Americans Love To See The Swashbucklers

One of the Premier League’s most fabled clubs, Tottenham Hotspur, returns to America to play the MLS All-Stars in Denver on July 29, with a portfolio of exciting news. Already one of the best supported English teams here with over 40 supporters groups nationwide, Spurs recently signed a new commercial partnership with Fanatics, a major North American sport merchandise retailer. The Club also announced a “compelling and exciting partnership,” a 10-year deal with the NFL to hold a minimum of two American football matches annually at Tottenham’s new high-tech, stadium in North London. The stadium, which opens in summer 2018, promises to deliver “an unrivalled fan experience… in our birthplace of Tottenham.”

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It makes me reflect back on an assignment, when I stood outside Tottenham’s stadium, the almost mystical White Hart Lane on a quiet non-match day in 1987. The Lane has stood since 1899, and its celebrated pitch is overlooked by a bronze fighting cock, the club’s mascot.

Spurs’ greatest goalscorer, Jimmy Greaves, with our first European trophy

I closed my eyes and thought about the legends who’d already graced the Lane playing football the “Tottenham way” — marvelous Mackay, acrobatic Jennings, the deadly G-men Greaves and Gilzean, exquisite Hoddle and the Argentinian wizard Ardiles. Soon would come daft, brilliant Gazza and kinetic Klinsmann, and now Harry “HurriKane” Kane.

Tottenham’s homegrown superstar, Harry Kane, all dressed up and ready to go

Then I remembered the stories of on-field achievements, including: led by inspirational captain Danny Blanchflower, Spurs were the first English team to win the FA Cup and League double in the 20th century and then the first British team to win a European trophy; English football’s greatest goalscorer, Jimmy Greaves, effortlessly gliding (like Messi today) through the whole Man-U defense to help Spurs win 5-1 in 1965; Ricky Villa leaving defenders on their backsides as he scored that memorable winning goal in the 1981 FA Cup final replay. Golazo!

Spurs have won more FA Cups than the Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers have won NFL Super Bowl trophies. And as Captain Blanchflower once poetically noted, “The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish…”

On that day of reminiscing, I could hear those echoes of glory rain down on me: “Oh when the Spurs, go marching in. I wanna be in that number. Oh when the Spurs go marching in.”

Now, with the new Premier League season kicking off on August 8, and interest in English football here in America at an all-time high, thanks in great part to NBC’s multi-platform Premiership coverage, I asked several people why they’d become Tottenham fans, a club based over 5,000 miles away. After all, it’s us fans who are the ticking heart and vital lifeblood of any sports team.

Steffan Chirazi, an expat Londoner who’s a founding member of SF Spurs, passionately recalls his “first” time:

I went with a Spurs-supporting Uncle, and as we walked up the stairs in the Park Lane, the wooden stands were thundering to the sounds of “Oh When The Spurs…” — it was deliciously asphyxiating! Then I saw the brilliant white shirts, and it became my friend, my passion, my therapy, my muse, and an extension of who I was. It still is. Spurs have always been what Blanchflower said, and Spurs have always stood for flair, and a sense of deep history.

Gonzo Spurs’ fan, Steffan Chirazi (c), with mates — “Everywhere we go…”

Rolfe Jones, another Brit, who founded LA Spurs which has over 1,200 members, proudly remembers:

My primary school teacher Mr. Silcox attracted me to Spurs. He loved the beautiful game. He spoke about Tottenham’s glory years in the 1960s. One day, he asked us all who our team was. I had to choose wisely and quickly, and I said ‘Spurs of course, Sir!’ – ‘Good Man!’ He later took us to see Spurs at the Lane on my 9th birthday. Wow! Oh do the memories, of what a day that was, live on into eternity.

Legend’s Night with Ossie Ardiles and LA Spurs’ Rolfe Jones

But it’s not just about all the young dudes, as there’s increasing numbers of female Spurs fans like Eliana Fu, another expat now in Las Vegas, who vividly recalls:

As kids we played football in a field near Wembley. I could literally hear the roar of the crowd on FA Cup Final day. I was six when I became a Spurs supporter, and later I remember Ricky Villa scoring that brilliant individual goal at Wembley, and Glenn Hoddle running about with socks around his ankles. The stuff of dreams.

Posh Spurs — Karin Manwaring and Eliana Fu at LA Spurs local, The Greyhound Bar

And newer American Spurs fans are not bandwagonning, as Karin Manwaring says: “I was looking for a Premiership club but not a traditional top-4 club. No fun! Some of the first friends I made watching games were Spurs fans. So Spurs it was, and it’s been brilliant.” Mark Gabel says, “Being a Spurs fan in the U.S. is like being a part of a select club.” And, Phil Crippen concurs, “It’s not easy for ‘fairweather’ fans to get up at 3am to watch English football. But it’s an investment that pays off in the ‘cultish’ nature of the Spurs supporter brother and sisterhood. It transcends the actual matches.”

A Spurs US youth team partner, Tallahassee Tottenham Hotspur FC

Overall, Chirazi applauds the work THFC has done here, suggesting, “Their presentation of ‘legends’ over the years, starting with our own SF Spurs/Ossie Ardiles night, has been revolutionary, something no other club does.” While LA’s Jones adds, “The Club’s breaking down barriers. Not only is Tottenham increasing our fan base but it’s also sponsoring youth soccer programs across the U.S. through its global coaching team.”

The NFL will be playing at Tottenham’s visionary new stadium in 2018

But there are opportunities to do even more promotion and better licensee merchandising. Chirazi suggests:

Americans love to see the swashbucklers, the entertainers — America was built on such characters. I think our Club’s history and our profile today could be publicly dovetailed far more. It takes time but there must be a greater awareness of what Tottenham is, and can be, for US fans. We are class, we are history, we Dare to Do!

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