Down Memory Lane

In a few minutes the last ever match at White Hart Lane, home of Spurs for 118 years, will kick off. Although the new stadium will to some degree encompass the one we grew up with, it is nonetheless the end of an era.

Tottenham_Hotspur 19_April_2017

I first went to Spurs with my step-dad Maurice (who was a season ticket holder) when I was about ten. It was the era of Pat Jennings and Glenn Hoddle, then Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. We would sit next to a fat man with an unlit cigar and a highlight was always a cup of hot Ribena. An annoyance was Mo’s habit of leaving just before the end to avoid traffic – goals were always scored.

I got my grandfather Nat to take me once to see Tottenham V Leipzig in the EUFA Cup. He was not a regular at First Division  football, preferring the sidelines of Wingate alongside other emigres in camelhair coats with fat cigars. But this was special. Leipzig was his place of birth (and my dad’s) and he still felt an allegiance despite the impact of the Holocaust on his family. He landed in Croydon in May 1938 one step ahead of the Grim Reaper. My dad was an Arsenal supporter who followed his favourite goalie to Man U who Spurs are playing in 14 minutes in this last match there.

On the other side of my family, my other grandfather’s brother, Henry, had a beautiful death starting at the Lane. He went to a match for the afternoon with his son. Headed for home after a victory, did a bit of gardening (his profession), sat down in his armchair, and fell asleep forever. Way to go…

I did a bit of work once at Tottenham Hotspur Learning Centre beside the ground. It was in my early days at Channel 4. The digital project for Culture Online involved the telling of the story of Walter Tull, Britain’s first black outfield professional footballer and first Black army officer to lead troops into battle (during WW1).

It was around that time that I got to go on the pitch and touch the sacred grass, as well as seeing the dressing rooms. It was on a tour related to the Learning Centre work.

Quite often I have enjoyed the cafe lunch before the game as much as the match. When I go with my step-dad the banter is lively as he brings a touch of the old East End to the proceedings. On occasion I have met fans from Northern Ireland who fly over for every home match – how much does that cost a season?!

The last time I went was with Enfant Terrible No. 1, using my younger brother’s season tickets. I always love walking across Brucecastle Park from the car to the Lane. On that last time we walked back along the edge of the park past some beautiful old ecclesiastical buildings bathed in the late afternoon sunlight, a reminder that there’s more to the Lane than Arsenal toilet paper and mindless tribalism.

My other local team (in an allied sport) yesterday won the European Cup – Saracens in rugby union. I have been working in recent months at their new stadium quite a lot, including shooting a pilot live programme there. They used to be based at Southgate, not a million miles from White Hart Lane; then moved to a soccer stadium in Watford; and now reside in a revamped and enlarged stadium at Copthall, Hendon, North London. It was where my school sports days used to be held when I was around ten. The last home match I saw was against Glasgow Warriors a few weeks ago and the vibe was festive. Glasgow fans outside the stadium were sporting fezes (a Saracens tradition) alongside kilts. The one Scottish fan in our section passed round his hipflask of whiskey whilst playfully bantering with the Sarries supporters. After the match the kids ran on to the (artificial) pitch as usual and a spontaneous game of rugby started among the grown-up fans. I wish such a vibe of sportsmanship, friendliness and family on the new White Hart Lane.

 

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2 comments so far

  1. ArkAngel on

    Spurs won 2-1, leaving them unbeaten at the Lane this season. Currently with the highest goal difference in the Premiership and a laudable 80 points to date.

    Like

  2. ArkAngel on

    And that very last goal at White Hart Lane was scored by none other than Harry Kane, who put away four more at the next match (at Leicester) and is on course to win this season’s Golden Boot for highest goal scoring tally

    Like


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