After what I had read and heard about the first 1882 away night at Charlton back in March , I was genuinely excited about the NextGen game against Barcelona. I get to go to about ten games a season, usually the London derbies at home and a couple of aways. I cherry pick the games with an atmosphere nowadays, as other commitments don’t allow me to go as much as I once did.
I arrived at the Bricklayers an hour and a half before kick-off as the place was starting to fill up, at first it was all polite nods, but you could see everyone was anticipating the night ahead. Once people had met up, recognised faces old and new (or twitter buddies), the atmosphere soon picked up, the songs got going, it was an atmosphere we see a lot less often these days. And what was really striking was the mood in the air. Everyone was mingling; people were genuinely pleased to talk to everyone. I’m sure there were plenty of ‘arry’ fans as well as those with opposing opinions, but the thing that has split our clubs support of late just wasn’t apparent, just love for Tottenham Hotspur.
Once in the ground, everyone in the allocated 1882 blocks and quite a few people seated nearby sung their hearts out throughout the game. It’s surprising how much noise 600 people can actually make. There was an old terrace away type atmosphere, having a large group of passionate fans all in together. There was song after song, some of the golden oldies, some great humour, it really felt like football that I remember when I was a teenager, when most of us stood and the Premier League was called the First Division.
We cheered and applauded our team off, we’d lost, but that was of little importance. The boys came off the pitch and made a special effort to come over to the far corner to applaud our blocks of support, some really looked appreciative and mouthed their thanks. We made our way back to the Bricklayers for beers, man hugs and more singing, I think we all felt we had put in a performance worthy of the shirt and had enjoyed ourselves.
As I started my trek back to deepest, darkest, South East London, I called the wife, to say I was on route and briefly tell her of my night, ‘I’ve not heard you buzzing after a game like that since you won the cup’ She said referring to Leicester in ’99.
Looking back on the 1882 night now, I strongly believe there is a role for this type of fan lead movement in the future of our club. We are soon to be embarking on our move to our new ground. There will be hours spent by professional consultants, advising how many toilets, turnstiles and burger stands there will be, but all of this is secondary to the most important thing in any football ground, the atmosphere. To solve any potential problem in building a structure the size of a football stadium, expert consultants would be brought in to advise on how to avoid any potential issues. So who could help and advise the club about creating a stadium that doesn’t become another Library like the Woolwich down the road… obviously the people who make the noise.
The reason the atmosphere was what it was at the 1882 night wasn’t just because of the 600 or 700 Fighting Cock followers who attended, but mainly because they were sat/stood together. If those people had been evenly spread throughout the west and south stand, it just wouldn’t have worked as well as it did. I guess a fair proportion of those 1882 followers who attended visit the ground on a fairly regular basis or are season ticket holders, but they don’t always make the same amount of noise, why? Because they are dissipated across the ground. Like it or not most of us are conformists, we don’t want to be the annoying bloke standing up screaming from the top of his lungs surrounded by people sitting down glaring. I’m not suggesting everyone has to stand and sing throughout the game, but those who want to should be encouraged to do so, in a way that doesn’t annoy those who don’t. Sitting these people together could create the required critical mass to give an amazing atmosphere.
If the club were to continue to support the 1882 movement, I’m sure there could be some valuable input that could be given to help create the atmosphere worthy of this great club. A section of one new stand could be devoted to those who want to create an atmosphere or even safe standing areas, there are options, but there needs to be dialogue with the fans. It could be as simple as adding a tick box to the season ticket renewals of preference where you would like to sit and who with, they will have to reallocate everyone when the ground move happens anyway.
The importance of atmosphere is questioned, but I think the value of a ground with a caldron atmosphere is underestimated. Newcastle, Sunderland, Liverpool and Stoke are all described as ‘tough places to go’ and have loud home support, which adds to the difficulty of playing at these grounds. An intimidating home atmosphere must surely affect the visiting team’s players, no one can really estimate what affect it could have on games over a course of a season, but if it was only to change one draw into a win, what difference could that make to our season; we know what it would have done last season. If the atmosphere makes no difference to our point tally over the course of the season, it would still make the ground a better place to visit for many people and wouldn’t have to cost the club money, now if that doesn’t make Levy’s ears prick up nothing will.
As I started my trek back to deepest, darkest, South East London, I called the wife, to say I was on route and briefly tell her of my night, ‘I’ve not heard you buzzing after a game like that since you won the cup’
I spoke to two 16 year olds on the train home, it was their first visit to the lane, and they thought the whole thing was amazing (also slightly made up for getting served beer in a pub) and intended to go to White Hart Lane again. So has Tottenham gained new fans by one night of proving we are a club with an atmosphere? If likeminded ‘enthusiastic’ supporters are sat together, that feeling can only encourage supporters nearby to get behind the team as well. The enthusiasm could spread out to blocks around to roar on the team. Who knows, one day White Hart Lane, or whatever it is called by then could have its own version of the Kop, famous for its support.
As supporters, we can help to create an enthusiastic, fun, safe atmosphere, whilst not annoying those who don’t want to get involved and just want to watch the game. But there needs to be a line of communication open between the club and the fans. I honestly believe the people behind and that support 1882 can help. I hope one day my kids may be able to experience the atmosphere at White Hart Lane that I did growing up; the ground which created life long memories for me can hopefully be the same for them.
[author name=”Darren Jackson” avatar=”https://twimg0-a.akamaihd.net/profile_images/1408621178/image_bigger.jpg” twitter=”Darrenjackson75″ tag=”DarrenJackson[/linequote]