Memories of a Spurs Fan

The daughter of one of North London Prides members was interviewed by the Daily Telegraph. They chose to publish a small part of it.

This was the interview in full – it deserves to be seen; (submitted to me by the interviewee , Sarah Bassett).

How long have you been going to White Hart Lane and what do you remember about your first game there?

I’ve had a season ticket since the 2003/04 season but my first game was against Leeds in 1995, which we won 2-1. I was sitting in the boisterous Park Lane lower – Spurs immersion therapy for a painfully shy 4-year-old girl. Yet my only memory of the game is of me shouting manically to Teddy Sheringham at the top of my lungs as he stood about 20 yards away and the puzzled/disturbed look on his face when he turned and saw where the caterwauling was coming from. Job done.

What’s your pre-match routine?

I live within walking distance of the ground so my pre-match routine isn’t terribly exciting. I go to games with my dad, who is a staunch advocate of arriving early to ‘soak up the atmosphere’, even for the dullest of fixtures. But now I’m frequently guilty of watching football on TV in my pyjamas with half-an-hour until kick-off and then having to walk at a ridiculous pace to the ground. Alone. Because naturally my dad left me behind.

Do you always take the same route?

I always take the same route, walking around the outside of Bruce Castle Park but strictly never through. A chihuahua (on a leash) chased me round in circles there as a child. For at least eight seconds. I’m over the understandably debilitating fear now but the route became a habit. My primary school is opposite the East Stand too, so I’ve been doing that journey for over 20 years!

Where do you sit? What do you think you’ll miss most about the old Lane?

I haven’t allowed myself to explore the sentimental intricacies of knowing I only have one more game at the stadium that I essentially grew up in, that my dad grew up in and his dad before him. I was 13 when I started going week-in, week-out. That’s half my life. The highs and (mostly) lows of watching Spurs during my teenage years inevitably contributed to the way I process such polar emotions in other parts of my life.

I sit in the Paxton Upper and it honestly feels like home, even if I have been sitting next to the gaping hole in the stadium for a while now. It was a bit odd being able to see Walthamstow from my seat, I must admit.

I’ll miss the unspoken sense of long-standing camaraderie between perfect strangers. I’ve been sitting around the same people for so many years and they’ve seen me turn into an adult(ish). There’s the very harmless but perpetually sozzled man who has been asking me how I’m enjoying university for the last eight years. He’s only recently stopped asking me how ‘the acting’ is going, which I think stemmed from me having to miss the 9-1 Wigan game (don’t get me started) for the dress rehearsal of a uni musical. Then there’s the imposing, straight-faced cluster of men in front of me wearing North Face windbreakers, who never fail to pass around a freezer bag of jelly babies at half-time. Sometimes it’s wine gums. I never could work out if there was significance between confectionary and opponent.

I don’t know these people on a personal level, I don’t even know most of their names, but will home matches still feel like home without them? People will inevitably become scattered at Wembley and again at the new stadium. That will take a long time to acclimatise to.

What’s the most obscure game you’ve seen at the Lane?

I’ve been to a few peculiar fixtures at White Hart Lane. The one that springs to mind first was in 2002 and billed as a Tottenham Tribute match to raise funds for former players of the club, featuring a Spurs XI against DC United. Bizarrely, an 18-year-old Dean Marney was playing alongside the likes of David Ginola, Jurgen Klinsmann, Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle. It was a fantastically surreal occasion played out in front of 27,000 people. But alas we lost 1-0, as we did so often back then.

Does anything worry you about the move to the new stadium? Atmosphere? Debt? Ticket prices? Feeling like home? And how optimistic are you about the move, generally?

From a selfish point of view, I’m petrified and pessimistic about the move. Yes, it’s necessary to help us progress as a club and sure, it’ll benefit the local community of which I am a part of. But it’s new and scary and feels like a huge portion of the last 13 years of my life will be wiped clean. I don’t want everything the stadium bore witness to and all that it stood for to be bulldozed into dust and left to fade into the sands of time.

From a less dramatic standpoint, I am concerned about the atmosphere but I hope the club have a strategy in place regarding keeping the more vocal sections of the current game-goers together. I hope the old and the modern merge in a way that is distinctly Spurs and I’m sure the new influx of season ticket holders will settle in seamlessly.

Sadly, I’ve made my peace with paying far too much money for far too long and accepted it as something that I just have to put up with if I want to keep following my team and be a part of Spurs’ next chapter.

The new ground will take a long time to feel like home. I suppose it’s like losing a family pet – bear with me – you can get another one and of course you will love it and it’ll become part of the family but it’ll never replace the original. And it may serve as a constant, twisted reminder of what has been lost.

But it’s exciting because venturing into the unknown brings with it a sense of exhilaration. We’ve turned so many corners on the pitch in recent years and this will hopefully feel like a natural progression toward even bigger and better things to come.

What are your favourite memories from the Lane?

22nd January 2008, Spurs 5-1 Arsenal. I’d never seen us beat them and I don’t think we had done so since 1999. I’ve never skydived but I’ve been on enough roller coasters to know that nothing prepared me for the rush of putting five past our rivals. It stands out even more because it was my dad’s birthday and I just felt so ridiculously happy for him because we didn’t foresee a pleasant day for him, or for any of the White Hart Lane faithful. It was the best present I could have ever wished for him.

Of course, it was thrilling to see a player of Gareth Bale’s quality lighting up the pitch but it’s also my memory-snippets of less glamorous but incredibly passionate players that help to flesh out my overall love for life at the Lane. People like Michael Dawson, Robbie Keane and, of course, Ledley King, who were unequivocally Spurs through and through. The tackles, the celebrations, the sincerity of their disappointment. I was never any good at remembering scores as a kid or having perfect mental replays of goals but, instead, what stayed with me in the games and seasons to come were the atmospheres, the sense of occasion and the emotions.

I spent a lot of teenagerhood sitting in the Paxton bereft of hope and having my heart broken in front of me but I think most fans will agree that there’s nothing like seeing your players really fighting and giving everything because of what it means to them and what it means to the crowd. I had never experienced real glory or cups at the Lane so it was the existential stuff that got me through.

The emotions go hand-in-hand with the stadium. They’ve seeped into the infrastructure and soaked the pitch. White Hart Lane isn’t just a stadium, it’s a time capsule of the joys and sorrows of generations.

What do you think about the design of the new stadium? And what would you like to see in it (apart from a winning team, obviously)?

My reaction upon first seeing the design was that it reminded me of the Emirates. Gutting. But I think it’s obvious now that new grounds all seem to be following similar blueprints. I can make my peace with that, so long as we retain the proximity between crowd and pitch. I know it’s supposed to be on the cards but I can’t say I’m optimistic of it being overwhelmingly similar. It’s just such an important feature – both for atmosphere and as a nod to the old ground.

There’ll be plenty of glamour and corporate comforts at the new stadium but I don’t care much for fancy amenities, padded seats or heated outdoor sections – probably because I’m so accustomed to the humble ways of White Hart Lane. Sure, I’ve often been on the brink of pneumonia and I’m pretty certain that I’ve scraped my left leg so many times on the seat in front of me that I have a dent in my shin, but I’m a firm believer in the old school. I’ve never sat in a box and I don’t particularly want to. If you’re not slightly cold, slightly uncomfortable and slightly deaf from the slurred rants of the bloke in the row behind then you’re not really at a football game, are you?

Will you still call it White Hart Lane even if the naming rights get sold to a sponsor? And what should the stands be called?

I don’t mind the idea of naming stands after iconic Spurs personalities but, at this stage, I’m more concerned over what the official ground name will be. Not that I’ll get on board with it. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find any remotely devout fan who will cease to call it White Hart Lane. I don’t care who the sponsor may be, how on-brand they are with the club or how much of a ring the name has – I will always watch my home games at White. Hart. Lane.

 

 

You can follow Sarah on twitter at @MissSBassett

 

 

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Why not register (It's free) and join in our discussions during the 2016/17 season
You can read our main forum 'The Shelfside' by clicking 'Here'