On this day in 1921, Tottenham beat Arsenal 2-1 during the two teams’ first north London derby.
Although there had been 22 derbies between the two teams previously, Arsenal moved from Woolwich in south London to Highbury in 1913. Therefore, when we faced each other in 1921, it was our first north London derby.
Our finances were in terrible shape and in order to keep the club alive, Henry Norris, our majority shareholder at the time, decided a move from Woolwich was in order. We didn’t want to move near Spurs, so looked at places in Battersea and Harringay. However, Gillespie Road Station (now Arsenal Station) meant far more fans could attend matches, thus providing the club with more money. Money we desperately needed.
Finally, we moved and paid £20,000 for a 21-year lease.
Arsenal wouldn’t run into their local rivals until 1921 as the Gunners were in the Second Division and Spurs were in the First, which was expanded by two teams in 1919. Arsenal were voted into the First Division and Spurs missed out, leading to the saying ‘sick as a parrot’ according to legend. However, they were eventually promoted in 1920 after claiming the Second Division title.
During the 1921 north London derby, which Spurs won 2-1 at White Hart Lane with goals from Bert Bliss and James Cantrell and Arsenal’s Jackie Rutherford, 39,221 people attended.
A week later, Rutherford would score a brace and Henry Albert White would find the net when there was a return match at Highbury. The three goals from Arsenal weren’t enough for Spurs to come back from, even with goals from James Cantrell and Bertram Smith. Arsenal won 3-2 in front of a crowd of 60,600.
Arsenal and Spurs’ rivalry is a bitter one that’s rumbled on for well over a century. Arsenal have won 80 to Spurs’ 61 and we’ve drawn 51.
I don’t see it settling down any time soon.