“It’s your Dad’s
birthday soon” my Mum said, “If I get tickets for Spurs, do you want
to go with him?” To a lifelong Spurs fan this should have been a
fairly straightforward question, but to one who had gone to virtually
every game from the 1977 Second Division season until the Cup Final in
’87 there was some apprehension about returning to the scene of so
many memories both good and bad.
I must put on record
that I only stopped going when I decided that my chances of playing
Saturday league football was limited to only a few years and it was
always in the knowledge that one day I would return to my first love of
following the Lillywhites. My Dad on the other hand had seen it all.
From the late 50’s through the 60’s and on until the
appointment of Terry Neill, an act of desecration which still beggars
belief today and which must have signalled the end to more than a few
fanatical attendances when it was cast upon the undeserving Tottenham
Anyway the 3rd
of October arrived and with it my sense of unease.
After 12 years I couldn’t really turn up in my Le coq Spurs
shirt and by now, having a young family meant that my lucky ritual of
walking around the house in only my Spurs socks also had to go by the
The train from
Edmonton Green still started the pulse racing and the carriage was
filled with that air of expectation and hope that precedes every game.
On arriving at White Hart Lane I noticed the first difference
which was the automatic train doors which thankfully had replaced those
old manual doors which you could never open from the inside and had to
wind the window down just as the train slowed down.
Somehow I missed that chorus of slamming doors which signalled
the arrival of a big crowd. Not
seeing the four floodlight towers in the distance was a stark reminder
that the ground redevelopment was complete.
Our tickets were for
the Upper South Stand (the Park Lane End as I still know it) and walking
past the main gate I started noticing some of the old faces which I
recalled from games home and away, at home and abroad but still I felt
like a stranger. Fortunately,
my copies of MEHSTG had prepared me for the queues for tickets, the
Spurs Shop and the general disrespect given to the Spurs fans at home
games, but nothing could have prepared us for the shock of my old man,
at the age of 67 and after 45 years of watching, being stopped and
searched by the Police for the first time in his life!
Still, he was walking in a public place in possession of a pretty
offensive flat cap!
As soon as we passed
through the turnstiles I realised how long I had been away.
The new stairs, bars and souvenir stalls were all alien to me.
I wasn’t returning home, I was visiting a new ground and one
that could have been any where in the country.
Our seats had an
excellent view, right behind the goal but somehow I just didn’t know
where I was. Readers will
know what I mean if they have been to Centre Court at Wimbledon; it’s
nothing like on the telly. Don’t
get me wrong, I’m not against development at all, but having been
confined to watching the boys on TV where most of the action is set
against the background of the ‘old’ West Stand, I wasn’t ready for
such a dramatic change. I’m
very glad that I still have my photo-montage of the ‘old’ ground
made up of 50 individual shots taken from the Shelf back in 1984 (yes I
know cameras aren’t allowed in the ground).
No doubt once we’ve had some glory in the new stadium it will
develop a character of it’s own but I have to say, that at the moment
it’s very clean, very bright but lacking in character forged out of
years of excitement, tension, and emotion.
Sorry, but give me the old terraces and stands anyday, even if
they were painted white and sky-blue.
Why was that?
The pre-match warm up
is now a major event. I
remember when at 2:40 some of the players would wander out, kick a few
balls between each other and then disappear back into the warmth of the
changing rooms. If it was
too cold Steve Archibald wouldn’t bother coming out and Ian Moores
amongst others often wouldn’t come out for fear of the barracking that
he would get. So, how is it
that with all this extra warming up, we still get far more injuries that
we used to?
Jumbotron screen is a great innovation but I found that when the ball
was at the far end I was unsure whether to watch the screen or the game. So quite often I ended up staring somewhere in between, half
way up the Paxton Road terrace. I
know why they don’t show replays of contentious issues, but at the
time of writing I don’t know why Heskey’s goal was disallowed or
whether the penalty was justified (I
thought not at the time). Given the risk of provocation by showing replays I thought it was
interesting that before the game we were all shown the Wembley goal and
Sol lifting the cup, obviously a different rule applied there. Even my Dad
enjoyed the continued baiting of Savage, but I would have liked to have
seen the recording of him being substituted at Wembley with his brain
hanging off the end of his nose.
As for the game,
I’ll leave it to others to confirm whether we played well or not, but
I enjoyed the game if not the result.
I thought both teams ran out of ideas in the second half and
Leicester had whatever luck was going.
Chris Armstrong is
lacking confidence and older fans might agree that in this sort of form
he’s very similar to Mark Falco in the early 80’s.
‘Bilko’ was crucified by the fans early on when he was always
falling over or facing the wrong way or balancing on the wrong leg or on
the wrong stride. But it
did come right in the end and he was certainly instrumental in the UEFA
Cup win in 1984. Whether things come right for Chris, or whether he is
given enough chances, only time will tell.
Seeing both of Steffen’s
goals right below me was great. They
were both the sort of goals that you know are going in a second or so
before the ball crosses the line. As
a consequence I was already standing up shouting before the final touch
was made. Being out of practice this meant
I lost my voice, but that was always the mark of a good game
So, will it be
another 12 years before I return? I
don’t think so, but if anyone from the club actually reads this, my
message is simple. The stories about the inept ticket office in the media and on
the fans grapevine are a real turn-off for lapsed supporters.
It shouldn’t be like this at Tottenham, but then again maybe
that is the one consistent factor since my previous trips to the Lane
when we were regularly being shafted by Spurs Travel following the team