M69 rivals Leicester and Coventry are separated by just 19.1 miles. The cities’ populations are almost identical with Coventry’s at 303,475 and Leicester’s just eclipsing that with 330,574 inhabitants and with these two similar cities separated by a single road it would make sense for the two to be the greatest of rivals. But that just isn’t the case.
Battle in blue… Leicester and Coventry are M69 rivals
Historically, the two clubs have set their hateful eyes on those within their own regions. Leicester seeing East Midlands’ clubs Nottingham Forest and Derby County as the enemy with Coventry viewing Brummie neighbours Villa and Birmingham City as their main West Midlands foes. This viewpoint was picked up on in the 2003 Football fans census. Pre-Brian Clough, the main rivalry in the
Unrequited… Coventry viewed Aston Villa as their main rivals.
East Midlands had been between Leicester and Forest, a hostility that is currently rejuvenating between the two clubs. However, excluding the dwellers of Loughborough, Melton Mowbray and yesteryear. The tricky trees attention has been firmly on the Rams since the 1970s. In fact, Leicester had had a rivalry with Derby themselves stemming from a 1994 play-off final win by the Foxes and several shared seasons in the Premier League during the late 1990s. Sharing a division could also be attributed to the birth of the Coventry-Villa feud, two clubs who shared the top flight for more than 30 years.
However, following Coventry’s and Leicester’s relegations from the Premier League in 2001 and 2004 respectively, the attention of the fans began to turn elsewhere. Coventry were under a massive disillusion that Villa and Birmingham still saw them as rivals. Unfortunately for them, they only had eyes for each other and as early as 2003, neither club saw them as one of their main three rivals. Leicester’s branch of supporters in the south west Leicestershire town of Hinckley became more vocal of their hatred for neighbouring Coventry. Whereas, Foxes elsewhere retained their disdain for Forest and Derby who remained rooted in the 2nd tier with them. Within, the following seasons the media began to pick up on the ‘rivalry’ between the two clubs dubbing it the ‘M69 derby’ after the extensive piece of tarmac connecting the two clubs. The rivalry began to increase in intensity particularly for the Coventry fans who had nowhere else to turn in the sense of a rivals culminating in Leicester’s first ever relegation to the third tier in 2008 with the subsequent repreival of Coventry.
As the rivalry between the two clubs grew, rivalries between Leicester & Forest and Leicester & Derby seemed to diminish with neither
Indifferent… Forest don’t hate Leicester anymore
of them claiming to ‘care’ about the Foxes. A similar mantra that has since been adopted by some of the Sky Blues faithful in an effort to stamp a footballing superiority complex on Leicester. Although, it is fair to say that Leicester fans have in turn voiced their apathy towards Coventry with many of the Leicester followers still seeing Forest as the enemy, often chanting “We hate Forest! We hate Derby! Who the f**k are Coventry!” at home and away fixtures.
Evidence that the rivalry between the two had been growing up until 2011-12 with Coventry’s relegation to League One is apparent through the attendance figures;
Empty seats… Although attendances increase. The M69 derby is never a sell-out
English: Ricoh Arena, Coventry, England, during a football match. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Coventry – 2011/12 – Average league attendance : 15, 118 Attendance vs. Leicester – 21,102
2010/11 – Average league attendance : 16, 409 Attendance vs. Leicester – 20,06o
2009/10 – Average league attendance : 17,305 Attendance vs. Leicester – 22,209
Leicester – 2011/12 Average league attendance: 23,036 Attendance vs. Coventry – 25,487
2010/11 Average league attendance: 23,666 Attendance vs. Coventry – 25,356
2009/10 Average league attendance: 24,542 Attendance vs. Coventry – 23,093
These figures show that in the last 3 seasons Coventry’s home attendance increases by around 5,000 every time Leicester come to town. The Foxes home gate has increased by 1,500 for the Sky Blues visit and has even been a higher attended fixture in the 2011/12 then either of the visits by Derby or Forest. However, Leicester did take 8,000 fans to the City Ground in the FA Cup.
However, a smaller survey I carried out in March 2012 revealed that nowadays, Coventry City fans do view Leicester as their main rivals. Whereas, Leicester still only view Coventry as their 3rd greatest enemies with Derby in 2nd and Forest in 1st. Neither, Aston Villa nor Birmingham reciprocated any sort of rivalry towards the Sky Blues but Forest and Derby both placed Leicester among their top 3 rivals in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Sky Blue view – @_CharlieHarris
Rivals… Coventry have nowhere to turn after their relegation from the top-flight
“I hate the M69 derby. In fact I despise it. We never win and the match just turns into contest of “We hate you less than you hate us”, frankly it gets a little embarrassing. Before long the cringe-worthy, and nonsensical ‘interbred’ chant is started by the Coventry fans and Leicester respond with the equally poor “Who the f*ck are Coventry”. If the matches played between Algeria and Egypt are known as the “Match of Hate” they the M69 derby should be known as the “Match of mild discontentment” or the match of “We hate someone else more than you anyway”.
With Coventry the rivalry is very much a generational thing. As of recent times, Leicester have been seen as the biggest rival, mainly due to being the most local team in the the same divisions as Coventry for prolonged amount of times. Most younger Sky Blues recognise Leicester as the “enemy” and are those responsible for the cringey afore mentioned ‘interbred’ chant. For the younger fan base, the M69 derby was always the first game to look out for upon release of the new fixture lists, and voted at 26th in a list compiled of the fiercest derbies suggests that it’s not only those few Coventry and Leicester fans that see this game as a rivalry.
There is a group of more senior Coventry fans who have a similar approach to the match as the majority of Leicester fans, to them Leicester are simply a third rate rival behind the likes of Birmingham and Villa, in the same trail of thought as those Leicester fans who see Coventry as third rate behind Nottingham Forest an Derby. The Coventry fans whom posses this mindset tend to be those who were brought up believing that Leicester where smaller club during the time in which Coventry where Premier League mainstays and FA Cup winners, while Leicester where more commonly found in Division Two.
For a derby that is constantly downplayed by both sets of fans – albeit more from Leicester than Coventry – the tie has a history of recent violence. In 2008 fights broke out on Earlsdon High Street , Coventry, before a 2-0 Coventry victory. Violence also occurred before a 2004 meeting in Coventry when missiles where launched at the police. Even this is relatively frequent occurrence for a rivalry in which the two teams apparently don’t care about each other.
Personally, I grew up being taught that Leicester were the rivals. I despised them until around the age of 12, mainly because I was told too. Growing up and hearing older City fans opinions on the rivalry and the opinions of Leicester fans made me realise it wasn’t as big a deal. Nowadays the only time I’ve properly hated Leicester was when they first got their investment and their fans were giving it the big’un over social networking about how they would walk the league etc. Obviously now it would be a bit hypocritical of me to think this way seeing the way some of our slightly less educated fans have acted upon or relegation to League One. Social network has allowed me to connect with more Leicester fans than previously and after meeting some decent people it hard to adopt the same hatred as felt before. The same reason I don’t feel the same any hatred towards Villa like many City fans, and also a reason I don’t particularly hate Birmingham either. Hooray for social networking and all that. ”
Through a Fox’s eyes– @deangoodsell
Underrated… Leicester fans play down the rivalry with the Sky Blues
The M69 derby may not be one held in such high regards as Nottingham Forest and Derby are; however, it is not one that should be dismissed completely. Bordering many neighbours, all at a similar footballing standard does mean that Coventry get overlooked more often than they should. One of the biggest aspects of football rivalry for fans is having bragging rights over your colleagues, your friends and your neighbours. Living in Melton Mowbray, I have interaction with Forest fans on a daily basis, therefore I have always considered Forest to be our ‘main’ rivalry but that all depends on where you reside in Leicestershire. More often that not, you’ll find people closer to the Coventry border, such as Hinckley, will regard them as our biggest rivals.
Leicester and Coventry fans have always had a rivalry, the friction between the two is often higher than it is with both Forest and Derby. As a regular tweeter, I witness the mocking and taunting between both fans quite regularly. However, the history between both sets of fans goes a bit further than a few mean words. Back in 2008, fans from both sides took to the streets to participate in a brawl. Up to 100 fans clashed on the streets outside a Coventry pub after a recent football match. Eleven men ended up arrested with knives and other weaponry being confiscated by officers, one man suffered head injuries in the fight. It was the biggest scene of violence that Leicester fans have been involved in over the past few years.
Personally, I have always considered Coventry as the rivalry it deserves to be. Whilst it may not be up to El Clasico standard, it is certainly a rivalry that makes an otherwise dull game more interesting. Up until this season, Forest, Derby and Coventry were all games I looked for first upon the release of the fixture lists each season. It was a few years before I actually experienced an M69 derby, the history of violence between both sets of fans meant that, when I was younger, my parents would refuse to let me go. Ever since, I’ve considered Coventry as our second biggest rivalry. One moment I will certainly never forget about our rivalry with Coventry, is watching a video shortly after our relegation to League One with Coventry fans chanting: ‘Leicester’s going down!’ For me, that left more of a sour taste in my mouth than relegation itself.
Overall, the M69 derby is certainly one that will be missed by most fans this season. Although it is not the biggest, the most talked about or most attended derby game, it can certainly be ranked up there with the best East Midlands derbies.
Speaking strictly from a Leicester perspective; the Foxes faithful will moan and begrudge the Trees and Sheep for downplaying our rivalry with claims of apathy when it is painfully clear that despite not being their main rivals, there is a mutual dislike among our supporters. It’s a defence mechanism that aims to protect the stature of one club as more prestigious than the other, an almost belittling viewpoint. So maybe, Leicester don’t see Coventry as important as games against Forest or Derby but does that mean that M69 derby wins don’t mean more than beating the likes of Watford? We can sing our ‘Who the f**k are Coventry’ chants long in to the night just as long as you’re aware that really all we’re doing is emulating the red scum to the north in their pathetic tirade of superiority. And as far as Coventry fans go, if you ever find yourself disillusioned with who your rivals are; look east.
- Obscure Football Rivalries (thechriswhitingshow.wordpress.com)