White Hart Lane is going to close for refurbishment. Photo: Getty
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The season after next, Spurs will go a-wandering

Where will the fans park then?

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 . . .

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 01 May 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The Islam issue

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.