As a youngster I lived just off White Hart Lane, on Devonshire Hill Lane. If you are not familiar with the area, let me explain.
The two Lanes meander, going through sudden 90 degree turns for no apparent reason while roads of different names suddenly take over straight ahead. At one point the two Lane’s cross the Great Cambridge Road – also known as the A10 – a dual carriageway carrying cars north/south in and out of London.
When I was a child in the area in the 1950s (thus I show my age, having no shame) I watched football in White Hart Lane – but not at Tottenham, because Tottenham was not and is not in White Hart Lane. The only football ground in White Hart Lane was about 200 yards from my home – it was Wood Green Town, an amateur club.
Wood Green Town FC had been around from the earliest days of football, and their programmes (some of which I still have from the 1950s) welcomed supporters to the “poor end of White Hart Lane”.
But poor only meant in relation to football, because the western end of the Lane was gentrified with Edwardian houses. Indeed Norfolk Avenue, where I set the home of Jacko Jones in the novel “Making the Arsenal” runs within a few hundred yards of White Hart Lane. Jacko’s family are traditionally Tottenham supporters.
Wood Green Town FC is no more – so no more that an article in Wikipedia, to which I made a few minor contributions while writing Making the Arsenal, has now been removed in an act of footballing vandalism.
The excuse is that in 1976 clubs merged to form Haringey Borough F.C. and in a moment of savagery, equal to that of Wikipedia editors, Wood Green Town FC was removed.
To move from the old Wood Green Town ground to the Tottenham Ground along White Hart Lane is a crazy journey, involving a zig zag procession that would make you think you must be off track. Indeed if you try to do it in a car, you can’t actually cross at the A10, but have to do a fairly long detour.
But supposing you are on foot, you cross the A10, pass the Tottenham Cemetary on the right (appropriately enough) do a 90 degree left at Creighton Road, a 90 degree right 50 yards later, then another, then a 90 degrees left, pass White Hart Lane railway station and on for another 100 yards and you hit, Tottenham High Road, wondering where the hell the football ground is.
Could you have missed it?
In fact, no, because White Hart Lane has no football ground other than the old ground of Wood Green Town. To find the Tottenham ground you have to turn right, walk along the High Road and there’s the ground, in the High Road, in Park Lane, in Paxton Road, and in Worcester Road.
And you suddenly realise, that while the Wood Green Town end of the Lane has some Edwardian houses in, you are now in the darkest depths of London. This is not a place to be out at night.
Not at all.
Why the club insist that they are in White Hart Lane is anyone’s business. Maybe the had a row with dear old Wood Green Town, whose memory was probably deleted from Wikipedia by Tottenham fans.
Whatever the reason Tottenham’s ground (I use the word lightly) is not in White Hart Lane, is not even opposite White Hart Lane and has never been so. It is a myth, a con, a trick, a travesty.
The ground laughingly known as White Hart Lane was built in 1899 and has a capacity of 36,310.
The record attendance was achieved on 5th March 1938 against Sunderland and was 75,038.
There is talk of a new stadium on the old site, with a capacity of 56,000. But when one remembers that the firm involved in the scheme is K.S.S Design Group who also did Stamford Bridge, then you know the idea is not really serious.
The ground was originally a disused nursery owned by a brewer – and at that time it was known as the High Road ground. The disreputable Archi Leitch (whose career gets a once over in Making the Arsenal) did the redevelopments there, and at Chelsea (where the whole terracing broke up) and Fulham (at the same time as Chelsea!) and at Rangers (where the terracing collapsed and many were killed). Much of the work was done in and around 1910 – which is how I came across all the detail.
If visiting the High Road ground it is best to take a parachute just in case.
This is the ground where Tottenham Hotspur played their first league match against Woolwich Arsenal 100 years ago, with both sides knowing that relegation was a real possibility.
A very big crowd wandered from the White Hart (which was in Devonshire Hill Lane, just to add to the confusion) and all the other pubs and walked to the ground.
You can read about London and the Arsenal in 1910 in Making the Arsenal by Tony Attwood (that’s me).
More on Arsenal in 2010 here