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GCR Books

How Tottenham came to be so bitter. From the 80s to the present day

by Tony Attwood

This article concludes the series of the reasons why Tottenham supporters seem so bitter about Arsenal.  Links to the earlier articles are at the end.

Journalists have this phrase: “bragging rights”, which seems to be a shorthand way of talking about how fans from different clubs in the same town talk to each other.

It is a fairly dull concept – when I meet Tottenham supporters we generally are able to have a laugh together, to admit that each club has had bad times, and to have a real debate about the merits and demerits of the current situation.

But there are people who just can’t seem to give up on stoking up the past – which is what this series of articles has been about.   And if one is to concede that “bragging rights” means something I guess that by the start of the 1980s Arsenal and Tottenham H supporters were conceding something of a draw.  At least that’s how I remember it.

Arsenal had achieved a lot more than Tottenham all told, but neither club had been able to return to earlier triumphs with a team that could be said to be at the top of the tree.

Tottenham had only won the league twice, but they could still pop away at the FA Cup – winning it in 1981 and 1982 and winning the UEFA cup in 1984.

As for Arsenal, after the cup win of 1979 we were back into another lean spell.  And then along came George Graham who on 14 May 1986 became our manager.  Up to that point Arsenal had the better overall position but Tottenham the most recent successes.

In 1987 we won the league cup. If you are lucky you’ll remember it.  “Liverpool never lose when Rush scores” or some such mindless pap pushed down our throats every day of the week.

Rush scored.  And they lost the cup final.  I have this memory of Bob Wilson who was working for the BBC leaping around behind the goal in wild celebration and then remembering he was on duty.

Oh and we won it again in 1993 – and the FA Cup (first team to do the cup double).  But before then we won the league in 1989 and 1991.

And how annoying that was for Tottenham.  Having dragged us down to their level of being a team that occasionally win the odd cup, we not only carry on doing that, but start winning the league as well – twice in three years.

And then the Wenger era started. Tottenham has continued through this time knocking up the occasional cups (league cup 1999 and 2008, FA Cup 1991,) but no more league championships, no more doubles, no more nothing.   Indeed not only is it 50 years since they won the league, it is also 20 years since they won the competition they like to think is special to them – the FA Cup.

When they saw Bruce Rioch how they must have danced for joy.  And how he fulfilled all their ideals.  Ian Wright on the wing, revolt, upset, rebellion, chaos.

And then we got this French guy.  “What does he know about English football?” said Tony Adams.  Adding, for the sake of clarity, “He’s French!”  Oh they must have been laughing all the way to the White Hart (if it is still there, I haven’t been to the place for centuries – does anyone know – is it still in Devonshire Hill Lane just by Rowland Hill?)

But back to the plot.

It is not as if Tiny Totts  are even coming close to Arsenal since then – their league form since 2001/2 has been 9th, 10th, 14th, 9th, 5th, 5th, 11th, 8th, 4th.   OK a slight improvement towards the end, but nothing sensational.

And while Arsenal has tended to keep stay in the top four it also kept its  manager, while Tottenham H went on a jolly old jaunt.

Just take a look

  • 1997 Chris Hughton
  • 1997 Christian Gross
  • 1998  David Pleat
  • 1998 George Graham
  • 2001  David Pleat
  • 2001 Glenn Hoddle
  • 2003  David Pleat
  • 2004Jacques Santini
  • 2004 Martin Jol
  • 2007 Clive Allen
  • 2007 Juande Ramos
  • 2008 Harry Redknapp

And for Arsenal

Arsène Wenger – 1996 – Present

It is this rambling approach to management, the failure over the last 20 years to win either of the trophies that they think are important, the failure to get anywhere near Arsenal in terms of status, the failure to develop a new stadium when Arsenal did, the failure to get into the Champions League, the decision to issue a DVD when they get a 4-4 draw at the Ems, the failure to keep managers…

It is this constant failure to get anywhere near the aims that they have that makes Tottenham H so bitter, that makes them call us “Woolwich Arsenal” and to pretend that we, rather than they, invented franchise football.  It is this constant failure that has brought on the endless harking on about 1919, ignoring the fact that once again they have come bottom of the league, ignoring the corruption in the league, and instead trying to suggest that in some odd way Arsenal had bribed its way into the first division.

Tottenham H is a club with a history, of 8 FA Cup Wins, 3 UEFA/Cup Winners Cup wins, and 2 league wins.  It is a club with a solid support.  But it is endlessly screwing up its own future through the way that it is run and organised, and this combined with the failure to achieve anything other than the league cup in the last 20 years shows that they are now in the worst run of failure in their footballing history – just at the time when Arsenal has come back to life.

Arsenal’s 10 FA Cup wins is even superior to Tottenham’s record in their own cherished trophy of choice.  As for the league, our 13 to their 2 is just too much.

What Tottenham desperately want is a trophy.  Any trophy.

Maybe they should go and play against Wellingborough again.

“1897 – The first of many cup finals – although unlike many of the subsequent ones, Spurs lost 2-0 to Wellingborough in a local charity Cup. ”

Yes, well.  Jolly good.

How Tottenham grew to hate Arsenal – the 50s to the 80s

Tottenham and Arsenal, the inter war years

How Tottenham has taken over Arsenal’s history

How Arsenal prepared themselves for the new world, 100 years ago

Report on the meeting between Ivan Gazidis and Untold Arsenal

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