On this day Arsenal played Tottenham at Highbury, in what was a home match for Tottenham.
During the summer of 1917 the clubs involved in the London Combination of 1915/16 (the first season of a wartime league) had got together to consider what to do about 1916/17.
It was clear to everyone that the war was not going to finish any time soon, and even when it did finish, it would take time to demobilise the survivors. It would thus leave the clubs struggling to get what remained of their squads back together and find new players to replace those who tragically did not return, or returned injured. All things told, there was obviously a need for a second season of the London Combination – which had been very hastily organised the previous season and run in two series of games (the first series being short in the belief that the war would end before Christmas, as the government and the media had promised).
In 1915/16, 14 clubs had played in the second edition of the London Combination which ran from February to March 1916. And so at some time during the summer of 1916 a new league was constructed, once more of 14 teams. Croydon Common FC (who had been in severe financial difficulties even before the war) dropped out and I believe at this point, vanished for good – they certainly did not reappear when the Southern League relaunched in 1919.
At some point the idea arose of each team playing every other team three times. with each then having a final fourth match against one of their opponents, to make the complete 40 week season. It was messy, but then this was wartime.
The results show that Arsenal played 12 of the 13 other teams in the League (all except QPR) once in the opening run of games. The QPR games were organised on 25th and 26th December and a home and away basis – exactly had been the process in the pre-war leagues.
This league system did indeed last all the way through until April, although three games in the final round of matches (the “fourth games”) were not played: Crystal Palace v Luton Town, Queen’s Park Rangers v Watford and Southampton v Crystal Palace.
Even though virtually every game was a London derby crowds were to be down, and only four Arsenal games got attendances over 10,000 during the whole 40 week season (two at Highbury, the others at Chelsea and Millwall).
One other change of note was to occur at sometime in the summer: it was agreed Tottenham could play its home games away from White Hart Lane so that the ground could be used to test out Enfield rifles – the WHL ground being the nearest enclosed (on all sides) but open (to the skies) space to the Enfield factory.
Thus on this day the two north London clubs played each other in front 10,000 – an impressive crowd for a match in the wartime league. Although at Highbury, the game was indeed a home game for Tottenham.