Who are you? We’re Spurs


Spurs at home gave us the perfect start to last season, with Chopra’s rattling winner deep into stoppage time. We’ll have to play at least as well as on that day, and miles better than in last season’s return game (well beaten 2-0), to come away with anything from White Hart Lane on Saturday. Steve Luckings*, online sports editor of The National in Abu Dhabi, is sure we are in for another defeat. But then he’s a Spurs fan, the same one who put a triumphant update on Facebook – repeated at this site – when we were bidding for the half of the Tottenham squad he was happy to see go.
Steve’s answers to Salut! Sunderland‘s questions came thick and fast. We learn of his hero worship of Gazza and Waddle, and the place at his dinner table for Paul Stewart. Speaking of dinner, let’s hope our Spurs imports make Steve eat his words about the likely outcome of the game…..

How do I see Sunderland’s season going? That was Salut! Sunderland‘s question.

Well, they’re the beneficiaries of a lot of Spurs deadwood after snapping up Chimbonda, Tainio and Malbranque (for grossly inflated prices in my view) and survival once again will have to be their priority.

Roy Keane needs last season’s top scorer Kenwyne Jones back as soon as possible leading the line as he causes opposition defences no end of grief.

If he can add a few more goals to his game and forge a strong partnership with El-Hadji Diouf, I think Sunderland are solid enough in all other departments to improve on their 15th place finish last term.

The only game I have seen between Spurs and Sunderland game was on Feb 8, 2003 – a 4-1 romp for Spurs in a very one-sided Premier victory.

It was by no means the best Spurs side we’ve put out down the years but the Black Cats were never a threat.

Less than 15 minutes into the game and the scoreboard at White Hart Lane read 1-0 as the Uruguay midfielder Gus Poyet turned in a clever chip from Darren Anderton for his 50th league goal in English football.

Kevin Phillips – completely against the run of play and with more than a hint of offside – made the scores 1-1 10 minutes later but a Spurs substitute Gary Doherty restored the lead by heading home Anderton’s cross.

The second half was one way traffic and Simon Davies made it 3-1 on 71 minutes with Anderton again involved in the build up.

With the visitors content to do a damage limitation job for the rest of the game, it was particularly pleasing to see Teddy Sheringham seal the rout with his 300th career goal five minutes from the end.

I have been to the Stadium of Light on one occasion but not to see Spurs play. It was a Division One (Championship) game between Sunderland and Coventry in 2003. I don’t remember the score, but I do remember being impressed with the new stadium. I had heard horror stories about Roker Park and thought the club had at least done well by building one of the more impressive newer stadiums in the country. Much better than the likes of Pride Park, the Riverside etc.

As for Saturday, I expect Berbatov to sign off with a farewell goal: 2-1 the Spurs.

Which leaves the following questions:

We both got off to disappointing starts. What do you think of Spurs’ prospects for the season?

I’m amazed to hear every TV pundit at the moment claim we’re the team best placed to break into the elusive top four. Before the start of last season I couldn’t have agreed more. We had the right players, the right coach and Arsenal had just sold their talismanic striker Thierry Henry to Barcelona – we just had to go out and deliver. We didn’t.

But this season we’re a depleted team. We’ve lost the heart and soul of our side in Robbie Keane who joined his boyhood heroes Liverpool and it looks inevitable we’ll lose our more talented, yet more unreliable, Bulgarian goal getter Dimitar Berbatov. That on top of the fact we must now have one of the smallest playing squads in the league after selling Anthony Gardner, Teemu Tainio, Pascal Chimbonda, Steed Malbranque, Paul Robinson, and Younes Kaboul says to me we’ll be lucky if we challenge the top 10.

Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool won’t be losing any sleep over us knocking on their Champions League door. The best we can hope for is another run in one of the cups, our home form is not that of a team challenging at the top while our midfield is too lightweight to cause many upsets on the road.

Why did you jump for joy at our signings from Spurs? What about your purchases?

As mentioned earlier, I have been desperate for us to clear out our deadwood players for a number of seasons now and when Sunderland tabled offers for Tainio and Malbranque I thought it was a wind up.

Having watched the two of them attempt to play football for the last few years has only added to my frustrations as a Tottenham fan. Malbranque is hot air and nothing more. Yes he will run forward, yes he will play wide left – all to absolutely no effect.

He looked good at a small club like Fulham and I suspect he will find it a bit more comfortable up at Sunderland where the players are a bit closer to his level. As for Tainio, I heard Roy Keane laud how valuable his international experience would be to the club, having won over 50 caps for Finland. I have to question if Keane bothered to research how many games Finland got a decent result in while he was on the pitch, since he clearly did no research into how he copes in Premier League matches.

I could not believe the profit we made on those two players alone. Chimbonda is a good signing, I was sorry to see him leaves. Yes is is moody but he always put in a shift and I always rated him as one of our better players. Quick, good in the air, strong in the tackle – he is equally as good at centre back to so will offer cover in a number of positions. But the decision to sign the other two are laughable.

As for our signings; I have no doubts Luca Modric will prove to be a fine purchase. He showed in Euro 2008 and against England in qualifying he has guile and creative flair and we’ll be counting on him to be the man to play the final balls through to out strike force. I expect him to weigh in with a few goals too, something we have lacked in recent years from midfield.

Giovanni dos Santos can count Brazilian legends Kaka’ and Ronaldinho among his admirers and it’s exciting to think we have a young, skillful South American in our ranks. He comes with a reputation of being able to conjure up moments of magic in a game and I’m a big fan of left footed players, they seem to strike the ball so much cleaner and crisp.

David Bentley will prove to be a great signing I think. It’s always nice to sign players who support the club, you know they will put their heart into getting results. He offers a different option to Aaron Lennon’s pace. He has excellent passing range and is deadly from set pieces.

Our goalkeeper department was an area that definitely needed addressing with the dramatic loss of form of Paul Robinson. Heurelho Gomes, known as ‘the octopus’ for his long arms, was probably signed on the back of his impressive performance against us in last season’s UEFA Cup, he was simply outstanding. My only reservation about this is the last player I saw have a great game for PSV was Young-pyo Lee – who turned out to be the weakest left-back we’ve probably ever had.

Do you hate Arsenal in the same way Sunderland hate Newcastle? Or are you more grown-up about such things?

Everything I have been brought up on, everything ingrained in my soul has been to hate Arsenal, which I do. A lot of it stems from jealousy, I’m adult enough to admit that, but they are our local rivals and getting a result against them is the most important result on my football calender. Whether it’s thwarting their title efforts on brushing them aside 5-1 in a league cup semi-final and showing them a footballing master class, putting one over on the Gunners – nothing tops that.

Any memories of players and/or management linked to both clubs? Chris Waddle and Paul Stewart are obvious ones.

Paul Stewart will always have a place at my dinner table for his goal in our 1991 FA Cup final success over Nottingham Forest. He lost his way somewhat after a big money move to Liverpool and dropped out of the England fold, but I always thought he was a much better player than perhaps most Spurs fans will remember.

We signed him from Manchester City as a striker but coached him into being a fine attacking midfield player. He was physical and could motor around the pitch well. It’s a shame he never went on to bigger things in my opinion.

If Paul Gascoigne could raise excitement levels, Chris Waddle was not far behind him. Again, our manager at the time, Terry Venables, never really operated him as an out-and-out striker – which he is on record as saying was his preferred position at the time, but instead turned him into one of the most exciting England wingers in decades. Waddle had more tricks than the magic circle and could strike a ball as good as anyone.

I remember a televised game in the 1988-1989 season against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough when they had to use an orange ball because of the snowfall on the pitch. Waddle scored the first nutmeg I ever saw against an opposing goalkeeper. He latched on to a through ball that got held up in the snow when the Owls goalkeeper expected it to travel through to him. Waddle pounced to seal a 2-0 win and I remember it took several explanations from my Grandad about how exactly he had scored, I couldn’t work it out. It was almost as if the goalkeeper was a ghost and Waddle had shot right through him. I also remember the infamous World Cup semi-final in 1990 against West Germany, not for the penalty shootout miss, but for a cracking 30 yard effort in the first-half that cannoned off the post.

Double winners, Waddle-Gazza-Hoddle, Jurgen Klinsman. What was your golden era for Spurs greats?

My interest started with the Gazza-Waddle era so I can only really comment from there on. Gascoigne for me, will always be the best English player I have seen play at their peak. I have watched Glenn Hoddle play Premier League football for Chelsea and he was still the best player on the pitch, but it was towards the tail end of his career and I get the feeling I was only watching this great player performa at 40 per cent of his capacity. Gazza and Waddle, and later Gary Lineker, were the heartbeat of the Spurs sides I grew up with as a young boy. Gazza’s upper body strength was far supreme to the players he was matched up against and his skill meant he was able to elude players with more athletic ability, something not talked about half as much as his off field problems and battle with his weight.

The next sojourn into great attacking football came with the arrival of the German World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann in 1994 to be the tip of a five-pronged attack alongside Teddy Sheringham, Illie Dumitrescu, Darren Anderton and Nick Barmby. The opening game of the season pitted us against Sheffield Wednesday. Four of the five scored: Anderton, Barmby, Sheringham and Klinsmann – the latter the winner with a spectacular scissors kick – in a 4-3 win up at Hillsborough. His celebration was just as crowd pleasing as he mocked a dive to the floor – showing his critics he could handle the flak about his past theatrics. That set the tone for both his and Ossie Ardilles attacking philosophy. Sadly, this philosophy neglected everyone not in the attacking half of the field and Ardilles’ reign lasted only five more matches before Gerry Francis was brought in to address the ratio of defenders to attackers. Despite a more sensible approach, the German formed a brilliant partnership with strike partner Sheringham with the pair sharing 48 goals between them before Klinsmann left at the end of the season with a bitter taste in the mouth but some wonderful memories too.

More great individuals followed without being in great teams. The most obvious one is David Ginola who inspired our 1999 League Cup triumph where we became the only club to eliminate Manchester United in a knockout competition that season. The mercurial Frenchman had a reputation for not working hard for his teammates but I always disputed this as argument. I watched average players like Steffen Iversen and Justin Edinburgh punt the ball as hard as possible to Ginola hugging the touchline on halfway before the fleet-footed star would beat his man nine times out of 10 – inside and outside – to give our defence some much needed breathing space.

More recently we’ve had Ledley King, who in my opinion would be ahead of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in the England pecking order if only we could guarantee to get five games on the trot out of him. Robbie Keane has been exceptional since he joined us from Leeds United and last season became only the 15th player to score 100 league goals for the club. I love players who always want the ball, even if nothing was coming off for him Keane would always want the ball at his feet to have another go. Berbatov is an outstanding player, which sadly is not matched by his attitude. He can pass, shoot, hold the ball up, work the channels and do the sublime when presented with a shooting opportunity. It looks like he will be doing it somewhere else from now on though.

Club vs country. Who wins for you?

Country. As much as I love Spurs, I would never refuse a call up for my country. I’m not a fierce nationalist in any way, but the idea of running out at Wembley with three lions on my chest, following in the footsteps of my heroes like Gazza, Hoddle and Sheringham would be an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

You live overseas. How religiously do you follow the club? Will you find a way of watching the game?

I check the Spurs website everyday for news, am in regular contact with friends back home to discuss the team and would tape over a family wedding video to record a Spurs game if I couldn’t watch them play live. My girlfriend understands this and knows this is the only matter not up for reasonable discussion.

* Steve Luckings on Steve Luckings

Although all my family hail from east London and are hardened West Ham fans, one player’s arrival at White Hart Lane in the summer of 1988 sealed my devotion to Tottenham until my dying days, much to the annoyance of my parents.

Paul Gascoigne was a player in the traditional Spurs mould: skillful, entertaining, good goal and assist contribution and most importantly, approachable – something most players today are not.

My first encounter with him came after an uncle (also a West Ham fan) fixed it for me through his links with the Spurs coaching staff to be a ball boy for the visit of Sheffield Wednesday at the Lane on October 21, 1989.

As I sat in the Spurs changing room wondering if I wouldn’t faint through nerves and excitement before running out with the rest of the team for their warm-up, the Geordie midfielder came and sat beside me, put a comforting arm around me before calming my by now uncontrollable shakes with the words: “Don’t worry son, stick next to me and you’ll be champion.”

So for what seemed like an eternity I spent the entire warm-up not more than two foot from Gazza’s side. He chatted to me asking me about my favourite players, how long I had supported Tottenham and generally doing all he could to make my experience as enjoyable as he could.

From then on I watched the player former England coach Bobby Robson famously dubbed: “As daft as a brush” take the game by storm. Impressive performances for England in the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy were topped only by a performance at Wembley in 1991 in Spurs’ famous white strip in an FA Cup semi-final clash between our bitter north London rivals Arsenal.

With everyone expecting the Gunners to brush us a side, Gazza lined up a free-kick a good 35 yards from goal. There was nothing immediately obvious in his run up to suggest what was about to follow as he let fly with a scorcher that was still rising as it flew into David Seaman’s top left-hand corner. If the net had not been there to stop the ball, it would have carried on directly for my face where I was sat behind the goal, so I was doubly pleased it went in.

We would go on to lift the cup in the final of that year, although sadly, without seeing Gazza climbing the famous steps of the old Wembley stadium due to a career threatening tackle on Gary Charles which backfired horribly. Further League Cup successes would follow in 1999 and 2008 – the latter against Chelsea, traditionally a bogey team for Spurs – but goals from Dimitar Berbatov and Jonathan Woogate ensured another trophy to add to the collection.

2 thoughts on “Who are you? We’re Spurs”

  1. Wow, what a great blog. Well done Colin for finding a Spurs fan who could write so much and not trot out the old maxim about “playing the Spurs way”. It will almost be a shame to beat them on Saturday!

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