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.
Below are some of the best from the (many, many) user submissions. I’m sorry that it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to post them all, but that is just a credit to how important White Hart Lane has been in the lives of this online community. I hope you enjoy these stories.
The date was 17th May 1972. A Wednesday night.
I was 15 ½ years old and at a posh English boarding school on the other side of London to N17. But that inconvenience wasn’t going to stop me from going to White Hart Lane. At that time I was a bit of a rebel and (my own children don’t really know this) catching the train from Windsor up to London for a night on the town wasn’t exactly unknown behaviour for me and my mates.
I‘d been in love with Spurs for at least a decade. I was so young I don’t remember the precise moment that Tottenham Hotspur Football Club placed its hand around my heart and squeezed. I was four, maybe five. I have absolutely no memories of a life ‘pre-Spurs’. By the time Jimmy Greaves signed for us in December 1961 (a month after my fifth birthday) I was running round the room at the news with all the excitement of a kid at Christmas.
My father had taken me to the 1961 Charity Shield completely by chance. We lived in the Midlands. He was a Southampton fan, inasmuch as he supported any team before he had sons. But he’d been given two tickets and my mum didn’t much care for football anyway. So my first ever football match was seeing Double-winners Spurs beat England 3-2 at White Hart Lane. On another day I’ll write about that sepia-tinged memory on my blog (https://tott.blog). My club beat England. I mean how cool was that?
But fast-forward to 1972. It was the UEFA Cup Final. In those days the UEFA Cup was very different from the Europa League today. It was considered as hard to win as the European Cup (although it didn’t have quite the same kudos). The European Cup was for Champions. Only the league title winners from each country entered it, but that meant there were actually relatively few teams who could win it in any year, those from the major footballing countries.
The UEFA Cup was different. Second, third and sometimes fourth places from each major European League qualified. So there were plenty of tough opponents to be drawn against. Every round was straight 2-leg knockout. No group stages. Spurs and Wolves had already knocked out Milan and Juventus respectively. It was rare for two clubs from the same country to reach the UEFA Cup final.
Spurs had squeakily beaten Wolves 2-1 at Molyneux in the first leg. So we expected the second leg at White Hart Lane to be tight but, eventually, there could only be one possible winner. I’d snuck out of school with my best mate, an American, we knew as Mac. He spent his teenage years in England but was from Ohio, where he’s since been living for forty years. We’d already converted him to soccer. He turned out to make a pretty nifty striker. But fan-wise his sole allegiance was to the recently formed Cincinnati Bengals. It was my mission to change that.
Somehow we obtained tickets from a tout (scalper) on the street (I have no idea how, this was all a long time ago). I remember arriving in our seats five minutes after kick-off. We were in the back row. I mean the very back row. Right up at the top of the Park Lane End. Not that we ever sat down. The noise was incredible. There were apparently 54,000 packed into the old lady that night. The sound of drumming feet sticks with me. The swearing was no worse than at school. The tobacco smoke. In those days every fan thought nothing of chain-smoking throughout a game. I can visualise the grey haze billowing in the floodlights.
And then Mullery put Spurs ahead. 1-0 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate. After half an hour, Martin Peters took a free-kick and Alan Mullery scored with a diving header. The noise was immense. Think of the sound that 30,000 or so at the Lane can still make today and imagine doubling it. Not doubling it with corporate sponsors and funereal fans like at the Emirates. But a ground rammed to the rafters with genuine, beer-fuelled, excited fans watching the mighty Spurs about to raise their second European trophy.
I don’t recall Wolves’ equaliser. It was just before half time. I just remember the tension of the second half ticking down as Wolves pushed for a goal to take the Final into extra-time. But it was not to be. Our ‘Glory Glory Hallelujah’ Anthem rolled up and down the terraces as every Spurs fan roared us to victory. Afterwards the pitch was invaded, although sadly not by me and my mate.
White Hart Lane was less unique back in those days. Most major stadiums were still ramshackle and intimate, with the fans near to the pitch, disgusting toilets and corrugated iron roofs. The likes of Old Trafford, Anfield, Upton Park and Highbury weren’t really that different to the Lane.
And that is what makes Sunday even more poignant. White Hart Lane is more than just Spurs’ home. She is one of the very last of those great old dames that once symbolised working class English football. The others have gentrified, relocated, had facelifts or dropped out of the Premiership. That night back in May 1972 the world was a different place; it was a much simpler, black and white era of tobacco smoke and warm beer, of beige flared trousers and fluffy sideburns. No smartphones. No mobile phones even. No Stub Hub. I was just a teenager and Spurs were the most glamorous club in England (read ‘The Glory Game’ by Hunter Davies and you’ll get the picture). I obviously had no idea how difficult the 1990s and 2000s would turn out to be for Spurs fans.
So it is fitting that, as the cranes hover over what’s been our home since Queen Victoria was on the throne, we all say goodbye to the place with a team that’s once again fit to play in her. I’m 60 now. I’ve spent much of my life working abroad. I’ve been to the Lane less than I’d have liked and I was spared our worst seasons by geography. Nevertheless, our club’s been beating in my heart every single day.
And, what’s best, Sunday’s only a temporary goodbye, not a farewell. The gleaming new beast that is already growing like Alien inside our old home will be White Hart Lane too. We’ll still wander down the High Road and feel our prickling anticipation in the same N17 air.
My friend Mac? He’s been a committed Spurs fan ever since that night. We rattled home on the milk train, drunk and happy, and snuck back into school without being caught. For many years, he was about the only American he knew who felt any allegiance to an English football club. But now that’s totally changed. I went to Mac’s daughter’s wedding last year and met a mid-western Spurs fan who’s never played soccer or been to England. But he knew his history, players, tactics as well as anyone, and was a wonderful introduction to me of the insight that a new fan base can bring.
The old and the new. Sunday will be sad. But rather wonderful too.
I'm 74 years old and despite my dad being a Hammers supporter and living in Boleyn Road, Upton Park, I've been supporting "The Lilywhites" after seeing them giving a 1st Division Champions exhibition at the Festival of Britain in 1951 aged nine.
I have held a season ticket for 52 years to date, and been watching them, in the first instance from the kids enclosure, then on the East Stand Lower terrace for 65 years.
I have thousands of wonderful memories, but once stands out more than any other featuring my favourite all time player Jimmy Greaves when he disappeared down the tunnel for the very last time after scoring against Ajax on his benefit match. Grown men like me were drawn to tears.
Johan Cruyff scored the equaliser. It didn't matter — I had seen the greatest ever at doing what he did better than anyone ever scoring his first and last goals at "The Lane".
I was very lucky to meet Jim and spend an evening with him in 1997, and he was a smashing bloke, which was, for me "the gilding on the Lilywhite!”
— Keith Horton, Chipping Ongar
I started following Tottenham Hotspur because my assistant was a true blue North Londoner. But I didn't really take off in my fandom until I started watching the EPL on Fox because my son was playing in a rec league and his "homework" was to watch a game each weekend. The speed, the power, the grace: I was hooked.
My first full season as a Spurs fan was the year Bale became a superstar. I also met another Spurs fan through work and we bantered, rooted, dreamed, and died together all season long. I decided then that I had to go to the Lane.
My chance came last season. I was watching the NLD at the Irish Channel in Washington DC with a 100 or so Spurs fans, my girlfriend and an English friend who is a noted journalist. As we sat down a guy at the table next to us recognized my English friend and the three of us started to banter. Turned out he was a season ticket holder and told me to look him up for tickets if I were ever in town during a match.
Later that year, I was over on holiday and emailed to ask if he had seats for the Boxing Day match against Norwich City. He did, and I could go with him!
I took the Tube to his neighborhood and had a pint of Sam Smith's in a pub waiting for his son to come to take me over to his place. His son arrived wearing a t shirt that said "Woolwich Wanderers: Homeless since 1913". True fandom!
Marc, his son, and I drove over and he showed me the High Street and we picked up some fantastic Turkish street food. I forget a lot of the details because the atmosphere was so intense, but soon we were headed in.
As other people have said, the pitch is beautiful to behold. The Star Wars themed intro is also spectacular in person as the players and their tikes walk out to the thundering cheers and magnificent theme.
We were at one end of the pitch a few rows in back of the back touch line slightly to the right of goal. I was amazed at how close we were to the pitch and how much of the game I could take in that the tv cameras never showed. I could see the way the team communicates during the game and the way players try to cut off passing lanes and find space like never before. There's nothing like watching the game in person to really appreciate the tactics and the effort.
I could barely see Harry's first half brace at the other end of the pitch, but the eruption of the fans told me all I needed to know. When Tom Carroll scored a screamer at our end in the second half, my White Hart Lane memory was complete.
I now have a job that will take me back to London at to east three times a year, so I'll be going to Wembley next season and, hopefully, the new stadium the year after that. I'm sure those will be memorable experiences too. But my day with Marc Astaire walking through Tottenham and cheering at the Lane will always be among my most cherished memories.
— Henry, Washington D.C.
I am able to strongly identify with the piece by Alex Greenberg. I too am Jewish and a long standing (50 years) Spurs supporter.
Some 20 years or so ago, my then young daughter and her friend were in my car together. I was driving the friend back to her home in South Tottenham, but deliberately took a detour away from Tottenham High Rd, to drive around the ground (Paxton Rd/Worcester Ave/Park Lane). I explained to them that this whole area was a holy place and that during this detour, it would be inappropriate to even speak, until we were back on the High Rd. Both girls, never short of anything to say to each other, were a little on the gullible side and fully complied!
Every so often, this episode gets a mention and is always a source of amusement and thankfully not of embarrassment to my daughter and her friend, or for that matter to me!
— Joseph Bloomberg