Monday, 11 July 2011
Going to the match
I recently read Stuart Maconie's Hope and Glory and it has inspired me to write something vaguely serious, something about why we support Spurs, in fact.
Actually, about why anyone supports any team, about why we go to the match. I guess, in the light of the unseemly Modric mess (itself part of a wider and even grubbier malaise) it's something depressingly close to me groping for a reason to believe.
In the book, Maconie takes a significant day from each decade of the 20th century and so builds a timeline of how modern Britain was made.
In the '60s, he chooses July 30th, 1966. But it isn't this one that made me think about football, our club and why we support it.
That was prompted by an earlier entry, 3rd May, 1926, the first day of the general strike which, at one point, looked like sparking a British workers' revolution.
Maconie uses it as a starting point for an exploration of the wider history of industrial action and so, inevitably, discusses the miners' strike of 1984. In particular he focuses on the Battle of Orgreave.
At one point, he says: "After watching working people, men you drank with, men you went to the match with, brothers, husbands, fathers, beaten with truncheons and charged with horses for defending their livelihoods..."
Now, I'm not going to pontificate on the strike, the politics or the sentiments (or even finish the point he's making). That stuff's all far too important to be kicked around in this comical little corner of the internet. But, I did find the whole thing quite moving - and was particularly struck by the phrase "men you went to the match with".
I like that phrase. They are all good honest words and they describe what we do. We go to the match. We go in foul weather and usually return in foul moods, but we still go and we go together. Two of us, or 36,000 of us, depends how you count these things.
And that, I thought, is what's important - important in terms of football and what it means, not important in terms of the decline of British industry and the dismantling of workers' rights, obviously.
Nothing thrills like victory and nothing crushes like defeat. But these are just the high and low notes. They're not the main body of work.
What supporting Spurs is actually about, or at least has come to be about, is the people I've been going to the match with for quarter of a century. And the people I met last season at matches. And even the THFC Twitter community who I've never been to the match with, but surely will one day.
It's about going with friends and meeting their friends, who instantly become your friends, and then they bring their brother, or their son, or their Dad, and you shake hands and you buy drinks and, straight away, you're off...
You may all only meet up at one or two games a year, but somehow you're all friends, and the group keeps widening, season by season, and conversation always flows. There is always something to talk about, something we care about. Not the weather or the telly or fucking interest rates, but our beloved team, our dreadful curse, our reason for knowing each other.
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club have probably brought me more pain than joy over the years. They absolutely cannot be relied upon. I have learned this and learned to accept this.
But supporting Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, just going to the match, that has enriched my life hugely. (This is quite close to saying I support Spurs despite the team itself, isn't it?)
I hope this isn't mawkish or deluded. I don't think I'm either. The very worst football supporters (some of the very worst people, in fact) that I've ever met have been Spurs fans.
I have nothing in common with them and wouldn't wish to spend a second in their company. But that's because I've met more Spurs supporters than I have any other supporters. We've got our idiots just like every other club (although not every other club's manager calls his supporters idiots on national TV about three times a season).
But, forget them; I go to Spurs and talk about Spurs with some of the very best people. And so, probably, do you. And that's why, even though when we eventually sell Modric to Chelsea I will, for a while, believe it to signify the very end of days, and even though when we lose 0-1 at home to Everton on August 13th, that bloody cat will do well to make itself scare, I will continue to go to the match.
Well, I'll give 'em just one more season, at least.