Super Supporter – That was then, This is now
I don’t remember ever seeing a league match against Cardiff City but I was at the Worthington Cup game at the Lane on 1 October 2002. It was the only time in the past 25 years that anybody had driven me up from Bournemouth to a game. Over many games and many years, I was always the driver, ferrying friends and relatives to White Hart Lane and enjoyed every minute of it. That time, though I was able to sit back and relax thanks to the most dedicated football fan I have ever had the privilege to know; Steve Trott, Cardiff City super supporter.I do not use that term lightly. He has been a season ticket holder for many years and despite having settled in Bournemouth, follows Cardiff to many away games as well as home fixtures. No fair weather fan, he has stuck by them through the lean years in the lower divisions. His loyalty and patience have been severely tested when they have repeatedly come so close to promotion in recent years, just missing out in the play offs. When it happened again the season before last and their great rivals Swansea made it to the Premiership first he was really down. Not for long though. Last season with the change of ownership having its effect, and a new manager in Malky Mackay, they finally gained automatic promotion. I don’t know if I would have had the commitment to stick by Spurs through all those years slogging it out in the lower divisions. One season in 1976 was bad enough. Imagine how great it must feel after such a prolonged absence from the top division for your team to be taking on the elite – and soundly beating some of them already (are you reading this Moneybags Man City?).
Steve used to be a colleague. We did not know each other that well back in 2002; we worked in an office of about 250 people and were based floors apart. I knew of him because he worked on the same team as my wife and you know how it is; a love of football tends to seek out like-minded people. He generously offered me a lift to the Worthington Cup game with his family and off course I bit his hand off.
He’ll be embarrassed by this but I have to say Steve is one of the most genuine guys I know. Suffice to say that from hundreds of colleagues over a 32 year career, he is one of only 3 that I have made the effort to keep in contact with. It is typical of him that as soon as he knew I had become a season ticket holder at the Lane but would struggle to get to games because of my new disabilities, he offered to give me a lift to games that did not clash with Cardiff games he was committed to. So, 11 years on, I was his grateful passenger once again as we travelled to WHL for the Norwich match.
Back in 2002
The game in 2002 was a Tuesday night game. It was on my wedding anniversary, so I had reason to be grateful, not for the first time, that my wife is also a Spurs fan.
Steve drove us up in the days before sat nav and relied on me to direct him down the A10 after we left the M25, through the twists and turns, across the North Circular Road to park on the industrial Estate which is within walking distance across the High Road under the railway to the North East of the ground. His tickets were in the away supporters end in Park Lane and I was in the lower West stand, so we separated and arranged to meet at the end of Bill Nicholson Way after the game.
I remember the game was much closer than our relative league positions would suggest. There was a good atmosphere although the ground was not full. That was due in no small part to the efforts of the Cardiff supporters. I have had to look up who the scorer was. I had forgotten it was only 1-0 and it was Teddy Sheringham who scored in the 30th minute.
Starting line-ups from 2002:
Kasey Keller; Ben Thatcher,Dean Richards, Goran Bunjevcevic, Mauricio Taricco; Simon Davies, Steffen Freund, Milenko Acimovic, Matthew Etherington; Robbie Keane, Teddy Sheringham
Substitutions: Gary Doherty for Mauricio Taricco (66); Steffen Iversen for Steffen Freund (86); Les Ferdinand for Robbie Keane (90)
Cards: Ben Thatcher (42) Y; Dean Richards (57) Y
Neil Alexander; Danny Gabbidon, Rhys Weston, Spencer Prior, Gary Croft; Andy Legg, Graham Kavanagh, Willie Boland, Gareth Whalley; Andy Campbell, Robert Earnshaw
Substitutions: Leo Fortune-West for Andy Legg (76); Layton Maxwell for Willie Boland (85)
It’s funny how sometimes when time passes; you remember the events around attending a game more than the game details themselves.
What sticks out in my memory was that when I came out of the ground to link up with Steve’s family to guide him back to the car, the police had turned the streets into something like a riot zone. There was a line of mounted police and foot soldiers in full riot gear with Perspex screens and helmets, dividing Tottenham High Road. It meant that Steve and his family were one side of the human/equine barrier unable to get to where their car was parked and I was on the North side unable to link up with them.
Carry on Constable!
No problem, I thought, I strolled up to the first policeman in the line and smiled and said something like, “Excuse me mate, can you just let me through, my mate’s a Cardiff supporter and we came up together and we need to get back to our car parked over there”, gesticulating over my shoulder in the vague direction of the industrial estate.
I immediately realised I had misjudged the situation. He did not respond. He fixed me with a really hard stare and raised his shield an inch or two. A mounted cop on a large brown horse edged sideways towards us. They clearly saw me as a threat and there was a “You shall not pass” demeanour. It felt a bit like the riot scene from Only Fools and Horses, only in this case the police line did not open up to let me through. I felt that if I did not step back immediately I might get my head cracked open with a truncheon. They certainly both seemed to have got out of the bed the wrong side that morning.
I nervously said something like “Err no worries officer, I’ll just go and stand back way over there” and walked off backwards with a nervous smile on my face as quickly as I could without turning and breaking into a run, thinking to myself “Idiot, idiot, idiot, what did you think you were playing at?” About half an hour later, after the Cardiff supporters had been directed away to the South down the High Road, the police cordon finally dispersed and my friends appeared out of the dark and we wended our way back to the car without further incident.
Back to next Sunday’s game. I think Steve has forgiven us for snatching Etienne Capoue out from under Cardiff’s nose. Steven Caulker is proving to be more than adequate compensation. May the best team win. You know who that is. I hope I don’t regret that last sentence.