We won 5-0 at the Lane! I make no apology for looking back at a fixture that won us nothing other than local bragging rights.
Those who were at White Hart Lane on December 23, 1978 will happily talk to you about one of the best Christmas presents the club ever gave us. For me personally it provided a huge boost at a difficult time.
A little scene setting is in order. We had not faced the neighbours competitively since Malcolm Macdonald had contributed hugely to their relegation with the only goal of an end-of-season game at Highbury some twenty months earlier. Their stay in the second division was short-lived and after bouncing back at the first attempt they had signed a pair of World Cup winners in the shape of the Argentines, Ardiles and Villa.
This article first appeared on A Cultured Left Foot in June 2013
The hosts were recovering from after a shaky start to the season and as usual the “power shift in North London” gene had been triggered. I don’t know that medical science will ever find a cure for their hopeless condition. The day itself was unremarkable, cold and grey as we spilled out of Seven Sisters and made the walk up the High Road. In truth I think we were uncertain about how the day would pan out.
In the opening minute we had our answer. Spurs' aptly named midfielder Pratt steered a back-pass from his own half into the path of Alan Sunderland and the permed striker lashed home the first of eight goals he would score in competitive fixtures against our nearest and dearest. I was out of my seat in the tumbledown stand at the back of the Park Lane end, turned over in its entirety to the Gunners in one of the first all-ticket meetings between the old rivals.
The aforementioned Pratt was the first to test former Spurs 'keeper Pat Jennings with a tame effort from the edge of the box, and Lee fired wide after skipping past another former Spur, Willie Young. We survived a minor scare when the ball brushed Liam Brady’s hand as he helped out the defence, but seven minutes before the break Sunderland, and Arsenal, had two. Liam Brady set up the chance with a raking cross-field pass and Sunderland cut inside to lash it into the top corner via Spurs stopper Kendall’s left hand.
There come moments in your life when something makes an imprint on the rest of your days. Little did I know that at around 4.20 pm on this particular day a few thousand fortunate Gooners would experience exactly that.
At half-time the players left the field to a raucous chorus of “Alan, Alan Sunderland” from the Park Lane. The chat at the break was a mixture of delight at the way things were going, and just a little nagging doubt about whether we could finish the job off. We needn’t have worried.
Sunderland almost made it three but his header bounced down and clear off the crossbar, then Kendall had to be at his best to deny David Price from a Graham Rix cross. It was one-way traffic with the masterful Brady pulling the strings in midfield. On the hour the match was all but over. Rix forced an error from Hoddle and freed Brady in the Arsenal half. Brady carried the ball to the Tottenham goal line before crossing for Frank Stapleton to power in a diving header.
“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to see the Arsenal win away-ay”. We were in full voice and making the most of what was clearly turning into a demolition job.
There come moments in your life when something makes an imprint on the rest of your days. Little did I know that at around 4.20 pm on this particular day a few thousand fortunate Gooners would experience exactly that. The mercurial Brady had already driven two efforts just over the bar when he advanced to unload the ball from Taylor and hit a curler with the outside of his magic wand into the far top corner of the net. It was a moment of spine-tingling splendour. We were not alone in our wild celebrations. Cue John Motson’s Match of the Day commentary.
“LOOK AT THAT, OHHHHH, LOOK AT THAT!
“LOOK AT THAT, OHHHHH, LOOK AT THAT!”
Look at that we most certainly did, and joined in the fun as ‘Chippy’ celebrated first with us, then turned to taunt the occupants of the Shelf. That minute remains etched in my memory, from the strike, to the celebration, to the near mass evacuation of three sides of the Lane midway through the second-half. It was a JFK moment. Where were you the day Liam scored THAT goal? Not surprisingly it won the MotD goal of the season competition.
In the final ten minutes there remained one last humiliation for the home team. Stapleton’s headed flick sent Sunderland clear to complete his hat-trick with a superbly placed left-foot finish across Kendall and into the far corner. Deliriously we unleashed all the songs we could think of. “Pride of London” and “Five nil, Five Nil” were followed by another Christmas adaptation, “Silent Spurs”. There was still time for Stapleton to all but add to Tottenham’s discomfort, but released by another inch-perfect Brady pass he struck the woodwork and the chance was gone.
Alan Sunderland ended the season with a dramatic last-minute FA Cup winner against Manchester United, but ask any Arsenal supporter of the day what the former Wolves striker would be remembered for and I suspect most would mention the goals he scored against Spurs. He loved winning at the Lane, but so clearly did Liam Brady and those of us bewitched by their performances that day.