It’s coming you know. I’ve been trying not to think about it, but now it’s unavoidable. The North London Derby is this Saturday (7:45am ET, ESPN2). Some Spurs fans look forward to this match in the fixture list, some of us dread it – I’m very much in the latter group.
It’s hard to decide which one I fear more: the away fixture, where, in all likelihood, we’ll lose; or the home fixture, which brings with it the pain of hope. This week, the game is at the Emirates, a stadium we have never won at. Our record is worse than that though – Spurs haven’t won away at Arsenal since May 1993, when I was 11 years old. That game came a month after we had lost the F.A. Cup Semi-Final to our arch-rivals and they rested players ahead of the Cup Final. Last year, we finally beat Arsenal in the league at home, but still finished below them. It has been years and years of being overshadowed by them. We just can’t win – even when we do win, we end up losing overall anyway.
The rivalry started in 1913, when Woolwich Arsenal moved (invaded!) North London, and got more bitter in 1919, when a vote saw Arsenal elected to the First Division, having finished 6th in the old Second Division, with Spurs relegated, after finishing 20th in the top flight. Nearly a century later, both sides still hate each other. Sure, I have friends who are Arsenal fans, but there will always be that divide when the conversation turns to football. When former Arsenal player Theirry Henry was making his debut for the New York Red Bulls, he described his first opponents, Tottenham, as “a team I will not even name, that’s how much of a rivalry it is”. I couldn’t agree more – I only just about cheered Spurs that night more than I jeered Henry.
Honestly, I just hate Arsenal. I hate playing them, cos we normally lose. And if we win, I’ll be inundated with e-mails from Arsenal fans with pictures of the “Commerative DVD” Spurs release to celebrate winning a game.
I hate the fact that as we get closer to the game, our players, managers and my fellow fans, will be saying about how we can finally “make the step up” or “overtake” Arsenal. That players such as Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart are evidence that we can really take the game to them this time. Suddenly we forget that our defence is so porous, we conceded four goals against a mediocre Bolton team in our last away game, so goodness knows how many Arsenal could put past us.
I hate that their fans celebrate St. Totteringham’s day every year, to recognise the point where Spurs can no longer mathematically catch Arsenal in the league. I hate that they’ve been celebrating that day every year in recent history. I hate their stadium and the terrible atmosphere they have in 2/3rds of their home games. I hate it when they win, I love it when they lose. My second favourite team is whoever is playing Arsenal, even when it’s Chelsea or West Ham. I hate Wenger, Fabregas, Van Persie, Arshavin, Campbell, Toure, Henry, Ian Wright, George Graham and everyone else associated with the club. I hate that they are now lauded as playing some of the best football in Europe, when for years it was “Boring, Boring Arsenal”. I hate the begrudging respect I have for pretty much everyone I listed there as being talented. I hate that Spurs constantly measure themselves against Arsenal, and come up short all the time.
What I really hate, though, is that I care about this fixture so much. It will bother me all weekend, and most of next week, if/when we get thrashed – but why? When we play against Manchester United, I know the inevitable outcome. We haven’t beaten any of the “Big 4” of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United or Chelsea away from home in the league since 1993, we’re not going to start this weekend. Why do I get my hopes up?
The Pacific Ocean? That’s just a shitty pipe dream.
But hey, Andy Dufresne found his freedom through a shitty pipe…dammit, there’s that hope again.