Travelling through time on my final visit to White Hart Lane

by TaxiForMaicon

The football team you support is often something passed down through generations and the memories shared with family are just as significant as the games themselves. Here 'TaxiForMaicon' recounts a final trip to the Lane with his Dad.

Sometimes you get a reminder of what football is all about.

A moment that brings flooding back all those reasons we are still so wrapped up in a game that has changed irrevocably from the one that first swept us off our feet.

Sunday’s Spurs v Millwall FA Cup quarter-final will likely turn out to be my last trip to White Hart Lane as we know it, before it is completely bulldozed to make way for The (insert sponsor name here) Stadium.

As a kid I started with three seasons in the now-demolished north-east corner, sitting through some of the worst times and teams in our recent history. It didn’t matter, it was my time and I loved it. Learning the songs, wearing the shirt and piling all my hopes into whichever ultimately average signing we had hyped into a possible saviour that week.

My Dad, who I went with on Sunday, had a rather better run. He is a veteran of the terraces from the 1960-61 Double-winning year, with the ticket stubs, press cuttings and programmes to prove it.

Suddenly, however much I thought I knew about Tottenham paled into the background.

It was always going to be a day for nostalgia – but I got far more than I bargained for.

On telling my dad we had secured tickets for one last game at the old stadium, the tone in his voice changed noticeably from cautious indifference (“just do what you can and if we end up with tickets then great”) to something approaching genuine excitement.

I expected the roles to have shifted since our last trip there together. Having been countless times without him in the meantime, this time maybe it would be me “taking” my old man to the game. But, just like when we started out 20 years ago, he ended up taking me.

Doing it his way this one last time was clearly important to him as he started reeling off names of pubs around the streets he grew up on. Suddenly, however much I thought I knew about Tottenham paled into the background. To Dad, this wasn’t just one last game at the Lane – this was a trip home.

We took the Tube to Wood Green and walked to the ground from there, down Lordship Lane. Dad was in his element, he had been transported back 60 years and I was along for the ride.

Every shop front was a memory, a snapshot of a bygone era. “This used to be a pet shop, that was a greengrocers, your Grandad once lived here, your Uncle lived there.”

Mentions of old school friends led to more stories and anecdotes as my tour guide delved into the rabbit warren of his youth. One guy smoking a cigarette outside a shop got the shock of his life when we stopped just feet away from him and Dad pointed up and said: “I was born in that room there.”

The beautiful game means different things to different folk, but sometimes we lose sight of the glue that holds it all together.

I’d almost forgotten about the football until we passed the row of police vans parked outside the Elmhurst pub, which was packed full of Millwall fans.

The game itself was sandwiched between drinks at the Antwerp Arms, a community boozer round the corner from White Hart Lane that has been recently saved from development thanks to investment from the football club and its fans.

And it was in there, after a convincing 6-0 win – marred but not ruined by certain flashpoints inside and outside the ground – that we saw the very best of this sport that keeps generation after generation coming back for more.

At the old upright piano in the corner, a young man with long hair and a leather jacket sat down and began hesitantly playing songs from years gone by.

It was basically background music, until everyone realised what he was playing.

Within minutes he was surrounded as the enthusiasm spread and Tottenham fans all sang along: “Glory, glory hallelujah…”

The chorus swept through the pub as eyes lit up, arms were held aloft and the next number brought the house down. “Spurs are on their way to Wembley, Tottenham’s gonna do it again…”

The songs kept coming and the voices got louder and louder as Tottenham anthems name-checking Ossie Ardiles, Keith Burkinshaw and Cyril Knowles bridged the gap between the those who saw it all and those ready to pick up the mantle.

“Wember-lee, Wember-lee…”, it continued. Dad and I held our glasses aloft.

Within minutes he was surrounded as the enthusiasm spread and Tottenham fans all sang along.

Nobody was thinking about the top four, the Champions League, new stadiums or transfer fees. People hugged and danced around, no malice, no bravado. Just pure enjoyment.

The beautiful game means different things to different folk, but sometimes we lose sight of the glue that holds it all together.

Football is about fans. Football is about family. Football is about people. Everything else might change but, for me, that is where it starts and finishes.

Author

TaxiForMaicon

Lifelong Spurs fan, less long husband and dad. Football mad, try to get to games and update blog whenever possible. Dad was on the terraces in 60-61, I had to sit through the late 1990s. Loved (almost) every minute.

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