clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

White Hart Lane Stories: Sneaking in to see Spurs

Sometimes the best memories are the ones in which you bent the rules a little.

Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Cartilage Free Captain is collecting and posting memories from our wonderful Spurs community to commemorate the closing of White Hart Lane after 118 years. The final match at the Lane is this Sunday against Manchester United.

Wow! I’m overwhelmed by the incredible reaction to this series, and to the sheer number of memories and stories posted. There are now simply too many for us to post them all, but we’ll do our best. Here are a few of my favorites from my email in-box.

After my graduation from seminary in 2009, I moved to London to be a missionary. I worked with the London City Mission, and my placement was going to be at a small church on the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham. As a life-long sports fan I knew that one of the quickest and easiest ways to build relationships is through sports. So I found a map, located the nearest football club, and boom, 1.5 miles away, that’s my team. Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. If Broadwater Farm were going to be my people, Spurs were going to be my club.

(As a complete aside, when you get a chance, google Broadwater Farm and read about the riots in 1985 and again in 2011. They were started at Broadwater Farm, by residents of that community, which still today affect their daily living. It means something when a football club commits to a community, and everything the club does with the NDP to engage, equip, and empower local Tottenham residents should be celebrated.)

About a month after I had lived there I decided that after work I was going to go see White Hart Lane. It was absolutely pouring, so I took the short bus ride to the High Road and had to walk the rest of the way in the rain. I could say that it was wet and miserable, but truthfully I was delighted. I was becoming a local, earning my stripes in more ways than one.

The stadium was beautiful. Tucked between local businesses and residents and regular pedestrian streets.

I started by walking through Spurs shop. I was on a minister’s budget, but I decided I could stand to fast a few days spiritually and afford some Tottenham shorts. (I still sleep in them, to my wife’s chagrin.) After a time in the shop I walked around to the ticket office, jumping over puddles and avoiding gulleys. I talked to a kind man there about the best way one might obtain tickets, and then continued the conversation about how one might possibly get tickets cheaper than he was suggesting. I then grabbed a schedule to proudly put in my wallet.

After I left the office I walked back toward the stadium ready to head home when I saw something completely unexpected: an open door. It was on the northwest side of the stadium, and it looked completely unwatched in the pouring rain. Now, I am typically a rule follower by nature and by trade… but an open door is an open door. I walked past it the first time to see if I saw anyone or heard anything. I didn’t. So after forty yards I turned back and walked through the door like a man who had far more confidence than I presently possessed. I walked straight into the first restroom I found, because a custodian or a steward can only get so upset at a confused American who comes in out of the rain to use the restroom. After my moment there, I decided to find a stairwell because if I was only going to see White Hart Lane for just a minute, I wanted it to be from the top so I could take it all in.

I don’t want to compare a sports facility to a place of worship, because I think that can diminish actual places of worship. But I will say that finding venues where masses gather to celebrate the best in humanity can give us a glimpse of the holy. And I saw that.

All in all, I was in there less than 4 minutes. It’s an old stadium, and it feels smaller in person than it does on TV. I was struck by how blue the seats were and how green the grass was, and I also saw the secret to how the groundskeepers kept that grass so green. The London sunshine is imported in the form of mobile sun lamps that can be moved across the field. I was embarrassed that I had never even thought of this before. Being from the American South, the sun is plentiful and the grass just grows. But in the city known for its fog and its clouds, sure, the grass needs a little boost. Good on them.

Photo by Jacob Simmons

I left soon after. My motives had been pure, and my mischief nearly non-existent, but I rode the bus with a tiny, insignificant, but thrilling secret. I saw White Hart Lane when I wasn’t supposed to. I was in the old stadium alone. I snuck in, but I was a welcome guest.

Epilogue to a post too short to need an epilogue: I got to go to a game a few months later for my birthday. The place felt bizarre with all those people! We gave up a goal in the 3rd minute and Wolverhampton parked the bus for the remaining 87. Most memorable was when Giovanni Dos Santos was warming up on the sideline, I couldn’t get over how he looked fifteen. I went again four months later to a nil-nil draw versus Everton, so I never saw a goal at White Hart Lane. I still watch every match I can, and pray specifically for Champions League so that our Premier League games will be on Saturdays instead of Sundays. COYS!

– Jacob Simmons

I consider myself to be a lucky American fan: I got to see Clint Dempsey (and English Xavi!) score in a Europa Cup game at the Lane several years ago and took my middle child to see us send off Hull City in 2015 (the visiting fans sung the entire time despite already being relegated), but my favorite “Lane” memory actually took place in Chicago 3 years ago.

It was during Spurs summer trip to the States and we caravanned with another family from Minneapolis down to Chicago to see us play the Chicago Fire. The game itself was a bit of a blur, but the kids all loved seeing their heroes (including this lanky blond kid, forget his name, but he was playing striker and scored an early goal, the first of many that year…).

After the match, we noticed a delegation of VIP’s going pitch side and I suggested to the boys that they should tag along. Well, they managed to evade security getting down to the pitch and then followed the group back up to the suite level, again sneaking past security to gain access.

Needless to say, my wife wasn’t too happy that the kids (aged 6, 7 and 9) not only finagled their way into the suites, but they were now alone! A helpful security guard let me in to collect the kids, but not before we got to meet some of the youth players, check out how the well-heeled take in the match, and meet a very special person, none other than the captain himself, Ledley King! Ever the gentleman, he posed for what seemed like ~20 photo’s with the kids.

If the boys went into the match as causal fans, they came out Spurs!

— Dele’s Fist (@MNSpurs)

I started supporting Tottenham as a soccer-playing child in the 1980's, but I only became a fan when I discovered the Spurs Mailing List BB online in 1995. This coincided with the enlargement of Soccer Saturday in Canada and the entrance of Setanta into the North American market.

I well remember driving into Vancouver to the British Ex-Serviceman's Association bar, which as a "private club" could open at 6 AM to show games. It would cost $10 to see a game, but worth it to me to watch Spurs. I would get into debates online with people on the board about Justin Edinburgh or Jose Dominguez. I even drove to Seattle to see our 1998 League Cup win, requiring me and a buddy to leave at 4AM (points if you remember Robbie Savage being subbed off with a two foot string of snot hanging off his nose). Point being, the internet made me a big fan, from afar, of a pretty mediocre team.

In 2001, I went to England for the first time, for one of my closest friend's wedding. Looking at the schedule, I saw Spurs were playing at home to United, last game of the season. Oh well. No chance to see that game. However, my Aunt mentioned that her nephew had a good friend who worked with Manchester United, and he would be happy to talk to him.

Next thing I know, nephew Brent phones me up and says he has two tickets. For free!

In the Manchester United section.

My first time in White Hart Lane, and I have to sit with the ManU supporters. To make matters worse (or better), this was the famous game where Spurs won (which they didn't do again for 10-odd years). So every time Spurs scored, I had to sit quietly in my seat. When Manchester United scored, I had to cheer. It was awful. But it was worth it to get to the Lane! And my priceless picture of the scoreboard: Tottenham 3 - Manchester 1

— Chris Begley, Canada