When Tottenham were found guilty of bad language and the stadium curse

by Tony Attwood

Tottenham’s objections to Arsenal moving to north London were incredibly strong and quite possibly ill-judged, given that Arsenal had been the club which had saved Tottenham when they had opted out of the Southern League, but then failed to be given a place in the Football League.  In the re-run of the voting (after another team had dropped out) Arsenal voted for Tottenham, and they secured a place by one vote.

When Arsenal moved north, they suggested that the crowds of all three north London clubs would rise because of enhanced local interest, but Tottenham did not accept this and predicted the reverse would happen.   In fact Arsenal were right, and with three times in close proximity, the local papers were full of football every day. Arsenal’s move was a fait accompli and everyone forgot about it.

During the first world war Tottenham moved into Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium, as WHL was used for the testing of Enfield rifles that had just come off the production line, and probably as a result of both these events, although Tottenham pitched themselves against Arsenal for a place in the first division when professional football resumed in 1919 after the war, they were magnanimous in defeat in the voting and made no protest.  Even the local Tottenham paper, not bound by the new rules of courtesy existing between the clubs, made no fuss that it was Arsenal who would enter the first division after the war, not Tottenham.   (The full story of Arsenal’s election to the first division, which gets rid of the myths and instead focuses on the facts, is given in the 100 Years series on Untold Arsenal).

However Tottenham won promotion back to the first division in 1920 and from here on the intensity of the rivalry on the pitch was greatly increased finally boiling over in the September 1922 at WHL after which Tottenham were seriously reprimanded in terms of keeping their crowd and their players in order.

As for the “stadium curse” of the headline, that came in 2006 when it took three league matches for Arsenal to win at their new home.  Some Tottenham fans claimed they had put Tottenham scarves in the footings of the site, but if there was a curse, it wasn’t much of one.

Here are the anniversaries…


23 September 1905: Tom Arnold made his league debut for Arsenal, having been signed in May 1905.  He only made one other appearance before moving on to Coventry City in 1907.

23 September 1912: After five games Arsenal won their first match of the season – a 3-1 away win against Sheffield Utd who were reduced to 10 man through injury early on.  It took Arsenal to 13th in the league, while Tottenham remained bottom with 0 points.

23 September 1919:  Sir Henry Norris appeared at Marlborough Street magistrate’s court as a character witness in a criminal case in which the Fulham Councillor, Mr James Littleboy, who was the Mayor of Fulham before Sir Henry Norris, “was accused of wilfully interfering with and annoying persons in Hyde Park.”

23 September 1921: So dramatic was Arsenal’s fall from grace thus far this season that the Islington Daily Gazette set its policy of not printing critical letters from fans and instead published just one highly critical letter from a fan who called himself “Well Wisher”.

23 September 1922: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2.  After the match the FA held an enquiry. Smith of Tottenham was found guilty of using bad language and suspended for a month. Graham was censured for retaliation.  Tottenham were warned about the behaviour of their crowd, and were warned of ground closure if further trouble ensued.

23 September 1922: One of Arsenal’s missing men from last year – Graham – returned.  He had played 21 times at centre half in the previous season but this season made way for Voysey in that position and replaced Tom Whittaker at left half.  Blyth returned at outside left. 40,482 at White Hart Lane saw Arsenal win 2-1.

23 September 1932: Dennis Compton signed as an amateur.  He started his football career at Nunhead in 1934/5 before moving to Arsenal, where he made his début in 1936.  He also played for England in wartime matches.

23 September 1933: Everton 3 Arsenal 1 making it four games without a win.    For once the team was the same for two league games running – but that didn’t help.  Bowden again scored but the fact was that Everton were currently 14th in the league.

23 September 1936: Dennis Compton’s senior debut in friendly v Rangers.  As a cricketer he played in 78 Test Matches as a slow left-arm bowler, and was one of England’s most remarkable batsmen scoring 123 centuries in first-class cricket.   A stand at Lord’s was named in his honour. See also here

23 September 1936: George Eastham born.  He started out with Ards before moving to Newcastle United in 1956.

23 September 1953: Danny Clapton debut in a friendly against South Africa some 15 months before his first league game after which he went on to become the club’s regular outside right.

23 September 1955: Gordon Nutt signed from Cardiff after a game between Cardiff reserves and Arsenal reserves.  He made his début within a couple of hours of signing on 24 September 1955 in a 3-1 away defeat at Sunderland.  Mike Tiddy was also signed from Cardiff at the same time.

23 September 1970: Arsenal played the second leg of the 1st round of the Uefa Cup against Lazio, and Arsenal won 2-0 with goals from Radford and Armstrong.  There was no collective meal afterwards.

23 September 1972: Ex-Arsenal man Terry Anderson scored twice against Arsenal for Norwich.  It concluded a run of one win in seven league games. Storey and Radford scored in a 2-3 defeat.  See also here 

23 September 1976: Terry Mancini was granted a free transfer to Aldershot.  His transfer from QPR had come as a surprise but he had helped shore up the team that was experiencing its roughest time since before Chapman.  See also here.

23 September 1995: Dennis Bergkamp scored his first two goals for Arsenal in the 4-2 defeat of Southampton at Highbury.  Adams and Wright scored the other goals to make it seven unbeaten.

23 September 2000: A 1-1 draw with Ipswich (with a goal from Bergkamp) made it 3 draws and 3 victories in the last six.  Arsenal then went on to win the next five.

23 September 2006: The third home match at the Emirates gave Arsenal their first victory there: 3-0 over Sheffield Utd.  Before that point they had won only one, drawn two and lost one, and there was talk of the curse of the stadium move.

23 September 2008: Arsenal put out a youth team and beat Sheffield U 6-0 in League Cup.  Fabianski, Hoyte, Djourou, Song, Gibbs, Randall, Ramsey, Merida, Wilshere, Bendtner, Vela.  Among the substitutes was Francis Coquelin.

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