Tottenham 1 Arsenal 5. What a way to start the season


In August 1914, with war looming, Arsenal started preparations for their second season at Highbury, and for their second season in the second division since the relegation at the end of their time in Plumstead in 1913.

Although I don’t have a record of the match, we can be fairly sure that Arsenal would have played Arsenal Reserves in a pre-season warm up game at Highbury.  It was the commonplace event for almost all clubs.  We do know that in the previous pre-season (when Highbury was still being built) Arsenal played two such warm up matches behind closed doors).

Other than that we don’t have any information of a pre-season game except this one: 22 August 1914: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 5 in front of a crowd of 13564.

This game had a certain historic significance because it was the first derby game since Arsenal moved to north London.   Leaving aside war time games, when both teams were populated with guest players, it was also the last time the sides played each other until 15 January 1921 when the result was Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1.

The fact that this game was played shows that the rupture between the clubs caused by Woolwich Arsenal’s move north lasted just one season.   As the chart below shows, games between the two had been regular since the earliest days of the clubs, starting just 11 months after the formation of Dial Square FC (the club that quickly transmuted into Royal Arsenal FC).  Quite why there was a big gap between 1889 and 1896 I’m not sure, but maybe the 10-1 victory in 1889 had something to do with it.

Date Venue Comp. Score Crowd
19 Nov 1887 away Fr 1-2
04 Feb 88 home Fr 6-2
22 Sep 88 home Fr 0-1 500
09 Mar 89 away Fr 1-0
21 Sep 89 home Fr 10-1
16 Mar 96 home Fr 1-3 1000
26 Mar 96 away Fr 3-1 3000
30 Apr 96 away Fr 2-3 1500
09 Nov 96 home UL 2-1 2000
25 Feb 96 away UL 2-2 2000
09 Nov 96 home UL 2-1 2000
25 Feb 96 away UL 2-2 2000
25 Dec 96 home UL 2-3 5000
08 Apr 97 away UL 0-0 14500
11 Mar 99 home UL 2-1 6000
29 Apr 99 away UL 2-3 7000
7 Apr 1900 away SDC 2-4 4500
24 Apr 00 home SDC 2-1 1500
16 Sep 01 home LLDP 0-2 6000
4 Nov 01 away LLDP 0-5 3833
23 Apr 02 home SPCC 0-0 2500
29 Apr 02 away SPCC 1-2 2000
01 Sep 03 away LLPD 1-0 7000
14 Nov 03 home LLPD 1-1 16000
10 Oct 04 home SPCC 1-3 8000
09 Apr 06 away SPCC 0-0 7000
28 Apr 06 home SPCC 5-0 12000
01 Feb 08 away Fr 1-0 10000
01 Nov 09 away LPFACF 0-3 4500
04 Dec 09 home FL 1-0 18000
16 Apr 10 away FL 1-1 39800
03 Dec10 away FL 1-3 16000
08 Apr 11 home FL 2-0 24583
25 Dec 11 away FL 0-5 47100
26 Dec 11 home FL 3-1 22000
29 Apr 12 away Fr 3-0 5000
24 May 12 away Fr 4-0
14 Dec 12 home FL 0-3 13000
19 Apr 13 away FL 1-1 20000
10 Nov 13 away LFACC 1-2 8000
22 Aug 14 away Fr 5-1 13564

Codes from the third column: Friendly (Fr) London FA Challenge Cup (LFACC) Southern District Combination (SDC) Southern Professional Charity Cup (SPCC) London League Premier Division (LLP) London PFA Charity Fund (LPFACF) FL (Football League Division 1) 

Arsenal’s score is shown first in all cases.  Research undertaken by Andy Kelly, to whom I’m very grateful.

As we can see from the crowd figures where they are available, there was a lot of interest in these games, and both clubs must have noted the loss of income when Arsenal were relegated from the first division at the end of the 1912/13 season; hence the announcement of this friendly.

To return to the lack of the match in 1913/14 however, this was probably because relationships between the clubs were so strained, not least because of Tottenham’s vigorous protests against Arsenal’s move north, and their failed attempts to engage with Islington council to get the move banned, and the similar failure of their call to get an EGM of the Football League to debate the issue and (they hoped) refuse Arsenal permission to move.

But the refusal of the League to act over the move of Arsenal north merely confirmed what the League had said in 1910 when a move west (rather than north) had been proposed for the club.  As it made clear at the meeting with Arsenal in June 1910, the League had no jurisdiction at the time over where the clubs played.   They could seek to stop new clubs from entering the League in areas where it was felt there were already too many clubs, just as they could promote the notion of a club being set up specifically to play in a particular location – as with clubs like Chelsea in 1905, and later Bradford and Thames Association.  But nothing in their rule book said where the ground of an existing League club had to be.

So that position, thus confirmed in 1910, was again confirmed again in 1913 when Woolwich Arsenal announced the move north.  (The story of 1910 is told in “Making the Arsenal” if you wish to go into it further).

In 1913/14 – the first at Highbury, and the season immediately before the 5-1 defeat of Tottenham – Arsenal had come 3rd in the second division of the League , missing promotion on goal average   Tottenham had come fourth from bottom in the 1st division, missing relegation by four points.

Here’s the second division table for the end of the 1913/14 season

P W D L F A Pt
1 Notts County 38 23 7 8 77 36 53
2 Bradford Park Avenue 38 23 3 12 71 47 49
3 Woolwich Arsenal 38 20 9 9 54 38 49
4 Leeds City 38 20 7 11 76 46 47
5 Barnsley 38 19 7 12 51 45 45
6 Leyton Orient 38 16 11 11 47 35 43
7 Hull City 38 16 9 13 53 37 41
8 Bristol City 38 16 9 13 52 50 41
9 Wolves 38 18 5 15 51 52 41
10 Bury 38 15 10 13 39 40 40

And Tottenham’s final table in division one for that season.

P W D L F A Pt
13 Manchester City 38 14 8 16 51 53 36
14 Manchester United 38 15 6 17 52 62 36
15 Everton 38 12 11 15 46 55 35
16 Liverpool 38 14 7 17 46 62 35
17 Tottenham Hotspur 38 12 10 16 50 62 34
18 Sheffield Wednesday 38 13 8 17 53 70 34
19 Preston North End 38 12 6 20 52 69 30
20 Derby County 38   8 11 19 55 71 27

Although Arsenal had failed to get promotion, and Tottenham had flirted with relegation, there was one outcome which possibly surprised Tottenham.  As a regular newspaper columnist during his days at Fulham, Henry Norris had learned the benefit of keeping football in the news for as many days a week as possible.  Indeed as a director of Fulham, he had used the proximity of Chelsea to Craven Cottage to do just that.

Now in north London, the same happened.   With Clapton Orient and Woolwich Arsenal in the second division and Tottenham in the first the local derby was a second division affair – and amazingly it had drawn a record 35000 to Highbury.  But interestingly, as Norris also predicted, Tottenham boosted their crowd figures too, because, it seemed, there was a growth in interest in football in north and north east London generally.  One of the three clubs was in the news each day and the local evening press vied with each other for some snippet of news from the clubs.

So the advent of this friendly in the summer of 1914 between the two clubs that had effectively been at war with each other in the summer of 1913 can be readily explained through reconciliation to the facts of the matter, and a recognition that the game itself would bring in cash and start off further debates in the press.

After the friendly Arsenal started the new season well with just one defeat in the first nine.  Tottenham on the other hand had the reverse fortunes – they won only one game in the first nine.  The friendly result did indeed predict what was to come.

Arsenal finished fifth in the second division this season – the last season before the League was suspended for the duration, and Tottenham finished bottom of the first division.

However there were complications because it soon became apparent at the end of the season that Liverpool and Man U had been guilty of match fixing, in order to ensure that Tottenham and Chelsea went down, rather than Man U.

What happened next is covered in our article published 18 months ago.   This is the article which offered a reward to anyone who could find any corruption within the way the League handled the matter, beyond the obvious failure to deal with either Liverpool and Man U, both of whom were guilty of match fixing.

The article investigates what happened at the time – and reprints many of the original commentaries and documents.  If you want to comment on the subsequent election of Arsenal and relegation of Tottenham it is really worth reading this because there are facts raised in the piece which are not covered in any other reports written since the events happened.

So in the context of these opening games of the 1914/15 season the Arsenal away win in a pre-season friendly is not that hard to explain – neither in terms of the end of the earlier animosity between the clubs, nor in terms of the result.

The details of the game are sadly missing – although someone somewhere must have the newspaper report or team sheet.    If you find it, do let me know.

Tony Attwood

The books
The complete Arsenal Anniversary series is to be found on the Arsenal History Society site.


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