We were fortunate that Birmingham City was not a team that most fans considered a powerhouse, otherwise tickets would not have been available. As it were, there were a decent number of tickets available for purchase so I snapped up a pair that ended up being very good. The alternative would have been trying to buy them off 'touts' (scalpers) and since I had no idea whether you needed a club membership to get in with tickets from touts, I went the safe route and booked tickets online a few days before we left.
Since the game was in North London, we took the train to White Hart Lane Station and found our way to the ticket office. Other than the food and merchandise carts, you wouldn't know there was a match about to start. I found this a little odd because I'd always read about the fanaticism of the fans all over the Prem. No saturation of signage and neon. After getting through the line for our tickets, we walked around to our gate, and made it through the narrow entrance, noting that we were the only ones who were getting in, and the game had only just started. I should say that the entry way past the ticket takers is so narrow that I could not fit walking straight through and had to walk in sideways. Maybe this was to prevent any rushes into the stadium or they just wanted to keep Diego Maradona out, both laudable goals. Drew Brees would have a difficult time threading a pass in there. I forgot to take a picture because we were hurrying to get to our seats.
We discovered that we were the only people who weren't in our seats in the entire section (when was the last time you went to a pro or college anything and that happened?). We were on roughly the 35 or 40 yd line and the seats were right on top of the field, which was nicer than Bryan Park, like plush green carpet. We sang 'When the Spurs go marching in' which is very close to a song that means something to me. Dad and I quickly took a liking to the Spurs no. 7, Aaron Lennon, who was mentioned as a potential member of England's national team soon after this game.
The game proceeded with the Spurs dominating possession, as they moved the ball fluidly around the field. They had difficulty getting the ball inside 10 yards of the goal, as the Birmingham defense didn't let many balls through. Luka Modric broke his leg getting tackled while going for a fifty-fifty ball. However, this was the best thing that could have happened for the Spurs, as Peter Crouch went in as his sub.
If you've ever watched a game from Europe, you know the fans spend much of the game singing their club songs. Exactly what they're singing is another matter. I expected to be able to understand the chants word for word, but they sounded exactly like they do on television. I don't know whether this says more about the quality of the sound on televised matches or my difficulty understanding British chants. I was pretty familiar with 'When the Spurs go marching in' but had difficulty interpreting things outside of "F%$# City" or "Arsene Wanker."
Everything changed with Crouch, as the Spurs were a bit slower on offense
with Modric out but were able to play above the opposition. Birmingham City's offense came out of nowhere and held onto the ball well, producing some good scoring chances. Some poor defensive execution nearly gave some away a goal or two.
Halftime meant that everyone left for the john and for food. We didn't have to deal with people leaving four times for more food or to pee in the first half. This was important because the seats were so cramped there was barely room to stand. Once the second half was about to start, everybody was back in their seats. There were no halftime promotions of a fan trying to score a goal from all the way across the field, no T-shirt gun, no ED ads (I'd almost forgot what it was like to go to a sporting event and not deal with the image of two old naked people in outdoor tubs). Aside from the numerous Puma and Mansion.com signs (gambling website, official sponsor of the club and occupying the center of their jerseys) along the sidelines, there were no offical tie ins. No sideline reports, no awkward and vacant interviews with the coaches going into or out of the locker room, no overplayed OutKast anthems.
The second half was much more exciting, as City's offense emerged and Peter Crouch initiated the Spurs scoring chances. Crouch tried a number of headers, one of which was stopped by a defender right on the goal line. This was then followed by another Crouch header bouncing off the top left corner of goal. As agonizing as each of these were, it only set the stage for the exciting goal, when Crouch scored off a free kick off a foul.
When Peter Crouch finally scored, there was a great mix of celebration and relief as Birmingham's defense was finally broken. Happily, It also meant it was ok to start flipping off the City fans, which I may have taken advantage of. The goal appeared to be the result of a set piece off a free kick about 30 yards away from the goal. Crouch certainly deserved to score, as he was off by a matter of inches on three earlier occasions.
Unfortunately, the Spurs decided it was ok to start packing it in, even though there were over 20 minutes left. City then scored on a miscommunication between a defender, Hutton, and the goalie. City fans were ecstatic to be tied on the road with the first place team in the Prem. Regulation ended in a tie, but there was some stoppage time from the Modric injury, leaving time for a last chance for the Spurs.
In stoppage time, City were content to play keep away and get the point. Their fans were loudly singing and feeling like they had won something. However, a City midfielder fell over on his own (seriously, watch the highlights) and the Spurs raced up the field with numbers. A great cross to Aaron Lennon led to some great stutter steps and a whistling shot between a defender and the goalie. As soon as this happened, we all immediately turned to the City fans and shouted obscenities at them as they snatched defeat from the jaws of a draw. It was swell. As that was in the fifth minute of stoppage time, the ref called the game soon after kickoff, which was just as well since several City defenders still hadn't gotten up off the ground. It was a great Spurs win, with Crouch and Lennon leading the way. Dad and I had a great time, even if we were only working on 2 hours sleep from the flight over.
In hindsight, I'm thrilled we went to the Spurs game, since they currently sit at second in the Prem, and the first place team, Chelsea, is currently banned from signing new players. Liverpool is off to a terrible start, all Arsenal cares to do is protest a UEFA ban on a forward for diving (which was obvious even for their standards) and Man U is facing similar heat as Chelsea for encouraging a player to break a contract with his French club. Given this start (best in 40 years) and the preoccupations of the big four, this is the Spurs best chance to qualify for the Champions league or even win the Premiership.
Here's the highlight video, from the BBC: