Return from exile
I've been going to the Lane for years. Recently? Not so much.
I started around 86/87. The few years before the late 80s I wasn't living in England and in the early 80s I was a mere kid (although I remember one game at home to Ipswich, witnessing John Wark scoring at both ends, via the penalty spot. Hardly the stuff of dreams).
I've always found a way to get to Spurs. Tickets on the day through the turnstiles (remember?), membership, generous friends who couldn't go and shared the wealth. It meant if I wanted too I'd be there. And I always wanted to be there.
I was mostly East Stand lower. Towards the Park Lane end, which once upon a time was populated with away support, so it was nice and moody down in the corner. Talking terrace days. I slowly gravitated to the Park Lane post-all seater stadia. Then around 2004 I got a season ticket in the Park Lane Lower. Timing was as perfect as a Sheringham quick-step in the box. In the season that followed, tickets were about to become impossible to get hold off thanks to everyone wanting one. The waiting list was birthed.
It's a ticket (card these days) I'll never give up no matter what (hopefully when we move, the club will consider moving blocks of fans where they currently 'sit' to the new stand in the new stadium keeping everyone together). Would be a fine way to retain the Park Lane faithful. Just a thought.
I went to as many away games as my loyalty points would allow. Although was not keen on travelling on the official coach service the club provided. It was like a collection of odd balls and depressive fans pulled together from various message boards. 'Lifers' I called them. Most of them were seasoned travellers, people who will spend the rest of their days doing so. Still an odd bunch. The 1940's woman a stand-out, she looked like someone had plucked her out of her time and transported her to a confusing future.
"This isn't a time-machine, it's a coach and its only going up North...which technically can be deemed as travelling back in time"
...I whispered to her once. I was standing several feet away so she never heard my banter.
I kept with it before deciding a car or train was a safer bet and would usually travel with the same group making it a far more lively affair.
My life was Tottenham. Everything else revolved around it. Women and social life included.
Then real life drama kicked in. One or two things began to happen. Although it did not interfere with the football, it actually acted as a means of escape, anchoring me to routine - one that could not possibly let me down - win draw or lose. Because the Lane, it was always there. No matter what I was going through, football was always there. When I got over the 'one or two things' I then quite unexpectedly found myself in a relationship. Schoolboy error. Out of the frying pan into the fire.
I only jest.
"Sorry I'm late meeting you. Was watching us against Bolton"
First date slick vocal moves from me. Bless her, why did I expect her to have a clue about what I was talking about? We lost. But the date went well.
The missus is as good as gold. Except she still doesn't get the football lark, which is okay. I hardly have time for handbags and Choos. But she understands I will never change. It's in my blood. Its actually the one thing that has consumed my life more than anything else. Probably on par with music.
I was still able to get to games whilst our relationship blossomed. That's until my self-inflicted exile. The ultimate sacrifice. The one you're never meant to suffer from because you know it will be all-consuming more so than football or music. The one where the football Gods frown at you for being so naive, then laugh as you walk away leaving behind that treasured season ticket.
She got pregnant. Damn you bareback.
Then I went from a screaming yob in the stands to a considered slave and dogsbody as I was ever-present during nine gruelling difficult months. Yes, its a pain for the woman, but I still firmly believe:
Kicked in the balls > Labour
So whilst I was missing out on Tottenham's gradual evolution with some of you spending it having a beer and a cheeky song, I would enjoy most evenings at her beck and call. Ordering pillows, finding cures for nausea, mixing Marmite with ice cream...you know, rock'n'roll past-times a bloke has to do in the build up to the waters breaking.
I never missed a game thanks to television and internet streaming. But it's not quite the some thing. Emotionally, it is. There's no denying you can be up a hill in Nepal listening to the wireless and still get all mental about the Lilywhites. Spurs has a habit of doing that to you. But I've always found tv and radio and the internet more of a struggle with the nerves than when experiencing the game live. The buzz you get from the ones around you, it's special. At least it can be special. Especially if what gets played out on the field is. Even in defeat, in abject defeat, there is a sense of cleansing as you watch the debacle and make your way home. Alone or with friends.
If you're at the game, you can gauge a genuine feel for things - even if it's subjective. It can be as bad as any blog or message board, with the knee-jerking. Or as funny as one with the biting off the cuff humour. Everybody seems to see something different from you. At half time, you get a beer. Spend twenty minutes queing for the bog. Then you do it again for forty-five minutes and still disagree with the loudmouth three rows behind you who is slagging off a player who isn't even on the pitch.
There are plenty of Spurs fans the world over with little chance of getting to the Lane. There are plenty in London/UK with much the same problem (our waiting list illustrates that point perfectly). I was now one of them. Alone.
With the podcast I work on we've got a huge bulk of American listeners, many have never travelled to the UK. Fans across Europe, Africa and Asia. Australia, Japan and South America. Even Napal. Essex too (me). We're a pretty fragmented fanbase as it is but as fans we are all staunch in spirit. The yanks are particularity fanatical and impressive (early morning breakfast and pub meet-ups to watch Spurs games live). It's fantastic. You simply have to make the most of what you've got.
Alone or with friends, we all share one thing in common. Them lot in the shorts and the cockerel on the shirt. They'll end up playing no matter where you happen to watch the game from. Or you can do is sing or bite your nails. At the ground, in the living room, in the pub or in another time zone.
If you live abroad or simply can't get to games you're pretty much stuck with technology (if the pub is not an option or if we're not on tv). Although it beats the days of just having the back pages of the tabloids, teletext and Capital Gold. Ha, teletext and those Club Call numbers, back in the days when you had to pay for ITK. Now we've got the BBC, Sky, Twitter, forums, blogs, streams. So perhaps I'm not truly alone when I can instantly read the reactions of hundred + Spurs fans who also share the same predicament. Although you still can't get away from the knee-jerks, although it's slightly easier to stick two fingers up at the monitor than turn around at shout down the bloke three rows behind you (who happens to be three times your size and has a tattooed face).
Having seen my baby daughter born (she's two years of age in May) and have endured the hellish first three months and then witnessed her personality grow and more or less cause havoc once she began to walk...I'd hardly swap it all for football. If you haven't and you do you'll agree. It's a stunning, staggering experience. Ironic that ten years ago I said I'd never stop going to games even when I've got kids. I guess pragmatically its just not possible. It is for others (the bloke who has the seat almost directly in front of me has two kids and still gets there). You're either lucky or you're not.
It's not just the home games, away games are missed too. Even the trip up to Blackburn Rovers sitting next to Burnley supporters in the away end. Singing songs to Billy No Mates at Wigan. Out with the binoculars at Newcastle. Then there's Fulham away. Everyone loves Fulham away. Still, as good as any away trip can be, it's not half as good as White Hart Lane when White Hart Lane is rocking.
I was/I am absolutely fine with missing all the games I've missed (knowing my season ticket was in good hands - one set of hands, not being shared either...so please don't slap me on the wrist THFC ticket office please). As far as I was concerned, as long as we win, I could also be sat in Nepal if it meant we kept getting better. That's what I've kept telling myself.
So here I am. Everton at home is when I get to see my treasured seat again.
I'm back home for the golden game in hand. Back in my block where I hope to spend most of the ninety minutes standing and hugging those around me. It's tribal. You feed off each others joy and misery. You experience a mood, vibe...whatever you wish to tag the atmosphere with that you can't quite grasp when switching internet streams or listening to Alan Smith or Ray Wilkins delighting us with words of wonder.
Infinitely better than spending it with dirty nappies and wet wipes. It's a complicated strategy, attempting to organise your Saturday or Sunday around whatever kick-off time Spurs are privileged with and making it look like you haven't even considered there's a football game on.
Hopefully this wont be a cameo appearance. Equally so, I'm hoping it wont be a 0-0 either. Working to get an extended license on my day pass. I don't intend to disappear into exile for such a long stretch again.
On Wednesday I'll be making the journey from the forest I live in, connecting trains until I'm on the Victoria Line and then making the customary walk up the High Road (because I've always hated buses) and prefer to avoid the Liverpool St to White Hart Lane route. Pre-match drink (almost all The Fighing Cocks will be present). A possible pre-match kebab from that Turkish place a brisk skip from the Paxton that does the naan-sized pita bread wrap-up. Then a sing-song. A roar. Game kicks off. Another sing-song and plenty of joyous moments to applaud and drown in one and others ecstasy.
I'm looking forward to seeing a few faces I've not seen for while.
That's hopefully how things will play out.
It's a big game points wise. We've been banging on about this game in hand all season like it's a magical key that might open a door to treasures. In this case, the treasure is of a psychological nature. Potentially, equal pegging on points for 2nd spot. I'm thankful I changed my mind from WBA at home to this. Wolves follows. Then it's the title showdown at Eastlands. Yes, I really did say the 'T' word just then. Might as well play along with it. We need all the points leading up to that game against City. Feb will be a test of mental strength and belief.
So all things considered, I'm grateful to be under the floodlights again. For now, it will have to do.
Who am I kidding. I can't live without it. I need this fix every other week. I need N17. I need the hustle and bustle of match-days. The pre-match bottle or pint. The lack of a constant 3G connection inside the stadium. Raw, live football...without the agenda of television coverage. I need that rush that comes with thousands singing the same words over and over again. That belief the ref is having a stinker based on your view from behind the goal and that every decision is going against us. The stewards asking you to sit down, to which you do for a moment, standing again when a player runs towards goal. The celebrations, the night sky over the Lane, the long journey home. I want it all back.
Anyone know if Angelina Jolie is looking to adopt again? Madonna in need for a new buba? The daughter is only olive skin, but she's still very cute. Will accept money to cover season ticket costs for the next forty years.
Actually scrap that. I can't. It's not a viable option, is it?
I also just remembered the first time my daughter happened to projectile vomit on me. Beautiful moment. She was looking at the tv at the time, then an Arsenal player appeared on screen, being interviewed. That's when it got messy.
I'll hold onto her. She has potential. If I work it properly, if I continue to sing 'Oh when the Spurs go marching in' at bedtime, she'll be my ticket to get to all home games in the future. That's got to be a better life than handbags and Choos. I'll be doing her a favour.
Love the shirt.