November 03, 2008

A Trip to White Hart Lane 2

My First Trip to ‘The Lane’: Saturday 1st November 2008- Tottenham v Liverpool

1.   Why were you looking forward to going to the ground?

Any opportunity to catch top-class Premiership action will be grabbed by me with open arms, and any opportunity to catch the current leaders of the Premiership, as well as a side beginning a renaissance under Harry Redknapp, will mean that I drop everything for a trip to London. Furthermore, I had never been to White Hart Lane, and wanted to tick the ground off my 92- club list. Saturdays like these do not happen ever week. If you could give me a perfect Saturday, this would be it.

2.   How easy was your journey/ finding the ground/ car parking?

Difficult because none of the London Underground staff seem to know about the existence of Tottenham Hotspur, let alone White Hart Lane. At least three members of staff believed that Spurs played near Tottenham Court Road in Central London and one ticker clerk at Baker Street looked at me as if I had vomited over him, when I asked my simple questions. It was a difficult task, and was not helped by most of the underground system being shut down for ‘essential’ engineering works on this wet Saturday afternoon.

I took a chance and travelled on the Victoria tube line to Seven Sisters, and an over ground train over the rooftops to White Hart Lane railway station. It is a case of following the fans when you emerge from the station, taking a right underneath the railway bridge, past some barbershops, kebab houses and the odd newsagent to the football ground. Police present was not especially extensive, despite this match being a grade A fixture, and the away end is at the southern end of the stadium.

Due to excessive chatting with an old friend in a central London pub, I arrived relatively late for the game, and had little time to by check out the White Hart Lane grub. However, the smells told me that there would not be much different from the menus of other grounds. The programme was an interesting read, and the gift shop was nicely laid out for the credit-crunched Christmas shoppers. I nearly brought a box of six Tottenham crackers in readiness for Christmas.

3.   What did you think when seeing the ground/ first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

White Hart Lane is a ground with character and quite imposing from the outside. I sat in the home end at the north end of the ground, and enjoyed the enclosed nature of the arena. The Spurs faithful were in an expectant mood after the 4-4 draw against Arsenal of four days earlier, and the atmosphere was fairly friendly too. For a football fan that spends most of his time in stadiums that are half the size of White Hart Lane, it was a jaw-dropping experience. From my lofty position in the North Stand, I spent most of the first half watching the game and also the Tottenham support.

4.   Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies and toilets

Although I was disappointed by Liverpool, and shocked at Tottenham’s overall performance in the first half of the game, the game was very exciting. It was a match that Liverpool should have won about 6-0 by the middle of the second half, but a combination of bad substitutions, the roar of the home fans, and the ability of Tottenham to start passing and moving for the ball meant that Spurs won 2-1

If I was a Liverpool fan, I would not understand how we lost the game. From the body language of Gerrard, Kuyt, Carragher and co, I am not sure that they understood either. The Liverpool fans that sung their hearts out throughout the game were bemused and would face a long journey back to Merseyside. The Tottenham fans were in delirium and it was a fantastic sight to see. It was a crucial win for Spurs, and arguably more important than the Arsenal draw at the end of October.


5.   Comment on getting away from the ground

I had been prepared for another situation that I experienced at another London ground, where underground stations were shut due to ‘overcrowding.’ There were police horses everywhere and I had to walk around North London, with the hope that there would be an open station and an underground train to take me back home.

There was a moving group of happy Spurs fans into White Hart Lane station, and there were frequent trains to take the supporters back into London. Many people had told me about buses to take yourself back into the city, but the only buses that I saw were jammed in the traffic gridlock around the stadium.

My previous football trips have usually ended in a quagmire of rail replacement buses, cold nights spent on windswept station, whilst trying to interest myself in railway timetables like a deranged train spotter. This day out did not end in that sad way although reading the Spurs Christmas gift catalogue did not quite keep my interest from London Marylebone to Warwickshire.

6.   Summary of overall thoughts of the day out

I had watched a decent game at an iconic ground, between two footballing teams that are part of the bedrock of English football. Saturday 1st November 2008 had been another dramatic football afternoon, and I had gained a ringside seat for the action. I knew that a trip to White Hart Lane was not a cheap experience.

I knew that the ground was bigger than the average Championship establishment that I usually frequent. I also knew that Spurs fans are passionate about their football and desperately distraught about their lowly league position. As a neutral, I was not disappointed and hope that both teams achieve their dreams, which they so desperately wish for this season.

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