Mascot Monday: Chirpy and Lily (Spurs)

Chirpy and Lily

Names: Chirpy and Lily

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Mascot Since: See below

Species: Cockerel (Chirpy), Chicken (Lily)

Friends & Family: According to the club, they’re best mates – but we reckon Chirpy secretly really fancies Lily!

Notes: Adapted straight from the club crest, there have been various versions of a cockerel mascot at Spurs for many years (see photo below for a terrifying early iteration of Chirpy, and this disturbing video – eek!), but Chirpy’s cheerful female counterpart Lily is a relative newcomer to the Spurs family.

Named after the club nickname ‘The Lilywhites’ (we’d like to think it’s also a nod to the early twentieth-century women’s football pioneer, Lily Parr, but it probably isn’t), little is known about this mysterious mascot except that she seems like the sensible one and she’s obviously a chicken rather than a cockerel!

Chirpy!

On the other hand, we know quite a bit about Lily’s best mate. Chirpy likes to have a go at things – he’s been seen doing tai chi, playing tag in Turin against the Juventus mascot Jay the Zebra, helping make traditional Chinese mooncakes, and taking part in the Mascot Derby, as well as the usual charity work, hanging out with the junior fans on matchdays and kickabouts on the pitch with the players’ kids during the end of season lap of appreciation (even your cynical, hard-bitten ASRV team went ‘awwwww’ at that one!).

The introduction of Lily was not the first time Spurs have added to their mascot roster. In the early 1970s they rather randomly employed a bloke dressed up as an astronaut to wander round pitchside at European home games, waving a placard that read ‘COUNTDOWN TO EUROPEAN ORBIT’.

To be totally honest, we wonder what the Board had been smoking.

Somewhere along the line, this approach must have worked, however – and, it seems, is still working. We wonder if Spurs Astronaut Man will come out of retirement to help Chirpy and Lily into orbit at the Champions League final on Saturday: the biggest European night in the club’s history…

COME ON YOU SPURS!

If you’ve got any suggestions for future editions of Mascot Monday, please get in touch.

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A Work in Progress: The New Lane

The New Lane, 2018 (1)

CB writes…

Just before the old White Hart Lane was demolished in May 2017, I paid a visit to that venerable north London icon to take some photos and say goodbye to the old place. Towards the end of last year, almost eighteen months and numerous frustrating delays to the new stadium later, I decided it was about time I went back to see what was going on.

The stadium was clearly unfinished on the sunny autumn day I visited, cranes still looming over the site and hard hatted builders ambling round doing whatever it is that stadium builders do. However, there’s no denying that it looks amazing. I have yet to see inside, but those who have seem to be pretty impressed. Only time will tell if it’s a worthy replacement for the original White Hart Lane…

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White(out) Lane: Snowy Spurs

Construction at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club ground - snow panorama 2 (2017)
Spurs’ new stadium under construction in the snow (December 2017)

CB writes…

Last weekend was pretty miserable. Torrential rain and freezing winds had an impact on both the English and Scottish league programmes, with a number of games postponed or abandoned due to the revolting weather.

Modern undersoil heating and drainage both mean this happens much less these days – but in the past, inclement winter weather could be a real problem for even the biggest clubs.

These wonderful pics show a snowy White Hart Lane at various points in time from the mid-1920s to the late 1950s, and are a reminder of the amazing work that ground staff all over the country do in the wintertime. I don’t envy their job!

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So why Ricky Villa?

CB writes…

Well, I am a Spurs fan, and Villa’s magnificent goal in the 1981 FA Cup final replay against Manchester City is one of my earliest football memories. Rightly considered one of the greatest Cup final goals of all time and a celebrated part of FA Cup folklore as a whole, Ricky himself has said that people still regularly ask him about it – and, to this day, it is a big part of his status among the Lilywhite side of North London as a Spurs Legend.

It’s come to McKenzie. What a good tackle by Graham Roberts. And now Galvin. Spurs have got… two to his right and Galvin wants to go on his own. Villa…. AND STILL RICKY VILLA! What a fantastic run. HE’S SCORED! Amazing goal for Ricky Villa! – John Motson

It’s that famous commentary as much as the goal itself which makes the whole thing so memorable, I think. Listening to the legendary John Motson’s enthusiasm is infectious, and you can’t help but share in his delight at Villa’s talent and skills. Motson’s words have echoed down the decades since, and it seemed somehow appropriate to use them for the title of a new blog which begins its life at the end of this, his final season as a BBC commentator.

But the choice of Villa is about more than that. The somewhat unexpected arrival at White Hart Lane of Ricky Villa and his Argentinian compatriot Ossie Ardiles in the summer of 1978 marked a turning point in the history of English football – and we’re still feeling the impact of that unprecedented international transfer several decades into the 21st century.

Villa and Ardiles were, in their way, pioneers. We’re so used to players from all over the world at British clubs these days that it’s easy to forget that this wasn’t always the case. Indeed, there had been a ban on players from abroad for a large chunk of the 20th century, after Arsenal’s Herbert Chapman had attempted to sign an Austrian goalkeeper in 1930. Naturally, this had not gone down well with the English football authorities.

The Football League were distinctly unimpressed with Chapman’s unmitigated gall, pompously describing it as “a terrible confession of weakness in the management of a club”. However, the FA was eventually forced to lift the ban in 1978 after a European ruling (probably implemented with much grumbling on behalf of its officials), and Spurs were quick off the mark in exploiting this new freedom of movement for players from other countries.

Although Ossie and Ricky weren’t the first foreign players in the English leagues by any stretch of the imagination (FA rules had allowed players like Manchester City’s famous German-born keeper Bert Trautmann to play if they met a two-year residency rule), the South American duo were among the first really big names to make the journey to the UK – and to succeed so very far from home.

At the time, English football was very insular. There was one way to play and it was not particularly our style. But we found a happy medium. Glenn Hoddle helped a lot with that because he played like us anyway – Ossie Ardiles on joining Spurs in 1978

They’d just won the World Cup with Argentina, and radiated South American poise and cool on and off the pitch (Villa, of course, scored on his Spurs debut), even famously being photographed outside White Hart Lane not long after their arrival in a pair of very 1970s sporty-looking cars!

In that respect, you might argue that very little has changed in the forty years since, but, shiny new motors or not, the then Spurs manager Keith ‘The General’ Burkinshaw’s instincts had proved to be good and the two Argentinians were a huge hit with the fans almost immediately.

We were the first ones arriving to the league and this was an honour for us. The first times in England were hard because we didn’t know the language, but the club supported us a lot and people were also very warm. This made us feel comfortable… I think that the arrival of foreign players gives the Premiership prestige. I also believe that the step of Ossie and mine was successful and it opened doors to future players – Ricky Villa on the impact of arriving at Spurs in 1978

But not everyone was happy, unsurprisingly. PFA secretary Cliff Lloyd sniffily announced that “[e]very foreign player of standing in our league represents a denial to a UK player of a place in the team.” And the PFA’s chairman, Gordon Taylor, added ominously: “There could already be two players out of a job at Tottenham.” Ossie’s description of English football in the late 1970s as “insular” certainly looks pretty spot on here…

You can still hear variations on such negative comments floating around in the game today, but it hasn’t stopped the influx of glorious footballing talent arriving in Britain from far-flung lands. And, in turn, that hasn’t stopped the development of a new generation of potentially world-class English players coming up through the ranks at clubs like Spurs in recent years.

The cosmopolitan nature of English top flight football as we know it now arguably truly began on that summer’s day in 1978 when two young and slightly confused Argentinians arrived in North London, and went on to win the hearts of a nation traditionally somewhat suspicious of ‘foreign’ players.

As Ricky says, their arrival “opened doors” for several generations of players from all over the world, which has resulted in what is now one of the most exciting (albeit often frustrating!) league structures anywhere. If Keith Burkinshaw had not taken the risk of signing those two young men from Argentina after the transfer ban was lifted, modern English football would be very different indeed.

So yeah, it’s still Ricky Villa…