No match report from the 3-0 cup win against Coventry. I missed this game and can’t concoct a report from 29 seconds of ITV highlights. Instead, the second in a series of articles about what it means to be a Spurs fan. Martin Cloake is a journalist and prolific author of books about Tottenham Hotspur.
In an age where football is examined from every conceivable angle and dissected to the point of extinction, the modern game is in danger of becoming flatulent and predictable, in the process alienating many existing and potential supporters. Yet talking Tottenham with Martin Cloake is a search for something deeper that forms the essence of his relationship with the club. In the process, it’s reassuring to know that whatever it was that originally captivated and entranced us is still around.
Already in this short series, one theme stands out above all else. Whichever route we take, when it comes to Spurs, there’s magic in the air. However, for Martin it could have been so very different. He was brought up in Haringey so Spurs seem a natural choice. In the absence of any existing family allegiances, what else would you do as a football-mad 6-year-old but ask your mum.
“I asked her who’s the nearest team, she said ‘I think it’s Arsenal’ so I thought I’d be an Arsenal fan.”
Then fate stepped in. Martin continues, “That Saturday, they lost. I thought that was a bit rubbish so then, Queens Park Rangers, that’s quite a good name so I’m a Rangers fan. They lost too, so that’s not good. I knew Tottenham were in the other bit of Haringey ( I lived in the west), thought I’d be a Tottenham fan, they won and that was that.”
Martin chuckles at the inescapable conclusion: “I was a total glory-hunting so and so at 6 years old.”
It sounds as if even then he was a bit of an obsessive, which means in this blog he’s among friends. As he read more and more, he realised he had chosen a special team.
“When I started finding out about Spurs, there was this magic about them. That was before I’d even been to the ground. Pat Jennings was larger than life, a superhero. We had the Mirror every day in our house, I’d read Ken Jones and Frank McGhee. I was 7 in ’72. Nicholson was still there, I didn’t really understand but knew he was something special.”
Even then, Europe had a particular fascination. “I looked up places where we were playing in the atlas. That was special. The Arsenal weren’t doing that! I listened to the ’72 and ’74 finals on the radio.”
For many of us, football provides a rich seam of continuity in our lives. It’s certainly true in my case, where Spurs is the link between the boy and the man. Relationships, jobs, houses and friendships come and go but Spurs is always there. Martin continues to search for more of that magic he discovered as a 6-year-old,and it’s still there in those European nights, which are an integral part of Tottenham’s rich heritage. That search is the heart of the Martin’s latest book, the Glory Glory Nights, co-written with long time collaborator Adam Powley.
“It was part of the reason for doing the book, to rediscover the magic. When I was a kid, there was that bit of magic, where’s Zagreb, where’s Belgrade. It was a pioneering time. That Double team had done something nobody else had done before. They went into Europe. They were the standard bearers for the English game.”
Spurs were full of firsts in Europe, the first to win a European trophy, the first to win two, the first to fly fans to an away tie. However, these days european football is commonplace, with every tie on television and many relegating the Europa League, the latest incarnation of the Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Cup where that Spurs glory lies, to the status of a worthless league for our second string. So has the magic gone?
“It was a different age, that’s true. People going up Everest, into space, running the 4 minute mile. Nicholson, Busby and a few other visionary managers had to fight against the football authorities to be allowed to compete in Europe! Inevitably things can’t stay new forever so some of that has been lost. Familiarity breeds contempt.”
This is no rose-tinted nostalgia trip to bygone, better times. Martin is quick to emphasise that history is still being written. The run to the quarter finals of the Champions League was remarkable because it was so unexpected. He went to all the games that year bar the away leg against Young Boys.
“The Champions League was new for Spurs. The magic was back. We saw some great games of football and surprised our own supporters as well. Yes, the familiarity, the marketing, the over-analysis means the magic has gone from a lot of football but when it comes down to 11 versus 11, those glory glory nights aren’t clichés. When it works, like Bale destroying that team [Inter in the San Siro], that’s what you go for. I’ve never seen Spurs supporters go quite as mental. Nothing surprises you in football these days, but that did.”
The Glory Glory Nights, reviewed here, allows the story of Spurs in Europe to unfold by using those self-same contemporary newspaper reports that fascinated Martin as a boy, plus excellent photos, some of which have not been published before, ably chosen by art director Doug Cheesman to complement and enhance the mood. The sections on the sixties and seventies are eerily atmospheric. The text sets everything in an historical perspective without breaking up the flow and access to interviews from Chivers, Beal and others not only gives the players’ insights but proves that Europe was very special for them too. No other team can tell this story.
Martin’s first game was towards the end of the 1978 season, a 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers at the top of the old Second Division. “54th minute diving header from Don McAllister. 52,500, schoolboys’ enclosure West Stand.” Martin recalls the details with boyish enthusiasm. “Hairs standing up on the back of my neck seeing the camber of the pitch, getting in for 50p. Spurs had gone down and we had to get behind them to get them back up again.”
He continued to go to home games but drifted away in the 80s when he had a Saturday job and discovered girls and music. He picked it up again later in the decade when he started going regularly with a group of mates who went to a lot of away games. Football remains a social activity. and he’s irrevocably committed now.
“I had to admit to myself years ago that I’m a bit stupid when it comes to football.” He mimics an AA meeting. “My name is Martin Cloake and I’m a Spurs fan! It would take a lot for me to give up my season ticket. That’s what I do, I go and watch Spurs, and I spend far too much time, money and effort on all things to do with Spurs. I’ve done the same as every Spurs fan. Another bad season, that’s it, I’m not renewing, but I know I will always go.”
I pause to remind myself this is not me talking but someone else, such is the similarity of our feelings for the club. This craziness, it’s our reality, but at least this is about as far as it goes for Martin because he’s never done anything too ridiculous in the name of Spurs, apart from a day trip to Austria for an early round in Europe. I wondered if he enjoys it more now or in the past.
“Hmm, not sure. It feels like I enjoyed it more then but I still enjoy it now. I miss some of the edge. It was like in those days you went to gigs, it was overcrowded and there was no fire exit but it was part of being a kid. I got streetwise going to football. It shapes who I am. Some of my best friends, I’ve known over 30 years, been to their weddings, know their kids, that friendship began because we supported the same team. Some of the best times of my life have been going to football.”
Those friendships sustained him through dour times under Sugar and particularly under Graham where going to Spurs became a great day out spoilt by the football. “It wasn’t the fact he was an ex-gooner. We were not investing in the team and going nowhere. There was no light at the end of the tunnel, there wasn’t even a tunnel.”
“One thing I don’t like now is all the arranging, planning in advance. It’s annoying that some spontaneity and anarchy is missing, but there are great times when the ground still bounces. There’s a change in the crowd this year. I never want to be an old git moaning about how things were better in the old days, but something’s around. I like what the 1882 lads are doing, good to see a different generation finding out about the same things.”
Time for some choices. Hoddle or Roberts? Martin is reluctant to plump for one or the other. “I love Roberts’ spirit but Hoddle was the best player I ever saw live, a god to me when I was a kid. Roberts, you couldn’t wish for a more committed captain.”
His favourite Roberts’ story takes up the tale after Robbo put Charlie in the stand. “To let them know he was there, he kept sliding and ended up near the Arsenal bench. Peter Storey asked him if he was all right. Roberts said, yes, then Storey belted him in the eye and said, ‘Well, you’re not f**king all right now.”
Gascoigne is the other player that makes Martin wax lyrical. ” I would just watch him, he was so much better than anyone else. With the Hoddle team you had Ardiles too.” Modric and Berbatov are the more recent players singled out for praise.
And the scenario. Under manager Tony Pulis and backed by Russian squillions, our long-ball, muscular game will win the league. Alternatively, we play great football the Spurs way, are contenders for the top 6, maybe more, but there’s no guarantee of winning anything. The club’s fate is in your hands. Martin deliberates carefully.
“Well, there’s something wrong about celebrating a 4th place finish but I guess I would have a duty to the club to get a top four place. We could go for the league playing the Spurs way but part of that is that we will find some of screwing it up. With a gun to my head, it’s Pulis and win the league.” He shudders. “I feel a bit dirty now….”
I can’t leave such a warm and generous interviewee on the horns of that dilemma for a moment longer. Time to move on and end with some great memories:
“Perryman, he was one of us, Labour voter, a suedehead….Chivers was a big hero, a goalscoring giant….i was terrible at getting up in the morning and I remember my mum shouted the news up the stairs, Spurs had bought two Argentinians. I strutted into school, Spurs have got two World Cup winners, what have you got!?…I bunked off school to go to Highbury for the cup semifinal in 81, one of my favourite Spurs games, Archibald and Crooks were brilliant, then I queued up all night for the final replay, the greatest final of the 20th century and saw Ricky score the greatest goal in a cup final in the 20th century, you’ve got me now, that’s where the drug started…”
It’s more important than ever in changing times to hold on to our heritage. The debate over our new ground brought this debate to fever pitch. Martin can see both sides but is clear where he stands.
“Look, I buy into the idea but know Spurs is not of its place any more in the sense that people round there don’t go to games, largely because it’s not a well-off area and they can’t afford it. It’s a little like us imposing our memories, creating our own heritage theme park when we go back there. But I’m glad that if the new stadium ever gets built, it will be close to the same stands where ‘glory glory hallelujah’ first rolled out. It was in that same patch of ground. I don’t know if the club realises the mistake it would have made if they had moved [to Stratford]. The magic and the connection the Spurs crowd has with the game is part of knowing that this is where its gone on for all that time. You are in the same stands watching the same pitch where Blanchflower, Mackay, Jimmy Dimmock played. How far do you want to go back?”
Amen to that.
Former Spurs goalkeeper Milija Aleksic died yesterday aged 61. Most players who appeared only 32 times in three seasons would be a mere footnote in the club’s illustrious history. However, Aleksic played in the side that won the F.A. Cup in 1981, one of the most memorable matches in modern times and a victory that shaped the passion and dedication of two generations of Tottenham fans.
In the late 70s, Spurs were having problems with their keepers. When the incomparable Pat Jennings was allowed to leave in 1977, we looked forward with optimism to a new era as two promising Spurs youngsters, Barry Daines and Mark Kendall, took on his mantle. However, it gradually became clear that Jennings’ departure was severely premature. The man who never wanted to leave played over 200 games for Arsenal while Daines and Kendall failed to fulfil their potential, except perhaps in their ability to put on weight. These days it is the accepted wisdom that goalkeepers mature well into their thirties as the admirable Friedel has demonstrated and in a small way Spurs played a part in this culture change, learning from the Jennings debacle by rejuvenating Ray Clemence’s career after he left Liverpool similarly early.
Despite the pressing need to solve the uncertainly at the back, with all due respect Aleksic’s arrival was greeted with bemusement rather than delight. Coming from Luton for £100,000, he had a low profile and his role wasn’t clear. It felt like we’d signed a back-up keeper when we needed a genuine challenger for the first team. He made his debut against Altrincham in the 3rd round of the Cup, winning a replay 3-0 after we had nearly lost to the non-leaguers in the first game. However, Kendall regained his place and for the next couple of seasons Aleksic was seldom first choice. His rare opportunities for a run in the side were further hampered by two incidents when he had come back into the team only to be carried off, once against Norwich when Roberts went in goal and another against Manchester United when Joe Jordan broke his jaw, Hoddle taking the green jersey.
Then luck turned his way. In March 1981 Daines was injured and Aleksic took his chance. His one decent spell at Spurs helped us win the Cup. Daines was fit again but became the forgotten man of the 81 squad as Aleksic kept his place.
He was better on his line making saves than coming off it but of course with Roberts and Miller in front of him, many of the crosses were dealt with. He will be remembered as part of the team that won the Cup in one of the most famous post-war finals, but also that side’s legacy is still influencing the club to this day. After years in the doldrums, we had won something. In the process, the boys of 81 banished painful memories of failure, including relegation, where midtable mediocrity became something to be grateful for.
That side played the Tottenham way with flair and panache from Ardiles, Villa, Crooks and Archibald laid upon a foundation of dedication and grit in the shape of Perryman and Roberts. Those who grew up with that team will be Spurs for life, as will their children because the tales will be told and the memories handed down through the generations. This is Spurs, this is the way to play the game, and Milija Aleksic will forever be a part of that. My thoughts are with his family.
The Spurs Miscellany by Adam Powley and Martin Cloake
Miscellanies are fun to dip in and out of, especially if like me you have an increasingly short attention span. In the hands of Cloake and Powley, as safe as Pat Jennings on crosses, it becomes something more. Their names are synonymous with quality and passion for all matters Spurs and their insight into what it means to be a Spurs fan comes through in their selection. A mixture of the serious and quirky, this becomes much more than a series of lists and anecdotes that any hack could cut and paste. It’s more a history of the club with the dull bits left out.
You can either read it cover to cover, beginning with the forward from Ossie Ardiles, or turn to any page where something will catch the eye. Being a Spurs fan, it’s appropriate that I opened it at the list of our heaviest defeats. So much to choose from, yet the authors know their Spurs. There’s a story about John Pratt that I won’t spoil by telling you, but it is not only funny in itself but perfectly sums up the career of this put-upon stalwart.
Be warned – it’s extremely addictive. You just have to turn the page, just one more… I should have finished that report on the train, I know, but I didn’t know that the famous Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman not only used to play for Spurs, he took to the field in yellow boots. There’s nothing new under the sun.
Many of the stories, such as the Gunners’ move to north London, are familiar but they don’t dim in the re-telling. There are stats galore and biographies of our greats but personally I really wanted to know that Spurs have blue and white traffic cones.
This updated version is unreservedly recommended and Christmas is coming…
Those lovely people at publishers Vision Sports have given me a copy to give away. Blogs like this one owe a huge debt to fanzines. What was the name of the first Tottenham Hotspur fanzine? Answers to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Closing date Wednesday 24th October.
5Live have just said that Hillsborough did not have a safety certificate in 1981.
On April 11th 1981 I caught the football special from London to Sheffield. The warmth of companionship between Spurs fans almost made up for the lack of heat in these ancient carriages, pulled out of mothballs just for us. This wasn’t football, it was part of history. These carriages had been pulled by a steam train. Narrow your eyes and there’s the buffet, Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson sharing a can of Special Brew at 8.30 am.
The complaints were raucous but good-natured. It wouldn’t have been tolerated in any other circumstances but this was how football fans expected to be treated in those days. Many of us traveled and anyway, who cares? This was a big game at a suitably historic ground, our first semi-final since the cup-winning year of 1967 and my first ever. After a fallow decade, Spurs were on the up.
We reached the city and were herded via the goods entrance into a long column. The police escorted us to the ground with anyone who had the nerve to break ranks and make a break for a shop selling food or drink being forced back into line. Again, par for the course and at least it was a safe route, shielded from any Wolves, United or Wednesday fans keen to get stuck into the cocky lads from the south. And no one could stop us singing. For a few minutes it felt like we were taking over the town. A short wait at the Leppings Lane turnstiles, including the usual unnecessary pushing towards the wall – why bother, we all had tickets and were early – and in.
First impressions were unfavourable. Peeling blue and white paint, shabby toilets, cracked stone steps. Normal, in other words. Although the ground was filling up I had the space to pick a spot halfway up and well to the right of the goal. The central areas were always jam-packed and the atmosphere would be electric across the entire end. It turned out to be a sound decision.
As kick-off approached a series of crowd surges forced me, disgruntled but accepting, away from my vantage point and closer to the pitch. I assumed that latecomers were carving out some room at the top of the banking and the effect had rippled through to me. I couldn’t see what was happening because I had long since lost the chance to turn round but despite being packed together, it felt safe. There was no room to fall, after all. Lots of grumbling about why Wolves had been given the larger kop terrace opposite.
The game got under way and I was totally focused on the match, as ever. By this time, the pressure was such that I could not move my arms, which I had managed to lift in front of me to offer some protection during the last surge before movement became impossible. I spent the rest of the match less than ten yards from the front, my feet lower than pitch level because of the way the terrace was built.
Fans began streaming onto the pitch perimeter and looked back at the lads with arms raised in support. They sang a quick song before squatting on the shale. This signaled trouble and my heart sank. Looked like people had made a break for it. Bound to be bad for the club. More calls for grounds to be closed, for the hooligans to be punished. Worse was to come -the Spurs invaded the pitch when we scored.
In fact, the fans behaved very well. Five or six deep, they remained seated for most of the time. Some moved, under escort, to other parts of the stadium. Spurs everywhere!
And that was how I watched the rest of the semi-final. The biggest crush I have ever experienced, rooted to a single spot even when we scored a second. I vividly recall the tension as the match went on, 2-1 up with Wembley so close, the duel between two mighty warriors of the penalty box, Max Miller and Andy Gray, sparks flying as their heads clashed, both equally desperate to reach the crosses. The penalty that never was. Miles away at the other end or so it seemed, yet Hoddle won the ball clear as day. Hibbet tumbled and Clive Thomas pointed theatrically to the spot. How he loved the glory.
The final whistle, the march back to the station. I confess that despite the conditions, at the time I recall the thrills and passion of being part of something, the heated tension that only semi-finals can generate. Stories to tell of the day I went to the Hillsborough semi-final. I was there stories.
Plenty of time to contemplate the injustice of it all as the train took the long way home, as all football specials did. That was my suffering and of course I would not be without it, because without the pain there cannot be joy. I didn’t see any fans with broken limbs or any who needed medical treatment, i thought had been in a scrap. That’s what it was like in those days. Oddly, although I must have gone to the game with a couple of friends, I don’t recall them at all. Intensely packed yet I felt isolated and alone.
On April 15th 1989, I played football on a sunny Saturday afternoon in southeast London. It was a friendly and shambolic 5-a-side between my lot, a mixture of council employees from social services and housing, versus a side from the local community. Lots of kids – I brought along my two – and a lovely atmosphere, in a small but significant way the healing power of this wonderful game. For some time we had sought ways of getting closer to the community in which we worked and who were suspicious of us. Only football could bring us together.
I arrived home in the late afternoon and turned on the television. Pictures were being relayed from Hillsborough and I was initially pleased – the game must have started late so I could catch up with it. Then it dawned that there had been trouble and I switched over before the kids saw too much, although at the time the extent of the disaster was not apparent.
Now we know. Spurs fans of my generation will always have an extra bond with the Liverpool families, because it could have been us. Me. Standing near the front, feet below pitch level. Me. My heart goes out to the suffering relatives. An open gate at the back and the front. An open gate. All this talk of closure is so much hot air. The way it’s used in connection with trauma is not what it means. I’ve experienced loss of children, knowledge helps to understand but the pain doesn’t go away.
The families have been treated abominably, by the police and by the Sun who chose to sell papers regardless of the truth. I hope you find both comfort and justice.
Two e-books worthy of your consideration. And look, we’re all busy people, credit crunch and all, so what can I say – they’re cheap. Very good, mind. Have a look.
Arthur Rowe – a Neglected Spurs Legend Whose Legacy Lives On
We become Spurs fans via a variety of routes. Local team maybe or, more likely these days, your dad was once a local. Dad’s a fan so you are. Or your dad’s a gunner and you want to do everything possible to not be like him because that’s what kids do. One trip with your mates and you were hooked or one great game on the box. Perhaps you were struck by the name. Whatever the reason, you quickly learn one fundamental thing about the team that becomes an indelible part of your life and soul. Tottenham Hotspur strive to play good football. Sure we want too much, yep, seldom really comes off, although with many notable exceptions in this season past, but that’s Spurs. Get it down on the floor and pass it.
This defining characteristic is the lasting legacy of one man, Arthur Rowe, who was first a player before the war and then afterwards took over as manager, taking Spurs from the second division to the league title in two seasons. Spurs remain the last of only three teams ever to have won the second division and then the first in successive seasons, a feat that is highly unlikely ever to be repeated. [edit: my thanks to a regular commenter - Ipswich were another team to achieve this, my fault for not checking, certainly not the authors].
In an age where everything has to be in the here and now, where players receive giant loyalty bonuses for staying put for a single season and Sky deny that football existed before the Premier League, Rowe has been consigned to the sidings of history. Spurs author Martin Cloake rights this injustice in this succinct and fascinating e-book, the third in a series he and his co-author Adam Powley created with the aim of writing punchy and accessible profiles of Tottenham players.
Rowe was born in Tottenham in 1906 and played for the club straight from school. These days there’s much debate about the pros and cons of reserve sides versus loaning out youngsters to lower league teams but there’s nothing new under the sun. Spurs had a link with Northfleet, a club in north Kent (I pass its modern incarnation, Ebbsfleet, every day on my way to work) so Rowe and others spent time learning their trade. They were taught how to do things right but the young Arthur absorbed his lessons more than most, going on to play for his team and country.
More significantly, he developed ideas about a flowing, passing game that stood in contrast to the then prevalent style of of getting it forward quickly to the big men up front. Beginning to sound familiar? After retiring, unusually for those days he travelled Europe both to learn from others and share his methods, which culminated in the famous Spurs push and run championship winning side in 1951 and whose purpose and techniques we are still trying to master to this very day. That is achievement enough but he became a huge influence on others – Bill Nicholson and Alf Ramsey most notably in this country, and there is a direct link to the mesmerising total football of the Dutch.
A quiet man ill-suited to what passed for celebrity status in those days, Rowe nevertheless was a respected pundit and figure in the game after he left Spurs. We owe him so much yet he’s never had the credit due his status as one of the most influential figures in the club’s history and indeed in English football. Typically Tottenham overlooked him – I remember him as Palace manager, they gave him the testimonial Spurs never did – but with this little gem you have no excuse:
“His story is one of great innovation and ambition, of joy and real, crushing sadness. It is a story that is fading both because of the passage of time and because of the light it subsequently enabled to shine. And it is a story that deserves to be told again so that it can regain its rightful place in history.”
Arthur Rowe (Sports Shots) by Martin Cloake
Glory Nights:From Wankdorf To Wembley
Dodging the crazies on the all-night bus. Running from the opposition while running a raging fever. Trapped next to the blocked toilet on a coach to Germany, then searched by armed police. Blizzards close British roads, save for a single carload of Spurs fans sliding up and down the M1, risking life and limb to rescue a forgotten passport in time to catch the ferry. The road to glory takes many twists and turns.
From Wankdorf to Wembley is the entertaining story of long time Tottenham fan Mel Gomes’s european tour during Spurs first, and perhaps only, season in the Champions League. It begins with the outburst of unrestrained joy that greeted Peter Crouch’s late winner at Manchester City that took us there and ends at Wembley but sadly not with Spurs as he blags a freebie to share in Barcelona’s delight.
Mel takes us to all the matches home and away, together with a bunch of faithful travellers, and invokes memories of those glory glory nights that raise goosepimples at the thrill of it all. An engaging companion, join him as he recreates not only vivid match reports from a fan’s perspective but also the numbing minutiae that are essential elements of going away. The anxious dashes for connections as he runs dangerously late, how tricky it can be just to get into a football ground, wasted hours in airport lounges and the all-important search for a beer or two.
Mel is good company but unobtrusive, a welcome change from other fan books where ego dominates. He’s your mate who is the quiet one of the group, in the background but you can’t have a good time without him. This book is not about him, it’s about the experience and wherever he goes, Mel stops to smell the coffee rather than rush to the local equivalent of Wetherspoons to get bladdered. He’s curious about his surroundings and the people he meets along the way.
He discovers glory in some unlikely places. ‘Wankdorf’ is the name of the Young Boys of Berne stadium where it very nearly all ended before it had begun, 3-0 down and not even half-time. But the reader is left under no illusion that the pursuit of glory is the essence not only of this journey but of being a Spurs fan, as this blog’s byline unashamedly declares. The book begins with Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, where everyday life becomes the setting for a drama of escape and the fulfillment of dreams. It’s about daring, romance and passion, seeking magic and redemption in our everyday surroundings. Despite his (and my) disillusionment with the modern of version of what will always be the European Cup, the competition remains precious and special. The opening chapter sets the scene, with a young over-excited Mel waiting impatiently for dad to get home from work then jumping into his car to watch Spurs play Hadjuk Split in an era when we played magical names from mysterious far-flung places.
Writing this on the day that Redknapp’s firm determination not to resign almost certainly means he’s going to be sacked, ironically this book could form part of his epitaph. A prelude to the true glory days or the best we ever had? What is clear is that From Wankdorf To Wembley is a labour of love that Spurs supporters will enjoy. It’s also testament to the loyalty that blinds us to reality as we pursue our dreams. Wasted days, endless expense, itineraries planned with military precision, the craziness of fans whose compulsion to be there is unfathomable to those who don’t understand this wonderful game.
Illustrated by Lilly Allen