MEETING with the old enemy is an opportunity to carve your name into your club’s folklore. Tomorrow’s north London derby offers a headline act like Harry Kane a chance to further his own reputation in the history of the fixture but there will be others eager and able to seize the limelight, earning instant hero status with one fanbase, a lifetime of loathing with the other. Because while top-four aspirations can be furthered for both Tottenham — their title hopes seemingly over — and Arsenal at Wembley, they will always be secondary considerations once the first whistle blows. The fixture has made heroes and villains of men who have worn the red of Arsenal, the white of Spurs and, in some notable cases, both. Here are some of our favourites.
Bobby Smith, Tottenham
A bona-fide Spurs legend and not just for sharing the record (of nine, with Billy Minter) for most goals for Spurs in the north London derby. Perhaps the most important of Smith’s strikes was Spurs’ third in a 4-2 win at White Hart Lane in January 1961, which completed only their second league double over Arsenal at that stage on their way to a more historic Double, the first time an English club had won both the title and FA Cup in the 20th century. Smith (pictured above) also scored 13 times in 15 games for England but, with his wages capped at the maximum £20 for most of his career, was blighted by gambling problems. Fittingly, the minute’s applause after his death in 2010 came before a Carling Cup match against the Gunners. Less fittingly, Arsenal won 4-1.
Ray Kennedy, Arsenal
The tables were turned a decade later when Bertie Mee’s Gunners knew victory on enemy soil in 1971 would secure their first title for 18 years. Kennedy, a striker in those days, scored a header three minutes from time to pip Leeds to the league. Five days later he featured in a 2-1 victory over Liverpool, a club he would later join, in the FA Cup final as the Gunners emulated Tottenham’s Double. Arsenal coach Don Howe described Kennedy as a ‘classical centre forward’ but he won three European Cups as a midfielder at Anfield. Sadly he has had to battle Parkinson’s Disease for more than three decades.
Pat Jennings, Tottenham, Arsenal
Very few players can be equally as loved on both sides of the north London divide but the Northern Irishman manages that, even if the measly £45,000 transfer fee that took him to Highbury rankled. Jennings, who spent 13 years at Tottenham, even had a testimonial late in 1976 — Jimmy Greaves scoring in a 3-2 win over Arsenal. Spurs were relegated at the end of that season and he made the switch to Arsenal, where he played four finals in the next three years, winning the FA Cup in 1979. Quite how prematurely Spurs let him leave was underlined in 1983 when he reached 1,000 senior appearances and in 1986 when he finished his career playing at the World Cup on his 41st birthday.
Paul Gascoigne, Tottenham
The excitement Gascoigne brought after starring in the 1990 World Cup was brilliantly encapsulated in Barry Davies’ commentary when Tottenham were awarded a free-kick 35 yards out in the following season’s FA Cup semi-final with the Gunners, the first ever to be played at Wembley. ‘Is Gascoigne going to have a crack? He is, you know… Oh I say, brilliant. That is schoolboys’ own stuff.’ Arsenal, who were going for the Double, still won the league but the season’s most iconic moment belonged to their rivals, who went on to win the FA Cup. They have not won either of English football’s two biggest trophies since.
Tony Adams, Arsenal
Two years after Gazza’s free-kick, Arsenal earned FA Cup semi-final revenge back at Wembley with a towering Tony Adams header giving them a 1-0 semi-final win. For years, he had to put up with ‘ee-aw’ chants but the goal was pure Adams — getting his head on to Paul Merson’s free-kick before swiftly making his way back up the pitch with defensive responsibilities still in his thoughts. Arsenal manager George Graham said: ‘Suddenly, Tony Adams is a hero but he has been my hero for six years.’ He went on to be a hero under Arsene Wenger too and was still getting under the old enemy’s skins last year, suggesting the number of Tottenham players in the squad damaged England’s World Cup chances because they didn’t have a ‘winning mentality’.
Sol Campbell, Tottenham, Arsenal
Another centre-half who would not win any popularity contests at Tottenham, even though he made more than 250 appearances for the club. Campbell’s final Spurs game was against Arsenal in the 2001 FA Cup semi-final when injury forced him off and the Gunners won 2-1. But the bolt from the blue for their supporters came in the summer when the press turned up for what they thought was the unveiling of goalkeeper Richard Wright at Highbury only for Campbell to walk through the door. Being a key member of Arsenal’s 2001-02 Invincibles and scorer of a Champions League final goal was his justification. Tottenham fans still see him as their ultimate Judas.
Robert Pires, Arsenal
Arsene Wenger can have made few better signings, not least because of the Frenchman’s habit of deciding north London derbies. He got the winner in that 2001 semi-final just a week after hitting the target in a 2-0 league victory on the day Gunners legend David Rocastle died. Pires’ happy knack, which brought eight goals in 12 games against Spurs, also featured a goal in a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane in 2004 which clinched the title with four games to spare. Unbeaten in 12 derby matches, Pires was a constant thorn in Spurs’ side.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsenal, Tottenham
Rather less popular than Pires among Gunners fans despite sharing his passion for scoring against Tottenham. Having blamed his departure from Arsenal on being booed by some of their fans, he joined Manchester City and celebrated a goal against his former club by running the length of the pitch to celebrate wildly in front of the Gunners supporters. A scorer of eight north London derby goals for Arsenal, he later moved to White Hart Lane and struck twice against the Gunners for Spurs, making him the highest scorer in the history of the fixture.
Harry Kane, Tottenham
Kane famously has his own Arsenal links having been let go from their academy after just a year. And how the Tottenham striker clearly relishes making the Gunners pay for that oversight. ‘I got released when I was eight years old and at eight you don’t know how to react to that,’ said the England captain. ‘Since then, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. I’ve always wanted to prove people wrong.’ Kane never displays more joy than when he scores in north London derbies and, at the age of 25, has eight goals in as many games against Arsenal.