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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.


A Trip to White Hart Lane

I wanted to write something nice….

It is Sunday morning. It is a dark and grey Sunday morning at the start of November. I can see the house prices falling outside, and there is nothing on the TV, apart from cheesy children’s television, or preachy religious TV. You wish that there was a decent old movie like The Great Escape or Gone with the Wind, then a repeat of last night’s X Factor.

It is the Sunday after last night’s Tottenham versus Liverpool game. I always jump at the chance at catching live Premiership football. It was the first time that I had even been to White Hart Lane, and although I wanted to tick this ground off my 92-club list, I wanted to check out the 2008- 2009 vintage of the Liverpool Football Club first team. I have a lot of time for the reds.

I know more Liverpool fans then any other supporters of a Premiership team, and the recent victory at Chelsea had sent my friends into a footballing dreamland. I have been getting screaming text messages, reflections on the last time the Liverpool won the Division One title, and the weirdly happy sight of my friend’s office door, with the Premiership league table proudly pinned with arrows and exclamation marks.

On this Sunday morning, I wanted to write about the fluid nature of the Liverpool football team. This is a very pretentious statement, which is merely about how I believe that Liverpool’s attack is so much more this season. When the reds on the attack does not just mean balls from Gerrard to the strikers, or screaming shots from Gerrard that sends the kop into bedlam. I wanted to sit, watch, and enjoy this new Liverpool, and I was able to enjoy that action for most of the first half.

The reds did not break into any sweat during the first half. I texted the friend at half time to say that this was a training routine for Liverpool; that exercise where you shimmy around a load of plastic statues and take a shot on goal. Whilst watching Neil Ruddock drawing tickets from the raffle box like a National Lottery caller, I believed that Liverpool could be a complete outfit this season, even without Fernando Torres. 

Liverpool could have been 6-0 up by the middle of the second half, and then it began to go slightly wrong. I presume that it was a case of facing an opposition that was abject in many areas, and when you spend ninety minutes opposing rubbish, you start to crumble to that level. However, when your manager substitutes your striker for Ryan Babel on a off day, your shape crumbles like a tower of Jenga bricks.

We all know what happened next. The match took on an air that Spurs could nick all three points. The home faithful had woken themselves up from baiting Darren Bent at every opportunity and moronically booing Robbie Keane every time their former hero touched the ball. Aaron Lennon began to perform his magic on the wing. Two goals were scored, and the final whistle blew. There was delirium in the home end, and the singing had stopped in the away end.

Two many players that I had hoped to enjoy, did not really meet my high aspirations. Ryan Babel as an out-an-out striker was such a let down. My hopes deflated like a limp balloon. Yossi Benayoun did his mazzy runs but nothing much else in the short time that he was allowed to perform his magic on the pitch.

Steven Gerrard performed his role as the heroic captain, but you can not break down walls with bare hands. He took on the air of frustration, which I experience every evening, when I am faced with a TV schedule that is full of motorway cop documentaries and soaps. Although pleased for the Spurs, I came away feeling deflated about Liverpool.

It is not the first time that I have turned up to watch Liverpool with inflated expectations, and come away slightly disappointed. I am hoping that this match was one of those freaky football occasions when you had the chances and pay for missing them at the end of the ninety minutes, It has happened before in the crazy world of football and it will probably happen again.

This match is not the end of Liverpool’s title hopes, despite the hopeful remarks of some Spurs fans in the snaking queue outside White Hart Lane railway stations. However the match reminds the Liverpool faithful and the club that the title has not been won in November 2008.

I am left wondering whether Fernando Torres is the key to Liverpool’s chances. I have laughed when my Liverpool supporting mates talk in hushed and worried tones when Torres is injured but I am wondering whether Liverpool can not function in a similar way to Manchester United without Ronaldo, or Chelsea without Drogba. A few careful January signings to bolster the side are essential, for the kop to achieve their title dreams.

844 Words- Sunday 2nd November 2008


June 08, 2008

England and Euro 2008

It’s like nothing has changed

It is three days into the Euro 2008 championships, and I am in a parallel universe. I have managed to forget about Big Brother but I have been less successful in forgetting about the lack an international team in Austria and Switzerland. You know who I mean! The side plays their matches at Wembley stadium, wear a white shirt emblazoned with three lions, and once won a trophy when my parents were in their teenage years.

In a weird way it is quite relaxing that there is no home interest in the tournament. I did not realise how good I look in a Spanish football shirt (!) and I have not had to build myself up into an emotional frenzy that crashes within the first seconds of an England game after the first tepid back pass to goal. I do not have to treat ‘news from the England camp’ with the same importance as one of those alarming adverts of the 1970s that told you to hide under a bridge during nuclear fallout. .

This year, I do not need to believe that this will be ‘England’s year’ after what I believe is a convincing win against a difficult opposition ends in the following match with a heartbreaking penalty shootout. I do not need to waste the next two days on Internet forums discussing why England cannot take penalties. I believe that England in an international football tournament has become as predictable as an Eastenders plot line.

Despite my relaxation, I was obviously disappointed that England did not qualify, but I did not believe that hell had frozen over because my national team had failed to qualify for a tournament that is arguably more difficult then a World Cup. I believed that it was a case of short term pain for long gain. For at least the last decade, or probably longer, England had been bereft of ideas and had been living on past glories of Euro 96, which some observers still believe that England won in all but name.

 

With the lack of home interest, I optimistically hoped that Gerrard, Terry, Lampard, Rooney and the rest would be locked into barren rooms that played constant Euro 2008 coverage, to help them understand their failure to qualify for a tournament. I did not want to see Theo Walcott on All Star Mr and Mrs, Peter Crouch frolicking around a beach without a care in the world and Wayne Rooney’s stag night.

I wanted Steve McClaren to have spent the months since that Croatia game considering how he had effectively failed to lead his team to Austria and Switzerland. I did not want to see a ‘media’ campaign that was about as reflective in tone as stagnant water, which announced that McClaren was back and ready for job offers. The whole sorry episode reminded me of Del Boy trying to sell a battered Robin Reliant.

My therapy after last November’s Croatia game was helped by the appointment of Fabio Capello. I optimistically believed that the new manager would bring some fresh ideas to the table. I even believed that England could actually play in a formation that was not 4-4-2 and that young players could get a chance to shine in preparation for the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign. I believed that I could sit down and enjoy Euro 2008, with the thought that everything was ticking along nicely at home, and I could enjoy an England campaign in 2010 that would not collapse into acrimony at the quarter final stage.

The warning signs were there when Beckham played in an England friendly within Paris at the end of March. I was pleased to see Beckham get his sort-after cap and I applauded his contribution to club and country over the last decade or so. I was surprised to see Beckham return for the further friendly matches and concerned to see that ‘Becks’ had re-established himself to the right of the midfield. I do not doubt his ability as a dead ball specialist, but does England have no emerging right wing talent that could be at the peak of their powers for World Cup 2010.

I can not help but feel that an opportunity has already been lost in failing to try out some young talent in the England ranks. Trying out means not just calling up young turks like Joe Hart and Gabby Agbonlahor for a training session. Trying out does not mean an 89th minute cameo like a Britain’s Got Talent act but giving at least 45 minutes of action for these young and enthusiastic players. Remember the revelation in World Cup 2006 matches, when we discovered that Aaron Lennon was able to run at defences?

I now read that Steven Gerrard is now being primed for the left wing side of the midfield. This move smacks of desperation on the same level as Coca Cola’s attempts in 1985 to convince a sceptical public about the taste of ‘New Coke.’ Why change a winning formula? Find me a Liverpool fan who can earnestly tell me that Gerrard can perform at his best on the left wing, and I will run naked up

Wembley Way.

I can offer some more concerns about England’s game, but I think that these are old concerns, and the will starts draining from you when the same issues return again and again. I guess that the jury is out until the World Cup qualifying games. I also have to wonder whether I would have been so pessimistic if England had been in Austria and Switzerland this summer.

I can be assured that Euro 2008 has to be a sobering experience for everyone connected with the England national team from the fans through to the FA hierarchy. The lack of action in June 2008 does not just means some breathing space for the football suits to work out how to get the World Cup to England in 2018.

It is probable till 29th June that none of us can forget about the fact that England are not at the tournament. We can try and support a random foreign team, and I am following Spain because I believe that their football should be of the style that should be adopted by England. We have to hope the lessons of Euro 2008 will be learnt and this great footballing nation will come back stronger in 2010. After all, missing out on one tournament can be regarded as unfortunate; two will be seen as a crisis.


May 30, 2008

After Barnsley

Writing about web page http://www.cfcuk.net/story.php?id=100762

Article for CCFCUK.NET 8th March 2008 "A Cup shock for your team makes you grow as a supporter. Its part of growing up, like the first failed relationship or your first realisation that you will never play for Chelsea. Although hope springs eternal, success can not come every week, I’d argue that every member of the football watching public needs to go through a Cup shock. "

Being Boring

Writing about web page http://www.kumb.com/article.php?id=2438

Article for Knees Up Mother Brown Website 5th April 2008 "It does not happen often but there are occasions when a mate says something to you that sticks in your mind and causes you to think (even in your sleep) about what you heard...."

Jermaine Jenas

Writing about web page http://archive.mehstg.com/jenas_special.htm

Article for 'My Eyes Have Seen The Glory' Tottenham Hotspur Website 8th February 2008

Don't Look Now

Writing about web page http://www.onlinegooner.com/covers/article.php?id=011

Article for Online Gooner Magazine 24th February 2008 "If Songs of Praise did not excite you on a drab February afternoon, you could have taken advantage of an offer from a national newspaper to access their website for extra pictures of Eduardo da Silva screaming in agony after that horrific tackle at Birmingham. If you fancied enjoying the sight of a Premiership superstar with his head in his hands and a deformed ankle, this would be internet heaven for you. For me, this would be a form of footballing hell."

Understanding Coventry

Writing about web page http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/lifestyle-news/your-life/2008/05/19/understanding-coventry-92746-20930462/

Article for Coventry Evening Telegraph 19th May 2008 "WHILST sitting in the Telegraph stand at the Ricoh whilst being slow cooked under the late Spring sunshine, my mind wandered to think about the city that I have been closely linked with for just over six months...."

Tackling the Bank Holiday Buses

Writing about web page http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/lifestyle-news/your-life/2008/05/29/tackling-the-bank-holiday-buses-92746-20991868/

Article for Coventry Evening Telegraph Website Thursday 29th May 2008 I had to make a trip from Leamington Spa to Leicester. It is not a particularly long or hard journey. I am not exactly attempting to climb Mount Everest when I go back to Leicestershire, but it is never an easy experience if you do not have a car......

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