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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Saturday nights down at FC Davis

FC Davis game 032418 sm

There is a new team in town. Well, a new football club. Soccer, that is. They are FC Davis, and have been playing for the last few months at Aggie Stadium, on the UC Davis campus. We have been to a few games already, starting with the 1-1 draw against the East Bay Stompers (yes, Stompers), who had one tall player that had a big bush of hair and scored a penalty (you can see him below). Many fans were making reference to him being the Lion King because of his mane, which I think he seemed to enjoy, especially when he scored; he was definitely their main player. Lots of the people attending I recognized from AYSO, being a soccer coach myself, and while it wasn’t a big crowd it was a fun, local atmosphere. The kids of course just loved rolling down the grass verges behind the goals, that’s what you do when you are 9 and 10. It was a bit confusing having the field play on an American Football gridiron – the soccer field was laid out in barely visible yellow marking, much wider than the football lines, and on one occasion at least a player took a throw-in from the wrong place. I was expecting a Mexican wave to start on the other side of the stadium, one bloke to stand up, then another person thirty seats away, and another even further, but it didn’t happen. The sun went down, and it got quite chilly, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw (or ‘tie’ as they prefer to say here).

FC Davis players 032418-b sm

The club have an interesting colour scheme of black, gold and white, though we only saw them play in white (with gold numbers on the back; the FIFA kit police would not like that). Their badge is a lion; I’m not sure the connection of the lion with Davis California but a lion it is. I’m sure the same can be said for other teams with lions in their badges too, such as Chelsea (no, that is from the lion in the arms of the local Borough of Chelsea), England (no, those are Richard III’s coat of arms), and Aston Villa (ah now that one has a lion for no reason other than lions are cool). Still it’s a more interesting symbol than, I don’t know, a bike or a cow (with apologies to Oxford United fans, and I know it’s a bull). The FC Davis lion is quite stylized though; my son thought it was supposed to be a monkey, so we now call them the Golden Monkey Lion Kings, and I am sure this nickname will not catch on. I also don’t think my new fan song “One Lion” will catch on either, a reworking of the famous 1996 Lightning Seeds / Baddiel and Skinner classic. It goes “One Lion on the shirt, Water-Tower still gleaming, Three months of hurt, Never stopped me dreaming.”

The next time I went they totally went and won for the first time at home. They played Napa 1839 (who very sensibly have a wine bottle as their badge; I wonder if their nicknames is The Bottlers? I don’t know but I already have a slew of potential headlines about them, if ever I have to sub-edit their match reports for a tabloid paper: ‘Napa Caught Napping’, etc and so on, I’m sure there are lots of good wine and bottle ones, ‘Napa bottle their opener’ if they lose their first game for example) (many apologies to Napa for this by the way, got nothing against you, it’s just these headlines would work really well in the British gutter press). So FC Davis won this one (there’s no way they’d get me to write match reports, I go off on more tangents than the Argentine midfield), and Napa sported a two-tone green outfit. It was a close contest, but when FC Davis scored the winner the goalscorer took his shirt off to celebrate with the roaring crowd.

FC Davis match April 14

The third and most recent game we went to was against FC Academica. I kept saying it didn’t matter what the score was, “it was academic”, but nobody seemed to hear me. This was a good game. Academica were pretty tough, and took a commanding 3-0 lead. But as it turns out, FC Davis have a a lot of lion’s courage in them, because they came in the last 20 minutes back to tie it up to 3-3, and really should have won 4-3 but had a free kick disallowed (I think VAR would have probably rectified it). It was a very exciting end to the game. I sketched as much of the match as possible (click on the image below to see in more detail). I haven’t had a chance to come to any more games but it was fun sketching them, hanging out with the family and friends and the players on our team, having pizza and beer, and it only cost five bucks to get in. Go Golden Monkey Lion Kings!!

 

FC Davis 042818 sm

Sorry, ‘Golden Lions’, that is the real nickname. If you’re local and interested, you can visit the FC Davis club website: https://www.footballclubdavis.com/ 

més que un club

Camp Nou, Barcelona

As you may know, I like football. My team, miles above anyone else, is Tottenham Hotspur. however ever since I was a kid I’ve always had a soft spot for FC Barcelona. Back in the 1980s, my favourite striker Steve Archibald went there, and a couple of years later Gary Lineker (a hero to a ten year old) signed for them too. I loved their simple stripes, and was always in awe and disbelief when I would see pictures of their stadium, the Camp Nou (or Nou Camp as it was sometimes called). I used to get butterflies coming into White Hart Lane as a kid, seeing all those people, hearing the roar, back before it was all-seater and when the stands were much smaller. The stands at Camp Nou however, they had three tiers. THREE TIERS! Wow, that must feel like the stadium goes on forever! I always wanted to go there, and so I would occasionally follow them growing up to catch a glimpse of that enormous stadium with its roaring crowd and its three tiers. Barcelona were special, refusing to have any sponsorship on their kit until only a couple of seasons ago, and being governed primarily by and for the fans. This was a proper club; no, it was more than a club. That is their motto, més que un club. I liked Italian football too and particularly liked Sampdoria (it was their unique shirts, plus Mancini and Vialli), so the 1992 European Cup Final at Wembley, when it was still the proper European Cup, was one of my favourite non-Spurs-related matches. Barcelona wore an orange kit, and changed into the home kit for the celebration at the end. I used to go down to Soccerscene on Carnaby Street and find those two kits and just look at them, feel them, dream about pulling one of them on and walking out at the Camp Nou. Of course, that all paled next to my love of Spurs, but it’s been a lifelong ambition nevertheless.

Cut to 2013. If I was going to Barcelona, I was going to the Camp Nou, goddamit. On the second day there I put on my 2012-13 Barça shirt, took the Metro out to Collblanc (after another massive chocolate-filled pastry), and paid my money for the ‘Camp Nou Experience’. It isn’t cheap, but this is the Camp Nou! They need that money to buy Neymar. There were a lot of other people there, so the museum was pretty crowded. There was an enormous trophy cabinet stretching the whole length of the museum, which may well have been even bigger had Franco not bombed the stadium during the Spanish Civil War and destroyed many of the cups (lots were saved by a quick-thinking employee). The entire history of the club was on display, from its foundation by Swiss immigrant Hans Kamper (aka Joan Gamper), who chose the ‘blaugrana‘ colours based on his team FC Basel back home, through the days of repression by Franco, through the period of the legendary players Kubala and Cruyff, through the ‘Dream Team’ of the early 90s, right up to the modern super era of tiki-taka, Messi and the Champions Leagues. A special cabinet was made for the four European Cups (the three later ‘Champions League’ trophies are slightly bigger than the first 1992 cup), and there was another special area devoted to Lionel Messi and his ballons d’or and golden boots. I couldn’t sketch too much, being crowded by so many people, but also there was so much to see I just wanted to see it all.

Camp Nou Experience

I toured the stadium, taking the stairs up up up to the top of the highest tier, and back down again. I came out and looked at the stadium, as impressive as I’d imagined it, though not filled with supporters and noise. In these days of super stadia, the Camp Nou still felt like a huge cauldron of magic. I sketched as best I could, as hordes of young kids on outings, some not much older than my own son, made noise and threw bottles and things all around me. I didn’t mind, and they all left me alone to sketch, in fact they were kind enough to take pictures of me holding my sketchbook afterwards. There I am look, one happy sketcher. Lifelong dream of visiting (and sketching) the Camp Nou – check.

IMG_2665

Another room featured a massive interactive area where you could see video clips of goals and events from all of the club’s history. I saw a great Lineker hat-trick vs Real Madrid, the moment where Maradona had his legs sawn off, Archibald knocking one in against Juventus, Messi’s first match, Iniesta with more hair, the 2006 vistory over Arsenal, and of course, the thunderbolt free kick by Ronald Koeman at Wembley.IMG_2646 IMG_2639I didn’t get one of those cheesy photos they offered of me lifting the Champions League trophy. I’ll do that next time. I did spend a great deal of time in their two-floor superstore, the FCBotiga, Before I knew it, it was well after three o’clock, and I’d somehow managed to spend all day there. There was still a lot more sketching to go that day, surely! And this was all I’d managed. I didn’t mind. I’d finally been to the Camp Nou.

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).

if there’s a bright centre to the universe…

at&t park, san francisco

Last weekend, we went on a family trip to the ballgame. It was both mine and my son’s first San Francisco Giants game, though my wife and her mom (big Giants fans) had been earlier in the season, when things had been going a little better for the Giants. This game however was crucial – playing the Arizona Diamondbacks, who were leading in the division, and being several games behind we really needed to win. But that didn’t matter – it was Star Wars day, and the Force would be with us!

giants v diamondbacks

Which side of the force was less clear. Stormtroopers escorted the umpires out, mascot Lou Seal dressed as a jedi and waved about a lightsabre, and the opening crawl on the big screen set the scene, hoping that the Giants would beat Arizona and ‘restore freedom to the galaxy’. I love Star Wars, so I loved all this. And maxibig-da-force – the first pitch to the Giants resulted in a home run straight away from Cody Ross, and the ballpark went wild. AT&T Park is a great place. Set right by San Francisco Bay, it’s one of the great stadia of the world. Behind the seat, in the ‘breezeway’ (I think I have my terminology correct, my reference is a Curious George book) are rows and rows of beverage stands and souvenir shops and beer and garlic fries and t-shirts and TVs showing the action.

"imperial troops have entered the base! imperial troops have ---"

 My three year old son is a big baseball fan, though we’re on about the same page in our understanding of all the terms. It’s a simple enough game, someone throws the ball and you hit it and run, complicated by all the subtleties and statistics and terms. There’s a lot of standing around and not-much-happening, but to the baseball fan it’s tense stuff, and while there’s ample time to get up and walk around and get your garlic fries, you really don’t want to miss that three-run-homer or that spectacular catch. It’s typical to compare a big sport to the big sport you follow, but baseball is a completely different type of game to football (and I know little enough about cricket, though I kept calling the pitcher the ‘bowler’, and shouting ‘howzat!’ every time someone caught the ball). No comparison there may be to footy, but being a Giants fan is a lot like being a Spurs fan. Last year we were World Series champions/beating both Inter and AC Milan, this year we’re losing by baseball scores. It’s a frustrating life, made more so by success.

luke at the giants gamekris at giants game

There’s my son Luke above left, and my brother in law Kris on the right, the biggest Giants fan I know. He in fact took me to my only other baseball game, at the Oakland A’s, back in 2002, the first time I came to America and the first time I tasted garlic fries. I wore a Spurs shirt that day, but here I wore a Giants top. I did however spot a guy in an Arsenal shirt (he stood out a bit); after the previous week’s 8-2 drubbing by Man United, baseball scores probably felt a little light to him. Hey, you can’t let an 8-2 Arsenal defeat go without comment, can you? (And after Spurs lost 5-1 to Man City, it was pretty much the only thing that could cheer me up!) 

first page of moleskine #9 under way... top of the ninth, you might say

Decorating the breezeway walls were framed examples of old Giants kits. As a football kit fan I’m hugely excited by baseball jerseys, since they are so classic, and (usually) so unchanging. This one is from the early 60s, and the differences to today’s tops are very subtle. This aspect of the sport adds to its classic Americana feel. Baseball loves its heritage, and the Giants especially, with statues of its great players dotted around the area. Below is Willie McCovey, beside McCovey Cove, where many home runs do splash (it’s not like Henman Hill). I can’t pretend to know much about these guys, but I will say this – what an amazing view, with the Bay Bridge in the background, and baseball players really do look like lightsabre-wielding Jedi, don’t they?

giants jersey 1962willie mccovey statue

The Force alas was not with us. The Arizona D-Backs (seriously, the fans sing that?) won the game, and will probably win the division. As Vader might say, “NOOOOOO!!!!!” (and don’t EVEN get me started there…) But we had a great day out, and Luke ran the bases after the game, and I got some nice sketching in, and it was a great family day out, so in a way we did win, from a certain point of view.

realm of the giants

AT&T Park

Another drawing on Moleskine sketchbook paper with my lovely uni-ball signo um-151 pen. This is AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, current World Series champions. I didn’t go to a game, my wife did (and they won!), but she took photos for me to do some drawing from.

you do something toomey

toomey field

Last day before I fly off to the 1st International Urban Sketching Symposium in Portland!! How exciting! It will be a huge learning experience for me, I’m sure, rubbing shoulders with some incredible sketchers, amazing artists, and meeting lots of people I’ve never met before. I’m pretty shy though. I’m all packed (spent longer deciding which paints to bring than which clothes to bring), bought my new pens, I’m all set.

Anyway, I got out at lunchtime today and sketched in the pleasant sunshine. This is Toomey Field (or rather, that sports stadium in the distance is) at UC Davis. The grass in the foreground is called A Street Field, according to the map.