I got a strange letter the other day. It was unsigned but postmarked London N5...
Dear Arsenal fan,
I am writing to inform you of the probable cancellation of the St Totteringham’s Day festivities this year.
It has come to our attention that a generation of Arsenal fans has come of age since the festival was last not celebrated. However, I am taking the precaution of writing to all Arsenal fans because of the possibility that older fans may also have forgotten that it is not an annual feast day but a celebration tied to a specific event that is not guaranteed to occur each year.
St Totteringham’s Day is the day on which it becomes mathematically certain that Arsenal will finish above their “North London rivals” Spurs in the League. I regret any misunderstanding that may have arisen, but the fact that this has happened for the previous 20 years does not constitute a promise that it will always happen. You will have heard it said that “St Totteringham’s Day seems to come later every year”; four times in the last ten years it came on the last day of the season. You must now prepare yourself for the strong possibility that it will not come at all this year.
Some of you – and you know who you are – have boasted that however good a season Spurs have and however badly Arsenal do, Arsenal always finish ahead of Spurs. One of you, admittedly under a certain amount of provocation from Spurs fans after Arsenal lost a North London derby, even claimed that this was a form of “footballing gravity”; an iron law of nature. You must accept responsibility for the embarrassment you are now feeling: I refer you to Clause 3, subsection 2 of the Football Supporters’ Contract (“It is incumbent on individual fans not to tempt the gods of footballing fate.”)
You may be able to claim some solace from remembering the idle boasts made to you by Spurs fans over the years: that Spurs will finish ten points ahead of Arsenal this season (2002/3); that there is no Arsenal player who would make the Spurs team (2011); that Spurs players are going to help England win the World Cup (2010); that “there has been a shift in the balance of power in North London” (every time in the last decade that Spurs beat Arsenal or nudged ahead of them momentarily in the league). However, you may not throw these back in the face of other Spurs fans in the (likely) event of Spurs finishing ahead of Arsenal. “Your bragging rights are revoked” (Clause 9). Eat your humble pie with as much grace as you can muster.
You may like to console yourself with the thought that it is a topsy-turvy world: Leicester, who started the season at 5,000-1, are top of the league; Aston Villa are stone last and demoted after 28 years in the top flight. And, I stress, you should not make any presumptions about when St Totteringham’s Day will next be held.