"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."
White Hart Lane
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Martin Lipton, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2017. ISBN 978-1-401I-6926-0The book is tribute to the memories of White Hart Lane stadium. The author is a professional writer, a detached journalist and a committed lifelong fan. He brings these perspectives together well. He includes copious quotes from managers, players, directors, fans - including one who had watched 800 games at “the Lane”. There are memories of individual players and special games.
It is a history of the role White Hart Lane has played in the story of Tottenham Hotspur with several chapters which recall significant episodes in the history of the club. Examples are: The Double (1961);
The Champions’ League;
The Fabrice Muamba incident.
The influence of Pochettino
White Hart Lane as a venue for FA Cup semi-finals, American Football, baseball etc
The book asserts that real Tottenham people understand the club and what it stands for, a claim that is not justified, presumably because for the Spurs fan it does not need to be. Another expression used is “understanding what the shirt meant”.
There are insights into the characters which made the club – like Bill Nicholson telephoning Alan Mullery one Saturday evening and saying: “I thought I’d tell you that was probably the best game you’ve had since you been here.” Alan was delighted, only to hear the manager continue: “But in the eighty-second minute you gave the ball away for their goal. I don’t want to see that again.” Nicholson then put the phone down
Alan Mullery sums up the difference between playing for Fulham (his previous club) and playing for Tottenham: “Fulham was fun. But Tottenham was business”.
The book emphasizes the uniqueness of the Tottenham way. Glenn Hoddle, for the author, epitomizes the Tottenham way: “Where some are merely geometry teachers, Hoddle was a nuclear physicist. Forget splitting defences with a ball, you felt he could have split the atom. Hoddle was everything a Spurs player should be. Languid and with utter panache, capable of mesmerising feats, a scorer of brilliant, breathtaking goals, a passer unsurpassed”.
The book stresses the importance for Spurs fans that the new stadium is just next door. The club was not re-locating like some clubs had. The fans’ pre-match routine walking up the High Road, either from Seven Sisters or White Hart Lane station would be unchanged. As one man said: we are “not leaving White Hart Lane - we’re just modernising the ground”.
It is a book for the Tottenham fan but is also of interest to the neutral. I enjoyed reading it bit would not have minded it being 50-100 pages shorter.