‘The day that cemented the rivalry between Spurs and Arsenal.’
Not content with moving in from Woolwich some time earlier, Arsenal now managed to connive their way into the 1st Division at the expense of Spurs.
When football had stopped at the end of the 1914 -1915 season because of the out-break of 1st World War Spurs had been in the relegation position in the 1st Division.
However, in preparation for the resumption of football it was decided to increase the size of the League with 22 teams in the 1st Division. How would this be settled? Arsenal persuaded their ‘friends’ that they should be one of the promoted clubs as they had been a member of the League for far longer than Spurs, even though they had finished the pre-war season in 5th place in the 2nd Division. Not surprisingly this has never been forgiven or forgotten by Spurs fans.
Arsenal have never earned their place in the top flight of football - all that they may have achieved has been based on this early 'skullduggery'.
From an article that first appeared on Topspurs.com
May, 1913 – The Invasion of the Woolwich Nomads
Five years after entering the Football League and having then gained promotion to the First Division, Spurs found their patch of North London under invasion. As stated in the recent edition of ‘Spurs Monthly’, ‘Woolwich Arsenal were in crippling debt, had a rapidly dilapidating stadium and were struggling to attract supporters owing to their poor location.’ It was then that their Chairman, Henry Norris decided to move the club from the southern side of the Thames, north to Islington, less than five miles from Tottenham. This was a direct invasion of the area from where Spurs drew their support. There were immediate objections from Spurs, Leyton Orient and Chelsea and local newspapers wrote articles of protest. The protests fell on deaf ears at the Football Association and the move was sanctioned, enabling Arsenal to play their first game at Highbury in September, 1913. The reason for their move was confirmed in the programme for the first 2nd Division match at Highbury, ‘…the depressing times we had at Plumstead, with its poor train service and the lukewarm support we received from those in the immediate neighbourhood.’
The rivalry that had existed between two London clubs was now intensified as they became neighbours vying for support from the people of North London.
May, 1919 – Spurs Manoeuvred Out of 1st Division by Arsenal
Before the War, Spurs were in the 1st Division while Arsenal spent their first few seasons in North London in the 2nd Division, following their relegation in 1913. Although war was declared in September, 1914, League football continued for another year. Unfortunately for Spurs, that season saw them finish bottom of the Division, after losing three of their final four games. With League football suspended until the War was over, the rivalry between the two clubs would have been less intense as the whole nation worked together to support the ‘War effort.’ Indeed, in 1916, when White Hart Lane was taken over by the Ministry of Munitions, Arsenal and Orient offered Spurs the use of their grounds. For three seasons until the end of the War, Spurs alternated their home games between Highbury and Orient’s ground.
However, when the War hostilities ended in 1919, hostility between the two clubs broke out with renewed vigour. If their offer of assistance during those three seasons was intended to soothe the relationship between the two clubs following their move into Spurs’ territory, Arsenal’s action immediately after the War, only intensified the situation.
For the restart of League football in September, 1919 the authorities decided to increase the 1st Division to twenty two clubs. On previous occasions the two clubs in the relegation places retained their status. Spurs assumed that this procedure would be maintained again but they hadn’t allowed for the scheming of Arsenal and Sir Henry Norris. He was desperate to get Arsenal into the 1st Division and although Arsenal had finished fifth in the 2nd Division in 1915, he managed to bring influence to bear to gain support for his club. It was only when the meeting was held that Spurs realised they had a fight on their hands. Spurs thought they had ‘right on their side’ but Arsenal had managed to gain eighteen votes to Spurs’ eight in second place. There was no logical reason for the decision but Spurs had lost their 1st Division status to the manipulation of their nearest neighbours.
Spurs were stung into action and won promotion at the first attempt, with a record number of points, won the FA Cup for a second time a year later and finished runners-up in the 1st Division in 1922, the highest finish by a London club. Needless to say, relationships between the clubs and fans reached a new low. To this day Arsenal have never earned their right to play in the top division – having had to rely on secretive negotiations carried on behind closed doors.