How Tottenham have tried to steal Arsenal’s identity: modern times

Tony Attwood

We’ve seen in the first article how the tinies got really worked up about Arsenal moving to north London, while they were stuck over the border in Middlesex, and how they turned the events of 1919 on their head to pretend that somehow they should have stayed in the first division, while Arsenal should have not been there at all.

Now the question arises – why didn’t they just let it go. In their first season after the 1919 promotion issue, the Tiny Totts, back in their spiritual home of the 2nd division, won the league, losing just four games and scoring 102 goals.

So they were back in the top division, alongside Arsenal.

Even more to the point in 1920/1 with the top side of London and Middlesex both in the top league the Tiny Totts ended up above Arsenal, coming sixth to The Arsenal’s 9th, having gained three points more than Arsenal.  Tottenham also won the cup.  You’d think by then they’d let the old bitterness go.

In 1921/22 they did even better coming 2nd to Arsenal’s lowly 17th.  Surely by now they should have been forgetting the events of the move of 1913 and the promotion of 1919.  They knew they were wrong in both cases – wasn’t it time just to focus on winning the league?  Middlesex was beating London hands down.

In 1922/3 Arsenal pipped Tottenham on goal average (they were 11th and 12th), but the following season Tottenham were on top again (15th against The Arsenal in 19th).  Same again in 1924/5 it was Tottenham in 12th The Arsenal one place (although 7 points) away from relegation in 20th.

And then the corner was turned. From 1925/6 on, it was Arsenal’s turn to dominate, coming above the tinies each year, until the little fellas went down in 1928.  When Arsenal won the cup for the first time in 1930, the Tinies were 12th in the second division – but still historically better than Arsenal having won the cup twice to Arsenal’s once.

But what made it all turn nasty was 1930/1 – Arsenal won the league, while the Totts just missed promotion coming third in the second division.  This was, I believe, what made the Middlesex club so utterly inward looking, focussing only on getting their own back on Arsenal.  It wasn’t until 1933 (with Arsenal winning the league again, having come second the year before) that the Totts managed to clamber out of the second division.

By 1934-5 Tottenham H had an inferiority complex the size of a planet, and that league table is one we ought to have up on the wall…

  • First, Arsenal 58 points, four points clear of Sunderland in second
  • Bottom, Tottenham, 30 points, four points away from safety.

We were winning the league and cup and they were sinking fast.  Even when we had a duff year (sixth in 1935/6), we still won the Cup, and Tottenham could only manage 5th in the second division.

By the time football finished for the second world war, Arsenal were the gold standard of football, having won the league 5 times and the cup twice.

Of course we hadn’t played in the Wellingboro and District Cup Final, which the Tinies official web site still boasts about, but we had equalled their cup record, and outstripped them five to nil in terms of league wins.

During the war years Tottenham had time to mull over matters, to contemplate how Arsenal had outstripped them, and how we would start the post-war season in the first, while they were stuck in the second (they had come 8th in the second division in 1939).

But did they?  Not at all.  They kept on calling Arsenal “Woolwich Arsenal” and kept on moaning that way back in 1919 Arsenal had fixed a promotion.  By then they had said it so much they believed it was true, and of course in this they were encouraged by Manchester United and Liverpool, the match fixing teams who most certainly did not want the truth of the 1914/15 season coming out.

As we’ll see in the next article, they did eventually get themselves together for one little spell of glory, but not before Arsenal had notched up yet another league championship and another FA Cup win.

In fact it was the reality of their achieving a moment’s success before slipping back that reinforced their desire to get Arsenal.  If they couldn’t do it on the football pitch, they’d find another way.

Tottenham from 1891 to the first world war – including the move to Highbury and the promotion of 1919.

1910: when Arsenal almost lost it, but started the long journey back

Untold Arsenal – all the news today

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