guest blog by Chris King
My eyes are closed.
All I have is darkness. The black of darkness illuminated only by memories; of a time when peace existed in this land. It was a land where fan stood together with fellow fan, each with the same song in voice and heart. Each with a dream they held true.
My eyes are closed.
All I can hear is the noise of unrest; the incessant din of anger and hatred. We are in a battle with ourselves. No longer do we cherish those same dreams. No longer do we sing from the same hymn sheet. We are now heading in different directions, with tears and bitterness the only likely outcome.
My eyes are closed.
Open them he says. Open them and see the majesty of our plans; the glory those plans will bring. Our time here is up. The future is elsewhere. This land is dying. If we stay here, we will also die. He extends his hand. Come with me. Let me lead you to the Promised Land. We will set up home on yonder plains. This is our destiny.
My eyes are open.
But still I cannot see. I cannot see the truth. I cannot see the shared vision. I cannot see the future in exactly the same way others do. Oh eyes, poor misguided eyes. Give me the clarity this issue calls for. Give me the chance to soar high in to the sky – to look upon the dying soil, that very Promised Land and see. See for myself why this is the only option left to us.
My eyes are closed. Only my heart can see.
When it’s hard to be objective, it is always easier to be dramatic. That’s what a lot of people will be accusing Spurs fans of in the coming months; being overly dramatic. Yes we do like a moan and our board does like to install an element of drama in to our lives. But this drama is not ours. This drama need never have started in the first place.
If London hadn’t have won the Olympics, we would not be at this stage in our club’s history. If those who had organised the bid had nailed down a definite plan moving forward, from the point Boris stumbles on stage and drops the Olympic torch at the feet of the delegates from Rio, we would not be at this monumental precipice, which is forcing supporter against supporter; tearing the fabric of our beloved club apart.
I hear and read different views on a near hourly basis at the moment. ‘SAY NO TO STRATFORD’ reverberates around the stadium, outside on the streets, on WebPages and through a multitude of twitter timelines. Those who shout or type with venom and anger, do so with an unwavering passion. They know not what the answer to this mess is. All they know is that the final outcome has to rest with their club, our club, your club still residing in N17. To some this battle is just about a postcode. To others, it is all about the postcode.
Yet their actions don’t hold true with everyone. “It’s all right for them, they have a ticket… they can moan about leaving, but leaving would mean I may also get a ticket.” For the dissenters, history is unbending – we are Tottenham, we have to stay Tottenham. For the, shall we call them free thinkers or liberal minded supporter, a football club is more than just its history – it is its future as well. Mr Levy now claims we have no future in Tottenham. The NPD is dead in the water, as will the club be if we fail to secure the Stratford move.
Clearly this argument can be countered, and has been in this open letter from Martin Cloake.
The sermon appears to have changed and some, not all, are buying in to the new faith. It is a faith that appears to rely on the highest bidder taking some kind of control over the future of the club. A future existence that may rely as much on concert ticket sales as goals scored on the pitch.
My heart has been blinded.
A good friend of mine doesn’t want to move, yet he is far more objective on the subject than I am. His view is that the soil is no longer fertile. That the land is dying. Football is more than just 90 minutes of watching over paid, often underachieving stars. It is as much about what goes on between fellow supporters; before, during and after the game. We are all sold the view that the atmosphere is far better away from the Lane, but it’s surely made worse by the fact that our patch is being eroded, killing the pre- and post- game enjoyment associated with a trip to the match.
Think of the number of pubs that have come and gone, even since the start of the Premier League.
The Cockerel, The Corner Pin, The White Hart and Northumberland Arms. It’s like a roll call of fallen soldiers. All gone, replaced by expanded merchandise outlets or blocks of flats. A last game ritual for him was to finish the season off with a pub crawl along the High Road; a pint in 12 pubs. That last happened three years ago. Now there are simply not enough pubs. Instead they drink in Liverpool Street and dive in and out, spending just enough time in N17 to watch the match, before heading somewhere else for their fill of beer, stories and football songs.
If that picture mirrors your very own, then what difference does it make where you go to see the game? The pubs around Stratford will be no better, but at least – and this is Mr Levy’s argument, we’ll be able to leave our meeting points later with no fear of getting to the ground.
My heart is closed.
He may have a point, the mate that is – not Mr Levy – but I don’t buy it. I’m blinded by passion, by familiarity, by a need to remain true to our history. Clubs have moved in the past. We all know about Arsenal and nomadic teams like QPR, but that was in a time before I was born; before football was the beast it now is. I can’t think of any club that has proposed such a dramatic move (other than when Wimbledon threatened to go to Dublin), where they’ve adopted the almost American like franchise model. Putting pressure on their local council before moving to another, more welcoming venue – do they even want us in Stratford?
A lot will be said until a final decision has been made by The Olympic Park Legacy Company. Mr Levy will claim, in cloaked daggers aimed at the heart, that those who do not follow the exodus are putting the future of the club in jeopardy. He will wipe the slate clean, go back on every highfaluting statement he ever made about NPD and use us, the fans, as pawns in his battle against the local council and the decision makers.
Some of us will be made out as bad guys in this; accused of fighting an unnecessary fight. They will say that we will bring the honour and heritage of the club down with our protests. They will mock us – as they do Liverpool and Manchester United fans that stand up for their own causes. They are the very people who wear the same replica shirts, sing the same songs and once shared the same dreams. The club is split and it’s hard to see where the winners will come from in this argument.
But there will be winners. More fans will get access to tickets; more revenue will be made by the club if we fill a 60,000 stadium out. Bigger, better stars may be attracted to the club, bringing bigger riches with them. In 20 or 30 years time, a new legion of fans may wonder what the fuss was all about. Why we even cared that we were leaving our home, when you consider the better home that we may move to. It just doesn’t have to be in Stratford!
Yet all of that, the future, rests with a body of people charged with making a single decision that could throw the club in to turmoil either way. Move to Stratford and Mr Levy alienates a body of supporters that will turn every public outing in to a protest. Lose the Stratford bid and there is nothing. No NPD, no Plan B (Stratford) and apparently no Plan C - and definitely no answers as to why NPD is no longer viable?
This whole internal battle appears to hinge on one thing – are you for the future or stuck in the past? You can’t be for both. We all know we have to move. To move, not just to challenge for the top honours, but to potentially compete just to exist, as money strangles the life further out of the beautiful game. Our argument is not to stay in the current stadium; it is a simple request for clarity and honesty. Something we feel our loyalty as fans at least deserves. Misguided? Very much so!
The battle lines have been drawn – are you with us or are you against us? Say no to Stratford.
Say no to Stratford – but then, do we really have a say?
Chris King was a regular on the old Shelf and held a season ticket in the Park Lane Upper. He now lives in Leeds, where he spends most Saturdays trying to teach his 20 month old daughter the words to Spurs’ songs.