NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 272
Submitted by Norman Giller
Manchester City remain on course for the ‘impossible’ Quadruple, which is Tottenham’s best hope of upsetting their four-pronged challenge. Spurs play the team of the moment three times in eleven days, starting with the Champions’ League quarter-final first leg tomorrow (Tuesday). They are meeting them at full-stretch, when they are at their most vulnerable and the chances of tripping them up are highest.
City have to come to the new Lane for the first of the three momentous matches, and having experienced the mind-blowing atmosphere in the grand ground opener last week I am confident it is going to be worth a goal start to Spurs.
Our Spurs Odyssey guru Paul H. Smith gives a blow by blow account of the victory over Crystal Palace HERE. I would also like to share my view of the build-up to the match, which I reported live from the new Lane press box on a memorable, never-to-be-forgotten night …
Here's our resident golden oldie blogger Norman in the new Lane press box, photographed by Gerry Cox of Hayters Teamwork
So here we are in Tomorrow's World. It was sixty years ago last Boxing Day that I first reported from the White Hart Lane press box. Now I am privileged to be sitting in "the Media Centre" and ready to watch the first Premier League match at a stately, state-of-the-art stadium that just takes the breath away.
For anybody from my silver-top generation of Tottenham supporters (I came out of the closet after giving up the No 1 football writer’s job at the Express to concentrate on TV, PR and authorship) it is a hugely emotional trip back to the future.
Tonight's match against Crystal Palace ushers in a new golden age for Tottenham Hotspur, the biggest leap forward since that late summer's night in 1882 when a group of local schoolboy cricketers met under a gaslit lamppost in Tottenham High Road and elected to launch a football club to take them through the winter months.
The well-educated pupils chose to name their team after 14th Century nobleman and warrior Harry Hotspur, whose descendants owned huge swathes of land in the Tottenham area. This included the marshes on which the first matches were played, with home-made goalposts carried to and from the pitch by the Hotspur boys.
Now that same land is overwhelmingly dominated by the billion-pounds stadium in which I am sitting, in awe of the grandeur and towering splendour of what Spurs can boast is one of the finest football grounds in the world. It truly is magnificent. Take a bow club chairman Daniel Levy.
When I reported from the old, Victorian-built Lane for the first time back in 1958 the press box was tucked away at the back of the main stand behind the directors' seats. There were no telephone points and copy boys had to race downstairs to dictate run-ning match reports back to newspaper telephonists sitting at typewriters in their Fleet Street offices. These were the now defunct copy takers.
Reporters from those hot-metal newspapers that did not have a budget for copyboys had to choose the moment to dash downstairs and dictate their own copy, hoping that nothing significant happened on the pitch while they could only judge events by the roar of the crowd.
I wrote on an Olivetti portable typewriter, with carbon paper for back-up. Now I am sitting with my ageing fingers dancing on my Apple MacBook keyboard, connected directly to the internet and in a seat as comfortable as in a plush cinema. We are on another planet.
More than 100 reporters from around the world have a seat and a wifi-friendly desk allocated to them, and each has a 10-inch monitor on which to watch live action of the match that is just 25-yards away on the immaculate pitch that can, at the push of a button, be spun to give an alternative gridiron surface for the planned NFL matches. Yes, another planet.
Earlier I had sat eating succulent roast chicken in the impressive media restaurant area with queen of sportswriters, ‘Dame’ Julie Welch, who broke all sorts of glass ceil-ings when becoming the first female football reporter in our man’s world more than 40 years ago. She is Tottenham’s official biographer, and is collecting material for a re-print of her history book to take in an opening ceremony of fireworks, fanfares and, finally, a football match.
Many of today’s top football reporters are there to chronicle this historic match, and a string of them – Henry Winter, Martin Samuel, Darren Lewis, Neil Ashton, Gerry Cox and Paul Hayward – come and pay homage to Julie and to prod this old dinosaur to see if I am still alive. The jury is out.
Julie and I were chasing headlines and deadlines when they were in nappies and we wondered how they would have fared “in our day” when we were begrudgingly given a half time cup of tea and had to chase around in the car park for a hoped-for quote or snatch of team news.
Now in the ‘auditorium’ the reporters sit in leather armchairs questioning manager Mauricio Pochettino at an after-match conference that is conducted by the hugely efficient Tottenham PR staff like a Presidential address.
Today’s journalists are spoon fed background information and match details, but the challenge is just the same as “in our day” to find the right words at the right time when that first whistle blows.
But because they send their words into the ether they do not have to clear the hurdles that faced us, with copy takers saying: “Are you staff …?” “How d’you spell your name …?” “Is there much more of this …?” “I can’t hear you because of the crowd in the background …” “I”m changing my typewriter ribbon, you’ll have to wait …”
Happy days, and neither Julie nor I would change our memories for the world.
But I do envy the reporters who will be filing their copy from Planet Tottenham in the years ahead. They will be witnessing and chronicling footballing history from the new Lane of Dreams.
Put me over to copy … Giller, staff, here …
That was how I reported the build-up to the match on what was a hugely emotional night for all those of us with a Lilywhite soul. The big winner of the night was a ground that should make every Tottenham fan feel proud and walk a foot taller.
I have pledged to encourage my silver-top generation to keep alive memories of the old White Hart Lane, which is where the foundation for today’s stunning stadium was laid. You might like to tune into me talking about past glories here on the popular Spurs Show: https://player.fm/series/the-spurs-show/norman-giller-does-spursshowlive.
But that’s all about the glory-glory nights of the past. Now it’s back to the cold reality of the present and the climax of this exciting 2018-19 season that has had more ups and downs than the Grand National. Five of the remaining eight matches (hopefully more if we can conquer City in the Champions League) are at the new home …
April 9, 8.00 (h, CL) Man City
April 13, 12.30 (h, PL) Huddersfield Town
April 17, 8.00 (a, CL) Man City
April 20, 12.30 (a, PL) Man City
April 23, 7.45 (h, PL) Brighton
April 27, 12.30 (h, PL) West Ham (NB - Date & time to be confirmed)
May 6, 8.00 (a, PL) Bournemouth (NB - Date & time to be confirmed)
May 12, 3.00 (h, PL) Everton
I have grounds to believe we will hang on to our top-four spot … and one ground in particular, the new White Hart Lane. COYS!!
Question No 34 in this 2018-19 SOQL season:
Who won 61 international caps, played at Wembley in his Tottenham debut, and which club did he manage from 1994 to 1996?
Please email your answer to me at SOQL34@normangillerbooks.com. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will respond to all who take part.
This year’s prizes for the champion: A framed Harry Kane autographed picture, two books from my Spurs collection with autographs from Jimmy Greaves, Steve Perryman and Dave Mackay, and (most precious of all) a framed certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion.
Last week I asked: Which East Londoner joined the Tottenham Hotspur academy at the age of eight, has won 13 international caps, and against which club did he score in his senior Spurs debut in a third round FA Cup tie in 2011?
As most of you responded, it was Leytonstone-born Andros Townsend, who started his goal scoring with Tottenham by cracking in what was to become one of his trademark shots against Charlton Athletic. He was given a hero’s return welcome when he joined the match at the new Lane as a second-half substitute for Palace.
Please keep a check on your scores. I will be trusting you to count your points as I do not have faith in my email server. We are galloping up towards the tie breaker to separate more than 50 you sharing the lead in the SOQL table!
Thank you for taking part. See you back here same time, same place next week. Keep the faith. COYS!
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