I went to Spurs on Boxing Day with my son James. That’s not his real name. Back in the last century I used to do a column in Punch called Father’s Day. It was the idea of Alan Coren, the editor, that a dad should write about his family, as a change from all the women chuntering on about their Little Treasures.
I made the mistake of naming my Little Treasures and giving their real ages. I did myself out of a job in the end, as they grew up and left home. My children became furious when teachers started making sarky remarks in the corridor. So for a while my son became James.
I have such happy memories of taking James to Spurs. It’s what dads do, in the urban myths. It never happened in my childhood. My dad loved football but throughout my childhood he was an invalid, bedridden with MS. So he never took me nowhere.
James was a slow reader, but following Spurs seemed to concentrate his brain. I always maintained it was through Spurs programmes that he eventually learned to read. We would find him asleep in bed, a programme still over his face. Ah, bless.
So going with him on Boxing Day was going down memory lane. Looking around the West Stand, I saw loads of families, as it always used to be, though who can afford season tickets for all the family these days?
Here was a burly man three rows ahead continually bellowing abuse at the Spurs players. “TOO MUCH XMAS PUDDING!” He clearly believed that if he shouted enough times we might find it even vaguely amusing.
At almost every football ground there is a Mr Shouter. Someone who yells constantly, out of all proportion to what is happening. You wonder if he does it at home, or if football is his release. Following football, after all, is therapy. I remember one at Highbury who kept it up the whole game, going red in the face, until restrained by other supporters. Then the fists started flying.
Yes, I did go to Highbury for many years, had half a season ticket, buying it from another dad when his son was away at college. James never forgave me, accusing me of putting money into the pocket of the scum. Are you calling my friend scum? It goes to Arsenal in the end, he would reply.
That’s the problem of indoctrinating children – they take it to extremes. His support for Spurs has always been total. Me, I moan about them as much as I praise them, but then I did not acquire them from birth. I chose them deliberately. We moved into this house, equidistant between Highbury and White Hart Lane, in 1963. I wanted a local team. Spurs were playing better football. On the way to Glory.
It is chaos at White Hart Lane at present. The new stadium is going up – or down, as all the work seems underground. Then because of the terrorism in Paris, with the Stade de France nearly being blown up, they’re doubling security at Premier grounds.
My little rucksack, which I have taken to matches for decades, had to be searched. I expected my metal Thermos to be confiscated. The security staff didn’t even open it. Just slapped on a sweet little pink sticker saying “Bag searched”, which also had on it the words “Tottenham Hotspur” and their cockerel logo. I was well pleased. I immediately unstuck it carefully. It is now in my drawer of Spurs memorabilia. Memory of a happy day.
Which it was. Spurs won 3-0 against Norwich. Even better, teams above and around them got beaten. Best of all, Arsenal got stuffed 4-0. Ha ha.
Late in the game, Spurs brought on Tom Carroll, who looks about 13, a lad from their academy. Mr Shouter immediately got to his feet. “GERRIM OFF. CARROLL IS SHIT!” He bellowed this several times. Ten minutes later, Carroll scored a brilliant goal, with his left foot, miles out. The stadium exploded. Except for Mr Shouter, who remained seated. For about twenty rows around him the fans stood up, pointing and laughing, singing and chanting: “TOM CARROLL, HE’S ONE OF OUR OWN.”
So yes, ’twas a grand Boxing Day treat. For a father and a son . . .
This article appears in the 06 Jan 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The God issue