a moving experience ... leaving the lane
|My weekend started in tremendous
fashion. Seeing Jah Wobble live for the first time at the Corn
Exchange Hertford. The extremely talented Spurs fan and his
excellent band of players gave a display of variety and ability that
left the audience thrilled and impressed by their skills.
I know that my weekend will end very differently. Because on Sunday 15th May 2017, I will leave the current White Hart Lane Stadium for the last time. It will be a celebration of all the things that went on at the stadium over it's 118 year history, but will be a sad day for many, who have made the journey to the ground for Spurs matches over the years. A shiny new future awaits, but what has gone before will never be forgotten.
We've had some Glory, Glory Nights and some not so glorious afternoons. We have had star players and those who made fleeting appearances or worked for the team without the recognition some of their team-mates have enjoyed. The fact that so many players return to be interviewed at half-time and it means so much to them, as well as the fans, says a lot for the old stadium. Their pride and passion are matched by the supporters, who are the one constant, along with the stadium, in all this. Players and managers come and go, but the ground is the nuts and bolts, with the fans being the stage dressing and the heart and soul that bring the place alive. I was pleased to hear that the design of the new stadium is to retain a lot of the atmosphere of the Lane, as it needs to have the aspects of the old ground that fan and players talk about. Fans being close to the pitch means that there is an essential feeling of being part of the game that many new stadia seem to have ignored when being built or adapted for football. I can remember in my very early days standing behind the goal at the Park Lane end (when they used to have the looped metal tops to the walls at the front), giving Gordon Banks some terrible stick ! I can remember being so close to the players you could smell the white horse oil muscle rub on their legs.
I will miss the thrill I still get, as much as when I first experienced it, of walking up the steps from the Lower East concourse ... into the light and seeing the green of the pitch in front of me. The ground opens up and you feel at home straight away. And that's why they call them home games at your home ground. It is the familiar setting that you know every nook and cranny of. You know where to go and how to get there. You may even have a particular turnstile you use. I know I have and it is one I have used for over 40 years. Moving into the new ground, it will take a while to adjust to the new surroundings and develop those habits, but it will be exciting and talk of a new ground has been going on since the 1970s, when we were going to share a "super-stadium" with Arsenal at Alexandra Palace. Well, they have their new ground and we will have ours and never the twain shall meet ... which is the way it should be. Because "We are Tottenham. Super Tottenham. From The Lane" and always will be. The new ground might get naming rights, but it's proximity to the old stadium means it will still be White Hart Lane.
And how will we refer to the new parts of the ground when we move in. The Park Lane, The Paxton, West Stand or Shelfside. Enclosure, Cage or Lower East Terrace. The light blue and white painted gable end on the old West Stand, the gap when the West Stand wasn't there in the early 1980s while it was being re-built. The gap under the North Stand as Sheringham returned ... but in the red and white of United. Everyone has their own particular favourite part of the stadium and over the 48 years I have been going to see Spurs, I have sat in almost every part of the ground.
I was there when the roof on the North-West corner started to blow off in heavy wind when we were playing Crystal Palace. I was there for the Coventry City game that didn't take place, because the East Stand hadn't been finished. I was there the day we beat Leeds 4-2 in 1975 to stay in the First Division. I was there when Spurs played Derby County in an FA Cup Fourth Round replay in 1973. I was there for the 1972 UEFA Cup Final ... probably the biggest crowd I experienced at White Hart Lane. I was there when we hit five past Arsenal and five past West Ham and five past Chelsea and and six past Forest and seven past Doncaster Rovers and nine past Wigan Athletic. I was there when we beat Inter in the Champions League. I was there in the blizzard when we drew 1-1 with Manchester United in 2013. I was there, sitting outside the turnstiles at 12.30, for the FA Youth Cup Final in 1974, when we beat Huddersfield Town. I was lucky enough to be there the day Martin Jol was appointed and saw what the stadium and the club meant to him.
On the other hand, I was there when we lost to comebacks from Manchester United and City when they were 3-0 behind. I was there when Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch. I was there when we lost to Burnley of the Third Division in the League Cup. I was there when there was the weirdest atmosphere against Getafe, when news came through that Martin Jol had been sacked. I was there when we dropped out of the First Division. I was there when we had the League Cup Third Round second replay against Middlesbrough after two draws, the second at the Lane 0-0 - a dreadful game I was also at - and Gilzean scored in extra time to win 2-1 in a game that wasn't a lot better. I was at a game against Birmingham City in 1986 when there was a crowd of 9,359 and in the same year 7,548 for the visit of Everton in the Sports Screen Super Cup Semi-Final (another 0-0 game).
Highs and lows we have suffered as Spurs fans and this season, we have had mainly highs at White Hart Lane, so a win on Sunday would be a fitting finale to the final game.
So, is White Hart Lane just a football stadium ?
To those who enter it's hallowed portals, is is much more. A place of worship, a second home, a meeting place. For it is a place that brings people together. People whose names you might not know, but people who are there for the same cause. People you might not see from one week/month/year/even decade on end, but you see them at the Lane. Old school friends you haven't met since those days, suddenly come back into your life as you are standing in the queue for the turnstile. The shared experience of a football match is shared with the bricks and steel of the stadium. We are as much of the fabric of the Lane, as the building itself. Fellow supporters who have grown up around me as I visit the ground for football matches, now attend with their children, as I do too. The next generation, who will have their own memories of this fantastic old ground and then the new one to come. They will be able to tell their grandchildren what "the old White Hart Lane" was like and form their own memories of the new stadium.
And I hope Jah Wobble is there too. But like many famous Spurs fans who attend the matches at the Lane, he will be just another one of the family. Nobody pesters them, because they are Spurs. They are there like the rest of us. To cheer the team on and have one more experience to add to the memory banks that will be on overdrive on Sunday evening. The return of many of the players who have trod the turf over many years will add poignancy to proceedings and spark flashbacks to when they wore the lilywhite and blue on the pitch at the Lane.
I hope that the game against Manchester United leaves us remembering that our excellent band of players gave a display of variety and ability that left the audience thrilled and impressed by their skills.
It might be the last, but it will be one of the most cherished memories about Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane to add to many already there.
"Come On You Spurs" the banner read,
For many years before I came,
Whether it was the Park Lane, the
Paxton, the West stand or the Shelf,
From "The Spurs Go Marching On" to
"We've Got Alli",
The floodlights shine like every
memory of mine,
Ginola's run, Gazza's fun,
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