22 August: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 5.

by Tony Attwood

Much has been written about Tottenham’s objections to Woolwich Arsenal moving from Plumstead to Highbury, with Tottenham fearing that the move would diminish their crowds.

And yet within a year of the move the two clubs were playing a pre-season friendly at Tottenham.

This was Arsenal’s only pre-season friendly recorded for the season, although it is more than likely that a match between the first team and the reserves was also played as this seemed to happen each year.

13,564 turned up for the first match between the two after the move to north London, reflecting a certain thawing in relationships although the idea of the game was not repeated until 1938, suggesting that one explanation is that Arsenal offered the game at WHL as part of a way of smoothing the situation between the two clubs.

Although it should be noted that games between the two clubs were not unusual, for by the time of this match the two had played each other over 40 times.  Many of the games were friendlies but there was also a series in the United League in which both teams played in the late 19th century.

The first Football League match between them was in 1909, and these games quickly drew the attention of the crowds even when the clubs were on opposite sides of the river.  In fact, the league game on Christmas Day 1911 saw a crowd of 47,100 at White Hart Lane.  Unfortunately, Arsenal lost 5-0.

Thus Tottenham had feared that Arsenal’s move north would reduce crowds for both the clubs and neighbouring Clapton Orient but in fact the opposite happened.

Yet in the first season at Highbury, 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 35,000 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 press vied with each other for some snippet of news from the clubs.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.

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