Saturday 22 July 2017

Farewell to White Hart Lane

White Hart Lane's doors will be closed for the final time on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile
White Hart Lane's doors will be closed for the final time on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

David Hytner

The historian

John Fennelly, club historian

According to legend, the cockerel and ball that sits on top of the East Stand, having been relocated from the West Stand in 1958, was full of gold. I don't know how it got started but one bloke was sufficiently convinced to climb up and try to steal it. He was arrested. That would have been in the 1940s or 1950s.

By the 1980s, the Tottenham chairman, Irving Scholar, decided to see for himself. The original copper piece was cast by William James Scott, who had played for the club in the old amateur days, and it went up in 1909. I was a reporter on the local paper when Scholar got it down and opened it up. There were a couple of photographers with us and we smiled when we saw what was inside - a soaking wet, old handbook.

It's amazing how these sort of things gather momentum but it is the little stories about White Hart Lane that I love. When I first started working on the local paper, I used to interview the old members of staff, who had been at the club since before the second World War.

There used to be a thing about people bringing cockerels to the matches - in the 1960s, I think - because the cockerel was on the club's badge. They'd just let them go. Can you imagine that these days? There was an old geezer on the ground staff, who was an animal lover, and he would round up the cockerels and take them home. At dawn every day, these bloody things would be crowing away and the club would get hammered with complaints from the neighbours.

During the first World War, the ministry of war took over the stadium and the East Stand was used as a factory to make gas masks, gunnery and protection equipment, while in World War II the stand was a morgue because the blitz happened around here. Football carried on during that war and the club would have games stopped when a doodlebug went across. They'd wait until it had gone and you'd hear it explode somewhere else and then they'd carry on. It was incredible.

My first game at White Hart Lane was in 1966. My dad took me and we lost to Burnley. We watched it from The Shelf, which was the most famous part of the ground.

I remember our FA Youth Cup final against Coventry City in 1969-70. The two legs finished level on aggregate and so it went to a replay, which was drawn. We won the second replay 1-0. Graeme Souness played for us and he didn't get a medal because he had been sent off in the first match. They let him play and then didn't give him a medal. How offensive was that?

After that, I'll never forget our win over the league champions Leeds United in 1975, which we needed to avoid relegation. It was the game in which Alfie Conn sat on the ball and upset both sides. Incredibly, I missed the 1984 UEFA Cup final win over Anderlecht because I was on holiday but I was there in 1972 when we won the same trophy against Wolverhampton Wanderers. As with Anderlecht, the second leg was at the Lane, which made it even more special.

It is amazing to think how much has changed since the club was formed in 1882 and they played on Tottenham Marshes and Northumberland Park before the move to White Hart Lane in 1899. But what is great for me about the new stadium being built on the existing site is that it remains the proverbial goal-kick from where it all started.

 

The legend

Cliff Jones, 1961 double winner

I will never forget the look on the faces of the Gornik Zabrze players. They were looking around and saying: "What on earth is this?" They were intimidated and you could say that they were a goal down before we kicked off. It was the first European Cup tie at White Hart Lane - in 1961 - and we absolutely slaughtered them. It finished 8-1 and it was down to the crowd. They just picked us up and said: "Go." When you played on the continent, you had running tracks around the playing areas and so the spectators would be 15-20 yards back. But at White Hart Lane they were right, smack on top of you.

Gornik had beaten us 4-2 in the first leg over in Poland and they were a very good side. Most of them were in the Polish national team. But Bill Nicholson got us right up for the second leg and that night I think we would have beaten any team that had ever been or ever will be.

It was the beginning of the glory, glory European nights and no team wanted to draw us, partly because of the atmosphere that our crowd would generate. We beat everyone at White Hart Lane, even Eusébio's Benfica, although they got past us on aggregate. Eusébio didn't get a kick in either leg but he did have Dave Mackay marking him. Mackay was quite intimidating. We'd wear all-white strips in Europe and there was just something about those evening kick-offs. The air seemed a bit fresher and it was as though you could run a bit longer and a bit faster.

I almost did not make the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Sunderland in our double-winning year. I used to come down to White Hart Lane with my wife Joan and a good friend of mine, and we could only get as far as Creighton Road because everything was gridlocked. Creighton Road was the one where Bill Nicholson lived and it was about a mile from the stadium. So, I had to make my way on foot. I got to the gates at White Hart Lane and it was surrounded by thousands of supporters. I tried to squeeze through.

I said: "I'm playing tonight." People said: "What are you talking about, mate? Ah, Cliff. On you go!" They pushed me through and I got in 20 minutes before kick-off. A number of the lads experienced the same thing but we still won 5-0.

When you talk about Spurs and White Hart Lane, you talk about Bill Nicholson. He ran the club from the bootroom to the boardroom. You didn't mess with him. He had an office at White Hart Lane and you didn't want to be called into it.

One time, Jimmy Greaves convinced me that I should go in to see Bill about a pay rise. It didn't go very well. I told him that I deserved it because I thought I was the best winger in Europe. "Is that right, son," Bill said. "On the way out, close the door behind you." And that was it. I must say, though, that some months later, he called me in and he did give me the rise. That was his way of doing things.

It will be emotional to see the old stadium knocked down but I think the ghosts will continue to lurk around. I'm sure Danny Blanchflower will be there somewhere. and And Mackay.

 

The player

Harry Winks, midfielder

One of the things that would probably surprise people about the stadium is how low the ceiling is in the home dressing room. I can almost touch it. It's quite tight in there and it gets the camaraderie going between us.

My dad is a massive Spurs fan who started going to White Hart Lane with his uncle when he was knee-high, and I've grown up with the club in my blood. I can't really describe the feeling when I'm in the tunnel, about to walk out and they play the music. I think it's from Star Wars. I get hairs standing up on my neck, like me and my dad did when we used to go as fans in the crowd. It's just amazing.

My favourite game as a fan was probably the first one that my dad took me to - against Middlesbrough, when I was six or seven. I'd started playing at the club's academy and one of the coaching staff managed to sort us out with tickets in one of the directors' boxes. We were bang on halfway, in the leather seats. I remember the crowd and my little ears being overwhelmed by the noise. When I play now and I hear the crowd, it still gives me the buzz I had when I was that age.

Every European night that I've been to or been involved in, whether it's Europa League or Champions League, has been special. I didn't go to the Inter Milan game in 2010-11, when Gareth Bale ran Maicon ragged , but I remember going to the Real Madrid quarter-final tie later in that Champions League season. I was a flag bearer on the night so I got to go on to the pitch before the game. I was up close with Cristiano Ronaldo - I could see him up close. All the academy players got to do flag bearing once or twice a season in the European games and I was designated Real Madrid. I was really lucky.

I made my full Premier League debut at White Hart Lane in November of this season against West Ham and it was surreal when I scored. I ran over to the manager and my mum and dad were in the box just above the dugout and I remember looking up to them and blowing them a kiss.

Everyone will be emotional when White Hart Lane is knocked down but at the same time there is excitement about the new ground. More fans will be able to come and, hopefully, the atmosphere will be as good.

Observer

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