Stories From the Vault

White Hart Lane: The iconic home to Tottenham Hotspur

By Posted in - History on March 12th, 2018 0 Comments

Tottenham Hotspurs’ iconic White Hart Lane saw its last ever match in May 2017. It wasn’t just any match, as Spurs defeated rivals Manchester United in the swansong of the 118-year-old stadium. Supporters were treated on the day as Tottenham stormed to a 2-1 win, before saying farewell to the ground.

Tottenham’s new stadium – as yet unnamed – is being constructed on the site of the old ground. The new stadium may not have the old feeling of White Hart Lane, but at least the ghosts from the former venue will be alive and well.

White Hart Lane opened in 1899, seven years after the formation of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. The site of the stadium was an old nursery which was owned by Charrington Brewery. The club initially rented the land and transformed it into a football pitch. Stands and offices were then constructed, giving Tottenham their permanent home.
Spurs’ first home match at the new ground saw the team win 4-1 against Notts County. It was the first of many home wins at White Hart Lane, although it’s hard to believe the 5,000 supporters in attendance that day would guess the stadium would stand for more than 100 years.

It didn’t take Spurs long to build onto the original stadium so that it could support a large number of football fans. By 1894, Tottenham had built White Hart Lane into a venue capable of holding 32,000 supporters. Ten years later, through purchasing the stadium and land nearby, Tottenham increased the capacity to 40,000. Over the next few decades, Tottenham would increase the capacity gradually. In 1934, the number of fans able to watch a match reached its apex as the East Stand’s development allowed for a new capacity of 80,000.

By 1953, Tottenham had installed floodlights as the desire to show night times games on television became popular. The lighting system would get several tweaks over the next 30-plus years as new lighting pylons were constructed to provide improved lighting.

One of the most striking aspects of White Hart Lane from a supporter’s perspective was the tight confines. Compared to the club’s Premier League rivals Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, White Hart Lane’s stands were practically on the pitch. The stands proximity to the lines and the closeness of supporters to the dugouts allowed fans to hear every word said. In fact, you were so close to the action, you could practically feel the sweat as it flew off of players on match days.

Television viewers always had a unique view. The main camera angle always looked down onto the pitch and the nearest touchline was always slightly obscured. Whether in the stadium or on television, supporters always got something different than at other Premier League venues.

In 2006, the seating capacity of White Hart Lane was increased to just over 36,300. It had been reduced from that unbelievable 80,000 from decades previous due to safety concerns. The conversion to an all-seater stadium also reduced the capacity. However, the writing was on the wall, Spurs needed a new ground to fulfil the fans’ ticket desire. The club also needed a new home to stay competitive in an increasingly commercial world of football.

Tottenham’s new stadium is under construction as the team play the current season at Wembley. With a planned capacity over 62,000, over 25,000 more supporters per game will get through the turnstiles. Tottenham’s temporary move to Wembley has shown just how needed a new stadium has been. The team’s average home attendance has been over 68,000 fans per match. Tottenham’s Champions League last-16 second leg fixture against Juventus alone drew 80,010. Although White Hart Lane was a great old stadium, there is no denying Tottenham were in need of a new arena. Hopefully, some of those old ghosts from White Hart Lane will still be around to add to the atmosphere at the new stadium.

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