The first time I was at White Hart Lane I fell asleep. You probably couldn’t ask for a more unremarkable origin story. It was 1980. I was seven years of age. Sat high up in the East Stand on a Wednesday in early April. My only memories being the older lad and his dad sitting next to me (supporting the away team) and John Wark scoring two penalties, one at each end. I can still see the goals and the lad’s face, occasionally shouting out incisive yelps of encouragement. Lucid details as clear as my reflection in the mirror any given morning. Except not all the details are correct. We did lose two nil. Wark didn’t score. Paul Mariner notched a goal in the 45th minute and Russell Osman another in the 90th. Hardly the stuff of dreams although I did spend a large bulk of the game snoozing.
Being just a very young lad, I had no idea that my underwhelming debut at White Hart Lane would be a prelude to some of the greatest days and nights of my life. That this grand old football ground would birth a bond, a tapestry of emotion and heartbreak that has possibly had the most striking influence on my life. As an adolescent, you often look ahead at getting away from home and going into the world, cocksure and ballsy. Wanting to test yourself. Drink, fight, pull birds. Who would have guessed that my escape, our escape, would be to discover a home away from home, in amongst strangers that would become friends. In a stadium that has often changed appearance in the years I’ve frequented but has never lost its unmistakable identity as the world famous home of the Spurs.
It’s just a bunch of bricks and plastic seats and turnstiles. Yet our presence has given it life, on the pitch and in the stands. It’s turned the place into a living, breathing entity. A representation of our fandom. A church to worship. We, the obsessed, make it what it is. We collectively bind our memories to classic games, stylish players. Last gasp goals and ridiculous capitulations. The intensity inside and outside on derby day. The singing, the noise. From Glory Glory nights to swashbuckling swaggers and thirty-yarders. The sentiment is undeniable even if for the most part we take it all for granted.
We might be moving next door. Our spiritual home is arguably still in the very same spot. But it’s all brand new. When it’s complete and the Lane is gone, the place those memories existed in will live on through us and the digital age will never forget for future generations to enjoy. The sentiment is simply a way to celebrate all those memories. Time and the evolution of football has changed the Lane, the way it looks and how football is experienced inside it. But in the moments, in the peak of a free flowing move or an audacious finish, in those moments it will forever anchor us. It will never let go. We’ll never let go. No matter if we’ve moved on next door.
I wasn’t in England for a patch of time in the mid-80s. My first real season was 1987. It was one that set me up for a lifetime of struggle. A side that could have won it all and won nothing. 1991 was the pinnacle. After that, we wondered around aimlessly, sometimes puncturing the upper echelons with a mesmerising performance or cup final win. We always had flair though, even in amongst the mediocrity. We’ve all been there. I could write tens of thousands of words about some of the encounters and players. We all could. Our memories are after-all the one thing we all have in common. Friends or strangers, we’ve all been immersed in the same glorious escapism. For me, it’s those details. Not the ones I mistakenly chronicled as a seven year old unable to keep my eyes open. I’m talking about the other ones.
Queuing for FA Cup semi-final tickets in 1991. Getting there ‘early’ and seeing it stretch from the Park Lane and wrapping its way around and all the way down Worcester Avenue and beyond.
Tucked into the corner of the East Stand terrace looking across to the Park Lane that was infested with goading gooners waving their pound notes at us.
The sheer immensity of The Shelf. Whether you stood on it or took in its majesty from another corner of the ground.
The abuse Sol Campbell was blessed with on his return.
The Alan Sugar jumbotron and its dead pixels.
The season ticket holder quitting Spurs after Utd came back from 3-0 down.
All the folk, week in week out, in Block 34. Some, people that are hardly even acquaintances and yet during the game, you’d feel as comfortable with them than spending time on a Sunday enjoying a roast at your other home with your actual blood relatives.
The arguments you had with the very same people because you disagreed over the effort X player gave in the first half.
The police escorts and the bottleneck at the top end of Park Lane pre-match.
The wave that would have me move several metres away from my original standing point every-time Spurs pushed forward.
The belief and fearlessness felt in the stands when showcasing imperious form on the turf.
Ned Flanders (East Stand lower, near the Park Lane) throwing sweets at everyone around him whilst having a distasteful but humours song being sang at him.
The look of dejection in the faces of away supporters, whilst stood within spitting distance.
A farewell goal of such exquisite skill that you kiss and get kissed by the skinhead embracing you during the celebration. And you don’t even care. You actually like it.
Any given rendition of Ooh When the Spurs or Glory Glory. Inside the Lane, when this breaks out in full voice...it’s beautiful, powerful. It’s Tottenham.
The huge bloke that could never fit through the turnstile so the stewards always had to open the exit for him.
Being told to sit down by stewards, only to break out in song and witness everyone in the surrounding blocks stand up.
The noise. The vocal release, the unbridled screaming. The acoustics and closeness to the action.
Singing happy birthday to a goalkeeper.
Meeting friends before the game, getting smashed and then proceeding to pretend to be the oracle of all punditry when narrating the game through glazed eyes. And then drinking more after, win or lose. And still believing you can remember what happened on the pitch.
Feeling utterly dejected, leaving the ground with nothing more than expletives yet being back there again the next home match wanting to do it all over again. Because the Lane is home. A home away from home. The place that ties it all together. The place that has been our conduit for everything related to football, from the walk up the High Road to the dodgy pre-match burger outside.
When it’s gone, it’s only a natural human reaction to feel sad about it. Sad for those bricks and plastic seats. And we’ll shift across to the new place in a year or so. New surroundings that will require brand new experiences to create a new bond with the modern replacement. It’s a hard transition to make. Those familiarities and kinks will be wiped clean. All of us will be in the same position.
The Lane is what it is because of what we made it. It's treasured by us all because of the history that took place out on the pitch, connected from one generation to the next by decades upon decades of loyalty. It's where our tradition exists and grows eternally. It’s a monument to the essence of our football club and to our own lives, our own stories.
It’s time for a new chapter. We’ll never stop reminiscing about the old one.
Memory Lane, a feature-length documentary – by the fans, for the fans – charting the noble history of Tottenham Hotspur football club at White Hart Lane...
To view Memory Lane please click here for information on how to download.