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.