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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Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.