Why it wasn’t always Tottenham for me
Just in case you’re not all bored enough by the interlull, I thought I’d bore you with how I came to not be a Tottenham supporter until I was fourteen years old.
Like most things, it wasn’t my fault: At the start of the 1976-1977 season my fourteen-year-old brother sat me down and informed me that, having just turned six, I was now old enough to choose a football team to support for the rest of my life.
Despite what was about to take place, I didn’t think this was going to be a difficult decision for me: I already knew I wanted to be a Tottenham fan. My brother was a Tottenham fan, after all, and so were the very cool family next door.
Plus, being six, I loved the name Hotspur, so even though we didn’t live anywhere near N17, I didn’t need to choose. I was already Spurs, me.
My brother had other ideas, though: I was already sharing (and therefore destroying) the cherished privacy of his own bedroom, running around like a demented little-me in all of his hand-me-down clothes, mucking around with all the toys he hadn’t quite finished mucking around with himself, and, even worse, starting to loiter on the fringes of everything he did with his mates.
I wasn’t ruining another element of his life by being a Tottenham fan as well.
“You can choose any team you like,” he said, producing one of those football league ladders you used to get in magazines like Shoot at the start of every season. “Except Arsenal or Spurs. I’m Spurs. And I’m not having an effing Gooner sharing my bedroom. You disgust me enough as it is.”
There being an eight-year age gap between us, and my brother always being prone to massive fits of rage if I didn’t do whatever he told me, I didn’t have much choice in this. Not having a clue who else to support, though, I couldn’t decide, so my brother made me read every team-name on the Shoot league ladder out-loud, which, at that time in my life – where I hadn’t completely mastered reading out-loud without spraying spit everywhere – proved an almost impossible task.
Finally, though, with my brother correcting every mispronunciation and reinforcing every syllable by administering a friendly little Chinese burn to either one of my wrists, I reached the last but one name on the ladder:
West Brom – (phlegm) – wich… West Brom – (phlegm) – wich… West Brom – (phlegm) – wich Albion.
And that was how my brother decided I was to be a West Brom fan. Because I couldn’t pronounce Bromwich without spraying massive volumes of spit everywhere.
I was always a Spurs fan at heart, though. The first football match I can clearly remember watching highlights of on TV was our 9-0 demolition of Bristol Rovers (back in the day when Division Two matches were sometimes featured prominently alongside Division One games on Match of the Day). I can also remember, as a seven-year-old, listening to match-commentary on a crackly old radio and then running around our back-garden with my brother and our next-door neighbours celebrating the fact we had secured promotion back to the First Division by drawing at The Dell. Surely acting on some sort of natural instinct every non-Gooner shares, I joyously celebrated Arsenal losing two FA cup finals and a European Cup Winners’ Cup final in the late seventies, and, of course, our own FA and EUFA cup triumphs of the early eighties. Also, when I was about twelve, our next-door-neighbour lent me a Jimmy Greaves autobiography (This One’s On Me), and I read that from cover to cover about five times, mesmerised by Jimmy’s sense of awe at the great double-winning side he joined, and his obvious reverence for Bill Nicholson, Dave Mackay, the Glory, Glory Nights at The Lane, the genius and tragedy of John White…
Although I always had to be shifty about it with my brother (who was still very territorial about his right to be the only Spurs fan in the house) I had properly fallen in love with the glorious Spurs by the time I was thirteen, and never paid anything more than lip-service towards my enforced support for West Brom.
Which was ironic, given I could now say their name without spraying spit everywhere.
The situation finally came to a head in late 1984, when I was fourteen. At my dad’s insistence, my brother, then in his early twenties but still living at home, had been taking me with him to games at White Hart Lane since the start of the 84-85 season. Given the age-gap between us and the fact we had virtually nothing in common, the two-hour-plus train and tube journey to and from the ground could be tortuous, but, the more often we went, the more the mutual distrust between us seemed to thaw, which had probably been my dad’s hope all along: Even so, despite my increasing whining about the situation, my brother still insisted I wasn’t anywhere near cool enough to be allowed to support his beloved Spurs.
I can’t remember how many games we’d been to by the time our home game against West Brom came around in early November, but more than enough for me to stand there on the terracing directly beneath The Shelf and realise I knew the name of every single Spurs player by sight but couldn’t name a single West Brom player lining up against us.
That was the day I finally stood up to the tyranny of my brother and told him – and, since then, anyone else who’s ever been bothered to ask – I don’t care what you say; I’m Spurs, me.
You’re still a little twat, though, my brother snapped back, and then got back to belting out Come On You Spurs… a song I finally felt able to legitimately join in with myself.
And, obviously, bloody West Brom turned us over 3-2 that afternoon, the first time my brother and I ever saw us lose in the flesh, and yet another thing he’s always blamed me for since.