Deciding on a location to spend a gap year before university was easy for Andrew Puopolo. Travelling across the Atlantic, he found a home away from home in White Hart Lane.
Upon graduating from High School in New York City in 2014, my parents suggested I take a Gap Year before starting university. There was only one place I wanted to spend it; London, England, the world famous home of the Spurs. Having spent the previous four years waking up at ludicrous hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings to watch my beloved Spurs I was finally given the chance to see them up close and personal and experience the famous White Hart Lane atmosphere. For the following 7 months, I lived the dream of every single Tottenham supporter worldwide.
My first match was a relatively forgettable 2-0 (scorers: Kane and Lamela) win over Brighton and Hove Albion in the League Cup and my second the infamous Europa League match against Partizan (a 1-0 win through Benjamin Stambouli) that was marred by pitch invaders. But the lure and family feel of White Hart Lane kept me coming week after week. Coming from the States where (at the time) I did not know a single Tottenham supporter and arriving in a country where I barely knew a soul, to be able to come to a place with 33,000 others who had the exact same mindset as me was extremely comforting. Often travelling to matches alone as a 19 year old American, I was able to bond with people I had never met before (and sadly likely will never meet again) over one thing, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. These conversations with literal strangers, although often initiated by whatever was happening on the pitch, often turned and became personal. They were often quite interested in me and what I did and I could learn a lot about them and by proxy common British culture.
For the following 7 months, I lived the dream of every single Tottenham supporter worldwide.
It was nearly impossible to pick out one single White Hart Lane memory to use for this story. It would have been very easy for me to pick the 5-3 win over Chelsea on New Year’s Day (I couldn’t sleep after that!) or the 2-2 draw with West Ham where Harry Kane equalised in the 97th minute. The final home match of that season against Hull where Spurs supporters brilliantly sang for Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone also springs to mind but my #1 memory had nothing to do with events that took place on the pitch. On March 4th, 2015 the White Hart Lane faithful was in the midst of a downturn. In the previous seven days, Spurs had been knocked out of the Europa League by Fiorentina, lost a League Cup Final at Wembley to Chelsea and were (as was customary) on the outside looking in on the Champions League places.
The opponents on that Wednesday night were Swansea City. This match was not televised and was very clearly given third billing in London that evening (behind a derby between QPR and Arsenal at Loftus Road and a District Line Derby at Upton Park). Those that were not present at the match probably have very little recollection that this match even took place. This was the first match where I was lucky enough to get tickets in the Park Lane Lower and the atmosphere (as always) was electric despite the mood. And in the 6th minute, Spurs went ahead! Danny Rose whipped in a cross and Nacer Chadli guided it into the bottom corner. The Park Lane erupted and began to playfully taunted ex Arsenal keeper Luksaz Fabianski. It was the typical stuff you see after a Spurs goal. I looked to the centre circle and saw something I will never, ever forget.
While Spurs were celebrating Swansea prepared to restart. Bafetimbi Gomis stood over the ball before I saw him go to the ground. At first I thought he was just taking a bit of a rest while Spurs celebrated but I quickly realised it was much, much more serious. And the rest of White Hart Lane realised this quickly. Many inside the ground had been present at the 2012 FA Cup Quarter Final tie when Fabrice Muamba collapsed and feared that a repeat was on the cards. The Park Lane went from being a raucous football crowd to a church. Many chanted his name in support and expressed well wishes. For six minutes Gomis lay on the ground before he was eventually led off on a stretcher to the applause of the White Hart Lane faithful. That moment made me realise that there was more to White Hart Lane than just seeing two football teams battle it out. There is a real sense of community at the Lane, a family away from our respective families. While we all believe and hope for the same thing, success for Tottenham on the pitch, we can all put that to the side in times of biggest need.
The Park Lane went from being a raucous football crowd to a church. Many chanted his name in support and expressed well wishes.
Spurs won that match 3-2 after two more goals from Ryan Mason and Andros Townsend and fittingly and in true Spurs spirit sang “He’s One of Our Own” after both goals. In total I attended 14 matches at White Hart Lane that season (and 5 away matches) and I will cherish the memories forever. White Hart Lane provided me with one huge family during my first extended spell away from my actual family and made me feel as though I was right at home, despite being an ocean away from New York City. I will miss White Hart Lane dearly but I cannot wait for the new stadium and hopefully I will be able to attend many matches there!