By Andrew Warshaw
May 15 – When the final whistle blew on Sunday to confirm Tottenham Hotspur’s highest top-flight finish in English football for 54 years, it wasn’t just coming second that prompted thousands of delirious fans to invade the pitch.
It was the end of an era, the final game after 118 years at one of the most atmospheric and fabled grounds in the country before the north London club move to a spanking new stadium 100 yards down the road.
Almost prophetically, as the fading sunlight combined with the mother of all downpours, a giant vivid rainbow arched over the stadium, perhaps symbolising hope and optimism for the future on what was a highly emotional day for those, like this writer, who have supported Tottenham passionately through thick and thin (more often than not, painfully, the latter!) for decade after decade.
It was lump-in-the-throat stuff for everyone of a certain age, reviving memories of some of the great occasions and legendary names to grace a stadium that will be still be known, when it is replaced by a 61,000-seater world-class arena, as White Hart Lane (pending naming rights) and which should be ready for action by the season after next.
If the 2-1 win over Manchester United to complete a rare unbeaten home record in Tottenham’s final season at the iconic old ground wasn’t an historic milestone in itself, once the pitch had been cleared by stewards and uniformed police after several pleading announcements, the afternoon was given unforgettable poignancy with the parade of 48 former Tottenham legends plus a cinematic trip down memory ‘Lane’ narrated on giant screens by renowned Spurs fan, actor Kenneth Branagh, chronicling the illustrious history of the club and rendering many fans misty-eyed.
No sooner had the occasion, billed as The Finale, ended than work started resuming on demolishing the stadium, home since 1899 to Spurs who will play at Wembley next season while their new state-of-the-art arena, adjacent to the existing ground, is completed.
But while it was a day for nostalgia, it was also a day to celebrate a history-making, if not trophy-winning, season for the youngest side in the Premier League, assembled by manager Mauricio Pochettino who was rapturously feted by the fans for achieving what no other Spurs manager has managed for half a century even though a first league title since 1961 once again eluded the club.
It was only fitting that the post-match ceremony should draw to a close with a Gospel choir belting out a moving rendition of ‘Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur’, the club’s anthem, as reams of ticker tape cascaded down to round off the party atmosphere.
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