Highs and lows – The best and worst of London

The fortunes of the capital's clubs over the years

Glory years Success has come in many guises. The Thirties saw the most trophies won, but all by one club, Arsenal. Four teams, though not Arsenal, won things in the Sixties, from the League Cup (Chelsea and QPR) to the World Cup (West Ham). In the Eighties cup glory was shared even more liberally, with Wimbledon, Crystal Palace (1990), QPR, West Ham, Tottenham and Arsenal reaching Wembley. And in 1989-90, no fewer than eight London teams were in the First Division. But if you want to know the last time two London sides fought out the title between them, the answer is – never.

Grim years The late Twenties were uncertain, with only three teams (Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham) in the First Division. In 1925 none was in the top half and Arsenal were third bottom. Iffy in the late Seventies too, with Chelsea, West Ham and Spurs all doing time in the Second Division and only QPR of the smaller clubs keeping their end up. Apart from their heroic effort in finishing second, 1975-76 was the worst, with West Ham and Arsenal bobbing around the relegation zone.

Crowd pullers Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal have all topped the crowd charts, though not since 1962 (Spurs). Chelsea set all kinds of records in their early days, including being the best supported club when in the Second Division (1912 and again in 1925). Spurs matched that in 1950. Between 1907 and 1974, there were only two seasons without at least one London club in the best four supported teams in the country (and often two or three) and as late as 1971 there were five in the top 12, West Ham and Crystal Palace being the others.

Local favourites The north London giants have generally led the way, at least since 1955, the last time Chelsea were the most popular club in the country. But recently less predictable things have happened, such as West Ham’s two mid-Seventies seasons as best supported London club. Palace have fluctuated more than anyone, plummeting, for example, from sixth in the national table (29,794) in 1980, to 34th (10,381) two years later. Charlton’s legendarily large crowds (not as large as all that in truth) are only now trickling back. This will be the first year since 1958 they have averaged above 20,000.

From WSC 167 January 2001. What was happening this month