‘Fellow Spurs fans booed me… but of course I forgave them!’
18 October 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
Our travelling supporters always sing their hearts out in Europe but when we last went to Bayer Leverkusen, one fan could be heard above everyone else – even the home crowd!
Unbeknown to us at the time, the man tasked with providing the English stadium announcements inside the BayArena for our UEFA Cup tie back in November, 2006, was an avid follower of Spurs.
Steve Long had been working as a youth coach with Leverkusen’s Under-19 side, but stepped in when the Bundesliga outfit needed someone to address the English-speaking fans over the tannoy.
A keen supporter of the Club since the age of nine, Steve jumped at the chance and really enjoyed the experience – even though he got unwittingly booed by certain folks in the away end after reading out an unpopular message!
“I’d started working for Bayer Leverkusen’s youth department in 2006-07, they all knew I was a Tottenham fan and when they needed a translator for announcements made in English during the game, they asked me if I wanted to do it,” explained the now-54-year-old.
“They just thought it would be a bit of fun for me – and it was! Luckily I didn’t have to say too much but one thing I said was booed by the Tottenham fans. There I was, as a lifelong fan, getting booed by my fellow supporters! Of course, they had no idea I was a Spurs fan so I could easily forgive them.
“I was lucky enough to go downstairs after the game and meet Martin Jol, who was our manager at the time. I shook his hand and congratulated him on the result (we won 1-0, courtesy of Dimitar Berbatov’s strike) so it was a memorable night all round.”
Now 54, Steve resides in the United States these days but his four children – Sarah, Christopher, Julian and Anna – still live in Leverkusen and are looking forward to attending tonight’s UEFA Champions League match.
Originally from Faversham in Kent, Steve (pictured, above) coached Leverkusen’s Under-8s, Under-15s and Under-19s during his time in Germany and could see a familiar face lining up against us this evening when he watches the game from his base in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: “I’ve coached quite a few players coming through the ranks including Benjamin Henrichs, who could well be playing at right- or left-back for Leverkusen tonight. He seems to be getting a lot of game time this year. I also coached Leroy Sane, who has just signed for Manchester City from Schalke, in the Under-15s.
“Obviously I’m looking forward to the game and luckily, over here in the States, they show all the Premier League and Champions League matches so I get to keep up with everything.”
Leverkusen trip brings back memories for golf pro Jack
Our previous visit to the BayArena in 2006 is also memorable for 26-year-old Spurs season ticket holder Jack Cole as it marked his first ever European away game.
The thing that sticks in his mind most from that excursion is a 20-minute, non-stop rendition of ‘Martin Jol’s Blue and White Army’ coming from those around him in the away end!
“It was mad, everyone was doing it – it was nuts!” smiled Jack, who attended the match with his dad Kevin. “Going to away games at the moment, the fans are brilliant with the Dele Alli song and everything but I’ve never known anything to that extent for the manager until now with Mauricio – not for 20 minutes straight anyway!”
Jack (pictured, above, with dad Kevin at our UEFA Europa League match away to Borussia Dortmund last season), a golf pro who teaches youngsters to play the sport, has been a Spurs fan since his childhood and was one of several fans reminding us this week on Twitter @SpursOfficial about the giant heaters in the BayArena stands back in 2006.
“We had a day trip to Cologne but it was around November time and it was absolutely freezing!” he recalled. “I remember that in the stadium they had massive heaters above us in the ceiling. That was pretty strange, I’d never seen that before but at least it kept us warm. There were Tottenham fans absolutely everywhere that night – we were in the away end but our fans seemed to be dotted around everywhere and when Berbatov scored there were people jumping up around all sides of the stadium. From what I can remember, we played pretty well – we had Aaron Lennon playing down the right with a bit of pace and we had a good side to be fair. Obviously it made it even better when we got the win as well.”