For Spurs fans, it’s memories Lane
Will the club’s new stadium be grounds for celebration? Dan Carrier bids a nostalgic and highly personal farewell to White Hart Lane
11 May, 2017 — By Dan Carrier
The new stadium takes shape
AT around 6.30pm on Sunday, the final whistle will be blown at White Hart Lane, signalling the end of the season. But when the referee finishes the proceedings against Manchester United, it will also be calling time on of 100 years of my family heading to the same couple of acres in north London on a fortnightly basis to enjoy a football match.
My grandfather, Louis Carrier, was born in 1898 and supported Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs played their first game on the site of the current stadium in 1899, then a disused Charrington Brewery nursery. They started building a permanent ground there in 1905. Granddad Louis was a regular. He took his son, John, for his first game in 1948 and in turn my debut trip to the Lane was in 1980. My son Luc now joins us at each match.
On Monday morning, bulldozers will rev up and start demolishing the current stadium, a place with the same sense of belonging to our family that others equate with a synagogue, church, mosque or any other jumble of bricks and mortar to which people attach themselves. When Spurs was established in this bit of Tottenham, it was a mixture of open fields, Georgian houses, and Victorian industry.
Such historical references still survive, pockets amid the pre-war ribbon development driven by the A10 and post-war building on bomb-damaged lands, allotments, fields and scrubland. Served by the River Lea and the canals, railways into London, it was both an area of market gardens with a sense of the countryside and industrial encroachment in the Victorian era.
White Hart Lane. Spurs played their first game on the site of the current stadium in 1899
Today, it is considered to be one of the most deprived boroughs in London, a piece of the north of the capital that has yet to be gentrified.
Of course, the current ground has changed greatly down the years. My first game – a 0-0 draw with Bristol City – had a model on the front of the programme of a new stand that was to be built on the western side of the stadium which, 37 years on, is to be pulled down. Yet the home improvements haven’t eroded a sense of place.
The ritual of being a supporter is tied up in the myriad ways of getting there from NW5 – the number 41 from Archway, the Overground at Gospel Oak to South Tottenham with a walk up the High Road, or a drive through back streets, avoiding Lordship Lane on a Saturday.
Then it’s a brief stop for a pint, a bet and what my friends call a “goolie burger” (you work it out) before you click through the turnstiles into the depths of the stands, and then emerge into the heightened noises and colours of the beautiful stadium.
And the journey to the Lane is, in a roundabout way, one of the reasons I am a Spurs fan.
Growing up in Kentish Town in the 1980s, there were plenty of Spurs fans at school due to the club’s success and style, and the fact our parents had been thrilled by the 1960s sides, too.
But with Arsenal a short hop up the Holloway Road, why Spurs?
The answer lies partly in the fact my dad’s family were Jewish East Enders who had settled in the Stepney and Hackney areas. Spurs earned a reputation for having a Jewish fanbase because it was easier to get there by trams and trains from Liverpool Street than to reach Arsenal, so the club drew crowds from the first- and second-generation immigrants.
Tottenham Hotspur 1963 vintage. Photo: Nationaal Archief, Den Haag
When the German national team came to play in England in the 1930s, the stuffed shirts at the FA chose White Hart Lane for the encounter, and hoisted a Swastika on the flag above the ground. It was too much for one fan, who clambered onto the roof and hoiked it down before the match kicked off.
From being taken by my parents with my siblings to being allowed to go alone – once I could earn the gate price by being a newspaper boy for this very paper – I’ve supported Spurs from all four corners of the Lane and I’ve seen hundreds of goals, savoured victories, lamented defeats. I have watched starry-eyed youngsters make debuts, old-timers push out one more performance. I have seen World Cup winners, sublime skill, incredible athletes – and average footballers playing in average sides. But my excitement levels have never wavered.
It isn’t just for nostalgic reasons that we face the future with a sense of trepidation. Spurs are the Lane, the Lane is Spurs: fans worry the removal men may misplace the magic ingredient that binds us together, an alchemist’s potion that creates the magic of football.
Maybe we’ll be OK in the new 61,000-seater built on land lying just 100-odd yards to the north. Maybe the atmosphere won’t be too diluted by tourists.
With Spurs flying high with a team of youngsters, a hefty waiting list for season tickets, and a stadium designed to make sure the noise is echoing around the pitch, perhaps it will soon be home again. Being built next door helps – there will be the comforting landmarks of The Bricklayers, the Antwerp, The Two Brewers and the Bell and Hare to sing in before the games.
It’s still N17 and, as the Tannoy says as the teams come out, we’ll make it once more White Hart Lane, the World Famous Home of the Spurs.