Arsenal v Spurs. A Step Back In Time.

Arsenal v Spurs. A Step Back In Time.

By Ian Jenkinson


The last Article I wrote for Untold, Four Signings and a Wedding was a few days before I was due to get married. With the madness of it all and then the honeymoon I didn’t get a chance to thank you all for your lovely comments and well wishes in the comments section. They were greatly appreciated, I showed them all to my new wife after the wedding and she was taken aback by all the positivity. So thank you all very much.

The day was absolutely perfect. It was as special as we had hoped. One of the gifts we received was just unbelievable. A friend of mine contacted Arsenal Football Club (unbeknownst to me) prior to the day to let them know that I was due to be married.

We received in the post just after the wedding a letter from the club congratulating us and hoping that we have a full and long marriage. The letter was signed by Arsene Wenger! Not a printed signature, it was hand signed in pen by Arsene himself. I was absolutely made up to have received it! What great friends I have.

The reason I am writing this article however is that I am very lucky to have gotten a ticket to the Arsenal v Spurs game this weekend which I am very excited about! I haven’t been to the Emirates in a while so I am really looking forward to the trip. The last few games I have gone to have been away games so it is great to be going home.

And so I take you back. You see, the first ever Arsenal game that I went to, all the way back in 1996 was Arsenal v Spurs. I went to that game with a friend of mine and his brother. I haven’t been to an Arsenal game with either of them since. But because these things always seem to be cyclical, here we are 18 years later and it is with the same two people that I am going to the same fixture this weekend.

Back in 1996 it was a wet and miserable afternoon. It was a Sunday 4pm kick off on the 24th November. It didn’t take long to get dark and the floodlights were put on. It was a majestic setting. We were in the North Bank and we weren’t put off by the conditions. It was my first ever time at my church. I had seen so many games on TV and yearned to experience being there. Finally here I was and no amount of rain or cold could ruin it for me.

It wasn’t just my first North London Derby however! Arsene Wenger had just become the Arsenal manager and this was his first taste of the passion of the North London Derby too. He was appointed on the 30th of September 1996 (but didn’t officially take over until the following day) so he was only in his 55th day as Arsenal manager. This Saturday when he leads the team out he will have been in charge for an unbelievable 6571 days. Who would have thought that at the time? What a fantastic achievement.

The match itself was played at a frenetic pace, the rain made the surface zippy and both teams were up for the fight. Arsenal went ahead through an Ian Wright penalty after Bergkamp had been taken down (it was Wright’s 16th goal in all competitions that season. It was only November!!). Spurs equalised early in the second half through a John Lukic own goal, it was one of those that hit the post, came back out and hit Lukic on the back and went in. Nothing you can do about that.

Arsenal pressed and pressed for a winner. I sat on the North Bank praying for it. Please let it happen I begged. Up stepped my hero Tony Adams (look him up Luke Shaw) who was high up the pitch, he latched on to a deft Bergkamp flick and buried a left foot volley past Ian Walker in the Spurs goal. The whole place went mental! I will never forget it. That goal was scored in the 88th minute and came with a huge sigh of relief but it was fully deserved.

There was still more to come though. Ian Wright down in the right hand corner skinned Clive Wilson by doing a wonderful turn/dummy and flung in a cross to the back post where Dennis Bergkamp majestically controlled with his left foot leaving Stephen Carr in his wake and buried the ball with his right foot. It was a stunning goal from a stunning player. Bergkamp famously slid on his knees giving two fist pumps. That footage of his celebration was used at the start of a lot of Sky Sports programmes for years to come.

So my first ever Arsenal game and I witnessed Ian Wright, Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp score in an exhilarating win! It doesn’t get much better than that. Extended highlights of that game can be seen here. It is worthwhile watching just for the two goals at the end. Magical stuff. One player who played very well for Spurs that night was one Sol Campbell. He was a rock and only for him Spurs would have lost by more. I wonder if the seeds of Arsene Wenger signing him were planted that night.

I still have the match day programme from that game and recently I had reason to go rooting for it as my friend who was at this match with me asked me to take part in a podcast for his blog. Here is a shameless plug for the podcast: the majority of the content is Arsenal related and you will find it entertaining! You can listen to it here, it is episode 1 on the list.

I have read through the programme for the 1996 game and there is some really interesting stuff in it. For example, and this has been touched on by Tony on here before, In the “Mail Bag” section where people send in letters a Trevor Jenkins from Enfield writes in relation to the nasty rumours that faced Wenger when he arrived at the club, he writes:

“As an admirer of Arsene Wenger I am very disappointed with the reception some of the press gave to him prior to the recent reserve team fixture with Chelsea. While it is obvious that scandalous news stories – rumour or otherwise – will sell newspapers, it seems a shame that a highly articulate and educated individual such as Mr. Wenger, who has made such a positive start, should be the target of a fictitious campaign. Let’s hope that this unpleasant episode does nothing to damage his appetite for the job in hand at Highbury”

A few things that strike me about that are

1. Isn’t it great that Wenger had the support of the fans from the off on this?

2. Even back then fans were worried about Wenger being “turned off” the Arsenal job much in the same way people today are afraid that the constant negativity from a certain section of Arsenal fans could make Wenger walk.

3. You would never see such an item in a more modern day match day programme. I was very surprised that the official programme put this in. I know it was in defence of Wenger and it was put in as a sign of support but why highlight the story at all in an official programme?

On top of the letter from Trevor Jenkins there is a full article later in the programme on the same subject written by Kevin Connolly who wrote a lot of the articles in the programme at the time (maybe he still does?). In this article he quotes Arsene as saying:

“I had been warned, but I didn’t expect this. Now everyone is sorry for what has happened. That’s strange, considering that for several days they tried to find something against me. To damage a person’s reputation and then to say sorry, that’s too easy”. 

Kevin Connolly makes a very interesting point in the article he says:

“But maybe we, the great reading public should look at ourselves before we wonder how such spectacles come to happen”.

His point being that if we, the general public weren’t people who wanted to believe something bad about everyone then the reporters wouldn’t bother writing such stories. Not that he is excusing the reporters. He finishes off by saying:

“If English people and English football fans really hated the tabloids, they wouldn’t make them some of the highest selling papers in Europe”.

I can only agree and you could say that the whole world over, not just in England.

It all sounds very familiar doesn’t it? The only difference nowadays is that the tabloids make you click on links to get the most hits by making up all sorts of rumours. Mainly transfer and gossip rumours which are only kept up because there are enough of us who are gullible enough to keep clicking. I’ve been saying for years now, the more we ignore the rubbish that is written and don’t click on the links or buy the papers then eventually they will either go away or be forced to start writing something intellectual.

Another interesting piece again put together by Kevin Connolly is “Tony and Teddy’s Plea”. It was literally a plea from Tony Adams and Teddy Sheringham the two captains on the day to the fans of both clubs to behave themselves. There had been trouble at the previous game and arrests had been made. Tony and Teddy make heartfelt pleas to their own fans while in the middle of it Holloway Police gruffly state “Misbehave and you’ll end up in court”. Again I don’t think you would find anything like this in a modern day programme. Would you? I don’t get to many games so maybe you do. I’ll read this weekend’s programme with interest!

Back to the “Mail Bag” and very interestingly there are two letters sent in about enlarging Highbury. This was 1996, 10 years before the Emirates was built. The first letter is from a John James from Surrey, he says:

“If an imaginative plan was put forward that inevitably would have to include a second tier on the Clock End. This will increase capacity by 5000/6000 and with the added revenue that it would generate, would pay for itself within a few years. Let’s think big and get a stadium to match our aspirations!”

I wonder what John James, if he is still around, thinks of our wonderful “new” home!

In the second letter sent in by a Kevin Weyman of Merton Park, he speaks about how it is a necessity to enlarge the stadium as so many fans can’t get tickets at the moment. Plus a bigger capacity would increase the atmosphere which would only benefit the team. He, like John James above has ideas about enlarging the Clock End, he says:

“I note the problems of enlarging the ground, i.e. planning permission and the ground being landlocked. The best solution that I can think of is to rebuild the Clock End into a two tier stand similar to the North Bank and perhaps incorporate some new executive boxes. This could potentially raise our capacity to around 45,000”.

Those two letters that got all the way into the match day programme for a North London Derby got me thinking. Could it be possible that at the time Arsenal were simply thinking about enlarging Highbury as best they could by making the Clock End into two tiers? Is this why the likes of these letters were being published?

Was that the height of their ambition? Nothing wrong with that at all but maybe, just maybe it was when Wenger got to the club he convinced them to think bigger. Maybe he convinced them to scrap any ideas they had of extending Highbury in the limited way that was at their disposal. Maybe Wenger saw the potential to build a brand new stadium that would send the club in the direction it deserved. I know there were many obstacles in the end that stopped Arsenal enlarging Highbury but maybe Wenger planted the seed.  It is not beyond the realms of possibility that this was the case.

The final part of the programme I will mention I found very amusing and this is definitely NOT something you would see in a programme nowadays! It is obviously something Nike had done to try to be seen as one of the fans. The tag line of this feature was


And the idea was that they would ask a fan why they missed a certain game in the past, and they’d want to have a bloody good excuse for it too!

The feature was called “Where the ‘ell were you?”

In this issue they ask about the Arsenal v Spurs game from 1993-1994. And a Barry Blackwell from the Upper East Stand was asked why he didn’t make that game. So it ran like this (it really is hard to believe!):

FAN: Barry Blackwell, Upper East Stand.

EXCUSE: Had a heart attack the day before.

VERDICT: Could have been avoided. Skip the double cheeseburgers at half time. Switch to low fat Bovril. Just Do It.

I’m not making this up, my jaw dropped when I read it! Two things stand out.

1. The fact that they published this about a poor man who had a heart attack and

2. The fact they suggested skipping buying food at half time. The marketing team at the Emirates would have a heart attack themselves if the official programme nowadays suggested not buying food at the stadium!

Anyway, I found looking back at this programme very interesting and enjoyable. It brought back so many memories of my first ever Arsenal game. I recommend you take out an old programme one day and go through it. Especially if it is from your first ever Arsenal game. I will pick up an Arsenal programme this weekend but I don’t expect to see such articles in it, maybe I will be proven wrong! I will hopefully in another 18 years read back on it and smile. Especially if it is after another resounding victory against our North London neighbours!


Footnote from Tony: The Arsenal History Society has been developing an archive of articles linked to the Anniversary File, which now stretches to over 5000 stories.  This one of course is about to be added.  There is a link to today’s stories on the home page of Untold Arsenal, and you can find all the stories from our past in day by day order on The History Site.

18 Replies to “Arsenal v Spurs. A Step Back In Time.”

  1. My recollection about Highbury expansion was that the local authority turned down planning permission for anything like the extra height at the clock end, and there were real problem with the east and west stands because they were grade 2 listed, and so couldn’t be developed.

    So Arsenal went looking – including Wembley and a ground past Cockfosters by the M25.

    It was AISA who pointed them to the area the ground is now on, and persuaded them to develop that. David Dein was very much in favour of Wembley however.

  2. And a bit more from the archive

    “Arsenal had not beaten their neighbours in over 3 years and Tottenham were unbeaten at Highbury since Sept 1991.”

  3. Wow Ian that was a really great article.
    It felt as if I was with you on that day. Thanks for sharing these great memories.

  4. Very entertaining piece. Wish I had a programme from my first Arsenal game though I’m not sure my dad bought one. It was away at Everton in 1973 and it was a 0-0 draw.

  5. Looking forward to the match.
    Come on Arsenal.

    So a little laugh:
    A group of Manchester United fans have splashed out nearly £3,000 for a plane to deliver a ‘come back’ plea to Cristiano Ronaldo.

  6. Ian,
    I took the time to watch the extended match highlights from your link. Great to watch that again.

    But interesting remark about the ref. This guy Armstrong or whatever from them lot should have been sent off twice. Once for slapping Vieira in the face=red. And then a bit later he dived in both feet off the ground, studs showing. The ref even didn’t call a foul but that also should have been a red card.
    Pathetic performance from ref Elleray.

  7. Great Article, thanks for sharing this with us all.

    September 26, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Exactly what I thought too about that Armstrong and of course the refs’ inaction – in fact the ref had a very poor game (things never change)!!

  8. Great to see those highlights. Bergkamp the master, still the greatest player I’ve ever seen in an Arsenal shirt. What a fabulous team that was. And brisk direct football, a joy to watch. Wright though missed as many chances as Giroud, so take note all you Giroud bashers.

  9. A great post if there ever was one, Ian. An absolute beauty. Thank you for that. I was educated by yout post that the desire for a bigger stadium had always been lurking in the recesses for quite a while. So the seeds of greatness has always been there. Am not surprised the direction the club is going now. Referees have a tradition of giving our club the short end of the stick. It matters not though. I still believe the future is bright, and like a certain Bob waxed lyrical on a blog that escapes me, agreeing with my post on Untold a few days ago,…”the future is bright, the future is red and white”.

  10. One of the best reads I’ve read here, thank you very much Ian. Hoping for a repeat of that day in 1996! And congratulations on your wedding Ian, and also the gesture from Arsenal with the card signed by the man himself. Wenger is a decent human being, shame on the English media for trying to portray him as anything else. Your story, together with the running man from Vietnam, shows what what humility Wenger has and what a great club Arsenal is. That’s what makes me a proud member of this famous club.

  11. Nice article Ian , thanks. Do cheer for us all on UA and get the crowd behind the team from the off .
    Up the Gunners !

  12. Cheers Ian, great to have a look back at the game,strange that watching again you remember every thing about those players as if it was yesterday.Got the feeling that the AAA would have moan their balls loose about incidents in that game.
    Armstrong should have gone,twice as Walter pointed out but then there should have been a special rule that Teddy Sherringham was sent off, just for being Teddy Sherringham.What kind of a bloke calls himself “Teddy”? Automatic red card.
    Ian Wright and Denis Bergkamp AFC heroes!! But then that whole squad was/is.Fuck Im miss Highbury!
    COYG! Aha and Amen!

  13. I didnt mean that “Im miss Highbury”, that miss Highbury.But then again, I can be Miss Highbury if anyone wants.What do you mean no?
    COYG etc

  14. Congrats x2, Ian – on your marriage & on a very good article. Posts like this are what make UA the site it is. I too have my first programme – v. Burnley.
    0-0, 19 April 1958. But had to buy it again from the stall outside Arsenal station as my mum threw all my programmes away sometime in the late ’60s!

  15. wow that Tottenhm game was 18 years ago! I was sitting up in the North Bank. Doesnt time fly when you’re having fun?

  16. Hi all,

    Thank you very much for your kind remarks.

    @ Tony, thank you for the extra insight. Good to know what was in the mind of the club at the time.

    @ Walter, yes Armstrong should not have stayed on the field. More awful refereeing even back then.

    @ Stan the Man, AL, Derek, Brickfields, great comments, thank you very much.

    @ Kenneth, finally Miss Highbury has been unmasked!! That made me lol as the kids say!


  17. A little off topic but I connect it with regard to our move from Highbury and the comments our beloved Wenger has recently made:

    “I knew always that [moving to the new stadium] would be the most sensitive period in the history of the club,” he said.
    “When we were in a position where we had to be in the Champions League just financially and you get into March/April and are like that (not in top four), the stress is terrible because you feel the future of the club is at stake and you have not a lot of margin (for error) – every point you lose can be dramatic.”

    When putting in a comparison to Sp*rs idea of moving into a new place:
    “If an owner comes in, and says ‘look I put £400m to buy the stadium’ it is easy,” added the Frenchman.
    “The way we did it is the hardest way, because we had no outside financial help and had to negotiate with the banks just to get the money at the start – and lets not forget we paid £120m just for the land.
    “In the end we built the stadium for £400m, today it would cost £600m or up to £700m.”

  18. Fantastic article, this was one of my favourite derby matches. One thing you haven’t mentioned is the circumstances surrounding Spurs’ equaliser; in the build-up to the goal, Nigel Winterburn gets injured and is lying on the ground so Arsenal try to get the game stopped. Spurs take the throw and attack and score instead of giving the ball back, yet there was no anger or shock at this; compare that to the reaction of Kanu’s ‘goal’ against Sheffield United a couple of years later…

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