Hart and soul
Spurs’ late bid for the Olympic Stadium was a flawed one but it forced Mat Snow to assess what he really feels about the club he supports
When the Spurs board first f loated the notion that, rather than expand and upgrade White Hart Lane, the club would move to the Olympic Stadium seven miles away in Stratford, I didn’t take it seriously. Nor did many other Spurs fans I know. We all figured that the board were proposing this Plan B to bluff the local council and other official bodies which were, so we heard, attaching ever more strings and dangling hefty price tags from the necessary permissions to redevelop as the board wanted. But very quickly Plan B turned into a real bid and, right then and there, every single Spurs fan was put on the spot.
Right then and there, our spiritual identity as a club and as fans was at stake. But is spiritual identity non-negotiable? This wasn’t moving from Wimbledon to Milton Keynes, where effectively a club’s owners hoped to trade a fanbase of long standing for the prospect of a larger brand new one. This was about shifting seven miles away to a site which would prove closer in doorto-turnstile matchday travel time for most fans than the schlep to White Hart Lane.
My spiritual identity as a Spurs fan is rooted in our North London rivalry with Arsenal far more than in our address ilustration
This, by the way, is not a statistically demonstrable fact; it is an educated guess based upon knowing the journeys of Spurs fans in the Two Brewers pub just off the Tottenham High Road who converge on matchdays from all points of the compass. Not one of whom, incidentally, lives in Tottenham. Go back 50 years and lots of Totten-
ham fans lived in Tottenham. Not any more. A few years ago, researchers at University College London declared Tottenham the most ethnically diverse area in Britain – and possibly all of western Europe – with 113 ethnic groups speaking 193 different languages. These are first generation immigrants who have filled the housing vacated by a population that has largely decamped to the satellite towns of Hertfordshire and Essex.
Many of those refugees to Stevenage and Chingford are Spurs fans who sentimentalise their football club’s Tottenham location as a big part of their spiritual identity as Spurs fans while showing no inclination to retain their ow n r e s i d e n tial roots anywhere near White Hart Lane. Then there are the Tottenham fans who have never lived in Tottenham but are rooted in the north London catchment area. Me, for example, born in Finchley, raised in Barnet and schooled in classrooms largely split between fans of Tottenham and Arsenal. Back in 1966, aged eight, I didn’t choose to support Arsenal – a middling side with no stars. I chose the Spurs of Jimmy Greaves who that season were en route to FA Cup final victory over Chelsea and a race to the Championship where we finished just four points behind winners Manchester United.