History of the Chelsea – Tottenham rivalry

Chelsea/Tottenham Rivalry

The Chelsea/Tottenham rivalry is one of the most intense rivalries in English football. A London derby, this fixture dates back over 100 years, to the early 1900s. The clubs have had many interesting games over the years.

The First Meeting – 1909

The first game between Chelsea and Tottenham was on December 18, 1909, at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won the game 2-1.

Relegation Battle – 1909/10

On the final day of the 1909/10 First Division season – on April 30, 1910 – Tottenham hosted Chelsea at White Hart Lane. There was no rivalry between the clubs at this time. A relegation battle involved both clubs. Tottenham won the game 2-1 to stay up, while Chelsea were relegated. Former Chelsea player Percy Humphreys scored for Tottenham, which added salt to the wounds of the Blues.

FA Cup Final – 1967

Dubbed as “The Cockney Cup Final”, two London clubs contested the FA Cup final for the first time. The Chelsea/Tottenham rivalry began with this game. Former Chelsea players, Jimmy Greaves and Terry Venables, played for Tottenham that day.

The final was played at Wembley in front of a huge 100,000 fans. This is the highest recorded attendance for a game between the clubs. Tottenham took the lead after 40 minutes through Jimmy Robertson. Frank Saul doubled their lead after 67 minutes. Bobby Tambling pulled one back for Chelsea with five minutes remaining, but it wasn’t enough to stop Tottenham winning the famous trophy. At this time, the FA Cup was as important as the league.

Tottenham lifted the FA Cup for the fifth time: Chelsea were yet to be victorious in the competition.

The Chelsea/Tottenham rivalry was born.

Relegation Battle – 1974/75

Chelsea and Tottenham found themselves in a First Division relegation battle once again in the 1974/75 season. It was the third last game of the season, with both teams fighting for survival.

At this stage, Chelsea saw themselves one point ahead of Tottenham, but faced a trip to White Hart Lane to play their rivals. An 18-year-old Ray Wilkins captained Chelsea, as they aimed to win the game and help their chances of survival.

Tottenham won the game 2-0, with Alfie Conn and Steve Perryman scoring for the home side. Ultimately, Tottenham survived as Chelsea were relegated. But Tottenham did not relegate Chelsea. The loss, was, of course, a huge blow for the Blues, but they still had two games remaining to save themselves. They didn’t manage to win either of those, with two draws not being enough to survive. Tottenham ensured survival with a 4-2 win against Leeds on the final day of the season, and stayed up by a single point.

Up To The 1990s

Up to the 1990s, Tottenham were by far the more successful of the two clubs. Including their FA Cup win in 1990/91, Tottenham lifted the trophy eight times, compared to Chelsea’s once. Tottenham had been First Division champions twice, in 1950/51 and 1960/61, while Chelsea were champions once, in 1954/55. Throughout the late 70s and 80s, Tottenham were mostly a First Division club, while Chelsea were up and down.

When they faced each other throughout this time, Tottenham generally had a better record. Chelsea did win some games, but Tottenham were on top. They were the more dominant club. But, after Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on February 10, 1990 – Gary Lineker scored the winner – things changed.

Chelsea’s Ascendancy

After that Tottenham win in 1990, Chelsea went on a long unbeaten run against their rivals, and started to close the gap. Chelsea were unbeaten against Tottenham for almost 12 years, as Tottenham didn’t manage to beat them again until a 5-1 League Cup victory at White Hart Lane in January 2002.

While Chelsea were on top from 1990, when millionaire – and lifelong Chelsea fan – Matthew Harding joined the board in 1994 and pumped £26.5m into the club, things really started looking up for them. Harding financing the building of a new North Stand at Stamford Bridge. This was the first new stand built at the ground for over 20 years. Harding tragically died in a helicopter crash in October 1996. “The Matthew Harding Stand” was the new name given to the North Stand after the accident. The stand keeps the same name to this day.

After Tottenham’s win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 1990, they went 16 years without a league win against their rivals. They got a long-overdue win at White Hart Lane on November 6, 2006: winning 2-1. Chelsea took the lead through Claude Makelele, before Michael Dawson headed Spurs back into the game. Aaron Lennon scored the winner against 10-man Chelsea, who had John Terry sent off.

League Cup Final – 2008

There were more high-profile games between the clubs that added to the Chelsea/Tottenham rivalry, with one being the League Cup final in 2008. The new Wembley Stadium hosted the game. It was the first League Cup final to be played there since the old stadium was demolished in 2000. There were 87,660 fans at Wembley.

Chelsea took the lead in the 37th minute, when Didier Drogba scored a free-kick. But Dimitar Berbatov equalised for Tottenham from the penalty spot after a Wayne Bridge handball, with just over 20 minutes to play. The game was 1-1 after 90 minutes, so it went to extra-time.

The decisive goal came just three minutes into the first half of extra-time. Jonathan Woodgate headed in for the winner. Tottenham won the League Cup, which was their first trophy for nine years, when they won the same competition in 1999. Spurs won the London bragging rights.

League Cup Final – 2015

The clubs again contested the League Cup final seven years later, in 2015. Chelsea won the game 2-0, as goals from John Terry and Diego Costa won the cup for the Blues.

This win meant that Chelsea surpassed Tottenham in all-time trophies won, as Chelsea racked them up from 2003 onwards after Roman Abramovich bought the club. It was also Jose Mourinho’s first trophy in his second stint at the club.

The Battle Of The Bridge – 2016

The Story

On May 2, 2016, Chelsea and Tottenham contested “The Battle of the Bridge”. The clubs had contrasting seasons in 2015/16. Jose Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea in December after an extremely poor run of results. Under Mourinho’s guidance, the Blues were 16th in the table and just one point above the relegation zone after 16 league games. Guus Hiddink replaced him as Chelsea attempted to climb the table, but, by May, they had absolutely nothing to play for.

Tottenham, on the other hand, were in a title race with Leicester City. Tottenham were outsiders for the title, but still had a chance. Nothing less than a win at Stamford Bridge would do, because Leicester would win the league on the night if Chelsea managed a win or a draw. By this point, Tottenham were still without a win at Stamford Bridge in any competition since 1990. The odds weren’t quite stacked against them, though, because they were having a good season, while Chelsea were not. Tottenham would have been quietly confident that they could secure their first win at Stamford Bridge in 26 years.

The Game

At half-time, Tottenham would have been even more confident of getting the win. They led 2-0 at the break, after Harry Kane and Son Heung-min scored. Both sides had chances in the first half, but Tottenham took theirs. Tensions threatened to boil over at times, with a clash towards the end of the first half. Danny Rose fouled Willian, and an argument began involving players from both sides. Mauricio Pochettino ended up on the pitch, as he tried to defuse an argument between Rose and Willian.

Mousa Dembele and Diego Costa were also arguing. Dembele gouged Costa’s eye: a certain red card if the referee had seen it. But Dembele stayed on the pitch. He retrospectively received a six-match ban for the incident.

It seemed unlikely that Chelsea would manage to mount a comeback, given how poor they were that season. But they would do whatever they could to stop Tottenham from winning the title.

Thirteen minutes into the second half, Gary Cahill scored for Chelsea. Chelsea were back in it. Eden Hazard – on as a second half substitute – was instrumental. He caused Tottenham many problems down the left.

Up to this point, Hazard was having a terrible season. He failed to deliver in most games he played. Hazard had scored just twice so far: this was the 35th game of the season. Both of his goals came in the previous game against Bournemouth. He did miss some games because of injury, but he was generally extremely poor. So, of course he turned up against Tottenham. He ended up turning on the style and scoring a brilliant equaliser; picking out the top corner with his right foot.

Hazard’s goal seven minutes from time was the final goal of the game. Tottenham couldn’t manage to score a late winner.

The Aftermath

The 2-2 draw confirmed Leicester were Premier League champions. Tottenham were, understandably, extremely upset. Things reached boiling point on and off the pitch. There were incidents on the pitch, with the Rose/Willian altercation, the Dembele eye gouge on Costa, and an incident involving Erik Lamela, when he seemed to purposely step on Cesc Fabregas’ hand. Chelsea manager Hiddink was also knocked to the floor in an incident after the game.

Referee Mark Clattenburg dished out 12 yellow cards during the game. Nine of those went to Spurs, which is a Premier League record. And there could – and should – have been a couple of reds thrown in there too.

Chelsea won the Battle of the Bridge, which was one of the most memorable games played between the sides to date. Tottenham didn’t manage to win their first league title since 1961, and didn’t manage to win at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 1990. Their wait for a win at Chelsea would have to continue. This only added to the Chelsea/Tottenham rivalry.

Tottenham Win At Stamford Bridge – 2018

Tottenham finally ended their long wait for a win at Stamford Bridge on April 1, 2018. Chelsea took the lead through Alvaro Morata, but Christian Eriksen equalised for Tottenham. A Dele Alli double gave Tottenham all three points and a long-awaited win, as the game finished 3-1.

The win moved Tottenham eight points clear of Chelsea in the race for the top four. In the end, Tottenham finished third, while Chelsea finished fifth.

Off The Pitch

As much as they have clashed on the pitch, there have been clashes off the pitch, too. Fights between fans occur regularly when these two face each other.

When Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-0 in the 1975 relegation battle, things boiled over. Fighting between fans even spilled onto the pitch after the game at White Hart Lane. There were fights in and around the ground.

At least 10 people were stabbed when Chelsea and Tottenham fans clashed on the streets of London in March 2007. Knives, baseball bats, hockey sticks and wooden clubs embedded with nails were used as weapons. Around 40 people were involved in the fight, according to reports.

There are fights between fans almost every time they face each other. Football hooliganism has been well on the decline since the 1980s, so things aren’t as bad as they once were.

There have been regular reports of Chelsea fans being antisemitic towards Tottenham, though. When they play each other, chants referring to Tottenham’s Jewish background can be heard. Chelsea fans have been heard to use the word “Yid” in a derogatory manner towards Tottenham. Tottenham fans have taken this term on board and embraced it, but that doesn’t give other people the right to use it.

Other antisemitic behaviour has also come from Chelsea fans. Hissing noises – which are supposed to represent the gas chambers used by the Nazis in concentration camps to exterminate Jews – have been heard. Chants of “Hitler’s gonna get ya” and Nazi salutes have been used. But it has to be said that it isn’t only Chelsea fans that do this, as many other clubs have been guilty of the same thing. But that still doesn’t make it right.

Still To Come

The Chelsea/Tottenham rivalry will continue on and off the pitch for years to come. There will be plenty more great games between the sides. With Tottenham now involved towards the top of the Premier League most seasons, along with Chelsea, there will be plenty of big games in future.

The Chelsea/Tottenham rivalry has become one of the biggest rivalries in English football. It’s a game many people look forward to each season.

Chelsea and Tottenham have plenty of history between them: and they still have to write plenty more.


“History of the Chelsea – Tottenham rivalry” is part of our in-depth series, with a new article being published every week.

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