Sports

Spurs bid farewell to White Hart Lane

Former Tottenham stars reminisce about playing at the fabled ground they will bid farewell on Sunday

They might only be moving next door but, for Tottenham Hotspur fans  on Sunday, it will feel like a family leaving home.

Spurs play Manchester United as White Hart Lane will close its doors for the last time after first opening them 118 years ago to host a friendly against Notts County.

County were the oldest team in the world and around 5,000 turned out to watch Tottenham win 4-1, with Scottish centre forward David Copeland scoring a hat-trick.

Copeland was hailed a hero, the first of many at a place where love of individual brilliance runs so deep that Danny Blanchflower's words on "winning in style" now ring the stands in capital letters.

There has been the potent Jimmy Greaves, the ground's top-scorer with 176 goals, the majestic Glenn Hoddle, the explosive Paul Gascoigne and the exotic Argentinian duo, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa.

In more recent years, there was the magical David Ginola, bewitching Dimitar Berbatov and barnstorming Gareth Bale.

But Tottenham want more than star names and fleeting moments of flair - the club want sustained success and it is with this in mind they will play next season at Wembley before shuffling 100 metres up the High Road into a bigger and better home.

It will mean 61,559 fans streaming in for home games in 2018/19, in front of them retractable turfs, the country's biggest single-tier stand and a see-through glass tunnel to watch the players run out before kick-off.

But for all the high-tech innovations, the fear is their swanky new base will lack some of the old soul.

Hoddle told a story of how, as a trainee, one of his chores was to climb up to the top of White Hart Lane's roof and clean the golden cockerel.

If that was his first experience, his last, as a player at least, was a mesmerising goal there against Oxford United, which ended with him selling the goalkeeper a dummy and tapping the ball into an open net.

Or there was Juergen Klinsmann's scintillating bicycle kick, delivered on his home debut against Everton, and the diving celebration to match.

"For me, it was an unforgettable experience to play there," Klinsmann said.

"I've never felt the connection so deeply in a stadium between the fans and the players.

"You cannot describe the energy you feel on the field because you feel responsible to deliver something to your fans. And I will never forget that."

Or there was Bale, the emerging superstar, running Inter Milan and their befuddled right back Maicon ragged as Harry Redknapp's team treated the fans to a 3-1 triumph in the Champions League.

Glory European nights came in 1972 and 1984 when Spurs overcame Wolves and then Anderlecht, both at White Hart Lane, to win two Uefa Cups.

Tottenham have already secured their place at Europe's top table next term and they will all but guarantee second place in the Premier League with a draw against United.

For former Welsh winger Cliff Jones, whose Spurs career ended on the same pitch against United 49 years ago, it will still be all about the glory.

"I'll be thinking back to the memories of when we played - us young men going out on the pitch and so many of them who are no longer with us," Jones said.

"But we've also got to beat United. My last game was against them and I scored in a 2-2 draw. I wouldn't take 2-2 on Sunday. I'll take a win." - PA SPORT

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