On his final trip to White Hart Lane, Jack Doyle breaks down what our old stadium means to him before the bulldozers arrived.
We are embarking on a new era in our club’s history, a new adventure of precariousness into our gleaming, 10ft concrete cock emblazoned new home. The only certainty that we as parishioners of this blue seated church were left with was that nostalgic, longing and frankly upsetting feeling we all experienced as we said goodbye to White Hart Lane as we knew it.
As I walked up the stairway of block 35 for the final time with a couple of beers in my stomach and the residual smoke of too many cigarettes in my lungs I got the same, comforting feeling I’ve always had. Walking up those scruffy yellow painted steps catching a glimpse of the cranes that tower over the Paxton Road End, I’m reminded of our imminent move. The ever decreasingly low definition jumbotron follows not too far below, then the bright blue seats glistening in the sunlight. ‘The Game is About Glory’ comes next, the hoardings at the bottom of the upper tier sporting a concept that I was not aware of until very recently. Then you see the pitch, the perfectly maintained grass on which my mood for the following week will be determined. As I arrive at the final step I turn 180 degrees at the top of the gangway to make my way to the seat, my head stays the same way, looking in the same direction, probably irritating many of my fellow supporters by getting in their way as I make tentative steps towards my uncomfortable and knee bruising destination in row 21.
I was very aware that this was the last time I’d head up those steps, see that pitch, smell that old place and I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to get behind my team one last time at White Hart Lane. The match, like every match I’ve ever been to at the Lane, gave me the same tense and sick feeling that has, in time, come to reassure me. It has, for so long, been associated so closely with my unconditional love for this club that both go hand in hand pretty much perfectly. The game, much like the stadium itself, moved closer to its ultimate conclusion and I was conscious of the fact that these were the last minutes I’d witness my team playing at their world famous home, but I was still worried United would nick a last minute equaliser and we would all have one last Spursy memory to take home with us. Luckily, though, we are not the team that had graced and sometimes disgraced that turf in years gone by, we are a powerful and well-oiled outfit befitting of the stadium we’ve called our home since 1899. The final whistle blew and with it came a wave of scarves, free flags and beer bellied blokes onto the pitch. The stewards, for just 15 minutes or so, relinquished control. White Hart Lane, in that short period of time, after thousands of hours and pounds spent within its walls, finally belonged to us, the fans, and it was wonderful.
The beauty of the place comes from its tradition, and although we as a club have always made strides toward innovation, White Hart Lane has, for at least my lifetime, been a beacon of what the game used to represent. The fans, so close to the pitch that opposition full backs will take all too hasty throw ins, have a genuine effect on matters on the field. The stands, straight on all four sides, wrapping themselves around the pitch perfectly. The ever increasingly rusting metal beams on the ageing roofs of the stands are much more functional than aesthetically pleasing. But it is these ingredients that give it more character than the majority of Stadiums you’re likely to visit. White Hart Lane is a real football ground full of real people. And as they begin to tear it down, brick by brick and memory by memory, it will always hold a very special place in the hearts all of those lucky enough to have walked through its claustrophobia inducing turnstiles. It will always evoke emotions and feelings and reminders of what was. Watching the greats glide over the turf with the smell of unintentionally vegetarian burgers and fried onions in the air. Trying to navigate through the hoards of fans spilling out onto the streets of Tottenham from the shelf with feet like blocks of ice after a Thursday night Europa League bore draw. Leaving the Park Lane in all its gloating, pissed up and abusive glory after Kane scores yet another winning goal. We will leave the Lane behind, but as I’m sure everyone thought and felt on Sunday evening, we will never fail to remember what it has meant to us in our lives, whether our memories be related to what happens on the pitch or off it.
And as we move 30 yards from our now former home, looking back with regret-tinged fondness, into our new small village sized soccer complex, it is going to be difficult for all of us to adjust to a brand new environment in the same old surroundings. But as much as we will all agree that moving from the Lane will be an unnerving and uncertain experience, we can all take comfort in knowing that we will still be able to sing together, shout at the officials together and celebrate when loaned out Arsenal players get injured. We’ll just have to do it in comfier seats with better leg room. And we all know that to be the club that we want to be, to achieve what we all believe we deserve to achieve and to succeed in a manner that befits the clubs wonderful history, we must make the leap into what will potentially be the best stadium in European football.
But until the moment comes when Mr Levy finally unlocks the doors of the Dunkin’ Donuts Arena on the first day of the 2018/19 season we can all continue to grieve for our loss and remember what the Lane gave to each and every single one of us. It was real, it was ours and it was beautiful because of it.