By Mike Donovan
Imagine White Hart Lane Stadium had been able to talk. Its bricks, mortar, metals, woods, plastics, glasses, furnishings and other manmade solids transformed into a living, breathing entity. With the full set of human senses. What tales it would have told and emotions it would have felt of highs and lows while shedding tears of joy and sadness. Of conflict and contentment. But, above all, of glory and more glory. All the way from when it became the third home of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in the last summer of the 19th century. Its ghost will forever float around the club’s fourth home, not having far to roam as it is being partly built on the same site of ‘the world-famous home of the Spurs’ off the High Road, Tottenham, London N17.
It would know of each and every player, manager, coach, doctor, physio, administrator, director, grounds person, architect, security guard, ticket collector, turnstile operator, steward, hospitality host, receptionist, caterer, security expert, media whizz and all others working within its confines. How they applied their skill-set to their particular tasks in the service of the club and its visitors on and off the pitch. Left their marks – ranging from shoe scuffs to pages in its history since Spurs constructed it and moved in. Able to provide the ultimate ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary.
It would be aware of the millions upon millions of supporters. A community originally made up largely of local workers in Victorian England but which now includes most classes and ethnicities either inhabiting our cosmopolitan country or flying in to buy up the club merchandise, watch the match and flying back out. Flat-capped to smart-phoned. Once there was one supporters club. (You got your hardbacked navy-coloured folding membership card from its headquarters at Warmington House a few yards along from the main entrance to the ground). Now they are dotted all over the world (and expanding in number).
Be familiar with each and everyone who experienced Spurs in the north and south, east and west of the stadium since 1899. And the impact of it on their lives. An interest – perhaps casual – developing into a full-blown love affair with its moments of bliss, heartache and hardship. Male and female. All ages. All relationships. Boys and girls, mums and dads, brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles, grandparents and mates. Folk from London N17 to the other side of the globe.
That’s how it has been for my family over eight decades. Handed down by parents who attended as a courting couple from when peace broke out at the end of the Second World War in the mid-1940s. (Extract from the prologue, Glory, Glory Lane)
Harry Hotspur to Harry Kane via Harry Redknapp, Tottenham Hotspur’s tenure at White Hart Lane provided unforgettable memories in unforgettable atmospheres for so many.
For me it was when:
- My late Dad took me onto the lower East Stand terrace for my first match the High Road N17 ground.
- Jimmy Greaves scored a goal against Manchester United described by opponent George Best as the best he’d ever seen.
- Alan Gilzean hit a hat-trick to beat Burnley in the most exciting game I witnessed in my 50-plus years attending the Lane.
- Alan Mullery lifted the UEFA Cup.
- I was squashed like a sardine in the Park Lane end witnessing Roger Davies winning an epic cup tie for Derby.
- I stood outside the Park Lane end listening to the ‘oohs and aahs’ from inside the ground as Ipswich all-but ended Spurs’ hopes of a double Double.
- Hoddle, Ardiles, Klinsmann. Ginola, Bale or another of the stream of Spurs entertainers produced a piece of magic.
- Harry Kane scored the last winner at the Lane in May 2017.
Too many to mention, really, although I did in my book Glory, Glory Lane: The Extraordinary History Of Tottenham Hotspur’s Famous Home For 118 Years, with forewords from playing legends Terry Dyson and Alan Mullery.
From Roman times – with the construction of the High Road – to the formation of the club by schoolboys who named it after all-action historic figure Sir Henry Percy, nicknamed Harry Hotspur. Homes on the public Marshes and private Northumberland Park and right through every decade at the former nursery turned theatre of dreams.
To the future and the stadium being built more or less on the site of the old one, stopping off to hear from the fans, and a group Double-winning manager Bill Nicholson considered one of the most important people at the club.
Nicholson, of course, lived in Tottenham from when he arrived at the club in the 1930s. Arthur Rowe, who guided the Push and Run team to back to back titles a decade earlier, was born in the area. And so was modern-day hero Harry Kane. Spurs, who were founded by members of the Tottenham community, are keen to maintain that local spirit in their bid to join the global elite as they prepare to move into the new super stadium next season.
White Hart Lane was a Victorian structure turned wraparound 21st century all-seater attracting fans by playing the Spurs way to glory. It is hard to imagine the new £800m ground – no matter how many bells and whistles are put in place – can ever replace the edifice which shut its gate for the last time after witnessing that Kane winner against Manchester United in May having created a daunting legacy.
Matches, personalities, ground developments and other issues, with first-hand accounts from first Lane manager John Cameron to current boss Mauricio Pochettino, are covered in Glory, Glory Lane, which is lavishly illustrated.
The likes of Greaves, Dyson, Mullery and Paul Gascoigne have endorsed the book which tries to inform the present and future through history.
An extract from the 1960s’ chapter Glory, Glory Hallelujah:
Lane loyalists The Dave Clark Five, a Tottenham pop band pally with Spurs players, sung ‘Glad All Over’. Bob Dylan, admittedly an unlikely choice for standing on the High Road ground terraces with wearing a navy blue and white scarf and rosette while spinning a rattle, figured: ‘The Times They Are A Changin’. Both reflected the 1960s when the black and white post-war years of austerity turned technicolour in the shape of outlook and deed throughout a society with a few bob in its collective pocket. Out with the old, in with the new. A feelgood social, political and cultural revolution. Ration books for Beatle hooks.
It was high definition technicolour for White Hart Lane and its resident football club – from the get-go. The Lane witnessed the first Double – winning the Football League Championship and FA Cup in the same season – of the 20th Century with a team rated the greatest ever seen to grace the Lane’s hallowed turf. Perhaps any British, even foreign, turf.