The Finale they called it at Tottenham, the last act on this grand old stage. Farewell to the Lane. They knew it was going to be emotional so they gave everyone a flag and a T-shirt and charged them a tenner for a programme. They decked the lamp-posts along the High Road with banners hailing the end of an era and invited Chas & Dave. You can’t have a knees-up in these parts without the cockney songsters.
Once the game had been won the serious act of celebrating the history of the Lane could begin. Many club legends filed out to be paraded in the rain. David Ginola was a swaggering picture of health with a St Tropez tan after his heart scare and Cliff Jones, wing-wizard of the Double winners, defied his 82 years by jogging to the centre circle. They huddled under plastic brollies to be followed by Mauricio Pochettino and his squad and when the ticker-tape was launched into the sky they belted out Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur one more time as a perfect rainbow appeared over the East Stand.
What a finale indeed. Tears flowed and nobody wanted to leave. If you like your nostalgia spread thick this was the place to be. Pochettino’s team did their bit by beating Manchester United, fast becoming the perfect opponents for such an event with the guarantee of added glamour and strong support with no threat of spoiling the party. Goodbyes are that little bit harder after 14 successive home wins in the League and the club’s best top-flight finish since 1963.
Nearly 32,000 can say they were there for what chairman Daniel Levy called a “momentous and poignant occasion”. Many came with necks craned and arms outstretched, marvelling at the concrete shafts of the new stadium rising beside the old one. After all, Spurs are only moving next door. Chas & Dave made a valid point during their interview beside the pitch when they said the new stadium will actually be closer to White Hart Lane, which turns off the High Road. Fans will make the same pilgrimage for home games, no doubt cursing the transport links and limited parking facilities, which will feel important when the time comes.
Daniel Levy observed, “We are not moving, the new pitch will overlap the old one and our new home will slowly embrace and engulf our old one”.
Pochettino’s thoughts were, “The Lane is a place of passion and unbelievable atmosphere, the noise can be deafening and there’s a rare intimacy between players and fans that helps pass on the extra energy we have needed on occasions. Every pass, every tackle, every save and every goal we have shared together. We must carry the spirit of the Lane with us as we move forward as a club. Our future is bright”.
So, it was a strange old feeling. This place will be missed. It will be so much harder to capture the essence of Jimmy Greaves, Dave MacKay and Danny Blanchflower when the frame of the Lane is bulldozed and replaced with a beautifully-designed but essentially different new home.
Goodbye to White Hart Lane after 118 years. Hello Wembley. Hello Chinese investment and naming rights. Hello NFL London franchise.