Talk to most Tottenham fans and they will tell you our Cup Final is fast approaching. In a couple of weekend’s time, we travel to the Lane for what they believe is our biggest game of the season.
The thing that worries me is a lot of our fans seem to agree with them. Let me contextualise that – or at least try to. Apparently Tottenham are our biggest footballing rivals, they firmly believe themselves to be a bigger club with more supporters. They have more spending power than us, they regularly steal our potential signings, sometimes from a hotel that we are paying for and of course not to forget the best one, we are their feeder club.
Their fans take great pleasure in deriding us for our “obsession” with them and they like nothing better than swatting us aside in the league like the annoying Words: Richard Johnson little fools we are. Go on any of our forums and message boards in the build up to this game and you will be presented with tirades from our faithful about how this is “The Big One” and how much they hate the Spuds.
But if you delve a little deeper under the surface of all this you start to see a clear pattern emerge. I’m going to make what I think are a few statements of fact, my opinion and if you disagree, well good on you. Firstly, there is no great rivalry between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur. There, I’ve said it. Certainly no more of a rivalry than there is between us and Chelsea or Palace and Wimbledon.
The obvious rivalry for our “friends” along the Seven Sisters Road is Arsenal. And when I was growing up that’s exactly how it was and with no malice towards the Gooners, I could easily understand why. Tottenham had free reign in the area until Woolwich Arsenal departed from their home and made the trip up to North London.
But since the Gooners moved to The Emirates they have become, well a bit more boring than they were before. I’d wager the majority of hard core Arsenal fans can’t afford to go now on a regular basis and even if they could there is a waiting list of prawn sandwich eaters in their way. I think in recent years Spurs have found it hard to find many old school Arsenal who actually give a toss about their near neighbours.
So what have they done to relieve the boredom? They have tried to create a rivalry with us. And it is in danger of working simply because we have played them more often than not regularly since the start of the Premier League.
But if you go back to digging under the surface you will see that the majority of West Ham fans who class Tottenham as our big rivals share two things in common. They are under the age of 25 and are not from East London. In all likelihood they are from Essex, where there are an unfortunate amount of Tottenham fans as well. So if you went to school with Tottenham fans, then to college and now you work with them as well, there is a fair chance you have spent a large amount of your time wanting to punch them.
And when you couple this with the façade of rivalry they have created between us, then it’s easy to see where a generation of our fans have been led astray. The tale of course takes another twist with the recent happenings based around the Olympic Stadium. We all know Tottenham wanted to knock it down, move into our borough and build their stadium in the middle of Stratford.
The Olympic Legacy decision makers thought we would be better and more natural tenants and their request was turned down. Cue much crying and appealing and spying and moaning and general toys exiting prams and we then found the whole deal collapsing around us and having to start again. And the situation seems no closer to a resolution than from well before the Olympic Games were even held. So yes I can see why some may have a genuine dislike of Tottenham the club, but it’s the attitudes of many of the fans that is the real problem.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good laugh at the Lilywhites just as much as the rest of you and the Lasagne game was a joyous moment and one to savour. But if you are over the age of 25 and/or from East London then you know who our biggest rivals are and that’s Millwall.
To say otherwise shows a total lack of understanding for the club and our history. With us and Millwall it goes far deeper than just football. It’s about location, attitudes, livelihoods, genuine hatred and a brutal history on and off the field. We just don’t have that with Tottenham, I’m sure there have been some major trouble between fans of both clubs in the past but nothing significant in terms of the actual factors that build a rivalry.
And certainly nothing any more significant than the disturbances between us and a whole host of other clubs up and down the country. But, we have played them far more often recently than we have Millwall. And due to the crowd trouble that precedes and then follows our fixtures with our South London cousins, a lot of people will not attend our rare games.
So in that sense it is also easy to see why some people may not understand the rivalry between ourselves and the caravan dwellers. Or at least not experience it first hand. But that doesn’t detract from decades of history and facts.
So why do Tottenham fans persist in this false attitude that we have somehow become fierce rivals? It’s simple really, because it’s good for them. It helps to perpetrate the myth that they themselves are a big club rather than one still dining out on Bill Nicholson and the early sixties. They need to feel important and they demand to be taken seriously as a European force of football, instead of the wannabes hanging on the coat tails of Arsenal and Chelsea.
And due to the overwhelming sense of superiority that seems to coat the whole of N17 they turn to what they see as their inferior neighbours. It’s the typical behaviour of the smug self assured bully. Find a target which you think you are superior to and begin to grind them down and ensure that they know who is in charge. Which is laughable in every way shape and form. We have far more history, far more pride and far more respect from the footballing community than they will ever manage. And in recent seasons, that is really saying something. We have a stadium, a team, a manager and chairmen of which to be proud. The simple truth is we are secure in our understanding of ourselves. Tottenham fans need us, but we do not need them.