Tottenham Hotspur
White Hart Lane

Ground No. 31 (return visit)
Visited - Saturday 12th December 2009
Result - Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - Barclays Premier League
Attendance - 36,012

Audere est Facere: To dare is to do. Stick a 'Rodders' on the end of it, and it could be a phrase from Del Boys repertoire, but Harry Redknapp aside, that's where the comparisons to the cockney wideboy end! The phrase is of course the famous motto of Tottenham Hotspur and combined with the image of a cockerel standing atop a ball, it has been synonymous with the club since some of their oldest fans would have first started to stand on the terraces. To the chagrin of many, it was dropped from their badge in 2006 in favour of a newer logo, but it still lives on, despite the club only using the English version these days.

Formed in 1882, their original, and now the second part of their name is derived from the Hotspur Cricket Club of who the clubs founders were members of, eventually adding the Tottenham part two years later. The 1890's were a busy time for the new side, turning professional in 1895, and joining the Southern League in 1896. In 1898 they adopted their current colours in honour of the all-conquering Preston team of the era and one year later they moved to their current location, which despite the name, famously doesn't actually stand on White Hart Lane itself. Originally it was known as 'The High Road Grounds', with a suggestion of using 'Gilpin Park' before the more familiar moniker came into common usage. It was the foundations they needed and after winning the FA Cup in 1901, they were eventually elected to the Football League seven years later, their first game against the reigning FA Cup holders, Wolves, with the Lilywhites (as they were known) running out 3-0 victors. B******s!

It was the start of them becoming a general thorn in our side, beating us in the 1921 FA Cup Final, 1972 UEFA Cup Final, and several other high-profile semi-finals in the 70s and 80s, making them a bit of a hate side for fans of a certain age, but it was the 1921 FA Cup Final win which was the most significant for the North London club.

Having already hired Archibald Leitch to build the West Stand in 1909, the famous architect was invited back, with the prize money going towards building both ends of the ground to increase the capacity to over 50.000. It still wasn’t enough though as crowds continued to grow, and Leitch finally completed his work at the ground in 1934 when the East Stand was opened, arguably one of the grandest in the country, with its three tiers adorned by a press box that Paul Gascoigne would later find infamy by nearly falling through whilst shooting pigeons! It's the only part of Leitch's White Hart Lane that still exists, albeit in a much modified form, with the roof replaced and the Shelf converted to executive boxes.

The West Stand was the first to be torn down, in 1980, the architects taking inspiration from Molineux's John Ireland Stand which they had built 12 months earlier. Coincidentally, it was Wolves who would pop up again with the stand finally being opened in February 1982 by Sir Stanley Rous before a game against the old gold and black. No prizes for guessing who won that one as well! The two ends were both replaced during the mid-90s, but despite the renovation, the ground capacity of 36,000 has proven too small for the clubs needs, and so new plans are afoot to open a new stadium, partly covering the existing site, with designs recently released.

It was partly due to this new development that I'd wanted to get back to the ground, and with Wolves back in the top flight, then it was one of the fixtures I'd circled to go to as soon as they were released.

Setting off on a bright December morning, the journey down to London went as planned, although not without the plan being a poor one! London Midland might offer cheap prices down to the capital, but with about 427 stops on the way then it does make paying a bit extra an attractive option for future trips! Still, we arrived in on time, and after meeting with a few friends we made our way up to the ground.

When the club was making plans for redevelopment, unlike many who seem outrightly opposed to football, the local council were desperate to keep them in the borough. Standing just off the High Rd, you can kind of see why with an otherwise run down area buzzing in the lead up to kick-off. The clubs official address is 748 High Rd, which, perhaps unknown to many visiting supporters is the address of the house that stands on the corner with Bill Nicholson Way. Nicknamed 'The Red House' in reference to the red brick it's built from, the building dates back to the mid-nineteenth century and was used by the club as a meeting place before they even started playing football on the patch of land behind it. Part of the redevelopment plans include knocking it down, along with several other historic buildings, so unsurprisingly there's a campaign currently going to try and keep them (see here), that aside, no one will probably object too much to the other surrounding buildings being demolished. The exterior of the ground itself in truth is one that probably won't be missed either. The West Stand is largely tucked away behind houses, but the glass frontage is akin to a 1970s office block, whilst the two ends haven't weathered well in their few short years of existence. Perhaps most disappointing is the East Stand on the far side of the ground, which in contrast to its former grand appearance from pitchside looks more like the side of a warehouse from the rear. When it was opened, it had been built on the scale of Leitch’s pièce de résistance; the Main Stand at Ibrox, but whether it was lack of funds or perhaps other reasons, the facade is a somewhat disappointing comparison that won't be missed once gone. Not to be too negative though, after going in, then the ground comes into its own, looking far better within than out. Fully enclosed, it avoids a bowl feel with four separate stands, despite being joined the whole way round. We were housed in the South Stand, although unlike previously, I'd got tickets in the upper tier this time, which offers a far better view than below. Two tiered, the upper tier in particular is very steep and is more or less mirrored opposite. The two ends are most notable for the 'jumbotrons', which dominate the roof, being built in the centre, behind each goal. Also, in the South Stand is the police control box, not inaccurately described elsewhere as like a hovering UFO! The West Stand is two tiered and slightly cranked, with two levels of executive boxes separating the upper and lower sections, whilst opposite, the East Stand as mentioned previously is now two tiered, although the front of the Shelf is just about evident with half a dozen rows above the vomitories.

Going into the game, we'd had a bit of a torrid time of things, with only a win against Bolton the previous week lightening the mood of a season quickly turning into the relegation battle that had been expected. Spurs on the other hand were flying high, sitting in the coveted fourth spot and looking good for it. A 9-1 win over Wigan in their previous home game looked ominous, but within three minutes of kick-off the referee was pointing back to the centre circle, with the away end having erupted in delirium.

From the very first kick, the visitors had set about the home side with gusto, and it was ex-Wolves man Tom Huddlestone who lost his composure to concede a free-kick near the corner flag after Karl Henry had attempted to go past him to the byline. Up stepped Nenad Milijas (“he comes from Serbia, he’ll ******* murder yer”) with his cultured left foot and a pinpoint delivery found Kevin Doyle with the lightest of touches to head it home beyond Gomes in the Spurs goal. Elation. Disbelief. Shock. All going through the minds of the 3000 travelling supporters, and it was to signal the start of 87 minutes of tension and nerves with wave after wave of white shirts bearing down on the 10 men sitting behind the ball. Robbie Keane went close, and Jermaine Defoe really should have equalised when through with just Marcus Hahnemann to beat, but the American shot stopper, along with his defence were earning their money as the home side struggled to find their way through a resolute Wolves rearguard. The game continued in this manner both before and after half time, the clock ticking by with the score still standing at 1-0. Victory was so close you could taste it, so it was devastating to see the fourth official find enough injury time to keep Alex Ferguson content when he put his board up with six minutes still left to play. You just somewhat knew what would happen, it was inevitable, they’d get one back and buoyed by that would go on to grab the winner, yet despite the ingrained and well founded pessimism, not to mention a flurry of late corners for the hosts, they still couldn’t find a way through, and with Cinderella getting edgy at the time on the clock, the ref was forced to finally blow for full time to signal the upset was complete.

The blast of the whistle and raising of the refs hand to bring an end to proceedings was one of those moments that makes football worth all the effort and expense of going to, yet no more for any of us than one of our group who had grown up in London his whole life, attending White Hart Lane secondary school, yet still choosing to follow the team of his Dad in the face of the staunch Tottenham support of his peers. It was the result he’d waited for his whole life and after leaving it was time to head back to the Bricklayers pub to rub it into his mates and bask in the glory of victory.

Staying for the night, then I made my way back home the next day, still in a good mood, the old saying of “a week’s a long time in politics” applying just as easily to football with all things gold and black looking rosy, in contrast to the dark and gloomy atmosphere prior to the Bolton match 7 days previously. The result aside, it had been good to get back to the ground and it will be a shame to see it disappear in the name of progress. Whilst the capacity might be too small for Spurs these days, it does have the feel of a good old fashioned proper ground with four separate stands of different design merging to create something that just fits together well. The new ground, whilst looking slightly different with a single tier end, from initial impressions still looks to have the feel of a generic, modern stadium with its perfect curvaceous lines and swooping roof a contrast to the straight edges and 90 degree bends that makes White Hart Lane still feel as traditional as any proper English ground pre-Taylor.

Welcome to White Hart Lane
Rear of the West Stand

Bill Nicholson Way

Next Match

The Main Club Shop

Rear of the South Stand

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the North Stand

Rear of the North Stand

The East Stand

The North Stand

The West Stand

UFO or Police Control Box?

The West Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

Final Score

The West Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

White Hart Lane Panoramic 1

White Hart Lane Panoramic 2

White Hart Lane Panoramic 3

White Hart Lane Panoramic 4

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