Today should have marked a historic day in football – the first ever north London derby at the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
It will now likely be a future pub quiz question given zero fans will be present in the incredible arena to witness it.
The Spurs stadium is yet to play host to Arsenal
It’s a classic fixture and even without supporters it promises to be fascinating given the circumstances of both clubs.
Even when the sides aren’t at their best, they still manage to put on a show for neutrals around the globe with matches full of skill and spite.
Goals, tackles, fury, red cards, nerve-shredding endings, comebacks, and more have been a feature across the last century, since the Gunners swapped Plumstead for Woolwich, parking their tank firmly on Spurs’ lawn in 1913.
The rivalry fully gathered pace after World War I when, in dubious circumstances, Arsenal found themselves promoted to an expanded First Division in 1919, despite finishing sixth in the Second Division, while Tottenham were relegated – even though Chelsea (who should also have been demoted) saw them retain their place in the top flight.
On August 29, 1925, Arsenal captain Charles Buchan and Tottenham Hotspur skipper Arthur Grimsdell, shake hands
The Gunners were given their place in a vote with 18, ahead of Spurs, and five other clubs, after being endorsed by League president and Liverpool chairman John McKenna, while there are also allegations chairman Sir Henry Norris may have used other means to get them into the First Division.
Either way, it infuriated Tottenham and their fans causing bad blood immediately.
Once Spurs returned to the top flight a year later they were quick with their vengeance – the first ever competitive north London derby ended up as a 2-1 win for the Lilywhites at White Hart Lane.
Meanwhile, a match in September 1922  – won 2-1 by Arsenal – was so bad tempered both clubs were censured by the Football Association.
The Sunday Evening Telegram’s report said: “After the Spurs goal came the most disgraceful scene I have witnessed on any ground at any time. Players pulled the referee, blows with fists were exchanged, and all the dignity that appertains in the referee was rudely trampled on.”
Top 10 Funny Jose Mourinho Press Conference Moments
In October, 1922, an FA committee banned Spurs’ Bert Smith for a month for the ‘filthy language’ he used towards Arsenal’s Alex Graham, while Graham was censured for retaliating.
The report added: “The Commission is satisfied that the spectators interfered with the proper conduct of the match, and they are warned that a repetition of such conduct will result in the closing of the ground, at great loss to the club and also themselves.”
So, when you see Eric Dier, shushing the Emirates faithful with his index finger, just know it has been a whole lot worse – even in the more gentlemanly early days of the sport.
But what do those who have experienced the north London derby playing and managing Arsenal have to say about it? takes a look.
Arsenal goalkeeper Frank Moss makes a save from Tottenham striker George Hunt as defender Leslie Compton in 1935
How to watch every Premier League match this weekend and which will be free to air
derby clash
Tottenham vs Arsenal: Team news plus kick-off time, live stream, TV channel
Man United news live: Koulibaly responds to links, Solskjaer on signing fresh talent
Arsenal news live: Piers talks Gunners love affair and what Ronaldo makes of Ramsey
‘You didn’t see f****** anything’ – Robertson rages at officials after Liverpool draw
Piers on why Ronaldo is above Messi and what he told Juventus superstar about Ramsey
Formation change and France ace gets a chance – How Spurs and Arsenal should line-up
Piers Morgan: How my Arsenal love affair began despite dad being a Tottenham fan
Frank Lampard says he ‘learned a lot’ from ‘poor performance’ vs Sheffield United
Raheem Sterling scores unique header to seal hat-trick as Man City thrash Brighton
One of the Premier League’s all-time greats loved a north London derby.
Arsenal legend Ian Wright hit the back of the net seven times in 13 matches against Spurs and always knew the derby was more special than any other game.
“I felt the pressure leading into games against Spurs was bigger than anything,” he admitted.
Even playing in the [FA] Cup final against Sheffield Wednesday [1993], I felt the pressure against Spurs in a normal Premier League game.
Even now, my stomach is all nervy.
“The fans are continuously telling you, ‘It’s only two weeks now, it’s only one week now, it’s only a few days and you’re constantly aware of it,” he says.
“The build-up was intense, it was nerve-racking. I liked the pressure because you knew you had to perform and the fans were so up for this game.
“I scored a few goals against Tottenham, and those are the moments I love so much.”
Tottenham star Justin Edinburgh and Ian Wright tussle for the ball in 1995
In another tale, Wright, once a regular on talkSPORT, revealed vital advice a legendary teammate once gave him.
“It all comes back to when I first joined Arsenal,” said the striker. “Me and David Rocastle were in his house until, like four in the morning, talking about how important it is not to lose this game.
“He said ‘you’ve got to score in the derby, if you score in the derby you’re an instant legend. That is it. The fans will love you forever’.”
Ian Wright tangles with Sol Campbell who later swapped Tottenham for Arsenal
David Seaman had similar feelings to Wright about the whole affair, even if he did play when the Gunners were considerably better than Tottenham.
“When you go into a north London derby there is all sorts going through your head,” he revealed. “Theres fear of losing.
“When I came I knew exactly what it meant to the fans but that brings pressure.”
Even David Seaman loved a tackle on derby day!
Legendary Gunners boss Arsene Wenger found out almost immediately about the passion of the fans in north London
The Frenchman has managed around the world but one game gave him an aural sensation more than others.
“I went to Barcelona with Monaco and there were 120,000 people there,” he said. “Yet it was almost quiet compared with our game against Spurs at Highbury.”
Arsene Wenger celebrates Arsenal winning the Premier League at White Hart Lane
And even the older generation of Arsenal players love having a dig at Tottenham’s expense, particular when reminiscing about winning the First Division at White Hart Lane, which they did twice over the years.
You might know him as a gentleman and also co-founder of the incredible Willow Foundation, but Bob Wilson, who had played in their 1971 title-winning team, could also stick the boot in.
“I don’t think there is a greater joy you can have as an Arsenal player than to win the championship on the ground of your nearest and greatest opponents Tottenham Hotspur,” he said.
“The first part of the Double was the greatest moment of my career, even ahead of the FA Cup final. There were 50,000 at White Hart Lane, with at least that many locked out, and we had to draw 0-0 or win to take the title. It was goalless until the 88th minute when Ray Kennedy scored. The last few minutes were chaotic. Alan Mullery kicked me in the head. But we held on.”
Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson makes a save against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, in 1971 as the Gunners won the title
Another man who won the title at White Hart Lane was Thierry Henry.
Arsenal got the draw they needed to claim the trophy in 2004 as a late Robbie Keane penalty made the score 2-2 in N17 but he was astounded by some of the mentality on show by his rivals that day.
“I remember [Mauricio] Taricco jumping around – and he got cramp out of it, by the way – jumping and celebrating it, like, celebrating a draw.
“First of all that shows you their standard. Celebrating a draw. I looked at him and I said, ‘are you kidding me?’ And he went ‘yeah’ jumping in front of me.
“I said ‘you do realise we needed a point to be champions at your place?’ And he was talking and talking, and I said, ‘watch me after the game’.
“At the end of the game everybody was like ‘do not celebrate’. I said ‘what! I will celebrate and you will see how much it is going to hurt them.’
“I had to celebrate. They were celebrating a draw and coming in front of me, like jumping around, like they won something.
“So I said ‘okay, we were not supposed to celebrate but now I’m going to celebrate with my fans.”
Thierry Henry and Ashley Cole celebrate winning the title at White Hart Lane
Tony Adams is another man who knew what it mean to battle in the north London derby.
The former Arsenal skipper was known for his uncompromising style and incredible leadership skill – as well as being a top centre-back.
And he taught teammate Lee Dixon an early lesson about the game.
“I remember my first north London derby and Tony Adams literally had me up against the wall by the throat and said; ‘You don’t understand. We can’t lose this game’,” admitted the right-back.
Arsenal captain Tony Adams made sure you knew what it meant to play Spurs
Meanwhile, Martin Keown – another member of Arsenal’s famous mid-90s defence – was always fond of a trip down the road to N17.
We used to know it as three point Lane,” Keown told talkSPORT. “At that time, it was about Tottenham trying to get points off of us to stop us from winning the league, but for us it was all about going there and getting three points.
It was about the ferocity and the speed of it. It was an incredible atmosphere, but ferocious.
You have to love these games, you dont go into it with any fear, you have to love it.
In 1998, Martin Keown got to grips with Spurs striker Chris Armstrong
One man who experienced both sides of the divide was Terry Neill.
He was an Arsenal captain before managing Tottenham and then the Gunners.
During his playing days with Arsenal, Spurs were the more successful, something which hurt those in N5.
“Of course we were envious,” Neill admitted. “We were jealous. They played such good football. They were successful in Europe. Everything was going for them.”
Terry Neill battles with Alex Ferguson of Glasgow Rangers in a pre-season friendly match at Highbury
Neill’s move to Spurs was in strange circumstances and it’s fair to say it took their fans a while to warm to him.
“I still to this day don’t know why the board of Tottenham Hotspur, in the mid 70s asked me to take over from Bill [Nicholson],” he said.
“It was totally understandable that the Tottenham fans thought ‘we’ve got an ex-Arsenal captain replacing the great Bill Nicholson – and they were bottom of the league.
“I got death threats, hate mail by the tonne, abusive phone calls, people queuing up in the car park before and after games to stick one on me and that was their own fans.”
Eventually, they did get onside though.
“We stayed up in the last game of the season,” he continued. So, with human nature being as it is – instant hero.
“It broke my heart to leave Tottenham but I simply could not get on with the directors and I felt much too young to die.”
Terry Neill stands outside White Hart Lane in 1975
Frank McLintock is another Gunners great and when he and the 1971 Double winners went to White Hart Lane to claim the crown, the amount of fans there stunned him.
“The Tottenham games were the special ones and there were many, many great games,” he reminisced.
“Obviously the game we played when we had to win the championship was at White Hart Lane. There was 50,000 there, maybe more, but there were at least 40-50,000 locked out. I’ve never seen so many people trying to get in a match in all my career.
“It was a fantastic match. A long hard match.
“We needed to win it to win the championship and we just managed to do that as well.”
Frank McLintock walks out at White Hart Lane for another clash between the rivals
It wasn’t always hate between players though, with George Graham’s wedding day a prime example.
“We were playing at Highbury and it was my first marriage,” he told an ITV documentary. “My best man was Terry Venables, who was playing for Tottenham in the afternoon.
“We got married in the morning. We left the reception, Terry and I, we both went to Highbury to play the game and then we went back to the reception in the evening.”
Arsenal won the match 4-0, with Graham netting the second. The perfect day – and he got married too.
Arsenal star George Graham and Spurs ace Terry Venables at Graham’s wedding prior to a north London derby