Champions League at the Lane in Three Scenes

 

Best bit of the Ajax game? Everything before kick-off. Just another day. Work – writing reports up. Chores. Walk dog. More reports. Clear up. Prepare dinner. Get on a train. Watch Spurs in a Champions League semi-final at my home ground. Just another day.

Walking to the ground from Tottenham Hale is the eye of the hurricane, a leisurely stroll through city backstreets before the noise gets you. Far from an intrusive behemoth, the stadium is hidden once more behind the houses, faithful to Spurs’ roots amidst ordered terraces and looming up only when I’m a minute away. So my new routine includes one of life’s little pleasures, the quickening of the step to round the final corner, knowing it’s there, just to see it that much sooner.

Then it hits you. That something in the air. More people, a lot more police, excitement and anticipation. Roads are blocked, the delay serves to ramp up the tension, rumours of bottles thrown on the High Street but no Ajax fans in sight. My first ever queue at the new turnstiles. The welcoming buzz from the concourse, a sound that can only be a football crowd.

The noise from the Park Lane, spreading round the ground, sitting over the centre spot. Intense, vibrant, unforgettable. Doesn’t want to go anywhere. Passion and fury where it belongs.

Second best bit of the Ajax game? The morning after, when you take stock and realise in the cold light of day that it’s just half-time. In between, nah.

Ajax’s movement, pace and intelligence in the first half proved far too hot to handle. We didn’t get near their shadows. No escape from the stifling press. Bad touches and misplaced passes for sure, but there appeared to be no way out. The bloke behind me who coaches from row 23 like a Sunday league manager with a hangover urged more effort and more getting stuck in. Well, yes, but for extended periods, no amount of sweat and toil alone could have stopped the Dutch advances. Their goal released a player who had time and space in a packed penalty area. How did they do that? Spurs’ back five don’t know.

As Vertonghen staggered from the field after a clash of heads with Alderweireld, his distress and state of collapse summed up Spurs’ night so far. Happily, he recovered quickly, although rightly may not be available this weekend due to concussion. Look after him, and let the docs take the decision. We know he’d play for our sake, bleeding and battered, if it were up to him.

If it was hard to believe Spurs are in the semi-final of the Champions League, it was all too easy to envisage it all falling down around our ears. Thinking quickly, Pochettino used this as an opportunity to bring on Our Saviour, Moussa Sissoko, and change from a back three to a 4-4-2. This posed more problems for our opponents, plus Sissoko contributed much-needed energy and drive from deep positions.

Going longer to Llorente proved a worthwhile option. And when I say worthwhile, I mean the only option. Forgive me the delusion that it might have worked, he did his best, but against this defence, his best is not enough. However shrewd his touches and lay-offs, the defence found them relatively straightforward to smother. The tactics also pinned players close to him by way of support, which negates Moura’s pace, makes Dele easier to pick up and limits our options out wide.

We barely served up a decent cross all night. Rose was very good again save for his final ball, the same can’t be said for Trippier, sometimes unfairly criticised but justified on this occasion. Llorente’s in for his aerial ability, yet he missed our best chance, a free header from a first half free kick. Dele looked out of sorts. It may be only a hand injury but his form’s dropped away since it happened. I realise he’s had to drop deeper to do a job for the team but he misses Kane more than any of us.

The state of play in three scenes. Scene one: early on, Eriksen picks up the ball just inside their half, for once in a bit of space. His pass is quick and instinctive. Llorente comes off the defender and turns towards their goal. Then, nothing. He fiddles around because he knows he can’t run with it, something which of course has not escaped our opponents’ attention, so they funnel back into position and he knocks it tamely sideways. It doesn’t sound like much but we didn’t get another similar opportunity. You know Kane or Son would have been gone, up and at them, putting fear and trepidation into Dutch hearts.

That moment sums up where we are right now. I tried not to, really tried, but there were times when I narrowed my eyes and imagined Harry leading the line, head over the ball, hunting and inspiring. Impossible to escape that feeling of what might have been. I sincerely hope that sentence isn’t our season’s epitaph.

Scene two: Tottenham Hotspur play a Champions League semi-final with no forwards on the bench, let alone a striker. Home leg, goal down, we bring on two full-backs, one of whom, good though he is, is really a centre half. Not the time to dwell on this, but the gaps in the squad laid bare and raw. Not even an under 23 striker. It should not have come to this.

Scene three: we’re still in in it. We have it in us to spring a surprise in Amsterdam. We proved against Dortmund that we can defend, and Moura and Son are two ideal forwards for a counter-attacking game.

In the second half, we didn’t play well but we did restrict Ajax’s chances. Lloris had little to do, a sign perhaps that the Dutch are not as effective going forward as they might be. You bring the straws, I’ll clutch them. Even McDonalds paper straws.

It won’t be about a change of personnel. It will be about who we have giving everything they’ve got for the sake of fans and for the shirt. This we know they can do. Poch will come up with something. Show the football world what’s possible, show them who we are and what we have become. As Poch said in the programme, “it’s important that as players and fans, we show why this is such a special football club.” It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. Leave nothing in the dressing room and have no regrets.

Sincere thanks to the gent who walked past before the game, saw my TOMM t-shirt and said he liked the blog.

This week, I guested on the Football Pink podcast, reminiscing about the 1991 cup semi-final. The Arsenal bloke didn’t make it so there’s too much of me. And Gazza’s free-kick should have been third on my all-time list of Spurs’ moments. Listen anyway.

Eriksen’s Jubilant Late Winner Keeps Spurs in the Race

I properly celebrated Eriksen’s winner for Spurs last night. Proper big celebration from deep down. Elation at a late winner with so much at stake in the league, a great goal in itself and a huge dose of relief thrown in. That’s a combustible mixture and I took off.

Each year the Championship play-off final is touted as the world’s most valuable match. We’ll only know come season’s end but the worth of that goal to Spurs could be incalculable. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of this, the best Spurs side in decades led by the finest manager since Bill Nicholson, could hinge on Champions League qualification.

The costs of the stadium are vast but manageable and budgeted for.  The cost of rebuilding this team is a very different matter. Tottenham can’t continue to challenge for honours across the board with a squad with as many holes as the Huddersfield defence, on top of which key players like Eriksen and Alderweireld are tipped to leave. Put these two together, remove the incentive to play for a London team in the CL, and it’s football quicksand, irresistibly sucking the life out of the team. Make no mistake, this year the stakes are sky high. With rivals stuttering, how we needed that goal.

Plus, I want to show the league what my Spurs can achieve against the odds. This thing about not winning trophies pales into significance against the pride and joy I feel in this Spurs side. They are completely genuine. There are no shirkers, only triers. Play for the shirt and for the fans. Injuries, no transfers, low salary budget – show the league what we can do.

Play terrific football at times, and if football is about memorable moments, we’ve had a bucketful of those over the last four years. Here’s an honour – 1982 cup final winners. Remember that everyone? Only because the final and replay were two of the worst finals in living memory. Man City home and away. Remember that? You will until your dying day. So, I celebrated.

Eriksen was the key figure as we remorselessly tried to break Brighton’s resolve. He’s not been at his best this season. Much of what he tried last night did not come off, partly because his touch is not quite there, although that first half pass to put Moura in for a rare goalscoring opportunity was a gem, and partly because our opponents shut down his angles in and around the box. You can’t play into channels if there aren’t any. You can’t chip into the space between the back four and keeper if there isn’t any.

The point is, he kept trying something. In the second half, Pochettino pulled him deeper so he became our busy creator, always available, always on the move, always trying to make something happen. It’s the only way to get through a defensive barrier like Brighton’s. In the end, he succeeded.

So many Spurs sides I’ve seen over the years would have given a collective shrug after 80 minutes and rehearsed their excuses. This lot just keep on playing. It’s this attitude and application that I admire and value so much. They really kept at it in a controlled, purposeful manner. Perhaps it could and should have become more frenzied and gung ho, but lobbing crosses into the box, tempting though it is with 10 minutes to go, had only provided heading practice for Brighton’s centre halves until then, so no reason to think it would change. This approach implies self-belief without arrogance, a conviction that the right way of playing will bring rewards in the end.

 

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Please support the bike ride to Amsterdam in aid of the fight against prostate cancer, as advertised at half-time last night. Two good friends of Tottenham On My Mind, Bruce Lee and Kevin Fitzgerald (talking to Paul Coyte), are taking part, so if you enjoy the blog, click on their name and bung them a few quid. Thank you. COYS!

pic by Justin Ford via Pete Haine

 

Danny Rose is fast becoming my favourite player. He put everything he had into last night’s match, a man of the match performance of total commitment. His first half tackle in the box to deny the Brighton 10 was expertly timed as he came from nowhere. He’s come back from the wilderness because he’s earned his manager’s respect. Now, with this and his stand against racism, he’s earned the respect of the crowd too.

Praise also for Alderweireld and Vertonghen. They kept pressing forward, seeing the gaps in front of them without over-committing and leaving Spurs exposed. This was a performance of sustained intelligence, giving team-mates the freedom to commit to attack and nearly match-winning as Toby’s shot came off the inside of the post and scudded along the goal-line.

Third in the league with Llorente and Janssen up front, Wanyama in midfield, a bench with a keeper, four defenders and an 18year old midfielder, yet somehow Poch fashioned something out of this misshapen squad. Janssen’s name wasn’t even in the programme, that’s how far away from the first team he is. Was.

Llorente was fairly static throughout. Perhaps the plan was to keep the two centre halves occupied while others moved into the space that, in theory, created. In practice, the Spaniard’s flicks were easily blocked. Moura pushed in tighter to him in the second half but got little from it, a tactic not helped by the full-backs’ poor crossing.

Dele had one effort cleared off the line, a sublime right-foot take down of a high ball then perfect balance onto the left for a shot. Otherwise, 80% second half possession brought few chances.

Brighton’s ultra-defensive tactics were deathly dull but I can’t blame them given their league position, although it’s not the best approach against Spurs because it allows our ball-playing back four to get forward without fear of punishment. I do blame the ref for taking no action against their time-wasting keeper. The ref added on one minute in the first half. Teams will keep doing it if refs let it go.

The main reason why the battle for third and fourth is to tight is the late goals conceded versus Southampton and Burnley. It appeared we were running out of steam, understandable perhaps with the injuries and a thin squad. Then we looked tired, now Spurs are refreshed and rejuvenated. I guess a champions league semi-final can do that.  I think the new ground has a lot to do with it, not just the home support but the sense that the club is finally moving forward. Momentum is vital at this stage of the season, especially as our rivals are stuttering. Chelsea and United’s players have been criticised for not all giving everything and pulling together – not the case at the Lane thank you very much.

One of the Great Nights at the Lane

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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.

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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.

 

Spurs: New Ground New Era. The Future’s Bright

Bouncing up the stairs at Seven Sisters into the dark to be greeted by a flurry of hail, right in the mush. Better than the sudden storm that burst around me as I drove up through Kent, where the road transformed into a snow scene within minutes. This was London hail, damp and cold. In the search for omens at the dawn of a new era in the life of Tottenham Hotspur, it’s an inauspicious beginning.

But we’re back on familiar territory, and that’s what matters. We’re late, so a brisk walk is the only option. Same old pavement, cracked and uneven, but no sense of what the traffic or crowds will be like. New signs, diversions, road closures. 50 years and counting now but this is new and unpredictable, so walk, 20 minutes max, probably miss the ceremony but in for kick-off, even if there’s chaos at the turnstiles, because something’s going to go wrong, isn’t it? This is English football, it’s new, electronic, something will go wrong.

Up the incline to High Cross. Past the home for Jewish incurables on the left, now flats, and on the right, the first synagogue in the area, now a rundown shopfront. To the left, set back from the High Road, the old Town Hall where Blanchflower and the boys lifted lifted the cup in Double triumph, where the streets were so packed as the team bus crawled past, people couldn’t move even if they wanted to.

The night of 27th April 1901 was dry and cold, just above freezing, yet 40,000 people thronged the High Road down to South Tottenham station to welcome home the Flower of the South, Tottenham Hotspur and the FA Cup. No radio or other media, but word spread and the fans came out in the middle of the night to greet their heroes. Then and now, the Hotspur matters to so many.

And so we walk these same streets in their footsteps, three generations carry the navy blue and white in our hearts and in our soul. I can’t keep up with my son and granddaughter. Maybe the time is coming to pass the flame on. Not yet, not yet.

White Hart Lane, the world-famous home of the Spurs, except it used to be well-hidden. Betraying its origins as a football club embedded in a working-class, aspirational community, the old ground nestled in rows of terraced housing, masked from afar by the higher buildings of the High Road, invisible until you reached the Whitbread Brewery, merely a long Jennings-type punt away.

This is different. There it is, squat and skulking, futuristic and alien in old north London. Visible for the rest of the journey, it draws you in, just follow the star. It has presence, and it’s hard to take your eyes off it. This is our future.

Gradually it comes into focus. Past the old Mecca ballroom, where the players used to socialise after matches and where the Dave Clark Five packed them in, crowds way over the supposed capacity, swaying, sweaty and Glad All Over. I trust the Palace fans paused for a moment to pay their respects. Past the now defunct bagel bakery (I‘ll never stop grieving), past the shops and signs from many cultures, for whom Tottenham provides a home, just as it did in the late 1800s where immigrants were welcome and formed the community we know today. When people found a home on the terraces at White Hart Lane, where people could fit in and have a cause in common. A former council property is now an art gallery. Who would have thought we would live to see the day. Times are changing in N17.

We’re late and that makes it easy. Everyone’s already there, so it seems, and the streets are quiet. My entire twitter timeline has been here all afternoon, anticipating the future by reminding themselves of the past. The same journey, the same pub and burger stall, greeting old friends like Victorian explorers lost in the jungle, now found. A family with three young kids on their scooters, delightedly riding up the middle of the traffic-free High Road. They’re part of it too.

We’re dwarfed by the shiny shiny, little people in the street. The same street that fans followed when they wandered down Park Lane to the marshes in the early 1880s because they heard something was happening. And there’s the same reassuring smell, a  mixture of onions, beer and anticipation.

No queue, because everyone’s already in, everything works. No time for the longest bar or the burnished quartz tofu, or whatever it is. Dash up the few steps and there is the pitch, verdant green, just like I remember it when I first ran up to the very top of the East Stand and looked out, in April 1967. It wasn’t really like that, of course, because then Spurs played on a mudheap, but I allow my memory to play a trick on me.

We’re home, and home is the best place to be. I was knocked breathless by this magnificent football ground, at its best in the floodlights, because at night, surrounded by stands tight to the pitch, this is all there is, our world, can’t see out, just this. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Spurs have never played a home game, other than in wartime, more than about 500 yards from the ground. To stay here is testament to our heritage and a remarkable achievement in itself. Yet at the same time, this is otherworldly, pinching myself to believe this is our ground. The lights are so pinpoint bright, it’s like watching a giant ultra HD screen. The south stand rises endlessly into the sky. The ground is huge and spectacular, yet it feels as if everyone is connected. It leans in with intensity, rather than sprawling backwards.

The opening ceremony is mercifully brief. The kids’ choir is sweet and dandy, the fat opera singer who pops up from nowhere a waste of time, someone’s idea that somehow operatic voice conveys a superior culture. He sings ‘glory glory Tottenham Hotspur’, which no one has sung, ever. ‘Hallelujah’ is ours, the only bum note of the night, but then again, football people never, ever understand fans.

Then there’s the real noise. That blew me right away at kick-off. I declined the test events. Football grounds are nothing without the fans, so I waited til it was full, and it was worth it. I tried to join in but there was a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. This is home, this is us, this is my life.

The game, oh yeah. At what point did I calm down and think, you know, it’s possible to lose this. Home advantage or not, this is as new to the Spurs team as it is to our visitors. Points of reference, player’s orienting themselves and getting their bearings, these things and more contribute to home advantage, it’s not just support.

Fortunately, Palace obliged with a busy performance devoid of attacking intent. Their first shot on target, a mishit cross, came too late. Zaha looked so dangerous – but that was in the last few minutes when Spurs were two up. I’m not complaining.

Spurs dominated without playing especially well and won, deservedly, with two scruffy goals. There were more signs of how Pochettino is trying to make up for the lack of depth in this squad. Here, Rose played wide left midfield in a 4-4-2 (ish) with Dele alongside Sissoko in the middle and Eriksen encouraged to get forward. So he did but it would have been more dangerous if Dele had been on the end of some of the balls into the box. While Rose’s presence gave Spurs an outlet and stretched the Palace defence, his end product was decidedly average. We might see him there on Tuesday to give Davies protection. Last night, the Welshman had a decent game.

The first half was all about being there. Thoughts of the table and the top four, 1 out of 15, receded into the night sky. Into the second, and there’s a game to be won. Just as it started to become a bit tense, Palace gave Son too much room on the right. He cut in and his shot took a big deflection. No opening worldies then to go with the might of the stadium.

The second was cut from the same cloth. Kane was tackled in the box. Several around me were bellowing for a penalty and didn’t actually clock Eriksen putting home the rebound as the ball squirmed out of the challenge. I thought the ref had given a foul against Kane, as did many others judging by social media, therefore celebrations were muted until it sunk in that he was indeed pointing to the centre circle and just walking back slowly.

Kane missed a classic Kane chance, through on goal and leaning back just too much as he opened his body out, but it didn’t look as if we were going to lose this one. A mention for Lloris, largely a spectator but alert when called into action late on, when Spurs looked worryingly fragile at the back. Sissoko was my pick, determined and strong, looking to get the ball forward when he could. It was great to see Harry Winks return, immediately up to the pace. I worry his injury will leave a lasting weakness, but that’s for another day.

If you like, finish reading here. This next bit is not so joyful, because there were teething troubles, understandably so. I can’t comment first hand on the concourse problems others experienced, like overcrowding, food running out and the queues for the gents – install troughs FFS not individual urinals (the toilets, not the food outlets). However, in our section, lower shelf level with the south end penalty spot, we saw several heated arguments and a few actual fights because of people standing. This went on for most of the game. I don’t mind standing, but I want to watch the game, not stewards wading in all the time.

Others experienced similar issues in the south stand, where many (most?) would expect to stand for long periods, but some fans seemed to want to experience the atmosphere without contributing to it.  This is a big problem for stewards who can’t openly allow people to stand because it breaks ground regulations but tacitly allow it to continue in certain areas. The point is, the fans in that section play to the same unwritten rules, not openly stated but understood by everyone who sits there.

White Hart Lane was a series of little communities joined together. We all have a similar outlook but behaved in different ways depending on where we sat, rules enforced by peer pressure built up over decades. Now, that’s all mixed up. Bloke a little way in front of me, chatty, not rude to anyone, simply said, ‘I haven’t sat down for 15 years.’ That’s how he watches the game and that’s what he wants for his money. Fine, but many around him brought a different set of expectations. That is, if you want to stand, go in the Park Lane, that’s why they got tickets on the side.

WHam had the same problems in their first season. It took a while to sort out. One difference is that at their place, it was easier to change to seats, whereas Spurs said they would not allow any changes in this season at least. Over time, it will work itself out and new norms form. Meanwhile it could be painful. Time to get to know the neighbours, I reckon.