A Lifetime at White Hart Lane

April 29, 2017

 

There is an apocryphal story that my first words were not “Mamma” or “Dada” but “Come on you Spurs.” It is also said that my father took me to my first match as a treat on my fourth birthday sometime in March 1948.   Dad was first taken to Spurs, riding on the crossbar of his older brother’s bike from their home in Bow.   Bikes used to be stored in the front room of houses in Paxton Road for a couple of old pennies.   I am guessing this would have been just after the end of the First World War.  So, with my grandchildren all now firmly established as Spurs fans and all but the youngest having been to at least one game, my family are approaching 100 years of supporting Tottenham Hotspur.  I therefore have a host of wonderful memories of times at the famous old stadium.

The first game that I can definitely remember was a 3-3 draw at home to Manchester City.  It took place on 1 September 1952 so I was eight years old.  We were 3-1 down with only minutes to go and Dad wanted to leave.  I remember begging him to stay a little longer and we were awarded a penalty which Alf Ramsey scored; then George Robb equalised right at the death justifying my faith.   My first Spurs hero incidentally was Les Bennett who played in that match, and because he wore the number 8 shirt that became, and still is my lucky number.

Three years later, I passed my 11 plus and as a reward my parents gave me a season ticket.  It was in the “Old Stand,” Block L, Row B, seat 7 and cost eight guineas.  It was I think the last year of the plastic card type tickets before season ticket books were introduced.   Somehow, I managed to hang on to that season ticket for the next 50 plus years.

What a brilliant time it was to become a season ticket holder.  One of my first matches was the 10-4 win against Everton, Bill Nicholson’s first game as manager.  As he began assembling the double winning squad I remember another great night when we beat Crewe 13-2 in an FA cup replay. (10-1 at half time!)  It has become part of football legend how the Crewe team left Euston Station from platform 13 and arrived back at Crewe on platform 2.  I had incidentally, travelled up to Crewe for the first game when we were perhaps fortunate to escape with a 2-2 draw.

Then of course came the double winning season.   I remember those breath-taking performances from Blanchflower – who we called the king, MacKay, Jones and John White, indeed the entire team, as if it were yesterday.  A particular memory is the 6th round FA cup replay against Sunderland.  I don’t think I have ever seen so many people.  We were lucky to get into the ground and I am sure many ticket holders missed out on a classic performance that saw us run out 5-0 winners.

And then there was the night of 17 April 1961, when we clinched the title against Sheffield Wednesday with goals by Bobby smith and Les Allen.  I guess if I must pick one moment as the greatest moment of all that I have witnessed at White Hart Lane, that has to be the one.

The following season saw Jimmy Greaves announce his arrival as a Spurs player with a  hat trick in his debut game against Blackpool (we won 5-2) and we saw the beginning of the glory, glory  nights under the floodlights.  Oh, the heartache of that European cup semi-final defeat against Benfica though we more than made up for that with a Cup Winners Cup and those two UEFA cup triumphs.  Tony Parks’ miracle save against Anderlecht and his reaction after it will forever live in my memory.  I loved those midweek games under the lights.  The routine was always the same.  A dash from the office;  egg and chips at the sorely missed Hotspur Cafe opposite the ground and then the match itself.  White Hart Lane will always be remembered as one of the most atmospheric grounds in the country, but those floodlit  nights, especially in Europe were somehow even more special.

Another great night I remember was in April 1975 when we had to beat the then reigning champions Leeds United to avoid relegation. The sheer joy after our 4-2 triumph matched anything I have ever seen.

This was followed by the Burkinshaw years, the FA cup triumphs of 1981 and 1982 and players like Hoddle and Waddle, Ardiles and Villa and  then David Pleat’s magnificent 1986/87 team surely one of the best ever not to win a trophy.

On a personal level, taking each of my three children to their first game was naturally a very special occasion.  The first such occasion was in August 1977. We had been relegated at the end of the previous season and on this day, we were playing Sheffield United in the old Division 2.  I took my daughter, then aged 5 ½.  She was clearly a good luck charm as we ran out winners by 4-2.

Apart from the wonderful football and all the outstanding players, and there have been so many over the years that I have been privileged to watch, I have also witnessed  numerous changes to the famous old ground itself.  The introduction of floodlights in the early 1950s – I think my first floodlit game was against Hibs: the demolition of the Old Stand and my old wonderful seat with it; The new West Stand and the continual upgrading of every bit of the ground leading us to where we are today with the fantastic new stadium so swiftly taking shape.  Incidentally, it is not just the stadium that has changed.  For years, the programmes were a single folded sheet that used to cost two old pennies.  Half time scores from other games used to be put up by hand and the local Salvation Army band used to provide the half – time entertainment.  How times have changed!

A few years ago, family circumstances meant I had to give up my season ticket.   I believe now, I am sufficiently high up the waiting list to be sure of getting a new one at the new stadium and I cannot wait.  I may be in my seventies but my love for the club has not diminished.    As it was when I first obtained my season ticket, it is once again a great time to be a Spurs fan and with my children and grandchildren joining me, the family is ready to begin a second century of supporting the fabulous Spurs.

 

 

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Bring Football into the Twenty-FIrst Century NOW

March 6, 2013

As a Spurs supporter I can view last night’s red card incident at Old Trafford with a certain degree of detachment, notwithstanding the several miscarriages of justice we have suffered at that same ground in recent years.

I have viewed the incident many times and still find it a hard one to call. On balance, because there was clearly no malicious intent by Nani, I think a yellow card would have been sufficient punishment, but equally understand why the referee decided on red.

The point I wish to make though, is that the anger of Sir Alex Ferguson and the Manchester United supporters in being targeted at the referee is being aimed in the wrong direction. It was an extremely difficult call; you have only to look at the split amongst the pundits to realise that. If they cannot agree, that is as clear an indication as you could find, that this was not an easy decision. Referees need help, and that help is available to them now if only football’s governing bodies would let them uae it. The real villain of the piece is not poor Mr. Cakir, but the stone age dinosaurs at FIFA and UEFA who sit in their ivory towers in Switzerland refusing to bring football into the twenty-first century. Yes, at least we will have goal-line technology next season, but that it is nowhere near enough.

Imagine, last night, if whilst Arbeloa was receiving treatment, the referee had been allowed to go to the fourth official and review Nani’s challenge on the TV monitor he has in front of him: he could have reviewed it from several angles, all in a matter of seconds. He might still have considered it as worthy of a red card, or he might not. Either way, it would have been a reasoned decision and not one made in an instant, based on a single split second view of the action.

If tennis, rugby and cricket can successfully employ modern technology, why can’t football, the most popular sport on the planet? The arguments used against it do not stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.

Another point. Mr. Cakir, the referee last night is an insurance salesman in his native Turkey. With the billions of pounds that is floating around in Football today, how is it possible that such an important game was under the control of a part-time official? Surely, FIFA and UEFA can find the cash to employ a panel of full-time, highly trained referees to officiate at these top-level matches. That measure, together with the use of technology would do so much to reduce the errors that are such a blight on the modern game.

The late Liverpool manager Bill Shankley famously said “football is not a matter of life and death, it is more important than that.” Given all that is at stake in the game today, those words have never been more true.

That makes it all the more important that as much as possible is done as soon as possible to eliminate these never-ending, high-profile errors by officials . If a player misses a penalty, so be it. No – one outside the club can be blamed. But let us be a hundred percent sure it was a penalty in the first place!


Spurs and the Y-word

November 10, 2012

Fact one. I am a lifelong Spurs fan. My father took me to my first game as a fourth birthday treat and I have been going ever since. I had my first season ticket in time for the glorious 1960-61 double.

Fact two. I am one of Spurs’ many Jewish fans.

A few years ago my synagogue organised a two-day trip visit to Poland. About fifty of us made the trip. We were to visit first the town of Lublin, which pre war was the major seat of Jewish learning in Europe, and then the Nazi extermination camp of Majdanek situated just on the outskirts of the city.

On the morning of our second day, before visiting the camp, we were walking through the town when we were suddenly confronted by a group of locals. We could sense instantly their hostility and then as they brushed past us became aware of them hissing the word “yids, yids, yids.” Visiting Majdanek was always going to be an emotional experience but after that encounter, it became even more so.

Fact three. No matter how you dress it up “yid” can never be anything other than a vile, abusive, hate filled word. Spurs, you have got this wrong. No matter how good the intentions of our supporters, they can not take ownership of the word; they can not change its meaning.

It is time to accept that there is no longer any place for the Y-word at White Hart Lane or anywhere else.


Wheeling and Dealing

September 1, 2012

There is much to admire in Daniel Levy’s stewardship of Tottenham Hotspur over the past few years. His ambition for the club is clear for all to see. He has backed his managers with funding to buy players; he has delivered what is by all accounts one of the best training facilities in the country; Work is already underway to build a magnificent new stadium at a cost of £400 million. Furthermore, all this has taken place without ever putting the underlying financial stability of the club at risk.

And yet I still have this nagging doubt that there is an inherent flaw in his character which has held us back from becoming one of the major forces in European football. That doubt is centered upon Levy’s lust for a deal. During the transfer windows Levy appears to forget about the main objective which is to build a squad capable of at least finishing in the top four every season thereby securing the vast riches that flow from Champions League qualification. Instead, his focus seems to be solely on the deal itself, getting the extra pound here for a player being sold, saving an extra pound there on a player being brought in.

As I made clear earlier, I do not have a problem with Levy’s prudence. Nor do I have a problem with him being a tough negotiator. Overall I do think he is doing a great job and the last thing I want to see is for Spurs to go the way of Portsmouth or Rangers or Leeds. However, reading the comments of Olympique Lyon’s president reinforces my feeling that in the end it is the negotiations that become the main event, and not the transfer itself.

That is why I believe, so many of Spurs’ deals are left to deadline day. Last season we missed out on Champions League qualification by one point. Forget how the fates conspired against us to deny us our place; if Parker and Adebayor had been signed before the season started we might not have lost our opening two matches. This season we have taken one point out of six from our first two matches, both of which we should have won. In the week since the last match we have signed three players. Is history going to repeat itself?

I hope not. To be sure, all our new signings seem to be quality players. But what about the ones that got away? Had serious talks about Mouthino started days ago, with the benefit of a few extra days would we have resolved the problems that prevented the transfer taking place? He was the one AVB wanted above all. Was “the deal” more important to Daniel Levy than supporting his manager? These are the questions that for me, refuse to go away.


Sporting Loyalty

August 16, 2012

Now I am not naive enough to believe that all Olympians are saints. But in the week following London 2012, I cannot help but contrast the attitudes of some of the heroes of those games with those of some well-known footballers.

Take Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter for example. No-one who saw their interview with Jon Inverdale immediately following their final in the lightweight double sculls when they apologised for finishing “only” second is ever going to forget it. Their distress at what they considered “letting everyone down” was heartbreaking, particularly having seen them give absolutely everything and then some, in their attempt to hold off the Danish boat.

Then one could talk about Andy Murray who drew so much strength from the success of his fellow Team GB members, or Joanna Rowsell proudly claiming her gold medal without the wig that she wears to cover her alopecia. Some like Gemma Gibbons had to overcome personal loss and take part-time jobs to keep up their training. What courage she showed in winning her silver medal. Then consider the dedication shown by so many of the team: the dawn training sessions, seven days a week; the endless separation from families; the constant physical and mental pressure. The cycling squad are not even allowed to shake hands in case the contact with another person leads to them picking up a bug which might cause them to miss a day’s training. Throughout the games, the talk by every athlete was about the team and what it meant to be a part of that team.

And all this is done without a thought about financial reward.

What a difference to football.

There are two big football transfer stories today. One involves Robin Van Persie of Arsenal and the other involves Luka Modric of Spurs. Both stories are perfect example of the total lack of “Olympian spirit” that exists in football today. Now let me lay my cards on the table. I am a Spurs fan and have been for over 60 years. So to see Arsenal fans crying over the loss of Van Persie leaves me cold and unmoved.

But he and Modric are both still under contract. Van Persie has a year left on his and Modric has a full four years left on his contract with Spurs. It makes sense for Arsenal to sell van Persie now especially at the price Manchester United are offering. But Spurs should not have to sell a player who two years ago was happy to sign a new six-year contract with the club that gambled £16.5million to provide him with a global stage on which to perform. At the time of signing that contract Modric said “Tottenham Hotspur gave me my chance in the Premier League and I want to go on to achieve great success here with them. Yes, there have been enquiries from other big clubs, but I have no interest in going anywhere. Last season’s Top 4 finish was an indication of where we are as a Club and I feel I can continue to improve and go on to achieve everything I want to at Spurs.”

That is until an even bigger club comes along offering shedloads of money. In which case I will go on strike and threaten to poison the atmosphere in the dressing room until I get my way. Loyalty? Forget it.

It is a shocking indictment of the modern game that two of the country’s biggest clubs cannot prevent players effectively tearing up contracts. It is an ever bigger indictment of the modern player that they have no qualms in doing so.
It may be a forlorn hope, but none-the-less I do hope that the children growing up today, take as their role models as the heroes of Team GB and not the pampered spoiled brats of the Premier League.


A Bad Week for Minorities

July 14, 2012

This has been a bad week for some minorities in this country.

First of all there was the Church of England Synod decision to endorse the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

The Jewish community, led by the Chief Rabbi and the Board of Deputies, together with various interfaith groups had pleaded with the Synod not to endorse EAPPI because it  takes a totally partisan view of what is a hugely complex problem.  Its graduates leave the Middle East without any understanding of the Israeli perspective and then return to the UK spreading that one-sided point of view around the country.

Sadly, the Synod chose to ignore those pleas and passed the resolution to endorse EAPPI.  As bad as that decision was however, what was worse was the language of the debate.   Phrases such as “powerful lobbies”, “Jewish sounding names” and “bringing shame on the memories of the victims of the Holocaust” are a strong indication that this debate was not about Israel but about Jews.  Most telling of all were the closing comments from Dr. Dinnen who proposed the debate.  He said “the Palestinians are being pushed over, while the Jews are quite powerful”  he corrected himself by saying “Israelis” instead of “Jews” but the cat had been well and truly let out of the bag by then.

That such language could be used in any serious debate in this country is a worry: that it should have been used by some of the most senior members of the Church of England is nothing short of alarming.  To me however it is not entirely surprising.   The so-called liberal left, as exemplified by the Guardian and the BBC, have been spreading anti -Israel propaganda  for a number of years, their language becoming increasingly violent all the time.  It is hardly surprising that the anti- Israel line should gradually morph into anti -Jew.  What we heard this week is a clear indication that this process is now rapidly gaining speed.

The  John Terry case is bad news for all minorities.  That he called Anton Ferdinand a f**king black C*** is not in dispute.  That he was found not guilty of committing a crime  is also not in dispute.  This might show how fair our legal system is by proving that you cannot be found guilty where there is a reasonable doubt about your guilt, but how is this decision not going to be seen by racists as a licence to be equally obnoxious to  people they do not like?  And how do we know that what starts off as bad language does not in time become still worse?

I do hope the FA ensure that Terry does not get away with it totally.