For 26 years of my Spurs supporting life I was a fit and mobile, but sometimes inebriated Tottenham fan. Everything changed for me in September 2004 when I stupidly broke my neck on a night out in Plymouth.
This incident would prove to be serious and of life changing magnitude. The vertebrae at the base of my neck had dislocated causing a spinal cord injury that has left me paralysed from the shoulders down.
Adjusting to this new way of life does not happen overnight, but I was determined to maintain two passions that mean so much to me. My love, responsibilities and interaction as a father for my son James (aged 8 at the time) and my adulation for Tottenham Hotspur.
The road to recovery was long and arduous and it would mean spending eight months at Salisbury spinal unit in Wiltshire. Despite this, I still endeavoured to keep in touch with what was happening at the Lane.
The management team of Jacques Santini, Martin Jol and Frank Arnesen were newly installed during the summer of 2004. I can remember hearing of the death of the true Tottenham legend Bill Nicholson in October and listened to live commentary on my digital radio of many Spurs games, including the dramatic 4-5 North London derby at White Hart Lane on November 13.
Along with the fantastic support from my family and friends, this passion for Spurs kept me going and I yearned for a return to some live action at the Lane. This desire was realised for the last game of the season on May 14, 2005. Our opponents would be Blackburn Rovers.
Plymouth Spurs members club knew of my predicament and had purchased a disabled/carer ticket for my first Tottenham match to be viewed from this new perspective.
The 703 Club was our favoured pre-match location before my accident, so it was decided that we would meet up with everyone there before the game. On reaching the entrance to the 703, I came across my first obstacle. The threshold of the doorway prevented the wheels of my heavy chin control wheelchair to roll forward.
I tried numerous times to get inside, but with no success. By this time a few of the regulars who were inside enjoying a pint came over to me, grabbed hold of the bulky mechanical wheelchair and lifted me in. This was just another example of Spurs solidarity that has been expressed many times since.
At 3:30 PM (4pm kick-off), we left the 703 to find our place in the Park Lane disabled section. It was fantastic to be back at the Lane once more, to regain that familiar feeling of excited anticipation, energy and passion that I had experienced so many times before, but had missed during my time in hospital.
That was five years ago and I have been back at N17 (and away) many times since that day in May 2005. Now that I am watching games more often, (Bronze member) I am realising that there are many good points and bad points to being a Spurs supporter in a wheelchair.
In total, there are 92 places for Tottenham wheelchair users and their carers at White Hart Lane. There are 24 low level in the South Stand (underneath the away support), 56 low level in the North Stand and 12 upper tier in the North Stand. The majority of these 92 places belong to season ticket holders.
I have now been fortunate enough to experience all sections, including the North Stand upper tier, which is by far the best place to view Spurs games as a wheelchair supporter. Unfortunately, the Park Lane lower tier (disabled section) is very close in proximity to the away support. For some this might not be a problem, but it can be very annoying if the result is not going our way. Having said this, those moments when Tottenham score at the Park Lane end and the player celebrations are just in front of us can be exhilarating.
What I do appreciate is the friendly and cooperative communication with the disabled ticket office when endeavouring to purchase home match tickets at WHL. However, because of the lack of wheelchair places, this is not always a successful task.
Purchasing disabled away match tickets seems to be an easier option and because of this, I have enjoyed games at Derby County, Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa.
When I have been successful with home match tickets, I also appreciate the visit from the Disability Liaison Officer, who attends all areas for the disabled on the day of the match, to make sure everyone is happy. This personal contact does make me feel wanted and important to the club, which I certainly did not feel when I was able bodied.
Another perk that I noticed in 2008 and 2009, was the availability of Carling Cup final tickets. While thousands of loyal Tottenham supporters missed out on these momentous occasions, I was successful in getting a ticket at Wembley for both finals.
There are 310 places for wheelchair users and their carers at Wembley Stadium. This of course does not guarantee a ticket, but helps considerably with the disabled demand. The facilities at Wembley and the elevated, panoramic positions for wheelchair users, are the best around and makes the match day experience even more enjoyable.
The prospect of a new Tottenham Stadium has been well documented and the initial designs do indeed look fantastic, but I am sure that it is the disabled Spurs supporters who are the most eager for a change.
I endeavoured to get a wheelchair place for the last home game of the season against Bolton Wanderers, but the crumbs available for Bronze and Lilywhite members meant that I was unsuccessful and once more reliant on a returned ticket.
Even though it will be a sad day when we finally leave White Hart Lane, I for one will welcome the new stadium and the luxury of getting a home ticket with greater ease.
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Ian its nice to hear you giving the Disabled point of view i meant to email you but computer crashed and i lost your Message its Davspurs or Anky sponge back and plastic hip. You may have broke your back Son but your spirit and courage is a credit to you and lets hope with future medical breakthrough you can walk into our new Stadium and i can wake up without feeling like i have been run over every day since i was twenty three .Yes you get used to living with pain and there is help containing it but my problem is i wont take the Medicine to ease it only every now and again when it becomes to much .You must get fed up with medication and i hope you enjoy your life like i have Good and bad times because if you can put your head on your pillow and sleep with a clean conscience you are a good person with a disability . God Bless you and your family your a credit to Spurs and disabled and able people lets hope we get to Wembley and fourth my prediction and the start of the season.
Beautifully written and good luck to yougeting improved access to home games.
It really gives one a very different perspective on life as we often moan and groan about trivial problems and here you are upbeat and positive after all you have gone through.
You are a credit to humanity and we are very fortunate to have you as a fellow Spurs fan.
And may your son grow up to play in a Spurs shirt (presuming he loves football). I have one son that loves the game and another that could not give a damn, in fact he tells me he likes Arsenal just to wind me up.
Keep smiling 🙂
However, you shouldn’t have mentioned the Wembley perk, as I know a few of us who would break our necks just to get there and you may find it considerably harder to get tickets this time around!
I HAVE SPINAL TROUBLE AS WELL BUT NOT TO THE EXTENT OF SOME OF YOU POOR GUYS BUT ENOUGH FOR THE SPINAL UNIT DOCTORS TO RETIRE ME AT THE AGE OF 52 I AM NOW 63 , I WAS A CRACKING FOOTBALLER SORRY ABOUT THE BUMING AND BLOWING BUT YOU YOURSELF KNOW FULL WELL HOW GOOD YOU ARE BUT ITS TRUE GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN A TRIAL FOR BURNLEY AND SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY IN MY YOUNGER YEARS VERY SIMLAR IN STATURE AND PLAYED VERY MUCH LIKE OUR OWN ALAN MULLERY BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE FULL TIME RANKS ACCORDING TO THE PEOPLE WHO YOU WOULD THINK NEVER PLAYED THE GAME IE LIKE THE CHOSEN ONE FOR INSTANCE , MY THOUGHTS GO OUT TO YOU ALL AND HOPE LIFE BRINGS A SMILE TO YOUR FACES VERY SOON . A SPURS FAN FROM 1960 COYS KIND REGARDS GUYS JD.
A beautiful and inspiring piece. I too hope we get the nod for the new stadium so loyal handicapped supporters, as yourself, get the chance to attend games consistently.
Beautifully put in true Tottenham spirit. Good luck and keep up the good work
An inspiring and intelligent read. Beautifully put across, your passion for spurs and life despite your difficulties is an inspiration to us all.
Slightly irresponsible for you to drunkenly put yourself at risk when you had a young son to look out for, but I wish you all the best and enjoyed your piece. Look forward to winning the league at the lane again.
Well, well Ian.
Thanks for including me in your link, I am glad to have found you again! I read your story of your return to the Lane (following your injury) with interest. We had an amazing day and I even managed to park that bus!!! We realised a dream together and I will never forget it. My boys are doing their bit this season and I always think of you when I watch them. I have not been to the Lane for a bit, but when I next do head back to the countryside!?!
Love to the family
[…] Sit Down If You Love Tottenham The management team of Jacques Santini Martin Jol and Frank Arnesen were newly installed during the summer of I can remember hearing of the death of the true Tottenham legend Bill Nicholson in October and listened to live . […]