When the Spurs go Marching Home

Tottenham Stadium
And here it is, the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium! The new home of my beloved team. I have wanted to come and sketch the construction for ages, but never made it here until a couple of weeks ago – fortunately, construction has taken many months longer than the original optimistic plan, so I was able to get one sort-of in-progress sketch. The stadium is huge. It’s so different walking out onto Tottenham High Road and seeing it loom out, much larger than the old White Hart Lane ground. I wandered about taking photos, before settling on a spot to sketch on Park Lane by Northumberland Avenue. Lots of workmen in their hi-viz jackets, cranes still putting the panels onto the side. And then it was time to go into the new Spurs Shop, much vaster than the old one, and they’re even better at getting me to spend my money. One of the many things I did buy was the new book, The Spurs Shirt, an amazing (and very heavy) book covering the history of the Tottenham shirt. Very much up my Lane. When I was finally done, my backpack much heavier than before, I went off to my friend’s place in south Tottenham, for a fun night out in Stoke Newington.

After Tottenham’s historic home White Hart Lane was knocked down, the massive new modern stadium (with a retractable pitch, so that some NFL games can be held there) was built with an expected opening date of the start of the 2018-19 season. Maybe a few games in. Alright it’ll be September. Ok maybe not September, maybe a bit later. January? Hmm not January, let’s just say “coming soon”. In the meantime we have been playing at Wembley, waiting to move into the new home, couch-surfing in north-west London. Today, Spurs finally announced two test events, ahead of expected Premier League games at the new ground, with the expectation that our Champions League quarter-final will be, finally back home in Tottenham. Come on you Spurs!

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white hart lane

tottenham high road
White Hart Lane Stadium, on Tottenham High Road, home of the mighty Spurs. Well, we could be a bit mightier, but still we’re pretty mighty. We ‘might’ have come third, etc, we ‘might’ have gotten into the Champions League, Harry ‘might’ have committed to staying about four months ago rather than let uncertainty about England affect our previously epic season, etc. It’s all water under the Stamford Bridge now (by the way we did finish above  Chelsea, though of course Arsenal pipped us in the end). Ah well! New season, new manager, new kit, new dawn at White Hart Lane. New stadium too, in a few years time, or so the plan goes. I hadn’t been up there in a good while, to the Lane, so on tis one day when a day trip to Brighton was aborted due to very bad traffic, my friend drove me over to Tottenham to look around the Spurs shop (I picked up a nice retro 1981 Cup Final top), and gave me a bit of time to sketch the stadium. There’s no truly great angle to draw it from the outside, so I chose a spot which I think sums up this block. Many of the older buildings which were there the last time I visited have been knocked down, in preparation for the possible new ground, to be built directly north of the current ground which Spurs have occupied since 1899. My older brother, an ever-present at the Lane for several years as a boy himself, took me to games when I was a kid, back in the days of Hoddle, Ossie, Falco, Clemence, the Allens. Whatever happens with this club, I will always have that. The thrill of approaching the stadium after a long walk up the High Road from Seven Sisters, and entering the ground which was smaller then but seemed massive with the packed terraced crowds, reading the matchday programme while bigger men around me sang, swore, shouted and clapped, as real-life football sticker heroes ran around the perfect turf; now that was football.

I didn’t have a great deal of time to sketch, so I drew the stadium and the outline work of the rest, and finished off the detailing and colour later on. I had to make sure there was a lamp-post – legend has it that the grammar school boys who founded the club as Hotspur FC in 1882 would meet beneath a lamp-post (and shortly after that they sacked their first manager, changed the lightbulb and ushered in a new dawn, the first of many).

‘cos we only know that there’s gonna be a show

Earthquakes ticket

I forgot to post this when I drew it. Back in July, I went to see MLS outfit San Jose Earthquakes play my team from London, Tottenham Hotspur. It was fun, though a long way. Anyway, I got a phonecall from San Jose Earthquakes this week, which was a surprise. They were just following up on my recent visit to Buck Shaw stadium and wanted to see how my experience could have been improved. Welcome to America folks, seriously, can you imagine English clubs calling up everyone who went to their matches – including away fans – and asking about customer service? (Maybe they do these days?) Incredible, I was really impressed. I had actually enjoyed the day immensely and told the guy so (even mentioned that I cycled which helped me beat the post-game traffic). As for suggestions, I told him to ban Arsenal shirts (that got a laugh). I was going to say they should have gotten rid of their cheerleaders and had Ossie Ardiles sing a few half-time numbers (Ossie had been meeting fans in San Francisco the night before – how I wish I’d been there! As you know he was my childhood hero). Football football football.

i want to be in that number

buck shaw stadium
The World Cup is over, and it’s a long wait until the Premier League season begins. But that doesn’t mean no footy! And who should come to California for a friendly but my own beloved Tottenham Hotspur FC. They kicked off their US tour with a match against their club partners in the MLS, San Jose Earthquakes, who happen to be my ‘local’ big team. When I say ‘local’ it’s all relative of course – San Jose is almost three hours away by train, and I’d never been before Saturday. When I say ‘big’, it’s all relative… their ground, Buck Shaw Stadium, is located on the Santa Clara University campus, and the Earthquakes recorded their largest attendance there with a whopping 10,712. I was in that number.

Sure, the match ended 0-0, but it was a fun occasion. We had our big names there, those who didn’t go to the World Cup – Bale, Modric, Huddlestone, and the returning Robbie Keane (who missed some sitters). I coudn’t believe how many Tottenham fans there were! A good deal of whom were American, but many were British (with their American kids tagging along; that’ll be me in a few years). And it was like a walking gallery of Spurs football shirt history! I’ve never seen so many different era Spurs shirts, not even at the Lane. All the classics were there, with the exception of the 1986 hummel one, I never saw that. My one wouldn’t fit me now, I was only ten back then. I wore the all-white Kappa shirt. On the field, the players were wearing the new Tottenham shirt for the first time, and it’s a beauty, I’ll be getting that. Surprisingly, here and there were dotted people in bright and obvious red Arsenal shirts; unsurprisingly, each of them were roundly booed as they passed (and some looked genuinely surprised at that fact too). There were lots of other shirts on show from all sorts of clubs and countries, something you also wouldn’t normally see at the Lane. A guy sat near me had the old Wales away shirt from the early 90s, the white Umbro one with little green and red arrows and lines on it. Haven’t seen that in years. Even the Earthquakes fans were well decked out, and I saw kits going from the current black Adidas tops to the old Nike blue ones with white arms.

yeah, that was offside

But enough football-kit geekery. You know I can’t help myself. I enjoyed watching the Earthquakes; it’s America, for sure, and there are cheerleaders and sunburn, but it felt a lot like how football used to be, or still is for small clubs, intimate, friendly, informal. I really enjoyed that. I would go again. I also liked that I cycled to the stadium from San Jose train station. Good job I knew the way.

mission at santa clara

Oh yes, and some urban sketching. Before the match I drew the Mission Santa Clara de Asis, on the SCU campus right by Buck Shaw.

Come on you Spuuuuuurs!!!!!!! Tottenham play New York Red Bulls on Thursday; I think I’ll watch that one on telly.

he’s had a dream for a year or two

20, ossie

#20 in a series of 30. The cobalt copic fineliner pens are still holding out!

So this one is very appropriate, because right now Spurs are sitting at the top of the English Premier League, albeit after only two games. This new season has been very unusual – so far we have had no draws at all, and all of the London teams have been winning. But Spurs are top, and I’ll enjoy it while it lasts (that’ll be Saturday, then). It’s a nice change after last year, when we had to wait nine matches for our first win – and had to sack the manager to get it. Interestingly enough, the last time we won our first two matches was in 1994, when of all people Ossie Ardiles was manager! And he was sacked by November. Well, that’s Tottenham Hotspur for you.

Or “Tottingham” as Ossie used to call it. I was dumbstruck when I met him, outside the old Spurs training ground in Mill Hill, shortly before those two victories in ’94. I had met Klinsmann too of course, who had just arrived at the club, plus Sheringham, Anderton, Barmby, Mabbutt, all of those guys. After getting their autographs on a Spurs shirt (which I still have) and a few polaroids, I sat on the hood of a car to pack up my bag. And then Osvaldo CésarArdiles comes up and opens the car door! He was really nice, posed for a photo, said hello to my little sister, shook my shaking hand, and we left. He drove past as we walked down Bunn’s Lane, and actually waved. I know, it is incredible that a World-Cup winning footballer can actually say a few civil words and wave from a moving vehicle, but when you were the kid who wanted to actually be Ossie Ardiles, that is in fact a big deal. My knees were even trembly.

deadline day

Cor, that was exciting, wasn’t it! I don’t mean Obama’s big speech, or the rain on his parade caused by McCain’s choice of Veep (oh yeah, I hate that word, don’t I) in Sarah “who the..?” Palin, or the rain on the republicans parade caused by hurricane gustav, or the rain on that parade caused by the whole bristol palin non-story. A few days ago I’d have thought bristol palin was an office supply company or something, and as for trig palin, well there’s a name for your “babies, guns’n’jesus” candidate’s son/grandson. Now there seem to be a lot of people in the news dedicating airtime to discussing how they shouldn’t be discussing that story, and before you know it oops, we can’t talk about candidate’s policies, we’re out of time, back later for an interview with the baby’s father…

No, my American friends, my excitement was caused by something which you have undoubtedly no interest in whatsoever: transfer deadline day for the English Premier League. You do things different here, with your drafts and your salary caps, but yesterday in England it was Crazy Season. The deadline to make transfers was midnight September 1st, so clubs and agents were frantically trying to broker deals and outdo each other before midnight, when their expensive striker might juts turn into an expensive pumpkin. I was glued to my computer (midnight there being a comfy four pm here), following the updates on two sites, and was astonished at the mischief suddenly-rolling-in-it Manchester City were causing. I have no doubt that their hilarious bid for Berbatov, gladly accepted by Spurs who were keen to see the Bulgarian fulfill his dream of a move to somewhere in Manchester, helped us get the 30 million we were asking, which United begrudgingly coughed up. Now sulky Berbs has his dream move, and will be with a team that will win things for him, as opposed to one where he actually had to work for his wage packet (oh, except if he was sulking). By the way, sir Alex, four years seems to mean two years these days, so watch out for Real Madrid’s inevitable courting come 2010, and Dimitar’s sudden lifelong dream to play at the Berbateu – I mean, Bernabeu.

There were nails bitten aplenty – would anyone sign Michael Owen? Would Arsenal sign anyone? People texting in claiming to have seen [insert any footballer here] getting out of a taxi outside [insert any football club here]. City were my heroes of the day though, landing the Brazilian Robinho, beating money-bags Chelsea to his signature; he too had talked endlessly about his dream move, but in actually turning the money-grabber’s dream-team down for even more lovely wonga he truly embodies the modern shamelessly greedy money-grabbing bastard footballer of today. Hooray! 

I love staying up all night for general elections, watching as each constituency announces their result, watching as the Monster Raving Loony Party honk away at the back; I was reminded of the look on Michael Portillo’s face when he lost Southgate when I though of Chelsea, shortly before midnight, only this time the Monster Raving Loonies actually won the seat, and will apparently soon be trying to win the biggest seat of all, with a flipping hysterical and audacious bid for Cristiano Ronaldo. Oh, please please do it! Just for a laugh. I wish Spurs could get bought by some super-rich Arabs (pretty unlikely though, given Tottenham’s Jewish tradition, Yid Army and all, but you never know – it could be the first step to world peace?).

Bristol who?