Farewell to the Lane – Thanks for the Memories

February 8, 2018

It seems decidely odd that the upcoming North London Derby will take place in north west London. Perhaps it’s time to reminisce once more about the former home of our irksome neighbours. White Hart Lane could be compared to lovers’ lanes all over the country; a place full of seedy characters giving off that slightly nauseating whiff of desperation, but also a place where excitement-filled, enjoyable times have been spent basking in numerous victorious climaxes.

Who could forget 7th May 1927? Level on points with the spuds going into the final game of the season and who should be our last opponents but only the miscreants themselves and at the Lane, too. No need to worry as the boys in red and white ran out comfortable 4-0 winners for a very special last day of the season St Totteringham’s day.

The next glorious day out down Tottenham High Road came on 6th March 1935 in the fourth of our 1930s title winning seasons. Spurs decided that to curb Arsenal’s free-scoring forward line, they needed to set an offside-trap. It failed, they lost 6-0 with goals from Kirchen (2), Drake (2), Dougall and Bastin from the penalty spot. The only photo of that game emerging from a quick search is this of Frank Moss gathering the ball from a rare Tottenham attack (perhaps the photographer was a spud as he must have been stationed at the wrong end of the stadium!)

On 20th September 1952, Tottenham’s 11th largest home attendance at White Hart Lane, 69,247, saw them lose 3-1 to Arsenal with goals from Goring, Logie and Milton.  This was followed a year later on 10th October by another home 4-1 thrashing in front of their 8th biggest crowd at the Lane. 69,821 spectators witnessed another 2 goals from Jimmy Logie this time around. 1957 and 1959 saw comprehensive Arsenal wins of 3-1 and 4-1 respectively in N17 before Spurs briefly took the upper hand with their last League title in 1961. But this wasn’t to be the last time the top flight was ever clinched on White Hart Lane soil, oh no.

Next on the list of glorious moments at the home of South Middlesex’s finest came on the 3rd May 1971 with Arsenal clinching the League title in front of a White Hart Lane crowd swarming with Gunners. Ray Kennedy’s late goal gave Arsenal the points to overhaul Leeds at the top and witness the Lane turn into a sea of bright red.

My personal highlight of trips to the Lane came on December 23rd 1978 with our 5-0 Christmas demolition of ‘Silent Spurs’. Stood with my old man and 2 brothers on the away terrace, that date has become etched in my memory. I was wearing a lightweight rain jacket with a front pocket which contained a Mars bar. Remembering about its existence only after all the jubilant celebrations had died down, that chocolate bar cannot have been more than a quarter inch thick when it finally emerged.

“Oh, Brady won it beautifully. Look at That – Oh, Look at That! What a Goal by Brady!”

The roll of honour continues with an epic League Cup semi-final in 1987. The first leg at Highbury finished 1-0 to Spurs, with a goal from a prolific Clive Allen. Allen also scored in the first half of the second leg at the Lane. Reportedly, at half-time the Spurs stadium announcer made announcements about how the Neanderthal hordes could book tickets for the Final. They turned out to be rather premature as goals from Viv Anderson and Niall Quinn meant that the semi ended unresolved.

The referee, Alan Gunn, tossed a coin to decide where a replay would take place and after his first attempt stuck upright in the mud, the second toss landed in Spurs’ favour. The 4th March 1987 was to see one of our greatest ever comebacks at the Lane. Clive Allen scored for the third time in the tie in the 62nd minute and Spurs looked to have finally gotten the upper hand. However the best was yet to come as the 82nd  minute saw an unlikely equaliser from Ian Allinson before the Park Lane erupted with Rocky’s 90th minute winner – the first time Arsenal had been in front over the 3 games!

Notable victories in the 90s were hard to come by until a majestic 3-1 win at the Lane on the 5th May 1999 capped off with a stunning goal from Nwankwo Kanu, sporting the sharpest haircut I’ve ever seen.

Next up a disappointing draw on 25th April 2004, with Mad Jens falling for Robbie Keane’s foul tactics of treading on the toes of the German’s size thirteens. The incensed goalkeeper’s reaction enabled the aforementioned Irishman to convert a last minute penalty equaliser. The resulting Spurs DVD failed to mention that Arsenal had only needed a draw to clinch the top flight title at their own stadium – and for the second time, no less.

Argentine defender Mauricio Taricco – who prior to the equaliser had suffered a torrid afternoon chasing the Arsenal forward line – somehow managed to pull his hamstring during his team’s misguided celebrations of their equaliser.

A clearly incensed Henry – despite being warned by the authorities beforehand – at the final whistle gathered his troops together and took them to the now celebrating corner where the Arsenal fans were congregated.

As he said afterwards in a thinly veiled nod at Taricco’s behaviour:” When you see behaviour like that it is impossible for us not to celebrate in response.”

Recent years haven’t seen us win any more titles at the Lane but have seen some banging goals from departees Fabregas and Adebayor in particular but the best has to be this beauty from Arsenal favourite Tomas Rosicky.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf9XyZq25Kw

Thanks for joining me on this journey down the Lane. I hope you all have some fond memories of the Tottenham High Road public convenience, too. 🙂

chas

 

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Arsenal – England’s Longest Top Flight Team

February 6, 2018

By 1919 the Football League was gearing up for the return of the national game after the trials and tribulations of the First World War. It was proposed that the First Division be extended to include 22 teams rather than the 20 which had competed 4 years previously. On previous League expansions, teams who had sat in the relegation positions stayed up and two were added from Divison Two. With such a large gap between the cessation of League football because of the Great War and its resumption in 1919, normal rules did not apply.

The 1914/5 season had ended in dubious circumstances. There had been allegations that Manchester United and Liverpool had colluded to ensure that the red Mancs would not be relegated. Their final game was allegedly fixed, United winning 2-0 and thus condemning 19th placed Chelsea to the second relegation spot.

Liverpool chairman John McKenna, wracked with guilt at the League’s resumption, gave a speech at the League’s AGM insisting that the West London club remain in the top flight.  Preston and Derby had finished first and second in the promotion places at the end of the 1914/5 season. It was unanimously agreed that Chelsea, Preston and Derby would be in the new First Division.

This left one position in the new 22 team First Division up for grabs. Seven contenders emerged, the five teams who had finished 3rd to 7th in the 1915 League Division Two table, Barnsley, Wolves, Birmingham, Arsenal and Hull , Nottingham Forest (for some bizarre reason) who had finished 18th in Division Two and finally and by every means least, Tottenham Hotspurs, who had ignominiously finished bottom in Division One behind Chelsea.

A formal vote was held at the League meeting of March 10th 1919 and the results, as documented in the minutes, were as follows;

Arsenal 18, Tottenham Hotspur 8, Barnsley 5, Wolves 4, Nottingham Forest 3, Birmingham 2, Hull 1

Arsenal Football Club’s inherent glamour and prestige appeared to be major overriding factors in the result, most seeing how beneficial it would be to the top flight to include such attractive opposition.  Accusations of vote-influencing bribery are, of course, preposterous; Sir Henry Norris was of far too upstanding a character to stoop to such levels. Judging by how unpopular Spurs were at the time, it is remarkable that they even managed to gather 8 votes. For years there had been a festering of resentment against Tottenham Hotspur because of their delayed entry to the Football League right up until 1908, favouring the Southern League previously. There were even allegations that they had had to bribe their way into the Football League by offering financial inducements to Stoke City to resign.

Perhaps teams in the First Divison had just become tired of trudging across Tottenham Marshes to get to White Hart Lane?

Perhaps it was recognised that a proper London Club, rather than one from the swamps of South Middlesex would be more fitting in the top flight in the new period of post-war optimism?

Middlesex in green, Essex in blue, the County of London in white

Thus began Arsenal’s glorious and long-enduring run in the top flight of English football.

Long may it continue.