As part of Cartilage Free Captain’s commemoration of the final match at White Hart Lane, we are collecting and posting memories and stories from the Cartilage Free Captain community about the Lane and what it means to us.
We want your stories as well. Post your memories and stories either on the site as a FanPost, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. They don’t have to be long. They just have to be real.
My family is Jewish. I’ve never been that religious and rarely went to temple, but I could live solely off of bagels and grape juice if I needed to. My last name is Greenberg. I’m very proud to be culturally Jewish, and that’s part of the reason I fell in love with Tottenham Hotspur all those years ago.
Sports have always been sort of religious for me. It was something my life revolved around. The sense of community in cheering-on your team with thousands of other like-minded fans, I can’t imagine it’s that different from the feeling people love to experience when going to their own places of worship.
Watching at my local supporter’s bar was nice, but I longed to attend mass in North London with 36,000 of my fellow believers.
I spent years imagining what going to my first game at White Hart Lane would be like, but I never came close to predicting what would actually happen.
On January 14, 2015 I gazed at our lovable hunk of rusting sheet metal from Tottenham High Road. I was a junior in college who’d only just arrived in London for a semester of studying abroad. My Mom had wanted me to study in Spain, but I always had my heart set on going to London to see Spurs. It all began with an FA Cup third round replay against Burnley.
The friend I was going with was late, and he had our tickets! We rushed into the ground, via the Park Lane end, 8 minutes after kickoff. My heart was crushed as we moved through the concourse and I heard the Spurs’ radio broadcaster commentate over the loudspeaker; “And Spurs have gone 2-0 down to Burnley in the opening minutes!”
Because of course they did. Nothing is more “Spursy” than getting you excited for a big occasion, only to let you down instantly.
We got to our seats, but no one was sitting down. The Lane wasn’t completely full and Spurs were already losing, but the atmosphere in the South Stand was vibrant. Everyone around me started chanting about doing bodily harm to Arsenal fans, and I got a warm feeling inside...I knew that I was home.
Burnley were bad and Spurs turned the game around quickly, but I still laugh when I tell people that Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, and Vlad Chiriches all scored in my first game at Tottenham. That’s just how things were at White Hart Lane. For better or worse, you could never predict what was about to unfold in front of you.
I was lucky enough to go to over a dozen games, home and away, that semester.
Against Sunderland, I saw Jan Vertonghen score two goals, only to end up credited with none at full time. The Lane rejoiced when Jan scored a clinching goal from midfield in stoppage time to make it 3-1 Spurs. I celebrated with the people around me for a good 60 seconds before realizing that Chris Foy had called Vertonghen offside, despite the Belgian being in his own half when he received the ball.
The crowd responded appropriately by letting Foy know how they felt about him. Swearing is fun, but it’s a lot more fun when you and thousands of others are swearing simultaneously at someone who deserves to be sworn at.
One of the greatest days of my life so far was seeing the North London Derby that year. I’d been in a pub since 10 am drinking on an empty stomach, and was considerably animated for the match. Arsenal led early, but The Lane never quieted. Then it erupted when Harry Kane scored the tying goal, and again when his brilliant header won the game for Spurs in the dying minutes of regulation time.
I’ve never experienced a better atmosphere at a sporting event, and I don’t think I ever will. The stranger next to me hugged me like I was a long-lost friend, and then even kindly offered me a puff of the E-Cig he’d snuck into the Upper East Stand.
In a pub afterwards, a random drunk Spurs fan asked to take a picture with me. His slurred reasoning: “You look like a young Fazio!”
To be honest, I look nothing like Federico Fazio. But for the sake of camaraderie, I took the picture.
People don’t believe me when I tell them, but I really did see Roberto Soldado score an amazing goal for Tottenham. He volleyed one in to give Spurs an early lead in an ill-fated Europa League knockout tie with Fiorentina. WHL responded not with the typical “Yeahhhh!” after a goal, but with a “Woaaahhh!”, like did that actually just happen or are we all in an incredibly lucid dream?
My last game that season at The Lane was not as enjoyable. Spurs lost 1-0 to Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa. It was an incredibly frustrating afternoon, and my frustration was beamed around the world as the TV camera landed on me (and my friend Alex RoPo) after Spurs missed a chance at goal.
Look at all those happy faces. Losing to someone like Tim Sherwood will do that to you.
I couldn’t let that be the last match I ever saw at White Hart Lane. I knew then that I had to make the pilgrimage again.
Last year, I saw Spurs dominate Norwich. Tom Carroll scored a belter! Again, this is something that actually happened!
This year, I saw Spurs almost-choke against Everton, and then dominate Millwall in the FA Cup.
The Millwall match was particularly interesting, to say the least. Credit to the police working that day for controlling the situation, never letting any trouble really “kick off”, and for being accurate in launching their tear gas. If the gas had been deployed about 10 feet closer to the Spurs fans, I might not have made it into the stadium.
But thankfully I did, and thankfully Spurs spent 90 minutes spanking Millwall and their racist fans.
As the final whistle approached, I saw other people in the crowd getting emotional. Then it really hit me, that I’d never personally experience the magic of White Hart Lane again.
The match ended but I wasn’t ready to go. I stayed and spent one last moment taking in The Lane.
I’m very biased, but I’m confident in saying that White Hart Lane was one of the most intimate stadiums on Earth. The fans and history were always right on top of the players on the pitch.
But the beauty of the ground itself always stood out to me. Even when it was empty it was so satisfying to stare out and see the perfectly groomed pitch, the contrast of blue and white in the stands, and the legendary golden cockerel atop it all.