Talking Tottenham takes a totally different approach this week. During my summer sojourn I undertook the obligatory pilgrimage to North London and White Hart Lane. I had promised before my trip I’d share some of my thoughts from that day. It was intended to concentrate on the current building work as the club prepares for the next 100 years.
I suppose not unsurprisingly my thoughts kept turning back the years. It had been two years since I had been here last but there was still the comfortable feeling of returning home. As it should given the hours I'd spent here.
As I scribbled a few notes that evening for what was planned as a critical analysis I found myself penning instead a cross between a love letter and an eulogy. So if you will indulge me, I'd like to share a few memories if you would care to join me as we go down to 'The Lane.'
I’ve collected together some more up to date images of the work in progress since my trip and peppered them into this weeks issue. You may have seen them but I thought it would be worth collecting them together as they would be a useful reference to chart this new venture over the next few years. They will also serve as a bridge between my thoughts and the future yet to be written. There are a number of images of "old" WHL scattered throughout my Hotspur Towers series and there is a guide to them at the end of the article.
Approaching White Hart Lane the first thing that comes to mind is the absence of the old floodlight towers that used to stretch up into the sky and act as a landmark for you to home in on. They may have passed into history some years ago but I still find myself looking for them as the ground like so many of its era used to be hidden away behind shops and houses and you came upon it almost as a surprise. With the developments over recent times the stadium now stands like an island surrounded by the open space that is being turned into our home for the next stage of the clubs life.
Its been said that when you come to White Hart Lane you can feel the history. Starting by walking around the ground the memories flooded back can it really be over 50 years since I first squeezed through these wooden turnstile doors, ran across the concourse then up the steps. To stop open mouthed at my first sight of the pitch and the towering stands. This is where the heroes I only knew my name or from television until then would appear and do battle before me. It was love at first sight.
Carrying on past the East Stand, Its 1967 and a group of schoolboys wait for those same turnstiles to open on a European night. One suggests that if Tottenham are to become one of the true giants of European football then they will need to build a much bigger stadium and that would mean moving away from The Lane as there was no room to grow. Another suggests that buying the playing fields behind the stadium and the shops at the front would be bigger enough, but possibly the pitch would need to turn east to west.
Fifty years later and, well I was nearly right we moved north not east. Why didn't anyone listen to me? OK I'm not right that often so let me enjoy it.
I reach the north end and walk up the ramp to Lilywhite House at the north end of the complex then turning towards the ground you get a feel of the scale and its easily to imagine the artists plans becoming a reality and an imposing arena growing in front of you.
Well apart from the two foxes that were hunting across the site. Paxton Road had been closed at that point but the Archway buildings were still evidence as work proceeded around them. One word came to mind, big.
Later inside the stadium while the High Road bustles a few yards away there is almost a tranquil feeling. Next time I see this it will be match day and this great cathedral of British sport will have become a white hot cauldron. The anticipation of the new season is so palpable I can almost smell it.
The pitch had been uncovered that morning for the first time and as the sun struggled to come through on an overcast morning it looked in excellent condition.
We are told that the club don't allow ashes to be scattered on the pitch and that one man's, Bill Nicholson's, are buried there. To be honest I thought his wife Darkie has also been laid to rest alongside him, We are assured that when the new pitch is ready they will be moved.
The other news is (again something that has been mentioned before) that when the new stadium is built the managers seats will be in a raised position so as to provide them with an enhanced view.
Having watched my idols from just about every part of the ground over the years my eyes come to rest on the imposing East Stand. There just below the TV gantry a line of executive boxes stand where the Shelf once was. It was here I spent many a match day watching Tottenham. We were like family.
There was the tall (at least 6'4") Irishman will flame red hair and a Dublin accent broad enough to park a car on. There were two young Asian boys who voiced their chants in (I assume Hindi).
There was a woman who brought her two sons. The youngest too small to see over the wooden barrier so he stood at the end of the line, clinging on to his mother he would dangle sideways at about sixty degrees over the stairs and passageway below when the ball was in play to watch round the corner.
Standing there looking across the pitch my mind turned back the years to my earliest trips. Pat Jennings catching a cross one handed he moves to edge of the box and and drop kicks it on to Alan Gilzean’s forehead half a pitch away who without looking charms the ball into the forward flight of Jimmy Greaves. Jimmy moving like poetry and deadly as a snake.
Or the crowd rising to tiptoe as Cliff Jones slipping on the afterburners turns defenders inside out. I can still hear the voice of barrel chested Dave Mackay booming out about the noise as he slaps his hands together driving himself and his team forward always wanting perfection and demanding victory.
In my minds eye the years roll by and there are just far too many heroes over the years since even to list without causing injustice to those excluded but they wont be forgotten.
There have been triumphs, the European nights, queuing for cup tickets on a Sunday morning in the rain and the days we feared the creditors more than the opposition. The human wave of people tumbling down the terraces in waves of joy when a goal was scored. There was relegation and promotion.
There was the days we screamed ourselves to exhaustion. A few days when we were shocked in silence as we filed out and the nights of elation that simply left us speechless but dancing.
There is one last glance over the shoulder. We have both changed over the years and this time its like saying goodbye to an old friend.
The ground will migrate slightly northwards and transform into an arena fit for champions. With naming rights to be announced a new name will emerge. For many of my generation (and I hope the ones to follow) it will always be White Hart Lane. The plans for the new ground (issued shortly afterwards) are amazing and I cant wait to see the team attacking that new South Stand packed with the faithful. I’m sure many of those readers who have been to the Lane will have similar feelings and memories as I. For those of you wherever you are who still to make that first voyage of discovery I hope your dreams are fulfilled after-all we are Tottenham from the Lane.
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In 2016/17 we had a season long celebration of White Hart Lane and this can be found @
Notes - Pictures and stories from White Hart Lane can be found at Hotspur Towers numbers 5, 16, 33, 58, 3 and 50
and in White Hot Lane.
Thanks to - Daily Mirror, Tottenham Fan Base, THFC.
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