Spurs and The Sound of the Crowd

Even my wife noticed. “See your lot are doing what the manager wanted then.” I watched Thursday’s Europa League victory against Sheriff from the comfort of my sofa but the sound of the crowd came through loud and clear. The noise was generated primarily by supporters sitting behind the Park Lane goal, the traditional Spurs ‘end’, who had bought tickets in a section allocated by the club for the 1882 movement, a loose grouping of mainly younger fans who want to bring back the atmosphere to White Hart Lane.

This time last week I wrote about the unease with which an increasing number of Spurs fans express their support for the club. The loyalty remains but the ground can be deadly quiet at times, there’s anxiety in the air and despite our league position and highly promising squad, there is a puzzling but tangible undercurrent of dissatisfaction about the direction the team is taking under Villas-Boas.

I suggested that while there’s no single reason for this (high prices, changing demographics, Sky TV and unrealistic, barely achievable expectations caused by the dominance of the Premier League and Champions League are all factors), many supporters have developed a growing sense of alienation in terms of their relationship with the club. They feel distant, cut off and undervalued. The feeling is by no means unique to Tottenham, indeed it is a worrying trend that is spreading throughout the Premier League. It’s not something that you can grasp easily or put a name to, but it’s around and therefore all too real.

This feeling hasn’t stopped life-long Spurs fan, season-ticket holder and author Martin Cloake from regularly attending games. He was curious about what he calls the “new ultras”, groups of fans at clubs in Britain, Europe and the States who encouraged fellow supporters to gather and sing. Unlike traditional supporters’ organisations they prefer to remain anonymous and keep officialdom at arms’ length.

These groups manifest their allegiance in different ways. For many european Ultras, violence and protest is never far from their vocal support, others like St Pauli have political elements while others focus on the team. The Spurs response is the 1882 initiative. My son and I were present at a tiny bit of Tottenham history, the first gathering at a Youth Cup match at Charlton. I was probably the oldest one there. It was organised by Spooky from Dear Mr Levy and, well, I wasn’t sure at the time. Find Flav Bateman and co-conspirators at Love The Shirt but at the time, I heard the call because it was just a great idea. Come and sing for the shirt. No other reason, get behind the team and where better than at a youth game where we don’t know the players but they are Tottenham so they are ours.

Martin makes 1882 his starting point for a riveting history of Spurs’ fan culture in the last thirty years. I’ve called 1882 a movement but it’s not really. It has organisers but no leaders. It has no manifesto or political ambition, other than to increase support for the team and enable fans to enjoy themselves in the process. It’s inclusive – you don’t have to be a member of anything, you just turn up. It isn’t po-faced – I didn’t take my shoes off to support the lads and I didn’t sit down if I loved Tottenham because it would play havoc with my knees, but that doesn’t matter. Sing your heart out for your lads.

Love the Shirt is clear about one thing: their starting point is the long and proud heritage of fan culture at Spurs. They see themselves as carrying on that tradition, spontaneous and anarchic in the past, it’s just that now because of the alienation, it needs a bit of work. One particular aspect of fan culture that is unique to Spurs is how this heritage has persisted despite fundamental attacks by the club. Sound of the Crowd takes you through the scurrilous, sordid tale of how Spurs tried to emasculate loyal and loud support.

When I began supporting Spurs in the mid-sixities, the vocal and mostly younger fans gathered behind the Park Lane goal with away fans at the Paxton and other home support in the Shelf. Spurs must be the only ground where home fans share an end with away support. That’s bad enough but imagine turning up one season to find you’ve been turfed out of your end, your place without any warning. Yet this has happened not once but twice at Spurs. First, away fans were moved exclusively into the Park Lane, then in the mid eighties, the ultimate indignity or in my view betrayal when one close season executive boxes replaced the Shelf, the home of the most loyal and most vocal.

In Martin’s hands, this sorry saga becomes the tautest of thrillers, heroic resistance in the face of mendacity, intrigue and conspiracy. It’s essential reading for anyone interested in our history and the relationship between the business of football and supporters. The revurberations of that period rumble on. The atmosphere has never been the same but more than that, it opened wide that distance between club and fans that has never been closed. Football is about a sense of belonging and place: our fans have nowhere to go.

The supporters are happy, there’s an atmosphere at the Lane and the manager has a response to something he identified as a major impediment to the team’s continued success. Spurs reach the League Cup quarter finals and the knock-out stages of the Europa League. You would think there’s a message there somewhere.

So this is what the club do next. The West Ham game is category C and there’s no 1882 block. Big game, intense rivalry, the manager wants the fans to get behind the team, yet no discounts, no singing section, both dropped because THFC can make a sweet profit from a full house derby.

Stoke was due to take place on the Saturday after Christmas, 3 pm kick-off. Yesterday the club announced that it had been moved to Sunday, 4pm. No reason has been given and it’s not on Sky. Many fans make their Christmas arrangements around the fixtures. Even I for once, a bah-humbug bloody Christmas man if ever there was one, have organised things in advance. If I am to attend this match, and for the first time in a long time it has become an ‘if’, 12 people close to me will have to shift their diaries around too.

A twitter pal of mine, big Spurs fan, used to blog, goes mostly to aways as he lives in the West Country, young family so short of cash, planned a real treat for himself to be at this game. Now he can’t make it. He can get a refund on his match ticket but not his advance rail fare. He can’t be the only one. He’s disgusted and so am I.

Clubs should make a profit. These days with vast television and commercial revenue they can do so without it being at the expense of the supporters. If you’re puzzled as to what alienation is, it’s probably the feeling you get when you read the three paragraphs above. Things must change, not for my sake – I’ll be there til I die then scatter my ashes under the feet of the crowd after the match – but for future generations.

It’s not all bad. There is a once in a lifetime opportunity with the new ground to create an end and keep some prices reasonable. 1882 and the Trust are doing some fine work. The club must welcome not reject them. 1882 isn’t a separate movement, it’s us, you and me. It is inspired by our past and we are the future.

Sound of the Crowd by Martin Cloake is available on kindle from Amazon and on other formats from Martin’s website. Only £3.08 probably the biggest bargain on the net

21 thoughts on “Spurs and The Sound of the Crowd

  1. Brilliant piece.
    Less murmuring, more singing.
    Brave from AVB to give us a wake-up call…only one manager courageous enough to do that. And he’s ours.
    COYS

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    • Thanks. Worth thinking about – AVB as brave to raise it. 1882 would carry on regardless, of course, and so in their very different way will the club.

      Regards, Alan

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  2. Singing is all well and good, but it is not really support. Support is cheering, roaring the team on, encouraging players to take on their opponent, letting the opposition and the officials know if they are doing something you disapprove of, reacting to events taking place in the game. To support, the team on the pitch has to be the focus. Too often the focus of singing and chanting is on the singers and chanters themselves, who they are, what they do, or countering and abusing their equivalent among opposition fans. If people enjoy this sort of thing they are perfectly at liberty to do so, but don’t confuse it with supporting the team on the pitch and willing the players on to achieve.
    “We are the south side, we are the shelf side, we are the paxton, we’re Tottenham Hotspur, we’ll sing what we like, what time’s your minibus, your support is f*cking sh*t”, Y*d Army, Andre give us a wave” All this is I’m sure good fun, and part of the enjoyment of watching your team for some. But it isn’t support. It’s support which makes fans a team’s twelfth man and can make the team more likely to win, not “banter” with your opponent’s fans.

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    • Great piece again Alan.
      But have to say John White is bang on about encouraging and being the twelve man. Where I normally sit in he East upper, I keep on getting funny looks and no support , apart from my friend, when I shout out for the team to roar them on.
      The 1st 1882 game I went to was Spurs youths v Barcelona . Brilliant support with the singing and banter, but urging the team on was not as good as our singing, and that is the difference from encouraging your team on.
      Sadly too many fans sit there and I see them there to be entertained, which is right in itself but, as Alan says, we must have an area exclusively for fans to be able to support and express themselves and not feel out of place.

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      • Just want to add, proud of people like Spooky, Alan, the fighting cock who are all behind 1882, which will only get stronger and bring back the atmosphere as it should be.

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    • Thanks John. often a bad tackle or decision gets the crowd going and the old ground holds that noise in. That’s another problem with today’s noon KO – it’s never as angry in the early games.

      Cheers, Alan

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  3. Great article… yes it sucks ,changing fixtures for TV coverage, (in this case not…even worse !) I have been following the plight of 1882 since it’s inception for that youth game at Charlton I believe Spooky, who incidentally is the best spurs blogger out there has masterminded in absolute gem in the 1882 the other night against the Sheriff they really made a difference, it actually inspires the rest of the crowd to get involved and sing.
    Please please THFC sit up and take notice that when our new stadium is planned to have a stand behind one of the goals not only for the 1882 but for many others among st us who wish to sing our hearts out for team..
    I watch quite a lot of European football, and i have to say the support the likes of Bayern and Dortmund fans give their team is unbelievable,… proper ,support. I noticed when Chelsea played Bayern in the super cup, when Bayern went behind to an early Torres goal, all you could hear were the Bayern fans… they were losing and yet they kept on singing, not just for a few minutes but for the entire game.
    I welcome the 1882 with open arms ,and who knows maybe one week you might even hear the West Stand sing. COYS !!

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    • Credit where its due – Sibs was the one that birthed the original idea. Remember the Ponzan fans at the indoors kids game with flares, noise, singing like it was title decider? He suggested we flash mob a Spurs youth game. It’s snowballed from there. It’s only done so because there are so many like minded individuals out there that appear unable to experience football in that old skool traditional way thanks to that long list of hold backs modern football has given us.

      I’ve said it many times, 1882 will only exist until there is an organic instinctive atmosphere back at the Lane. Then those that have to get tickets in allocated blocks for 1882 wont need to. They can stay where they are.

      John White (above) hit the nail on the head with ‘support’. Even that passion emotion filled determination, the will to push the side on, is lacking from so many these days. It’s why 1882 is standing out. Its a good thing and yet at the same time a testament to the lack of emotion on display.

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      • Yep credit to Sibs – thought that para about 1882 origins would be easy, then stopped mid-sentence. Really did not know.

        Re the allocated block, agree re the organic, instinctive atmosphere point but because of the way we have been displaced, the block now acts as the catalyst. Keep it, now and in the new stadium.

        Regards, Al

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      • *blushes* the highest praise, thank you, but I kinda like DML so the other guy is right…how did you know I wrote with my socks rolled down and shirt outside my trousers?

        Cheers, Al

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  4. lol yid army! c’mon u spurs like to see goals then glory! maybe top four 50% plus possession win midfield push & run dribble into danger area! two new strikers class christian benteke m’baye niang el shaarawy javier hernandez alexandre pato ker-ching! 1882 outlaws casuals yids ghost spooks lol.

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  5. Kudos to the 1882 lot (I’ve been one of them myself on a few occasions). It’s just such a shame, and a sad indictment on modern football, that it’s necessary at all.

    The truth is that the big clubs no longer want passionate fans who live and breathe the club and who are a little rough around the edges, they want fans (corporate/tourists/new age fans) who are happy to be milked dry quietly and not complain.

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    • yes, it’s true. they don’t really care as long as the income rolls in. 1882 I’m completely behind what they do. To be optimistic, it may make a difference when the board need us to fill the new ground.

      regards, Alan

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  6. I dont think you can legislate the cheering..Real cheering happens organically.You can push it,encourage it but you can impose it..Fans will get encouraged by other fans doing in and its often a reflection of what is happening on the field which is the real fuel for the fans.Iive in Canada and see sports that offer fans to cheer but putting up flashing signs and its last two seconds if the team is not performing.
    The manager,any manager,has to be the motivator.He is the extra man…the fans come next…

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  7. I dont think you can legislate the cheering.. Real cheering happens organically. You can push it,encourage it ,but you can’t impose it..
    Fans will get encouraged by other fans cheering and its often a reflection of what is happening on the field which is the real fuel for cheering.I .Iive in Canada and see sports that put up flashing signs for the fans to cheer (all except Toronto FC that is)
    Ultimately its a relationship between the fans and the players. Players of course are more likely to kiss badges and leave for greener pastures while fans endure the sleet and pay to watch heroes who are not as committed.
    The manager…..any manager…..has to be the motivator.He is the extra man…the fans too…but the manager has to instill the ethic….the fans are an added feature and they shouldn’t simply be fodder for the excuses of a PL manager.
    Many have been there before the manager was born and will be there long after he has departed for places like Paris and Madrid.

    Sorry ignore the last post I had a problem logging in and cut and pasted (badly) the last post

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  8. Its quite amazing this line up this line up against Newcastle.
    Bale first got recognition in a major way during those Taxi for Maicon moments against Inter.The man we paid 30 million
    for,Lamela played against Inter too but is not allowed to face Newcastle!
    and Brad is going to protect the first third with Moussa and Paulinho and their slow build up. Wont be easy today with this set up.

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