With expectation comes added pressure, and for a club like Tottenham that have grown from mid-table also-rans to genuine title contenders in a matter of seasons, it is particularly intense. As Spurs’ Premier League stock has risen, their atmosphere has been on the wane, the burden of expectation seemingly too great for both fans and players.
White Hart Lane of the past used to embrace their team’s sense of adventure, 99% of the time failing to live up to expectations but still the fans knew and loved it because it was the same old Tottenham.
Things have changed though; gone is the novel treatment of defeat with a degree of perspective, replaced by a harsh cynicism and toxicity amongst the White Hart Lane faithful. 0-0 after 20 minutes and you can already sense the unease and urge to get on the backs of the very players they call their own.
This isn’t an isolated problem, go to any ground in the Premier League and you will see a similar pattern, I wouldn’t even say Spurs are the worst offenders, just probably the most publicised. Where Spurs do differ is in their apparent will to tackle the problem, be this through the club themselves or the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust. Naturally this is a complex issue; atmospheres have been on the decline ever since the advent of the Premier League, but for me Spurs’ willingness to act is admirable.
I was therefore interested by THST’s plans to implement a floating banner in the Park Lane end prior to kick-offs. In their survey aimed at deciding upon a design, they cite the fact they have the backing of Tottenham Football Club, Haringey Council and the Safety Advisory Group. So rather than looking like a hopeful vision, this does seem like something ready to be implemented.
The issue that polarises these atmospheric initiatives is how forced and unnatural they seem, you wouldn’t propose handing out song sheets prior to kick-off would you? Clearly there is a distinct difference between this example and the one that THST proposes, but you can understand the concern that some might have with the plans. In fact THST cited the following regarding the surfer, and for me it does raise concerns:
“It is designed to create a visual impact both in the stadium and for TV audiences at home”
Call me a cynic, but you can certainly see Lewis and Levy sitting there with dollar signs whirling through their heads. Give off the impression of White Hart Lane as an impassioned and atmospheric cauldron of noise and we can con audiences across the world to suit our own financial ends. Most accept that the club’s owners will put their balance sheets ahead of the fans, and surely it is realistic to think this current backing is to suit those particular ends. For me the rise of sports broadcasting has been a major cause of the sterilisation of the Premier League, to start solving problems to suit TV audiences ahead of those actually at the game is slightly misguided from my perspective.
This isn’t an easy problem to solve at all, and I imagine THST have their hearts in the right place. Rather than turn a blind eye, they are acting when some of their divisional rivals remain oblivious. Having looked at some of the designs I think the banner itself will look impressive and if it adds anything to the match experience you can definitely put it down as a success.
Long term though this is only a start, papering over the cracks with aesthetic enhancements. Clearly the desire is there from the fans and indeed THST, but when it comes down to it will the clubs interest really extend further than their own financial considerations?
Spurs have made a step towards improving the atmosphere at the Lane, is it a step in the right direction though?