We came back from living in Lakeland six weeks early, my wife had to have some treatment at the Royal Free, so it was strange to be summering in London, first time for 20 years. I think Dr Johnson got it wrong. People who know only London know only one life. That’s what he should have said. It’s so cut off down here. What they don’t know yet they think they know everything.
So I missed the first few weeks of real football, ie going to watch Carlisle United at Brunton Park. Crap football, so most north Londoners would think, in primitive conditions, yet there is a devotion, a concern, an involvement and also a resignation and acceptance that is sort of shaming.
But it meant I got to see Spurs’ first home games for a change – the flash ‘arries, fancy dans, in their fantasy world, hey ho.
My eyes were immediately dazzled by the mammoth billboards around the Paxton Road end, showing us the wonderful new stadium about to land any decade now. Architects’ plans used to contain modest little drawings of the building to be, with pretty little doll-like figures strolling through pretty trees, often palm trees, just to show you it was all bollocks but now with modern media methods they can show images as big as the real thing.
I stared at them, thinking, hmm, that bit does look like the Emirates, surely the arch is from the New Wembley, that glass section reminds me of the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon and, come on, they’ve stolen that roof line from London’s Olympic Stadium.
All modern buildings, using modern materials and ideas, do look much the same. Bound to happen, when they are building for the same purpose. Football stadiums – chief sub, please do not change it to stadia, ugh – in any era, always look much the same. The brilliant Scottish architect Archibald Leitch (1865-1939) dominated stadium design for almost 40 years, creating stands that looked much the same – at Ibrox, Hillsborough, Goodison, Old Trafford, Highbury, White Hart Lane. All gone now, except for a bit at Craven Cottage.
Inside, I wanted to see if André Villas-Boas looked the same, dropping down into that silly crouch. Thank God, he stayed on his proper pins. Not that it did him much good. When I heard he’d been appointed, I told all the Herdwicks who cared to listen – I was still in Lakeland at the time – that he would be gone by Christmas. After those two boring draws, against West Brom and Norwich, with the crowd already booing, I fear he might not last till Halloween.
When his new players bed in, perhaps he will get a grip but I looked for him in the last 15 minutes of each game to scream and shout and organise, stop them dropping deep but he seemed clueless, helpless. All that fluency and cleverness will do him no good, if he can’t dominate.
So mostly this season I will be following, hmm, let me think. I can see both Carlisle United and Spurs are going to give me endless heartache and frustrations. Perhaps it’s time to design a new model, a modern way of being a fan, in tune with our era. Following one team is so 19th century, my sweet. Swearing loyalty to one club is passé, my petal. The players don’t know which club they are at, or which country, while the owners own only as long as it suits them.
So what is a poor fan to do? Follow a player, that’s what, not a club. Pick someone you admire or just vaguely like or even deeply detest, then swear devotion for life, or longer, following him through his football vicissitudes rather than any one club. Should I start with someone young and new? Tom Cleverley of Man Utd, the new taste thrill of the back pages. He did good for England against Moldova but then our tortoise could. I suspect he is Ray Wilkins de nos jeers and will finally frustrate with his side passes.
I think I will follow an artist, like Berbatov. He will probably be away soon but I did so love him, early doors. So come on Berba, I will exclaim, when CUFC and THFC let me down, as surely they will.