The love that dare not speak its name, part the first. A secret regard for Tottenham.

By Tim Charlesworth

I recently saw a film about Charles Darwin, author of ‘Origin of Species’. This has a legitimate claim to being the most influential book of all time. One of the themes of the film, was Darwin’s moral struggle with his theory of evolution. He realised it would undermine the church, by suggesting that animals were not created by god. The church was a formidable presence in nineteenth century England and Darwin delayed publication by nearly 20 years. Rarely has the epithet: ‘publish and be damned’ seemed so appropriate. The dilemma reminded me of an article that I wrote for Untold and then didn’t have the courage to submit for publication. Inspired by Darwin, here it is!

I have managed to get myself a bit of a reputation for writing articles that are not very popular. My article suggesting that Arsenal might not be the victim of a refereeing conspiracy was rightly greeted with derision by all true Arsenal fans (objectivity is not a proper attribute for a fan after all). Later, I suspect that the ‘abuse filters’ on Untold protected me from the full reaction to my pieces in defence of Mourinho and Piers Morgan. One lovely commenter managed to ensure that every article I wrote after the Mourinho piece was accompanied by a comment rejecting all my work on the grounds that I was a Mourinho-apologist. I rather admired the determination and consistency of these comments, but sadly he (I presume) has now desisted.

In order to truly cement my status as public enemy no. 1, I have now decided to confess my dirtiest of secrets. If you are reading this, then big credit to Tony for having the courage to publish.

My awful secret is, that I rather like Tottenham Hotspur. This affliction arises from a number of sources, and if you haven’t stopped reading in disgust yet, I would like to explain myself.

The first point to note is that I have never lived in North London, so I have never had to deal with large groups of ‘baiting’ Spurs fans. Defeats in North London derbies are only mildly painful to me, and I am usually only really worried about the points lost.

My second defence is that its all to do with my childhood, and therefore I can’t be blamed for it. I grew up in the era of the post-Brady, pre-Graham Arsenal. I loved Arsenal, but we were a dour and not very successful team under the rather disappointing Terry Neill and then the lovely, late Don Howe. The brief hope attached to the Charlie Nicholas coup soon eroded in whiff of alcohol and general high living. The Spuds, meanwhile, delivered FA cups with swashbuckling teams containing Hoddle, Villa and Ardilles. Even Steve Perryman had a certain panache. They were hard not to like.

The third source of my affection is my love of the name ‘Hotspur’. My other great love in life, besides Arsenal, is history. I particularly enjoy late medieval English history, a time of chivalry, knights and valour, the wars of the Roses, plots, and dynastic intrigue.

The tale of Harry Hotspur

One of the most irresistible characters from this period is Harry Hotspur. Properly known as Si

Henry Percy KG (1364-1403), he comes from an incredible family. The Percies came to England with William the Conqueror and were awarded land in England in gratitude for their contribution to the battle of Hastings. Being a medieval nobleman was a hazardous business. Eventually every family would join the wrong side of a rebellion/civil war, or fail to produce children, so the family name would die out. Incredibly, nearly 1,000 years later, the Percies are still going. The current Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy, is the ultimate blueblood, and even still lives in a castle (Alnwick, widely used in the Harry Potter films). He also sat in the House of Lords until the abolition of hereditary peers in 1999. His eldest son George, Earl Percy (heir apparent to the Dukedom), shared a house with the ravishing Pippa Middleton (star of the 2010 Royal wedding) at university, and they remain good friends. The Duke’s daughter, Melissa, is a close friend of Princes William and Harry, and his son-in-law is the godfather of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge.

Shakespeare immortalised Harry Hotspur, in my favourite Shakespeare play, Richard II. (Hotspur also appears in Henry IV part I, but this is not such a good play). Hotspur is one of the rebels who overthrows the tragic old King Richard II and places Henry IV on the throne.

The real Hotspur was a true hero of the battlefield, in an age of knightly legend. He was the eldest son of the Earl of Northumberland, but never became Earl, as he predeceased his father. Like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, David Rocastle and Princess Diana, the passing years never eroded his youthful dash. From Northumberland, Hotspur led the troops that defended England against the constant Scottish menace during the reign of Richard II. He was one of the leading nobles who sided with Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) in his rebellion against Richard II. After Henry became king, Hotspur’s various deeds established him as the leading soldier of his generation. Eventually, he fell out with the new king, the dour and dull Henry IV. Hotspur led a rebellion to overthrow Henry. The rebellion culminated at the Battle of Shrewsbury where Hotspur died a hero’s death at the age of 39.

King Henry, upon being brought Percy’s body after the battle, is said to have wept over the loss of his deadliest enemy. However, when rumours circulated that Hotspur was still alive, the king ‘had the corpse exhumed and displayed it, propped upright between two millstones, in the market place at Shrewsbury’. The king then dispatched Percy’s head to York, where it was displayed on the Micklegate Bar, whereas his four-quarters were sent to London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bristol, and Chester before they were finally delivered to his widow. She reunited the bits and had him buried in York Minster (his memorial can still be seen there). Percy was posthumously declared a traitor, and his lands were forfeited to the Crown. But the Percies survived, and the title and lands were restored to Hotspur’s son, by the next king, Henry V (of Agincourt fame)

By the late nineteenth century, the Percy family owned land all over England, including some marshes north of London, known as Tottenham. The legend of the Hotspur still burned bright, five hundred years after his death. When some locals formed a cricket team, it was perfectly natural for it to be called Hotspur CC. The cricket team then morphed into a football club, Hotspur FC.

Today, there is even a Spurs blogger who calls himself ‘Harry Hotspur’ ( Its actually quite a good blog as well!

The representatives of an ancient and noble religion

I am not Jewish myself, but I am, for various reasons, a great admirer of Judaism (which lies at the heart of the three great monotheistic religions). Although Tottenham is traditionally identified as the ‘Jewish club’, our own Jewish followers are a very important part of our support base. In particular, the club has benefitted enormously, in recent times, from the services of two Jewish men, David Dein and Danny Fiszmann. I always see Arsenal and Tottenham as the Jewish clubs, and I can’t help admiring both clubs on this basis.

Us Gooners are fast building a reputation as the leading online supporters. The interweb is alive with Arsenal slang (Le Coq, BFG, ‘the 50th game’, the boss, etc. etc. etc.). My favourite piece of Arsenal slang is a written one. Many writers refer to Tottenham as ‘Sp*rs’. I don’t really know the origin of this habit, but it does wonderfully echo the Jewish tradition of writing Yahweh as Y*HW*H. The ancient Jewish god was a far more terrifying and vengeful deity than the one recognised by modern Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He was so terrifying that it was sacrilege to speak his name. Ancient writers wrote YHWH, but as the name was not spoken, its pronunciation is lost. It is often presumed to be Yahweh, but in recognition of the uncertainty, and out of respect, some modern Jewish writers use Y*HW*H. Of course, Yahweh, Allah and God are all the same entity, Allah being the Arabic word for God, and modern Jews having largely abandoned the alternative words used for their god (Yahweh, Jehovah, Adoni, etc.)

I suspect that the writing of ‘Sp*rs’ is not intended to convey respect to the club, or to Judaism, but I like to interpret it that way.


So in part one of my article, I have managed to almost totally avoid the subject of football! After Sunday’s game, I hope I have managed to get you thinking about something else. Please read part II of the article before sending me abuse.


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In case you missed it…

And from the anniversaries file today (more on the home page)

  • 28 January 1899: Arsenal 0 Derby 6,  FA Cup.  A reminder that Arsenal were a long way short of the standard in the first division (despite scoring six themselves on three separate occasions in the League).
  • 28 January 1931: Arsenal’s biggest win at Highbury.  Arsenal 9 Grimsby 1.  Four from David Jack and three from Jack Lambert.  The crowd was 15,751, the lowest home crowd of the season.

32 Replies to “The love that dare not speak its name, part the first. A secret regard for Tottenham.”

  1. There is a moment in the above article where it is suggested that courage might be involved in publishing this article on Untold.

    I don’t think that is right. The vision I have always had is that I wanted a forum to put forward my primarily positive view about Arsenal and Mr Wenger and I was very critical of other blogs around that not only put out negative thoughts about the current Arsenal set up, but also refused to consider my views.

    From the start I’ve always felt it would be hypocritical of me then not to accept alternative views, provided they are not just rants or simplistic statements that I am wrong and they are right.

    I don’t share the liking of Tottenham as it happens, but that is largely because as an amateur historian I’ve really disliked the way some Tottenham supporters have taken historical truth, bent it utterly and then reproduced their version so often, many have come to take it as a version of the fact. The article noted above in the footnotes “10 March 1919” tells that tale, if you are interested.

    But offering freedom of reasoned and well argued expression is not a matter of courage. It is what the Daily Mail would never do, and so on that basis it is rather easy.

  2. ” the rather disappointing Terry Neill”

    I can’t put my finger on the name of the manager that Terry replaced (Bill Nicholson – brain found before I finished )This man has proved to be the last Spuds manager to win the league.

    He was was horrified that Terry was to be their manager, not because he is ex Arsenal but because of his poor record as a manager.

    I was certain having arrived at spuds it would not belong before he horror of horrors arrived at Highbury.

    He arrived with ‘trumpets blaring and flags of happiness waving. The fireworks of excitement became a damp squib. This took longer than expected thanks to the arrival of Don as coach.

    I am sure Terry is a nice guy a loyal servant to Arsenal and there is much we should appreciate him for. However football management was not one of his strengths.

    Then of course came George and the happiness and the ‘proud to be a Gooner’ returned. But we fans know little of what is going on in the day to day working of our club so we didn’t know until it was too late that the foundation of our happiness was without substance.

    Then the world turned and the rest you know.

    We used to be Gooners. Maintenant nous sommes Gooners!!!

    Arsenal à jamais. Arsenal forever.

    10 ans de plus Veuillez Arsène. 10 more years please Arsène.

    A word to Bricksfield. If you started reading this then I am sure you knew how it would end. 🙂

  3. If there is a thing I can’t stand about a certain part of Arsenal fans, it’s anti-Semitic approach to this North London-Middlesex rivalry. They can f*** off.

  4. Yet another pseudo intellectual but vacuous piece from an author who seems to think that following the Piers Morgan line of writing something with the aim of annoying of itself makes the content interesting. In common with every article this person has written it is boring, tendentious and lacking in depth.

  5. A rather wordy article that was okay until the description of Henry IV part one as “not such a good play” also I am not sure why the need to bring religion into the piece was required as it adds nothing to why the writer has a liking for the club.

    A side note Tottenham changed their strip to all white in honour of Preston North Ends achievement of going a season undefeated.

  6. Not totally with you on this one sir but I checked out your ref bias article and thought it was excellent. Really refreshing to hear a little more objectivity in these times of Internet extreme black and white thinking. Fair play to you Tony. P.s it really highlights some limited closed minded views (see comments above)

  7. I heard somewhere that bloggers refer to Tottenham as Sp*rs to avoid spurs fans appearing on their blog (via search engines and Newsnow etc.) to prevent comments that are either abusive, insulting or not very intellectual.

  8. The only thing I like about Tottenham is that they always push us up the table.

    Honestly, I want them to come second in the league this season. Why? Because that guarantees our finishing first!

  9. Where I grew up the big rivalry was Arsenal against Chelsea. The Tottenham rivalry came when I grew older and started going to games. I don’t really hate anybody – but when other people hate you just because of the football team you support then it is very hard not to be just a tad antagonistic in return.

    But now I know where the Hotspur name originated. Still embarrassing though!

  10. Tottenham will always be our deadliest rivals but, for the same reason, that makes me very fond of them. When we played at WHL in the 60s / 70s, I used to like standing high up in their East Stand, a great view of the game.

    As an armchair fan, I have always admired the way they try to play, especially away from home. The current squad under Pochettino seems inspired.

    Having said all that, I cannot wait for St Totteringham’s Day to come around soon! COYG!

  11. I doubt if sensible folk hate Spurs when there are real evils in the world to loath and become hostile over. I’ve no problems with them even though I was brought up in a fifty/fifty community. They’ve always played bright attacking football and conducted their business honestly.
    Another Tim (on 7amkickoff) revealed the Hotspur connection a couple of years ago, and he’s an American.

  12. A rather poor article in my view, with a contradiction between the first two sentences – which set the tone for a diverse ramble.

    I cannot have any sympathy for the present Spuddies – every time they play us they kick us around the field, injure our players etc – they, like some other teams cheat on every opportunity (admittedly with the connivance of the referee).

    I would also like to see certain members of their team drug tested after a North London Derby!

  13. Football hatred for me is mainly based on behaviour and damage inflicted on our club, so Tottenham have always been way behind Utd and latterly Chelsea for me.

    That said, I’m well aware those who live locally tend to feel differently, especially those who run the gauntlet (Tim Stillman wrote a great article about it) of going to Tottenham away.

    Still, I feel the changes in me as Tottenham look dangerous at the moment and truly- eek- have a chance of doing very well this year. What’s more, they seem to have gotten dirtier in the last couple of years, so that pushes me closer to Utd/Chelsea-style hatred.

    Still, they’ve a way to go. I’ve just gotten around to reading Gary Neville’s autobiography and, once it got to game 50 stuff and his views on Arsenal then till now… sheesh, that’s hatred.

    I’ll have lots to say if there’s an ‘in defence of Neville’ piece.

  14. ‘I would also like to see certain members of their team drug tested after a North London Derby!”

    Just after a NLD?
    Are you suggesting they take drugs exclusively when they play us?
    And who are these drugged up players you want tested?

  15. Geekaybee – Interesting question about the plural of Percy – is it Percys or Percies. Most historians use ‘Percies’ and I unthinkingly followed that tradition, but I agree it is an unusual pluralisation. The question reminds me nicely of another Percy who features in a great work of art, Lord Percy Percy, the rather dim sidekick of Edmund Blackadder (and discoverer of ‘pure green’) in Blackadder I and II. In Blackadder I, Percy is Duke of Northumberland, whilst in Blackadder II he is described as ‘heir to the Duchy of Northumberland’. Actually this is a bit of a historical liberty as the real Percies were Earls of Northumberland at the time in which the Blackadders are set (and the time of Hotspur). They didn’t become Dukes until the eighteenth century.

  16. Like others I see the reference to a group people identified by culture as out of place and unwanted here.

    Under the skln we are all the same.

    I was born a human being everything else came later and is not important.

  17. Dear all. I have been delighted by the (mostly) positive response to this article. My belief in humanity is bolstered by the number of people making the point that we shouldn’t hate people just because they come from a different group to us. This point remains true when we are dealing with football supporters, just as well as with people who are different to us in nationality, colour, race, language, sexuality or religion. We should always respect our fellow human beings. We should distinguish carefully between rivalry and hatred (which can be easily confused). Ando (10:16am) reminds us that there is nothing wrong with rivalry, and it enriches our lives. We all want to beat Australia at cricket, Germany (and Spurs) at football, the USA in the Ryder Cup etc. But these rivals are also our friends. Sport is something we do with friends, and the playing of sport is an act of friendship in its own right. When we really don’t like someone, we refuse to play sport with them (e.g. Apartheid-era South Africa). I am reminded, once again, why Untold is the best site on the net!

  18. My late mother told me when I was growing up to never hate anyone unless they did harm you in a bad way in person.
    I have tried to live up to that wisdom ever since. So I don’t hate tottenham or their fans. I don’t like them, that is something else 🙂

  19. On the other hand in the article from Bob Wilson about the night we beat Anderlecht I admitted hating Anderlecht. But that was before my mother said her wise words.
    And despite me having been at Highbury in 1979 and really getting hooked up I do admit that I have felt happy about one tottenham win. In 1984 they beat…. Anderlecht in the UEFA Cup final. I didn’t hate Anderlecht anymore at that moment as my mother had spread her wisdom by then but I sure still didn’t like them. And as I had more to do with Anderlecht supporters in Belgium I was happy they had to shut up for a while. I can imagine that in North London this was seen the other way…

    And in the end maybe justice was done as it later turned out that the Anderlecht chairman had bribed the Spanish ref in the semi final against Nottingham Forrest. But maybe Notthingham Forrest should have added their name on the trophy list…????

  20. I understand folk having a grudging admiration for certain aspects of our North London rivals.

    Such as there desire to play attacking football, or there grim determination to finish bellow us no matter how great everyone tells us they are, and how rubbish everyone says we are. Now that I do admire.

    But is an Arsenal Blog really the place to be blowing smoke up there arse?

    I’ve had a snoop around a few Spurs blogs in my time, usually just to see if they have as many whingers as we do, (They do have them but not as many I would suggest) and they wont even mention our name. There hatred of us seems to run far far deeper than us of them.

    So as much as the:

    “it really highlights some limited closed minded views”

    comment has some foundation, it certainly would be way wide of the mark to suggest that the general tone of this blog and it’s posters have closed minds.

    There have been many in depth, analytical and by and large balanced articles about City, Spurs, Chelsea, Barca, in fact just about all the top sides in the PL and across Europe.

    So open minded? Definitely.

    The issue most on here have is in fact with a certain section of our own fans.

    I like discussing City, United, Spurs etc. but as I say, I fail to see why an article blowing smoke up our closest rivals arse is appropriate for an Arsenal blog, especially coming from someone with the same mind set as Piers Morgan.

    Can we expect an article on how great Andrian Durham is any time soon Tim?

  21. To be fair I have a soft spot for Tottenham.

    It’s a bog in the middle of Ireland…….!

  22. Oh dear.

    Here we go, lets redress the balance:

    It’s drama day in the local Primary school in North London.

    The kids are asked to go up onto the small stage and talk about what their Dad does for a living.

    Well it’s little Bradleys turn, he’s only 7, and he looks really nervous. However he seems to overcomes his nerves and says loudly into the microphone: ‘My dad is a dancer at a gay bar. He takes off his clothes for the other men and then dances & wriggles around a pole that goes from the floor to the ceiling. He always does this to songs by the Village People. The other men all put money into his underwear when he dances. Sometimes he goes off into a room to do a private dance or he goes into a dark room with several men and a bottle of champagne. They call this a VIP Special”.

    The lady teacher is absolutely shocked by this so she calls the local education authority to report it. Along with a psychologist, they sit down with Bradley and ask him if this is true about his dad. Bradley says: ‘No, it’s not true but there is no way I was going to tell the whole school my Dad runs the Tottenham Hotspur supporters club; that’s just embarassing.”

  23. Swales1968 – Apologies if I have offended with my view of Henry IV Part 1. Like many things, such opinions are subjective and I perhaps should have added ‘in my opinion’. Falstaff is one of my least favourite Shakespearean characters, and he rather ruins the play for me, but I appreciate that not everyone sees it that way.

    Thanks for the snippet on how the tots went white. Nice to see such a respect for invincible teams!

  24. Interesting thought.

    I wonder if you can find an article as similarly complimentary of Arsenal, written by a Spud? There’s a challenge.

    The hatred only really flows one way. Much of their ill feeling is because we have embarrassed them into irrelevance.

    Spuds are without doubt the most deluded of all fans. This delusion and ability to gloat about overblown predictions reulting in constant failure has strangely enough created a similar rivalry with West Ham. Whereas we tend to poke fun at Spurs and treat them as little more than a noisy neighbour, a bit of a nusiance, West Ham fans are developing a real dislike for them.

    Yes Spurs do seem to ‘hate’ us. But we dont hate them – we just see them for what they are; a chavvy neighbour in the small house down the road, who owns a noisy drum kit and likes everybody to know it. Luckily they have teh love of the media to promote their distorted view of football life.

    Speaking personally, I dislike Spurs for the way they try to rewrite history and for the lack of respect they afford us. After all, we rescued North London from becoming a football wasteland of broken promises. We gave a good home to their captain when he wanted a reward for his ability and presented him with the medals he was never going to win down the Lane. We even made him an Invincible – I thought they liked invincible teams (didnt Prestons success spawn that while kit). We have even given them league titles won at their own home ground. Have they shown any gratitude?

    You see, there is no ‘hate’ from our side, we acknowledge the good they have done. And who can’t enjoy the sort of comedy that lot have been delivering for all these years?

  25. Personally I have always admired the Tottenham work ethic and desire to play Football, not park the bus or chop their opponents to bits. what I don’t admire are their occasionally daft, myopic and rude supporters who seem to think Arsenal and Satan are one.
    It remains a mystery to me why they can’t seem to keep managers, why they choke so often, why they always finish in our shadow and why there is such rancour and vitriol running through their every fibre towards AFC. It is of course jealousy and frustration in equal measure but afterall we are all lovers of the Beautiful Game and one would think that would permit some small measure of respect, if not admiration for our achievements.

  26. I have never actually hated Tottenham too strong a word. My school was more them than us but that was because of their double at the time. However they were mates and family. Strangely as I moved away from London I find the antipathy to be greater but lately from their perspective it’s a kind of jealousy. We have Saint Totts but they have been behind for so long there is a whole generation that see success as finishing above us . which I find kind of sad. Football should be about rivalry and since 1971 it’s really been one way as far as league titles are concerned. Their recent form might be a good thing for North London and might reduce the number of plastic Mancs of both sides of their divide that you see parading around the capital.

  27. @ Tim – Just loved this article , along with the historical references . Next to Arsenal FC , history would probably be my favourite topic . Or maybe after porn – well you get the idea.
    Like many of the outsiders , I too don’t hate The Spuds per se , but do relish our victories over them . Not forgetting the joy of St.Totteringham’s Day .

    I have enjoyed watching them play over the years and have admired Chivers , Peters , Hoddle , Ardiles and even Gazza at times . There were times when they played the most attacking football . All that changed with the coming of Arsene Wenger .

    At the same time , I do enjoy great belly rocking mirth at their failings too ! Oh ,the numerous ‘surething’ managers , the amount of money wasted , their delusions of grandeur , their land clearing activities and the great promises of Levy .

    And Charles , if I was on the Arsenal Board , I’ll give Arsene Wenger another 20 years ! That ought to piss ‘them’ off ! Arsenal forever !

    An idea just there for another article , Tim. Arsene Wenger – the first 20 years ! And I’ll write the predictions for AW – next 20 years .
    WOO HOO , HOO !

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