The new Spurs ground opened seven days ago. Last night it was consecrated. And what a noise we made. The Park Lane wall of sound became a force of its own and I was carried along in the current of emotion. Standing on the shelf, two blocks along, it was deafening, leaving my ears ringing as if I were coming home from a gig. I think everywhere else was singing too, but from my vantage point I couldn’t be sure where it was all coming from because the clamour completely enveloped me.
The sound stays in, swirling around, reluctant to die down and let go. The songs were loud but what I’ll remember most is the sheer volume of noise at big moments, wordless and undefined, a roar from deep down, football noise.
I’ve not experienced anything like it in over 50 years of watching Spurs. The Shelf with its low roof was always noisy for big games, but there were fewer than half as many voices. Wembley for finals could get us going but never as sustained a din. Semi-finals when we were given a big roofed single terrace were the best, the example coming to mind being the Highbury North Bank for the ‘81 replay. But nothing like this.
This was a claiming of the ground by the supporters. After this, it’s properly ours now. Comparisons with the Dortmund wall go only so far. British fans dislike being organised or preparing in advance. We respond to the occasion and to the game, and the game responds to us. The old terraces were exciting, anarchic, rumbustious, dirty and welcoming. We don’t like being told what to do. A place in the crowd was yours if you wanted it.
I don’t really care about the facilities, opening ceremonies, the fireworks. Football grounds are about the supporters. It’s up to us what we make of it. Last night, we all found our way home. We took our places and responded together. Glory Glory Hallelujah in the second half, yep, that got to me. Building on the heritage that defines us, we created something new.
Also, there was a sense that the team needed us. This Spurs side have a bond with the fans, which was especially noticeable in the final years of the Lane. To a man they give of their best. They’re honest, they respect the club’s history and the supporters, and they bring the right values to bear in the way they go about their work. They’ve made themselves better players and, I hope, better people because they feel Spurs and the fans are worth it.
City are a huge challenge to any side in Europe. They were looking for something extra and we helped them find it. Our intensity matched theirs. They gave everything, and so did we. This relationship is becoming increasingly rare in top level football these days, and it pains me to say it. Fans become consumers and customers, and clubs and the governing bodies are complicit in the transformation, because a docile, predictable fanbase with money to spend suits them more than the glory or the style. It happens to some extent at Spurs, let’s be honest, as well as at our rivals. Last night was different, and that’s why it was so special.
Us and the manager. Pochettino rose to the challenge too. His set-up limited the impact of City’s pace and width. Out of possession our midfield dropped back to a five, protecting our full-backs. I thought the maligned Trippier was excellent last night.
Winks and Sissoko were outstanding in central midfield, an area where we have been deficient since Christmas, able not only to break up opposition attacks but also, crucially, move us forward onto the offensive. The effect was to take the game to City throughout. We were never passive. Sissoko’s tackling in and around the box, that is in pressure moments where timing has to be impeccable, was a feature of his performance. At the back, Toby swept up any danger.
City targeted Kane as the fulcrum of Spurs’ attacks through fair means and foul. Their centre backs and Fernandinho took turns to foul him, in the midfielder’s case three fouls in one challenge. He missed one chance in the first half and also uncharacteristically over-hit a pass in the box to Son. This was a game where despite the attacking intent of both sides, opportunities were at a premium.
The half-time reflection suggested we may not get better chances. Then, we scored. Son found a little space on the right. Forced towards the goal-line, he somehow rescued the ball, then cut back to shoot low under the keeper. An outstanding piece of individual brilliance, it’s worth recalling that I described the first goal at the stadium in a very similar fashion. Eriksen’s not at his best, but on both occasions, he made the deceptively simple pass to put Son in, and the tactics, width and movement of the others created that space for him.
Before this, the first great moment at the new Lane. A dodgy penalty for an offence that none of the City players appealed for. Under a fingernail moon and the glow of the golden cockerel, Lloris plunged to his left to push it away. There was noise. Rightly lauded for this save, his third pen in a row, almost as valuable was his late dive into a cluster of boots to claim a City cross to snuff out City’s later revival.
Nothing whatsoever will dampen my mood today. Tottenham On My Mind’s mantra is enjoy the moment. I shall come to terms with Harry’s injury later in the week, for now this is a day when anything and everything is possible.
I must however get this off my chest. For the matchgoing fan, VAR stinks to high heaven. Rose blocks the shot, the game goes on, then stops. The pre-match VAR explainer (cartoons! Those zany gals and guys at UEFA eh!) offers no reassurance. We are told its VAR, we have to work out for ourselves why. In this case, as we saw with the Man United penalty versus PSG, the handball law is being rewritten. Slow motion does not provide a sound basis to judge the instant ball to hand/hand to ball problem. Also, referees are assessed by their peers. If the ball hits a hand, they are predisposed to take the safe option of awarding handball. Doesn’t mean it’s right.
Mostly, though, this was the game when I felt well and truly VAR’d. Son scores, we celebrate wildly, then that doubt infects that precious feeling. I was convinced, wrongly, that the ball had gone out, therefore anticipated the VAR before, sure enough, the tell-tale finger to the ear gesture. In fact, they were checking offside – who knew? No one in the stands, that’s certain. I’m not sure you can check for the ball going out of play – it is a misnomer that VAR removes all doubt because it doesn’t look at everything.
None of which is the point. Being a fan is about remembering the moments, some horrific, mostly precious, and especially valuable are the goals scored in big games when you should be losing it all in wild celebration. VAR, you’re a bastard.
A final word in praise of Danny Rose. His comments in the paper about Spurs’ lack of ambition were ill-judged, his choice of paper downright rank. Since then, he has overcome fitness problems both physically and emotionally. He’s been honest enough to speak about the latter, an honesty which shone through last week as he confronted racism in football.
More power to you Danny, we should get behind him, as was the case last night. Chris Pauros and others in Spurs LGBT group organised this flag. Sorry I couldn’t arrive early enough to be there. Kudos to the City fans who joined in, and apologies for nicking someone’s photo.
Simple and meaningful. Danny, we’re with you. And did you see the vid of Son’s goal against Palace, taken from the Paxton? The crowd goes wild, the players rush to congratulate the scorer, Rose sinks to his knees in relief and gratitude. It’s one of the most honest reactions from a professional I can recall, an insight into the pressures players cope with day in, day out. It meant a lot to him, as well as to us.