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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Spurs v Arsenal, 05.05.99

This preview was written by Brian Judson


Full Record of Spurs -v- Arsenal

Premier       Pl   W   D   L   For-Ag  Pts
Home           6   3   2   1     5-3   11
Away           7   1   5   1     6-6    8
=========================================
Total (Prem)  13   4   7   2    11-9   19
=========================================
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)  13   4   7   2    11-9   19
Total (Div 1) 110 40  24  46   158-168 109
==========================================
Grand Total   123 44  31  48   169-177 128
==========================================

It's that time of the football season again, folks! The one home game of the season we both look forward to yet dread the possible outcome of the game's twists and turns. This year's visit of the ancient enemy from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road will have a piquant resonance to the match. It will be interesting to see whether force of habit will find George Graham and Stewart Houston swinging left at the tunnel exit towards the Arsenal bench instead of swinging right to sit on the Tottenham benches.

No one at the height of the Graham/Houston stewardship at Highbury could have foreseen that they would be plying their trade with the Lilywhite half of North London and that a previously unknown Frenchman would have steered Arsenal to undreamed of heights of entertaining football that Graham rarely aspired to in his time. For make no mistake about it, the current Arsenal side is far more entertaining to watch than any other Arsenal side I have seen. The one Arsenal side that I have seen that came closest to matching the current Arsenal side for entertainment was the one that represented them in season 1972-73 when they finished runners-up to Liverpool by the three points. I remember Radford and Kennedy were a joy to watch that season, particularly when Arsenal travelled to Liverpool and beat them 2-0.

Form counts for nothing in Tottenham -v- Arsenal matches. It is pride and the need to be top dog in their private war of North London supremacy that counts more than the satisfaction of capturing the League points at stake. I have seen Spurs going great guns in the League yet meekly surrendering the points to Arsenal and experienced the joy of seeing Spurs, expected to be slaughtered, surprisingly beating Arsenal. There is no greater feeling of satisfaction that leaving either Highbury or White Hart Lane knowing that Tottenham have beaten THEM!

One of the ugliest matches played between the two clubs probably occurred on 23rd September 1922. There was still a feeling of resentment felt by Spurs towards Arsenal concerning the manner in which Tottenham had been relegated to Division Two prior to the start of season 1919-20 and Arsenal, who had finished sixth in Division Two in season 1914-15, had replaced them in Division One. Spurs had, of course, quickly recovered their lost position but games between the two clubs for the next few years were fully charged affairs. This was, apparently, an ugly game with Spurs the victims of some dreadful tackling. In an era of no substitutes, 'Fanny' Walden, as tiny a player as Jose Dominguez today, was forced to limp off after only 15 minutes and both Alec Lindsay and Bert Bliss were heavily limping before the end of the match. At one point of the game, Spurs had only nine players on the field whilst Lindsay was receiving extended treatment by the touchline.

Shortly after half-time, Boreham gave Arsenal the lead and added a second near the end of the game. But Spurs, unlike their modern counterparts, did not give up battling against all the odds. The referee, a Mr Austin, was very poor in his handling throughout the match. Near the end, Lindsay broke through to score a late consolation goal for Spurs. The Arsenal players claimed they had been distracted by someone blowing a whistle that had made them think the referee had blown for full time and had not challenged Lindsay as they might otherwise have done. The Arsenal players surrounded the referee, pushing and prodding him in scenes that might have reminded us of the Alcock/Di Canio fracas earlier this season. There were certainly punches thrown both on and off the field.

The referee reported both clubs to the Football Association and both were charged with bringing the game into disrepute. The subsequent Committee of Enquiry decided that Tottenham's Bert Smith had used foul and abusive language and suspended him for a month. Arsenal's Alex Graham was severely censured for retaliating under extreme provocation and Arsenal 'keeper Stephen Dunn was severely censured for his protests in the wake of the Spurs goal.

Never before or since has a Spurs -v- Arsenal fixture been marred by an outbreak of fighting.

In April 1928, as Spurs were inexorably sliding down the table to relegation at the season's conclusion, Spurs and Arsenal clashed at Tottenham. At the time they played this game, both teams were comfortably placed in mid-table. Spurs won the match 2-0. 'Taffy' O'Callaghan put them ahead soon after the start and added a second near the end of the match. Arsenal had their chances and flunked them. This proved to be Spurs' last win of the season (they were to pick up only one more point from their remaining four matches). At the season's end, Arsenal were 10th and Tottenham 21st, with only three points separating them.

Apart from the match that took place on 3rd May 1971 (who won that game, I wonder?), the most keenly awaited match took place at Tottenham on 23rd December 1950. Both teams were fighting for the Championship (Tottenham were ultimately to win it for the first time) and both were handily positioned behind League leaders Middlesbrough. Queues began to form long before midnight on a bitterly cold Friday night. The final attendance was 54,898.

Tottenham dominated the game early on but Arsenal rode the storm and began to fight back. But Arsenal never managed to penetrate the Tottenham defence whilst Spurs' forwards seemed to constantly find holes in Arsenal's. Tottenham won the match in the 35th minute when Bennett took the ball wide on the right wing. Bennett flicked the ball on to Walters. Walters centred the ball which took a deflection off Leslie Compton. The ball fell directly into the path of the onrushing Eddie Baily, who scored. Spurs' solitary goal did not reflect the one-sided nature of the match.

But in more modern times Spurs fans have had to endure Arsenal dominating the North London scene rather more than we would all prefer to see. Under their previous manager but one (prior to the appointment of Arsene Wenger), Arsenal achieved their successes on the back of a strong defensive back four. Martin Keown made his first appearance in a Spurs - -v- Arsenal fixture as long ago as 1 January 1986 in a boring goalless draw at Highbury. Tony Adams made his first appearance in another goalless draw at Highbury on 6 September 1986. Nigel Winterburn made his first appearance on 6 March 1988, when Arsenal won 2-1 at Highbury. Lee Dixon made his first appearance on 10 September 1988, when Arsenal won 3-2 at Tottenham. Steve Bould made his first appearance on 2 January 1989, when Arsenal won 2-0 at Highbury. David Seaman made his first appearance on 1 September 1990 in yet another goalless draw at Highbury. Yet it was not until 29 April 1995, when the two teams drew at Highbury 1-1, that all six of them played in the team together for the first time in the fixture's history. I cannot recall another team that has built its success around the defence as consistently as Arsenal have done over the years. It is interesting to note that Tottenham did not win any of the matches referred to above.

Given that Arsenal's recent history was largely created by Tottenham's current management team, there is no danger that this fixture will have an end of the season air about it. Manager Graham will be keen to demonstrate his credentials in his new surroundings against a team that will have many of his signings playing against him. He will be well aware of any failings his previous charges will have and will no doubt use his knowledge in plotting the tactics for this fixture.

This game is always a difficult one to predict. Spurs have already qualified for Europe by virtue of their Wembley triumph over Leicester City last month. Arsenal are more or less assured of a place in next season's Champions League but will be keen to qualify for that as Champions rather than one of the runners-up to the Champions. With Spurs still to play Chelsea and Manchester United, Tottenham can influence the outcome of the Championship. All I will say is that one goal will be enough to settle this match. As to which of these two sides will be the winner I will only say it will be the one that makes the fewest mistakes. I hope Tottenham will be the winners but given Arsenal's recent mood I would not bet on it.

Cheers, Brian

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