Sunderland beating Spurs in the first game of the season was the last thing Londoncentric sports writers expected. Weren’t Tottenham going to be one of the big performers this season? David Sapsted – Sappers to his pals – certainly thought so
CAST your mind back to last August, if you will. There was a foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey, fires raging across southern California and – as ever at that time of year – the pulses of Spurs fans were racing notably faster than normal.
The 2007-8 season, we told ourselves, was going to be the one when we finally fulfilled all that promise…our team of perpetual under-achievers (only thwarted, if you recall, from a place in the Champions’ League a few months earlier by some dodgy lasagne on the eve of the crucial West Ham game) were going to come good at last.
No doubt about it. Absolutely none. We were all supremely confident and, for the first time in a lot of years, had good cause to be so.
That supreme confidence endured almost the entire 90 minutes of the opening match at the Stadium of Light. OK, so it was not going to be a win, but an away point against a team with a Keane sense of purpose would still augur well.
But then Michael Chopra popped up and scored a goal that must have made Sunderland fans almost forgive the player’s connections with some other team up the road.
“Oh, bugger,” came the collective sigh from the Yid Army. “Here we go again.”
And, indeed, here we went again. The fact that the fortunes of Sunderland’s R.Keane subsequently turned out to be even worse than the fortunes of our R Keane came as no comfort at all. In fact, it only made that opening day defeat smart even more.
So now it’s payback time…perhaps. After a dismal display at Chelsea last weekend, Tottenham came bouncing back with a stunning 1-0 defeat against Reading Reserves in the FA Cup replay on Tuesday. Confidence could not be higher.
But at least we have history on our side. The last time Sunderland came away from the Lane with a win was 1979. I remember being sick to my stomach when I heard the result on the BBC World Service. Mind you, I was working in the Middle East at the time, so it could have been the food.
So we will traipse to the game this weekend, praying that Ledley will be fit and that Berbatov will have got over his flu and moodiness – although there is more chance of the first than the second, I reckon – and that Sunderland do not have too many shots on target or we could be in for a 5-5 draw.
“We always lose to the teams fighting against relegation,” moaned Fred (my eldest son, not the player that Spurs have been trying to sign).
“Trouble is, this season we’ve also been losing to all the teams not fighting relegation,” added Tom (my youngest son, not my hero Huddlestone).
“Still, boys,” I interject optimistically. “There’s always next season.”
They groan. They have heard it so many times before.
* David Sapsted is a former Times and Daily Telegraph reporter. He has been a Spurs supporter since his father began taking him to White Hart Lane on the bus when he was eight. A signed picture of the 1962 side parading the FA Cup around Wembley hangs above his work desk. He is a Tottenham Hotspur club member and wears a replica Danny Blanchflower shirt to home games.
“My mum and her mum used to go to White Hart Lane every week,” he says. “They would watch the reserves when the first team was away. My nan referred to that other north London team as ‘Woolwich Arsenal’ till the day she died. She’d turn in her grave if she knew my daughter has grown up a Liverpool fan.”