For me the love affair with Tottenham Hotspur started in the black-and-white days of the 70s. Growing up in Cornwall made it difficult to see my Lilywhite heroes play live football, but nothing would keep me away from the television on a Sunday afternoon when the Big Match would start at 2 p.m.
The fantastic Brian Moore would always commentate on the main game and on the occasions that Tottenham featured, my nose would be inches away from the television screen, scrutinising every aspect of the game and giving some long distance vocal support.
White Hart Lane seemed like a mystical faraway place, we had no family car and certainly no money for special treats, so travelling to London, which is over 300 miles away was extremely difficult. Then, much to my amazement, I heard the news that on May 3rd 1978, Tottenham would be playing an end of season friendly against Truro City in Cornwall.
At the time, Spurs had just been promoted back to the old first division after securing a 0-0 draw against Southampton at The Dell. Even at the naive age of 14, I could see that this result conveniently suited each side, with both clubs being promoted back to the top division, but to me this did not matter. Tottenham were back with the big boys and I was going to get the opportunity to see my team play in the flesh for the first time.
Oddly enough I don’t have many memories of the Truro City game itself, apart from the result. Spurs won 8-2, with goals from Stead (2), Pratt, Taylor, Duncan, Falco and Armstrong (2), but the most memorable part of the evening was when Tottenham midfielder John Pratt, winked at me and signed his autograph at the end of the game.
The supporters did not always appreciate John Pratt, but to me this moment of acknowledgement from a Spurs player was very special. I am now a grown man, married with a son, but I still remember that moment with great affection.
At the age of 16, I started work at an engineering company in Falmouth. The work was enjoyable, but more importantly my wages allowed me to save some money, so that I could watch my beloved Spurs play more regularly.
After watching the FA Cup final and replay of 1981 on a black-and-white TV set at home, I was determined to get to the FA Charity Shield at Wembley in August. Aston Villa would be our opponents.
I left Cornwall on the Friday night train, which arrived at Paddington at around 6 a.m. the following morning. Having travelled on my own, I was slightly apprehensive about what to expect from London and the game itself. I enjoyed walking the London streets at dawn; everything seemed so quiet, apart from the road sweepers brushing the grey pavements before the arrival of visitors, shoppers and workers who would fill every square foot of space.
After strolling along the Thames Embankment for an hour or two, I worked out on how to get to Wembley via the London Underground system. The first glimpse of the Twin Towers and Wembley Way sent a shiver down my spine. It was like revisiting a famous battleground, but instead of Napoleon and Wellington, the famous commanders were Burkinshaw and Bond.
This is where my lifelong love would be cemented forever. I stood right behind the goal at the Tottenham end. This was dramatically different from my first match at Truro City. I took a moment to look around me; to see what I was part of; this huge collection of people with so much passion. That feeling of energy and excitement was overwhelming.
The crowd capacity on that sunny Saturday afternoon was 92,500! Wembley Stadium was gigantic, not only in size, but also in history and tradition. I tried to imagine what it might have been like three months previously when Ricky Villa scored that amazing goal that clinched the FA Cup for Spurs.
Finally, the teams came out to the most amazing crescendo of noise. My senses tried to keep up with all of the information they were receiving, the images, sounds and even smell combined to make an electrifying experience.
England’s international goalkeeper Ray Clemence was making his debut for Tottenham after spending 14 years at Liverpool football club, but unfortunately, it was not a debut to remember.
On this occasion his handling was poor, helping Aston Villa to score twice from centre forward Peter Withe. However, this detail was not going to spoil my day, mainly down to the efforts of Mark Falco, who also scored twice.
Watching fantastic Tottenham players such as Glenn Hoddle, Osvaldo Ardiles, Graham Roberts and captain Steve Perryman out there on the lush Wembley turf almost brought me to tears, but any signs of this were quickly brushed away by my blue and white scarf. The game ended in a 2-2 draw, this meant both clubs would share the shield.
What a feeling, what an occasion! This fixture had always been considered to be an over glamorous preseason friendly. God! What would it feel like if it really meant something?
Hopefully, I would eventually find out.