Unrealistic expectations

Firstly, go and read this by the lovely and wonderful Alan Fisher, because it’s better than what you’re about to read here. Alan, like many, had a great time at the new stadium on Wednesday with his loved ones and writes about it beautifully. You’ll go away feeling uplifted and with that sense of anticipation about the new stadium that you should have.

Warning: you may not feel like that if you read my blog below. If you do not want to read a more negative view of the first match in the new stadium, it might be best to stop reading now. I don’t want anyone to feel like I’ve ruined their excitement.

I had a funny old 24 hours. I posted some very brief thoughts on my (less than positive) experience at the game on Wednesday night on Twitter. I could simply have posted a video that I took of the stadium with a tweet saying ‘So glad to be back home <stadium emoji> <blue heart emoji>’ and I would likely have had three hundred retweets and a thousand likes; but it wouldn’t have been true or representative of my experience. I slept on it and on Thursday morning I posted a ‘thread’ which, for those who don’t use Twitter, is essentially a mini blog. I didn’t realise, though, that Twitter has a limit on the number of tweets that can be included in a thread. So approximately half of my tweets weren’t actually tweeted. They were the more optimistic ones with a bit of humour included (NB: I don’t really do humour, you may have noticed that I’m… just not a naturally funny person). So off I went to a meeting having dropped a very negative, very unfinished thread, and the response was… interesting.

I’ve since deleted the lot and considered not commenting on my experience any further. Mainly because — as some of my friends rightly said — what did I hope to add to the discussion about the new stadium? But quite a few people have subsequently asked nicely whether I would blog about my experience for balance and because they’re genuinely interested, so after some thought I’ve decided to write. It’s cathartic for me to write about it and to try to articulate this bizarre sense of regret I had on Wednesday night and subsequently on Thursday morning, when I genuinely felt really down. For context, I am typically a very upbeat person and am fortunate enough not to suffer from low mood or anything similar. I have to say as a caveat at the start, that this is only my experience. Others, like Alan, had a fantastic time, and I’m genuinely glad to hear that and hope that that’s me in the future.

Firstly, I went to the first test event and had a brilliant time. The stadium looked magnificent, there were a few nice surprises, and things mostly went smoothly. I had a long walk around the whole place with my buddy Dan (who, in fact, built this very site); we took it all in and loved what we saw.

I would have begged, borrowed or stolen a ticket for the opening Premier League match but I didn’t have to because my fine friend Alex (From Bristol, if you know your Fighting Cock Podcast) gifted me his season ticket. South Stand, fourth row. AKA the noisy section. What a man. Thank you, Alex! In my head I’d turn up, have a lovely pint of Neck Oil (my Beavertown draught beer of choice) with my mates, grab some food, catch the opening ceremony and then watch us pump Crystal Palace. All within a cauldron of noise, excitement and passion.

So I left work (which is around 25 miles from Tottenham) at 16:20. In years gone by I’d have left around 17:15 to get to White Hart Lane for a 19:45 start, so it seemed like a reasonable adjustment. Traffic was ridiculously heavy. I use the sat-nav app Waze, which normally beats traffic. It didn’t. That was a slightly ominous sign for me. Anyway, I was meeting a pal in the North Middlesex Hospital car park. Our walk and chat from there to the Lane is very much part of my Tottenham experience. Familiar streets, familiar sights, the excitement building. We arrived at pretty much the same time and we found that the car park was full. I’ve been parking there for more than ten years and have never previously found it full. Of course, with the increased capacity, I expected everywhere to be busier. But I thought given it was now 18:15 and kick off wasn’t until 19:45, we’d be fine. Lesson well and truly learned.

We realised we’d have to find another car park because parking on the street in Tottenham or nearby on ‘event days’ is no longer anything like feasible; there are traffic wardens galore walking the streets and lots of parking tickets being handed out.

Neither of us had cash (it’s a cash-less stadium, after all!). We pulled over outside a shop temporarily and managed to get some money out without getting a ticket. We then drove around in the building traffic looking for an alternative car park with space for two cars. We tried five or six, and ended up going up and down the now very busy High Road. After a stressful search lasting 35 minutes we found a car park with spaces left near the Redemption Brewery. Shout out to Hopspur!

By this point it was getting close to opening ceremony time. As we got out of our cars, an enormous hail storm erupted in a near-biblical fashion. We ran towards the stadium, getting soaked along the way. As we approached, we went our separate ways to our seats.

The first bank of stewards were great. There was barely anyone around, they checked my ticket in seconds, and I went through to security. Security at Spurs now resembles airport security where you walk through a giant scanner. Again, there was nobody around so I had the pick of a huge line of scanners; I walked straight through and into the stadium. It was rammed.

By this point I was starving hungry, gagging for a pint and I needed to pick Alex up a programme. None of these were possible if I wanted to catch the opening ceremony. The queues were enormous, and the concourse was totally full, having to squeeze past people to get anywhere. At the old Lane, the concourse was busy right before kick-off and at half-time, but queues for food and drink were generally not too bad and I don’t recall ever waiting for more than five minutes pre-match for a coffee or a beer. Conversely, at the first test event, some friends of mine waited over thirty minutes for a burger… realistically, not many people are going to queue thirty minutes for an £8 burger at a football match, so that is an issue to resolve.

Anyway, I queued for the toilet and then made my way to ‘my’ seat. I was finally there! After what had felt like a long 18 months, I was there! After what had felt like a hell of a long journey to Tottenham from work, I was there! Relief. Now just soak it up. Look around, take it all in, sing your heart out.

Pre-match there was a smattering of singing, and then the ceremony started. The ceremony was the ceremony. I could say a few things about it but it’s personal taste and some people loved it. The local school choir were lovely. We move on.

Kick off. A roar to open, a couple of the old favourite songs (‘Oh When The Spurs…’, ‘We Are Tottenham…’, etc) and then… and then Crystal Palace’s fans kicked in and a few minutes later they’re singing ‘just like the Emirates’, ‘can you hear the Tottenham sing?’ and ‘your support is fucking shit.’ To no response.

And I was part of that no response. It was freezing. It was midweek. I was knackered. The team were on their worst run of form for seven years. I get it, I get it all. I thought the new stadium would supersede all of it but we’re only human. It wasn’t great. The wall of noise I expected in the South Stand just wasn’t really there. And I found that desperately disappointing.

In hindsight it all makes total sense. The routines and connections are not established yet. Everyone’s getting to know their new neighbours. Getting to know the acoustics. Learning how to sing as one again after Wembley (where songs are essentially competing). Besides, we’re not a Palace who will sing constantly — we never have been, never will be. We sing in fits and starts, and we take the roof off when we do. But the roof didn’t come off. And that was why I felt disappointed. That’s on me, not everything is Hollywood perfection.

For the whole of the match I was thinking about how I’d have to leave early. Getting away from the parking space I was in was going to be a nightmare if I didn’t, and I had a 6 o’clock start in the morning. ‘Maybe I could just run on the whistle?’ — ‘From row four, are you mad?’ –‘Maybe I could just go a couple of minutes early?’ — ‘You and half the stadium.’ I convinced myself. And for the first time in twenty-five years of football-going I made the decision to leave on 80 minutes… Christian Eriksen scored the second goal just as I got into the concourse and was in the process of buying programmes. Spoiler: I probably made the right call; my friends didn’t get out of the the carpark for nearly an hour, whereas I got away pretty quickly and was safely tucked up in bed with a hot milk* by 23:00.

*I have never drunk hot milk in my life.

I spent the journey home wondering why I’d not had the best night of my life. I felt like a fraud. Someone else could have had that ticket and had a wonderful night. I knew I’d look back in years to come and be delighted that I went to the first proper game at the new Lane. But at that moment I felt low. It wasn’t what I’d imagined; the journey, the atmosphere, the vibe, the experience… not to mention not getting to see my pals, have a beer, have some food.

It’s all of my own making. I’d built it up into something it couldn’t possibly be. I’d been caught out with the travel. Of course it was going to take time to be perfect. Of course there would be teething problems. Of course with everyone getting in early for the ceremony the bars would be full. It won’t always be that way.

For clarity: once it clicks it’ll be magnificent. It looks stunning, the acoustics are stunning, it’s still in Tottenham. The three key ingredients are there.

The travel? That’s going to take some time. I learnt a tough lesson. If I want to go to an evening game again I’ll need to take a half-day off work to be sure I make it. I’d recommend to anyone planning on driving to White Hart Lane in the near future that you leave an extra hour and a half to two hours to get there and get parked safely. Plan ahead — have a back-up route, have back-up parking, have cash on you.

Public transports was, by all accounts, just as much a nightmare (though Tottenham Hale station was apparently far better than the alternatives). I honestly don’t know what the answer is there.

So there we go. My experience. It wasn’t what I’d hoped but ultimately I saw Spurs win in their first proper match in the new stadium. And I’m moaning. The entitled, modern Spurs fan.

Edit: It’s been pointed out to me having written this that using the hospital car park to go to a football match is not right. To add context, for the years we’ve been going there the car park has mostly been made-up of Spurs fans and has never been full, and so it has never even occurred to me or my family or friends that this would be an immoral thing to be doing. Instead, I hope that we’ve slowly been giving hundreds of pounds to the NHS that they’d otherwise not have had, and at the same time not stopping anyone parking to visit a friend or relative or drop someone off at A&E because there were plenty of spaces left. Obviously now I know that football fans *will* fill up the car park, potentially stopping someone getting access to the hospital, I won’t be using it anymore.

Join the conversation

  1. Hi mate, totally understand how you're feeling. I think everybody felt weird, even those that had an amazing time. I think people may have been expecting to much from the opening game. Everything has changed from the way people need to get to the ground to the way food is served and ultimately it doesn't feel like home(yet). That combined with being away from home for so long, the form of the team and the sense that we are in a little bit of a limbo at the moment doesn't help. So many small issues are there and will be fixed in time. Personally i think the biggest problem is going to be atmosphere, in a way its similar to the London stadium, everybody has just been thrown together, and the relationships in each parts of the ground need to be established. Some people are also hoping to stand and others wanting to sit, this balance will take a year or two to get right i'm afraid, i was really hoping the club would allow season ticket seat transfers after the season ends but this doesn't seem to be the case. I'm actually of the opinion that the change of stadium at this time of the season is actually a blessing for our fans(maybe not the results itself, but time will tell), i think 6/7 games will will be a great batch test for the club when it comes to sorting out the logistics etc. Because there were multiple issues (stewards, not enough food/drink etc) And for the fans i think 6/7 games in the new stadium is the perfect balance especially with emotions running high, and the preseason will give everybody some time to absorb and reflect on our new home. I'll end by saying that if we finish in the top 4, the first sunny Saturday home game of next season will when you start to make a real connection to the place, although hopefully i'm wrong and it starts with a glory glory champions league night. Keep well
    1. Agree with all you say.
    2. This was really well put and yes, it really did feel weird. It actually made me feel really, really sad about old WHL for the first time. Which is a strange thing to say on what was meant to be a happy occasion!
  2. So sorry you didn't have the evening you wanted, that's pretty gutting. FWIW I've always gone to the ground by car. First with my dad, then under my own steam. For many years from north west London then from the south coast. Driving has got more difficult (particularly with the river crossing) as traffic got ever worse but it was how I went to Spurs. As you say, part of the experience. I've spent a lot of time ever since the first information about the ground came out working out how I would travel. The club hasn't made it easy to find stuff out. I've gone over the CPZ detail with a fine tooth comb! I've looked at road closure info and considered where I could park. Anal? Maybe but I'm glad I did after reading your blog. I came to the conclusion that it was no longer possible to drive to WHL. There were just no options left where you could be confident of parking in any sort of reasonable walking distance from the ground. So we're now having to go on public transport, we had it fairly sussed and it was OK and we stayed to the final whistle. But it's not how I want to go to a match. But if I want to go (which of course I do) public transport is I feel my only option. As to the noise I'm in the upper West where I've always been. So we 'rely' on the ends to get the noise going. The West is almost never going to start things! When the south stand sang the noise was awesome. But it was horrible when it went quiet for long periods and the noisy gits from south of the river were mouthing it off. I've been hearing a lot on Twitter of people who are clearly in the 'wrong' area for their style of support. We could debate why that's happened but the wonderful Alan Fisher has told me I've got to let it go so I won't go on about it! It's going to take a while for it to shake out. I worry about the club's refusal to consider ST moves this summer. Why not a ST exchange for those who do/don't want to sit stand sing whatever and are in the 'wrong' area for them? I did enjoy my first visit. The stadium was magnificent. The concourses and food and drink situation was disastrous but it didn't spoil it for me. We seem to have been lucky with the people around us. I hope you get to really enjoy your next visit.
    1. Hi Jill, from what i've heard the club are only going to allow ST exchange after one full season, perhaps to give everybody proper time to get a feel for it all.
      1. Yeah I've read that too and I do get the club's logic. I'm just imagining an 'electronic swop shop. 'Quiet supporter, does not like to stand has lower south stand ticket, would consider exchange for west stand ST!' Can't see how that would hurt anyone, not too onerous for the club and could really help people in the 'wrong' place.
    2. Thanks for your comment, Jill, always enjoy engaging with you. I think it'll have to be public transport for me from now on too which means a bit more of the annual leave from work, and a lot more advanced planning. I was foolish to think I could just add on an extra hour and everything would be fine. Maybe it'll settle down a bit in time. Glad you were lucky with the people around you!
  3. I understand your story and can see the facts from your point of view. A few things to comment, however; it is important for those reading to acknowledge these are your accounts of the day and shouldn't tarnish their own experience as so many had the perfect day out (many enjoyed the opening ceremony and the operatic entrance). In addition, although it may have been the best way for you to get to the game on the night, there were numerous messages, tweets etc stating the lack of available parking and to use the public transport. Nearly doubling the capacity would imply it would be more difficult to find parking, I can only have so much sympathy for those who were concerned about having to leave early due to traffic - this is only to be expected now! Cheers for all your tweets and updates though, keep them coming!
    1. Cheers Joe, think you make good points and I was foolish to think I'd only need to add an extra hour onto my arrival time. In hindsight I should have tried to take a half day at work.
  4. Hi Windy, Thanks for sharing your experience. From reading through your account i'd suggest that you were a victim of circumstance having suffered the perils of driving anywhere in and around North London at rush hour and this sort of driving related stress will always linger no matter what you were then going to do. Personally I'm an advocate of getting the train - next time try parking somewhere near Cheshunt (or Turkey Street which is close to the training ground) which provides a direct train line and you're close to the M25 for getting out. Its not perfect and you wouldn;t have been in bed with your hot milk at 11pm but would definitely alleviate the stress pre-match. As someone who has always sat in the Paxton I'm happy in my own skin that I'm not going to contribute to the atmosphere by singing and screaming; however I have an unpopular opinion that the 'great atmosphere created by the Park Lane/Shelf Side at WHL' has always been something of a myth - WHL always carried an amazing sound when it suited us (i.e. beating Woolwich, the champions league nights) but if we're drawing 0-0 with Palace, Stoke or Bolton after 30 minutes it can be ghostly silent. I'm sure next time you go to a weekend game when there are less people in the same place and the novelty value has worn off a little you'll have a much more positive experience.
    1. I think you're spot on and I'm hoping that's the case. Thanks for the tip-off about the trainline. Weekend games won't be so bad but it'll definitely become an 'all day' thing as I'll need to take a train which will add on an extra hour either side.
  5. Wish I was there, but I wasn't as I'm not in the country, but at least I was able to watch on telly. I understand why you were disappointed, Windy, and it sounds as though what you experienced would've been disappointing for anyone. That said, I think the club have done a decent job of letting fans know that driving to the stadium isn't a good idea, and while I appreciate you had your reasons - and that public transport can be terrible - I'd still suggest your main takeaway ought to be not to drive there at all in future. On the subject of atmosphere, one thing really stood out to me, watching the broadcast: in days gone by, we sang 'Come On You Spurs' at all sorts of points in a match, but the main one used to be when the team were underperforming and we'd gone a bit quiet - someone would start it up and the stands would suddenly start bellowing as one, urging the team on, and ideally giving them a bit of a lift. On Wednesday, it seemed clear to me that we sang it when the team did something good. I've no idea how you change something like this, but it seems emblematic of the way we, as a fanbase, have changed in recent years. We're all waiting for the team to give us something to sing about, and when they don't we just wait. I take GRPD81's point, we've never been a club whose fans sing throughout the match, but there really does seem to have been a shift in perception: we used to think we could sing the team better, now we'll only sing when they're good. No amount of acoustic engineering will fix that.
    1. Thanks for your comment, Bish, and I think you're right that driving isn't going to be viable anymore. I'll need to take half days from work and use public transport instead. That's just going to be the sacrifice that I'll have to get used to in future. Really interesting point in your second paragraph and it's something I hadn't considered before.
  6. Thanks for the story, Windy. I'm just a 30%er yank, but I've always enjoyed your opinions on Spurs via The Fighting Cock and Twitter. After reading this, I'm quite optimistic that this experience will only improve for you. The gripes that you point out aren't permanent issues that could never be alleviated (ie functional issues with the stadium like not being able to see it provide a great atmosphere) - so that gives me hope that this will eventually fulfill your hopes and expectations of our new ground. Keep your head up!
  7. I'm in the camp of absolutely adoring it, while acknowledging all the issues you raise. I think that was partly influenced by having been off that day so got there on opening for a proper mooch around. Totally blown away by the design and significantly all the attention to detail that linked us to the old girl. That for me takes it beyond the 'soulless bowl' types. Like anything it will inevitably take time and there will be a shake out, but in terms of expectation i was really, really blown away by it.
  8. We always used to drive but parking restrictions made it increasingly difficult and stressful. Now I’ve moved to South London and get the train but my dad drives to Enfield Town and gets the train from there. Works for him and it seems a decent compromise. As for the stadium, there were always going to be teething problems but they are resolvable and will sort themselves out over time as people work out their new routines. Next week people won’t get in as early and many will plan to drink/eat elsewhere so the bars and food kiosks will probably be quieter but there might be queues at the turnstiles just before KO instead. We’ll eventually find a happy equilibrium. I had a fantastic night but went accepting that it wasn’t going to be White Hart Lane and that things wouldn’t all be perfect on day 1. But what a stadium we now have to settle into!
  9. Midweek games I've always found quite stressful in terms of time and I haven't considered driving up for one since 2012 (think the last time I did was Basel; got stuck in High Rd gridlock then a van crashed into me, Bale got injured ... not a great night). I think the problems you experienced were actually quite predictable but can totally sympathise. Must have been a bit disorienting. Home but not home. I couldn't get a ticket (not an ST'er) but wasn't too bothered - I'll bide my time, and anyway was just so relieved we won, which was fantastic. As much as we could have hoped. I'm sure the Lillywhite Wall will eventually be heard - people in the south stand will surely see it as their responsibility not to be known as the Wall of Whingers. The X-Factor singer from the local school had a beautiful voice. Very taken by the music beforehand; so glad it wasn't crass pumping noise but quality live performances. Simple too. Hats off to whoever organised it... and I know for a fact the musical director is a big Spurs fan.
  10. Hey Windy, Sincere thanks for the plug - you're a good man. Being at Spurs lifts my heart and spirits. Feeling the emotions, touching the past, all part of it, so I wrote about that. That feeling at kick-off - never to be forgotten. I also wrote about the stuff that wasn't so pleasant - there was a lot of arguing and several proper fights during the 90 minutes over standing/sitting. Real anger. So no blue heart/stadium emojis either. And as the blog says, we nearly didn't make it either and felt the stress that goes with it. Nothing about the facilities, queues, food, because all I saw of them was the toilet. Didn't even bother having something to eat or drink, meet mates, no time. Not quite what I planned after two years of waiting, but that's how it was, have to get to know the stadium another time. Take care my friend


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