When building chaos kept Spurs out of White Hart Lane … 30 seasons ago

first_img Pinterest Share on WhatsApp At 9am, just six hours before kick-off, Tottenham had no option but to postpone the match. The call came before Coventry’s staff had started their coach journey to London but the club’s chairman, John Poynton, was not impressed. “How a club can go through the whole of the close season and right up to 9am on the day of the match before informing us they had no safety certificate is incredible. They disappointed not only their fans but ours as well. Spurs were one of the so-called super five clubs but it seems they can’t keep their house in order.”Football League spokesman Andy Williamson was just as scathing. “This does nothing for the credibility of football. We were given the clear impression that work would be carried out overnight so the match could go ahead. This is not the right way to start a season.”Attention quickly turned to the possible sanctions Tottenham might face. League Regulation 24 was quoted regularly: “Any club failing to fulfil fixture obligations without just cause shall be liable to the deduction of two points.” A fine was also mentioned as a possible punishment. Either way, the committee looking into the matter on October 17 was expected to come down hard on the club.Tottenham’s fate rested in the hands of Football League president Phil Carter, Oldham chairman Ian Stott and Blackburn chairman Bill Fox. The season before, Tranmere had been deducted two points after they had failed to host their match of the season, against Bolton, due to a disagreement over police numbers. With that punishment fresh in the mind, the verdict came as little surprise. Despite protests lodged by Tottenham officials, the club was hit with a two-point penalty. “Under Regulation 24 we had no alternative but to deduct two points,” said Carter. “I have nothing against Spurs, but rules are rules and they broke them,” added Poynton.Scholar immediately announced that Tottenham would appeal the penalty. One look at the league table suggested they could do with the points back. Tottenham had only won one league match all season and dropped into the relegation zone after the hearing. The punishment did not exactly create a siege mentality within the squad; after the points deduction they lost their next four games.Tottenham defender Terry Fenwick – clearly a half-pint-full kind of guy – was worried that the punishment might stand between Spurs and the title. “It would be an absolute shame if we miss the championship by two points at the end of the season.” File that one under blind optimism.Venables, now under even more pressure, also voiced his anger. “No other country in the world would have come up with a decision like this. It’s a disgrace. What has the failure of our club’s officials to get the stand ready in time for our game against Coventry got to do with the team? It is terribly unfair when players are punished for something totally beyond their control.” The uncertainty surrounding Venables’ squad was mirrored in events off the pitch. The ground improvements at White Hart Lane had started in June, with chairman Irving Scholar confident the work would be completed before the season started on Saturday 27 August. As the weeks passed and the work continued, it became a race against time to get the stadium ready for their opening match against Coventry. With Gascoigne expected to make his home debut, a bumper crowd was predicted, increasing the urgency for the completion of the work.Scholar left White Hart Lane at 8.30pm on the Friday night before the first game, apparently with an assurance that the ground would be ready the next day. But come the following morning, it became apparent things were far from fine. With debris still to be cleared, the police and a local authority officer refused to issue the club with a safety certificate. Premier League Facebook Share on Facebook Terry Venables shows off new signings Paul Gascoigne and Paul Stewart in July 1988. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Getty Images Share on LinkedIn Twitter Venables could not hide his delight at the U-turn. “We have got back what was rightfully ours in the first place. We needed a break like this and perhaps it will be the turning point of our season. It could be the spur we need.”Tottenham did manage to turn their season around. They didn’t quite go on the title chase that Fenwick had predicted, finishing sixth in the league. They did, however, ended up two points clear of the team involved in that opening-day postponement.In the end there was no harm done to Tottenham, bar a £15,000 slap on the wrist. At least the club could use the experience as a valuable lesson and ensure nothing like this ever happened again. Oh.• This article appeared first on That 1980s Sports Blog• Follow Steven Pye on Twitter The three generations of Marcos Alonsos who have played at Wembley features Share via Email Pinterest The appeal was set for November 30. After a meeting that lasted over four hours, the Football League committee adjusted the punishment. Tottenham were handed back their two points but fined £15,000 instead. “We felt there was some doubt about the relevance of the original punishment,” a said League spokesman.“At that price we would like to buy two points every week,” a relieved Scholar admitted. “We felt strongly from the beginning that the original sentence was totally wrong. It has cost us considerably more than the £15,000 fine but you can’t put a price on clearing your name.” Share on Pinterestcenter_img Topics Gazza enjoys his new car in 1988. Photograph: Manchester Daily Express/Getty Images Tottenham Hotspur Spurs announce more delays with little chance of move before mid-March Facebook Read more It seems that hosting football matches in N17 is not solely a modern problem for Tottenham. Back in August 1988 the club failed to fulfil their home fixture on the opening day of the season. It was an appropriately messy start to Terry Venables’ first full campaign in charge. That summer had initially been a time of excitement for Spurs fans. With big-money signings arriving in the shape of Paul Gascoigne and Paul Stewart, there was optimism that Venables was beginning to build a squad capable of competing for honours. But things rarely run smoothly at Tottenham.On the pitch it was soon evident that throwing money around would not provide an instant fix. A 4-0 hammering at the hands of local rivals Arsenal in the pre-season Makita tournament at Wembley was alarming. Results in friendlies are no great barometer of a team’s potential but Spurs looked vulnerable as the season began. Twitter Football League Share on Twitter Paul Gascoigne That 1980s sports blog Read more Reuse this content Share on Messengerlast_img

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