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!


Sports Personality of the Year

September 11, 2012

After Andy Murray’s epic victory in the US Open, my Twitter timeline is awash with tweets saying how impossible it is to pick a winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

I cannot remember a year when their have been so many truly worthy candidates. Bradley Wiggins; David Weir; Sarah Storey; Mo Farah; Jessica Ennis and of course Andy Murray himself.

So how to resolve this conundrum? I suggest we do not even try to pick one from that incredible list. To do so would be invidious. I believe that the BBC should give the award collectively to a group, who for nothing more than their love of sport contributed so much to ensure that the Olympics and Paralympics were such a huge success?

I am referring of course to the Games Makers. Whether based at the sporting venues or miles from the action in airports and stations, they worked long hours often performing unglamorous tasks; they were always cheerful, never officious and won the praise of athletes and spectators from every corner of the globe. That these games have been acknowledged universally as the best ever is largely down to their extraordinary endeavours.

So instead of trying to make an impossible choice, let us honour those seventy thousand volunteers and award them our unanimous vote as sports personalities of the year.