The primary cause of the rivalry between the two arose out of their decision to move from Woolwich to Highbury in 1913. Their club had been formed in 1886 in Woolwich and we had first played them in 1887, leading 2-1 when the game was abandoned by the referee because of poor light. We did not play Arsenal competitively before season 1909-10 following our promotion to Division 1. They had joined the Football League in 1893 whilst we remained members of the Southern League from 1896 until 1908.
Their financial position became so dire that Sir Henry Norris, their chairman, decided to move the club to London. They purchased land from the Church Commissioners and built their present ground on it. Tottenham and Clapton Orient made loud protests to both the FA and Football League to no avail.
During the First World War, Arsenal and Tottenham shared Highbury as White Hart Lane had been commandeered by the Government. At the end of hostilities, the Football League announced an extension from 20 to 22 clubs in each Division. They declared Derby County and Preston North End promoted as the top two clubs in Division 2 at the end of the 1914-15 season.
They then announced that a match between Liverpool and Manchester United had been fixed in order to help both clubs avoid relegation. Both clubs were fined, I believe, and a number of players suspended. The Football League then announced that as Chelsea had been affected by the result of that match, Chelsea were declared re-elected to Division 1 without having to face an election.
The remaining place was then thrown open for election. Tottenham’s representatives made furious protests when the Football League then announced their preferred candidate for promotion was Arsenal, ahead of Barnsley, Wolves and Birmingham City, who were all thought to have a better case. Tottenham only received 8 votes, Arsenal receiving 18 and were thus declared elected to Division 1.
Exactly how Sir Henry Norris nobbled the Football League Management Committee has never been revealed but it is suspected that some of them were bribed in some way. Certainly in later life Sir Henry Norris was caught out in some unsavoury business and disappeared from public life.
Unsurprisingly for many years between the wars, there was a long history of trouble when the two clubs met. It was only when the two clubs shared White Hart Lane during the war that things were patched up.
Since WW2, the rivalry between Tottenham and Arsenal has raged on. One of the most irking sources of our hatred for Arsenal is their achievements at our stadium. In 1971, Arsenal won 1-0 at the Lane to lift the First Division title. If this was not bad enough, they repeated the same feat in 2004 with their so-called ‘Invincibles’ side.
Since then, Spurs have not been able to respond in any comparable way. The closest we have come was the 3-1 victory in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final. In front of a packed Wembley Stadium, Paul Gascoigne opened the scoring with that unforgettable free kick. Gary Lineker scored another two goals, the first a scramble in the box. The second was a lung-busting run followed by a strong finish. We went on to win that FA Cup which makes that particular victory over Arsenal even sweeter.
However, we have begun to turn the corner recently. As such, Spurs have ended the ridiculous celebration of ‘St Totteringham’s Day’ by Arsenal fans.
This used to be the day where Arsenal fans rejoiced over finishing above Spurs. For the past three seasons we have managed to finish above them. Currently in this 2019/20 season we look set to continue in this vein.
There are a few key figures in the modern Premier League era that we despise. The most hated Arsenal player was once a Tottenham centre half. Sol Campbell graduated from the Spurs youth set-up and from there accrued 255 appearances for Spurs. He even became captain.
But, he decided that he wanted to leave the club. There are some rumours that perhaps his hand was forced by the club, but unfortunately for him, his move to the rivals has revoked any of the good work he did for Spurs.
Campbell was part of the Invincibles team, partnering Kolo Toure in the middle. So, he was part of that Arsenal team that lifted the Premier League at the Lane.
Some Arsenal players have eventually become Spurs players and vice versa with a lot less controversy. This includes Emmanuel Adebayor, William Gallas but perhaps the oldest and most respected example is Pat Jennings. He was a fantastic goalkeeper who amassed 472 appearances in Division 1. He left the club to join Arsenal where he would make 237 appearances.
The manager that helped instigate Arsenal’s success, Arsene Wenger, also goes down as a hated figure in Spurs folklore. He has not betrayed the club, but instead he is responsible for so much of the hurt that the Gunners have caused us during his 12-year tenure. Between 1999 and 2010, Wenger did not lose a single league game to Spurs.
Mauricio Pochettino has been the key figure in turning the tide and finding solutions to Arsenal’s dominance. When he arrived in May 2014 he brought about a revolution in the ranks. He introduced players like Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb, Andros Townsend and Harry Kane into regular football. His faith in his younger players was particularly evidenced by Ryan Mason’s Premier League debut against Arsenal. He played the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw.
In the following North London derby, Pochettino’s team featured Mason once again, along with Kane, Eric Dier and Bentaleb. Spurs overturned Arsenal’s lead to win 2-1. This was the turning point event in Spurs’ recent rivalry with Arsenal.
Since then, Tottenham and Arsenal’s rivalry has been just as strong and well-fought. Currently, both clubs are struggling to cling to top four hopes. The upcoming North London Derby poses yet another chance for Spurs to paint the town Lilywhite for yet another season.
By Brian Judson and Declan Wiseman