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Spurs away in 1987 – How it was, when it was

1 month ago

We’ve all seen the images (photos/video) on The Mag of the near catastrophe that could have occurred at White Hart Lane in February 1987, when we visited Spurs for a 5th round FA cup tie.

Fast forward two years and we know what happened at Hillsborough. Or at least we now know what happened, some 30 years since that awful day in South Yorkshire.

Without getting too much into how the establishment covered things up and tried to apportion blame on ordinary working class people, let’s just say it could have been us.

My first trip to White Hart Lane had been a couple of years earlier than that 1987 match against Spurs. My lasting memory of that particular day was of paying in at the away turnstile but on entering the ground, only hearing Cockney accents.

Cue some initial panic before I realised that those with the funny accents were actually Newcastle fans; the one I remember most vividly being a kid not much older than I was at the time, sporting a green Giorgio Armani jumper with a Burberry checked shirt underneath. I had to have both and whilst I managed to acquire the shirt, I never did the jumper, which has remained elusive to this day. Oh, and Chris Waddle was labelled ‘Judas’ every time he touched the ball. Imagine my incredulity when my mate asked why we were shouting the name of a renowned butcher at him. I’ll leave it at that.

Back to ’87 and Clive Allen’s solitary strike did for us as they marched towards Wembley, where they succumbed to Coventry City (that reminds me, an away day at Highfield Road might feature in a future article).

The journey down on the overnight Rapide had been relatively uneventful. A few of us making the journey and heading into central London early doors after we disembarked at Victoria. After a few pints around Covent Garden, we jumped on a red double decker (goodness knows how we knew it would transport us to the home of Tottenham Hotspur) but we got to the ground shortly before kick off. Once we got inside, our numbers dwindled as the sheer volume of fans grew and continued to do so.

Eventually, with the terrace bursting at the seams, some of us scaled the metal fence at the front and dropped onto the cinder track between the advertising hoardings and the pitch. I had a brand new pair of red adidas jeans trainers and cursed as they disappeared into the mud which was about four or five inches deep. As our numbers swelled, the police led us onto the terracing to the side, which had been left vacant to segregate the travelling hoards of toon fans from the Spurs lads who pelted us with pretty much anything they could get their hands on.

I recall we played well and didn’t deserve to lose, but we did, and another cup run was over.

Once outside, all hell was breaking loose. I recall seeing one of the Gremlin kids I knew jump into an industrial sized metal bin to avoid a couple of punches that came my way instead. Thanks mate, I’ve never forgotten!

I was completely separated from my mates and on my own by this point and knew I had to get to Seven Sisters tube station. I headed off in that general direction, not necessarily knowing the way (no Google maps in those days) and praying I’d latch onto some Geordies along the way. The bigger the better. However, all I could hear were cockney accents and I didn’t suppose many of them supported the toon.

As darkness fell, I wasn’t too far from my intended destination when that dreaded question was asked of me. Rather than saying I didn’t have a watch, I fronted it up. Despite a kick up the arsenal from a nasty looking character who no doubt would have gone the full distance had he been given leave to do so, my bravado seemed to work. As what I could only presume to be the leader of this particular pack, told the kid who’d booted me to calm down and leave it out.

Instead of being on the receiving end of might have been a nasty hiding, I was accompanied to the tube station by some of Spurs’ finest. As we left each other, I expressed my gratitude and in return, they said that no one had impressed them more than we had that day. Although we’d played well and should have at least forced a replay, I took it to mean that they meant off the pitch.


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