We Talk 90s Nostalgia & Future Dreams With The New Faces of Tottenham Hotspur
Photography: Lauren Maccabee / Interview & Words: Tom Everest
Everyone remembers their very first shirt. You remember the look, the feel, the fit, the smell. The players associated with the shirt; the very first time you put it on. As soon as a new season arrives, so does the new kit. Which leaves all other shirts, including the ones you previously wore week-in-week-out, completely out of favour. That feeling of a new kit never deserts you. The new shirt offers an opportunity to start new memories and to become synonymous with new names. But what makes the perfect kit?
You’re onto something if you can marry the romance and nostalgia of the past in a brand new kit design. It’s something that the new Spurs third jersey – which pays ‘tribute to iconic players of the past by bringing back the famous light blue shade synonymous with the talent that helped carve the way for the Club’s future in the 90s’ – has down to the very last detail. It has all the recognisable Spurs DNA. The striking blue away colour hue. The cockerel. The swoosh. The oversized collar. But this has evolved. Tottenham Hotspur is speaking to a new generation by dialling into the old.
“Everyone will see the retro influence, it’s a tribute to the jersey culture of the 90s,” explains Tottenham Hotspur and England captain Harry Kane. “When you see the light blue you think of those players that paved the way, and I hope this year we can wear it with pride to go all the way.”
To prove the recipe of success is to tap into the past to achieve the dreams of tomorrow, we caught up with four Spurs fans on the official launch of the new kit who all share their love of the club and explain how Tottenham’s past and present continues to inspire their own creative careers; AJ Tracey, Craig Mitch, Emma Townley & George Achillea.
“It’s one of my favourite jerseys for sure, the light blue pops and the retro aesthetic goes down well. I can’t wait to wear it to the European games especially this season.”
No one epitomises the fusion between modern football culture and the UK music scene like AJ Tracey: certified Spurs obsessive, emerging cultural icon, and one of the most respected contemporary MCs around. His 2017 track ‘False Nine’ is evidence of that special link up, so is the scattering of football-inspired lyrics including ‘OG, I’m a boss like Hugo,’ and his shout out to the Tottenham new boy in his recent BBC Live Lounge – ‘You know I ball like Ndombele.’ To now be the face of Spurs alongside the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min is just another career highlight for AJ to enjoy alongside the current chart success of his latest single ‘Ladbroke Grove’.
“I remember my Dad taking me to my first game and sitting in the Park Lane end and watching a match and just looking on the sideline and just thinking it would be so cool to be presenting on that pitch side one day.”
Craig Mitch has been on the same upward trajectory as Spurs over the last few years. After starting out his own YouTube channel, he moved into presenting the Euro 2016 coverage from France for Slash Football. From there, he’s not stopped. The multi-talented broadcaster is now watched worldwide by 90 million people – presenting Premier League TV’s Kick-Off, The Lions’s Den for England’s YouTube channel, BBC 2’s Premier League Show as well as The Sports Bar Weekender on TalkSport radio. But, despite the success and the expanding CV, Craig claims he wouldn’t have reached the heights, or stepped anywhere near the pitches which he’s presented on, if it wasn’t for Tottenham Hotspur.
How much time, love and devotion does Spurs take up in your life?
Tottenham means everything to me. I’ve been watching Spurs since I was five years old. My Dad supports Tottenham. I was born in Tottenham. It’s literally within my DNA. I grew up in Tottenham until the age of 4 and then I moved to Wood Green. Because I lived so close I always used to catch the bus. The W3 with the my Dad, 15 minutes straight to White Hart Lane. This year I was lucky enough to open the stadium, hosting it online – which was literally a dream come true. The trajectory which the club has been on – from fighting to be a top half table team, challenging for the Top 4 and to now be competing for titles and Champions League finals – is incredible.
How much has your love for Spurs and the memories that the club has given you inspired your move into the football media landscape?
So much. I remember my Dad taking me to my first game and sitting in the Park Lane end and watching a match and just looking on the sideline and just thinking it would be so cool to be presenting on that pitch side one day. Then, fast forward 20 years to me actually doing it, it’s crazy. That moment was the inception of me wanting to get into the world of football. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the lungs, fitness, or talent to be a footballer but I knew I wanted to be in the football world. I don’t want to give Spurs all of the props, I want to keep some for myself, but I’d say a huge percentage is down to Tottenham Hotspur.
You are part of the new MOTDx Magazine format show which merges the worlds of football, music, fashion and culture, why do you think that a show like that has been so long in the making?
Football wasn’t seen as that cool before. It was for a long time considered a working man’s sport and was associated with a certain type of individual within society. Music and culture hadn’t really met football yet. Then, social media came along and you started to see musicians talking about football and footballers talking about music. So, it gives the game a whole greater sense of credibility in the wider culture. You see AJ involved in Spurs and so many other examples. Footballers aren’t scared of having a voice now. They share what music they’re into. They show what clothes they are wearing. So, now it makes sense to investigate the culture of football, to see what the footballers are really up to and what they’re enjoying.
What do you make of the new Tottenham Hotspur kit?
I really like it, I feel like its got the best blend of new and retro design. The material feels great, it’s perfect if you want to play in it and the same time, they’ve incorporated all the sick retro elements. Like the oversized collar, the old school 90s Nike logo and the pattern which resembles the stadium.
If you could interview any Spurs player from the 90s who would it be and why?
David Ginola. He came to Spurs and got Player of the Season in his first year which was unheard of. When he arrived he bought this next level of finesse and confidence. I used to watch a lot of wrestling at the time too and he had this sick long hair like all the wrestlers did. I’ve never actually met him, I’m still holding out for that day.
“We (This Fan Girl) get to put money back into the community and give the people a voice; we get to give the girls who love football a proper . voice.”
Emma Townley operates as part of This Fan Girl; a female-focussed collective who come together to create an inspiring visual documentary of women who support football. For Emma, and the entire This Fan Girl team, the way female fans have been represented is not reflective of the women you see when you go to the match; the ones who support their teams come rain or shine, whether they’re top of the league or facing relegation. So, they’ve set out to change that. Painting a new, eclectic and colourful picture of devoted female fans across the world.
When did you first dream of doing what you are doing now?
I always wanted to be a journalist or an artist – so in a weird that’s where I’ve ended up. I work in advertising and do This Fan Girl too. In the last year or so it’s taken a bit of a turn and I’m doing less advertising and more football, which is awesome. Hopefully that continues. More football please.
What has the journey been like for you as part of This Fan Girl?
It’s been amazing. Hand on heart it’s literally been the best thing – I absolutely love it. It’s a huge part of my life and I get so much out of it. As somebody who commissions editorial for This Fan Girl I get to put money back into the community and give the people a voice; I get to give the girls who love football a voice. It’s an incredible thing to be involved in.
What’s been the greatest memory of being part of Fan Girl?
Going to Madrid for the Champions League final. That whole journey last year with Spurs was so unexpected. Beating Man City for a start was wild, the Ajax game was nuts. Then, all of a sudden we’re going to Madrid. I remember Amy (This Fan Girl Founder) called me and said ‘are you sitting down?’ She told me we got tickets to go to Madrid. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that call.
So, what does Tottenham mean to you?
Spurs used to take up a lot more space in my life than it does now. Being part of This Fan Girl has taught me how different women support their different teams – even teams that would be seen as the enemy, it’s made me find a new respect for them because of how these people support their team. Being part of This Fan Girl has made me look at football as an overall game and not consider rivalries. It’s completely changed my perspective.
Has Spurs ever directly inspired your creative escapes off of the football pitch?
It has in many different ways. Most noticeably through ‘Sonny’. Son is amazing, he’s from a totally different part of the world and from a totally different culture. It can be difficult for a footballer to be in a foreign culture but what he brings to us as a team, his positivity, his little secret handshakes, he’s always playing with a smile on his face. He always gives 200%. He’s an amazing example for all of us; all of our young players and young fans around the world.
“This is one of my favourite Spurs kits of all-time. It’s very similar to one of the kits we used to wear in the 90s. It’s a big throwback kit – it was instant success as soon as I saw it. “
Not many people owe as much to Tottenham Hotspur as George Achillea. For a long time he was just your average fan. That was until he started to share his heartache, jubilation and celebrations via YouTube. Since then, he’s earned a loyal following of 35,000 subscribers and has become an unofficial ambassador for the club; following them around the country to offer his audience an authentic look into the daily life of a Spurs fan. He’s also turned his passion for the club into set up his own; a local community club called Imperial Wharf FC, in a hope to document what a transformative power the game can be.
What does Tottenham mean to you?
Tottenham means a lot. In my family, we all grew up on it. When my Grandad came over to London from Cyprus 50 years ago, he made the choice to support Spurs. So, naturally, so did my Dad and all my Uncles. Now, 8 of us have season tickets and we go to every game. I spend a lot of my time at the stadium now because of my own YouTube channel, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Without Spurs, how different do you think not only your career but your whole life would be?
Totally different. I went to uni to study economics. Filming and editing has always been a hobby of mine but I found the niche of filming myself at the games. If I didn’t go to Spurs none of that would have happened – I wouldn’t have been able to do this in a professional capacity. I would have been working in a bank in Central London somewhere. So, completely different.
What’s been the maddest or the most memorable moment in your YouTube career so far?
It has to be the Champions League Semi-Final. Somehow it topped the Quarter-Final, which I never thought was possible. Those last minute scenes will be something that will live with me forever. To be able to capture that on camera is incredible. The videos went pretty well too which makes everything sweeter.
There is a whole host of 90s football memories and moments which fans say gave them the football bug. What was yours?
I was about 5 years old and my Dad got into the stadium for a tour and there’s a wonderful photo of me and my Dad standing inside the goal leaning up against the post. We’re stood directly in front of where our season tickets were. That was the very first time I was on a football pitch. So, it’s a special memory.
Who would be your dream Spurs player from past and present to turn out for Imperial Wharf?
From the past it’s got be Jermain Defoe. He’s one of my all-time favourite players. We need a decent striker too so he’d get a game. In fact, I’d take him every day of the week. Present, it’s got to be Son. He’s a straight baller. A lot of what has been going well for us recently has been down to him.
When did you set the Imperial Wharf team? What have been the biggest challenges in that time?
It’s very new – we’ve only been around for a few months but we’ve played a lot of friendlies. We’ve already been involved in an anti-knife crime tournament which was a great thing to be a part of. I think it’s good to showcase the opportunities you can get by playing football. Documenting what you’re doing on YouTube is a great way to show how accessible and how fun playing can be. Hopefully it attracts more people to play football. That’s the overriding goal; to get people falling in love with football.
The new Tottenham Hotspur third jersey launches on the 4th September via Nike Football.