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22 October 2018updated 07 Jun 2021 2:55pm

Why I loved Spurs’ new stadium – despite hardly seeing the game

By Hunter Davies

What has been the most exciting, amazing, wonderful new creation of this long season? You’ve guessed already.

I have been going to White Hart Lane since 1960, know the route like the back of my hand; in fact they are very similar – the liver spots, my dear… the gnarled lumps , the unsightly blockages… oh Lor’, don’t look.

The last ten years have been hellish trying to drive there, but now the crowd has been practically doubled, to 62,000, it will be impossible. The Tube, buses and overground, all total rubbish. So I decided to get an Uber, treating my son, who came home from work early.

The first view of the new stadium was disappointing. Such a shapeless mishmash – odd gleaming panels, ugly shiny overhanging fancy bits, like something left over from a 1970s Dubai hotel.

But inside, oh my goodness, it is all of a piece, a perfect whole, a theatrical marvel. As it grew dark, the lights came on all around the stadium to reveal a giant fairy grotto, a magical wonderland. Except for the annoying Spurs motto flashing away, “TO DARE IS TO DO”. They have been using that message for some years now and I still don’t know what they think it means. Reading it backwards, To Do Is To Dare, it is still bollocks.

We were in the South Stand, where my son and some of his friends have season tickets. I have given up mine after 50 years, handed over the baton. When my wife was still alive, we were spending longer and longer in Lakeland, so I was missing so many games.

The South Stand is the biggest wall in English football – a single tier, stretching up into the sky, holding 17,500. It was the second game in the new stadium, and the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Man City.

On each seat we found a large white plastic bag, like a hotel laundry bag. We were instructed to hold it up when the teams walked out and so create a mosaic. I could not understand how 17,500 white plastic bags would create a mosaic.

The small print said the bags were made of recyclable plastic. Oh yeah? I bet most of it will end up clogging the oceans. If only they had been biodegradable I could have taken mine home to line my food rubbish bin. I am a domestic goddess, now I live on my own. 

The acoustics in the ground are just as brilliant as the architecture. Despite the size, they have somehow got everyone relatively near the pitch, with great views, not like Wembley or the Nou Camp, which are just too enormous, too remote from the action. The South Wall was soon a wall of sound. It was such a relief not to be watching Spurs at Wembley. The atmosphere there was mostly eerily dull and concretely flat.

Would it spur Spurs on, having such incredible support ringing in their ears, or make them more nervous? I watched their first game at the new stadium on TV – against Crystal Palace. We won, but looked rather tense.

Now, against Man City, Spurs were confident and positive from kick-off. Alas, the man in front of me got so excited he insisted on standing up. I could see the same thing happening elsewhere. The euphoria of the new stand made people get to their feet. With my dodgy knees, I can’t stand up for long. I did ask him, nicely, to sit down, but he just told me to go elsewhere. The stewards tried to retrain him. Elsewhere in the South Stand others were having their pleasure ruined. This is a drawback to the South Stand being so steep, so sheer. If someone gets up, you can’t see.

But Spurs won 1-0, jubilation all round. They did well in the frenetic second leg of course, reached the semi-final, but then got beaten at home by Ajax in the first leg.

I splashed out on a black cab home from the City game – only cost me £35. That was what I used to pay for a whole season ticket in 1960. When I got back, I watched the game again on TV. It was then that I realised only half the South Stand had been given white bags – the rest had blue. When all 17,500 were held up, they formed the wording: “TO DARE IS TO DO.” 

If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have held my plastic bag up. 

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This article appears in the 08 May 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Age of extremes