Fans spurred into making piece of history

How do you fairly review a book written by a prominent SJA member about Tottenham Hotspur? Give it to ANTON RIPPON, someone who supports Dave Mackay’s other club that played in white

First a confession: I’ve been a Derby County fan for 60 years and there have been no greater moments than when Brian Clough’s team was beating the might of Europe in the pulsating atmosphere of the old Baseball Ground in the early 1970s.

So I know exactly what Jimmy Greaves means when he says that the Glory Glory nights at White Hart Lane in the 1960s were just about unbeatable for frenzy and feeling. Some grounds have it; some grounds don’t. White Hart Lane always has.

Greaves is introducing a startlingly good book written, edited and published by veteran sports journalist (among his many other writing talents) Norman Giller, whose The Lane Of Dreams tells the story of Tottenham Hotspur not so much through Spurs’ players and matches, but through the story of the club’s famous old ground, and through the club’s supporters.

In fact, supporters’ contributions are the book’s major strength. A man (or woman) can change his spouse, job and home. But they never change their football club. Equally, clubs can change their owners and their players with bewildering frequency. Supporters, though, remain the one constant. So Giller was spot on when he asked those who faithfully follow Tottenham Hotspur through thick and thin to tell him what the club means to them.

The first part of The Lane Of Dreams is a fairly straightforward history, albeit one laced with Gilleresque humour and plenty of personal anecdotes. He is also perceptive, wondering at one stage what havoc Robert Maxwell would have wrought had he got his hands on today’s television money. Thank goodness Captain Bob (bob, bob) fell off his boat before Sky got serious.

After Giller’s own account of the Spurs story over the past 127 years (he’s not that old, by the way, but he is a first-class researcher), the fans get busy. And what a wonderful collection of memories they give us. And a few confessions, too.

Like the one from Maureen Turner of Chingford, who owns up to being partly responsible for delaying Spurs’ match against Chelsea in March 2009. The family business’s mini-van had broken down outside White Hart Lane on the eve of a G20 summit and the police were considering a controlled explosion when Maureen arrived with the keys. Years earlier, Maureen’s grandparents had looked after the bicycles of about 50 Spurs fans on match days; for an extra penny they’d keep your bike in their bedroom to keep it dry.

It is memories like that ,which span the years, from Bill Nicholson to Harry Redknapp, from those Glory Glory nights to today, that make The Lane Of Dreams such a treasure. Which is why Spurs fans have already rushed to grab it.

It would hardly be true to trot out that old blurb writer’s spiel that the book will appeal to “football fans everywhere”, because on religious grounds alone, I can’t see an Arsenal fan buying it. But it will appeal to many others outside N17 who have ever supported a football club. If I hadn’t already got my review copy, I’d go out and buy it today. And I’m a Rams fan.

The Lane Of Dreams by Norman Giller, with introductions by Jimmy Greaves and Steve Perryman (NMG Publishing, £18.95). To order, click here:

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