You’ve no doubt all heard of St Patrick’s Day when the Guinness flows and the shamrock-strewn parties continue into the small hours. Or how about good old St George’s Day, celebrating the patron saint of England (and Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Ethiopia and Syria… among others) and marking that famous time when some Turkish chap who never actually visited England killed a made-up dragon? Well, forget about all that for now… here we’re focusing on St Totteringham’s Day.
What Is St Totteringham’s Day?
While patron saints sometimes get a mention around the time of international matches, the same isn’t generally true when it comes to club football. But then St Totteringham is not a “real” patron saint in the sense that it is not attached to Christianity or any other religion (other than the religion of football, of course!). So, what is it?
There’s little football fans love more than poking fun at the supporters of the nearest and bitterest rivals. And there’s certainly no love lost between Arsenal and Spurs fans. And at some point over the years, Arsenal fans invented a saint – St Totteringham – who would symbolise the Gunners’ dominance over Spurs. As such, St Totteringham’s Day marks the day when it becomes mathematically impossible for Tottenham to finish above Arsenal in the league.
The name “Totteringham” was apparently chosen to sound a bit like Tottenham but also to suggest a tottering, chaotic team of no-hopers that are always destined to trail in the wake of their far more accomplished north London rivals. And even when they do get the chance to finish above Arsenal, to blow it by being a bit, well, Spursy! Which, to be fair, has happened a lot over the years!
When Is St Totteringham’s Day?
As suggested by the explanation of what St Totteringham’s Day is, there is no set date for it – it is, to carry the analogy further, a moveable feast! Indeed, in some seasons it doesn’t happen at all (on those rare occasions when Spurs finish above the Gunners!). So, this could be the final day of the season (as in the 2009/10 campaign, among others) or much earlier (as in 2007/08 – more of which later!).
When Did Arsenal Fans First Start Celebrating St Totteringham’s Day?
There is some debate about when Gooners began celebrating St Totteringham’s Day, but there is a widely held belief that it first became “a thing” in 2002 when the idea was publicised on the (now defunct) website arseweb.com after being devised by an Arsenal fan called Julian Shulman.
Even though the concept only really became widely noted (and celebrated by Arsenal fans) from the early 2000s onwards, Arsenal fans have enjoyed looking back through the decades and working out the dates of St Totteringham’s Days. As such, the very first St Totteringham’s Day happened in the 1910/11 season when the Gunners finished in 10th position in the First Division and Spurs finished in 15th. But the date on which it became impossible for Spurs to finish above Arsenal was 22nd April, 1911.
Of course, some would suggest that is too early because at the time Arsenal were based in Plumstead near Greenwich and Woolwich. Arsenal’s rivalry only started with Spurs when the Gunners moved to their Highbury location in 1913. And because Arsenal were relegated from the First Division at the end of the 1912/13 campaign, and because of the First World War and Spurs subsequently having a season in the second tier, it wasn’t until the 1920/21 campaign that the clubs’ league rivalry could really get underway in earnest.
As such, many Arsenal fans would suggest that the first official St Totteringham’s Day occurred on 5th May, 1923 on the final day of the 1922/23 season (when Arsenal finished 11th on 42 points and Spurs were a point and a place behind them). This gives a nice symmetry as the last time it happened (at the time of writing) was in the 2022/23 season, on 21st April 2023, to be exact.
When Was the Earliest St Totteringham’s Days in a Season?
The earliest date in a season that St Totteringham’s Day has occurred was 9th March, 2008. Arsenal achieved the feat after just 29 games of the 38-game Premier League season. Arsenal might have only finished in third position in the 2007/08 campaign, but Spurs ended way back in 11th place. The Gunners managed to get to St Totteringham’s Day in fewer games (just 28) in the 2003/04 season, the campaign in which Arsenal’s Invincibles won the title without losing a single match. Spurs finished not too far above the relegation zone in 14th place!
When Was the Latest St Totteringham’s Days in a Season?
St Totterinham’s Day has occurred on the final day of the season on several occasions, including most recently in 2015/16 when Spurs were actually ahead of Arsenal going into the final day’s games. But Arsenal hammered Aston Villa 4-0 in their match, while Spurs fell to a humbling 5-1 defeat at Newcastle (and Arsenal finished a point above their rivals). Bit Spursy, eh?
But the latest date for the day occurred a couple of years before that in the 2012/13 season. After leaving it until the final day of the 2011/12 season (13th May, 2012), the Gunners did the same in 2012/13, beating Newcastle 1-0 to finish a point above Spurs… and Arsenal finished in fourth place, thus picking up the final Champions League spot at Tottenham’s expense.
What Is the Longest Run of Consecutive St Totteringham’s Days?
We have to fair to Spurs and acknowledge that St T’s Day doesn’t happen every season. But for a period in the 1990s and 2000s, it looked as though it might. From the 1996/97 season to the 2015/16 campaign, Arsenal put together a run of 21 consecutive St Totteringham’s Days. It’s no coincidence that Arsène Wenger was at the helm for Arsenal all that time – or indeed that Arsenal have finished below their rivals in four of the five seasons since Wenger retired.
But now Mikel Arteta appears to have steadied the Arsenal ship and Gunners fans are optimistic for another good run of St Totteringham’s Days in the coming years. And, the earlier in the season the Gooners can celebrate this prized day, the sweeter that success will taste!