Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Memories & The Future

(originally written in Feburary 2012)

Google Earth is a wonderful thing and show just how far technology has come in a short space of time. From the comfort of your own home you can now be transported to anywhere in the world in just a few clicks, although bizarrely the first place everyone usually goes to is their own home! There or somewhere from their past.

That’s what happened to me the other day. I found myself looking at Hull, a place I know from my university days back in the early to mid 90’s. A great city to be a student in and also a very sporting city. One of my big regrets from my time there was never making it to The Boulevard for a Hull rugby league game and especially not making it to a Hull v Hull KR derby match. The passion that I saw from both sets of supporters was equal to anything I have seen in football and I would have loved to have seen it at first hand.

After a few minutes of flitting about the city, my eyes were drawn to The Boulevard. Now no longer used following Hull FC’s move to the KC Stadium I was struck by the sadness of a now crumbling stadium, still standing in the photos, but now looking eerily quiet and deserted. I could only imagine what it feels like for a supporter, someone who had gone week in, week out, handed over their hard earned money to support their heroes, to look upon such a sight. All of this made more difficult to comprehend by not having been there myself. I had however been to Boothferry Park.

The sight that greeted me at the former home of Hull City FC was even more shocking and heartbreaking. The basic shape of the ground was still there but the stands have gone. All that remains is the ‘supermarket’ end and a few bits of terracing. Street view allows you to see between the houses into the overgrown wilderness that once saw football league matches played out. It’s a strange feeling looking onto such a scene and set me off on a trip down memory lane.

From Hull I moved on. The Goldstone Ground, Brighton. The Dell, Southampton. Elm Park, Reading. The Manor Ground, Oxford. Highfield Road, Coventry. Maine Road, Manchester. Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough and finally Roker Park, Sunderland. Some are now just housing estates or industrial estates, any signs of their past now erased. Others are still there on the aerial shots in various states of decay or redevelopment. Street view which is a little bit later shows houses appearing on some sites. Roker Park holds a special place in my memory as it was the first ground I went to as a child. It is now totally gone. If you didn’t know where to look you’d probably miss it. I’ve actually only been past it once since it made way for the Stadium of Light and I nearly did but the internet being a wonderful thing, pictures of the old Clock Stand where I sat for that first game can still be seen and memories can linger on.

All this nostalgia though was well timed as only a few days later news filtered through about the NDP moving a step closer, thanks to the injection of money from Haringey council and The Mayor of London, money that will enable the town of Tottenham and the surrounding areas of the ground to be redeveloped. This news though also comes with a tinge of sadness and regret as it hastens the end of White Hart Lane as we know it.

The move to new stadiums is the right thing to do for some clubs, Darlington FC being the obvious and current exception. I understand all the arguments and reasoning coming out of Tottenham and I agree wholeheartedly with them all. It is vital for the club to move forward and start to realise its full and true potential. However as with any step forward, human nature says a part of you will always miss what was there before. WHL holds precious memories to all of us who are proud to call Tottenham Hotspur our team. The arrival of *insert name here* stadium won’t diminish those memories, in fact it will probably make them even more cherished. But it will still be a sad time when the Park Lane end finally leaves this world.

I for one am sad that grounds such as Boothferry Park, Highfield Road and Roker Park are no longer with us. The current young generation are already ignorant of the joy and fun that standing on the terraces at these grounds brought. Soon future generations will be ignorant of just how ramshackle football grounds used to be as well. Maybe that’s a good thing but then again when the newer grounds start to be replaced, maybe they’ll have their memories to warm them.

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