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.
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.
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.
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.
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