The Long Goodbye

Time is slipping by all too quickly. We can take a breath for a week with the international break, but soon the breakneck rush of the Premier League will return. And now there’s only four games left. Four games at our home. Our church. Who left their finger on the fast forward button?

The end has come hurtling toward us so fast that we’ve barely had time to take stock. We’ve been too busy getting caught up in this whole playing football thing. Tottenham have made us so invested with events on the pitch that our attention has been somewhat diverted away from the changing foundations around it.

And yet every time you make another journey to White Hart Lane, you are greeted with the ever-growing spectre of progress. The stands keep climbing higher and the structure becomes more defined and still it doesn’t seem to feel any more real. Each time you see it the amazement grows at the scale of the behemoth we will one day call home. And still it doesn’t quantify that we must leave our little box that stands in its shadow.

Four more games. How is it not setting in? The quiet from the club has been slightly disconcerting. No one wants to repeat the messy tribute to West Ham’s Boleyn Ground. But silence creates uncertainty. And now we’ve learnt that perhaps there’s more than four games, perhaps it’s not the end, not yet. The lack of fanfare makes some sense now.

So, it falls on the fans to make the last few months special. Maybe that’s the way it should be. That’s how it’s been for over a century. White Hart Lane is the home of Blanchflower and Greaves and Hoddle and Ginola and Bale. It’s the home of Bill Nicholson. It’s the home of the double winners and the Glory Glory nights. Above all though, it’s our home. And so, the official silence suits us in some respects. It provides an opportunity for each to have their own personal goodbye, to pay tribute however they may wish.

Equally though, the lack of conviction only makes the farewell more torturous. As the current season draws closer to a conclusion, the doubt is growing. Without a definite future, it is more difficult to place a weight on each visit. You try and prepare yourself emotionally, but there’s a creeping feeling that you’re going to be repeating the process all over again next year.

The sooner there is some clarity, one way or the other, the more comfortable we can be. I’d personally prefer a quick death. For the past couple of years, I’ve been looking to this season, set in my mind that it’s the farewell tour and ready to embrace every moment. After moving up to Newcastle, it’s been much more difficult to get to the Lane and so has become even more important to cherish the last moments. The unpredictability of the ballot application process has emphasised this even further. 

The fixture announcement in summer made it feel somehow bigger. Arsenal and Manchester United in the last two games. Perfect. The old place would get the grand farewell it deserves. After coming so close the previous season, our dreams even dared to conjure up a title as the ideal tribute. This has faded away, but still the hope of silverware and possibly an unbeaten final campaign at home have set up a worthy conclusion to an almost 120-year story. 

I never really want to leave. This is where I’ve seen clips of The Shelf bustling and Ardiles dancing. It’s where my grandad saw Arthur Rowe’s push and run side. It’s where my dad saw Tony Parkes make the save that brought European glory. It’s where I’ve sat and stood for twelve years, idolising Defoe, Keane, Berbatov, King, Modric, Bale. Where I was lost in the sea of limbs as Harry Kane found the far corner with his head. It’s also where we found ourselves in fits of laughter in the Park Lane as he let a free-kick scramble through his arms.

With family and friends, we’ve all shared our own moments that we can talk about in ten, twenty, fifty years, when fresh ones have been cemented in the new home. It’s difficult to let go of the setting that has staged it all. But I don’t want this to be drawn out any longer. I’m ready for that special final chapter, with those four very last memories. I just want to be sure.

Confirmation is likely to come in the next few days or weeks. Then I’ll know when to step slightly slower and take a slightly longer glimpse at the old place before heading through the turnstiles. Perhaps linger for longer in the stands after the full-time whistle. Possibly a few more pictures to try and freeze that memory. Singing just a little bit louder.

One last breath before the curtain falls.