In an age where football supporters are considered merely customers to be fleeced and taken for granted it’s always refreshing to be reminded of our importance to the game. Which is why The People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur – compiled by two Spurs diehards and respected writers Martin Cloake and Alan Fisher – will be such a welcome imminent addition to our bookshelves.
Telling the club’s 133 year history through a fans’ perspective – and their integral role in its formation and rise – the handsome tome should appeal to anyone with football in their bones regardless of allegiance. Okay, perhaps not Gooners but certainly everybody else.
Ahead of its release this month we caught up with one of the co-authors to discuss the north London club’s social history and the community that forms its heart and soul.
Daisy Cutter: This presumably was a mammoth undertaking. What was your starting point?
Martin Cloake: It was an idea both of us had been trying to develop for a few years, and we’d both worked on fragments of ideas that would eventually end up in the book. The new stadium being built by the club was the catalyst really. It’s a punctuation point in the club’s history, so it seemed an opportune moment to take stock. We were also both pleasantly surprised by the strength of feeling about staying in Tottenham when the idea of moving the club to east London was floated. That gave us a bit of focus as we started to try and develop the idea of looking at the character of the fan base and how it shaped the identity of the club. But it’s a huge project, and it can’t be definitive, as the whole point of a people’s history is that it is subjective. That was one of the things we found toughest to deal with and still deliver in the structure of a book.
DC: The book features first-hand interviews with fans. How did you go about choosing which supporters to approach?
MC: Some were people we knew through our time supporting the club, and we also put appeals out of Alan’s blog and on social media for people willing to be interviewed.
DC: One of the best things I should imagine about putting together such a book is the unplanned surprises that happen along the way. Any spring to mind?
MC: Rather boringly, I don’t remember any surprises. Which may be a surprise in itself.
DC: How has the club’s relationship with the fans and local community changed through the years?
MC: That’s something we try to look at in the book a little bit, but our focus is really on the fans rather than the club, so we don’t go into some of the really good work the club’s doing through its Foundation in the local community. We do look at the fact that there is a bit more distance between the club and the local community than there was when Tottenham Hotspur really was a source of local pride in the emerging suburbs. That distance is inevitable in an age when the Premier League clubs are global brands, but Spurs has always had a wide reach and what we hopefully show is that there’s always been a strong sense of place and identity underpinning that.
DC: What characteristics make a Spurs fan different to others?
MC: We get accused of moaning more than other fans but I don’t think that’s true. Spurs fans have always stuck by the team in great numbers and have traditionally not been given credit for that. There’s also a bit of swagger – some would say arrogance, others “flash Cockney bastards” – that comes from being a pioneering club, and from the attachment to wanting the game played with a certain style. But there are so many types of Spurs fan it’s hard to generalise. What we’ve tried to show here is some of the different facets of the fan base, particularly where we look at how fans outside the UK follow the team and create their own supporter identities.
DC: What would you say to anyone who checks out the book, likes what they see but thinks ‘Well this is about Spurs and I don’t support Spurs…’
DC: If you’re interested in social history and in football generally, we hope there will be plenty for you here. There’s very little actual football in there and while the focus is Spurs, it’s a story that could be told by fans of many other clubs. It’s really about why football is so embedded in the national consciousness.
The People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur is out on August 15th and can be pre-ordered on Amazon now.