Long time lurker, just recently started posting last season and first time Fanposter. From what I've read, one should not post Fanposts until they've been on CFC for a while.
I actually got the idea for this post/article from cool kid/southern delegate, 'Tottenham Makes Me Cry'! We follow each other on Twitter and he encouraged me to describe my first time to the community. That was the spring. I never wrote that piece. Luckily, I had to go to England for work this September and the stars aligned for me to be in London for the Norwich fixture.
A little bit about myself first. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and for the first 23 years of my life, my relationship with soccer was at best, described as apathy. That all changed one trip to London where I was treated to the topsy turvy shenanigans that was Relegation Day! I understood none of it, but wanted to learn more. The friend I was visiting was happy to explain it to me and also drop not so subtle hints regarding who he supported.
A team called
Tottenham Hotspurs...or was that Tottenham Spurs....Tottenham Hotspur!
It took me a year to get the name and understand most of the chants, but I was hooked! Fast forward to this spring, when I knew I'd be in London on holiday, I hit my friend up to see what game at White Hart Lane he could find tickets for me to purchase. He found me tickets to Southampton's visit to the Lane. Bale's old team plus it'd be a vital game for Spurs to win to keep chasing a Champions League spot!
I was so excited to see the Lane! When the day arrived, I took a train from Liverpool Street station in London to the White Hart Lane stop to meet my friend.
Walking the three or so blocks from the train to the stadium was exhilarating! I'd never seen that many Spurs shirts in one area. The closest I experienced was the exhibition match against the New York Red Bulls in New Jersey but this game was infinitely more important!
People drinking, chanting, buying authentic or obviously knockoff Spurs gear. Town criers selling game programs, shady guys trying to sell tickets to the match. I loved it all! It got better when my friend took me to his favorite fry shop ACROSS THE STREET from the stadium for a pre-game meal of beans and chips!
WHL is unpretentiously plopped down in the middle of a neighborhood so one moment you're walking past a church, houses, a school, fry shops and then BOOM! WHITE HART LANE! So great!
I was anxious to check out the Spurs shop and there were a few of them. It was a bit frustrating because instead of having one big shop, they have a medium sized one, and two or three small/popup ones. Their way may actually be more efficient, but when it's your first time, you naively want to see any and everything so I was dragging my friend to see all these shops and they're all the same. Dear reader, for your first time, don't do this. Just pick the least crowded gameday shop, pick up some swag and after head straight into the stadium.
Walking into WHL is an amazing feeling. It's a very obviously old stadium, you enter through barred turnstiles that have to be a tight fit for many a jolly English man. My seat at the Southampton game was adjacent to the visitors section in the upper deck. I loved the seat I had! It was a lively seat because you could literally grab a visiting fan if security weren't separating the two groups!
I'm not sure if it was due to my seat location or if every stadium has the same phenomenon, but the Southampton fans were a much more lively bunch than the home supporters. They were loud and had chants going throughout the entire game! It was a bit disappointing to me that the home support rarely drowned out the visiting team. Perhaps it was due to the game being a frustrating, scoreless affair until Gareth Bale's 70+ game winner! The home fans were louder then but you could still hear the Southampton faithful chanting "One man team".
Walking around the outside of the Lane hours later, after everyone had left, I was really struck by how intimate the stadium was and how cozily it fit in a residential area. Across the street from the South Stand are houses.
I can't imagine what that must be like to live in during game day. Around the corner, adjacent to the East stand is a school.
How awesome would it be to be a student there!? Rounding the corner again is the empty lot where the new stadium complex will be. In the spring, there was little there besides a promotional wall showing a mockup of the proposed stadium.
That was my experience at the Lane until last week when I again visited London for work and fortuitously there would be a Spurs home game against Norwich. This time, walking past the development plot of land, it appears they have started construction on the supermarket. The walk to the Lane from the station was just as exciting as the first time. I wasn't a fan of this year's home kits at unveiling, but seeing them in person on fans is beautiful. I loved it so I bought one. Yes, I got my own name on it! #CAMB!
Fans were very excited for this game because despite the loss of Bale, Spurs bought in some brand new players and two of the biggest talismans would be making their home debuts in Lamela & Eriksen. Already, many fans were dressed in their kits.
I didn't spend much time outside the stadium because this time my friend was able to get me a seat next to his behind the Tottenham goal on pitch level. What seats they were!
When we arrived, Holtby & Siggurdson were practicing free kicks. Not surprisingly the closest shot I saw Siggurdson get to goal was a shot off the crossbar. He looked dejected and walked off. Holtby played on and had a few wild shots that beaned a few folks in the crowd.
When the game started, I thought more people would stand throughout but that was not the case. I could rail on and on about why I get annoyed by that but it's for another time. Ultimately, I think I prefer a seat higher up than on pitch level because sometimes when the play was on the opposite side of the pitch, it was hard to pick out the action. I also have a feeling that the White Hart Lane pitch is crowned slightly, it didn't seem level to me.
One thing that was apparent to me at pitch level was that TV broadcasts do not do the live match justice. The players and the ball move so fast! In fact, watching the action in the midfield, I don't think I can credibly critique any players mid-field play any more. There were so many times where there were so many bodies in the middle of the pitch it was remarkable that Eriksen, Dembélé and others found space to maneuver! The other surprising thing was how easily the players could communicate to each other on the pitch despite the crowd noise. I heard Lloris call out to Vertonghen and Rose a few times to play the ball back. I heard Dawson on a set piece and I heard Soldado call out for a through ball on one of his runs.
Eriksen looked like he's been playing at the stadium for years! The crowd took to him immediately and all the chatter during and after the game was about how good he looked. There was also an audible gasp, then cheers when Vertonghen made his audaciously successful tackle to break up what would've been a shot at goal.
Somewhat annoyingly, a few guys next to me were railing on Walker & Townsend the entire game and one even said Walker's only good season was his season on loan.
Anyway, the game was awesome sitting that close to the pitch. And it was ten times better when Siggy scored his second goal on my side of the pitch! It was so cool seeing the play come together right in front of your eyes (the players really are so close to you) and watching them celebrate after the goal.
I know I don't have to convince you all to make a trip to the Lane if you've never been but I'll implore anyway! Definitely go! I rate my experiences at the Lane: 10/10 I'd do it again! #COYS
TL;DR: White Hart Lane is awesome! Ooooh, pretty pictures!