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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Spurs v Arsenal, 28.12.97

"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published December, 2017, but first written in 1997 by the late Brian Judson

Full Record of Spurs -v- Arsenal

Premier       Pl   W   D   L   For-Ag  Pts
Home           5   3   1   1     4-2   10
Away           6   1   4   1     6-6    7
Total (Prem)  11   4   5   2    10-8   17
Football Lge
Home (Div 1)   55 24  12  19    93-83  63
Away (Div 1)   55 16  12  27    65-85  46
Total (Div 1) 110 40  24  46   158-168 109
Total (Prem)  11   4   5   2    10-8   17
Total (Div 1) 110 40  24  46   158-168 109
Grand Total   121 44  29  48   168-176 126

This preview is being written prior to the Aston Villa game. I can make no reference to that game. As I write these lines, on Christmas Eve, I understand that Jurgen Klinsmann has received international clearance to play for Spurs but will not make his second debut at Villa Park. Perhaps, in view of past confrontrations involving Mark Bosnich, that is just as well.

However, Klinsmann is expected to make his debut on Sunday when we play Arsenal. Klinsmann said last Monday that he was not worried about the prospect of playing in this match as he had yet to appear on a losing side against Arsenal.

Obviously, most Spurs fans, when considering past matches, obviously love to dwell on two matches in particular. One is, of course, St Hotspur Day on 14th April 1991 and the other is Easter Monday 1983.

The history of both clubs is far too well known for it to be repeated here in depth. But, for the benefit of overseas and younger readers, Arsenal's origins were at Woolwich where employees of the Royal Ordinance Factory there started to play football. They had various names before finally settling on Woolwich Arsenal. Despite their election to the Football League in 1893, Arsenal were not a well supported side and spent most of the pre-First World War period struggling in the old Division 2.

Sir Henry Norris took over the club and moved it to North London at its present site. The Football League ignored objections from Tottenham and Clapton (now Leyton) Orient. Tensions between Arsenal and Tottenham increased when Norris proposed to the Chairman of the Football League, when it expanded in the summer of 1919, that Arsenal should replace Tottenham in Division 1, even though Arsenal had only finished 6th in the last competitive season in 1914-15. When Tottenham regained their place in the old First Division, there was trouble at most of their fixtures involving Arsenal but this animosity died away when the Tottenham board invited the Arsenal board to ground-share with Tottenham for the duration of the Second World War, as Highbury had been requisitioned by the War Office.

Since the last war, relations between the two clubs have been better but few serious Tottenham supporters have not forgiven Arsenal for the manner of their position in the top Division.

It is ironic that one of the greatest managers in Arsenal's history was a reserve team player with Tottenham. Herbert Chapman spent two years with Tottenham before being appointed manager of the old Leeds City team that was forced into liquidation in 1919. Later he was manager at Huddersfield when they won the championship three years running and was runners-up in each of the next two seasons. Chapman was midway through the treble at Arsenal when he died and it was George Allison who actually completed Arsenal's third championship.

Over the years, it has been rare for both teams to be at their peak at the same time. Usually, one or the other holds the ascendancy in the battle for supremacy in North London whilst the other struggles to get its act together. In recent years, unfortunately, it has been Tottenham who have been struggling but our day will come again.

Perhaps it is just as well there have been few matches between the two clubs that have been significant encounters. The match in which Arsenal snatched the championship title away from Leeds in 1971 is, of course, one such match. But one of the ugliest matches between the two clubs that I have seen was actually in a Football League Cup Semi-Final in 1968.

The First Leg had ended 1-0 in Arsenal's favour when Radford had snatched a last minute goal to give the Gunners a slight advantage. The second leg was marred by two long-running feuds. Radford and Knowles were involved in one which ended when the pair had to be prised apart when they came to blows. Mike England, who was playing up front because Spurs had no one else to play there, spent the entire match fighting Ian Ure when the referee was not looking. Bob Wilson, the Arsenal goalkeeper, left the ground on crutches after the game, such was the intensity of the match. There was also trouble on the terraces with at least one man being stabbed.

And the result? A 1-1 draw. Greaves had swung the game back Tottenham's way but Radford snatched another late goal to put Arsenal in the final .... against Swindon Town. The scene was thus set for Arsenal's greatest humilation since 1933.

Fortunately, we have not seen another bad-tempered game since. Even when Spurs were playing Arsenal, knowing they had to beat Arsenal to prevent them from winning the League and the chance to complete the coveted Double, Tottenham did not resort to such mob-handed tactics again.

Over the years, I have been privileged to see many fine players on both sides. I have to admit that I admired Arsenal's performance when they beat us 5-0 on 23 December 1978. 'Chippy' Brady was in magnificent form that afternoon and Tottenham had no answer to him. He would have looked at home in a Tottenham shirt the way he sprayed passes around that afternoon.

The best performance I have seen in a Tottenham shirt against Arsenal has to be Gazza's at Wembley. He was only half-fit and only played an hour but his performance was brilliant. He played the ball as it should be played : he made it do all the work whilst he strolled around.

The most memorable goalkeeping performance has to be that of George Wood on Easter Monday 1983. No one who saw that match will ever forget the horrible afternoon Wood experienced. It wasn't as if Wood was a poor 'keeper : he just had one of those afternoons a 'keeper hates to have!

And Sunday's result? It's a hard game to forecast. Arsenal's current form is poor whilst Spurs haven't exactly set the world on fire for a long time. However, if Klinsmann plays on Sunday, he is bound to lift everyone simply by appearing in a white shirt again. But I think it will be a very close game and that the match will be won by a single goal rather than more than one. If Spurs can be patient, I feel sure we can nick the winner but the fans must not let their impatience infect the players.

Let's get behind them all on Sunday even if (say he with gritted teeth!) Calderwood plays!

Cheers, Brian

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