12th January 1990
Tottenham Hotspur 0 Arsenal 0
Arsenal’s start to the season still went largely unremarked in the media. I don’t recall seeing any talk in the back pages of an unbeaten season before this point, probably because we had already lost in the League Cup. That and not being top of the table seem to disarm reporters at the time.
All that changed as the North London Derby approached. Alan Smith’s comments as reported in the Daily Express article on the right, shattered that silence. The team believed in itself and according to Smith, had no fear of losing: it just wasn’t going to happen.
Talk of an unbeaten season was now in the public domain and there was nothing anyone connected with Spurs would have liked more than to end that run at White Hart Lane. Or Highbury, maybe they preferred Highbury but ending the run was all that mattered.
The match itself turned out to be pretty unremarkable. As with the match earlier in the season at Highbury, the scores ended level but David Seaman was Arsenal’s key player this January afternoon twenty-five years ago. Arsenal manager George Graham believed he was getting his moneys worth and I think it would be hard to argue with that for the 1990-91 season or any beyond that. Seaman remains the best Arsenal goalkeeper I have seen.
Prescient words though from Guardian sports writer, David Lacey in a match report involving Tottenham: “Seaman’s tendency at QPR to concede goals from free-kicks raised some doubts about his technique”…
The match would have slipped into the annals of derby games, recalled at some point for a save or shot on a highlights package, were it not for referee, Alf Buksh. A case of mistaken identity between Winterburn and Limpar, the former getting cautioned at the latter’s expense. Not as costly as Andre Marriner’s decision at Stamford Bridge but a template nonetheless.
Two years later, Graham would find himself on the wrong end of an FA fine following comments he made about Buksh after another North London Derby,
“I can’t comment on the referee but I will definitely be writing to the FA asking them not to allow Alf Buksh to referee another of our games”
Whether the FA took note is unrecorded. Graham was certainly poorer.