Heart / head

I fully respect those who are militantly opposed to the Olympic Stadium move. I want to stay in Tottenham. I’ve signed the petition. I’m behind you brothers and sisters, even if by quite a long way.

But I wanted to articulate a different view. To examine slightly more muddled feelings I have about this whole topic that I reckon (and more pertinently Daniel Levy reckons) most Tottenham fans have, to some extent. I’m not trying to say my way of looking at it is ‘right’ and any other is wrong. In fact, it’s probably a typically blinkered football fan’s way of looking at things that allows us to be shafted by our clubs over and over again.

I haven’t considered (in this post) the politics (of transport links, of the impact on Haringey etc.) or the economics of any stadium move. I might get round to that but I wanted to think about how it would affect me personally first.

Let’s start with some personal blarney. Whilst I was born and raised in Glasgow, the Oogfather grew up in Stamford Hill and my grandparents lived there for around 70 years. So I have a connection with the area. Hardcore pedants can point out that this means I have a connection with Hackney rather than Haringey. But hey – the right part of Hackney to foster a lifelong obsession with Tottenham Hotspur.

Walk down to the bottom of Springfield Park, along the Lee Valley path. Past the reservoirs and the lock and through Tottenham Marshes, re-entering the grimy tarmac of London proper somewhere near Northumberland Park station. Even thinking about that walk induces a heady mix of happy memories and melancholia that ignores the fact I didn’t go to that many Spurs games as a child, and that when I did we usually got the bus up the high road like everyone else.

But you get the point. I’ve got some kind of connection to a very specific part of London because my football team have played there all my life, and then some. There are warm and fuzzy feelings wrapped up in visiting N17 that I won’t ever be able to shake off, intimately entwined with recollections of childhood and family and, y’know, big stuff like that.

Maybe Tottenham is even more magical to me because it was 400 miles and a seven hour drive down there. I spent so much time thinking about it, wishing myself there on Saturdays. Take it from me, as a child I was obsessed with football and with Tottenham Hotspur – hard to believe, I know. In a breach of the usual half hearted policy of some kind of anonymity, here’s a photo of me outside my grandparents’ flat aged, I think, 11.

Ahead of my time, rocking the skinny jeans and geek look. And look how serious I am about holding that scarf aloft. Good work little me! That might have been the day of my first game at the lane, which by the magic of the internet I can confirm was 15 January 1988. Erik Thorstdvet’s nightmare debut against Forest, as it happens.

And then I got older and I moved to London and I told people it was because I loved the city and the diversity and the culture and the opportunities and the excitement. And all of that was true to an extent but dear reader, you know as well as I do that whilst I was mature enough to understand that you couldn’t tell people “I moved here because I am utterly obsessed with Tottenham Hotspur” I wasn’t mature enough to actually not move here because of them. I literally felt the pull of Tottenham. I will never know whether that pull would have been the same had my dad supported and come from Crewe or Shrewsbury, of course. Thank ****

Anyway, that’s my little personal wander down white hart memory lane. Most of you will have your own versions.

They will all involve Tottenham. None of them will involve Stratford.

Heart / head. Is that really all there is to it? Does my heart think moving to the Olympic stadium is just not on? Does my head feel there’s more to it than that? Quite the reverse, in fact.

I definitely want us to stay in Tottenham. I want to see that fierce chrome beast from the architect’s drawing clamp its jaws round the north stand and then take a big bite out of it, hungry for a bold and exciting but organic new future. We are Tottenham from the Lane, and we want to stay that way. When Chas and Dave and Ricky and Ossie and Martin Chivers and Ledley and Chirpy and co wave us goodbye through the flags and the balloons and the tears on our last day at the Lane – I want to say au revoir knowing that I’ll be coming right back up the high road when August rolls around.

So I understand why the very real possibility of moving away from our manor provokes such strong emotions in so many. I’ve read some comments on Twitter and the like along the lines of “if Tottenham move to Stratford, I won’t follow them anymore”. I can see why people feel that way – even if I won’t hold them to it. But I don’t feel it. Everyone’s connection to their football team is different, but that just isn’t how I respond.

I can’t kid myself. My passion for my team will not in any way be diminished. Ultimately, it’s Tottenham Hotspur I love, not Tottenham. Those industrial wastelands I walked past on my way to the ground – they’re an IKEA now. Time has moved on but the memories aren’t tarnished.

That proud little kid with the Tottenham scarf knew his own mind. If you’d asked him, he’d have said yes – let’s consider moving to a swanky new stadium 5 miles away if it saves us £200 million that will allow us to continue developing a squad that could be on the cusp of great things rather than sink back into the mediocrity. Especially if he’d known he was going to have at least another 20 years of that sodding mediocrity still to come. Ok, he’d have probably moved us to Glasgow if he’d had his way, but he still knew a thing or two. But more to the point, it wouldn’t have been a question of his heart saying no. His heart was with Tottenham Hotspur, whatever or wherever they were. He was already too obsessed. Tottenham Hotspur could do what they liked to him and he would always forgive them.

I don’t know. Maybe its just a question of personal psychology. Football and music have always been my two big passions, but I’m not one for hearing a song and associating it with a place or a time or a memory. The 15 year old me couldn’t get enough Pixies or My Bloody Valentine. When I listen to them now, I’m not thinking about that 15 year old kid, impeccable taste though he clearly had.

I just love them thar geetars. Just love those tunes. The memories, the traditions – I like them but I’m too insular about these things to really let them get in the way. That’s how I was when I was a kid, that’s how I am now. Just love supporting my team. To the point where I have tunnel vision about it. It doesn’t matter where we are. What matters is who we are.

So put me in Stratford, hey it’ll be nice to sit with all my friends. Just make sure it’s still recognisably my team and I will still get lost in the moment, lost in the passion of being a fan. Stratford and Tottenham look very similar from inside a stadium. Tottenham Hotspur will still be Tottenham Hotspur to me. I’m Daniel Levy’s dream.

Perhaps if we change the name. Perhaps if we start playing in red. Perhaps (almost certainly) if we move to Milton Keynes. Perhaps then my heart will break.

I want to stay in Tottenham. But – for me – Stratford isn’t Milton Keynes.

That’s my heart. But my head understands that tradition matters to people. That place is important. That people support their team in different ways. My head still says no to Stratford.



20 responses to “Heart / head

  1. These are deep waters, oog, and certainly deeper than the River Lea.

    Supporting a team is an expression of personal identity. And identity is something you do not choose but gradually become aware of. What triggers identification with a team depends on any number of psychological factors. For different people the triggers are different, though many people are like both you and me in that we support a team because it was our dad’s team. Yes. I know there will also be those for whom the key factor may be that a team was their mum’s team.

    Identity is nurtured by an abundance of continuities. These include the iconic team strip, the style of football, the fans’ songs, and the stadium.

    None of these stay fixed for ever. All evolve but the feeling of identify can be challenged by aprupt change. So a change of place may not matter if it is only a small change or if it is unavoidable. So I don’t imagine our fans in the first few years would have been troubled by the move from Northumberland Park to the Lane. And I’d be quite happy with a redeveloped stadium at the same site which we would still call the Lane even if some other official name is sold off to the highest bidder.

    But a move to the Olympic Stadium would be the product of choice, not necessity. It might of course lead to the construction of a new super team which will enjoy the success for which we have longed. But would it be our team? Some, but not all, of the songs and chants would have to change. And – as you recognise – our assertion of identity could no longer be ‘We are Tottenham from the Lane’. Would I feel that it is the same team I took you to watch when Erik Thorstvedt made his catastrophic debut? Would I feel that it is the same team that I watched as a boy in the Fifties and early Sixties? Would I feel that it is the same team my dad watched in the years between the wars?

    I’m really not sure of the answers to these questions. If it happens I’d hope to see one or two games and then see how I feel. But I am not certain that it will all seem OK. So, oog, like you, I hope it does not happen, but more fervently.

  2. One thing I meant to say and forgot to was that I do know the empty stomach feeling that you get when you think your team is about to disappear. In 1991, in the year Gazza single-handedly got us to the final, it really did look as though Tottenham were in such severe difficulty that they might not be around for much longer. To me, that dwarfs the present proposal. But not for all.

    So perhaps for some a move to Stratford might be too much of a shock to the system. And that’s one of the reasons I’m against it. I don’t want trauma inflicted on fellow fans if its avoidable and I do believe that there must be another way.

    But when you say that a team is an abundance of continuities (wow!), I think that the fans, even if their songs change, will be the most important continuity of all. WE will still be the same.

  3. “But when you say that a team is an abundance of continuities (wow!), I think that the fans, even if their songs change, will be the most important continuity of all. WE will still be the same.”

    But this, oog, begs the question. What I said was not that a team is an abundance of continuities (that would be abstract and metaphysical gobbledygook) but that a feeling of identity is nurtured by such continuities. So whether WE still are the same is not independent of factors such as whether the team has the same name, whether the same songs (or some of them) are sung, whether many of the fans who sing them still see this as the team their families supported for generations, nor of whether the fans feel that this stadium is home. No one factor is essential, but in combination they are crucial. But I’d better stop now before this becomes a debate about the Ship of Theseus.

  4. ” if it saves us £200 million that will allow us to continue developing a squad that could be on the cusp of great things rather than sink back into the mediocrity”. That’s it in a nutshell, to compete with teams in this league, as it stands now, you need money and plenty of it! And if you do move, then I’m sure your all imaginative enough to come up with more songs, and I’m sure there will be plenty of young lads who will form bonds and memories in the new ground (like the young man pictured)- so its either success (though you may no longer identify with them), or your soul 🙂

    • Fewst! Welcome. The first of many comments I hope. Look, to an extent a Glaswegian Spurs fan and a Liverpool fan from Yorkshire are probably not the people who will most be torn apart by the idea of their club moving a few miles away. Ultimately, the ‘business case’ is undeniable. The question is – does the business case trump other less tangible considerations? For me, it just doesn’t. I know I’ll be ok. I know that somehow it’ll still be Tottenham to me. But at some point you just have to say – if it alienates so many of the fans, whats the point? You’re quite right, it comes down to (a better chance of) success, or your soul.

      I’ll choose our soul.

      In fact, its a bit muddier than that. I’m sure Levy and co have a back up plan which involves exerting maximum pressure on Haringey council, and to an extent its in their interests at this point to inflate figures / write off the N17 option as unworkable. If West Ham are given preferred bidder status (and I still think they are marginal favourites) then perhaps we’ll see a new workable strategy emerge.

      One other thought – uefa financial fair play kicks in next season. We came 4th last year and are in the mix again. So its not as if we’re doing too badly even before the playing field is slightly levelled.

  5. My Dad would tell me about him and his brother riding their bikes up the canal from Bethnal Green and then across the marshes and on to White Hart Lane. They would leave their bikes in the small front garden on someones house, having paid a small fee. I’m sure it was the same for his father before him. On my mother’s side, my grandfather would tell me about his longer pilgrimage from Romford but the destination was still the same. He was drawn to WHL like all of us. Not because it was close, or because it was convenient but because it was “home”.
    On those early journeys that our family would take from Essex to Tottenham on the train we would pass the Peabody estate where my Dad lived, just off the Cambridge Heath Road. My Mum, even had the pleasue of living there when they were newly wed, only until she couldn’t stand it no longer and they decamped to another family member with a bigger place. Going to Spurs wasn’t something that we did because it seemed like a good idea, it was so much more than that. It was a continuation of a ritual that just had to be observed. A passion. A calling.
    I don’t want to leave WHL. I remember the last match on the shelf before the developers ruined the greatest piece of terracing that has ever been. We protested at Wood Green town hall. A group called “Left on the Shelf” was formed but to no avail. I can still clearly remember the old bill forcing us to leave the shelf on that last game even though we attempted a sit in protest. That sad, solemn walk down the back stairs from the Shelf is still part of me. We were not moving grounds, just revamping the East Stand. If I were to walk away from White Hart Lane after a match knowing that I would never be able to return, well, that would be the end for me.

  6. Great post, HornchurchYids. More evidence that a move to Stratford will be the final straw for many.

    Levy’s a businessman and so will only allow the business case to sway him. But that kind of world view is why the world is kinda f****d. There’s more to life than business and whilst there is always a need to compromise – we’d be completely stuffed if glassy-eyed romantics ran the club too – Stratford is a step too far.

    I’m interested – how would you feel about the Northumberland Park development. in other words, a new stadium right next to the old one? Would that be the end for you too? I think in general thats the compromise most Spurs fans could live with. Even if it meant a horror trip home.

  7. Levy has come in for plenty of praise from Spurs fans recently because he has attempted to tread that fine line between being a fan and wanting what fans want but also being a shrewd chairman and running our club if a sensible manner. Stratford is our Rubicon. It’s that line in the sand that if we cross over our lillywhite world will change for ever. And what if we don’t get success having moved to E15? It’s certainly not a given. what if the extra fans don’t turn up? We could be a mediocre team playing in a half empty stadium not really quite knowing who we are and how we got here.
    I am more than happy with the plans for developing WHL. Moving a few yards up the road is fine. It’s annoying that such a great play was made of these plans by the club that they would deliver a truly wonderful “iconic” stadium for us all to be proud of. They even incorporated the single tier “end” that looked great on the plans. And they reminded us of our pride in our roots and history. Yes, it is bound to be more expensive and the transport links are poor but somethings do have a greater price and in anycase, who are the ones that have contributed most down the years, in good times and bad?
    Whatever next? A ground share with West Ham at the Olympic stadium? God forbid! but it wouldn’t surprise me.
    We are Tottenham Hotspur, and we are from the Lane!

    oog, can you imagine getting on the Central line to see Spurs? Even the line’s red for christ sake. It’s all wrong.

  8. Well, HY, I actually thought about my journey the other day and it would be black and silver for me – Northern Line to London Bridge and then Jubilee to Stratford. And then I assume it wouldn’t be a 30 minute walk up a high road to get to the ground. Maybe to walk round it…

    Mind you, Arsenal station is on Piccadilly which is a lovely shade of blue so maybe we shouldn’t read too much into it.

    Anyway, like I’ve said a lot – my own personal rubicon isn’t Stratford. I’d cope. It would just make me very sad that other fans would feel it was a step too far. Therefore – I award this white elephant to… West Ham.

    I keep hearing the actual decision will be made either in March or on January 28 – anyone know for sure?

  9. I think on the 28th Jan one of the two clubs gets awarded preferred bidder status. Then in March the Boris rubber stamps it. My fear is that when this happens some Olympic bright spark pipes up with the idea that the two clubs could share and maybe a running track isn’t so important to them as the two clubs can cough up for a bigger athletics venue somewhere else on the site. At this point, Levy turns to Gold and Sullivan and in unison they all chime “What a good idea,never thought of that.” Sure, it’s highly unlikely. but then so was moving to Stratford a few months ago.
    Also, if we did move to Stratford who would own the stadium / land? Would we be renting? Could this be the start of the US style franchise clubs upping sticks and moving cities wherever the lure of more money takes them?

  10. Levy is a shrewd businessman and hopefully means that he won’t get into bed with Gold and Sullivan – sorry for conjuring up the thought.

    Also, I think one of the key attractions of the Olympic Stadium is that we could get a lot more for the naming rights because White Hart Lane is such a strong brand. Presumably that brand would be diluted if we shared with the Spammers.

    So there’s a couple of reasons why it might not happen. But you can’t rule anything out. I’d like to know which individuals from the Legacy Committee, or whatever its called, are making this decision. I see that Crystal Palace are also planning to move into the athletics stadium down there so hopefully that presents a problem for our bid too.

  11. Crystal Palace talking about moving to the athletics stadium is not coincidence. As soon as they heard the Spurs plan to invest money in the venue if Spurs were successful with their Olympic bid they must have been thinking how great it would be to move to a newly refurbished stadium especially if THFC had footed the bill.
    With the decision for the Olmpic stadium, I have a bad feeling that those on the committee will see West Ham in danger of relegation, in debt up to their eye balls and think that the bid that makes most commercial sense is to go with Spurs. They will drive a hard bargain if the running track is to go but do they really care about leagacy? The site before any work took place was a waste land with some small industry. They will be able to argue that they have already made a lasting impact on the area with the new facilities, homes, transport etc etc. As much as it pains me to say it, we need West Ham to start winning some games and get up that league otherwise we will al be eating jellied eels and pie and mash on match days. Gor blimey and lub a duck!
    Do you think that Levy had a Eureka moment about the Olmpic stadium one evening in his hot tub pondering over the obstacles that Haringey were putting in his way about the Northumberland development? Or was this the plan from the start? He seemed keen on Wembley too.

  12. What do you think about this?

    LONDON (AP) – South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar has
    announced on Twitter that he will be joining Tottenham from
    Premier League rival Everton.
    Pienaar, who was also in talks with Chelsea after refusing
    to sign a new contract at Everton, posts on Twitter «to
    end speculation I am going to Spurs.»

  13. HY – I’m trying to get comments on transfers etc. on to my transfer window blog (the post before this one) – so feel free to comment on it there – I already have!

  14. on my way there now.

  15. I think it comes down to whether you can convince yourself that you’re still supporting THFC or a new club that has been formed purely to make money.

    Levy’s partner in this, AEG, the world’s largest owner of sports teams and sports events, the owner of the world’s most profitable sports and entertainment venues, and under AEG Live the world’s second largest presenter of live music and entertainment events after Live Nation, won’t be a sleeping partner if Levy wins the bid. Levy will sell THFC to AEG and Stratford will become a franchise and entertainment site.

    Not for me, but if you can live with that, fine.

  16. There’s a lot of talk about forming ‘FC Hotspur of Tottenham’ if the old club were to disappear.

    Talk is cheap and going from one end of the football spectrum to the other, like those fans at FC United did, can’t be easy.

    But what a great opportunity to be in on something from the ground level and rekindle a love for a game that at its highest level has turned its back on the loyal fans in favour of businessmen.

  17. TMWNN
    Now that would be something! Hopefully, we can keep our beloved THFC in N17 with a spanking new WHL. If not and the club sells it’s soul to Stratford then there is still hope that the cockerel may rise from the ashes.

  18. We would indeed be tenants if we were to move to Stratford. This would be a bad move. What then would stop any unscrupulous owner of the club taking us further a field?

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