Crossing the Divide

We Arsenal fans have a pretty simple relationship with those who wear the red and white. Work your socks off, and whether you’re Dennis Bergkamp or John Jensen, you’ll gain our respect. Leave on good terms and you’ll be welcomed back a hero. Join Tottenham Hotspur and you’re pretty much dead to us. Well alright, that’s not necessarily true. But we won’t like you very much.

It’s certainly not something many players dare do, but as the North London derby rapidly approaches an interesting novelty looks set to play out. For the first time in the history of the capital’s most fearsome football rivalry, two former Arsenal players could line-up next to each other in the same Spurs side. Obviously this is in part dependant on Emmanuel Adebayor’s ego not falling foul of ‘Arry’s whimsical management style and more pertinently on William Gallas recovering from a calf strain (some things never change), but it’s an interesting potential scenario all the same.

Indeed if it was it wasn’t for the fact that David Bentley’s rollercoaster career trajectory has seen him sent on loan to the Championship, there could have been a hat-trick of ex-Arsenal targets for bloodthirsty travelling Gooners to bait this Sunday. Three! Can you imagine?

In total only seven players who have played for the Gunners in a competitive match have gone on to play for Tottenham, while nine have featured first for Spurs then Arsenal. Of the sixteen who’ve pulled on jerseys at either end of the Seven Sisters Road, seven have played one or more North London derby games for both sides.

The first man to leave Arsenal for Tottenham represents arguably the most fascinating case of all. Having signed for the Gunners in 1923 the wonderfully named Jimmy Brain scored the winning goal on his debut against – you guessed it – Spurs, before making a further 231 appearances in eight years, scoring 139 goals in total. Level with Ted Drake as Arsenal’s fifth highest scorer of all time his standing in the Gunners’ pantheon of greats remains undiminished despite a three year jaunt with Spurs for whom he scored ten goals. He’s being let off the hook predominantly because the transfer fee of £2500, for a then 31-year-old, probably translates to about £15 million these days – the type of deal a certain Frenchman continues to lick his lips at.

Laurie Brown

Outside the Arsene Wenger era only two further players have made their way from Highbury to White Hart Lane. In 1964 Laurie Brown moved to Spurs for a £40,000 fee and, in another of those tasty nuances of history, was immediately pitted against his old club on his debut. He apparently nearly scored as well, something I’m sure his former supporters would not have appreciated.

While Brown’s move proved run-of-the-mill, the most unique bit of business agreed between the two clubs, was the 1968 swap deal which saw Arsenal’s David Jenkins trade places with Tottenham’s Jimmy Robertson. Although neither man set the world alight at their new clubs, Robertson retains a place in the history books as the only player in the history of the North London derby to score for both parties; a record Emmanuel Adebayor will be aiming to match on Sunday. Cue collective shuddering at what feels like an inevitability.

Jimmy Robertson

Ignoring the unusual Clive Allen situation of the early eighties, it was a full 34 years before another Arsenal man pulled on a Spurs shirt. In 2002, having made only one appearance against Manchester United in the League Cup, Rohan Ricketts quit the Gunners for life under Glenn Hoddle’s stewardship. While he didn’t feature in his first season the nippy midfielder went on to be a regular at the Lane in 2003/04, impressing enough to earn an England call-up. Unfortunately, for Ricketts his progress was stunted after the sacking of Hoddle with both Jacques Santini and Martin Jol sending him out on loan. Since 2005 he’s played all over the world for eight different clubs and last night returned to White Hart Lane with Shamrock Rovers in the Europa League, albeit as a substitute.

Journey man

So that’s seven ‘villains’ briefly chronicled, but what about the heroic nine who found the strength to unshackle themselves from the misery of life in N17? In the thirties George Hunt ripped the cockerel from his chest, in the forties it was Freddie Cox lured by the red and white, while Vic Groves kept up the once a decade trend in the fifties. We’ve already touched upon Jimmy Robertson’s switch in the late sixties, but it was in the seventies that a flurry of transfer activity saw four more men make the switch.

Terry Neill

It was all down to the influence of Terry Neill. The former Northern Ireland centre-back played for the Gunners for eleven years between 1959-1970, succeeded Bill Nicholson as Spurs manager in 1974, then redeemed himself by becoming the youngest coach in Arsenal’s history by moving back to Highbury in 1976, aged just 34. Having built close working relationships with Steve Walford, Willie Young and goalkeeper Pat Jennings while at White Hart Lane, Neill instructed then chairman Denis Hill-Wood to snap up the trio in 1977. A year later they were joined by Kevin Stead who also moved from Spurs.

Of the four men it was ‘Big Willie’ and ‘Super Pat’ who made the biggest impression betwixt the hallowed halls of Highbury. Playing together in three FA Cup finals and the Cup Winners’ Cup final against Valencia between 1978-80, they deservedly earned fan favourite status despite only picking up one medal in the 1979 ‘five minute’ FA Cup Final against Manchester United.

Despite retiring from top flight domestic action in 1985, Jennings actually returned again to Spurs for another year where he played reserve team football in a bid to maintain his fitness ahead of Northern Ireland’s 1986 World Cup campaign. He ended up playing his final game in Guadalajara, Mexico in a 3-0 defeat against Brazil at the grand old age of 41.

Big Pat

Arsenal fans had to wait until 2001 for another chance to laud it over their Spurs counterparts in the transfer market; but my word was the wait worth it. When Sol Campbell opted to run down his contract at White Hart Lane, spurned the advances of Barcelona and signed a long-term contract at Arsenal, it represented a momentous coup for Arsene Wenger. That his new defender helped the side to the Double in his first season and then formed the backbone of the ‘Invincibles’ side of 2003/04 made it all the more delicious for the North Bank faithful.

Effigies were burned, abuse was hurled, death threats issued and yet, if you ask Campbell whether he regrets his decision I’m sure he’d just point to the two league titles and three FA Cup medals picked up in five seasons and shrug his shoulders.

As the Terry Neill case demonstrated, the border crossing hasn’t been limited to player transfers. Despite the Gunners marketing department rightly lauding Herbert Chapman’s achievements at Highbury, it is worth noting that the legendary manager played two seasons between 1905-1907 as an amateur player at Spurs. Writing in his ‘Reflections on Football’ the great man even reveals he scored a brace in his final ever appearance as a Tottenham man before agreeing to take over as player-manager at Northampton Town. It wasn’t until 1925 he took over the managerial responsibilities on Avenell Road.

Joe Hulme, who played for six of his twelve years at Arsenal under Chapman’s guidance, also dallied with both clubs. Becoming Spurs boss in 1945 he spent four years in the dugout at White Hart Lane laying down the foundations on which Arthur Rowe built his 1951 Division One championship squad.

Last but not least, George Graham was notoriously handed the managerial reins at Tottenham in 1998 just three years after his sacking from the same post at Arsenal. A hugely unpopular choice amongst the Spurs die-hards he lasted only three seasons despite winning the League Cup. Apparently, having spent fifteen years dedicating himself to the Arsenal cause, winning the League on White Hart Lane territory in 1971 and ushering in a lengthy period of Gooner dominance during the late eighties and nineties proved too much for them to swallow!

Andrew Allen

*Follow Andrew on Twitter @AAllenSport and check out his fantastic website ‘When We Were Heroes’, as well as his work for Arseblog News.


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