My day at the North London Derby

When I first arrived in England, I lived for a while in North London, just off the Holloway Road in London N5. Al and Dave had already been living in the area for a couple of years. Dave and I then shared a top floor flat in Witherington Rd which was within earshot of Highbury stadium, the then home of Arsenal Football Club. On a match day we could hear the roar of the crowd through the windows.

Highbury could only fit 28,500 spectators, so going to a big game like the Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur, North London derby was only a dream. We had to be satisfied with lowly League Cup games or very early stage Champions’ League matches.

However, we often ventured to the Wig and Gown pub on Holloway Road which showed all of the matches via (probably illegal) European satellite television channels. There is a fierce rivalry between Arsenal/Chelsea and Arsenal/Manchester United… I still have fond memories of watching Arsenal winning the Premiership at Old Trafford and having most of a Wig and Gown pint tipped over my head by a fellow Gooner. However nothing tops the rivalry between The Gunners and Spurs. Even when not playing Tottenham, half of the songs that Gooners sing are about how much they are disliked.

This season, the club moved to a new, 60,000 seat stadium at Ashburton Grove, which is even closer to our old gaff than Highbury was. A fact that I didn’t appreciate until I saw it yesterday.

As he’s still an Islington resident, Dave was able to obtain a couple of season tickets that the larger ground allowed for…although a whole heap of the new capacity went to corporate folks and to Club level members i.e those willing to pay upwards of £2500 per season, per seat!

I was fortunate that Dave offered me the chance to go to the North London derby, yesterday. I had a work thing on in London on Friday, so I met him and Clare in Soho at knocking off time. A curry, a couple of drinks and a game of Trivial Pursuit later, it was time to hit the hay.

The next morning, Dave and I set off from his place and strolled through Highbury Fields to the stadium. He had a couple of Kronenbourgs and I had a Carlsberg or two along the way, to get us in the mood. From the top of our old street, Witherington Road, the Emirates Stadium (as it’s known) loomed very large and close…only about 200 or so metres in a straight line, I guess.

Dave filled me in on some of the “new” songs that have developed to venerate new players and denigrate anything to do with Spurs. I use quote marks as most football songs are reused in different forms for different players and different clubs.

For example, the now departed Robert Pires’ song has been adapted for Tomas Rosicky, apparently. Emmanuel Adebayor’s song/chant is simply his surname to the tune of the chimes of Big Ben…AD-DE-BAY-YOR, AD-DE-BA-YOR.

Scorer of the first goal, Togo’s Emmanuel Adebayor, on the charge

One song that I did know well was the now retired, Dennis Bergkamp’s, which is sung to the tune of Walking in a Winter (Bergkamp) Wonderland. He was at the game, sitting in a box behind us and I saw the Dutch Master’s wave of recognition.

As I mentioned before, probably about half of all the songs deal with comparing Tottenham to faeces, the last time Spurs won anything worthwhile and the slack morals of the Tottenham manager’s mother. The rest are generally about how much any self-respecting Gooner hates Tottenham. A staple is “Stand up it you hate Tottenham” to the tune of Go West by the Pet Shop Boys.

Dave and I of course were singing along with enthusiasm. As you can see from the Flickr photoset, we were sat in the third row which was near a corner flag right in the heart of a lot of loyal support.

I also took some videos which will give you a flavour of the atmosphere and singing, which I intend to edit together and post at a later date.

From an Arsenal supporter’s point of view, the game was a cracker. Apart from a couple of shots on goal from Spurs, Arsenal had most of the possession, touch, luck and most importantly…the only goals of the match. A goal by the previously mentioned Adebayor and two penalties by Gilberto Silva saw The Arsenal taking the derby 3 goals to nil (see match report)…clearing the Spurs’ supporter area very quickly. The only disappointment was that captain, Thierry Henry was absent due to injury.

It’s good when your team wins and even better if it’s a win over the Scum!!!

Have a nice trip back to White Hart Lane. The final score

Here’s ‘s Arsenal first goal:

And here’s a highlights reel of Thierry Henry magic:

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