Tottenham Hotspur Women finally ready to dine at Arsenal's table ahead of north London derby

Crystal Palace Ladies v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies - SSE Women's FA Cup Fourth Round

From the muddied fields of Enfield, to the bright lights of the largest club stadium in London. Tottenham Hotspur Women are preparing for one of the biggest occasions in their history when they welcome Arsenal for the first ever North London Derby in the top flight of women’s football.

There was a time when a game of this magnitude would have been unthinkable, at least for the hosts.

For so long have they languished divisions below their local rivals, a situation only rectified when they secured promotion at the end of last season.

Spurs deserve credit for seizing the opportunity and ensuring that their women’s side follow in the footsteps of the U18, U23, and Legends teams in being given the chance to walk out at the new ground which towers over the High Road in N17.

Where White Hart Lane sat nestled neatly between the tower blocks, the Tottenham Hotspur stadium can be seen unmistakably from across the other side of north London.

That is apt given their rise over the past few years, not quite reaching ‘noisy neighbour’ status but certainly forcing Arsenal to sit up and take notice.

While the three-time Women’s Super League champions were doing their best to stave off Manchester City, Tottenham were quietly building.

First, came another re-branding. The club, which initially started out as Broxbourne Ladies, re-marketed itself as ‘Tottenham Hotspur Women’, a shift away from ‘Spurs Ladies’.

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays FA Women's Super League

As they spent the summer preparing for what was expected to be a baptism of fire in the top tier – in fact, they sit in an impressive sixth – a wave of fresh faces were also brought in.

Huge personnel changes were needed to ensure Tottenham would be competitive. What’s poignant, however, is that Karen Hills and Juan Amoros remain at the helm. The duo will testify of cold nights in the parks of outer-north London, coaching an under-funded, under-resourced set-up so typical of the women’s game even five years ago.

They have also managed to keep a spine of longer-serving players, including captain Jenna Schillaci, Sophie McLean, Josie Green and Lucia Leon. 

When it comes to resources, it is inevitable that Arsenal are in a different league given their supremacy in recent memory. Spurs, naturally, have comparatively few internationals, whereas Arsenal’s biggest threat comes in the form of Dutch duo Daniëlle van de Donk and Vivianna Miedema, the Netherlands’ all-time record goalscorer.

Arsenal Women v SK Slavia Praha - UEFA Women's Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg

Yet in a field Arsenal once dominated with ease, there are now just four places between them and their Lilywhite counterparts. Little wonder then, that there are only a limited number of tickets still available for Sunday’s game.

Like so many Women’s Super League clubs, the challenge now is to translate their new-found support from the big occasions at famous stadia into regular crowds at home every other week. Around 1,000 watch them regularly at The Hive, Barnet.

A new generation of female Spurs fans will be looking to Kit Graham and Rianna Dean for inspiration. 

It will be a remarkable spectacle for all those in attendance, not least Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt, who captained the 1991 FA Cup winning side – just one of many who has dedicated so much time to the growth of the women’s team.

Thoughts will also turn to former chairman Glenn Weaver, who gave so much of his life to the club, sadly passing away in 2015. After all, it is only 13 years since the FA recognised them as a Charter Standard Club.

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So much has gone into making Sunday’s game one of the highlights of ‘Women’s Football Weekend’. On the same day, Liverpool will host Everton in the first ever women’s Merseyside derby at Anfield.

Tottenham, at least, have previous when it comes to stepping up to occasions like this, especially after opening their campaign with a 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in front of the largest crowd a Chelsea Women's fixture had ever seen. 

Yet even now, when you speak to anyone connected with Tottenham Hotspur Women, the benchmark remains that famous win over West Ham under the lights at the old White Hart Lane. It was the first time any of them had even played with a name on the backs of their shirts.

What followed was a 4-0 triumph, the chance to lift the Women’s Premier League Southern Division trophy, and one of the greatest nights in the history of Spurs’ female footballers.

Two years on and it’s time to create new memories.

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