Spurs Are On Their Way To Wembley

Given that these days I would struggle to name the Spurs team although I do follow their progress with interest, it may seem hard to believe that I was an ardent supporter in the 70s and 80s. My earliest affiliation was with Manchester United; well I grew up in the era of George Best, so who wouldn’t. Then around 1971 my aunt and uncle bought a hardware shop in Broxbourne. It was a nice area 10 minutes up the road from Spurs’ training ground at Cheshunt and many players chose to live there. One of those was Mike England, who was obviously keen on DIY as he used my aunt and uncle’s shop from time to time. So one Christmas they bought my cousin and me a book of colour photos of current football stars and gave them to Mike to take to the club. At Christmas we got the books duly autographed by Alan Gilzean, Ralph Coates, Martin Peters, Martin Chivers, Steve Perryman, and Pat Jennings (Maybe another couple I have forgotten). Obviously from that moment on I was a die-hard Spurs fan.

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I couldn’t start watching them play until I left school as I had a Saturday job so regrettably I missed the 1981 Cup Final and Replay. I think the first time I went to White Hart Lane was to watch Enfield when they reached the fourth round of the FA Cup that same season. I then came up to a game at the start of the 1981/2 Season with my ‘cousin’ when I was staying with him in Kingston during my 2.5 days at University period (Oh, I’ll tell you about that sometime) and then in the autumn, divested of Saturday employment, I started to go regularly with my friends. The exact make-up varied but you perm any combination you liked from Andi Maskell, Steve Pillar, Jeff Watts or Mark Pyatt. In those days we just bought a normal standing ticket £1.80 normally or £2.20 if it was one of the big three (Arsenal, Man Utd., or Liverpool). Once in the ground we get our pint of Stones’ Bitter (In plastic pint glass) and then Mark’s mum and dad would chuck their season tickets down from the shelf and we would go up there with them. A slightly better location. I don’t think we ever got stopped even when they put photos on season tickets. I looked nothing like Mark’s mum either. Incidentally Mark’s mum and dad were two of the most wonderful people on this planet and will feature again in this blog particularly when I discuss my days in pirate radio!

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I may have missed the classic 1981 FA Cup replay but I had my fill of Wembley for a couple of years. Unfortunately the first time I saw Spurs play there it was a defeat, the first time Spurs had ever been beaten at the stadium. This was the Milk Cup, the recently renamed League Cup, and we lost to Liverpool. I wrote a song beforehand but I’m not going to print the lyrics here. Frankly I was better off leaving all that stuff to Chas and Dave.

The FA Cup had a happier ending. We followed Spurs on their away games too for the cup run (Otherwise the only away games we normally did were the other London clubs)  and I believe it was that season we discovered the joys of the pit behind the goal at Goodison Park. That was also one of the very few games where we witnessed violence. Luckily we could steer well clear of it. I have to say that, in my experience, the violence of the Football Firms that filled the Sunday papers, was easily avoidable. The only time that we nearly got into trouble was when Leeds came to the Lane. We had just parked up in one of the side streets and were walking up the High Street to the ground. Our timing was such that we got caught in a load of Leeds fans who had just unloaded from a coach. There was absolutely no problem with this and we are walking along with them getting on fine but as we passed the White Hart on the other side of the road, the bottles started to rain across from the Spurs fans. Thankfully there were no injuries. That was also the same match where the Leeds supporters managed to free the metal bar from the concrete stanchions by working it until it bent. Once done they simply passed it carefully to the front and laid it by the pitch. I don’t condone such vandalism but it was fairly impressive to watch.

However, that diverted me from the path to FA Cup glory. So, the first match on the Saturday against QPR ended in a draw and we needed to get tickets for the replay. Straight after the game we drove back to the Cheshunt area for a drink or three. I don’t remember where we went but around 9pm we left to go up to White Hart Lane to queue for tickets. The line already stretched a mile toward Seven Sisters so we said ‘Bugger this for a game of soldiers’ (A very popular phrase of the times) and drove to Wembley instead. There were a fair few people here too but we found them friendly and willing to hold places in the line. We ended up spending half the night playing football against QPR fans on Wembley car park. When the box office opened we got our tickets quickly – the jammy Mr Maskell ended up with a spare as two were stuck together – and we were back at Wembley the following Thursday to see Spurs beat QPR and retain the trophy.

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This however was not the greatest night of my football attending career. This would come in May 1984 when I was at the Lane for the second leg of the 1984 EUFA Cup Final. It was all square after the first leg at Anderlecht’s ground. This was thanks to a goal by Paul Miller. Pretty amazing stuff considering we all knew he was only in the team because he was shagging Irving Scholar’s daughter (Allegedly). What can I say about that night except I remember being lifted and moved forward about 10 yards when Spurs scored. I don’t subscribe to machoism and wouldn’t describe myself in any way as a man’s man but the camaraderie you get at a football match when things are going well is indescribable. And there were plenty of female fans at Tottenham even back then.

The night was made for me because of two of my heroes contributed in essential ways. Graham Roberts scored the 84th minute equaliser in normal time to get us to Extra Time and then penalties, then Tony Parkes – who had stepped magnificently into Ray Clemence’s boots – saved Guojohnsen’s penalty to give us victory. I’m smiling now recalling that night.

Other great times were the two occasions I persuaded my boss, Tim Rice, a committed Sunderland fan to come and do the half-time draw when Sunderland played us. This meant we got to watch the matches from a very cosy box. Actually, it was nice to be able to say I had been in a box but really I preferred the atmosphere from the terraces. And I liked standing too. Apart from the price difference, watching a game from a seat was not the same. I’m not sure I would have carried on going once the Taylor Report insisted stadiums went to all seats in 1995.

In fact the reason I stopped going was simply that I got another job that involved working on Saturdays and then later my drinking was such that going out was restricted to getting to the off licence. However, it is a sad regret that the last time I saw Spurs play in the flesh was the 1987 FA Cup Final. Not only did we lose to Coventry but another of my heroes and one of the nicest men in football, Gary Mabbutt, put one passed his own keeper. That’s not something you want on your CV. Gary, I forgave you instantly!

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