The headline was going to be ‘Gareth Bale is not diver, says Tottenham’s Spitting Image joker’, implying that this was a view only a writer of comedy could hold. Reports of Jermain Defoe’s rumoured, imminent signing – closely followed by other rumours that his pay demands will scupper it, and of course bearing in mind we are often used as bargaining chips by players/agents with other clubs in mind – inspired second thoughts, not least because our Spurs WAY volunteer, David Sapsted*, also mentions him.
As well as coming up with gags for Spitting Image, and about G Bale, Sappers is a veteran news hound – we worked together at The Daily Telegraph and he once, as news editor, ordered me to take an early cut so I could drive to Leicester in time for a midweek match (we lost) – and a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur (plus, for reasons we do not know, assorted other ‘second’ teams. Here is his irreverent look at all things White Hart Lane …
Salut! Sunderland: What it is about Spurs that we start every season hearing this will be their year and then it all goes flat?
Sappers: This is a question I have been asking myself pretty regularly since the 1960-61 season. I even emailed THFC last summer and suggested we change our motto from “To dare is to do” to: “There’s always next season.” I didn’t get a reply.
We have always kidded ourselves that our failures stem from the fact we play open, entertaining football, regardless of the eventual outcome – but even that excuse has evaporated in the past couple of seasons amid some really dreary soccer.
But there’s always games against us to perk up everyone. Were you there when Cattermole’s goal just made you so angry you had to score five in reply?
Sadly, I missed that one. But we normally get one or two results a season that really buoy us, the five goals against Chelsea being the latest example. They give us hope that, finally, the manager’s plan is coming together…and then, as this year, we promptly eke out an ugly draw away to the might of Burnley and then eke out an even uglier defeat against the awesome powerhouse that is Crystal Palace. Or not.
But in honesty, do you see Spurs becoming a top three/four/Champions League fixture with the present owner/manager or is it just a case of come back Alan Sugar?
I would love to say we could make the top four but, realistically, I can’t see it. My one dread is that we qualify, one way or another, for the Eurocrap League and, once again, face an endless string of extra fixtures next season in places like Omsk.
But I’m not sure we want Lord Sugar back, though a lot of us still yearn for the exciting days when Harry was manager and we had some bloke called Bale on the wing (I wonder whatever became of him). We keep being told by Pochettino that he needs time for his system to work, except we have no idea what that system might be except to hold a high line, run a lot and hope Kane manages to thump one in from the edge of the area.
Despite the ups and downs , who is performing consistently this season and who needs shipping out?
Harry Kane – who I rated as rubbish in his early days – and Hugo Lloris have been invaluable and it’s been a delight to have Kyle Walker back after a long period out with injury. Walker and Danny Rose, your former loanee, might have defensive frailties but give us great width when they go forward. Chadli has also surprised some of us with his enterprise this season and, of course, Eriksen is essential in midfield, even though he can become invisible in some games. Ryan Mason has also emerged this season as something of a Cattermole, though hopefully without so many red cards.
On the other side of the coin, I think the only encouraging thing about £30 million Erik Lamela is that he spends so much time on the injury list. And, of course, Soldado has been a huge disappointment, to himself as much as to the team. Then we have a perpetual problem in central defence: Vertonghen is reliable except when he gets caught out because of the high line we’re keeping, while Fazio is fine for 88 minutes but invariably makes a couple of mistakes which leave us exposed.
Would any of the present bunch have made an impact in the glory days of the Double?
Lloris, maybe, but I’d be struggling after that. Perhaps Walker for Ron Henry, who died recently, but only because he’s so good getting forward. But you can’t compare Eriksen to Blanchflower, or Mason or any of the others to Dave Mackay. And the genius that was John White has never since been replicated at the Lane, and I would say the same about Cliff Jones except that an image of that bloke Bale in full flight keeps popping into my head.
What have been the best moments in your time as a supporter and which ones make you cringe?
Obviously, the double season and the thrill of the football we played that season as I stood on the terraces next to my dad. Then there was our run in the Champions League a few seasons back and, further back, the Ricky Villa goal at Wembley (though I’d forgotten my glasses for the game and I didn’t really see it until I got home and watched the replay on TV). And the 9-1 thrashing of Wigan though, again, I missed some of the goals because I was so busy texting my mates about the previous one we’d just scored.
As for cringe-making moments….there are so many. This season alone, I think of the loss to West Brom and our ridiculous defensive performance against Liverpool. I must also admit to a feeling of embarrassment when I think of some of the splendidly realistic dives performed by Jurgen Klinsmann. And on a professional level as a journalist, I still can’t forgive myself for writing off the Tottenham riots as a bit of “over-exuberance” among supporters in the wake of a pre-season friendly I’d attended.
Best players ever seen in Spurs colours?
Brown, Baker, Henry, Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay, Jones, White, Smith, Allen and that bloody annoying geezer Bale.
Gus Poyet (only kidding but I thought it might cheese off your readers)
Thoughts on our lot? Club, fans, city, region and, of course, your old boy Poyet
As Brighton is one of my “second favourite” teams, I was saddened when Poyet left them as he’d done such a great job there. It seems to me that he badly needs money to spend this month on new players – there again, so do we.
I’m a big fan of the ‘true grit’ of Cattermole and think both Johnson and Wickham have a lot to offer, even though they show off their undoubted talents too rarely.
I’ve only ever been to Sunderland once and that was for some bloke’s significant birthday party (was it my 30th? – Ed) at the Stadium of Light. From what I remember, I had a great time.
Did you choke into your soup when there was talk of bringing in John O’Shea?
I would love to have seen O’Shea at the Lane 10 years ago. Same with Wes Brown. But now we have Fazio who’s quite capable of making the same sort of cock-ups as your two.
And should we be happy at rumours about Defoe?
Why not? He can still score goals. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing him line up alongside Kane for us.
Top four and bottom three this season?
And diving: Bale’s gone but do you still have a few chancers? And does it even matter any more, since they’re all at it?
I think Bale’s reputation for diving was somewhat undeserved while, among the current lot, Harry Kane is so inept at it that he makes it look like a dive when he’s genuinely been fouled. Of course it matters and makes life tough for refs, though I think a much greater priority is all the shirt-tugging and waist-hugging that go on in the box during corners and free kicks. It would be such an easy thing to curtail if only officials would have the guts to start awarding a few penalties.
I believe you’ll be there. Expecting a hat-full as a bounce-back from Palace, a narrow win or a shock defeat?
One of the best – and worst – things about supporting Spurs is that you head for the Lane expecting the worse and then, if things go well, you’re pleasantly surprised. I shall, as usual, be putting down Spurs for a 4-1 victory in my Sky Super 6 selections (which explains why I’m 480,000th in the leaderboard ratings) but I’m confidently expecting a 1-1 draw.
* David Sapsted on himself: I’ve spent more than 50 years as a journalist and been a Spurs supporter for a decade or so longer than that. Now semi-retired and living in East Sussex, I’m a THFC member as are my two sons though, to my shame, my daughter supports Liverpool (as does Monsieur Salut’s). My late parents were from Dalston, north London, and both supported Spurs, my mother as a young woman going to the Lane every week, seeing the reserves play when the first team were away. Indeed, my maternal grandmother would only refer to ‘Woolwich Arsenal’ to her dying day.
Interview: Colin Randall
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