In April 2004, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club appointed local poet Sarah Wardle as our Poet in Residence.
Sarah is a lecturer in poetry at Middlesex University and a previous winner of Poetry Review’s New Poet of the Year Award.
Below you will find a selection of her work since her appointment.
Everyone knows the true score
and three points are established:
that some stand on the sidelines,
sex up facts and turn their backs,
while some again pass the buck,
but others give it their best shot
even when the goal looks far off
and score a hit, so whatever slant
is put on it, a line’s been crossed.
All weekend long I’m seeing colours, hearing songs,
‘I’m Tottenham till I die’, ‘The Spurs go marching on’,
‘Same old Arsenal’ to the tune of Big Ben,
and now ‘It’s raining goals’ in a world of men.
In a week they’ve netted nine goals for Jol,
jousting opposition as the stands kick them on
and board flashes, Beauty Kanoute, Go Defoe,
publishing each score like a Gallup poll.
A week’s a long time in the Premiership.
Spurs are rearing, chafing at the bit.
‘It’s raining goals at White Hart Lane’,
repeats the action replay and refrain.
In Memoriam Bill Nicholson
You still attend each match at White Hart Lane.
As the ground empties, we remember Bill.
You haven't left us. In the lit-up rain
there's music playing as your credits roll
through men's minds. Director and producer
of the Glory Years, you won the Double,
served in the army and for Tottenham Hotspur,
and scored for England against Portugal.
In the minute's silence you might have heard
a shilling, or penny drop. To a man
the stands knighted you, raised you up a Lord,
Leagues ahead on another field and plain.
But you're not gone. In these grass seeds and roots
you push on through and though flags fly half-mast,
you're the father in the sky Keane salutes
now as he scores, Spurs new blood and their past.
In the Bill Nicholson Suite
This football is a found poem.
On it Danny Blanchflower signed
the names of his winning team,
when Tottenham Hotspur completed
the Double in ’61. Here are the scorers,
Smith and Dyson, and the score:
Spurs 2, Leicester City 0. And there
Bill Nicholson autographed the back
on leather the colour of faded parchment.
This football is a testament of victory,
an historical document, witness
to an age of meritocracy.
These are not the names
of hereditary kings, but of men
who succeeded and deserved to win.
This football sits in a glass case,
as if it’s been kicked
straight out of the past. But this
is no relic, no museum piece.
See. This football is still in use,
staring back like an idol’s head,
still worshipped now as much as then.
In here the blue and white is clinical,
the smell of antiseptic’s headed in,
proof our heroes too are blood and muscle,
like the pumping of the ice machine,
Savlon wound wash, pre-injection swabs,
insect repellent, Nivea after sun,
reclining beds that could hold poolside gods,
Keane, Kanoute, Redknapp, Anderton.
This piece of White Hart Lane is sacred ground,
like that other stadium at Delphi,
whose oracle shows things can turn around.
We’ve protectors who will grant us victory.
Bill Nicholson is our talisman.
The Spurs cockerel heralds a new dawn.
Audere Est Facere
To Dare is To Do
You can study the laws of physics,
balance equations of speed and spin,
take doctorates in aerodynamics,
or curl it like Keane and get it in.
You can analyse pattern in chaos,
predict the markets and Premiership,
trade in futures, referee torts,
or do as Kanoute and take a kick.
You can commentate on politics,
or be a player. You have a choice,
be a critic of Keats’ iambics,
or pen your own and find your voice,
stand on the sidelines, despair, give up,
or risk it like Redknapp and bust a gut.
Tottenham Hotspur Haiku
Now Chelsea have won,
the April air and sunlight
feel more like autumn.
For Man City night
falls. But it is daybreak here
in our hemisphere.
Like so many leaves,
we cheer when buoyed by a breeze,
and hang on through storms.
Shoulder to shoulder,
our roots go deep, each tree a
part of the forest.
The stands hold their breath,
before the sudden clapping
of pigeons in flight.
The coming season
floods the empty pitch, spilling
as if through stained glass.
Deconstructing the Derby
Henry may be fast as a Ferrari,
brake on a feather
with superior skid control,
barely touch the gas
to give her some,
but Kanoute rockets into the air,
like all NASA’s watching,
excelling earth’s atmosphere,
challenging the canon
and law of gravity.
Sol’s sun may be on the rise
since it set at White Hart Lane,
but Gardner’s talent is blossoming
and his luck turning up lilies.
Viera’s veins may run with vitality
and a blood hot spark that never dies,
but Defoe’s very bones are diamonds
of determination extra time can’t erode.
The Gunners may be firing on all cylinders,
blazing a trail across the pitch,
but Spurs can see daylight
at the end of the tunnel,
inspiring them to turn a new leaf,
an unmarked page.
Tottenham Hotspur 1, Blackburn Rovers 0
The final score has a pleasing sound,
the Proustian rush of childhood weekends,
the storytime lilt of that voice on Grandstand,
a piano scale that climbs, then descends,
and after this the smell of a bonfire,
the dry ice mist of winter breath,
Pat Jennings and John Travolta,
the test card on a 3-channel TV set,
and certain knowledge that Saturday
is pay in the bank, not yet run down,
though Sunday, wearing Puritan grey,
will knock with homework to be done.
Lordship Lane, Tottenham
i.m. Sidney Wells (1909-1967)
You’re driving down Lordship Lane
aged fourteen in your first car.
It’s the year of Stanley Baldwin
and Yes We Have No Bananas.
You don’t yet know your wife,
the two children who miss you
still more with the years, how life
will stall before you’re through.
You won’t live long enough to meet
your only grandchild,
but now I’m walking down your street.
Three weeks before you die
you’ll choose to come back.
An estate will be here, the house gone,
though this won’t cause the heart attack.
Rather, like geese, you’ll want to fly home.
Leaving, you’ll return where you were born.
Start from space, with planets in formation
on the football pitch of the universe,
the back four, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth,
midfield of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn,
with strikers, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto,
not chilling, but playing for our galaxy
in an interstellar soccer fantasy.
Zoom in until you see our spinning globe,
as though a foot had touched it in midair.
Move closer till somewhere over London
you spot the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
Focus on the path of our human sphere,
kicked this way and that, as if at random.
Now watch how life rewards goal-led action.
‘All he ever thinks about is football’.
A maths teacher on Jermain Defoe
When strikes come in waves like breakers on deck,
you weather the storm and meet your match.
Stands foam with tension, released like a catch.
The toughest of the crew doubt you’ll pull back
from the brink. You kneel after a tackle
before the great score board that makes and breaks,
arms outstretched. A Sky camera might mistake
a look of prayer for thanks after a goal.
But you’re not repenting the route you chose,
not to set course by the maths teacher’s word,
shooting off his received map of the world.
Only by adventure can a son lose
the travelled path so as then to find
the true score and green at the tunnel’s end.
Archaeologists have unearthed a hoard
of silverware in the northern district
of the area formerly known as London.
The treasure trove, which dates from
2,000 years ago, was found on the site
of the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
Findings confirm the cultural importance
of the game in early 21st century life and
the dominant position held by the Club.
The friendly competition of football
was in stark contrast to the hostilities
which shook the world later that century.
The sport was played by a social élite.
Fragments of decorated drinking vessels
were discovered adjacent to the hoard.
Such was the prestige attached to players,
it is believed men were buried in their kit.