Somewhere Over the Rainbow The Cockerel Crows

In the end we came not to mourn but to rejoice. Farewell to White Hart Lane was a perfectly judged celebration that put the fans centre stage. Songs were sung, tears were shed but they were songs and tears of joy. For the players and fans in the ground and for everyone watching at home, the message was loud and clear. We are Tottenham, we are loyal and we are proud. At the end the rainbow embraced us and nature gave its blessing. It’s time to move on.

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They say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. The build-up to this game reminded us of the passion and glory of being a Spurs fan that transcends trophies and league position. The outpouring of emotion leading up to the kick-off was profoundly touching and will passed on through the generations. This games moves us still. Forget the hype, reject the shallow analysts and prophets of doom, ridicule those for whom entitlement is key to their support, skewer the moneymen. It’s our game, and never allow them to take it away from us. This is the one thing they will never, ever get – this feeling, the depth of this emotion, the sense of togetherness and belonging. Let them shrink back into their miserable souls while we live life as it should be experienced. Big boys and girls do cry. We are Tottenham.

Pre-match my son and I agreed the most difficult moment would be when the ref held up the board with time added on. That would signal the end. In the event I turned the corner from White Hart Lane into the High Road, saw the ground and began to fill up.

Outside the mood was cheerful. Smiling faces, pleased just to be here, many without a ticket but glad to be there, part of it still. Personally I would have banned half-and-half scarves – I have no idea why on a day like this you would want Man U red round your neck – but the stewards didn’t go for it. We all hung around, not sure whether to go in or linger for a few moments more, postponing the inevitable.

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The last time through the turnstile, the last programme, the last pee in the trough. No handtowels, nice touch THFC, consistent to the last. Last time up the stone staircase, the last time to instinctively quicken the step as you near the top, just to glimpse the ground for a fraction longer. If that impulse ever goes, put me out pasture and Saturdays on ITV3 with Midsomer Murders.

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And we discovered that we had come not to mourn an ending but to give thanks for being there at all. We gave the Lane the most appropriate send-off of all – noise. The songs echoed around every nook and cranny of the ground. Get behind the team, one of the best to grace the hallowed turf since the early sixties. Celebrate us being us – the Park Lane, the Shelf Side, the Paxton, old style.

To me, everything appeared in sharper focus, clear and defined. No misty-eyed soft-focus, this was pinsharp and vivid. I felt so close to the players, one last time. The mind plays tricks. On a personal level, this will be my greatest loss. I sit in the middle of the F of the Shelf Side THFC. Sat. I see real people, I see the strain, the bewildering pace of the modern game, the beads of sweat. I feel the joy and pain, the aching legs, lungs fighting for breath. I see fear and swagger, those who want it and those who don’t. Those who care about the shirt. I’ll never get that back, never understand the players quite as well.

And this is Spurs, there’s going to be a show and I want three points. Wanyama’s thumping header raised the roof of the net and lifted the spirits, the cross from Davies who had a good game all round. We missed two good chances, Kane and Son, to extend the lead to a size that matched our superiority. Playing through the middle was complemented by extra longer passes, into space to get the back four on the turn and by-pass Mourinho’s stifling midfield.

We gave them too many openings to stay calm. Better that way perhaps. Fear is part of a real match.  The second from a set-piece, fitting that the final Spurs goal at White Hart Lane should be scored by one of our own.

United stirred and Rooney scored but the heart has gone from them and that was that, although for all I could see for the final five minutes they might have got another one. You would have told me if they had.

By now the fans had taken over. This was the best pitch invasion since we were relegated and fans invaded the pitch and the stands to proclaim undying loyalty. The stewards were helping people on to the field. What better way to celebrate the end than the memory of a fat bloke doing a Klinsmann. He’ll never wash that shirt again.

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The fans had taken over. Everyone ignored the announcer. Then, Paul Coyte took the mike. He said exactly the right thing, didn’t have a go but you all want to see the great players, don’t you? This is our ground, remember. It came from the mouth of a true fan and we responded to one of our own. He’ll dine out on that for the rest of his life and if I meet him I might well buy him something to eat.

And so to the finale. A montage then the players coming out, perfectly judged because they didn’t tell us what to do or what to think. No shrill pleas to cheer or ‘give it up’, no background music. These legends make their own fireworks. We know how good they are and what they mean to us, and after that they know too. These cynical pros looked awestruck. White Hart Lane means something.

It got me then. Les Allen and Terry Dyson, Double winners, I never saw them play but the sight of these old boys strutting out for one last hurrah had me going, well and truly. The legs were weak but they stuck out their chests, proud to be Spurs. Never forgotten.

I choked up over Tottenham Til I Die, words stuck in my throat, but that was the last song on the last game on the last day.

It was a masterstroke to let the fans lead the way to the end. There was one player absent and we sang Gazza’s name. We hugged strangers who we’ve known half our lives, one last look, touched the East Stand brick and consigned to memory the contours of stone and mortar under our fingertips. We’ve never done that before, but it was real, tangible, the stand and us, close for one last time.

And don’t look back because it’s too much.

And the dreams that you dreamed of,

Dreams really do come true.

 

Thanks to Emma Poulton for going all Judy Garland

Farewell To White Hart Lane

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of my first visit to White Hart Lane. Spurs beat Sheffield United 2-0 with goals from Greaves and Saul. It’s kind of the club to lay on a celebration for me. Join me why don’t you.

 

My second match was nearly the FA Cup Final. This was the final home game before the FA Cup Final. At the turnstile, we were all given a ballot card with a bold letter in the top right hand corner. I was E. At half-time they called out the letters that would be allocated a precious ticket. I remember the cheers from different parts of the ground. I was relieved in a way to be unsuccessful because even as a kid of 11 I had absorbed enough of supporter sensibility to know it wasn’t fair for a ticket to go to a newcomer. Other fans had paid their dues, supported the club home and way, gone to every game. I had never been to a game but I knew what being a proper fan was about.

 

I discovered by chance recently that my friend Bernie Kingsley, he of fanzine Cock A Doodle Do and the Shelf protests, made his debut at the same game, probably sitting only a few yards from me in the shadows at the back of the East Upper.  So many pleasant coincidences and connections when you talk to fellow Spurs fans. He remembered the scorers but I couldn’t. Can’t recall anything about the match at all. What I will never forget is how it felt. To this day that’s what White Hart Lane means to me. Being there, being part of something.

 

My dad and I caught the tube from Ealing Broadway, change at Ealing Common for the Piccadilly Line all the way to Manor House, in those days the closest tube to the Lane. From there you jumped on the football special bus non-stop to the ground. Lines of red Routemasters waiting. You got a special bus. Everybody was cheerful, the excitement building, navy blue and white. Long-term fans, confident, knew where they were going, how to behave as a fan. And I was one of them now.

 

I didn’t realise at the time but it was a big deal for dad to take his precious only child to football. He had a little tobacconist and confectioners in West Ealing, a half shop, two narrow shops partitioned from one, R M Band the optician next door. To make a living he was open all hours, 7am to 7.30pm six and a half days a week. So to get me to football, he arranged for mum to take over the shop with an assistant, all to get his only son to a game. My parents weren’t at all interested in sport, and after all this time it has just occurred to me as I write this that this must have been the first time he had ever been to any football match. No matter how often you write about Spurs, there’s always something new.

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A People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur by Martin Cloake and me tells the story of the Lane and the supporters

Being there. Choosing a rosette from the various traders selling their homemade souvenirs pinned to boards nailed to a pole. Wear your colours! It was so important to get the right one. Mine had a plastic cockerel on the ball, a bit more expensive but that symbol was significant, what made the Hotspur stand out from the rest. The rusty ratchet of the turnstiles, and in. How I will miss that sound, surely the same stiles that I will go through on Sunday for the last time. How I will mourn the loss of that sound in years to come. Wembley’s electronic beep offers neither welcome or reassurance.

The climb to the top of the East Upper, endless stone steps to the very summit, then bursting out through the entrance the first and timeless glimpse of the pitch far below, bathed in sunlight, verdant green fit for my heroes. In reality a mudheap by that stage in the season but not to me. The chatter among the punters, knowing, informed, the easy banter of familiar faces. The racket of wooden seats clacking stridently against the uprights whenever we rose, in unison to acclaim a goal or rippling as the we craned to glimpse every last piece of action in the corner.

Over the next year or so, going to the Lane was a treat rather than routine. Home to Leeds with a snow-covered pitch, the only game on in London that day, calling the box office frantically before a voice said, “It’s on” before slamming the phone down. Mum took me to that one, must have been complete hell for her. Then I travelled across town for every match. No safety issues for a 13-year-old travelling alone even though hooliganism was becoming a presence, because I felt secure in the crowd.

These were the days of heroes and wonder. Greaves, still the finest I have seen, gliding over the turf with the ball a yard from his toe, relaxed, untouchable. The scorer of my greatest ever goal, turning on the halfway line against Newcastle and weaving through the entire defence before stroking it into the corner. Mackay, towards the end of his career but a driven, formidable presence. A rock, a leader. See him play and somehow no other midfielder since quite matches up to him.

Jennings, who saved everything without turning a hair. Gilzean, I thought every centre forward could head the ball as he did, but none have. Chivers, roundly abused by sections of the fans when he first arrived, so I learned patience alongside a whole new colourful vocabulary. I’m patient still.

Reflecting on those fifty years 48 hours before the lights will be turned off for the final time, it’s almost as if the football was the backdrop for the atmosphere rather than the other way round. We all have our team, and I guess this early seventies side was mine. The UEFA Cup win of 1972 tends to be forgotten because it was against Wolves but that was another great night. Mullery looked to be knackered and on his way out. A few weeks before the final, I saw him in the reserves at QPR, playing his way back into the side for one last hurrah, a hurling header to win it a tie we so nearly let slip away.

So to the best of the best. The greatest occasion in my life on the terraces was the UEFA Cup victory in 1984 against Anderlecht. The chance to win a European trophy at your own ground is something special. The scene was set – second leg so it would be decided on the night, under lights, glory awaited. It felt too that this superb Tottenham side of the early 80s was running out of momentum. Burkinshaw had had enough for reasons that weren’t entirely obvious at the time, the star players were getting older and change was in in the air. On top of this, we had to come from behind.

This game produced not one but two of the outstanding moments in my Tottenham history. Not Parks’ save and mad dash around the pitch but the goal. We forget now how close Spurs came to losing this match. The tension in the stands was unbearable as the thought that this night would end not in glory but in ignominy. I remain convinced that Graham Roberts’ late equaliser was scored through sheer will-power. He wanted that scruffy ball into the box more than anything or anybody. It was so packed that night, I couldn’t make my usual spot on the Shelf. When that went in, the only comparable moment is Villa’s Wembley goal. It was bedlam. The terraces shook and rumbled as we roared.

The other moment was Danny Thomas’s missed penalty. As he trudged back to the centre circle, we sang our hearts out: ‘One Danny Thomas.” Recently during his half-time interview at the Lane, Steve Perryman named this as one of the two best moments of his career and he wasn’t even on the field that night. That shows the respect he feels for the supporters, always reciprocated Steve, the embodiment of proper Spurs.

Others – 5-0 against the Arsenal, Falco volley, or the first half versus Feyenoord in 1983, four goals, a young Guillit and an aging Cruyff, the best 45 minutes I have ever seen Spurs play. Hoddle in his pomp eclipsing the master. European semi-finals in all white under the lights.

I saw both the 9 goalers, Bristol Rovers and Wigan, fun but there was no tension and all great games have an edge to them, a context, meaning. Which is why the disappointments stick in the mind too. Losing 5-0 to a Brady-inspired Arsenal, seeing them win their Double in 71 when the crush outside propelled me into the turnstile ahead of thousands in the queue to be one of the first in the ground. Ardilles and Villa, the transfer coup of a decade, a ticker-tape welcome and we lose 4-1 to Villa. Spursy before the word existed.

The modern game too. Recent wins against the Arsenal have matched anything the old days could come up with. Kane’s looping headed winner, Bale and Lennon in a couple of shattering minutes, or 5-1 in the League Cup when I saw their experienced internationals refuse to take a throw because of the intimidation in the stands.

Relegation – when the fans invaded the pitch and took over the directors’ box not to cause trouble but to say, we’ll support you evermore.

The most touching moment didn’t involve a Spurs player at all. I was about twenty yards from Fabrice Muamba when he sunk to the turf. Twenty yards from twitching limbs then stillness. But the fans did what they do. They sang his name. Then on the Shelf it just started up, that particular urgent noise when things are going badly and you want to lift your team. Not a song, not coherent, just come on, come on! I rang home to say I would be back early and I had seen a man die.

I say we all have one team but I have two. I adore Pochettino’s Spurs. They play the Spurs Way, the right way, with the same intensity as any fan. They’re young, we saw them grow up before our eyes and we have one of our own as a leader. They are as good a Spurs side we’ve seen since the eighties. This season the City, Chelsea and Arsenal games have been right up there, while the first half against West Brom was a classic.

To be honest, while the stars burn bright, the games meld into a blur. What stays with me is being there. My spot was just to the left of the centre Shelf. The noise rolled around under the stand before emerging into the atmosphere, vibrant, compelling, ours. Journalist Tony Evans once told me that in those days he travelled all over the country to watch Liverpool. They feared no one, but the Shelf was the only place that was intimidating, not for violence but the sheer size and volume. It broke my heart to see it ripped apart and replaced with boxes, the antithesis of vibrant, creative terrace support.

Football is a place to let off steam, to express emotion and shed the cares of the working week. But it’s much more than that. Being a supporter is about identity. It delves deep into the heart and soul and on the Shelf I learned to be part of something. An only child, happy at home and school, loved by my parents, I lost myself in the crowd and grew up.

I learned the right values. Loyalty and commitment. Doing my bit by getting behind the team to help them overcome opponents. Solidarity. Acceptance – as a Jew I took the abuse from rival fans personally, but my own didn’t turn on me, they took it on as a badge of fidelity. One of us, you are welcome here. I learned philosophy. Enjoy the good times, roll with the bad. Camaraderie, friendship and humour. We forget football is supposed to be fun and football fans are among the funniest people I know. Writer Patrick Marber called football “the dreaming game”, and I came to the Lane to dream of glory.

These days I sit on the Shelf about 10 yards from my old spot. I hope it isn’t sacrilegious to borrow Billy Nick’s words: “It’s been my life Tottenham Hotspur and I love the club.” Through everything that has happened in my life, White Hart Lane has always been there and I will be unsteady when it goes. I have no contact with schoolfriends and moved away from west London long ago. Relationships have come and gone, sometimes because I put football before this party or that wedding, and I’m really sorry. Not the right decision but that was the choice I made. Through good times and times I wouldn’t wish on any of you, through loss and bereavement, in times when it felt like I was hanging on by the finest of threads, I’ve lost myself in the crowd and felt content. The turnstiles speak to me. Come in, this way, steady now, you’re fine, welcome. Be yourself.

Home is arguably the most powerful and potent concept in human culture. It means security, love, care, safety, nourishment, togetherness. We use the word to describe where we play every other week. We’re not in town or back at base, we’re at home. White Hart Lane has a spiritual power that touches us profoundly, more so now than ever before. Once the Flower of the South and the team of the suburbs, Spurs fans are now spread far and wide, first the diaspora from the inner city to the Home Counties and Essex, then further afield. Spurs have a worldwide fanbase now. We come from different backgrounds with diverse histories, interests and jobs but one thing unites us – home. Where Spurs have played since 1899, 100 yards from where a group of enterprising schoolboys founded the club and within 500 yards of where Tottenham have played every one of the matches, ever. Every fan who has ever seen them play has walked the same streets, felt the same emotions, worn the colours and got behind the team.

Consumerism and commodification blight the modern game. Once in the Lane, however, it’s ours. Nothing gets in the way. Football is just the same as it ever was. This isn’t nostalgia, it’s real life. The Lane is tired, showing her age and ready to slip away, but she’s not going quietly. Right up to the end, no ground in the land rocks like she does. Under lights this is our world. You can’t see out, and nothing exists outside the shimmering floodlight glare. There have been times when I could not hear myself think. The stands vibrating with noise, deafening, all-encompassing, a rumble beneath our feet, shaking the rust from the girders and moving us to the very core.

I am so proud to spend the last few years at the Lane with my son and daughter, and now my granddaughter. She gets it. It’s not about entitlement, win at all costs or moving to the next level. It’s loyalty, passion, joy, despair. Life itself.

I’ll be at Wembley and the new place but it won’t ever be the same. But the fans will be there because we know there’s going to be a show and Tottenham Hotspur will be there. Wear your colours! Come on you Lilywhites! Peanuts! When it’s time to go, take me one last time, then at the final whistle scatter my ashes under scuffling feet and I’ll lose myself in the crowd one last time. It’s where I belong.

The Lane by Martin Cloake and Adam Powley is the indispensable, beautiful history of the ground. Every Spurs home should have one.

 

Spurs: Bottlers Can Bore Off

Half a dozen beginnings to my NLD blog and no endings. Writing enhances my pleasure and understanding of watching Spurs, this time it couldn’t add a thing. One of the great days at the Lane, treasure it. Wrap up the memory in the softest tissue paper, tie the box with navy blue and white ribbons and keep it safe. It moved me.

The derby took on a significance way above the result or league position. Losing White Hart Lane dominates my perspective. We’ve finished above them and the way we dominated rightfully provokes debate about whether the balance of power in north London has shifted. Cause for righteous celebration, except I can’t think about that. We’re losing White Hart Lane.

That’s why that win was so important. Seasons come and go, the special days live on. I was desperate to beat them not for the points but to be able to say, this was the last time, we took them on and we were glorious. For once no self-deprecating rueful typical Tottenham stories to tell in years to come, the last derby and we cocked it up and all that. Leave me with that moment, just once, just this time give me that. Play with style, give me glory, give my moment when nothing else matters and I leap with joy. They did, and I am forever thankful.

West Ham, not so much. As last season, they deserved their win as Spurs finally ran out of ideas to overcome a well-organised, motivated side. Tottenham looked mentally tired. The strain of four London derbies in a row, a semi-final and a chase for the top proved too much even though we are so much more resilient than last season. The legs were willing, the mind was weak.

We play 8 derbies a season. For 6 of these, opposition fans see us as their most bitter London rivals. That has intensified over the last few years. In the same period, Spurs became very good. That’s not a coincidence. Rivals still hated us but we could always be relied upon to be spursy. No longer, but it harms any title challenge because it’s something the northern clubs don’t have to deal with.

On Friday, it inspired the Hammers, who forced us out of our rhythm. If they were tiring in the second half, as Palace did after their good opening half the previous week, the goal came at the perfect time to rejuvenate them. The result – we never got a kick.

Playing out from the back is the barometer of the pressure we face. Many teams try to pen us in. It’s heart-stopping – sometimes I yearn for an agricultural hoof – but the fact is, mostly it achieves the aim of keeping the ball and rebuilding attacks. It takes poise, patience and skill. Against WH, time and again we couldn’t make the fourth and fifth pass into space that makes it work. The pressure is even telling on the masterful Alderweireld. It’s not so much giving the ball away deep in our box but the indecision that provoked it. Such indecision was costly in the semi-final.

9 days between games, during which time CFC will have won the league. In truth, they won it a long time ago. We need the rest. I’ll take that, as I will take the defeat against WH, three points dropped but 77 in the bag, one game lost but the previous 9 won, was it 16 out of the previous 19 won, and the Arsenal as well.

Yet the narrative in much of the media is about failure. Bottlers. This season has been a huge success. Spurs were the only team to mount any sort of challenge to a club who were ten points clear not so long ago. In the process, we’ve played glorious football that is the envy of the league. We are a club living within our means, low net transfer spend, 6th highest wage bill, second in the league. And we are accused of failure.

I guess it’s a compliment of sorts. In a football media that adopts criticism and superficiality as default settings, it’s the kind of attention teams at the top must live with, and many journos have made the same point, to their credit.

This week will be spent not so much wallowing in a trough of nostalgia as swimming lengths of backstroke. Stay tuned. Or tune out. Either option is acceptable. But the old ground is looking decidedly shabby and the newbuild towers over it, ready to take over. The times they are a’changing, not necessarily for the better and this week amid our success there have been a few reminders about what is to come.

The Kyle Walker transfer rumours may or may not be true. Rotation policy at a key time in the season sounds to an outsider like me a perfectly credible explanation. The point is, it’s the first time in two seasons that any disruption to the squad has been seriously addressed, despite Sky TV pundits attempts to move our best players on, and it exposes our vulnerability. Until now, player loyalty has been almost touching in an era when money is the only language. Well-paid, they have signed up to the Spurs way, the Pochettino way. Walker may or may not want to leave but we know he could double his salary tomorrow at any one of a dozen clubs in England and Europe, something which is true for most of the team. Kane is an exception – he could triple it. Brace yourself for a tough summer.

Also this week the club confirmed Wembley, the only surprise being that many were surprised. Staying at WHL for another season was an option only if there was a catastrophic failure in the new ground build in the last month. Wembley was the only choice. No other London club wanted us. Whatever its merits or faults, the Taxpayers Stadium is not owned by a football club yet that door was firmly shut in our faces, and getting to and from Milton Keynes is a non-starter, never mind the fact that the effective capacity is less than 30k. But Wembley won’t feel like home. Another hurdle, something extra to overcome.

Following the announcement, Tottenham’s merchandising went into full swing but personally I would rather have known the ticket prices than the fact that my member’s key-ring contained grass from the WHL pitch. In the event, prices were high although for most a discount was offered and the chance to move to a cheaper part of the stadium. Keeping fans together – they suggest moving us block by block – is a good idea because it maintains friendships and camaraderie built up over many years. Good news too for 18k people on the waiting list who can have a season ticket now.

In passing, my East Lower seat is being offered not at a discount but at the same price per game as now. This is because the club raised the price in line with West Stand seats then graciously gave a discount as a favour. Apparently the existing price was lower to reflect the lower standard concourse facilities in the old stand, not the case in Wembley. So I’m paying extra for a nicer concourse. Super. A better class of concrete at Wembley.

The club have got this pricing wrong. Greater discounts would reward loyalty, a message from the club that they wanted us to stick with them. As it is, we’re left with the feeling that once again supporters are being taken for granted. Significantly, there is no season ticket amnesty. It feels like a threat – pay this year or lose all benefits for the new ground. Bang out of order.

Criticism of the Supporters Trust on social media is bang out of order too. The Trust advocates for the fans, the club set the prices. That’s it. Unions want higher wages, companies decide what to pay. I’d like Sainsbury’s to be cheaper, Sainsbury’s decide what to charge me. That’s it. Think about what Spurs might get away with if left to their own devices.

However you see this, two things stand out. One is that the fan group is united in supporting Tottenham Hotspur but there’s little consensus in other matters relating to our support. Many say there should be no amnesty because we follow Spurs wherever they may be. That ST holders should pay more and should not get preferential treatment.

Second, the ticket pricing and the Walker rumours remind us of how much our brave new world is going to cost. To Levy, Walker (and others) may be expendable because sales are the only way to fund new players. That high prices at Wembley mean high prices in the new ground, because that’s the only way to pay for it. That there is little spare cash to invest in the best Spurs team in donkey’s years.

For now though, take pride in a wonderful side completing a wonderful season. Let’s give the Lane a right old send-off. Don’t worry Daniel, I’m bringing my own tissues.

We Suffer With Spurs, Now Go Again


Random thoughts. Not incoherent but no coherence. Chaotic floods of emotion on the day, the aftershocks still carooming around my head the morning after. It’s a semi-final, I was there so don’t ask me what happened. To the uncommitted, one of the best semi-finals of recent years. To us, 90 minutes of Everest peaks and ocean-bottom troughs. Some order may emerge later. Who knows? Maybe there is none, none of the messages we like to take away from key matches. We’ll see.

The noise when Dele equalised. Overpowering waves of sound and joy crashing into the stadium.

Two moments of stunned silence. Toby’s early foul. Not you Toby. Toby the best in the league. Not you, not there, not then. Not seen a replay, so maybe not, but he did not have to do that. Subsequently he was characteristically brave and impeccable but it smacked of momentary uncertainty and fear. He soon regained his composure, a confidence that spread through the team, but from then on, always uphill. The match had not been lost but it became much harder to win.

Pull up the rocking chair and put me in a home – one of the naff ones kids, don’t waste your money because if I ever get this gaga I’m not worth the expense –  the day the sight of Wembley Way from the top of the tube stairs fails to move me. Bumping into old friends on the way. It’s Spurs, it’s football, always the human touch in a sea of humanity.

Am I the only one convinced the barcode ticket will fail and chuck me out? We’re in. The teams, oh yeah, teams. Attacking take them on take it to them.

Pause.

Said at the time Son on the left was an unnecessary risk. Everything from the keeper’s waterbottle in the back of the net is about moving the ball forward. At the time, attack Moses as a weak link. Now it seems Davies isn’t fully fit. Son has become a willing defender, like Lamela before him, but he’s no good at it. Just as he had worked out his role going forward too.

No Walker either, although perhaps this was about Trippier exploiting a supposed Chels weakness on crosses. If Davies not fit, play 60 minutes and see how it goes, or not have him on the bench at all. The flow, the familiar patterns, homespun and comfortable like a hand-knitted jumper, all gone. Don’t hold back for the rest of the season. Games are tough but this is about winning something. Pochettino’s fatal ambivalence towards the cups held sway.

It was a mistake waiting to happen. Right place, wrong choice. Son flopped down a fraction too early, Moses had time to rub his hands with glee and offer up a few words of thanks to the gods of his choice before picking his spot, in this case just around Son’s knee. Over he went. Every ref is going to give that. Davies knew that, Son didn’t.

Two set piece giveaways. Against this lot of all people. Uphill just got steeper. Sisyphus had nothing on us. Can’t get back from that.

And yet Spurs did. Twice. I’m taking this away with me. Turned the game after a tough first fifteen or twenty. Looked tentative at first, then we kept the ball and made Kane’s equaliser, a deft header, diving forward and guided into the far corner. It wasn’t a good cross but Kane made it so. Fabulous improvisation from a man who stood up to be counted throughout.

Again in the second half. Fought to get on top. Pushed them back. All Spurs. Eriksen’s the pass of Wembley’s decade. At our end. Watched it all the way, shining, spinning in the beams of the setting sun shining through the roof girders. Peace amid the tumult while it flew, stayed with it all the way onto Dele’s boot, and in.

The better team. Undaunted in adversity. Running up that hill.

We have Moussa Dembele, a performance that myths are made of. Feeling the power from pitch to high in the stands. The Hercules of Spurs’ midfield. He would not give ground, not give way. Never hiding. The best of the best when the pressure is at its highest.

Semi-finals the worst and the best of football. Hope and expectation. Fear and dread. A sense of achievement to get there. Achieving nothing. Teetering on the watershed of exultation and crushing disappointment. I’ve never felt more alive.

Not what many of their post-Roman fans want from the game. Tickets still available on Tuesday. Uncertainty isn’t part of their deal with the game.

The Wembley experience. Plenty of trains eased the journey home. Why can’t you buy a portion of chips? Chips with burger only. The montage was naff. Hold up a plastic bag – anyone know why? What did it show in the end? The Spurs family yeah. Bloke to our left spent 30 minutes threatening women with violence, plus the blokes two rows behind him, because someone said something about standing up. Red-faced, veins bulging like his eyes. 5.15 kick-off means plenty of drinking time. Beyond me. Bloke behind us fell over the seats when Dele scored. Big bloke, I mean big, lifting him back did little for my hernia but made me laugh. Good on you, my friend, a goal worthy of a tumble.

I seldom complain about referees on Tottenham On My Mind. Yesterday Martin Atkinson tried to re-write the tackle from behind interpretation of the law, as well as refereeing Dele on his reputation rather than the fouls. I can’t be bothered to check this, but did he give us a penalty earlier this season when Dele went over? He was dreadful.

Self-inflicted wounds are painful and take longer to heal. Two avoidable errors, one sadly all too predictable. It still hurts, writing this on Sunday evening. A game we should not have lost. For long periods Spurs were the better team, the game going at our pace. Another chance slipped through our fingers. Seventh straight SF loss. There’s a pattern.

Or is there? Look beneath the surface and this one was different, less about the past and more about where we are now. More about the vagaries of fortune, high-quality opponents and a couple of unforced errors that did for us. One unstoppable goal, to Matic I say fair play and move on. Otherwise, Spurs have a set-up that’s different from the past. A better team, more focussed ethos. There’s some truth in saying the lack of a winning mentality is part of the Tottenham DNA but it’s too glib to say this was the main cause of yesterday’s defeat. Conceding a free-kick and a soft penalty were severe knock-backs to the players, never mind rocking the stands, yet they picked themselves up to create two excellent goals, both the product of skill and audaciousness when under pressure to score. Both were part of extended periods where we controlled the game. Several players gave no ground in their efforts to get us back in it – Kane, Dembele and the back three. Eriksen ceaselessly tried to make things happen, Dele too. We took back the midfield and the initiative, it wasn’t gifted to us, far from it. This is precisely what will carry us onwards and upwards. Only Hugo looked off the pace but he had so little to do, such was the ebb and flow of the match.

Mistakes we can erase. It’s not as if Toby has made many this season. Creating and sustaining football the Pochettino way is harder. Despite the errors, that’s embedded. This season-defining week is one third over. Go again at Palace and confront the Arsenal, then we’ll see about mentality.

The delight on my 12-year-old granddaughter’s face as we kicked off, singing, laughing, jumping up and down. The delight at being there and being Spurs.