audere est facere

THFC tickets
I’m so sad. My beloved team, Tottenham Hotspur, are playing at their home White Hart Lane for the very last time. Kick-off against Manchester Untied is in about an hour, a selection of my many Spurs shirts are hanging around the living room, and my head is in all the memories from down the years. Tottenham have played at White Hart Lane since 1899, but we need a big upgrade, so we are moving to Wembley Stadium for a year (“Spurs are on their way to Wembley…”, Ossie’s Dream is one of my favourite songs), while the new stadium is being finished. The new stadium is actually on the site of White Hart Lane so we’re not really moving permanent location, but the ground is just next door, currently being built, about the swallow the old ground within like a giant Pac-Man. The old Paxton Road North Stand is where the new South Stand will be in the new stadium; I wonder if we’ll still refer to it as the Paxton end?

I love being a Spurs fan right now. We’ve had a lot of lean years since the 1990s, but the past decade we have been building a much better consistency and this year in particular we’ve been better than any time in my life. It’s just, Chelsea were a bit better, so they won the title on Friday. We have thus far gone the entire season unbeaten at The Lane (first time since the mid-sixties), and I really hope that record continues today against Manchester United. I don’t think it will, I think the occasion and the fact we are mathematically unable to catch Chelsea will have an effect on the players but that’s just me being an experienced Spurs fan. We have been incredible this year (and finally came above Arsenal, confirmed with a 2-0 victory in the last North London Derby at The Lane – I wish that had been the stadium’s Finale!).

I drew these tickets that I have lying around at home. The newest was from a game I went to with my older brother John, nephew Leo, and son Luke; my final game. the one above was from a game against Everton that I went to with my mate Terry in 2000. The other two aren’t mine, I think they were my brother’s. It’s through my big brother that I became a Spurs fan. The early 80s had Ossie Ardiles, Glenn Hoddle, Steve Archibald, Garth Crooks, Ricky Villa, my heroes. “When I grow up, I want to be Ossie Ardiles” I wrote once at school. My brother took me to my first game at the Lane in 1983, a 2-1 defeat to Everton (Mark Falco scored for us, Johnny missed it because he went to the toilet). I will never ever forget the first time, approaching the ground, the long walk up Tottenham High Road from Seven Sisters tube station, hearing the crowd roar as the Lane comes into view, but its emerging from the tunnel, seeing the green of the pitch, the sound of the thousands of fans (the swearing, the songs about Arsenal…), the players I’d only seen on TV or in football magazines actually there moving about in front of me; it was like magic. It never really stopped being like that either, every time I would go. I do love a football stadium, but none more than The Lane. My brother used to go to every game (ever-present in 80-81 and 81-82)  and started taking me, but we couldn’t afford to go too often; I do remember one game, an evening cup match against Birmingham, we turned up late to see if we could just be let in, but the only places left were in the member’s area, so Johnny spent his last few quid getting us memberships so we could get in (Spurs beat Birmingham 5-0). Because we got membership that year (I was a Junior Member, got all the fun stuff in the post), we were able to go to the FA Cup Final at Wembley (my first Wembley experience; we lost 3-2 to Coventry, I was devastated). We went a few times that year though, 86-87, watching Clive Allen score a bunch of goals. The years of Lineker and Gascoigne came, followed by the Sheringham, Anderton, Barmby, Klinsmann years, followed by some truly pants seasons with the likes of Ramon Vega and Sergiy Rebrov turning out for us. I would only go once every couple of years, tickets being pricey for my meagre budget and always selling out. The stadium changed a lot though – while I’m sad about the departure, the stadium looks totally different from when I was a kid (the North and South stands used to be much smaller, and back then we had standing on the Shelf and big barriers; I spent a lot of time on the shoulders of taller fans!). Since we moved out here to America I’ve been to a couple of games on trips back, to make sure my son got to experience The Lane, seeing Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Hugo Lloris, before we inevitably moved into a 21st Century ground. That will come, we hope, in 2018. It’s still “at” White Hart Lane, you still go to exactly the same place to get there, but it will be different. One corner has already been taken down; the rest starts coming down tomorrow. We will always be Tottenham, Super Tottenham, We are Tottenham, FROM THE LANE.

DSC01781DSC01775

Goodbye White Hart Lane! Thanks for all the memories! COME ON YOU SPURS!

the boy bale

gareth bale

He’s been brilliant lately, hasn’t he? This is Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur’s great young Welsh star, drawn on another Chinese envelope. I have him up between the drawings of Messi and Ronaldo next to my desk, and he is probably in that company. His free kicks lately have been spectacular, Spurs have barely needed a striker with Bale moving about up front. He needs to do something about his barnet though. Young people, eh.

schoolboy’s own stuff

gazza
Paul Gascoigne, as I will always think of him. For those who read my blog and don’t know the names of every footballer I mention (and I mention a few), Paul Gascoigne – aka “Gazza” – was a player from the late 1980s to early 2000s, who had perhaps his greatest playing period while a young cheeky lad in the white shirts of Tottenham, scoring a bullet of a free-kick against Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi-Final in 1991. As an England player he was perhaps the most ‘gifted’ player of his generation, playing with unrivaled passion yet a tinge of tragedy, famously crying on the pitch after receiving a yellow card (undeservedly) in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany, meaning he would have missed the final, if England had been any good at penalties. He became a national hero and an international icon. His golden spell at Tottenham ended with an FA Cup medal in 1991, though he never finished that match, having been so hyped up that he attempted to kick a hole in the chest of one player (laughed off by the Gazza-loving ref) before seriously injuring himself trying to remove the legs of Nottingham Forest’s Cary Charles. That injury put him out for a year, after which he was transferred to Lazio, and so on and so on. You can look up his history in Wikipedia or something. While he had a few moments of wonder, such as his amazing goal against Scotland at Euro 96, Gazza never quite reached the heights we knew he was capable of. Injury, personal issues, drinking, (cf Chris Evans and Jimmy Five-Bellies), famously being left out of the 98 World Cup squad, he never could live up to the hype of being Gazza. For me and so many other Tottenham fans, that free kick against Arsenal was the defining moment (and for me, all the more fun as I watched the match with my Arsenal-supporting dad). At his best there was nobody in the country even close.
Gazza has had a lot of trouble in his life since his glory days, alcoholism, domestic troubles, mental health issues. And now last week he was admitted into a treatment centre in the US, having suffered another setback in his health. It’s unlikely he will ever be free of his demons, but I’ll always think of him like this, young, cheeky and brilliant.

AVB-in

AVB
AVB – or Andre Villas-Boas as he prefers to be called – is the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. He is also Manager of the Month for December, following Spurs’ fantastic run lately. He is young too, and the first Spurs manager ever who is younger than me. He doesn’t like shaving (I can relate, though I can’t do stubble for very long without getting grumpy about it). I drew him yesterday lunchtime, when I was too tired to leave the office for lunch, and stayed in to draw on one of many envelopes I get at this time of year (this one is from Shandong University in China). It has been a very busy week, with an even busier one to come. In fact I was so tired yesterday that when I got home I fell asleep almost straight away, and when I woke up at half past five this morning this man was on the TV, leading Spurs in a 0-0 draw against his predecessor, Harry Redknapp, now boss of bottom-placed QPR. I like AVB. “A valuable boss.”

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).

know what i mean harry?

harry redknapp

Do you know the difference between Basil Fawlty and Victor Meldrew? There is a broad range of character defects between the two but I’ve narrowed it down to this – things tend to happen to Victor, without them necessarily being his fault, whereas Basil’s woes are almost always entirely his fault and pretty preventable. As the episode of Fawlty Towers goes on you see him diggin further and further into a hole which it is almost impossible to get out of, and you can just tell is going to get worse. So what about Harry Redknapp?

I won’t go into the story, footy fans know it, non-footy fans have turned off already. Harry has been great for Spurs and may continue to be but this England job thing hangs over the whole club. Sure the FA are waiting on their decision – but I think it might make things a lot easier if Harry actually came out and said if he will or will not take it if offered. Spurs’s season since this whole thing came up has resembled an episode of Fawlty Towers (at least, I can’t get the image of Basil/Harry falling off the ladder trying to ‘look at girl in room’, that being the champions league), and wondering whether this business-end-of-season-collapse is Harry’s fault for not committing or the FA’s fault for not asking. That is, is Harry a Basil or a Victor?

Hmm. If someone had said to me in mid February when we were nine points clear of Arsenal that two months later we’d be six points behind them and sinking, I’d have said “I don’t believe it!” Now I keep imaging Harry picking up a puppy instead of a phone.

‘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.