Will it ever be the same? Farewell to White Hart Lane…
Dan Carrier reflects on an emotional day for Spurs fans as they said their farewells to White Hart Lane
19 May, 2017 — By Dan Carrier
IT was a case of savouring every trembling step. Of soaking up every moment. Of drinking in the club crests and blue and white motifs adorning the stands. Of shaking stewards’ hands and wishing all the best to fellow fans doing the same.
From the journey to White Hart Lane to the walk up the High Road, clicking through the turnstiles for the last time and up from the belly of the stadium, climbing steps I’ve trudged up every fortnight for so many years, and then into the light – Sunday’s last-ever game at Tottenham’s lovely, compact, old football ground was a ferocious attack on the senses as my son, my sister and I accepted we were the last torchbearers of a family tradition to come to our place of worship, White Hart Lane, the world famous home of the Spurs.
We’d come to watch a straight forward victory over Manchester United – a sign of how good the current team is. No one expected anything but Spurs to keep intact the unbeaten record this season at the Lane. But more importantly we were there to say a tearful farewell to a place that has played such a large part in our lives.
The atmosphere at the Lane has always been special.
Spurs fans know how to support a club through thick and thin.
And that’s one of the things we’re nervous about losing when we walk into the new, twice-the-size Lane next year.
We’ve heard how the switch from Highbury to the Emirates has ruined it for that lot down the Seven Sisters. We know it’s a gamble – will it ever be the same again?
We understand the economics and recognise how Spurs have built a title-challenging team on a shoestring compared with their rivals, and we need double the capacity to keep up.
Yet many feel we should stay put in a 36,000-seater, finish fifth each year but still be part of a special gang, not just a section of fans who recall the old days while singing their hearts out in a stand where 50 per cent are tourists.
As all four corners of the ground knew the referee was checking his watch, the celebratory songs that had rang out all afternoon turned slightly mournful. Glory Glory Hallelujah!, sung at a snails pace, echoed off the stanchions.
Dan Carrier at the Lane
And then, when the ref did blow up for the last time, the fans spilled on to the pitch, not stopped by stewards who knew that this was something to treasure.
The day had been perfectly tailored by the club to bring us all together.
All too often football can feel fairly tacky, exploitative – but from the souvenir T-shirts left on the seats, to the film walking us through the history of the club narrated by Spurs fan Sir Kenneth Branagh, they got this just right.
At half time Chas & Dave were on the pitch, greeted by a chorus of their Spurs related hits. Chas told fans he reckoned 50 per cent of our tunes have Spurs in them somewhere, while Dave recalled being a boy in the 1950s and sitting on the touchline, allowed to be so close because his uncle was a club scout.
I spent time saying goodbye to supporters sitting close to me whose names I don’t know, but over the years have joined me in cheering and groaning, all of us aware that we’d never meet again in joyous harmony at the place we call home.
And after the pitch invaders had returned to their seats, this sense of history, of family, of belonging was underlined as former players trooped out on to the turf for one last time.
Yes, there were some absences – we all wish Gazza could have been well enough to come – but those who could not make it had their names sung instead.
And what roars greeted the old boys who did appear: sitting by the tunnel, I couldn’t help but well up as I watched generations of Lilywhite heroes – 49 former players – wipe away tears as they soaked up the appreciation. My son
Luc was one of the first from the West Stand to rush on to the turf, starting an exodus from his section. To see him scampering up to the goal by the Park Lane, singing from the penalty spot and being cheered by those still watching from their seats – well, it is another golden moment among many I’ll savour for ever.
So goodbye, dear old Lane – and thank you for all the times we have shared together.