Friday, August 30, 2013

Arsenal vs. Tottenham: The Defining Moments, Part IV: 1991-2013

August 10, 1991: For the first and only time, the Charity Shield -- the traditional season-opening exhibition between the defenders of the League title and the FA Cup, usually held at Wembley Stadium -- is a North London Derby. But it's not worth seeing, as Arsenal and Tottenham play to a turgid draw, 0-0. The word "turgid" was created for nil-nil draws, wasn't it?

February 22, 1992: For the last time under the name "Football League Division One," Arsenal and Tottenham play each other. It's at White Hart Lane, and it's a 1-1 draw.

Shortly after this, Nick Hornby's book Fever Pitch would be published. It is a memoir of his football fandom, mostly for Arsenal, but with his time at Cambridge University also including some good times at lower-division Cambridge United. In 1997, it was made into a film starring Colin Firth, playing Paul Ashworth, a fictionalized (or "fictionalised," as they'd spell it) version of Hornby, then an English teacher at a North London junior high school.

The book, and even more so the movie, would make Hornby (who has a non-speaking cameo as a schoolboy-league team coach opposing Firth's team about midway through the film) world famous. It would also, every bit as much as the international exposure that the growth of soccer coverage on television and the success of the team in the Arsene Wenger era, make the Arsenal brand grow, attracting millions of new followers around the world.

Suddenly, Arsenal no longer belonged just to Islington, or to North London, or to London, or to the South of England, or to England, or to Britain, or even to the British Isles (thanks to the late 1970s' "Irish Connection"). The Arsenal would come to belong to anyone who wanted to be a part of it.

Some Gooners think that this was a bad thing. Some think that it is a wonderful thing. As Hornby/Firth/Ashworth put it, "Perhaps it's something you can't understand unless you belong."

Just as the old New York Giants never had a book that made their 1950s teams as retroactively beloved as their arch-rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, became with Roger Kahn's 1972 The Boys of Summer, Tottenham have never been immortalized (or "immortalised") by a book. Which is fine, because Tottenham fans are illiterate, and can't read, never mind write.  When they sang about Highbury, and now its replacement, the Emirates, as being a "library" (sort-of rhymes with "Highbury"), because they think it's too quiet (wait until Arsenal score on Spurs, and you'll see how loud the place can be), it begs the question: "How the fuck would a Tottenham fan know what the inside of a library sounds like!"

December 12, 1992: For the first time under the name "Premier League," Arsenal and Tottenham play each other. It's at White Hart Lane, and Spurs win, 1-0.

April 4, 1993: As it was 2 years earlier, Arsenal and Spurs play each other in an FA Cup Semifinal at Wembley. The result is different however, as neither Paul Gascoigne nor Gary Lineker is around to save Spurs.  Arsenal Captain Tony Adams heads in the game's only goal. The attendance is 76,263, not quite as big as the match 2 years earlier, but the 2nd-biggest in North London Derby history.

With the Pet Shop Boys having brought back the Village People's song "Go West," Gooners have begun to sing this game's final score: "One-nil to The Arsenal." And Arsenal, having already won the League Cup Final, go on to win the FA Cup Final, in what turns out to be the last replay of such a Final -- after this, games level at the end of extra time will go to penalties. Oddly, Arsenal beat the same team in each Final, Sheffield Wednesday -- just as Wednesday were the team Tottenham beat to clinch both of their League titles. This is the first time any English team has achieved the "Cup Double," winning both domestic cups.

May 11, 1993: Spurs get a measure of revenge for the Semifinal loss, beating Arsenal 3-1 at Highbury. Teddy Sheringham scores, and, in a career that will also take him to Manchester United, goes on to become one of the most hated opponents in Arsenal history (aside from those who played for Arsenal and then left for more money or more "ambition," like Ashley Cole, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie).

In spite of their Cup Double, Arsenal finished only 10th in the first Premier League season, while Tottenham finished 8th. Can you imagine if Arsene Wenger had managed such a season? Or would the Wenger Out Brigade forgive it, because it came with trophies (that's plural)? At any rate, this game turns out to be the last time Tottenham would ever win at Highbury -- and the last time they would win away to Arsenal for 17 years and 6 months.

August 16, 1993: Ian Wright nails the lone tally in a 1-0 win at Highbury.

May 4, 1994: Arsenal defeat Italian club Parma 1-0 in Copenhagen, Denmark, to win the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. They have not won an European trophy since -- but that's still 10 years more recently than Tottenham's last European Trophy.

January 2, 1995: Tottenham win 1-0 at White Hart Lane, with Romanian defender Gheorge Popsecu, in his only season with the club, scoring the only goal.

Shortly thereafter, George Graham will be fired as Arsenal manager, for taking an illegal payment to bring a player to Arsenal. Note to any current and prospective managers: If you're going to risk throwing away your career, make the player you do it for a hell of a lot better than John Jensen.

Tottenham finish 7th, and Arsenal finish 12th -- their worst finish in 19 years. This is, to this day, the last time that Tottenham have finished ahead of Arsenal, the last season without a St. Totteringham's Day, the last time that Spurs fans could truthfully claim, at least in terms of League standards, that their club is better than Arsenal. How long has it been, Paul Ashworth? "Eighteen fucking years!"

May 10, 1995: As holders, Arsenal were again entered into the Cup Winners' Cup, even though they had failed to defend the FA Cup in 1994. With Stewart Houston as caretaker manager following Graham's sacking, they again reach the Final. The match, against Spanish club Real Zaragoza at the Parc des Princes in Paris, goes to extra time, and it looks like it will go to penalties when, in the 119th minute (out of 120 plus stoppage time), Zaragoza's Turkish midfielder Mohammed Ali Amar, a.k.a. "Nayim," hits a 45-yard lob shot that sails over Arsenal goalie David Seaman's head and into the net, giving Zaragoza a 2-1 win.

Nayim played for Tottenham from 1988 to 1993. To this day, Tottenham fans sing Nayim's name -- well, his nom de football, anyway -- to mock Arsenal. What they fail to understand is that Nayim's cup-winning goal didn't have a damned thing to do with Tottenham. It would be as if they sang the name of Trevor Brooking after his diving header beat Arsenal to win the 1980 FA Cup for West Ham. Or Ryan Giggs after his late goal beat Arsenal to win the 1999 FA Cup Semifinal for Manchester United. Or Sol Campbell to taunt Gooners after Sol helped a team win The Double in 2002. Of course, that team was... Ah, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

November 24, 1996: It rains all game long on Highbury for Arsene Wenger's first North London Derby as Arsenal manager, but in the 88th minute, Tony Adams blasts a shot from outside the penalty area and brings some sunshine to Gooners, giving Arsenal a 2-1 lead.

Shortly thereafter, one of the most amazing plays ever happens. Ian Wright gets the ball on the east touchline, and, bugged by Spurs defender Clive Wilson -- whose stupid tackle in the box led to Wright scoring a penalty earlier -- puts on a display of footwork that doesn't seem possible outside of cartoons.  Wilson tries for about 5 seconds to get the ball away from Wrighty's magic feet, but, finally, Wrighty decides he's had enough of Wilson's shit, and maneuvers (or "manoeuvers") away from him, and sends an almighty cross all the way across the pitch to the new darling of the Highbury faithful, Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp. Bergkamp puts on a great move to fake out a defender, and drills home the insurance goal.  Arsenal win, 3-1.

Arsenal finish 3rd in Wenger's first season, their highest finish in 6 years. And then, in 1997-98, despite only getting 1-1 and 0-0 draws against Spurs, Arsenal win The Double.  Now Arsenal had 2 Doubles to Spurs' 1 -- and that 1 was 37 years ago.

November 14, 1998: A sight neither Gooners nor Spurs fans ever thought they'd see: Not only is George Graham out of exile from management, but he's managing against Arsenal -- for Tottenham! Just as Gooners normally chant "(name of manager's) Red-White Army!" Tottenham fans chant "(name of manager's) Blue-White Army!" This time, since he was such an Arsenal legend, they can't bring themselves to chant the name "George Graham," so it's "Man in a Raincoat's Blue-White Army!" The game ends in a 0-0 draw.

March 21, 1999: Tottenham beat Leicester City -- the team they beat to win The Double 38 years earlier -- 1-0 on a stoppage-time goal by Allan Nielsen. (What is it with Graham and midfielders from Denmark?) This gives Spurs the League Cup, their first trophy in 8 years. Graham has now won the League Cup in his first season managing each of the North London teams. This is also the only trophy that centreback Sol Campbell, currently Tottenham's captain, would win with the club.

November 7, 1999: Tottenham beat Arsenal 2-1 at White Hart Lane. They will not win another League game against Arsenal for 10 years and 3 months -- a stretch of 22 games.

March 31, 2001: The teams and their fans gather at Highbury for a League match. A few days earlier, Graham had been sacked by Tottenham's new owners. Spurs fans were delighted, for, in spite of him getting them the only trophy they would win between 1991 and 2008, they hated him.  They hated him for his playing style, for (despite his attacking nature as a player) his insistence on a defense-first philosophy. But, mostly, they hated him for being an Arsenal legend. (Funny, Arsenal fans never had the converse problem with Herbert Chapman. Or Terry Neill. Or Pat Jennings. Or Willie Young. Or Sol Campbell.)

The cry was, "We want our Tottenham back!" (Sound familiar?) They wanted what had been called, in the years of Glenn Hoddle and Gary Mabbutt, of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, of Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle, of FA Cups and a UEFA Cup, "champagne football." And who was hired as the new manager? Why, none other than Hoddle, who had notoriously, spectacularly failed as England manager. But Spurs fans didn't care: They had "their Tottenham" back!

In the middle of the night before the game, David Rocastle, one of the great Arsenal midfielders of all time, died of lymphoma at the age of just 33. (He'd been retired for 2 years, and away from Arsenal for 9.) So, as if the fact that the game was a Derby, and the recent sacking of Graham, hadn't given the atmosphere enough of an emotional charge, now there was genuine tragedy. There were still men on the Arsenal squad who had been teammates of his: Goalkeeper David Seaman; defenders Tony Adams, Lee Dixon and Martin Keown; and midfielder Ray Parlour.

It was feared by many that Spurs fans would choose to not respect the moment of silence for "Rocky" -- or even that they would mock his death. They did not: They showed class and remained silent. And when the referee blew the whistle to end the minute, both sets of fans roared.

Perhaps because of the overhang of Rocky's death, the game never really got going. Robert Pires, Arsenal's new left winger, French by birth (but half-Spanish, half-Portuguese by ancestry), a man who would later be quoted in an interview as saying, "Every footballer is a son of a bitch," put on what the BBC's John Motson (who always pronounced the name wrong, as "Pih-REZ" instead of the correct "PEER-ez") called, "Nice trick, nice shot!" and opened the scoring. Arsenal would win it, 2-0.

But, as with the New York Yankees after they returned from Thurman Munson's funeral in 1979 to win a nationally-televised game, it may have been the only time fans walked away from Highbury in tears after an Arsenal win.

April 8, 2001: The clubs were paired in an FA Cup Semifinal, to be held on neutral grand at Old Trafford outside Manchester. (Since Wembley ws being demolished and rebuilt, and the FA and League Cup Finals were already being held at the largest remaining stadium in Britain, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, the FA didn't want this game to also be held outside England, so they went to the largest remaining stadium in England, the home of Man United.)

Tottenham fans were singing, "The year ends in one!" Tottenham had won the FA Cup in 1901, 1921, 1961, 1981 and 1991; the League in 1951 and 1961; and the League Cup in 1971. Indeed, not since 1941 had a year ending in a 1 passed without Tottenham winning a trophy -- really, 1931, since 1941 was a war year with no League play. They especially pointed out that Tottenham had beaten Arsenal in the FA Cup Semifinal in 1991, 10 years earlier. I guess the morons forgot that Arsenal had won the League in 1931, 1971 and 1991; and the FA Cup in 1971.

Gary Doherty opened the scoring in the 13th minute, but Patrick Vieira leveled the score in the 33rd.  In the 73rd, Pires, who would seem to make a career out of scoring on Spurs (and also Southampton, hardly an Arsenal rival), put in a Sylvain Wiltord cross for an easy score. Arsenal won, 2-1, and Tim Sherwood, who grew up as an Arsenal fan but was playing as a midfielder for Tottenham at the time, said that Arsenal should have scored “seven or eight” on that day. Thus ended the "Year ends in one" nonsense -- at least for another 10 years.

To the tune of "Volare," people who didn't like Tottenham would sing of Sherwood, who is said to have grown up as an Arsenal fan:

Tim Sherwood, whoa!
Tim Sherwood, whoa!
He comes from Boreham Wood!
He ain't no fucking good!

Arsenal would lose the Final to Liverpool in Cardiff, leading 1-0 on a Freddie Ljungberg goal before Michael Owen scored both Scouse goals.  As for Spurs, in that Semifinal, Captain Sol Campbell got a yellow card.  He and Spurs management had been feuding, and apparently he and Hoddle didn't get along.

July 3, 2001: After he had rejected all overtures by Spurs, and from European giants Barcelona, Internazionale of Milan and Bayern Munich, Sol Campbell signs with Arsenal. Spurs' captain was now the rock of Arsenal's defense, ready to replace the aging Adams.

Tottenham fans were livid, turning as red as their rivals' shirts.  Not with embarrassment, as they should have, but with rage.

November 17, 2001: The teams meet for the first time since the Campbell move, at Highbury. The game ends in a 1-1 draw, not especially interesting. The interesting part is the debut, not just of Campbell against Spurs, but of a Spurs fans' song:

Sol, Sol, wherever you may be
You're on the verge of lunacy!
We don't give a fuck
if you're hanging from a tree!
Judas cunt with HIV!


Putting aside the usage of the F-word and the C-word, two of the uglier words in the English language: In 5 lines, Spurs fans managed to invoke mental illness, racism (the prospect of a black man being lynched) and homophobia (the reference to AIDS, and plenty of rumors, or "rumours," that Sol is gay, although he has since married).
This chant would be used by Spurs fans against Sol for the rest of his career, including on September 28, 2008, when, with Sol by then playing for Portsmouth against Tottenham, 4 Spurs fans were banned from White Hart Lane for life, their season tickets revoked, for singing that song.

May 8, 2002: Arsenal beat Man United 1-0 at Old Trafford, on a second-half goal by Wiltord. What does this have to do with Tottenham? Well, just 4 days earlier -- breaking their own record of 5 days between the 2 trophies in 1971 -- Arsenal had won the FA Cup, defeating Chelsea in Cardiff on a pair of fantastic goals, one by Parlour, one by Ljungberg -- and this game clinched the Premiership title, giving Arsenal their 3rd Double. It also meant that they had won the League at United's Old Trafford, and Liverpool's Anfield, and Tottenham's White Hart Lane.

Even more, it meant that Sol Campbell had gone from 9 years at Tottenham with only a League Cup to show for it, to winning The Double with Arsenal in his first season with them. A new song was launched, to the tune of "The Entertainer" (a.k.a. the theme from the film The Sting):

Double, Double, Double!
Sol Campbell has won The Double!
And The Scum from The Lane
have won fuck-all again
and Sol Campbell has won The Double!

Sol Campbell and friends.

November 16, 2002: After Simon Davies made 2 stupid harsh challenges to get himself sent off with a second yellow in only the 27th minute, with Arsenal already 1-0 up at Highbury, Thierry Henry made a 75-yard charge down the east touchline and scored a sensational solo goal. He then ran down the west touchline to join the Gooners in cheering on his goal, and kept right on running to the Spurs fans situated in the southeast corner, and did a kneeslide, as they showed him middle fingers, V-signs and wanker signs. It did not matter: Henry was better than any striker, better than any player, Tottenham fans have ever been able to claim as their own.

Arsenal won the match, 3-0, and would go on to win the FA Cup with Pires scoring the only goal in the Final against his other favorite (or "favourite") team to beat, Southampton; but would miss another Double thanks to a late loss vs. Leeds, giving the title to Man United.

November 8, 2003: Tottenham take an early 1-0 lead thanks to a goal by Darren Anderton -- who missed so many games due to injury that his nickname was "Sicknote" -- but a Pires screamer and a wildly deflected shot by Ljungberg give Arsenal a 2-1 win. This was early in the most successful League season any British club has ever known.  Late in it...

April 25, 2004: On a Sunday afternoon, Chelsea's defeat in the early game meant that Arsenal needed only a draw to clinch the Premier League title at White Hart Lane. They jumped at the chance, with Vieira (in only the 3rd minute of the game) and Pires (in the 35th) each scoring a beauty. But Jamie Redknapp -- whose father Harry would later cause Arsenal some trouble as a manager -- hit a screamer of his own. In stoppage time, there was a dive in the box, and referee Mark Halsey stupidly (or corruptly?) awarded a penalty.  Robbie Keane took it, and it was 2-2.

Before the game, Wenger had told his players that, if they got the point they needed, they should not celebrate on the pitch, but rather wait until they were in the dressing room. But, as Henry later said, after the equaliser, the Spurs fans "celebrated like they won the World Cup Final." (As a part of the France team that did just that in 1998, he would know.) Play resumed, and when Halsey almost immediately blew his whistle, the Gunners basically said, "Fuck it, we're the Champions," and partied along with the Arsenal fans who'd made the 4 1/2-mile trip up the Seven Sisters Road to celebrate.  The song, dating back to 1971, went up:

We won the League (We won the League)
at White Hart Lane! (at White Hart Lane!)
We won the League at White Hart Lane!
We won the League at the Shithole!
We won the League at White Hart Lane!

Arsenal had already crashed out of the FA Cup in the Semifinal against Man United and the Champions League in the Quarterfinal against Chelsea. But they would finish the season unbeaten in League play, something that hadn't been done since the first League season, 1888-89 -- 115 years. And when Preston North End did that, it was a 22-game season.  This was 38.  Or, as was said at the time, "Played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost exactly none!"

So not only had Arsenal now won the League at White Hart Lane as many times as Tottenham had won it there -- as many times as Tottenham had won it anywhere -- but they'd come up with an unmatched achievement in English football.  Tottenham have never done it. Nor have Liverpool, nor Man United, nor Chelsea, nor any other club, since the (much shorter) 1888-89 season and Preston North End. Just The Arsenal.

They would run their streak of unbeaten matches in the League to an all-time record 49, before a Wayne Rooney dive would give Man United a dubious penalty and a dubious win at Old Trafford the following October 24.

November 23, 2004: The teams meet for the first time since Arsenal's clincher the previous April, and it is the highest-scoring game in North London Derby history. Or, to put it another way: Tottenham scored 4 goals, at home, against Arsenal... and lost.  Arsenal won, 5-4. Pires scored again -- and he didn't even start!

May 21, 2005: After a horrible game in which Man United pressed them all day long, but they held on, Arsenal beat United on penalty kicks, 5-4, to win the FA Cup in Cardiff. Jens Lehmann made a stop on Paul Scholes to make the difference. The final kick, which won the Cup for Arsenal, was made by Captain Patrick Vieira. It was his last act on the pitch for Arsenal, as his contract ran out and he left the club.

This remains the last time Arsenal have won a trophy -- as nearly everyone else, especially Tottenham fans, likes to remind Gooners.

September 9, 2005: The film Green Street premieres. Elijah Wood stars as Matt Buckner, a student expelled from Harvard after being framed for drug possession. So he flies off to London to spend a semester with his sister Shannon (Claire Forlani) and her British husband Steve Dunham (Marc Warren). His brother-in-law was once "the Major," the top boy (leader) of the Green Street Elite, a hooligan firm associated with East London club West Ham United, based on the real-life Inter-City Firm (whose real-life former top boy, Cass Pennant, is now an actor and film producer and has a cameo, as, ironically, a police officer).

Steve's younger brother Pete is the current top boy, and is played by Charlie Hunnam -- in real life, a Newcastle native who now stars on Sons of Anarchy, where, as Jax Teller, a leader in a motorcycle, gang, he has much longer hair than a traditionally close-cropped football hooligan. (He'd previously played Nathan Maloney in the original British version of Queer As Folk.)

The film opens with the GSE in a tube station, across the tracks from a united of Tottenham's Y-- Army, which should not be in the East End. Pete yells across, "Mate, Tottenham's due north. Are you lost? Or just fucking stupid?" They're Tottenham fans, so either is possible. They run upstairs, and the Hammers fans live up to their name, and nail the Spuds.

Later, after Pete takes Matt to West Ham's match against Birmingham City (the Hammers win, and Pete is swept up in the atmosphere of the match), a fight breaks out between the GSE and the Brummies' Zulu Army, and the GSE barely saves Matt's life. Pete explains firms to Matt, and delivers the greatest line in the history of movies. No, not this...

Matt: What are you talkin' about, "Baseball is a girl's game"? The Red Sox has a guy that pitches the ball over 90 miles per hour!
Pete: Who cares? All that means is that he can have a wank faster than you.

As good as that is. This is the greatest line in the history of movies:

Every football team in Europe's got a firm. Some have two. [Matt gives him a blank look] Christ, I forgot how clueless you Yanks are. All you've seen of us is the stadium riots on TV, innit? Come on.

See, West Ham football is mediocre. But our firm is top-notch, and everyone knows it. The GSE: Green Street Elite. Arsenal? Great football, shit firm. The Gooners. Tottenham? Shit football, AND a shit firm! The Yids, they're called. I actually put their main lad through a phone box window the other day. 

Tell it like it is, son.

Then Pete tells Matt about West Ham's arch-rivals, Millwall, with their firm, known in real life as the Bushwhackers. "Where to even fucking begin with Millwall?"

Matt: So, it's like the Yankees and the Red Sox.
Pete: More like the Israelis and the Palestinians.

And he wasn't kidding. Those two firms have killed each other's members in the past. It's not as bad as it was, with all the measures the police and the government have taken to identify and arrest hooligans. But as recently as a League Cup match in 2010, they went at it again.

May 7, 2006: One does not simply discuss the history of the Arsenal-Tottenham rivarly without talking about this day. It is folly.

Arsenal had their best European Cup/Champions League campaign ever, reaching the Final. That Final, still the closest Arsenal have ever come to winning the European Cup (the Champions League format kept the name for the trophy), was the last appearance in Arsenal's colours for Campbell, Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, and, controversially, for left back Ashley Cole, who had grown up as an Arsenal fan and in Arsenal's youth system, but had been "tapped up" by London rivals Chelsea, and went to them due to new owner Roman Abramovich's spending spree, which had gotten Chelsea the 2005 and '06 Premiership titles. Cole has been known as "Cashley" ever since.

But the 2005-06 season was the end of an era for another reason: It was the last season for the Arsenal Stadium, a.k.a. Highbury. The new Emirates Stadium -- some call it The Emirates, some by the area's former name Ashburton Grove, some cheekily call it New Highbury -- was going up, 500 yards away, and would open in the summer. Arsenal wanted very badly to end the last game at Highbury with a win.

But it wasn't just sentiment: Arsenal went into the season's League finale in 5th place, with Tottenham in 4th. All Spurs had to do in their game, away to West Ham, was match Arsenal's performance at home to Wigan Athletic, on that final day of the Premiership season, and it would be Spurs in the 2006-07 Champions League, with Arsenal "relegated" to the UEFA Cup -- unless, of course, Arsenal could win the CL Final.

The night before, Tottenham manager Martin Jol had secluded his players at a hotel, the Marriott Canary Wharf, in London's financial district, a.k.a. The City. This is not unusual: Many managers do things like this, even before home games. American football head coaches, in both the professional and the collegiate ranks, also do this. The players would have a nice dinner the night before the game, and get a good night's sleep, and would have a nice short bus ride to the stadium, all away from the prying of fans and the media.

What did Scottish poet Robert Burns say? Translated into modern common English, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray." (Somewhat appropriate, since, early in the film version of Fever Pitch, Colin Firth's character is shown teaching John Steinbeck's novel that takes its name from that quote, Of Mice and Men.)

In the middle of the night, 10 Spurs players woke up, vomiting, and/or having diarrhea (or "diarrhoea"): Keane, Edgar Davids, Michael Carrick, Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Lee Barnard, Calum Davenport, Teemu Tainio, Lee Young-Pyo and Radek Cerny. (Lennon and Dawson are the only ones still with Tottenham 7 years later, while Tainio would later play for the New York Red Bulls of MLS, including in a summer 2010 friendly with Spurs as the visiting team.)

Someone decided to blame the lasagne they'd eaten for dinner that night, and after the whole thing was over, some Spurs fans started a conspiracy theory (shades of their delusions about 1919) that the Marriott chef was an Arsenal fan and had purposely poisoned the Spurs players! It became known as Lasagne-gate.

In the morning, several Spurs players were still, uh, indisposed. So club chairman Daniel Levy called the League office, and asked League chairman Richard Scudamore to postpone the game. Nothing doing: With 1 League game to go, all teams were to play their games at the same time, 3:00 PM. (This was a change from past policy, to avoid teams whose League place had already been decided from laying down on the job, thus giving gamblers some easy pickings and paying customers a less than honest performance.)

Levy protested: They had sick players. Can't the game be postponed until tomorrow? Or even until tonight, just to give us a few more hours to recover? Scudamore asked if Spurs had 11 players who could play. Well, yes, but... Then the game would go on. If Spurs wanted to postpone, they could refuse to play, but an inquiry would be held, and Spurs would likely lose that appeal, and the penalty for refusing to play would be a deduction of points, which would make a win in the rescheduled match meaningless.

For the record, West Ham officials were willing to accept a postponement, so long as it wasn't too close to the following Saturday, when they were to play Liverpool in the FA Cup Final (which Liverpool went on to win.) Unlike Spurs, West Ham were not threatened with a points deduction for going along with the postponement (which makes sense, since it wasn't their idea). But the police were afraid of what extra time to drink that day would do, considering the reputation that both Spurs' and the Hammers' fans had for hooliganism, including against each other. (A fight between West Ham and Spurs firms opened the film Green Street.) So they said they would allow the game to start no later than 5:00 -- an extra 2 hours, not much of a help for the last 2 players who still needed rehydration, Carrick and Lennon.

In the end, the game kicked off on time, at 3:00, and only one of the affected players, backup goalkeeper Cerny, did not make it into the game, although Carrick had to be subbed off after 63 minutes, Lee (for fellow affectee Barnard) in the 78th, and Tainio (for fellow affectee Davenport) in the 87th.

That season was Wigan's first-ever season in the Premiership, and they had achieved midtable respectability, finishing 10th. An Arsenal win shouldn't have been assumed, but it was well possible. West Ham were about Wigan's equal, finishing 9th, and were hosting Spurs -- hence the Canary Wharf hotel, not far from the Hammers' Boleyn Ground, a.k.a. Upton Park.

Pires scored the Highbury opener, and, for the last time at that ground, the song "One-nil to The Arsenal" was sung -- by both Arsenal fans at Highbury and West Ham fans, learning by radio and text message, at Upton Park.

But Wigan struck back, and led 2-1.  Spurs fans, getting calls and messages on their mobile phones, found out, and were ecstatic. And when Jermaine Defoe scored in the 35th to match Darren Fletcher's goal for the Hammers in the 10th, meaning Spurs were looking at a draw while Arsenal were losing, it looked like it would be Spurs' day.

It wasn't. Henry scored a hat trick, tallying in the 35th, the 56th, and in the 76th with a penalty that was the last goal ever scored in the ground's 93-year history. Feeling the history, after putting the ball in the net, instead of launching a ghastly celebration, he bent down and kissed the grass. (In a weird coincidence, the first hat trick at Highbury, in 1914, was scored by an Arsenal player named Harry King, and the last by Thierry Henry -- Henry King, and a man called "King Henry.")

And West Ham came from behind, and won 2-1 on a goal in the 80th minute by Yossi Benayoun, a midfielder from Israel. That's right, on this day, the Jews were against Tottenham! (Benayoun, the greatest player his country has yet produced, would later join Arsenal. More about that later.)

Arsenal finished 4th, 2 points ahead of Tottenham, and qualified for the Champions League; Tottenham, finishing 5th, went to the UEFA Cup.

The supposedly offending lasagne was sent to a laboratory, and tested. As it turned out, there was nothing wrong with it, at least not medically. The virus that spread among the Spurs players was real, but it had nothing to do with food. Still, Spurs fans blame that lasagne, and the chef that served it. Just like the Yankees-Red Sox "Curse of the Bambino," the lasagne contagion never really existed, but it has taken on a life of its own, because the afflicted team's fans believed it. And so, to spite them, ever since, Arsenal fans have sung, to "Volare":

Lasagne, whoa!
Lasagne, whoa!
We laughed ourselves to bits

when Tottenham got the shits!

Which matches another Arsenal chant. I don't know how far back it goes, but it was already in place in early 2007:

Q: What do you think of Tottenham?
A: Shit!
Q: What do you think of shit?
A: Tottenham!
Q: Thank you!
A: That's all right! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We are the Tottenham haters! (Usually followed by a variation on the Y-word.)

May 17, 2006: At the Stade de France outside Paris, Arsenal lose the Champions League Final to Barcelona, 2-1. Sol Campbell became the first player ever to score in a Champions League Final for a London team, but goalie Jens Lehmann was sent off for a risky challenge. Wenger sent the shaky Manuel Almunia (later to be mocked by Gooners as "The Clown") into goal, and, having to take off an outfield player, removed Pires at a time when goals would seem to be at a premium. Sol's goal gave Arsenal a 2nd-half lead, but it didn't last, with Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti scoring on the backup Almunia to give Barcelona the title.

As I said, this was the last game in Arsenal's colours for Bergkamp, Pires, Campbell and Cole. And, with the club moving into the Emirates at the same time, it's also seen by many as the day the great Arsenal team of the last few years went off the rails. In the years since, Arsenal have reached the Semifinals of the CL once, the Quarterfinals twice, the FA Cup Semifinals once, and 2 League Cup Finals, but haven't won any of them, and have not finished higher than 3rd in the League. The vast sums of money spent by Chelsea and the Manchester teams has not been matched by Wenger, and as the number of "years since Arsenal won a trophy" has mounted, some Gooners have demanded that Wenger "Spend some fucking money!"

They don't get it: As Tottenham have proven, it's not how much you spend, it's how wisely.

December 2, 2006: The teams meet at the Emirates for the first time. Arsenal win, 3-0.

January 24, 2007: The teams meet at White Hart Lane in a League Cup Semifinal 1st leg. Spurs take a 2-0 lead, partly thanks to an own goal by Julio Baptista, a Brazilian forward on loan from Real Madrid. But he redeems himself: "The Beast" scores twice, and Arsenal fans sing, to the tune of "Go West" (the same song used for "One-nil to The Arsenal" and "Stand up, if you hate Tottnum"), "Two-nil, and you fucked it up!" The game ends 2-2, and goes to the Emirates with Arsenal needing only to have a 1-0 net win on the night to advance to the Final.

January 31, 2007: With "The Lasagne Song" and "Two-nil, and you fucked it up" ringing down from the brand-new stands at the Emirates, the 2nd leg ends 1-1, 3-3 on aggregate, and extra time is required. But Arsenal win it 3-1, making it 5-3 on aggregate, and advance to the Final. Had Tottenham merely won their home leg 2-1, they would have advanced to the Final.

But Chelsea beat Arsenal in the Final -- despite Abou Diaby accidentally kicking Chelsea's despicable centreback and captain John Terry in the face and knocking him out -- and, following Arsenal doing it in 1993 and Liverpool in 2001, win the Cup Double. The main reason Chelsea won the Final is that their manager, Jose Mourinho, had started his usual starting XI, while Wenger had started mainly his younger players, to give them experience in a knockout competition, thinking this would "blood" them for stronger competitions like the Premiership and the Champions League.

January 22, 2008: With Wenger again starting "the kids," following a 1-1 draw in the 1st leg at the Emirates, again the League Cup Semifinal comes to White Hart Lane. This one, though, is no contest, as Tottenham, mainly starting their starters against "Arsene Wenger High School," win 5-1.

Spurs would soon release a DVD of this game, titled The Perfect Game.  A, It was starters against reserves. B, How can it be perfect if you let in a goal? Morons.

February 24, 2008: Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-1 to win the League Cup at the new Wembley Stadium. Although Didier Drogba, a.k.a. "Dogbreath," another of the most hated opponents Arsenal have ever had due to his goals against them and his obvious and unrepentant diving, opened the scoring, Tottenham got a penalty that was buried by Dimitar Berbatov, the Vulgarian Bulgarian, and the game went to extra time. Jonathan Woodgate, a defender, scored the winner in the 94th minute.

This is the last trophy that Tottenham have won.  Arsenal would lose the League Cup Final in 2011, and Spurs fans haven't let us forget it, bringing up the Arsenal trophy drought again. Of course, if Arsenal had won that game, Spurs fans would remind us that we haven't won a major trophy since 2005 -- but that would mean Spurs haven't won a major trophy since 1991.

Moral of the story: If you care that much about the League Cup, then you don't support a big club -- or, at the least, you are not a fan worthy of a big club. In an age when the top 4 teams in England get to the Champions League, it's fine for that trophy to be celebrated by teams like Leicester City (2000), Blackburn Rovers (2002), Middlesbrough (2004), Birmingham City (2011) and Swansea City (2013) -- and Tottenham (1999 and 2008). But did Chelsea make a big deal out of it when they won it in 2005 and '07? Did Man United when they won it in 2006, '09 and '10? Did Liverpool when they won it in 2001, '03 and '12? (Well, the last one, they did, kind of.)

Also, if Arsenal were to win a trophy in this 2013-14 season, and Tottenham not, do you think the English media, which takes a pernicious glee in pointing out Arsenal's trophy drought, would go out of their way to say that Tottenham, by that point, have not won a trophy in 6 years, as they did for Arsenal in 2012? Not a bloody chance.

October 29, 2008: Tottenham take early leads of 1-0 and 2-1 at the Emirates, but Arsenal lead 4-2 in the 88th minute. And blow it. Jermaine Jenas scores in the 88th, and, with more stoppage time given than necessary, Aaron Lennon scores in the 94th. It's a 4-4 draw.

Within 12 hours, before the last chorus of "Four-two, and you fucked it up!" can stop ringing around North London, Tottenham release a DVD of this match. That's right, they released a video of a draw. True, Arsenal celebrated a draw at White Hart Lane in 2004, but that was for winning the League. What did Spurs get out of this draw? Not bragging rights: They still hadn't won a League game against Arsenal in 9 years.

Because they're both young black Englishmen who play on the right wing, Lennon (from Leeds) Arsenal's Theo Walcott (from the Stanmore section of London) often get compared. Tottenham fans call Walcott "a shit Aaron Lennon." No, Lennon is a shit Aaron Lennon.

February 8, 2009: How many Tottenham players does it take to beat 10 Arsenal players at White Hart Lane? Apparently, more than 12.

Emmanuel Eboue gets sent off with a second yellow card in the 37th minute -- admittedly, for a bad challenge, but his first yellow was bogus -- and referee Mike Dean, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, continues the game with the apparent purpose of screwing Arsenal over. But the game ends 0-0, and even with 12 vs. 10 and home-field advantage, Tottenham couldn't win -- or even score.

October 31, 2009: It's Halloween, and this game scared the shit out of Tottenham fans.  And that takes a lot of scaring, because Tottenham fans are full of shit.

The game is scoreless until the 43rd minute, when Robin van Persie scores for Arsenal. It takes about 40 seconds to restart the game, and almost immediately, Cesc Fabregas takes the kickoff, gets through Spurs' defense like a hot knife through butter, and scores. 45 seconds of hell!

Spurs had nothing for the rest of the game, and Arsenal won, 3-0. This game is treasured by Gooners, even though both Fabregas (in August 2011) and van Persie (in July 2012) would whine their way off the team. Cesc has largely been forgiven for his treachery by Gooners, but RVP, or "the Dutch skunk" as the author of Arseblog has dubbed him, has not been forgiven. (Like Ashley Cole, he also gets called "Judas.")

April 14, 2010: All good things must come to an end, and on this day, 2 good things do: Arsenal's chances of winning the Premier League (which will be compounded soon by a game remembered as "The Wigan Capitulation") and Arsenal's 22-game League unbeaten streak against The Scum. Goals by diving Welsh ape Gareth Bale and substitute Danny Rose (not to be confused with the Woody Allen film Broadway Danny Rose -- that film is good) give Spurs a 2-1 win at The Lane.

Harry Redknapp, a former West Ham player whose financial dirty dealings as manager had previously caused financial crises and relegations for Bournemouth, West Ham, Southampton and Portsmouth (twice), had restored Spurs to something resembling glory.

Arsenal would finish 3rd in this season, Tottenham 4th -- meaning Spurs qualified for the Champions League (previously the European Cup) for the first time since they last won the League... 49 years earlier.

July 22, 2010: Tottenham make an off-season tour of North America. Included in this was the New York Football Challenge, a series of games played at the brand-new Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, home of the New York Red Bulls, who had recently signed former Arsenal superstar Thierry Henry. Also invited were Manchester City and, due to the strong Portuguese influence in the Newark/Harrison/Kearny area, Sporting Clube de Portugal, a.k.a. Sporting Lisbon.

Naturally, Henry scored for the Red Bulls. He is proud of saying he never playing in a losing game against Tottenham. Unfortunately, that's not quite true, though it is for competitive matches. Hans Backe, then the Red Bulls' manager, replaced Henry and some other starters for the second half, and Tottenham won, 2-1.

July 25, 2010: Three days later, the event concluded with a doubleheader, and I was at this one -- meaning I saw Tottenham play live before I ever saw Arsenal play live. And let me tell you, until you have seen Harry Redknapp wearing shorts, you have never truly suffered.

In the first game, Tottenham blew 1-0 and 2-1 leads, and Sporting, who had beaten Man City 2 days earlier, forged a 2-2 draw. In the second game, the Red Bulls beat Man City, 2-1.

I sat in the South Ward, on the lower level. Wearing a red 1970s replica Arsenal shirt amid a sea of Red Bulls home whites and road blues, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Adebayor was with Man City at the time, and, remembering how he'd whined his way out of Arsenal a year earlier, and how he'd treated Arsenal and its fans since, I really gave him what-for. After a missed City shot, we were perhaps 50 feet apart, and he had this look on his face, as if to say, "What the hell? Who knows me here?" Then he saw my shirt, and the look changed to one that said, "Fucking Gooners, I can't get away from them anywhere!"

The Sporting fans, in the upper deck behind me, were fantastic. The City fans, across the stadium in the northeast corner of the upper deck, also behaved themselves. The Spurs fans were another matter. They were in the upper deck of the southeast corner, practically on top of me. And it was on this day that I saw just what a bunch of cunts they are.

It's not that, first verrrry slowly, they sang, "Oh... when... the... Spurrrrrrrrs... go marching in... " and then sped it up like they had injected speed. But they used the Y-word for themselves over and over again, apparently oblivious to the fact that American Jews (including, by one-quarter ancestry, yours truly) consider that to be the anti-Semitic equivalent of the N-word.

It got worse. Arsenal fans like to sing, to the tune of "Winter Wonderland," about "walking in a Wenger Wonderland." Because of Wenger's penchant for signing and playing very young players, including teenagers who are not yet ready, Tottenham fans have rewritten that song, and they sang it that day:

There's only one Arsene Wenger
There's only one Arsene Wenger
With a packet of sweets
and a cheeky little smile
Arsene Wenger is a paedophile!

This has been adopted elsewhere: Man United fans, to "La Donna e Mobile," have sung at Arsene, "Sit down, you paedophile!" (The English not only spell "pedophile" differently, but pronounce it "PEE-doh," instead of "PEH-doh.")

The charge, of course, has absolutely no evidence. Besides, it was Tottenham who had a manager who was then under indictment for a felony! Redknapp had been charged with tax evasion. (One of the things I yelled at Spurs that day was, "Hey Harry: The Queen wants her money!")

Of course, they sang, to "Go West," "Stand up, if you hate Arsenal!" At another point, they sang, "Who's that wanker over there?" I looked up, pointed to myself -- the closest fan to them wearing Arsenal gear -- and said, "Me?" It was only later, on the bus heading home, that I realized they were singing about Henry. Had they known I was singing the song about "the wanky Tottenham Hotspur" going to Rome to see the Pope, they might have meant me. (Another thing I realized on the bus ride home was that I forgot to sing "The Lasagne Song." But I unleashed pretty much every other anti-Spurs song in my, uh, arsenal.)

Anyway, Sporting Lisbon won the Challenge trophy, edging Tottenham on a tiebreaker. Two years later, Tottenham would come to North America again, and again I would be in the South Ward hoping to see the Red Bulls beat them. And, again, Backe would pull his starters at the half (this time not including Henry, who he didn't even start). And, again, the Red Bulls blew a 1-0 halftime lead to lose to The Scum, 2-1.

I have been in Shea Stadium, surrounded by 50,000 Met fans. I have been in Fenway Park, surrounded by 30,000 Red Sox fans. I have been in Madison Square Garden, surrounded by 15,000 Ranger fans. I have been in the Philadelphia Flyers' new arena (whatever the hell it's named this season), surrounded by 18,000 of them. Never have I been so sickened by opposing fans as I was upon hearing 2,000 Tottenham fans. "Scum," indeed. (To their credit, though, on neither occasion, 2010 or 2012, did I see them start a fight. I guess they didn't want to go to an American jail.)

September 21, 2010: It's only the 3rd Round, but another League Cup match is a North London Derby at White Hart Lane. It goes to extra time, in which Spurs' defense collapses, and Arsenal win, 4-1. Remembering the 5-1 match 2 1/2 years earlier, the visiting Gooners sing, to the tune of "Bread of Heaven":

Shall we make
Shall we make
Shall we make a DVD?

Shall we make a DVD?

A lot of Tottenham fans left early, and, to the tune of "La Donne e Mobile" from Rigoletto, Arsenal fans brought up the old standby, "Is there a fire drill?" (Tottenham fans are so stupid, they think Rigoletto is the manager of Inter Milan.)

November 20, 2010: For the first time since May '93, Spurs win away to Arsenal, 3-2, on goals by Bale, Younes Kaboul, and a dubious penalty taken by their Dutch midfielder, Rafael van der Vaart.

April 13, 2011: Once again, ignoring the fact that they won nothing -- or "won fuck-all," as would be said in England -- in 2001, Spurs fans brought up the "Year ends in one" bullshit, thinking that they might actually win the Premier League and the Champions League under Redknapp.

The year ending in one ended with no glory for the club whose greatest manager, Bill Nicholson, liked to say, "This game is about glory." They finished 5th in the League, and did not qualify for the CL again. And, on this date, in the second leg of the CL Quarterfinal, at home, Tottenham were beaten 1-0 by Real Madrid, which had beaten them 4-0 in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Spurs fans relished the fact that, this season, they had gotten further in the CL than Arsenal had gotten. But whereas Arsenal had won 1-0 at Madrid in the Round of 16 in 2006 (the first English team ever to win there), Tottenham lost 1-0 to Madrid at home. No shame in that, but since Spurs fans measure themselves against Arsenal, their aggregate performance against Madrid (0-5) pales in comparison to Arsenal's 5 years earlier (1-0).

Late in the game, the Tottenham fans, knowing that the jig was up, started singing to the Madrid fans, to the tune of "Guantanamera," "Shit Barcelona, you're just a shit Barcelona!" Did the Madridistas get offended? Probably, but, showing that they'd done their homework, they came right back, singing in better English than the average Tottenham fan is capable of speaking, "Shit club near Arsenal, you're just a shit club near Arsenal!"

August 6, 2011: Riots break out all over England. The first of them, and, in terms of property damage, the worst of them, was in Tottenham. While White Hart Lane itself had been spared any damage, the surrounding area had not. As a result, when the League season began 2 weeks later, the Premier League suspended Spurs' season opener. This would have consequences later, as the fixture list piled up (partly due to a bad winter postponing some games).

Arsenal fans -- and fans of a few others teams, too -- would sing to the Spurs fans, to the tune of "Sloop John B":

You burned your own town.
You burned your own town!
You Tottenham bastards!
You burned your own town!

Tottenham isn't a town, it's a neighborhood (neighbourhood). But, yes, they burned their own town.

October 4, 2011: For the 3rd League game in a row, VDV scores for Spurs against Arsenal. This time, however, he blatantly cheats, deflecting the ball with his left arm, letting it drop to his feet, and scoring. Spurs take a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane, and Rafael becomes known in Arsenal lore as "Hand der Vaart."

February 26, 2012: Tottenham are 10 points ahead of Arsenal in the League, and Spurs fans have spent weeks reminding Gooners, in the words of message on the trains of the London Underground, to "Mind the gap." (In America, it's usually "Please watch the gap.") Arsenal need to win this Derby. They need a win. Real bad. They fall behind 2-0, including a goal by Emmanuel Adebayor, a forward who had whined his way out of Arsenal 3 years earlier and had been picked up by Spurs. (This makes him only the 2nd player ever to score for both sides of this rivalry, following Jimmy Robertson in 1970.) It looks really bad for Arsenal.

And the rout was on. Bacara Sagna, the braided right back who almost never scores, does so in the 40th. van Persie equalises in the 43rd. In the 2nd half, oft-injured midfielder Tomas Rosicky, a.k.a. "Little Mozart" (Mozart was Austrian, not Czech) gives Arsenal the lead in the 51st. And Walcott, showing he's not "a shit Aaron Lennon," scores in the 65th and the 68th, providing the final score of 5-2. Tottenham are shellshocked, and the Emirates parties like never before in, well, its brief 6-year history.

It's a win that, uh, spurs the Gunners on to make a great run-in, and Tottenham never recover.

May 13, 2012: In a reverse of 2006, Arsenal need to match Tottenham's performance on the final day of the League season to guarantee 4th place and a CL place for next season, but are away, while Tottenham are home. And, sure enough, Tottenham beat fellow London club Fulham, 1-0.

But, thanks to a goal by 2006 Spurs tormentor Yossi Benayoun, and a great late clearance by left back Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal beat Wigan, 3-2, and clinch 4th. The game is best remembered by Gooners for a moment in the dying minutes where Wenger, knowing the Gunners would not be in the 2012-13 CL with a draw, grimaces and drops his head into the lap of his assistant manager, former Arsenal Captain Pat Rice, who was in his last game before retirement from an active role with the club. (He was replaced by 1990s Arsenal centreback Steve Bould.) Wenger would, of course, rejoice at the final whistle, and Gooners with him.

Spurs fans, yet again, got their hearts broken. 2012 was the year singer Adele, a Tottenham native, would break out as a major star. She is known for singing songs of heartbreak, and she is a Spurs fan. Gee, do you think there's a connection?

Of course, this latest Spurs disaster wouldn't have happened if their fixture list hadn't been so congested, wearing their players down over the late winter and the spring. And that might not have happened if their first League game hadn't had to be rescheduled. And that wouldn't have happened if the Tottenham bastards hadn't "burned their own town." They screwed themselves, and they screwed their club. This was like the Chicago Cubs losing a Pennant because of Steve Bartman -- except Bartman was just one man doing something he was legally entitled to do. The rioters were hundreds of people committing actual crimes.

As the song went, to the tune of "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" (previously adapted for the England national side as "Ten German Bombers")...

There were 10 Tottenham points in the gap.
There were 10 Tottenham points in the gap.
There were 10 Tottenham points
10 Tottenham points
10 Tottenham points in the gap.
And the boys from The Arsenal took one down.
And the boys from The Arsenal took one down.
And the boys from The Arsenal
boys from The Arsenal
boys from The Arsenal took one down.

Until "There were no Tottenham points in the gap," concluding with...

Tottenham! Mind the gap!
Tottenham, Tottenham, mind the gap!

A couple of minutes after this game ended, Man City came from 2-1 down in stoppage time to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2, and win the Premier League title, beating Man United on goal difference. Sergio Aguero scored the winner, doing for Man City what Michael Thomas had done for Arsenal in 1989 -- the only 2 times the League title has swung from one team to another in the apparent last minute of the last game of the season. (Ray Kennedy's goal in 1971 was very late, but in regular time.) Even people who don't like Man City were cheering this result, as it meant a trophyless season for Man U. It was also Man City's 1st League title in 43 years -- not as long as Tottenham, but pretty bad, and now done with.

Anyway, shortly thereafter, Redknapp resigned as Tottenham manager, later taking the job at QPR. He had recently been acquitted in his trial for tax evasion, his defense (defence) being that he couldn't read very well and didn't understand the documents with which he was presented. In other words, Tottenham's manager was functionally illiterate.

Which brings up the point that Tottenham fans, criticizing the home game atmosphere at Arsenal, used to call Highbury "the Library" (it does rhyme, sort of), and have given the nickname to the Emirates as well. Well, how the fuck would a Tottenham fan know what the inside of a library sounds like?

October 7, 2012: Tottenham, now managed by Andre Villas-Boas, who had managed FC Porto to the Portuguese league title in 2011, beat Aston Villa 2-0. But the visiting Villa fans sang, to the tune of "Sloop John B"...

Let me go home!
I wanna go home!
Tottenham's a shithole!
I wanna go home!


Aston Villa is located in Birmingham, in England's West Midlands. The old steel city, which gave its name to a steel city in Alabama (as did Sheffield and Leeds), is often regarded as a city beyond help, as England's answer to Detroit. And yet, these people were saying that Tottenham is a shithole. Which it is.

November 17, 2012: As the American baseball legend Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again." Adebayor opens the scoring at the Emirates, but then gets a straight red card for a monumentally stupid tackle on Santi Cazorla. Why is a forward making tackles anyway?

Arsenal pound away at 10-man Spurs, and Per Mertesacker (a 6-foot-6 centreback known to Arsenal fans as "the Big Fucking German," or the BFG for short), Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla make it 4-1, before a consolation goal from Bale makes it 4-2. Remembering the 2008 game that went from 4-2 to 4-4 after the 88th minute, some Gooners got nervous, but they held on, and a stoppage time goal from Walcott made it, once again, 5-2. Some fans called it "Groundhog Day," in reference to the Bill Murray film comedy.

March 3, 2013: Thanks to a Bale goal that was obviously offside, and a Lennon goal that occurred 10 seconds after a challenge that should have been a yellow card to Tottenham, Tottenham beat Arsenal at White Hart Lane, 2-1.

After the game, summing up for American network Fox Soccer Channel, Piers Morgan, an Englishman who hosts a nighttime show on CNN and claims to be an Arsenal fan, points out that Wenger has let many good players go in order to save money, and that Spurs are now 7 points ahead of Arsenal in the League, and says, "If Arsene Wenger has one ounce of honour left in him, he will resign immediately."

Wenger does not resign.

May 19, 2013: Arsenal have not lost since that match at The Lane, and, in another "Groundhog Day," simply have to match Tottenham's performance on the final day to ensure that they finish 4th and Tottenham 5th. Arsenal are away to Newcastle United, while Spurs are home to, oddly enough, Newcastle's arch-rivals, Sunderland.

Defender Laurent Koscielny scores in the 52nd minute, and it's One-nil to The Arsenal. Somehow, fans at The Lane get the message that Newcastle have equalised, and that all Tottenham have to do now is get one goal, and they will finish 4th. And they get that goal, from Bale -- who has essentially carried them, as they've gotten few goals from their other players. They beat Sunderland, 1-0. But Newcastle have not equalised, and Arsenal have won, 1-0.

Again, to the tune of "Sloop John B"...

It's happened again.
It's happened again!
Tottenham Hotspur
It's happened again!

"Have Newcastle equalized yet?" has become a Gooner catchphrase.

In addition, the Sunderland fans, as did the Aston Villa fans earlier in the season, sang, "Tottenham's a shithole, I wanna go home!" Sunderland, in England's North-East, is generally considered to be a very dreary place. And yet, these people were saying that Tottenham is a shithole. Which, as we've discussed, it is.

"Have Newcastle equalized yet?" has become a Gooner catchphrase.

September 1, 2013: Going into the game on Sunday, Arsenal have won 74 games between the teams, Tottenham 54, with 47 draws.

Kickoff is at 4:00 PM London time, 11:00 AM U.S. Eastern Time.

BEAT THE SCUM!

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