Inside Lane: Why this is the biggest north London derby for about 50 years

Tottenham blogger Alan Fisher underlines the importance of tomorrow’s clash between Spurs and Arsenal as the north London rivals go head to head in the title race at White Hart Lane.

Kyle Walker has said that Saturday’s match against Arsenal may be the biggest north London derby during his time at Tottenham. For those of us who have been around the club a little longer, it feels much more important than that.

I’ve been to every north London derby at the Lane bar one since 1968 and, for Spurs fans, there’s no question that this is the most significant in that time.

It’s not just the fact we are ahead of Arsenal in table, although that will do for starters, but also Spurs have a genuine chance of winning the league.

We’re right in the frame, we’re playing as well as anyone and, vitally, the players fear no- one. In my era there’s never been so much at stake and I’ve never known a feeling like it.

Growing up in north London, the rivalry with our neighbours was one of the first things I learned about being a Spurs fan. In the late sixties, after all those years, both teams had won exactly the same number of games. Sadly it was downhill from then on as indignity piled upon misery.

With thousands locked outside White Hart Lane on a Monday night, I saw Arsenal win the league in 1971, in the process snatching from Spurs the honour of being the only side in modern times to win the double. It still hurts. Then they did it again in 2004.

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The two-legged League Cup semi-final in 1987 went to a third game at the Lane. Arsenal won with a goal a couple of minutes from the end - the only time they had been ahead in the entire tie. Chippy Brady took Spurs apart in 1978 in a 5-0 defeat. Perhaps the worst period was a long run in the nineties and nougties when frankly we seldom came close.

Always remember the good times, though, worth waiting for. The 1991 win in the first Wembley FA Cup semi-final was history-making, with Gazza’s unforgettable free-kick.

The atmosphere in the Lane when we won 5-1 in the 2008 League Cup semi-final, and last season as Harry Kane’s looping header dropped in, was as good as anything I’ve ever experienced.

Whatever the outcome, it’s been simply wonderful to watch Tottenham this season. Attacking football in the tradition of the Spurs way, coupled with sound organisation and fearsome motivation, has taken us further than any fan could have realistically hoped back in August.

What’s more, they have brought the team and fans close together. Kyle and the rest of them get it – they understand the club’s heritage and what is important for supporters.

Contrast the jaundiced negativity of Arsenal fans jaded with ‘only’ third place and umpteen years of Champions League football with the wide-eyed amazement and joy of Spurs fans who are barely able to take in how well we are playing and grateful to be part of it. I can’t wait.

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