I’ve always had a romantic ideal of how football should be. I don’t mean the game itself, as much as I do the match day experience. Maybe I’m pining for an era of football that I never got to experience; before all-seater stadiums, before the ‘prawn sandwich’ brigade and most of all before television, and more specifically Sky, strangled the last bit of life out of the game as it once was, and repackaged it as the sanitised, family friendly product it is today.
As someone who didn’t start going to Spurs until the mid 90s, I never got to experience the days of standing and the surge on the Shelf when we scored. But even in the time I’ve attended games, the change has been evident. A lot has been made about the recent decline in atmosphere at the Lane and the last couple of years and what we, the fans, can do to stop the rot before it’s too late. There has obviously been the campaign for the return of the drum to the corner of the Shelf; while I am fully in support of this campaign I don’t think this is necessarily the answer to our problem. In the 20 years or so since Sky have been involved in football they have, along with the owners of football clubs, moved actively to eradicate traditional atmosphere and replace it with a diluted, television friendly version. Football clubs have sought after a different kind of fan, the kind that will pay their money, sit down and quietly enjoy the ‘sports entertainment’ that is on display.
This is why the Tottenham Ultras project on The Fighting Cock at the beginning of the year struck a chord with me: get a handful of like-minded Spurs fans who support the club vocally, make as much noise and generally having as much of a laugh as possible, to attend a game that involved the Tottenham youth team.
[typography font=”PT Sans” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#222222[/linequote]The next few hours were amazing and genuinely surreal at times. 250 Spurs fans taking over a train carriage and singing at the top of our voices all the way to Charlton, walking from the station to the ground still singing and banging the drum all the way and the atmosphere once we were inside the ground was quality.[/typography]
On 16th February Tottenham played Charlton at the Valley for the 4th Round of the FA Youth Cup. I decided I would leave work at lunchtime and make my way down to the Barrowboy and Banker pub at London Bridge to meet up with everyone else that was going along to the Valley. I went on my own and to be honest was a little bit concerned about turning up and looking like some sort of weirdo loner. I needn’t have been worried though because when I got in the pub at about 3 o’clock there were about five other Spurs fans in there and straight away we were all having a beer and a laugh like we’d known each other for years. Over the next couple of hours the ‘handful’ of fans grew and grew, until we had pretty much taken over the pub. I believe the final count was around 250, which just goes to show, there are plenty of us out there who all want the same thing from going to football and are growing increasingly frustrated by not getting what we’re looking for from first team match day experience.
The next few hours were amazing and genuinely surreal at times. 250 Spurs fans taking over a train carriage and singing at the top of our voices all the way to Charlton, walking from the station to the ground still singing and banging the drum all the way and the atmosphere once we were inside the ground was quality. One highlight was the look of genuine confusion on the faces of the Charlton fans and stewards and us singing ‘You weren’t expecting this!’ back at them and to be fair their fans and the stewards took the whole thing pretty well (apart from confiscating our drum).
Although we lost the game that night, the one thing that I heard repeated over and over again in the days after the game from people that were there was that it was one of the best moments of their Spurs supporting life. I think, at this time especially, that’s something to remember: no matter what happens on the pitch, even if we were relegated we would still be there, singing until we lose our voices.
To anyone that couldn’t make it last time, I strongly recommend you come next time, you won’t regret it. This is the start of something.
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