The North London derby – the History

As a lone ranger of an Arsenal fan with 4 older brothers all Spurs fans, the battle resumes on Sunday. What colour will the north of London be coloured in a few days time?

I thought I would have a look at the long and coloured history of the north London derby. Although, if Arsenal, then known as Royal Arsenal were located in Plumstead, it would of just been a London clash instead of a specific location in the capital.

The first match between these two was a friendly on the 19th of November, 1887, which ultimately was abandoned after 15 minutes due to excessive darkness. The first league match between these two didn’t take place until December 1909; with Arsenal winning 1-0.

In 1913, Arsenal moved from the Manor Ground, Plumstead to Highbury and with a total distance of four miles between Highbury & White Hart Lane, it then ignited a LOCAL derby between the two clubs. They first met each other as north London clubs in 1914 in a War Relief Fund friendly and with Spurs in the first division and Arsenal a league below, it seemed it would be a routine win for the white half of north London…Arsenal won 5-1. After an expansion of the 1st division from 18 to 20 teams & Chelsea, who finished 19th taking one of the places. The other spot was open for bidding from teams in the lower divisions and would be voted in by members of the board. Tottenham finished 20th in the first division that season and Arsenal finished 6th in the second division, but Arsenal won the election with 18 votes, compared to Tottenham’s 8 and thus, were now in the first division and Tottenham being relegated down. Alleged bribes and such were hinted to have taken place but nothing was proven!

 In the earlier days, the derby was particularly notable due to it’s bitterness with numerous threats of matches being played behind closed doors by the FA. With only one season since 1950 where both teams have not been in the same division it means it’s been a constantly entertaining derby, unlike others. The odds on a 0-0 draw last season in either derby was 16-1, which is roughly double what the odds are for a “normal” match between top flight teams. As only a 18-year-old, I have missed majority of the notable games where league titles have been decided in these games, but, I remember the 25th of April 2004, I was 9-years-old and it was 5 days till my birthday, Arsenal were unbeaten in the league and needed only a point at White Hart Lane to secure the title, and with 35 minutes gone and Arsenal being 2-0 up (thanks to goals from Robert Pires and big Pat Vieira) we were coasting. But with Jamie Redknapp scoring a long range peach before Robbie Keane equalised in the 90th minute with a penalty, I was nervous for the final minutes.

The relief that flooded me when the whistle blew and Arsenal had WON the league at the Lane, I was 9 but I knew what it meant and at that will forever be my favourite footballing memory. Another notable game (For all the wrong reasons in my eyes) was the 2008 league cup semi-final, the first leg finished 1-1 at the Emirates and by half-time of the 2nd leg, Arsenal were down by 2 due to a Jermaine Jenas long range effort and Nicklas Bendtner own-goal, things were not looking good for the Gooners. The 2nd half commenced and with Aaron Lennon and the bugger that is Robbie Keane making it 4-0 before Adebayor got one back for Arsenal, before Steed Malbranque added the final goal in an emphatic win in injury time to send the Lily whites through to the final which they would win.

 Now for the players who have crossed the divide and general summation of the two teams. In my opinion, Sol Campbell is the most notorious player to trade Tottenham to Arsenal. In 2001, instead of signing a contract extension with Tottenham, which the fans expected considering he was offered the most wages for a Tottenham player ever at that time, he decided to join Arsenal on a free transfer after Sven Goran Erikkson’s advice on seeking Champions League football took prevalence on Sol’s next career step. With chants of “Judas” haunting Sol whenever he was playing in front of the Spurs faithful, he went on to win 2 league titles, 3 FA cups, 2 community shields and was integral in Arsenal’s “invincible” season (Even though we were knocked out of both the cups REALLY early). Others notable players include Pat Jennings who played over 500 games for Tottenham before then playing 237 for Arsenal. More recently Adebayor and Gallas have gone from the Emirates to the Lane but none the other way. Has the tide turned and the pull is towards the white half of North London?

With 25 major domestic honours compared to Tottenham’s 14, the dominance of Arsenal is still there and are still the most successful team in London but hints of a power shift are imminent unless Arsenal tighten up. I look forward to Sunday and I am quite certain I will be indulging it a quality game of football. Hopefully something I can write about in years to come as either Arsenal’s reaffirmation as the best in north London or Tottenham’s coming of age.

This Needs a Goal

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