It was one hundred years ago today that Arsenal FC, kings of North London for as long as anyone can remember, made that historic move from Woolwich to Islington. Life in North London would never be the same again – certainly not for Tottenham Hotspur, the Gunners’ long-suffering rivals. For that day 100 years ago was the day that Spurs stopped being the Cockerels crowing from Tottenham right across North London, and became instead permanent residents within Arsenal’s shadow.
An aggregation of Arsenal’s league record across the 20th Century – the only complete century of League football – shows that they are not only top dogs in the Capital, but arguably across the country as a whole. The aggregated League table 1900 – 1999 puts the Gunners firmly in top place. The whole point of a league system is a club’s placing over time, so this decisively ends the argument as to who were the top club of the last century.
Spurs had their moments in the league during the 20th century as well – but not in colour. Their last title triumph was in 1961, an age of flickering monochrome TV when JFK succeeded Eisenhower for his ill-fated US presidential term, Harold MacMillan was Prime Minister in the UK and – most notably of all – I was born. In short, it was a bloody long time ago. If I ever wish to emphasise what an old fogey I am, I simply mention that my eyes first opened on a world where Spurs were Champions. People tend to get the message.
Since those far-off days of temporary Spurs supremacy, Arsenal have been Champions six times. Even my own beloved Leeds United have won it three times for heavens sake. To hear Tottenham described as a major club in the light of such damning statistics always seems a little bizarre. In London and beyond, the world of colour TV, the transistor era, the space age, the digital revolution, all the many different ways that the modern era can be encapsulated – it’s all been dominated by Arsenal. And as befits a club with a full century of ruling their own North London roost, Arsenal have done it with class. Class and prestige are integral to the club. The marble halls of Highbury were legendary and now Arsenal have a new world-class super-stadium, the finest in the land.
The pre-eminence of Arsenal on their own patch, and in their own 20th century, is beyond doubt. This Centenary day then is worthy of being celebrated – and Arsenal celebrated it in typical style with a comprehensive victory over Stoke City to go top of the league again. You don’t have to be an Arsenal fan to admire them and to appreciate what they’ve done for the game as a whole. My fondness for them is down to their class, their history, their style and the sumptuously gorgeous football they play under M. Wenger. And perhaps also for being the only club we can beat in domestic Cup Finals…
Congratulations, Arsenal, on your hundred years in North London. May there be another hundred to come – and much more success. Arsenal FC are what football is all about.