The Greatest

by Spooky

It’s three years today that Tottenham played their last ever game in the old White Hart Lane. It’s three years ago today that we said goodbye.

Goodbye.

It’s three years today that Tottenham played their last ever game in the old White Hart Lane. It’s three years ago today that we said goodbye.

An iconic day. An end to a season that blessed our legacy at the olde stomping ground, undefeated in all competitions (almost, I’m ignoring the League Cup). We were magnificent. The Lane was magnificent. When a rainbow broke through, above the old bricks and scaffolding, it felt poignant that this team would not find the pot of gold it deserved. But alas, football is a cruel mistress and she’s always been sadomasochistic in our company. It’s what we pay for after-all.

Roll the years forward to the present day and here we all are. Still in lockdown but beginning to make the first steps to ease out of it. The old Lane is gone but not forgotten. The new stadium is missed, even if it is tainted thanks to a lack of consolidated camaraderie. Away from the football, we are also locked in a political quagmire and there’s no disputing the harsh reality that a recession will burden the nation with more grief and no doubt, deaths.

We could do with an escapism right about now, no? Or perhaps not. It’s a bit early for the herd mentality to swarm over the football grounds up and down the country. I do miss football even if I’m starting to fall out of love with it. Caveat: I’ve been falling out of love with it for a decade but she keeps flashing her knickers at me and I can’t say no (it’s consensual and I’m sure all of you would happily use #MeToo to agree).

Don’t mistake this for an admittance that I’m slowly disconnecting myself from my beloved Spurs. You can feel disenfranchised from the sport but let’s be honest; the club you support means more to you than the amalgamation of the rest of everything else that comes with it.

Going to the football, going to see the Lilywhites will always be the pinnacle of our experience. The escapism is belonging. You know this, I’ve banged on about it for years and years. It doesn’t matter whether we’re playing well or playing badly. Being with your mates – following the team – it’s the bread and butter that is undeniably simple yet very tasty. Playing well is important though. The football makes the booze better.

Yet here we are, missing Tottenham but constantly reminded what an absolute sh*tshow the industry is. Desperate to finish off the season to retain the integrity of the competition. Integrity that is being abused by the desperation to bring it back in comedic fashion. Practically every solution and comprise suggested, that is there to protect the players and safe guard the health of everyone involved, is simply an unnecessary debate. From the training session debacle (no tackling) to the suggestion of all games played at neutral venues to 45 minute matches to five subs to supporters sat at home on the sofa sending in cheers and boos via a smartphone app…just stop. Stop it.

STOP IT.

One day we are told, it’s happening. The next, we hear suggestions that some owners are unhappy with the bare bones resolution or the maddening ‘points per game’ mathematics that cold see football clubs relegated based on a formula rather than blood and thunder and the magic of on-the-field circumstance. It’s obvious that the Premier League are failing to find a robust structure to all of this, what with the legalities at play and the likelihood clubs will seek High Court action.

Yes, other leagues are restarting or looking to make similar moves to reboot. Some have null and voided theirs or handed the silverware to the team in first place. Meanwhile in England, you have players being isolated due to testing positive for coronavirus and pundits tweeting ludicrous ideas to play the games abroad.

If it did restart in June, how long of a pre-season do the players get? What if key players test positive during the restart? Are they going to wear masks? I guess our midfield will be more than comfortable keeping two metres away from opposition players. Don’t hate me, that joke is shared every two minutes. There’s very little source material at the moment m8, allow it.

I miss Spurs. I miss the distraction, that invisible sense of normality. What I don’t want to see showcased is a stripped down variant of the game we all love. The spectator sport. Where players, teams are influenced by the tense atmosphere. Where there’s scenes and limbs and reactionary desire because of the fuel we bring to the game. I get it, we can’t gather in public places in the thousands. I would rather we call it quits, look ahead at the new (next) season, and go again. Refreshed, rejuvenated and with the rest of society functioning at a more recognisable level.

Yes, I know pubs might not reopen until the end of the year and we might still be social distancing too. So playing at our own grounds (rather than neutral venues) but still in front of non one, is no different to the suggestion being made right now. But something something don’t want Liverpool to win the title something.

Jose Mourinho wants to get back to coaching. If I was in his shoes, I’d rather forfeit the season and go back to the white board and scribble down some new ideas to match his re-branded nice-guy image. JM has lost his edge. Winning anything with him is possibly in the same category of winning something with Graham and Ramos. But such is the venom of current day fans and their be all end all defiance that silverware is all that matters and be damned with the rest. I still want us to win something.

On loan Danny Rose spoke about his reluctance to return but he might be in the minority when it comes to giving a f**k. Someone that does like to give a f*ck is Kyle Walker.

I’m literally here all day. Stay home, save your sides from splitting, protect stand up comedy.

Let’s not lose sight that even in amongst the webcams and zoom meetings and Tick-Tocks and self-isolation, players are itching to get back to the only thing they’re truly comfortable with; winding up opposition fans. That and seeking moves to pastures new. Anyone checked on Harry Kane? Anyone checked on Daniel Levy for that matter?

I won’t revisit the ENIC furlough banter but I would like to shout-out to the creative writers scrambling to push transfer stories as if we’re meant to believe they’re not complete works of fiction. Got to get those clicks in, drive traffic for the soulless word dumps. Old media is new entertainment. Their ‘look at the stats’ rhetoric, an embarrassing mess. Bit like Tim Sherwood clamouring for attention and recognition, using numbers to prove his (lack of) quality in comparison to actual quality.

Of course, there is probably some truth in the probable inactivity that clubs will suffer thanks to revenue (outside of TV money) dropping substantially. Everyone’s about to do a Tottenham. I do adore how we’re being linked with every free agent. Jose forced to go fully ‘arry Redknapp. I can’t wait for Willian to almost sign for us again.

Talking about lack of content, I did find some inspiration on Sunday. The FA streamed the 1991 Cup Semi-Final between Tottenham and them lot down the road, in its entirety, on YouTube. This game is still one of the very best days out I’ve ever had. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it and I was instantly reminded of how iconic the occasion was.

More impressive is that after almost 30 years, I can still see what I could see from my seat in the stand when thinking back to the day. As for the television coverage, the passages of play and the exquisite commentary from Barry Davies, it’s like viewing your favourite movie. So many great lines, a solid script, tension and intensity. Drama and no cheap twists. They don’t make football like this anymore. No matter how many times you watch it, you’re always joyful and nervous.

I loved that side. Not just because of Paul Gascoigne. Add Stewart, Sedgley, Edinburgh, Nayim…to name a few. Even Vinny Samways was a trooper on the day. Gazza was of course tremendous and that opening ten or so minutes was a majestic deconstruction of Arsenal, a team that rarely lost that season and was expected to march onto claiming the double. What a glorious day. Back when the FA Cup actually meant something. When winning cups was possible for many and not the few. There was prestige rather than an afterthought.

It also got me thinking about how my best ever Spurs side would line up. I struggled with this initially. It’s a positive to have so many choices to select from and rather than make it a mechanical selection of heroes that are club legends from decades where I did not exist. I have aimed to build this side based on my heart as well as the parts of my brain dedicated to memories and moments as a THFC supporter. It’s still a mixture of legends and idols and one or two cults. Players I have witnessed in the flesh.

There’s a bit of controversy in terms of my own introspection. We all get to choose from the same pool of players, so this line-up isn’t likely to surprise anyone. Maybe a better selection would be to go with the ‘best ever line up from players that are not considered to be the best ever’. Or even more apt ‘best ever worst ever side’. Probably worth a go in another blog. Star player Andy Reid, no doubt. Anyways…

Here you go:

Paul Robinson

Ledley King, Richard Gough, Jan Vertonghen

Luka Modric

Paul Gascogine, Glenn Hoddle, David Ginola

Gareth Bale

Harry Kane, Jurgen Klinsmann

Hear me out.

Robbo. Because I stood in Block 34 for ten years and when he was at his very best, he was one of us. Hugo Lloris is a far more accomplished keeper, but personally, that would be too easy for me to stick him in at number one. After-all, this team selection is a romanticised muse. I can’t remember the Park Lane singing Happy Birthday to another keeper. Robbo also loves a good old fashion chorus in Europe too.

King. If he had two knees, this cartilage free club legend would probably have left to join a less mis-managed football club in the upper echelons of the game. One knee was a curse but also, for us, selfishly a blessing.

Gough. One season. 1987. Maybe I’m lost in nostalgia (the same way I seem to catch myself believing that Gordon Durie was decent) but I seem to remember Gough was quite simply brilliant in his single session in England. The way that team disbanded before the 1988 season still hurts me.

Jan gets in before Toby just because of that whimsical sense of him belonging to us, that he accepts he is one of us. Okay, so I could remove Gough and stick Toby in – that might ‘improve’ the selection. But again, this is based on what resonates in time. I mean, it would be even easier for me to just write up the Dembele/Wanyama Poch team as my favourite eleven and be done with this.

The midfield. Oh my. So this is always going to be near impossible. In past years I would chuck in a Blanchflower or a White or a Mackay or a Greaves. So many truly great players from the 1960s. So many more from the 70s and again 80s. But I’m a man-child of the 90s and ignoring the early 00s, the 10s were far more enjoyable. But the past thirty years is my generation(s), fragmented with the miserable and the incredible.

Luka, Gazza, Hoddle, Ginola. Bale.

Yes. It lacks a defensive midfield enforcer. But this team is a dream team, a fantasy, an exhibition of shirts tucked out, socks rolled down; what the definition of being ‘Spursy’ ought to be…ours. Undeniably ours. Not that other definition which is a self-deprecating mechanism to laugh at capitulations, stolen by rival fans and journalists alike to mock.

Modric the deep laying architect. Hoddle, the di vinci. Gascoigne, the baby faced angel of physicality and improvisation. Ginola, the artist. Bale, the shock and awe. This midfield would carpet bomb the opposing team with a beautiful balance between heaven bursting explosions and pin point precision.

Upfront, Harry. The complete forward. Alongside side him, Jurgen the complete assassin.

This is a side chosen that reflects everything that I want and love about Tottenham and their heritage and traditions. Yes, I could have perhaps selected more cult type heroes in the traditional sense. Mavericks. But such is the wealth of options, it reminds me how blessed we actually are with the sheer flair we’ve been treated to over the years.

Special mentions to: Gary Lineker, Clive Allen, Teddy Sheringham, Dimi Berbatov, Rafa van der Vaart, Darren Anderton, Gary Mabbutt, Michael Carrick, Steve Sedgley, Toby Alderwiereld and the Rose/Walker dynamic. Son Heung-min and Dele Alli.

The gaffer would be Pochettino because he gave our club an identity that we haven’t had since the 1980s, a togetherness that in a different era would have possibly resulted with cups and open bus parades. Is that a bit snowflaky for you? I hope so. Because I melt every time I think about what could have been.

Sedgley makes the ‘squad’ because of the 1991 season. If you know, you know. He’s possibly what I meant about traditional cult heroes.

Berbatov, Carrick and even the likes of Modric and Bale are arguably tainted because of their manoeuvring and engineering to get away from Spurs. But then, Jurgen had regrets for leaving after a season. Hoddle managed and played for Chelsea ffs.

Rafa was one of my favourite non-Spurs players and when we took him off Madrid, I was made up. He was a talisman, a foil…a brilliant big game player and he absolutely loved scoring against them lot.

Mabbutt, along with the 1987 team, was perhaps the personification of what it is to be Spurs. That 1987 side was the dissertation on preparing me for a lifetime of emotional wreckage. The own goal in one final was sickening but forgivable. He made it right with the 91 victory. Take the good with the bad. That’s Spurs. That’s pretty much all of football.

Sheringham was at least one player that was honest and upfront about leaving. He remains one of my all time favourites too. Allen because of the 49. Toby, a player that you could argue was better than Ledley (I said ‘argue’), was astonishingly Rolls Royce for the peak Poch seasons. For most of my life, Spurs didn’t do defending. Evidence: 1990s. Then in the past ten years or so, wallop…we’re spoilt for choice.

An extra special mention for the Danny Rose and Kyle Walker dynamic. Why? Because these two were maligned and written off by some fans and their evolution is another personification of Tottenham; accidental heroes.

Son because I want him to be my brother (from another mother). One of the finest signings of recent years, a pulsating storm of pace and enthusiasm. Dele, because as a grown man in his 40s, I can live vicariously through him (thank the cosmos he wasn’t seriously hurt in the recent robbery).

And of course Ossie and Ricky, because the World Cup and their arrival in N17 was one of my earliest flashbacks. The early 80s was my baptism, even if I was too young to be religiously intertwined in the fandom of football and how cruel and mesmerising it can be. That Villa goal in the 3-2 against City. 39 years ago. A single moment that will go down as one of the greatest.

All these players give reason to why Tottenham chose me to follow them.

Of course, I have probably forgotten a dozen essential names to include in my list. But it’s a list. It’s forever changing. Please do share yours in the comments section.

Right. Let’s wrap this up.

Goodbye COVID. It’s what we all want to say. It might take you a while to walk out of the front door, you might never leave. You might linger in the street outside, sneering as I poke through the curtains. You were uninvited. You gatecrashed. You ruined our plans. You forced us into a corner. Bore off now please.

It’s time we start to plan ahead but do so with empathy and respect. I hope this has changed us in some way. That society across the world takes more than a moment to reflect. That would be nice but, well, humans don’t have a good track record for lessons learnt. We’re too tribal for collective reasoning.

So goodbye.

In the not so distant future, I want to be saying hello. Hello to the new Lane. To my mates. To a cold pint or a Kraken with ice, in a beer garden. Friends and strangers together, singing songs about the one thing men can proudly state they love unconditionally. Hello to everything we took for granted. Hello to the escapism that binds us all together.

Hello.

Hello you.

Author

Spooky

GOAT blogger. y u salty?

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All views and opinions expressed in this article are the views and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of The Fighting Cock. We offer a platform for fans to commit their views to text and voice their thoughts. Football is a passionate game and as long as the views stay within the parameters of what is acceptable, we encourage people to write, get involved and share their thoughts on the mighty Tottenham Hotspur.

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