Updated: May 10, 2020
The idea of Julie Welch's book was to write about Spurs as if it were a person, to get beneath the familiar historical role call and uncover the personality of the club Julie has carried a torch for ever since Toni Szamek of Form 4A at the City of London School for Girls first mentioned Danny Blanchflower to her all those years ago.
And Julie was the only person who could have delivered. Spurs caught her youthful imagination in that unforgettable and irreversible way a team takes hold of you, providing something around which to forge an independent identity and which fires a loyalty you can’t shake. Julie’s a fan, but a fan who has also plyed her trade as a football reporter, enabling her to see the greater canvass and providing her with the ability to seek out and illuminate the people and the stories that make real history, folk history.
This, then, is the story of Spurs as you’ve never read it before. It’s a thorough history of the club, but one which draws on context and memory and is wittily, brutally, joyously honest. It’s not long before she describes being as Spurs fan as “a lifelong form of helpless enslavement” to a club that, she says, “that from its beginnings announced itself as a ground-breaking phenomenon”. She wants, she says at the end of her first chapter, to “explore why it continues to mean so much”. And she certainly does that.
Julie’s engaging personality propels you through the pages, but this is not just one person’s perspective. She interviews many fans, including yours truly, and players in order to get a broader perspective on the attraction of the Lilywhites. The beauty of this book is the way she distils the lengthy sessions we all spent talking to her, taking the key observations and telling phrases and using them to deepen the hue as she adds colour to the picture she paints. Her lightness of touch and mischievous humour is in evidence early on when she describes the youth club set-up in which the club is rooted as something “when ping-pong, orangeade and a bit of religion was laid on to give the young people of the district a wholesome distraction from hanky-panky and getting drunk on cooking sherry”.
Later on, it’s Irving Scholar who is portrayed as “Don Draper of Mad Men“, a figure who proves that “the worst of outcomes can come from the best of intentions” during his tenure at the top. There’s no spite here, just evidence that real affection comes from knowing what’s wrong with the thing you love but sticking with it anyway. It’s something that was apparently lost on the current crowd in charge, who evidently didn’t quite bargain for what they got – although it’s to the club’s credit that it co-operated with Julie’s take on Spurs.
In this hugely enjoyable book, Julie puts the pieces of Spurs’ DNA together admirably. She gets it, more than most, for sure. It’s probably a partisan’s read, but there’s a quality here that any true fan of the game, anyone who has ever been bitten by the bug of club loyalty, will recognise. The Biography of Spurs is the only book you will ever need to give to anyone who asks “Why do you bother?”