My Tottenham Hotspur dream realized
By Alun Thomas
Twenty-four years of sometimes fervent and half-hearted support for one team reached a long awaited climax on the 17th of September when I lived the dream of seeing my chosen team for life, Tottenham Hotspur live in London at the hallowed ground of White Hart Lane, somewhere in rundown Tottenham itself. It seemed unlikely this would ever occur in my lifetime, but while on the run in England’s capital while visiting my brother for a week and a half the decision was made to achieve the goal of seeing our soccer team in person. It almost seemed more trouble than it was worth at one moment but the experience was an eventual life changing moment. Of course I forgot to bring my camera.
London in September is a pleasant place, stable temperatures in the seventies, constantly crowded subways, throngs of people to navigate through the city streets, ales flowing, lots of street knifings to read about in the paper. With no particular plans in mind on my trip except to laze around and eat, I decided that’s all I do at home so we jointly decided to venture to a soccer game while I was there. My brother has lived in London for eight years and had never been to a game, so it was a first for both of us. Initially we toyed with the idea of going to watch Charlton, another London side as tickets would be easier to obtain. But upon reading tickets were still available for Tottenham’s home game against London rivals Fulham, we decided to chance our arm and head down to White Hart Lane to procure a pair.
Both of us had nominated Tottenham our side after watching them beat Queens Park Rangers in the 1982 FA Cup Final, and despite years of failure, disinterest and ridicule had always stuck with the team. Any real fan knows once you have a team, that’s it. For life bro! As we headed to the stadium on the Tube I hoped I had enough money for a ticket. Maybe it had been a mistake to give a busker five pounds for laying down worn out blues riffs. The walk to the ground once off the train was a few miles and in my whole trip I observed more police in one area than any other. Both of us also thought we had been dropped off in an obscure part of Africa. I had often read the ground was located in a fairly undesirable area of the city. Once arriving at the ticketing office we secured two reasonably priced tickets that broke us both financially. We walked back to my brothers place. It took us thirteen hours. But we had the tickets.
On game day we left an hour and a half before kick off to leave enough time for the ride there again. Halfway through the tube ride the train was stopped, with claims the train was to be repaired. We appeared to be stuffed. ‘Why weren’t we notified beforehand?’ my brother raged at a subway official. ‘Signs were posted sir’ he calmly responded. ‘Then how come I didn’t see any all week then?’ he shot back. ‘I’m sorry sir, you were notified,’ came the smug reply. ‘Bollocks!’ Racing against time and thanks to my brothers knowledge of the tube system we made our way on time, with all the odds defied. On the train with a mass of other Tottenham fans, the excitement grew, as I watched a family stuff their faces with McDonald’s and a Korean downing three cans of Carling in ten minutes.
Once arriving at the station we followed the crowd to the ground. In full view, the fans, the noise, home team colours, the dilapidated housing estates, food stalls, the Spurs cockerill emblem ablaze in the sun all combined to create a dream state. Cornball perhaps, but this was a lifetime ambition being realised. Coming up the stairs to the full view of the ground, I had to pause and take it all in. Sell out crowd, a stadium I’d watched a thousand times on TV and now we were here. We took our seats right at the back of the family section, North Tier. Sitting next to us was a lad with down syndrome. ‘Uhhhh’ was all he could muster for the next two hours.
The game kicked off seconds after we sat. The crowd was positive at first, despite Tottenham’s weak start to the season. The first half was mostly appalling soccer, as Spurs failed to break down Fulham’s packed defense. The crowd started to become restless. ‘Come on you Spurs!’ was heard. Then ‘come on you whites!’ and best of all ‘do something!’ Half time came and the score was 0-0. Watching in person the game seems more watchable than on TV where it’s easy to drift off. The 45 minutes passed in an instant. Still hopes were high as the second half kicked off, surely the Spurs would pull it out. Come on lads, do it for us, our first and maybe only game!
It became clear Spurs were incapable of scoring despite a mountain of possession. The crowd turned on their heroes. Spurs manager Martin Jol hadn’t made a substitution yet. ‘Wakey wakey Jol!’ screamed an irate fan. ‘Hold the ball you useless prick!’ fumed another as the ball was given away. ‘Come on Mido, do something’ one directed at Spurs’ out-of-form striker. ‘Fucking crap’ was heard hundreds of times. This was the family section. I watched fans pointing at the vast expanses of field as the ball failed to be moved into space. ‘Move the bloody thing! Take them on!’ A Fulham player milked the clock walking off the field injured. Chorus of boos. ‘Bloody Judas’ someone said to an ex Tottenham player now playing for the opposition, forgetting he was rubbish to begin with.
As the clock would down it became obvious the Spurs wouldn’t score and a 0-0 draw was the only outcome. Fans left in droves. We stayed until the bitter end. As poor as the game was I didn’t want it to end. But it did. The down syndrome boy started crying, saddened by the result. Spurs were booed off the pitch on the final whistle. The weak start continued. ‘We’ve only scored two goals this season!’ I overheard. ‘Must be a European hangover’ someone theorized about a midweek game in the UEFA cup. But nobody was too upset. They’d seen worse. All of us had. It was with regret we walked out of the stadium and onto the packed train. There were no running street battles with hooligans. We were 20 years too late for that.
I have the ticket from the day. To attend something I’d watched my whole life was a magnificent experience. The atmosphere was all expected, once in a lifetime stuff if you don’t have access to it on a regular basis. Being caught up with homegrown supporters, feeling the anticipation and seeing the sights and sounds, you can’t beat it. I’ve been to sporting events here in the U.S. and they can’t compare. The fans aren’t as amusing; there’s more colour in the stands over the Atlantic. It was better than the game itself. Having left on a one way ticket I had to take a loan from a shark to make it home, but he’ll never find me. One dream completed. Six thousand left to go.