The Wembley season.
Wembley is OKish, but I wouldn’t call it home away from home. More of a stopgap. The Wembley staff there are very obliging, but you can see that they are not in the Tottenham staff mindset. Saying that, there are plenty of Spurs employees that are there to help you with any detail.
But before we get onto Wembley let us go back a bit. As I said, I’ve been a Spurs supporter and goer since the beginning of the 60s. In the 80s, I become a Member and then in the 90s a season ticket holder. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the new century, I had to give it up. But that didn’t stop my continuation with Spurs (i.e. going). I become a Bronze member. I haven’t missed a home game in years.
When the new stadium was talked about and more season tickets would be allocated I wasn’t sure that I would get one because of where I was on the waiting list (eventually, though, I was offered one). On a visit to Wembley for the League Cup, I noticed a stall/ section about Premier seats. I talked to the Spurs rep, and he booked me into Lilywhite House for a chat and promotional talk. It was a Friday. My appointment was at 11 am. I left early, but got caught in an accident and was held up for a few hours, finally getting to my meeting at 11.30am (I parked in Sainsbury’s Car Park). I was so impressed with what I was told and shown that I signed up immediately for five years. The reasoning was; even though I might get an offer of a season ticket, with 40,000 of them available my chance of getting to a cup final or any final featuring my team would be next to none. As a Premier or Executive member, I would get a Cup Final ticket. On top of that the price – even though steep – it included all home matches (unlike season ticket holders, which only included league matches), food, a match programme and 80% chance of going to an away match and meeting former players etc. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and with hindsight, a very wise decision. In the meantime, there were Wembley home games. So, when I could, I signed up for a year for an all Wembley Premier Hospitality membership.
As the days ticked by and the Finale came and went, I waited for that day so that I could go to a match without getting on my computer, getting into the waiting stream and hoping that I would get my ticket. I also prayed that either the computer didn’t crash or that our power wasn’t cut (which usually happens in my village).
As the days drew nearer to the first game of the season – at home – my excitement boiled up within me.
But first, I had to find somewhere to park, and luckily for me, I had a cousin who lived in South Ruislip. My cousin Susan welcomed me with open arms and of all Wembley matches I parked on her drive. A quick walk to the bus stop (5 minutes away), then a 15-minute ride to Ruislip Manor station and then on to Wembley. Total time that was taken, approximately 40 minutes. I used my cousin’s hospitality for Watford and Chelsea away games.
Finally, I was here. Our first match was a friendly against Juventus (this match wasn’t covered by my Premier holder’s card, as it was arranged by an outside company). So this match was just an ordinary friendly game without fanfare. Nevertheless, we won by 2 goals. A good start… and hopefully a good omen.
Before I could start off on my journey to my temporary home, we had an away fixture against Newcastle United. A game we won 2-0. Then on to our first “home” game at the famous Wembley Stadium. And who did we face, but none other than the previous season’s Premier League champions and our nemesis Chelsea. A game I thought we dominated and should have won, but didn’t. We lost 2-1. No talk at that moment in time of jinx… yet…
But before the start of that match, I knew that I was promised certain perks, but not where to go, if anywhere. So I asked about free programmes and free meals and the Wembley staff looked at me nonplussed. Confused I just wandered around until I met another member of staff (Wembley staff) who pointed me to the “Gold Bar – Premier” section. Which was a room closed off from the usual throng of Spurs supporters. Once in, everything fell into place. I was given a free voucher (for food) and a free programme. I had got there two and a half hours before KO (the ordinary fan was only allowed in an hour, or an hour and a half, can’t remember which, before KO). There I got talking to like-minded people, who became friends. There I met Alan Gilzean and Alan Mullery – this wasn’t the first time I had met these legends or others, and got my photos taken with them. We chatted about old times and past Glory’s. We were also given live music, and the food was excellent (of course, some may disagree, but I am a man of modest tastes). Overall, a very worthwhile and exciting day. I couldn’t ask for more, other than a better result.
So, all that sunk in I was ready for the next instalment at Wembley. That came seven days later and was against Burnley. But before all that I got in the ground, when officially allowed to, made my way up the escalators’ and to my designated Executive room, got my food-ticket voucher and free programme and helped myself to free cups of tea (or coffee); as much as one could drink and then allowed the atmosphere to waft over me. Half an hour before Kick Off I made my way to my seat (as I did for the Chelsea game) with a cup of tea in my hand.
Our first delve into UEFA Champions football at our new stadium and it was against Borussia Dortmund. Our first tentative steps in that competition last season didn’t go well. But this was a new season, new home (even though temporary) and of course we had learnt from past errors. Every season we were getting better and better.
Before the UEFA match, the critics had labelled our group stage as the table of death, so when we won 3-1 against one of the favourites, the critics and some of the fans were taken back. Then the excuses came out “it was a blip,” “just luck,” and “we were at home”. But no matter how the critics expostulated, it was a result and a good start for our Champions League campaign. Nevertheless, some thought that once we got going, we will be put back into our place. Nonetheless, it was an exciting evening. We all went home with our heads held high.
Flying by the other matches we faced and defeated Bournemouth, the first team we beat on our new home pitch. Before that the critics we saying that Wembley was jinxed for us, so we went on and won 1-0. Of course, we had beaten Dortmund, as I said, and Burnley in the League Cup. But it would be the League that defined our Wembley travels.
Being a Premier member gave me certain perks, as I said. And one of them was a chance to go to some away matches. So instead of picking an easy game, why not throw caution to the win and go to the mother of all games/ stadiums, yes, Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. What excitement that was. Well, first I had to wait for the ticket. Once getting it I had to plan my trip. I asked other Premier members what the best way to go was and they pointed me to the Sports Travel firm Sports Options. So I booked, price £200.
When we arrived, we were shown to the stadium, and then the coaches made their way to Madrid city centre. We took in the atmosphere, had something to eat and then – in our wisdom – decided to walk back to the stadium, not having a clue how long it would take us. Luckily I had my iPhone (map service). The walk took us well over an hour and a half. What I didn’t say was that I suffered from arthritis in the knee and foot… so that walk didn’t help, but we made it. I say we, as I got talking to a fellow Spurs supporter and he accompanied me back to the stadium. Once there we walked around the stadium, took in the atmosphere and finally went in. As I had paid a bit extra, I wasn’t with the bulk of the Spurs supporters, which were put in the corner at the end. I was near the goal line and had a bloody good view.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is an impressive stadium. Just being there takes your breath away. We drew that match 1-1 and were ecstatic and on a high. That stayed with us all the way until we got back home to Stanstead. A night that will never be forgotten.
But it didn’t end there; after the Madrid game I travelled to Borussia Dortmund’s stadium, there, and before the kick off I had a great time going around Dortmund town, having a great meal, then back to the stadium and took in their fantastic stadium, where, I might add, our “Wall” was modelled on. The result was no letdown as we won 2-1. Leaving the ground we were in high spirits, and we made our way back to the coaches, then an early flight and home by 2pm. What a 24 hours journey, what an experience.
Our return leg was at Wembley on the 1 November, and the stadium was a sellout. We had high hopes, and we weren’t let down, we beat the 2017 European Champions Real Madrid, and of course, they went on to win it in the Champions final against Liverpool.
Another Champions league match, this time against Apoel, who we had already beaten 3-0 away. At Wembley, we duplicated the result and with another great atmosphere came away with our heads in Cloud Nine.
We were undefeated and at the top of our Champions league table. Second was Real Madrid. It said it could never be done and that we would finish that group stage in an inferior position and with our heads held down.
Who next, would we face in our journey in the Champions League route? We didn’t have long to wait, and it was Juventus, the team we had faced way back at the beginning of the season. Remember, we won that friendly 2-0.
Another trip aboard, this time to Turin and Juventus’s famous stadium. Again the atmosphere was great, the town was excellent and the food was exceptional. And expensive. I hooked up with some Premium/ Executive members, and we found an Italian restaurant and had a bloody good meal. We were served with great wine. Then we made our way back to the stadium, took the atmosphere in and settled ourselves down to the match.
After an abysmal few minutes and going 2-0 down we quickly rallied ourselves and then got on top and never looked back. We drew 2-2.
Getting back to the plane we found there was trouble. A group of Tottenham Hotspur supporters decided to abuse a stewardess. The police were called, the aircraft was held up for 3 hours, thus getting back to Stanstead at 4 am. Not a pleasant way to end a terrific day. I then get a ticket for speeding, even though I didn’t realise it. I took the option of a classroom fine, saving me from points on my licence.
In the return leg we played well, but their experience showed as they nicked it and won 2-1 (4-3 agg.). That was that and the end of our sojourn into Europe.
My last narrative was when we beat Bournemouth and Burnley in the League Cup. After Burnley, we faced The Hammers at Wembley, after going ahead, we quickly dropped behind and lost 3-2. The hammers were ecstatic, and we were pissed. Moving on…
In the league, we beat Liverpool 4-0 at Wembley, lost to United away, beat palace at home, then travelled to Arsenal’s ground where we lost (a game I went to)… A draw with WBA, at Wembley, was followed by Leicester City beating us 2-1 away. Watford, another game I went to, we could only manage a draw. These games we should have won.
Getting back on track we beat Stoke City, who were eventually relegated, 5-1. That was followed by us beating Chris Houghton’s team. Then the big one. City was running away with the league, and we had a chance to show our metal, alas, it wasn’t to be, and an away trip to the City ground saw us lose 4-1.
After the City game, we went undefeated in the league until 14th April, where we lost… yes, to City again, who went on to win the title. Five games left and one defeat out of those five games. And that was to WBA, who ended up relegated.
We finished the league season in 3rd place. Behind, City and United. Below us were Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. We ended up the only London team in next season’s Champions League. Away from home, even our “home” games were away from home. So finishing 3rd wasn’t anything to sniff at.
I must add, but didn't mention, on the 1st April I visited Chelsea’s ground and we got a famous victory by stuffing them 3-1. The atmosphere was great, not for Chelsea fans of course, but for us. That day turned out to be a great all-around day.
To our FA Cup run. We started the competition by beating AFC Wimbledon, this was followed by victories over Newport (twice), Rochdale (twice), Swansea City and a trip to Wembley for the Semi-Finals, where we got knocked out by United (2-1).
So, that was how our Wembley year ended, and how I ended that unique and exciting and enjoyable year. Next up, to our new home at W17.
Conclusion: I enjoyed the Wembley Premium experience and the hospitality I received from all the Tottenham staff and caterers there. It indeed was a year to remember, off and on the field. Met some delightful people and made some friends. What more could one ask for? Oh, yes… a trophy or three… better still the league & Cup double. Let us not be greedy. One step at a time and then a mad dash to the finishing line. Wouldn’t it be great if we achieved that in our first season at our new stadium? Yes, the Glory days are coming!!!!!
By Glenn Renshaw