It is a brave man who would try to put historical perspective on the rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, certainly from a neutral perspective. I couldn’t do it and despite being a Tottenham supporter, Pardoe made an excellent effort in this book, originally published forty years ago.
The formation of the rivalry between the two clubs is explored fully which gives an interesting historical perspective, especially looking back now when the game is entirely different. Global interest in the Premier League is no bad thing at all; it does tend to water down what was an intense local rivalry at the time. Sometimes a touch of parochialism is needed to remind us of whom we are, where we have come from, what we mean to each other.
The republishing of this book is a welcome addition to what is growing into an impressive literary Arsenal at GCR Books. Making sought after items on eBay available to the masses has made the history of Arsenal Football Club become more accessible, supporters more knowledgeable.
To the point where Pardoe’s history finishes, Arsenal had the upper hand. Having usurped Tottenham from the First Division at the end of the First World War, Arsenal was within a decade of entering their first ‘Golden Age’. The rawness to which Tottenham were exposed at this time is wonderfully captured by Pardoe. Of course, there were dark times for the Arsenal support to bear.
Tottenham were not always playing second fiddle; watching from the sidelines during the 1930s was replaced by gloating of the early part of the 1960s. The first London club to complete the League and Cup double; the first English club to win a European trophy. Small crumbs of comfort when your rivals can point to three titles in a row and three times as many as you have won. European trophies were matched by the end of the same decade and within a decade, so to was the League and Cup double.
It is a true asset of the book that Pardoe has put the passion into context without becoming overbearingly academic on the subject. Football history is all too often consumed with statistics which render whichever aspect of the game is under scrutiny, dry. This book is about passion, enmity, the joy and despair of being a football fan with successful rivals. And to his credit, Pardoe captures this without falling into the trap of obvious bias.
Whilst the author’s original work is lovingly restored, there is a modernisation, the ending of the book has been updated to include the performances of the two clubs since the original publication date. The historical gap widened at this point, any equivalent book now would surely reveal the author’s bias more distinctly.
An excellent book which is recommended to all with an interest in local rivals.