Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Monday, 16 August 2010 12:06 UK
Who are Coventy's sporting rivals?

By Paul Wheeler
BBC Blast sports reporter

David Thompson and Gareth Barry (Getty)
It's been a while since they met but are the Sky Blues and Villa still rivals?

With the start of every sports season, fans of every team eagerly await the fixture lists, pen in hand, ready to circle the dates when their club's pride will be on the line.

Rivalries exist in every sport, at every level, and Coventry and Warwickshire is no exception.

Traditionally, Birmingham has been the city's biggest sporting foe, with any Sky Blues fan able to rouse themselves into a near frenzy for an Aston Villa game. Indeed, at my first ever game at Highfield Road at the age of six, I was told there are only two songs a Coventry boy needs to know - the Sky Blue Song and the well-known ditty, sung to the tune of Roll Out The Barrel, that mocks our city's claret and blue enemies. Coventry RFC also count Birmingham's Moseley club as their traditional foes.

In recent years, however, it can be argued that Coventry sports fans have had to work hard to find a "true" rival, with the Birmingham region falling back on its traditional geographical rivalries rather than their neighbours down the A45. The differing fortunes of Coventry and Villa have meant that Leicester City, always in the background, have come to prominence in the past five years as the Sky Blues' deadly adversaries.

Coventry-Leicester games are referred to as the M69 Derby and in a recent survey by the Football Fans' Census organisation, the annual clashes were ranked as the 26th fiercest derby in English football. That's one behind Manchester City v Manchester United in the rankings, and ahead of the vicious rivalry between Millwall and West Ham. With the City-Villa rivalry not even making the top 50, it seems fairly clear cut - the region's biggest sporting rivalry is now with their neighbours at the other end of the motorway.

Luke Fulghum and Bruce Richardson (Mark Tredgold)
There's no love lost between Coventry Blaze and Nottingham Panthers

However, to some sports fans in the region, Leicester, and indeed Birmingham, aren't even on the radar. If you follow speedway in this part of the world, then Wolverhampton vs Coventry fixtures are likely the ones that make your pulse quicken. Fans of the Coventry Blaze will tell you that there is no city they like to beat more than Nottingham - a feeling which the Panthers fans reciprocate in a rivalry which has fast outstripped Sheffield v Nottingham as the most important, most hotly-contested rivalry in British ice hockey.

Passions also run high at the Skydome when long-term rivals Cardiff and (for those who were fans in the first three seasons) Guildford come to town.

But, with the two biggest current rivalries in the city both involving teams from the East Midlands, it seems that one thing is certain: the focus of local sports fans has moved from the traditional preoccupation with the Birmingham area. Indeed, one could argue that only speedway fans are holding fast to Coventry's "traditional" battles in their duels with Wolverhampton. It is teams from Nottingham and Leicester that excite the most enmity among the younger generation of the region's fans. It seems that the advice to anyone looking for a sporting rival, at least until the Sky Blues return to the "promised land" of the Premier League, is simple:

Look East.




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