Wembley will always hold a special place for all Spurs fans, but as the years have passed has it changed for you? Do you now fear the arch and the walk up Wembley Way?
I can just about remember the first time I went to Wembley, however the game itself, England v Italy in 1989 is a blank. All I can remember are the flood lights, the greyhound track, being disappointed at the lack of dogs and it being cold. So cold that before we set out my mum told me to:
“Put your pyjamas on under your trousers.”
It was such a bizarre notion for me and for the first time I questioned an order from one of my parents. Pyjamas, under my clothes? But is that weird mixing night and day stuff?
My dad meanwhile was pouring broth into a giant thermos flask. Had I the knowledge then that I possess now I would have warned him against this, no matter “how cold” it was.
“What’s in the flask? Tea? Coffee?” Asked a Policeman at the stadium.
My father has never been one for elaborating
“Would you mind telling me what it is then?”
“Brodo” (the Italian word for broth/soup)
“I’m going to have to check the contents of that”
I learnt valuable lessons on my first visit to Wembley. Don’t bring a flask, don’t use Italian words to policemen and pyjamas under jeans make your legs rub.
My second visit was far nicer. It was August 1991, having spent the entire summer gloating about our FA Cup win and counting the days to the Charity Shield, it finally arrived. I was back there at the very same stadium where Gazza had scored a beauty and Lineker had put Woolwich to sword, and we were playing them lot again.
It was August 1991, having spent the entire summer gloating about our FA Cup win and counting the days to the Charity Shield, it finally arrived
I didn’t really have a grasp of the hatred, or what the term “rivals” really meant but I knew we didn’t like them and this was important:
“Playing them is always important” my older, wiser and cooler Spurs supporting neighbour had told me.
This time the build-up and my arrival at the stadium is blank, but I do remember the singing and the joy bouncing around the old ground. I also learnt my first proper Spurs song that day. “3-1!! We beat the scum 3-1, we beat the scum 3-1.”
Although at the time I was singing: “3-1!! We beat the scummy ones, we beat the scummy ones!”
Being the first Spurs fan in my family, I spent a good part of my early years making mistakes like this and needing friends at school or my neighbour to correct me.
The highlight of the dour match was without doubt seeing Gazza. Having destroyed his knee in the final, his role was that of cheerleader and to perform a solo lap of honour, which may have been as the game was on, I struggle to remember anything other than the moment he passed by my section of the ground.
Like a besotted teenager who has just touched a popstar, I lost my sh*t. I remember screaming “Gazza!!! Gazza!!” turning from him to my dad is said:
“Dad, its Gazza!!”
I remember Gazza looking up towards me and looking into my eyes. This was after all the cheeky Gazza, the one who had dribbled us to the cup final and a year earlier won the hearts of the nation at Italia 90, he was still pure then. I was already Spurs but I like to think he sealed it with that look.
Even on that Charity Shield visit where we were totally outplayed by Woolwich, we hung on for a 0-0 which meant at the on 90 minutes shared the trophy
However, what was truly born out of these two visits was an attachment to the old stadium. At 10 years old, Wembley, Spurs and myself had a pact. We’d win, we’d always win there. For me the stadium had become synonymous with winning, with glory and with silverware.
Even on that Charity Shield visit where we were totally outplayed by Woolwich, we hung on for a 0-0 which meant that the trophy was shared. It wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for, but it was still a win of sorts.
Wembley remained a happy place. Even the heart wrenching semi-final defeat to Woolwich in 1993 didn’t dampen what it had given me. In a time of limited access to football, memories even if they are 3 years old, were hard to dilute. Back then you hung on to things, there wasn’t the opportunity to forget and immediately move on to the next televised game.
Of course things have changed since then. I’ve got older, I’ve seen things and our second home hasn’t offered up much glory since. Before the bulldozers arrived we had the 99 Worthington Cup, but that team, Ginola apart, suffered from being drained of spirit and creativity by the man in the raincoat. It wasn’t until the Towers became the arch, that Wembley felt, briefly, like home again.
In 2008 we had players that had come through lasagne issues and were finally ready to step up to the big time. Defeating the megalithic Chelsea felt important that rain swept afternoon, it felt like we had turned a corner. What made it sweeter was the core of proper Spurs at the heart of this team. King, Robinson, Keane and even Jenas. Rather like today, these were players that we could relate to. We had Wembley back, or so we thought.
Since then it’s been a bit Laurel and Hardy, from slips and sending offs, to ghost goals and thrashings. The stadium hasn’t give us the best of times, therefore when we moved there for the start of this season’s Champions League campaign it was with great trepidation that I approached the stadium.
Wembley is a bit like that giant dog that catches you unware whilst you’re having a stroll around the park:
“Oh he’s safe, he won’t bite. He likes people.”
Despite these words uttered in good faith, you still approach the beast cautiously. Even when inside the stadium and swamped in a sea of white, Spurs songs ringing in your ears and the 60 fans from Monaco drowning in COYS, it felt dangerous and so it proved.
Rather like how the term “Spursy” became part of the footballing language, so did our failures at Wembley
Defeats to Leverkusen and Monaco sealed our fate and ended our Champions League run, something that we had fought for 38 games to get into, we’d knocked ourselves out in two trips to Wembley Park, suddenly Spurs and the national stadium hoodoo became a “thing.”
Rather like how the term “Spursy” became part of the footballing language, so did our failures at Wembley, thankfully though our next opponents were a bunch of rag tag willing Russians ready for their winter break and a Christmas shop. We won, broke the mini curse but it still felt alien there.
So today with not only a second leg Europa League tie, but the possibility of an entire Premier League campaign at Wembley on the horizon, I’m concerned. I’m nervous. I’ve got that Wembley feeling in the pit of my stomach again, I might wear my pyjamas under my jeans tomorrow and next season.