The North London Derby is one of the fiercest derbies in British football as Arsenal and Tottenham clash for bragging rights across London. With both teams always at the top end of English football, each game has always defined the fate of each team’s season and affected their pursuit of trophies.
There’s no love lost on the pitch either, as players always give animated performances when playing in this classic fixture. However, only a few brave souls have dared to cross the divide and play for both The Gunners’ and Spurs in the North London derby. So who are some of the most famous examples of crossing this legendary divide?
5 players who played for Arsenal and Tottenham
Throughout much of the 1960s, Jimmy Robertson was one of Tottenham’s most loyal players serving the club for six seasons. During this time, the Scottish striker regularly netted for Spurs included scoring in both the North London derby and in their 1967 FA Cup win over Chelsea.
However, Robertson left Tottenham for Arsenal in a swap deal in 1968, making him one of the first players to switch between the arch-rivals and soon becoming the first player to score for both sides in the North London Derby. Robertson’s time at Highbury only lasted two seasons though as a lack of game time saw him move to Ipswich Town in 1970.
One of the legendary figures of British football in the 1970s, Pat Jennings was a goalie that everyone wanted to have in their squad. The Northern Ireland international made his name at White Hart Lane in a 13 year spell with Spurs. It was during this time that Jennings won multiple awards for his efforts including becoming the first goalkeeper to win the PFA Footballer of the Year award in 1976.
As Spurs looked for a younger keeper, they made a fateful decision to let Jennings leave – to their arch-rivals. Upon joining Arsenal in 1977, Jennings became the club’s number one for almost 8 years – far surpassing what many expected him to achieve at Highbury. It was here that Jennings became the first player in English football to reach 1000 games in his career and feature in 32 North London derbies.
Therefore, it was only fitting that Arsenal and Tottenham called a temporary truce in 1985 to play a tribute friendly for Jennings in a special farewell match for the legendary keeper.
While some players can bring clubs together, others spurn fierce hatred for switching sides. Sol Campbell found this out first-hand in 2001.
Having risen through the ranks at Spurs, Sol Campbell was one of the most beloved figures at White Hart Lane at the turn of the century. Yet the commanding centre-back and then club captain had other plans when his contract expired in 2001. Rather than staying with Tottenham, Campbell decided to leave and join arch-rivals Arsenal instead.
This sparked a fierce outcry from Spurs’ fans who made Campbell public enemy number one. From “Judas” chants to outrageous death threats, Campbell was a target of abuse from Spurs fans whenever they clashed with The Gunners.
It would be the player who would have the last laugh though as he would win two Premier League titles with Arsenal and become a much-respected part of The Gunners from both colleagues and fans alike. Even still, Campbell’s switch remains one of the most contentious transfers in Premier League history.
There have been fewer strikers in the Premier League era who could swing so hot and cold quite like Emmanuel Adebayor. On form, the Togolese striker was at a world-class level but an off-day could alienate fans for weeks – just ask Arsenal and Tottenham.
Adebayor made his breakthrough with Arsenal using his strength and finishing prowess to regularly beat opponents. Indeed, it was a spectacular strike against Spurs in a 3-1 win in 2007 that was named Goal of the Season for the 2007/08 Premier League campaign. After falling out of favour with Manchester City in 2011, Adebayor moved to Tottenham – just three years after his last appearance for Arsenal.
The move gave Arsenal fans even more reasons to despise Adebayor after his infamous celebration where he sprinted the length of the pitch to deliberately silence Arsenal fans after scoring for Man City shortly after leaving London in 2009.
Adebayor would also score against The Gunners in 2012 where he converted a penalty in a 5-2 defeat making him the second player to score for both sides in the clash. After leaving for Crystal Palace in 2015, Adebayor had left an impact with both sides – regardless of what fans thought of his antics.
After several successful seasons with Chelsea in the early 2000s, William Gallas switched to Arsenal as The Gunners looked to rebuild their defence. For several seasons, Gallas was an integral part of their backline helping them maintain their spot in the top four and fight for title contention.
After the Frenchman was stripped of the club captaincy in 2010, the alienated defender opted to leave the club. To spite his former employers, Gallas decided to join Spurs and help their North London rivals usurp the club’s spot in the top four.
He would have almost an immediate impact with Spurs as he not only featured in the 2011 team that beat Arsenal for the first time in the league for 18 years, he actually captained the side. He maintained a continued squad member for Spurs for two more seasons before leaving London completely in 2013 and moving to play for Perth Glory in Australia.
Gallas’ story is one that encompassed everything one would expect from someone caught crossing the divide by playing for Arsenal and Tottenham.
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