I know I say this with a lot of London Derbies, but: Chelsea and Tottenham hate each other. And their recent meetings, including a 5-3 scoreline on New Year’s Day nearly two years ago and the 2-0 Chelsea win that handed the Premier League to Leicester earlier this year, only serve to underline this.
There are a few games and seasons one could point to in order to understand the history of this particular rivalry, but one that sticks out is the end of the 1974-75 First Division season. Chelsea and Tottenham were near the bottom of the Division One table and desperate to stay up. With just a few games remaining in the campaign, the two sides met at White Hart Lane each in need of a win to stay up. The intensity of the clash and the acrimony it gave rise to remain an indelible part of the history between these two London clubs.
This week we look back on that relegation battle and the start of one of English football’s most rancorous feuds.
You can’t talk about this game without talking about the crowd trouble. The clashes among rival fans spilled out onto the pitch and took what was already a tense affair and plunged it into violence. (CW at the link for violence.) The incidents among fans at that game are still talked about to this day and underpin at least some of the lingering hostility of the two sets of supporters.
Interactions among the two sets of players were also often physical, but let’s be real here, this was English football in the 1970s. Leeds United showed everyone that champions fight dirty. With both sides staring relegation, you’d expect a few elbows thrown here.
The game itself was sloppy, frantic, lacking in technical nous but more than made up for in fireworks. But in the end, it was the home side that won this back-alley fight. Two second half goals— the first, a tap-in at close range from Steve Perryman, and the second, a strike from outside the box by Alfie Conn— gave Spurs the points and the confidence they needed: Tottenham finished the season strong and managed to avoid the drop by a single point.
Chelsea meanwhile couldn’t dig themselves out of their hole and went down at the end of the season along with Luton Town and Carlisle United. Spurs and Chelsea would hardly see each other again until 1984, but the foundations for a deep and lasting antipathy were in place.
The two sides meet again on Saturday, and while it’s still the first half of the season and they’re both at the other end of the table, expect plenty of fireworks all the same. Kickoff is at 12:30pm Eastern on NBC.