A fine drizzle fell – what else would it do? – as I walked to the pub to meet the members of the Melbourne chapter of OzSpurs, the Tottenham Hotspur FC supporters club.
An 11:45pm kickoff would be late anywhere except perhaps in Spain, where the league is fond of occasionally starting games late at night. It’s the norm for dedicated followers of the English Premier League living in Australia, where daylight savings puts some parts of the country eleven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Simon, the benevolent and all-powerful president, greeted me but had an air of apprehension about him. “They’re showing the game on the smaller screen tonight,” he explained, “We lost to Chelsea on the smaller screen earlier in the season – it’s not our lucky screen.”
Undaunted by this cruel disadvantage, the Spurs fans crammed into the front bar to watch the game. There were Spurs strips of various vintages scattered about the throng. And an incongruous Liverpool home kit, being worn by a bloke with a dodgy up-top ponytail.
The volume was turned up and the lights were dimmed as the game kicked off.
Spurs supporters are a naturally anxious lot. The first goal went in for Spurs and the pub went crazy. There was the beginning of belief, which for any seasoned Spurs supporter signals doom.
And the unspoken fears were realised when Newcastle equalised, at which point the bearded bloke with the Liverpool kit, hitherto silent, leapt up and started celebrating wildly.
He then sat down and polished off his midori and lemonade (with a slice of lemon), looking pleased with himself. His mini-skirted companion, who sported a 1980s fringe inspired by Deborah Conway, was unmoved, and sipped on her drink (with a slice of lime) without uttering a word.
I appeared to be the only person troubled by this bearded-Liverpool-shirt-wearing-Newcastle-supporting-lady-drink-consuming bloke. Ah! That’s because the ancient Tottenham Hotspur ritual of self-flagellation has begun!
As the rain grew heavier, I watched girls in tiny skirts skittering across the intersection outside, providing diversion from the game at hand; their hairstyles and make-up at risk from the weather, while their boyfriends, hands shoved in pockets and dressed like they were off to a casual barbecue, hunched their shoulders in a futile bid to stay dry.
At half-time I bumped into Simon, who was in the midst of a presidential tour of the bar. We exchanged war stories (I have quite a collection now) and worked out that we’d both been at the ill-fated Millwall vs Tottenham “friendly” in 2001 – but in different parts of the New Den.
The second half commenced, cutting short our old-man routine. Old songs from the terrace were sung, and in time, evitably, Spurs scored the winner.
2am, and the rain was serious. It paid no heed to my designer jeans, soaking me through. Perhaps I should have shoved my hands in my pockets and hunched my shoulders.