A fan's-eye view at the football – a photo essay

Martin Andersen

My first game at White Hart Lane was Tottenham v Wimbledon on Saturday 10 November 1990. We won the game 4–2. I sat in Park Lane watching a Spurs side featuring Gazza, Lineker, Mabbutt, Walsh … But my love for Tottenham started long before that. We all have our stories as to why we support the club. Mine might be a little different to most, having grown up in Denmark.

  • Tottenham Hotspur – Arsenal (0–1), 16 March 2014, White Hart Lane. Attendance: 35,711.

  • Right: Middlesbrough – Tottenham Hotspur (1–2), 24 September 2016, Riverside Stadium. Att: 32,703.

  • Far right: Tottenham Hotspur – Hull (2–0), 16 May 2015, White Hart Lane. Att: 35,857

  • Tottenham Hotspur – Hull (2–0), 16 May 2015, White Hart Lane. Att: 35,857.

The first ever game I remember watching on TV was the 1978 World Cup final between Argentina and Holland. I was six years old and watched the game with my parents. I remember taking an instant liking to the Argentina kits, the blue and white stripes and the black shorts. I was blown away by the atmosphere and celebrations and instantly fell in love with football. After that summer I started following the English games on TV and as the recent World Cup winners Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa had signed for Spurs, I decided Tottenham was going to be my team. I watched as many games as I could on TV before I finally moved to London in 1993 and was from then on finally able to visit White Hart Lane on a regular basis.

  • Tottenham Hotspur – Newcastle United (1–2), 26 October 2014, White Hart Lane, Att: 35,650.

I’ve been supporting Tottenham most of my life and seen us in good and bad times. Seen players and managers come and go, and it can be frustrating, even heartbreaking, when they leave for another team. Sometimes it can feel like there’s little loyalty in football. One day you are Spurs, the next day you can go play for a rival. The focus is always on the players and the manager. I was interested in making a project about the fans. The fans never switch allegiances, they are here forever and I felt that needed to be documented and celebrated.

  • Top: Tottenham Hotspur – Chelsea (1–1), 28 September 2013, White Hart Lane. Att: 35,857.

  • Above left: Chelsea – Tottenham Hotspur (2–0), 1 March 2015, EFLC Final. Wembley. Att: 89,294.

  • Above right: Tottenham Hotspur – Arsenal (0–1), 16 March 2014, White Hart Lane. Att: 35,711.

I started bringing my camera to the games and photographed the atmosphere on the streets and in the pubs before and after. It ended up growing into an obsession, and after three years I realised that I was beginning to document a piece of our history – the last seasons at White Hart Lane. I decided that our last game at White Hart Lane should be the endpoint of this project. I went to, and photographed, over 100 home and away games between 2013 and 2017.

  • Southampton – Tottenham Hotspur (0–2), 19 December 2015, St Mary’s stadium. Att: 31,636.

I wanted to capture different generations of fans, the camaraderie, the banter, the songs in the pubs, the madness. Travelling up and down the country and the long away trips in Europe. I wasn’t interested in making a chronological “football fan” book covering all the games with numerous pictures on each page. I wanted the book to have some artistic merit in terms of photography. I am interested in people and I’ve always been more interested in photography that is open-ended, pictures that are suggestive and open to interpretation, rather than pictures that are descriptive.

  • Tottenham Hotspur – Liverpool (0–3), 31 August 2014, White Hart Lane. Att: 36,130.

  • Right and far right: Chelsea – Tottenham Hotspur (2–0), 1 March 2015, EFLC Final, Wembley. Att: 89,294.

  • Chelsea – Tottenham Hotspur (2–0), 1 March 2015, EFLC Final, Wembley, Att: 89,294.

The Arsenal derbies are always memorable, something every fan looks forward to. It’s an early start and you can feel the tension and excitement in the atmosphere all over north London. I also used to love the trips to Upton Park, which are now sadly also part of history. The European away trips are fantastic. There is something special about going abroad with Tottenham. Being in a different country, putting our flags and banners up and taking over a pub with all the familiar faces. The last game at White Hart Lane was emotional and beautiful. When we beat Manchester City away in 2016, when Eriksen scored the winner in the 83rd minute, and of course our 3-1 win against Real Madrid at Wembley, these were all very special moments.

  • Tottenham Hotspur – West Ham United (1–2), 18 December 2013, White Hart Lane. Att: 34,080.

There’s something about going to all those games, travelling home and away, which forms bonds between people, and over the past five years I have met so many fantastic characters and heard many Tottenham stories. There is something fascinating about meeting and talking to lifelong fans, those who have been there since the glory days – there’s a real link to the history of the club in their memories. It’s important to memorialise that.

  • Tottenham Hotspur – Arsenal (2–1), 7 February 2015, White Hart Lane. Att: 35,659.

  • Right: West Ham United – Tottenham Hotspur (0–1), 16 August 2014, Boleyn Ground. Att: 34,977.

  • Borussia Dortmund – Tottenham Hotspur (3–0), 10 March 2016, Uefa EL, Signal Iduna Park. Att: 65,848.

I was interested in capturing characters, emotions and expressions and also the dynamics of the group. I kept an instinctive approach throughout and often shot from the hip. Nothing was planned or staged. It was all about capturing those little moments – a feeling that could so often get lost if I’d spent time framing the shots.

  • Tottenham Hotspur – Brighton (2–0), 29 October 2014, White Hart Lane. Att: 33,537.

It definitely helped being a Spurs boy, but you don’t just turn up and get invited in and start taking pictures. In the beginning there were certainly a few people who questioned what I was doing pointing a camera in their face. I knew from the beginning that I had to take my time. It was important for me to get to know people first, find out what they are doing and just go with the flow. It might sound like a cliché, but you can’t make images happen when you want them to – the images will come to you. It’s a little bit like fishing – sometimes you catch something and sometimes you come home empty-handed.

  • Top: Aston Villa – Tottenham Hotspur (1–2), 2 November 2014, Villa Park. Att: 32,049.

  • Above: Chelsea – Tottenham Hotspur (3–0), 3 December 2014, Stamford Bridge. Att: 41,518.

  • Top: Manchester City – Tottenham Hotspur (1–2), 14 February 2016, Etihad stadium. Att: 54,551.

  • Above left: Southampton – Tottenham Hotspur (0–2), 19 December 2015, St Mary’s stadium. Att: 31,636.

  • Above right: Liverpool – Tottenham Hotspur (2–0), 11 February 2017, Anfield. Att: 53,159.

I like using my camera as a tool to meet other people. It can help break down boundaries. I always treat everyone with respect – if they didn’t want to be photographed I wouldn’t photograph them. I am always modest and interested in what other people are doing and thinking. I take better pictures when I feel a connection with others. Once you are accepted and you are part of the same dynamic you feel that you belong to something special and it becomes easier to take pictures.

  • Tottenham Hotspur – Arsenal (2–0), 30 April 2017, White Hart Lane. Att: 31,811.

Can’t Smile Without You by Martin Andersen is published by AMS and available at https://www.shop.martinandersen.co.uk/products/cant-smile-without-you. Anderson’s work will be exhibited at Pocko, London N1 4NH, in March 2020.