One of the good things about not having a crowded fixture list this season is that when we win, there’s more time to bask in the warm nourishing glow of victory. It’s a great feeling, something which Spurs fans have frankly not been accustomed to over the years. The reservations expressed in my match report about tactical weaknesses somehow ebb away, at least until Matty Taylor bangs one in from 30 yards against the run of play on Saturday, and thoughts turn to past glories.
Meticulous post-match historical research (chatting in the car on the North Circular on the way home) came up with 3 other occasions within the forty year timespan of my support for our beloved Spurs when an individual Tottenham player has scored four: Martin Peters away to Manchester United, Colin Lee in the famous 9-0 versus Bristol Rovers and Jurgen Klinsmann away to Wimbledon. Ironically we forgot the one previous occasion when all three of us had been present, Berbatov’s four against Reading in a mad 6-4 win.
I was present for four of the games, Wimbledon away preventing my nap hand. One thing they all had in common was that they were not exceptional matches. It’s the feat of four that remains in the memory, not the quality of the performance or, particularly, of the goals themselves. Against Burnley we did well, exceptionally so in patches, but we’ve played better and lost.
I saw Peters score all four goals in a 4-1 win in 1972 from the enclosure at Old Trafford. Many clubs had a standing area running the length of the pitch, like the one in the old West Stand at White Hart Lane, the space now occupied by the West Stand Lower seats. In those days you could stand there in safety at away grounds, getting a bit of stick but nothing serious. Liverpool, Old Trafford, Derby, even Highbury and, to truly demonstrate how times have changed, Upton Park, where in the early 70s I and other clusters of Spurs fans openly celebrated a 2-1 victory and lived to tell the tale. Then as now I preferred the view from down the side but also it represented a refuge from the increasing violence in the home and away ends. I watched the hoolies get stuck in from a safe distance.
We were three up well before half time but the only goal I can recall is the fourth, a header at the Stretford end I think. Peters was famed for ‘ghosting in’, in fact a simple manoeuvre that we now expect as routine from midfielders, coming late into the box, and he rose unchallenged to score. I vividly remember the total silence; the ground was stunned. On MOTD you could hear a solitary person applauding. It was me, stood near the cameras.
The 9-0 against Bristol Rovers was another odd one. We expected to do well in what was then the Second Division but this stroll was so easy it was unreal. Basically, everything worked. Again I don’t recollect any stunning football to break Rovers down, merely a succession of crosses converted by Colin Lee on his debut, plus three from Ian Moores. Two men less likely to score seven between them have seldom appeared together in the same Tottenham team. Lee was a round shouldered un-athletic signing from Torquay, willing but often with the touch of a full back in front of goal. Which he duly became as his scoring powers waned. Centre-forward to left back, a remarkable change of position.
Moores meanwhile enjoyed his day, although even when he scored a rare hat-trick, (or as time went on, scoring was rare full stop), he found himself out of the limelight. A signing that epitomised the way our standards and expectations had fallen, Moores was a limited target man, memorable for his beard but sadly not his talent. Think Rasiak without the skill….
Coming up to date, Berbatov’s four came in a crazy game against Reading, lots of fun in the total absence of any competent defending from either side. One goal stands out. In a crowded box, the ball dropped vertically from a great height and Berba, back to the target, swivelled to volley home. A dream goal scored with the lazy insolence of the most skilful player at Spurs since Gazza.
I’ve left Klinsmann to last not just because it was the one that I did not see. The 97-98 table shows that we finished a modest 14th but that does not tell the full story of this desperate season under Christian Gross. We went into this tricky away game, the penultimate fixture, teetering precariously above the drop zone and Wimbledon were hard to beat. Well, in fact, just hard, and they approached this match like the school bully lurking outside a sweet shop for passing year 7s. Defeat and subsequent relegation was the terrifyingly real prospect.
I listened at home on the radio, pacing the floor and cheering every Spurs move. Winning 6-2 was a bonkers result, given our pathetic season. Watching MOTD, the players congratulated Klinsmann, strutting around full of themselves. Even Saib had a good game, that’s how odd it was. Jurgen returned late in the year to save us all and he took his chances in the manner of the true master he was, but I still slightly resent the cockiness of his teammates. You were awful that year, lads.