I was told to speak to nobody, even if spoken to – just put the blank envelope through the letter box, make sure it contains the money, with no other details, then return at once.
Roger and out, I muttered, creeping up quietly to the front door of the little terraced house on the edge of the council estate. Mission accomplished, the others got out of the car, leaving it there in the front drive, and we all made a dash for White Hart Lane.
Actually his name is John but I suppose I should not even reveal that, as the authorities might get on to him, or at least on to her, the tenant of the house, and ask her why she is not paying tax on the £10 notes that regularly get shoved through her letter box on match days.
When I go with John to Spurs in his car, I always insist on paying the parking. It is such a huge benefit, being dropped so near the ground, not having to drive round for hours or negotiate public transport, which in Tottenham is hellish.
All around Spurs and every major club in the UK, there are locals making loads of cash by allowing parking in their front drive. Schools rent out their playgrounds, as do pubs, garages, anywhere where cars can be left for two hours on match days. Paying £10 is now a bargain. In more expensive areas (around Arsenal, for instance), they charge £15.
I don’t think Doris – not her real name, I’m not daft, someone might track her down and offer her more – is fully aware of what is going to happen soon to her finances. The season after next, the club has revealed, it will have to leave White Hart Lane for a whole season while its new stadium gets built. Spurs will then be homeless, relying on the co-operation of Wembley, or the Olympic Stadium, or, if they both say up your bum, it could well be Milton Keynes, anywhere they can play their “home” games.
As a devoted follower of football history, I find it rather romantic. This is how it all began. Our first and for many years the best-known and successful club in the land was the Wanderers, founded in 1859. They won the first FA Cup final in 1872 and five times in all. Their star players included Charles Alcock, who was secretary of the FA, and Lord Kinnaird, later FA president. They were an amateur team, all public school boys – and homeless, never having their own ground. Hence their name.
I have always assumed that Bolton Wanderers, founded 1874, and Wolverhampton Wanderers, first formed 1877, and perhaps all the other Wanderers, took their name from the first, or because at one time they, too, were homeless. Same with clubs called Rovers.
It would be a nice touch if Spurs, for their season on the road, added the name Wanderers, without, of course, giving up Hotspur, which is a historic name, going back to Shakespeare’s Harry Hotspur, the Dukes of Northumberland and Northumberland Park, where Spurs first played, early doors.
Doris will not be the only one to suffer. Stalls selling horrible, smelly burgers will be out of pocket, along with the souvenir sellers, club shops, stewards, security and all those hospitality jobsworths. Presumably they will still produce a Spurs programme, regardless of the venue, but a thousand or so match day jobs and livelihoods will be in danger.
As for the fans, it costs a fortune as it is to turn up at White Hart Lane. I saw a report the other day that said the average supporter of a Premier team pays £3,550 a year – that includes £760 on parking, plus food, drink, programme and ticket. If we then have to trail another 20 miles across London, or find out if Milton Keynes really does exist, the cost is going to be enormous.
I am hoping that during their year on the road Spurs might decide to play on Hampstead Heath. Much nearer than all the other suggestions. There is an excellent pitch inside the running track. And I’ll be able to rent out my garage . . .