20 years of bragging rights: Arsenal celebrates St. Totteringham's Day
When the final whistle blew Monday evening at Hull City's KC Stadium, Arsenal fans surely were elated. Their side's 3-1 away victory edged the Gunners closer to a top-three finish and automatic group-stage standing in next season's Champions League was reason enough to celebrate, but it also finalized the latest chapter in what is now an incredible, two-decade-long run of dominance over local rival Tottenham.
Yes, thanks to the three points, Arsenal has once again clinched finishing ahead of Spurs in the Premier League standings, which makes May 4, 2015, this year's St. Totteringham's Day.
The two rivals have a rich history of antagonism, which makes the creation of a fake holiday to celebrate annual dominance all that much funnier–at least to Arsenal fans. It's a truly fantastic figment of fan smack, but it's not by a longshot the biggest troll move Arsenal has pulled on its North London neighbors.
At the end of World War I, when English soccer restarted, Arsenal, which had finished sixth in the second division in the last season before the war, managed to campaign its way into winning a vote to be included in a new 22-team first division. Spurs, which had finished last in the top division when it was 20 teams prior to the war, ended up getting dropped to the second tier anyway.
That said, St. Totteringham's Day certainly has blossomed as a bona fide thing since it was apparently first coined by Arsenal fan Julian Shulman in March 2002. It was then picked up by Arsenal fansite ArseWeb.com, and then Gunners fans ran with it, with a man named Mike Pitt eventually working up a complete history of the "movable feast" dating back to Arsenal's first ever St. Totteringham's Day on April 22, 1911, when Arsenal defeated Blackburn in the campaign's penultimate match.
The following year was the first time St. Totteringham's Day fell on the final matchday of the season, when, according to Pitt's site, both Arsenal and Tottenham lost, keeping Spurs behind the Gunners in the final standings. Since then, there have been nine other occasions on which the "holiday" fell on the final day of the season. The earliest St. Totteringham's Day depends on whether you count the number of matches played (28, in 2004, when Arsenal went unbeaten with a 26-0-12 record) or the date (March 9, 2008, which was four days before the aforementioned "Invincibles" clinched finishing ahead of Spurs).
Tottenham fans, rightfully, will point out that prior to this incredible run, the overall count was only 30-28 in Arsenal's favor. Spurs supporters will also point out, perhaps correctly but somewhat bitterly, that St. Totteringham's Day only became a thing in Arsenal circles (and then the greater soccer masses) because the Gunners didn't win a damn thing for nine seasons until last year's FA Cup final comeback over Hull City.
And even as Spurs have finished behind their arch rivals for 20 straight seasons, Tottenham has been quite good for a lot of the recent stretch. Spurs will only have only finished outside the top nine once in the last 11 seasons once this campaign ends, and Tottenham has been fifth or better in the Premier League six times in that span. Spurs' improvement just has coincided with Arsene Wenger's magnificent (albeit a bit glass-ceilinged lately) run of success; this campaign all but certainly will be the 19th straight top-four finish for the Gunners.
It's not like there hasn't been recent drama, either. This season was the earliest St. Totteringham's Day since 2009, and three of the past five seasons before this one saw Arsenal celebrate on the final day of the season. Of course, the most famous last-day clinching, at least in the modern era, came in 2006, when Spurs, who were in fourth place ahead of Arsenal and only needed a win at West Ham to remain there, were undone by widespread food poisoning and, with an ailing roster, capitulated. Gunners fans celebrated, and the phrase "dodgy lasagne" also entered soccer's lexicon.
This season, Tottenham took four points from the head-to-head matchups with Arsenal, including a come-from-behind 2-1 win on two goals from Harry Kane. But no matter. Spurs sit mired in sixth place, a full 12 points behind the Gunners, who, to add insult to injury, still have an extra match in hand. After the Hull match ended, social media flooded with celebrations, including a collection of memes and an expertly crafted video called "20 Years In Our Shadow."
It may be a fake holiday, but the sentiments are very real. The red part of North London may still crave the silverware that their club has lacked in the last decade, but the annual comfort of St. Totteringham's Day remains a highlight.
For Spurs, it's yet another year of lament. Even Kane's emergence comes with a touch of collateral baggage. After all, Kane was not quite two years old the last time St. Totteringham took a year off. He wouldn't remember the last time Spurs topped Arsenal in the table. In that sense, he's certainly "one of their own."