Many of the Tottenham vs Stratford arguments have been inarticulate and prone to the kind of pointing and shouting you might expect between obese family members on The Jeremy Kyle Show. Those hoping for a calm, intelligent discussion between differing viewpoints have often been sorely disappointed. One brainiac even threatened to smash up anyone involved in Spurs' potential move to Stratford: “We will come round your houses,” he said darkly. That pink blur you saw was a toy being thrown out of a pram. At least, I hope it was.
I expect this 'supporter' was cheering wildly when that bint with a bedsheet interrupted half-time pints and pies during last Sunday’s game against Manchester United. I was less than impressed. There is no room for such protests during a Spurs match. Support your team in the stadium or wait for the next spontaneous fire extinguisher drop at Millbank.
The more angry the anti-Stratford movement becomes, the more they push me and those in the middle ground or wavering Eastwards. Few arguments are won by pointing and shouting (Google ‘free kicks won by Robbie Keane’ on the internet, if you don’t believe me). I have total solidarity for those who were born or have roots in Tottenham and the surrounding area. Their sincerity and reasoning in wishing Spurs to remain in N17 is beyond dispute.
There are many coherent arguments for staying in Tottenham, but too few have been articulated. Screaming 'You're not Tottenham!' at anyone with an opposing view does not present a compelling case. I heard a rare, fine point on ‘The Spurs Show’ where one fan talked movingly about Bill Nicholson’s ashes being sprinkled at White Hart Lane and asking, ‘Would he have wanted to move to Stratford?' Emotive, but in a positive and poignant way. Why is White Hart Lane so special? I like to think back to one of my greatest nights as a Spurs fan. I was a young whippersnapper at the 1984 UEFA Cup final second leg when Graham Roberts lifted that big silver vase after an electric night at our famous stadium. The hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I remember that epic shoot-out, the Spurs supporters proudly singing Danny Thomas' name seconds after he missed a cup-winning penalty. Did the Chelsea fans do that for John Terry at the Champions League Final? You know the answer.
Identical twins were sat behind me on the final Anderlecht penalty. One could not bare to look, the other kept his eyes firmly on the pitch as Tony Parks prepared to face the crucial spot-kick. Seconds later, absolute bedlam; Eidur Gudjohnsen’s dad missed the penalty and Eidur Gudjohnsen’s mum duly burst into tears in the row in front of me.
Can this place of such magical memories be laid to waste? Sadly, it will be torn down regardless. Football is a business now, of course. It’s not Daniel Levy’s job to regenerate a rundown North London wasteland. He is, however, a renowned ballbreaker around the business table. His brinkmanship in the transfer market is legendary. Opposing chairmen must dread a Levy phone call. Indeed, former Spurs Chairman Alan Sugar (who has also backed the Stratford move) described Levy as the hardest man he has ever done business with. ‘Praise’ indeed. If Levy can save £1 million on the stadium build, you know he will. I have heard arguments that the revised plans for the Northumberland Park Development will ‘only’ cost a further £X million* (*the true figure is in dispute and open to debate)? Would these fans spend millions of their own money when a cheaper alternative was viable? Probably not.
This is a case of business interests versus self-serving politicians with cold logic and over-heated emotions torn somewhere inbetween. Let’s look at the positives again. We finally have the wonderful team we deserve after countless years of dross and underachievement (epitomised, for me, by a £5 million Ben Thatcher). It’s no coincidence this rise in fortunes has happened on ENIC’s watch after the dark Sugar years. When Levy and co took over Spurs in 2001, the club was choking on its own underachievement. Rafael van der Vaart would have only stopped in Tottenham to buy a kebab after driving back from Highbury. Now we are competitive again and trailblazing in the Champions League; I no longer have to hide my Spurs programme inside a copy of Razzle on the tube journey home. I love it.
Spurs have unfortunately been drawn into the murky world of sport-politics. A single serving athletics venue for the only London Olympics in our lifetime is a farce of a ‘legacy’. Great word that ‘legacy’, one FIFA loves to band around while hawking the World Cup to the highest bidder. The Olympic Stadium is the biggest architectural embarrassment since the cringeworthy Millennium Dome. That white elephant was eventually revitalised and turned profitable by AEG and now stands as the glorious O2 Arena, arguably the best entertainment venue in Europe. And who are Spurs’ partners in the proposed Stratford project....none other than AEG. Could lightning strike twice? Should it? I don't pretend to know the answer.
West Ham’s proposal including an athletics track in a football stadium is laughable, but what would you expect from former porn impresarios Davids Gold and Sullivan, a two-day old sandwich has more substance. Part of me would like West Ham’s ‘Chuckle Brothers’ to lose the Olympic Stadium bid just to watch the life drain from their smug faces like the baddies in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. You never know, Karren Brady may be forced into a glamour shoot to ‘make ends meet’. I won’t be buying that issue.
The Hammers can’t fill a 35,000 stadium for a home cup semi-final at reduced prices. The fanbase is just not there. West Ham moving into the Olympic Stadium would be like a gypsy living in a six-bedroomed house with similarly damaging results.
That’s not to say Spurs should win the bid either. A serious reservation for me is leaving South London club Arsenal as the only remaining North London club. However, those who live in North London (like I do) know that the majority of fans in the area already support the Gunners. So the effect would be most pronounced in the inevitable (and justifiable) mocking songs from our great rivals.
So what’s the solution? Either path leads to unhappiness and unfortunate friction between our fans. First of all, local MP David Lammy needs to consider his words more carefully and let positive actions do the talking. Haringey Council has to see Tottenham as a privilege and not a right and come to a middle ground solution on the additional costs of the new stadium. It is borderline arrogant to suggest that a private enterprise such as THFC, which is the financial lifeblood of the area, should be held to ransom to regenerate it in the midst of a recession. Businesses run on sentiment last no longer than a year.
I would like to see Spurs remain in Tottenham but not at the risk of the club’s long-term financial health and ability to compete at the highest level. Whatever is the best cost-effective option, I support whole-heartedly. None of us truly know which stadium best fulfils that criteria as the air is heavy with political bluster and overblown sentiment.
It would have been better for Spurs fans had Paris, the logical choice, won the bid for 2012 Olympics. The plan for the Olympic Stadium and its legacy was poorly conceived at best. In an ideal world, Stratford would probably remain as a deserted 60,000 athletics venue with tumbleweeds instead of West Ham fans. This way the politicians and self-serving decision makers would be crushed under the weight of their own white elephant.
This won’t happen though. What will, is my undying support of Spurs, be it in Tottenham or Stratford. I hope you’ll join me there.