfield and moved to Goodison Park.
With an empty ground and just three players remaining, Houlding decided to establish his own football club and in 1892, Liverpool Football Club were born. The original name was to be Everton and Athletic Grounds Ltd, or Everton Athletic for short, but this was later changed to Liverpool.
Unlike many other famous footballing rivalries, there is no political, religious or geographical divide between the sides. It is for this reason - and the spirit between both sets of supporters - that the all-Merseyside affair has traditionally been regarded as 'the friendly derby'.
When 96 Liverpool fans died at the Hillsborough stadium in 1989, fans of both clubs rallied round in a period of unparalleled unity; a chain of blue and red scarves stretched for the mile or so across Stanley Park from the gates of Anfield to Goodison Park in memory of those who lost their lives.
Yet there is no room for niceties on the pitch as both teams produce a fast and furious encounter, which is never lacking in passion or entertainment. There have been some memorable matches over the years, but perhaps the pick of the bunch came on 20 February 1991.
A unforgettable night at Goodison
The fifth round of the FA Cup paired the rivals at Anfield, but the first game was an uninspiring 0-0 draw. The replay, however, was a different matter entirely.
Peter Beardsley twice gave Liverpool the lead, but Graeme Sharp levelled on both occasions. Ian Rush, the top scorer in derby matches with 25 goals in 36 games, then glanced a header past Neville Southall to put Liverpool ahead.
With seconds of normal time remaining, Everton substitute Tony Cottee slid home a dramatic equaliser. But still the drama wasn't over. In extra time, John Barnes shot Liverpool back in front, but once more Everton refused to lie down and Cottee netted again to complete the scoring. The fans were breathless, the commentators all but speechless, and Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish resigned the next day.
Another memorable occasion was in March 1984 when 100,000 Merseysiders crammed into Wembley Stadium for the League Cup final. In 90 years of derbies, it was the first time Everton and Liverpool had met in a major final. Although the game ended goalless, the chants of 'Merseyside, Merseyside' which greeted the final whistle were simply magical.
As Everton full-back John Bailey recalled: "I wish we could have moved Wembley to Merseyside and had a bigger stadium. We could have filled it with 200,000 people from the city." Indeed, that match signalled a golden era for Merseyside football, as the two teams dominated the English game until the 1990s.
Benitez and Moyes: men on a mission
It is arguable that not since the glory days of the 1980s - when Howard Kendall and Dalglish were in charge of Everton and Liverpool respectively - have fans in the port city had as much faith in their managers as they do now.
Rafael Benitez has already led Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup in 2006, while Moyes took the Toffees to fourth in the Premiership in the 2004/05 season. He instantly endeared himself to Evertonians on his appointment by declaring: "I'm joining the people's club in Liverpool, the majority of people you meet on the street in the city are Everton fans."
It was the Blue half of Merseyside who went home happy after the first derby of the 2006/7 season. England striker Andrew Johnson marked his debut in this fixture with two goals as Everton ran out 3-0 winners at Goodison Park. Australia midfielder Tim Cahill had stabbed in a close-range opener in the 24th minute, before Johnson muscled past Jamie Carragher to add the second 12 minutes later. The rout was completed in stoppage time as he headed in the Toffees third after Reina had made a mess of dealing with a long-range effort from Lee Carsley.
Despite finishing on the losing side, Carragher was quick to stress the importance of the match. "There is no game like it," he said. "It's played at an incredible pace and everyone is desperate to win. A draw is a bit of an anti-climax for the fans - they are desperate to have the bragging rights in the pubs, offices and schools throughout the city. A derby win means so much. This city lives, eats, sleeps and drinks football - there's no place in the world quite like it."
The city of Liverpool will be crowned Europe's Capital of Culture in 2008. Football is an integral part of that culture. The Merseyside derby has been a part of life here for 112 years and will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who have watched, played or officiated at any of these incredible matches.