15 February 2011



Through the ether

12 February 2011

Shortwave memories

There’s little that can touch the thrills my brother and I shared listening to football commentary on shortwave radio.

Growing up in the US in the late 60s/early 70s, the radio was our only football source.

Soccer’s takeover of the US collapsed for a first time in red ink in 1968. The TV companies, initially curious at this odd sport played by men with strange names and haircuts, figured your average Joe in Omaha didn’t get it. The plug was pulled on the flow of cash though the fledgling North American Soccer League, the rump of two (yes, two) competing pro leagues, limped along.

Our local team, the New York Cosmos, were reduced to playing before a couple of thousand on Hofstra University’s skin abrading astroturf pitch. It had a bigger camber than a motorway and was barely regulation width.

That aside, we relied on a small transistor radio that could just about bring in the BBC World Service on a Saturday morning and the odd Wednesday afternoon for big European matches.

Paddy Feeney, I think, introduced the sport programme. We got the last half hour of the BBC’s featured Saturday match. The World Service stretched to full coverage of the FA Cup.

That’s me pretending to be listening to Spurs beating Chelsea in the 1967 cup final. I believe we managed to miss the match due to misjudging the time difference and poor reception.

One of my abiding shortwave memories is David Fairclough’s crucial goal for Liverpool against St Etienne in the 1977 European Cup. We could barely hear the commentary through the static, but knew instinctively that Fairclough had saved the match.

By 1977, of course, soccer had exploded on to US TV screens again. Pele, Beckenbauer, Best transformed the game. In addition to Cosmos Sarker, we got “Football Made in Germany”, “Star Soccer” from ATV Midlands as well as a hotch potch of Latin American games. Violent clashes between  England and Argentina and a similar kick-fest when Scotland visited Buenos Aires’ “chocolate box” stand out in the memory.

But, we continued to crank up the shortwave, try and tune out the static as Clough’s Forest chopped through the First Division.


10 February 2011

This is not going to turn into a football blog. Let me just get this off my chest.

I may be from Hertfordshire, but I’m N17.

My dad was Tottenham born and bred. I was brought up in the era of Jimmy Greaves, Cliff Jones, Dave Mackay, Maurice Norman and (Sir) Bill Nicholson. Most of the 70s was spent supporting from 3500 miles away, shortwave radio stuck to ear on Saturday mornings.

Later on, every other Saturday in the 80s, I stood on the Shelf at White Hart Lane (which isn’t on White Hart Lane).

Hoddle, Waddle, Archibald, Perryman and Crooks; the ’84 UEFA cup final; Burkinshaw; the nearly season (’84-’85); frantic dashes to Liverpool Street station after weeknight matches.

I’m not the supporter I was. In the 90s I more or less gave up on the Premier League – the money and Murdoch – and followed non-league football. But, the lure of the cockerel badge remains strong and the current side has all the hallmarks of some of those classic sides.

Spurs' cockerel

Nephew Ali with the Spurs' cockerel. Another generation of Bill Nick's Blue and White Army

That out the way, I have to admit I’m not impressed with the club’s manoeuvres and machinations in the Olympic stadium saga.

Unlike a certain other football club, Tottenham’s roots are north London: N17. Like any other Premier League club, Spurs has a wide-flung fan base. You’d hear plenty of  Scandinavian voices when walking to the Lane in the 80s. But, take the club out of N17 and it becomes another MK Dons.

On the other hand, increasingly White Hart Lane hampers the club’s development. You can’t get a ticket. There’s a huge season ticket waiting list. And, even back in 1980 getting to the ground was a nightmare; not to mention travelling back on public transport after a match.

The Northumberland Development Plan whilst delivering a first class 21st century stadium always looked like fudged compromise. Haringay council, Transport for London and other partners have never appeared totally convinced by the project.

Tottenham High Road both benefits and suffers from the position of the ground. Like most Victorian football grounds, it’s wedged into an odd plot, surrounded by houses, a typical ugly inner London shopping street and light industrial units.

Transport? Horrid overground service to Liverpool Street from the inadequate White Hart Lane station. Underground from Seven Sisters, about 15-45 minutes by bus or walk (usually accompanied by running battles when Man U came to town in the 80s). Car parking? Try parking in Edmonton or Hackney.

So. I’m torn.

The Olympic option presents an opportunity to develop a ground for the next century with excellent transport links, helping drive the post-Olympic legacy (ahem, I’ll blog about that and the bogus economics of stadium developments another time).

Yet, it tramples on Leyton Orient‘s territory. It rips the club from the community. It’s all about money, not the fans.

It’s not N17.