It’s the age-old question: which is the most successful footballing city in England?
You could extend it out to the whole of the UK, with Glasgow – where Celtic and Rangers reside – also entering the conversation, but as far as England is concerned there are three main contenders that immediately spring to mind.
London, with its huge number of elite-level clubs, is clearly going to be front and centre in any discussion about England’s finest footballing city – Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham….and the list goes on.
As for Manchester, well, you know the drill here. Manchester United were a powerhouse of English football for decades, while their neighbours City have – aided by the millions of their oil-owning owners – become a major player in the modern era.
And don’t write off Liverpool, where the Reds and Everton have been at the forefront of the English game for a long, long time.
Honourable mentions go to Nottingham – Forest’s exploits in Europe will never be forgotten, while County are one of the oldest football clubs in the world, while Sheffield’s place in the history of the game cannot be undermined – Sheffield F.C. can rightfully lay claim to being the planet’s first organised football club.
So how do we measure success? There are a number of different metrics that we could use, but clearly the most widely-accepted factor in football is silverware – lifting trophies is, ultimately, the only totem of a team’s success that counts.
With that in mind, let’s rank the footballing cities of London, Manchester and Liverpool based upon the number of trophies they have won. For the purposes of this article, we have focused on the key domestic and continental competitions – the likes of the Community Shield and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy have been omitted.
Premier League/Division One Titles
For decades, the best teams in England battled it out for the Division One title. That changed ahead of the 1992/93 season when the competition was repackaged as the Premier League, and we have combined both of those into our calculations below. Here’s London, Manchester and Liverpool’s haul of top-flight titles:
League Titles by City
So there you have it! As far as top-flight titles is concerned, Liverpool is the most successful city in England – thanks mostly to the eponymous Reds and Everton’s occasional dominance (they have won the league in six different decades).
Fast forward ten years and the tallies might look different if the Sheikhs hang around the VIP lounge at Manchester City long enough, although it appears as though it will be a while before a London club reasserts their dominance on the league title.
As mentioned, for the purposes of this article we are focusing on the two ‘major’ English cups – the FA Cup and the League Cup, in its many different guises. We have kicked the Community Shield and other minor competitions to the kerb. Here are the city rankings when combing FA and League Cup wins.
Domestic Cups by City
The greater geographical reach of London has paid dividends in this category, with the likes of West Ham, Wimbledon, Charlton and QPR contributing to the capital’s cause. Speaking specifically about the FA Cup, there has been a real north/south divide in terms of the teams that have lifted the famous trophy, and certainly the record suggest that northern clubs – especially in the early days – weren’t all that fussed with winning it.
For clarity, in this section we have focused our ranking based on performances in three continental competitions: the Champions League (and the European Cup years), the Europa League (and its UEFA Cup years) and the Cup Winners’ Cup, a tournament aimed at domestic cup winners which ran from 1960 until 1999. Here’s how the city have fared:
European Trophies by City
It’s a dead heat between London and Liverpool here, with capital clubs enjoying most of their success in the ‘lesser’ European tournaments and Liverpool winning more than half of their city’s haul in the Champions League/European Cup. As such, it’s a moral victory for the Merseyside city.
Total Trophy Haul
So what happens when we add together all of the trophies won by each city?
Total Trophies by City
There you have it: London is English football’s most successful city. It’s probably not a huge surprise given its geographical size and financial advantages over Manchester and Liverpool, but it’s an accolade capital dwellers can hang their hat on.
Intriguingly, if we only consider top-flight league titles and European trophies, Liverpool come out on top, Manchester is in second and London is trailing in third. So more major success has been enjoyed by the northern cities!
Perhaps this debate will rumble on for some time yet….