Diamond White, aka Paxton Lee*, leapt at the chance of writing for Salut! Sunderland‘s new Who Are They? feature ahead of Saturday’s game at White Hart Lane. Will we extend our run of one win running? Will we snatch a plucky draw? Or will we just continue this season’s normal away service of losing most things in sight? Paxton thinks he knows the answer
Let’s not pretend otherwise, for us this week is all about the League Cup Semi-final 2nd leg against the Woolwich Wanderers.
We haven’t beaten them for years and we are a game away from Wembley. However, we would be foolish to underestimate the importance of Saturday’s affair with Sunderland. One look at the league table will show you that an away win would see Sunderland within one point of us.
With the Black Cats locked in a relegation battle such a result would surely mean, after nursing the bruised egos again, that we aren’t particularly safe ourselves either. And with the following two league games being a trip to Everton and the visit of Man Utd, three points this Saturday have to be earned and has to be a must.
This is a game that the typically complacent Tottenham would traditionally take lightly. It will be a good indicator as to Juande Ramos’s abilities if he can take the players’ minds off Tuesday’s game and keep them focused on the immediate job in hand.
With the Keane effect, it is probably thought that Sunderland may have faired a little better than they have done so far this season, especially considering the amount of money spent in the summer.
Yet it is testament to the Sunderland fans, in contrast to their neighbours (“the best supporters in the world tm”), that in today’s knee jerk culture Roy Keane does not appear to have come under any pressure.
There is clearly the aura and winning mentality about him that he held as a player, something that he no doubt did not develop as a childhood Spurs fan, which will buy him as much time as he is likely to need.
Even going back to the big spending; Craig Gordon looks to be a solid goalkeeper, Kieran Richardson is no world beater but is a better player than some have previously made out and Kenwyne Jones has shown glimpses of promise – predictably eye-catching for us was the hard time he gave old Judas last weekend in the win over Portsmouth.
Unlike the fodder that is Bolton, Fulham, Reading and Wigan whose sole aim is to merely survive in the Premier League, Sunderland’s ambition is refreshing as they appear not to subscribe to the there-to-make-up-the-numbers mentality. Niall Quinn seems to typify this patience and ambition but, even though he is generally viewed as the nicest of ex-Gooners, ultimately a Goon is a Goon so please excuse us for not wanting to wish him well.
Saturday’s game is also a chance for us to exact some revenge. Obviously there was the season’s opener where a team that was widely tipped as being capable of breaking into the top four showed the amount of application and desire for the cause that would lead one to wonder if they were even capable of breaking wind.
Saying that, with the amount of possession we enjoyed and duly did very little with, I don’t think we actually deserved to lose the game. It signalled the beginning of the end for the popular yet limited Martin Jol and led to the whole series of events that only the Barcodes can match for bad handling and incompetence.
Even more painstakingly, in retrospect, was the 1-1 draw back in 05/06. Forget “Lasagnegate”, losing a last minute equaliser against the poorest of poor Sunderland sides was the difference between being a Champions League team and being best of the also-rans.
Oh, for Paul Stalteri to have turned with just a bit more speed than an ocean-liner and clear the ball into row Z like one of his attempted crosses.
He did repeat this feat at the Library a couple of months later but he has at least gone some way to redeeming himself since with the hilarious winner at the Spammers last season. Trips to the Stadium of Light of late have proven to be just as successful as the Futureheads’ follow-up album with a depressing 2-0 Sunday on Sky defeat still fresh in the mind as well.
To more joyful recent memories of Sunderland, the last meeting at the Lane was an entertaining 3-2 win with a winner from the sorely missed Newcastle lad Michael Carrick.
This was also a game that saw a penalty save from current Spur (though out on loan at the moment to Leicester) and home video star Ben Alnwick.
Teddy Sheringham nodded home his 300th career goal in this fixture during 02/03 and it is worth noting here that should Robbie Keane net on Saturday this will bring up his 100th goal in our colours. Even so, we fully expect the away supporters to guffaw at our “there’s only one Keano” chants.
The wonderfully named Jurgen Macho watched a Christian Ziege lob sail over him for our first in a 0-2 win in the early days under Glenn Hoddle and goal scoring feats such as a Gary Doherty brace and a Steffen Iversen hat trick in separate away wins will surely make any Spurs fan do a double-take and should really embarrass any Mackem.
The mid 90s meetings saw Andy Sinton score a Ricky Villa-esque solo goal (honestly, I’m not making these up) in a game that I also remember for Kevin Ball missing an open goal.
There was a League Cup win thrown in there somewhere, pardon me for not mentioning who grabbed the late winner, a Klinsmann inspired FA Cup drubbing at Roker Park and back at the start of the 90s (before football began apparently) there was a classic Spurs comeback in a 3-3 draw that I seem to recall Marco Gabbiadini starring in.
Dipping even further into the past, a Sunderland visit to the Lane in 1938 for an FA Cup tie was watched by our record attendance of 75,038…and they think current transport links would not be able to cope with a mooted 50,000 capacity White Hart Lane!
Having already mentioned Alnwick, Sunderland have had their fair share of ex-Spurs greats in recent times. Look no further than former Magpie Chrissy Waddle and, a personal favourite of mine, Paul Stewart (pictured). Stewy, crap striker but top midfielder for us.
Sadly, I think he was employed as the former at Sunderland. You won’t thank me for remembering a glaring headed miss in a game at Wimbledon that condemned Sunderland to relegation. There was also a time when every other Sunderland player seemed to be called Gray and I think I’m right in saying one of those was an ex-Spur, Phil Gray.
Going back to the upcoming match, I feel that any Sunderland fan heading to the game, if you can wrestle yourself away from laughing at the sitcom of a club down the road from you, will probably look at the way we have defended this season and believe some kind of result is certainly achievable. And they would be right.
Even Birmingham City left the Lane with all three points firmly pinched like a suitcase at a David Hillier inhabited arrivals lounge. The likelihood of Sunderland scoring is pretty much nailed on but it will be interesting to see if Ramos risks Ledley King ahead of the Goon game.
At the other end a lot will, of course, depend on the mood of Dimitar Berbatov and if our chosen midfield combination can in some way put in a coherent shift. Steed Malbranque has been our most improved and consistent midfield performer this season, so he is one to look out for.
Didier Zokora is away at the African Cup of Nations and Tom Huddlestone, the perfect 1980s footballer, sits out the final game of his suspension but Jermaine Jenas should be in the starting line-up and will no doubt come in for some stick from the away end given his Newcastle links.
He is very much a player that divides opinion amongst the Spurs support, some see him as a tenacious box-to-box midfielder whilst others view him simply as a bit of waster.
To sit on the fence, he probably falls somewhere in between. Jenas ticks a lot of boxes in terms of attributes, ability and talent but frustratingly you often leave a game wondering what it is he has actually contributed.
We played midweek whilst Sunderland were able to stay at home watching Newcastle TV, or Sky Sports News as it is commonly known, but this should have absolutely no baring on the outcome considering how we cruised through the win at Reading exerting the bare minimum requirement.
My pessimistic Spurs head tells me to brace myself for a score-draw with minds looking towards Tuesday night. But ignoring these annoying pangs like a Mark Lawrenson commentary, I will say that I do actually think we will win. With Spurs, I think I would be wise to refrain from an exact score prediction and leave it simply as Sunderland will score and we will do just enough to score one more.
* Paxton Lee, which is also a nom de guerre, is a Paxton Road season ticket holder at White Hart Lane and formerly contributed to the fanzine My Eyes Have Seen The Glory which ended, in print form, at the end of last season but continues as a website at this link. The stream of entertaining words from Spurs fans resulted mainly from the kindness of Jim Duggan from Topspurs in passing Salut! Sunderland’s request around.