A look at the North London derby – By Martin Cloake

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While other of world football’s great derbies are rooted in political, class or religious division, the North London Derby rivalry stems from 100 years of intense irritation. Spurs fans see the red and whites as interlopers from South London who were awarded our place in the top flight in dubious circumstances in 1919, and forever remind them that they are are the only team not to achieve their place in the top flight on merit. Nearly 10 years after those scandalous events sent Tottenham’s prize parrot to an early grave and, legend has it, gave rise to the ‘sick as a parrot’ cliché, Spurs were relegated again amid suspicions that Arsenal had pulled their punches in a few vital matches to ensure their neighbours went down. And suspicions of Arsenal dodgy dealing were still circulating years later over a certain lasagne-related incident got them into Europe at our expense on the final day of the 2006/07 season.

In the 1930s, Herbert Chapman won three league titles, but it was the Spurs Double of 1961 that established North London’s first glamour club. (And Chapman played for Spurs before managing the Gunners – so a little bit of their success was forever ours.) Even when Arsenal finally couaght up by doing the Double 10 years later, they didn’t get the same credit – because the Spurs Double was glorious, while the Gunners was labourious. Quite simply, they were dull.

In the last two decades, Arsenal have developed a reputation for being entertaining – when they’re not throwing pizzas or brawling on the pitch that is – and we like to irritate their fans even more by reminding them they used to make a virtue out of being dull. In turn, they try to pretend that playing us doesn’t matter.

But to any true fan of either club, and those from North London in particular, the derby does matter – alot. It’s precisely because the clubs draw support from the same communities that the rivalry is still so fierce, because both sets of fans on on each other’s doorsteps, in each other’s faces all the time. Even the Highbury library generated an atmosphere once a year for the derby, although the atmosphere-free zone that is The Emirates has yet to deliver. Mind you – there was no shortage of atmosphere in the Spurs end at the end of last season’s extraordinary 4-4 draw!

It may be an uncomfortable thing for us all to face up to, as we dearly love  to see the other lot suffer, but we’d miss the unique rivalry of the North London Derby if it wasn’t there.

• This feature is based on a longer article in The Pocket Book of Spurs, by Martin Cloake, published by Vision Sports Publishing. The book can be bought direct from the VSP website for the discounted price of £7.99, and Spursweb has two copies to give away in an exclusive competition.

Just send the answer to the following question to [email protected] by 12.45pm on Saturday 31 October, when the derby kicks off. the first two correct answers drawn will win a copy of the book – please include your full name and address.

Q: In what year was the first Spurs v Arsenal derby played?

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