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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Paying homage to the Lane on week to savour for Spurs

Book review - Alan Aherne

White Hart Lane - The Spurs Glory Years 1899-2017
White Hart Lane - The Spurs Glory Years 1899-2017

I picked the best possible time to get my teeth into the book under review this week, starting 'White Hart Lane - The Spurs Glory Years 1899-2017' on Wednesday afternoon just a few hours before the club's stunning Champions League victory over Real Madrid in Wembley.

Naturally enough, the quality of that performance, coupled with the fact that I've supported the team since boyhood, made the task of completing it on Thursday all the more enjoyable.

There may be a limited appeal among the public for this offering, and that's understandable. After all, it's difficult to envisage a non-Spurs fan reading it from cover to cover, just as I would struggle to get through a book with Old Trafford or Anfield as its subject matter.

Call me biased if you wish - because, let's face it, in this case I am - but the story behind the club's lengthy tenure in White Hart Lane flows along in lively fashion and is well written by Martin Lipton of 'The Sun' who has been a dedicated supporter since his first visit to the iconic north London venue in 1972.

At times the narrative does read more like a history of the club itself than the venue, particularly when it deals with the early years and the progression of Spurs to their golden double-winning season of 1960-'61.

Due reverence is bestowed on the club's inspiring manager of the time, Bill Nicholson, who eschewed the opportunity of moving out of London and setting up home in some idyllic country setting close to the city because he wanted to be as near to the ground as possible.

He continued to live in the same house within walking distance of his office throughout his long tenure, and he was often the first to arrive and last to leave.

There's plenty of information on the famous cockerel, the club's symbol since 1909, which was perched high above the ground on one of the stands for over a century.

Glen Hoddle recalls a balmy day when he was still an apprentice, long before health and safety became prevalent, and he was given the task of climbing on to the roof with a colleague to polish this striking symbol.

Years later, when he was a gifted midfielder and running the onfield show for the club, he would often look up at the cockerel and think of that formative experience and how it helped to shape his love and respect for the team he represented with such distinction.

To those unaware of the significance of this story, White Hart Lane closed on May 14, the last day of the 2016-'17 season, when Spurs fittingly recorded a 2-1 win against Manchester United.

All of their 'home' games are being staged in Wembley at the moment, but their new base will be ready for use for the 2018-'19 campaign.

And this is the good part for Spurs fans, because it's not like other clubs who have left decades of deep-rooted history behind and moved to a new location many miles away.

The exact opposite is the case, because their jaw-dropping new stadium is being constructed literally within the kick of a ball of White Hart Lane.

This book is at its most interesting when Lipton talks to the club officials who have worked at home games on match day for more years than they care to remember.

And there seems to be general agreement on one point: while they will dearly miss the old ground with all its nooks and crannies that they knew like the back of their hands, the fact that the new one is literally under its shadow will make the switch considerably easier.

Now all that's needed is the Champions League and/or Premier League trophy to adorn the trophy cabinet!

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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