One life, one game, one team, one invincibles

One life, one game, one team, one Invincibles (So far)

Thursday, 3 May 2012

May 3rd 1971 - How times change

On the 3rd May 1971 I was allowed to leave work a bit early, all of ten minutes or so. I left early because I'd heard that the fans going to the Spurs-Arsenal game that night had started queuing for the match at mid day. My boss knew I was a fan and knew I was going to the game but obviously he failed to realise either the importance or urgency. Rumours had spread throughout the afternoon by word and mouth and the rare phone call. This was because in 1971 there was no Twitter, no mobiles, no texting, no internet links and I'm pretty sure there were not even any fax machines. Most companies didn't allow incoming or outgoing personal calls either as it happens, so it was all by rumour and something someone's friend's, brother's aunt had heard on the radio. The match wasn't all ticket despite it being a title decider, because that's how things were back then. You turned up, you paid cash at the turnstiles and you stood on the terraces. In order to get into the ground for a big match you arrived at the ground an hour or so early, got in and sat on the concrete steps of the terraces waiting. The bigger the game the earlier you arrived. Simplicity itself. If it was a home game and you were on the North Bank you had the luxury of a clock to watch. No screens big or otherwise of course, just a tannoy system that was pretty awful and sounded much like Donald Duck speaking under water at the sort of volume The Who would use at a local gig.

Anyway by the time I'd got to WHL, by tube and bus, it was pretty difficult to even get near the ground. The bus moved at about Denilson's pace so I had walked from Seven Sisters, overtaking traffic all the way. By the time I got within half a mile of the ground there were already fans who'd given up and were heading home. They offered classic advise such as 'Its mental down there'. So I weaved past fans, I pushed in and shoved my way through, climbed over garden fences and joined a mass of bodies all getting crushed in the surge towards Tottenham's infamous toilet. The Old Bill having long since lost control, if indeed they ever had it. The side roads were all rock solid with punters and the estimates of the numbers eventually locked out was anything between ten thousand and a hundred thousand. I could believe anything over 20,000. I got within 20 yards of a turnstile at one point when a police cordon broke and we were all swept down the road in a huge surge and at this point I was trodden on by a large and skittish police horse. Word was the turnstiles had been shut so I limped home somewhat dispirited. Normally I could arrive early for a match but this being a Tuesday midweek game I was stuffed. I'd only ever been turned away previously for games postponed an hour before kick off, for fog since you ask.

So belt home and watch it on the box I hear you cry. Well no, because back then only England Internationals or Cup Finals were live on our pitiful three channel telly's. So the radio it was then. But there were not even any live broadcasts of the game, only the occasional update on one radio station. Imagine the agony of listening to an update every ten minutes or so. I was in the kitchen fretting away like mad and reduced to a nervous wreck when the final score came through. I screamed loud enough to scare the neighbours, leaped high with arms raised in triumph and inadvertently smashed the kitchen light with my fist. I was showered not in ticker-tape or Champagne but loads of small glass shards. 

Thus my personal 13-year wait for a title was over.

So I've been to the Lane twice to see us win titles but only got in the once. And I'm telling you now Mike Winnett: if you remind me yet again that you were in the Lane that night and I wasn't I'll rip up all your wooden floors. Banter eh? Still it could have been worse, at least I had a Cup Final ticket for Arsenal-Liverpool at the weekend. One pound was the face value on that ticket and I'm told the ticket stub alone is worth about £40, never mind my Cup Final programme as autographed by Frank McLintock.

Brian @Gooner48


  1. Me and my best mate, Stuart Kingston, and another gooner from school Stuart Goodman were all there at lunchtime, 100 yards from the turnstiles, and 4 hours later we were 500 yards away! SG climbed up a drainpipe and got in through a toilet window, Me and Stuart got in the last open turnstile just after kick-off, high up with the spurs season tickets. (we were dressed entirely in red and white) we stood on the seats and yelled all through the game, when we scored I jumped so much I broke the seat. We were right above the corner where Georgie Armstrong chased a ball we all thought was going out, you know what happened then. We went down on the pitch at the end - magic. Even better than the Fairs cup final - did you make that one Brian? ;-) mick winnett

  2. Hooligan! Yep Mick I was there for the Fairs Cup and for the away leg - still got the programme and match ticket for that one too.