N17: Home is where the heart is
There's been plenty of debate and opinion in the past few days, spurned on in addition by David Lammy (Tottenham MP) who revealed via Twitter that Daniel Levy is serious about the Stratford bid. Well he's hardly not going to be serious is he? Of course he's serious. Levy is a business man and his responsibility is to THFC, unequivocally and unquestionable. Although the health and financial clout of ENIC is also of utmost importance. A new stadium would equate to our overall value quadrupling and some. It's about revenue and we have a power-house of a fan base, just not enough seats at the minute.
We all know this redevelopment and approval lark has dragged on and on, even though the reality is - it's just been going through the standard application process. Seems like we're all now tap dancing around the last hurdle. A substantial amount of work has gone into the vision and re-designs of the Northumberland Redevelopment Project. The question marks have always been about the transport links and traffic issues getting in and out of N17. Which is apparently one reason why moving to Stratford is a viable option. No more walking up Tottenham High Road rushing for the bus. Or leaving the game ten minutes early (that's for all the West Standers amongst you) and missing a late <insert promoted side here> winner.
Okay, so there are countless facets to this for and against argument. And plenty has been said already (mostly from the three stooges over in Green Street) about how we would not be allowed to uproot and move from one Borough to another (hey, if we did, we'd be so close to them lot they'll have a right to call us their rivals and it would mean something…derby matches against Orient would be guaranteed sell-outs. If they ever got themselves into the Prem that is).
I've even heard that Boris himself (a week or so away from announcing his approval/disapproval of the Northumberland project) invited Spurs to bid for Stratford. Supposedly because we would be far more beneficial to the area and the Olympic stadium in terms of fan base, money and stature. Sub-plots about running tracks and concerts don't sit well with me. But if there is no running track and the stadium could be touched up to include even more seats etc etc - financially, it would be the easier option to take/be given. Purely from the perspective of progression and cost. If we're talking about the club as a business entity. Far fewer headaches and possibly far more accommodating politically.
Haringey are tiresome and draining and it would seem not fully appreciative that without the club all they would have left in Tottenham is that quite wonderful kebab house just past the Paxton Rd and on the opposite side of the high road where they wrap up your chips in pita bread. Probably not worth a visit every other week if there's no dessert to feast on just after 3pm. However, they've approved the plans regardless.
Back to Levy. At the time that Spurs officially bid (confirmed their interest) in the Olympic Stadium, I was advised this was astute and shrewd of Mr Chairman. Covering all bases. Think about it. We have plans to knock down and build a brand spanking new stadium just to the side of WHL. It would aid in the regeneration of the surrounding area. The local council know this. All the reports and surveys and various must haves (i.e. the listed buildings) are simply standard hurdles. The final one is where Boris now stands, but he wont be the one jumping, just rubber-stamping. All the tap dancing being had is by us, the press, West Ham, MP's and journalists.
Levy had to declare interest in Stratford because if the NRP was rejected, we'd be stuck with our 36,000 capacity. We might still be stuck in Tottenham if there's an uproar and riots back in East London, a few miles from the border into the North. Sullivan with staff screaming, you shall not pass. The Lilywhite Balrog defeated. Karren Brady at the time made a big deal of Levy not telling her about it, presumably via Facebook. She misses the point like many. It's not about her or her poxy little club or anybody outside of THFC. It's about Tottenham Hotspur. And I applaud Levy for his tunnelled focus on making sure that whatever happens no rock is left unturned. Because the risk of ending up with nothing would be a disaster.
Levy, at his Machiavellian best you might say, could have initially used Stratford to pressure Haringey. But its gone to the Mayor so there is very little to be gained from political blackmail and at the end of the day, if there existed a third option he'd have probably gone after that with equalled motivation. Boris might do what's best for London or he might just opt to give us what we want. Levy is continuing on both fronts because he would be wholly unprofessional if he didn't. One thing is for certain, unlike us - he's not split in the middle. Levy knows what is best - from his perspective - for the club. Deep down. Everything he does, we question and attempt to second guess and decipher. Patience, not much of a virtue.
This is where it gets fragmented. If you had to guess, which way would you go?
What side of the fence do you sit on?
On the one hand you could argue that Tottenham, it's essence, is the fans. We are the club. We get charged up to £50 - £70 per game for the privilege, but it's still all about us (although modern football is making the majority more and more disposable and replaceable with each passing decade). Some clubs, if they upped and moved would not need to offer cut-price tickets to re-generate a buzz. Although there still remains a risk of a curse not too dissimilar to the one Man City fans find themselves in.
We're the heart of the club. No matter where we are you could argue we would perceiver and make the most of it. If we moved away from N17, the club and its traditions would move with us. Sentimental, romantic notions of 'our patch' and the Glory Glory nights under the floodlights at the Lane - will remain strong in our history, and never be forgotten. We still lose WHL if we rebuild just next to it. So what difference moving a few miles away? It's not like we're moving from South London to North London? We'll just be moving the THFC franchise a few miles up the road. No need for a breakaway club. No change of name. Agree? Disagree? FC Hotspur of Tottenham anyone?
So up the road. To the Gardens of Babylon of East London. So what of the area?
Quite a number of European clubs have their grounds in not so glamorous surroundings. I guess moving from Tottenham to Stratford wouldn't make that much of a difference either way. Although Stratford will have some trees so obviously it's going to be prettier. I lived for some time in Leyton, stones throw from Stratford. Anyone know this part of the world? Allow me to describe it to you. There is a tradition for local residents to throw their broken tv sets and old and stained bed mattresses outside in the street. In fact, any old rubbish, just dump it outside because someone will pick it up.
Gang warfare from teenagers with knives to the East Europeans, muggings, killings, drunken fights in the streets, pockets of poverty and run down buildings aplenty. A lack of respect. It's a bit like moving from Basrah to Baghdad. Or say, I don't know, from Tottenham to Stratford. Hmm.
People from that part of the world might think I'm being harsh, but I'm just picking up on the bad things that outweigh the good. Much like you would for N17. Both, personally, from the perspective of living there, are hardly paragons of beauty to look at. But then in regards to Spurs, the high road is something you walk down to get to the ground. It's not the reason for going to Tottenham. WHL is.
It's all fairly redundant. Most parts of London are rundown, unless we decided to build a stadium in the middle of Knightsbridge.
So who gives a f*ck where the stadium sits when all that matters is what goes on inside it?
We are Tottenham. That's all that matters. Right?
If Spurs and Levy genuinely believe we will be paralysed in parts with the transport aspect (would cost billions to extend the Victoria Line) of staying in N17 (the only negative long term issue worthy of discussion, well that and the 'just under 60,000 capacity') then I'll have to suck it up. Spurs will be around long after I'm gone. But as colourful as all the rhetoric is from all corners and taking in all the pros and cons of going or staying - I'm going to go with my heart. Because that's how I follow football. Gut feelings.
I will be shocked and surprised if Boris doesn't give the green light.
I will be shocked and surprised if Levy's vision, his priority, is not to stay in North London.
I will be shocked and surprised if the whole progress and process of submitting and re-designing the Northumberland Redevelopment Project that came with the hardly unsurprising initial rejections and demands of change has forced Levy into changing his focus from North to East Northish East London.
I will be shocked and surprised if after all this, Levy always knew that the cost of building a stadium in N17 would have a detrimental effect on the club in terms of transfers in and out long term and that the real ruse was the project and thus the real target was Stratford.
We could be here all day drowning deep in conspiracy theories and agendas (is Lammy tweeting for his own personal gains to look good or is he being played by Levy or are they both in on it? See what I mean?)
My heart says we don't want to move and there is very little chance of Boris rejecting it and that the fact its got as far as being sent to his office for final approval means that its practically done and dusted. IMO.
Tottenham Hotspur, the experience, it's match-day traditions and its soul is in the heart of N17, Tottenham. It's home. Even with the police signs calling for witnesses littering the high road and the distinct lack of pretty buildings. It's home. The pubs and the long walk down from Seven Sisters. The ridiculous queues to get a train from White Hart Lane station into Liverpool Street post-match. None of it actually matters. And yet it does. But then who cares as long as Spurs win?
It's our territory. It's our land. Just for one or two days every couple of weeks.
Sentimental, I guess I am after all. Stratford would feel like an away day, detached from the past. For a while perhaps. And having just under 60,000 in N17 would make the various queues even longer. But personally, I'd rather have the atmosphere of having the majestic swashbuckle of our club in a derelict area than moving outside of the place we are named after into the heartland of Orient and West Ham United.
A derelict area with a shiny new polished stadia in the middle of it.
If I lack ambition or perhaps allowing sentimentality to cloud my judgement, sorry. My heart rules. If Levy or you think otherwise then so be it.
And I guess my heart is also telling me I'm a traditionalist. If it was good enough for Bill Nicholson to live up the road from, then its good enough for me to travel to from my humble village dwellings just outside the M25 in Essex. To be honest I still have issues with losing White Hart Lane (the ground and it's name), so the sucking up I'll have to do to deal with a move to Stratford would have to take on epic proportions for me to accept it. But accept I'll have to. Sir Bill would not have wanted the club to stand still. Aim high.
It's about revenue. But foremost, in its purist form, it's about football. It should be. And it should be about us. The fans. The 'club'. So what do you want?
If we're progressing as a football club will it matter where the new chapter is being written?
I guess the crux of it is, either way, whatever happens, no matter which side of the fence you sit - no matter the final decision - you will move on. No matter the loyalties sacrificed. We'll move on. Together. With the club. As one.