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Tuesday
Jan242012

Pure Joy

BY JOHN W YOUNG

The date was May 3rd 1971. I was a floorlayer and a diehard Gooner working in Hounslow and due to change my workplace the following day. Anyway, my foreman came to me and said , as I was going to White Hart Lane that evening, you’d better get off now as according to the radio, the High Road in Tottenham was already filling up with fans going to the game. This was about 3pm. Unfortunately, I had my tool bag with me and didn’t want to take it to the game.

I wasn’t overly worried because I lived just round the corner from Seven Sisters tube station. I’d just pop home , drop it off and join the throng proceeding along the High Roadd. It was still only 5.30, plenty of time I thought. Thousands of people were all walking towards White Hart Lane and as I got closer anxiety started to grip me?

What turnstile do I use? The place was heaving, it was totally packed. Eventually I found a fairly orderly queue which I joined but it moved forward very slowly indeed. All of a sudden out of nowhere it moved forward very quickly, people were running in fact and I had little choice but move with them.

There were just three turnstiles in operation and everybody was trying to enter via them. I got caught up in the mass of people at which point I decided to retire to a safer distance.  Standing on a low wall opposite the wall of people, I witnessed some disturbing scenes of women screaming, big men being carried out of the crowd and some desperate souls trying to enter the stadium by climbing up the high brick wall ( which had barbed wire covering the top of it ). Some succeeded, others were not so lucky.

The turnstiles eventually closed with loads of people, including me, locked out. Still, I thought I’d hang around to get the crowd reaction as the game progressed. It wasn’t to be. A row of mounted police moved slowly along the road and pushed all us locked out fans back to the High Road. Disappointed I wouldn’t watch the match in person my next aim was to find a pub and wait until the final whistle. Again, it wasn’t to be. Every pub in the area was jam-packed full of punters, presumably with the same idea as me.

At this point I found myself back at Seven Sisters tube and figured I might as well head home and try and catch the game on the radio. “What you doing back so early,” asked Pat, my wife. “I got locked out,” was my sullen reply. I headed straight to the radio in the hope of finding a commentary. I couldn’t find anything…I kept fiddling with the tuner…nothing, nothing, nothing, then something.

I’ll never forget it. There was a singer, (I don’t know who it was) singing, “Stormy Weather,” when the female disc jockey announced, “…and they’ll be stormy weather over Tottenham tonight as Arsenal have just scored.” Ray Kennedy with just three minutes of the match remaining had scored the only goal so far to put Arsenal in front. The song returned only to be interrupted again with the news that the Gunners had won and were subsequently First Division champions. Oh, the joy! The absolute unadulterated joy of that moment. 

Happy doesn’t come close to describing what I was feeling. It was ure joy, unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Micky Thomas’ goal at Anfield in May 1989 runs it very closely – in fact every time I see his goal on the TV it brings a lump to my throat. But Spurs 1971, that was the best. 

I dunno, this football malarkey, it does things to yer dunnit . I just love it and I’ve been watching for over 60 years now…

Reader Comments (1)

Great memories John.I was at college in Westminster and had arranged to meet my brother Alan outside the ground.I was there about 3.30 and is was chaos.I couldnt find Alan so I just waited as the crowds grew.Just before 5.30 the police moved the group I was in to the front of the Park Lane turnstiles so I was lucky enough to get in .Alan didn't .He only worked at Wood Green and was there at 2.00!!
I ended up at the Paxton Road end as it was less full .THe ground was heaving with Gooners and I can still remember the chaos at the final whistle. I walked home to Finchley that night a happy man!!
My best live experience.

January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMadGooner51
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