The North London Derby is easily one of the most hate-filled, animosity-driven rivalries in the modern world of football. But it's also a rivalry with deep roots and a long, long history dating back to the early years of the 20th century.
Most of that history has been forgotten by the younger generations of Tottenham supporters, so in the spirit of the North London Derby I'm teaming up with Arsenal featured columnist Charlie Melman to remind the fans just why we hate each other in the first place.
While putting this together, it occurred to me that Charlie and I represent two sides of a regionally derived rivalry existing in a city thousands of miles away from either of us, regarding two clubs that exist just four miles apart. Meanwhile, we live 3000 miles from each other, and are planning to express both sides of that rivalry as intensely as anybody who resides right in the heart of it.
A bit odd, when you think about it. But as Charlie himself pointed out following my mindless musings of the absurdity of our situations, "that's the magic of football."
Still, our support for our clubs, I assure you, is just as heartfelt as anybody's in the city of London itself.
Please keep in mind that this project is intended to be entirely in good fun, and be sure to check out Charlie's article "Top 10 Reasons to Hate Tottenham on Derby Day," as well.
UPDATE: Charlie Melman has accepted my challenge to a friendly wager regarding the North London Derby. If Tottenham Hotspur win the derby tomorrow, than Charlie will write an article titled "Arsenal FC: 5 Reasons I'm Switching Allegiances to Tottenham." If Arsenal wins, then I will write the opposite article (Tottenham Hotspur: 5 Reasons I'm Switching to Arsenal). Stay tuned.
Between 1882 and 1913, North London belonged to Tottenham. There was some competition, of course, since Clapton Orient also had their roots in the area, but Tottenham's early success in the league and popularity amongst regional supporters made the region undisputedly theirs.
That is, until Arsenal decided to move in just four miles next door.
Both Tottenham and Clapton immediately protested the move, fearing the dilution of their fan bases and simply seeing no reason for Arsenal to need to be there.
But the protests fell on deaf ears in the Football League, as some alleged shady dealings and strategic friendships between Arsenal's owner and the governing body allowed Arsenal to invade Tottenham's territory, with little to no resistance from anybody who could realistically stop it.
To this day, Spurs share North London with Arsenal, but not exactly in the friendly sort of way. As far as the original North Londoners are concerned, the invaders are an uninvited nuisance that has no right to be there.
Following the first world war, the Football League decided to expand the first division from 20 clubs to 22.
In the last season before the war began, Arsenal finished fifth in the second division, but managed to convince the league that the top two second division sides should move up, and a vote should take place to determine whether or not another second division side should move up with them.
Instead of just promoting the third place organization from the second division, the league went with Arsenal's idea. Through more alleged shady dealings, the fifth best club in the second division was promoted to the top tier, because counting is hard.
Arsenal never earned their right to play in the first division, and they have never been relegated since that vote.
Essentially, they are that guy who snuck into your house party when nobody was looking, didn't leave for 100 years, and wouldn't stop complaining that you didn't put Robin van Persie on your list of EPL's best penalty takers, despite his statistically unremarkable conversion rate.
There's one thing that I failed to mention in the last slide. When Arsenal, the fifth best club in the second division, sweet-talked their way into a permanent promotion that they never earned, one club from the top tier had to be relegated to accommodate the divisional restructuring.
Who was that club? Tottenham Hotspur.
Just six years after (allegedly) gaming the system to make an invasion of Tottenham's territory totally cool with every league official Arsenal (allegedly) paid off, they were already scheming to kick Spurs out of the division entirely.
As for Tottenham, the club won the second division title in their first go at it with a record number of points, thus earning their right to be in the first division as legitimately as possible. And no money had to change hands behind closed doors to make it happen, either.
In the 1927-28 season, Arsenal were hovering around the middle of the league table with Tottenham Hotspur flirting dangerously with the relegation zone.
Since Arsenal was still far away from any hope of winning the league, and there wasn't any real benefit at that point in finishing the season in any spot other than first place, what were the Gunners to do when the season began to come to a close?
The answer: mess with their North London rivals, of course!
Rumor has it that Arsenal intentionally lost two matches at the end of the season to give Burnley and Portsmouth an edge over Spurs in the final tally, leaving Tottenham to relegation once again as the second-to-last club in the division.
Tottenham didn't earn their ticket back into the top tier for another five seasons following the relegation. The second time that they fought their way from being forced into relegation by alleged Arsenal scheming happened to come in the same season that Arsenal won the league they never deserved to play in for the second time in their existence.
In the midst of the second world war, Arsenal's Highbury Stadium was requisitioned for use as an air raid precautions facility. Despite this, football continued to be played, leaving Arsenal without a grounds to use for their home fixtures.
With nowhere to turn, they went knocking on White Hart Lane's door.
To truly understand the nerve of this request, imagine that that you just found out that your neighbor found a legal loophole to claim half of your property as his own. Six years later, he comes to visit just to kick you in the groin. Eight years after that, he kicks you in the groin again, just for fun. And then another decade after that, he shows up at your house and says "Germany wants to bomb my house, can I stay with you?"
Of course, Tottenham said ok and allowed Arsenal to play their home matches at White Hart Lane while Highbury was under government control. Because that's the type of organization that Tottenham always has been and always will be.
Also, the FA probably made them.
Arsenal may be well known for playing very attractive, attack-minded football in modern times, paving the way for the recruitment of legions of fans around the world who follow them for the simply joy of seeing them score goals and lots of them.
But that was not always the case. Decades ago, Arsenal was known for playing the exact opposite variety of football: boring, defensive crap.
The style had a way of infuriating fans of the game who thought it was cheap and entirely uninteresting to watch, and it was even more infuriating when it worked and saw Arsenal winning by narrow scorelines and securing Championships.
To add to the frustrations of opposing sides, Gooners came up with a fun little way to gloat about their success in utilizing the most boring tactics imaginable in the game: a chant called "One-nil to the Arsenal."
Like the tactics themselves, the chant was entirely uninspired, with lyrics consisting of "one-nil to the Arsenal" repeated over and over again. Clever.
It's one thing to consistently finish above your local rivals (whose territory you stole) in the league (which you never earned the right to play in), and it's another thing entirely to shove that fact into the faces of Spurs fans—after scheming to kick them out of the league twice and then using their facilities during difficult war times.
That doesn't bother Arsenal though, who created a holiday just for presenting a giant middle finger to White Hart Lane on an annual basis.
St. Totteringham's day is a versatile holiday, almost never occurring on the same day of the year twice. Namely, it is celebrated on the exact day that Arsenal is mathematically assured to finish ahead of Tottenham in the league.
Of course, they do this to every side when they've clinched a superior spot in the final table, right? Nope, just the club that said "of course you can you use our facilities while your stadium gets bombed!"
Transfers occur all the time in the world of football, usually to little or no fan reaction or negative response. But when Arsenal manages to land a player from White Hart Lane, it always seems—well—sleazy.
It's a rare occurrence for a Spurs player to ever find forgiveness amongst the supporters when crossing the line to the rival side. One such player to make the switch was Sol Campbell in the early 21st century, when his contract expired amidst months of reassurances that he would gladly stay with the club.
His assurances led Spurs to avoid selling him and making a profit, because he was totally going to stick around, right? Instead, his contract expired, and Arsenal wooed him into their ranks with promises of European football and league titles on a free transfer.
Campbell turned down a contract that would have made him the highest paid player in Spurs history to do it, too.
And now Arsenal are rumored to be after Tottenham favorite Rafael van der Vaart in the January transfer window? These guys are shameless.
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to hate on Arsenal when derby day comes around at White Hart Lane, many extending decades back before most of us were born.
Those stories and legends have been passed down among the generations in North London, but it's difficult to truly feel the same degree of animosity that the forefathers of modern Tottenham supporters felt in the early 20th century.
These days, the hatred exists largely for the same reasons that most regionally-derived rivalries around the world exist: just because.
And that's fine. It works most everywhere else in the world, and it works just fine in North London.
It's a hatred derived from mostly harmless bickering amongst family members and coworkers supporting two different clubs that happen to exist just a bit too close to one another.
The historically-derived justifications for hating Arsenal are still as valid as ever, but what's wrong with Spurs fans and Arsenal fans who know nothing about those histories just hating each other because they hate each other?
I can assure you that Tottenham supporters are hardly alone in being entirely fed up with the egotistical nature of Gooners in modern times, but few truly rival the degree to which we loathe Arsenal fans in this day and age.
Gooners are quite the frustrating bunch, really. Entirely unabashed regarding their club's true right to play in the Premier League after scheming their way in nearly a century ago. Completely delusional about where their side truly ranks among the league's best, remarkably clueless in so many cases regarding their club's own history.
Arsenal certainly has a rather extensive legion of international fans around the world, often criticized for being glory hunters and fair-weather supporters, keen to jump ship the day the Gunners fail to secure Champions League football.
Also they smell.
Speaking of Gooners, be sure once again to check out this article's counter-part from my colleague and Arsenal Supporter Charlie Melman, who wrote a delightfully infuriating piece outlining the Top 10 Reasons to Hate on Tottenham on Derby Day.
Charlie, like most Arsenal fans, boasts some of the most impressively potent body odor you'll ever encounter in your daily life, but he has assured me that the smell almost never makes its way through digital media networks. And I assure you, his talent with the written word and humorous nature entirely make up for it if it does.
And for more North London Derby coverage, be sure to check out: