Sporting history written in lilywhite light


East Upper, Block H, seat 147.

I can’t tell you the row number because, in however many years it was, I only once looked — on the first match after we moved from the South Stand.

That seat saw me through the highs (and, perhaps more importantly, the lows) of my life. And, like the rest of the Lane, it is no more. Like, I imagine, most Tottenham Hotspur fans, I have mixed feelings about the end of the Lane — the great temple in London N17. Yes, there’s the sheer excitement, and anticipation, over our new stadium, which looks as if it really is going to be worth the wait. But you cannot escape the sadness that the Lane is no more, and the memories of so many Spurs’ glory days  (and, yes, disasters) are now no more than that  — memories.

Martin Lipton’s history of White Hart Lane is a pacey romp through 118 years of history. As a fan, he has a deft feeling for what has always meant — and will continue to mean — so much to us. The pre-war and immediate post-war years of Push and Run we’d hear about from our dads; and then from the Bill Nicholson years and the Double team right through to the current generation.

As a reporter, Lipton has a great eye for detail, and bringing history to life.

But this is more than just a history of the team. It’s also a well-written history of the club itself — of the owners, the staff, the pitch and some of the backroom issues that Spurs always seem to have had, whether it was Irving Scholar or Alan Sugar and Terry Venables or the controversy as plans for the new stadium took shape.

In truth, there’s very little here that committed Spurs fans — so many, Jewish or not, nowadays identifying, whether we find it comfortable or not, as “Yids” — won’t already know. But it’s a tale told well — lovingly, even, and which of us wouldn’t want all these many stories, and the history, brought together to mark such an epochal moment in the Lilywhites’ history?

Lipton has done a first-rate job, and any Spurs fan will relish it.

White Hart Lane: The Spurs Glory Years 1899-2017 By Martin Lipton is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20

Stephen Pollard is the editor of the JC

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