Research into North London derby, origins, where it stands today & ‘Vale win, Stoke lose’

The North London derby is two games a season (not including any cup games) in which Arsenal and Tottenham play against one other. The rivalry goes way back to 1887 and the first meeting between the two clubs. The notion of a local derby means that it is obviously local, only four miles separate the two clubs grounds, but the localisation of the two sets of fans are a lot closer.

Dominance, history and players have all been traded between the two clubs ever since Arsenal moved from Kent to North London and both sets of clubs have seen many changes in that time but the bitter rivalry has always remained the same. Next weekend will mark the 169th derby between these two clubs and one set of fans will be hoping to continue that winning streak over the other in what is expected to be another tasty clash.

The first match between the two ended in controversial fashion, the game in 1887 had to be abandoned due to a floodlight failure. The next match played between the two sides ended up as 1-0 to the Arsenal, the phrase ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ however dates much forward to the George Graham era when the style of football played left a lot to be desired bar the result.

After this game Arsenal moved within five miles of spurs and this began the North London derby in it’s context. In 1913 Arsenal went on to beat Spurs 5-1 and really heated up the rivalry. Throughout time results between the two were mixed but controversy was never far away. Arsenal managed to bag themselves into the first division under debatable circumstances and have since always remained in the top tier of English football, unlike spurs.

Since then, as mentioned, results, games and glory have been few and far between for both teams but the fan rivalry was always remained. Rivalry, gloating and banter between the two sets of supporters has been, especially in the working/living environment  become very common place and ultimately, for both sets, the game becomes more important for the fans than the players on the pitch.

The term ‘North London is red’ refers to a phrase in which many football supporters place their team’s colours to the domination and acclamation of a certain area. ‘North London is red’ then, refers to the view of many Arsenal fans on how they perceive and vindicate the teams stamp on the area. The phrase also works as a deterrent and  a rallying call to fellow supporters and opposition that they are ultimately the stronger team. It works as a unifying statement which strikes the heart of every supporter in the land.

For me, as an Arsenal fan, I will never truly understand the deep rooted feelings for the opposition having never grown up in the localised surroundings of North London. There are shared feelings between myself and fellow supporters but for the local people who live and breath in those spaces, in some ways, I cannot fully share these emotions. I was however asked when on the train back from an Arsenal game about how I feel about the derby and I replied that I ‘shared the hatred because I have to, not because I want to, it doesn’t fully hit me like it should’, he on the other hand, a Port Vale supporter, travels to every game, missed the odd one or two,but responded that only two fixtures mattered to him, ‘Vale win, Stoke lose’ was his reply. These results, regardless of how they are doing in the league and those around Port Vale it was simply: ‘Vale win, Stoke lose’ every time.

This short piece, will hope to hold some of these localised memories and ideologies and show what it means to say ‘North London is red’. By speaking to the people in the area I hope to understand and amplify what it means ahead of next Saturday’s fixture.


Football Rivalries, ITV, 2008

North London derby, found at:

Full history results spurs vs arsenal, found at:

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