When Arsenal first played Tottenham

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If you ask a football fan to name the first time Arsenal played Tottenham at Wembley, they might say the 1991 FA Cup semi-final. Alas, they would be incorrect. The two teams met in the inaugural Wembley International Tournament three years earlier. It was only a friendly but for Arsenal fans it proved the perfect appetiser for the 1988-89 season.

The match almost didn’t see the light of day. Indeed, the whole tournament was under threat despite event organisers announcing it to the world in June 1988. The FA threw a spanner in the works immediately, fearful that a tournament involving Arsenal, Tottenham, Bayern Munich and Milan would be a green light for hooligans to drag English football through the gutter once more.

Their concerns were understandable. Widespread violence at Euro 88 http://www.coyotesofficialauthenticshop.com/Jeremy_Roenick_Jersey_Adidas had hardly helped the chances of English clubs being invited back into European club competitions. “The emergency committee considers the English hooligans who disgraced football and the country in West Germany quite capable of attacking German and Italian supporters in a gesture of defiance,” said the FA.

Wembley chief executive David Griffiths was unimpressed by the FA’s intervention. “I’m astounded by their attitude. How can we ever test the water over the hooligan problem if they don’t give is Womens T.J. Ward Jersey a chance? Quincy Wilson Jersey How can we ever get back into Europe?” After weeks of negotiations and threats of legal action, the FA finally backed down. But there were conditions to be met. Arsenal and Tottenham would be allocated 20,000 tickets each, with another 20,000 being sold at the Wembley Box Office; there would be no tickets sold in Europe; and the tournament would be played in front of a maximum 60,000 Antoine Bethea Jersey all-seated crowd.

Attendances were surprisingly low, with only 30,486 and 27,364 people turning up on the two days. Admittedly Bayern were not the force they once were, but with the two North London clubs involved, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten in the Milan squad just a few weeks after their triumph for Holland at Euro 88 and reasonably priced tickets for two matches in a day, the organisers were disappointed not to attract bigger crowds.

Pre-season tournaments were commonplace on the continent, but the concept was a bit alien to English supporters at the time. The tournament format was also a bit odd. Arsenal played Tottenham at 1.30pm on the Saturday, with Milan v Munich following at 3.30pm. The winner of each game played the loser of the other on the Sunday and the team with the most points, or better goal difference, was awarded the £60,000 prize.

Arsenal manager George Graham was delighted at the chance to pit his side against European opposition on the Sunday. “It represents a tremendous opportunity for my young players to taste world-class opposition,” Graham said. It also allowed him a chance to integrate some players. Alan Smith (£750,000), Kevin Richardson (£225,000), Lee Dixon (£400,000), Brian Marwood (£600,000) and Steve Bould (£390,000) had all been signed in the previous 12 month and Graham was hoping to mould them and his exciting group of youngsters into title winners.

One youngster under the spotlight was 20-year-old Paul Merson. After missing out on signing Kerry Dixon and Tony Cottee, Graham turned to the gifted Merson to form a partnership with Smith. Merson had impressed on a pre-season tour of Sweden and Graham was adamant that he was up to the task. “I certainly believe we can save £2m if we have a player at the club already who can score the goals. It would have been nice to get http://www.usasoccershops.com/geoff-cameron-world-cup-jersey Cottee but now I am going to give Merson the opportunity. It’s a big step for him but he has got so much natural ability.”

Tottenham, meanwhile, were in a state of transition. Where Graham mainly searched for bargains and internal solutions, Terry Venables opened the chequebook. After signing Paul Stewart for a club record £1.7m, Venables then snapped up Paul Gascoigne for a British record of £2m. With their new training facilities at Mill Hill and increased season ticket sales there was a buzz around the club, but Venables was urging caution.

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