I’ve been reflecting on this tumultuous week past for Tottenham Hotspur. I say reflecting: what I really mean is, I’ve been thinking of little else. Work has suffered, naturally. Days like today, when I have been office and computer based, have passed in a giddy and unproductive haze, just remembering. From my office window I’ve not been dissuaded by the slice of daylight above the large breezeblock wall, even though it frames the twin chimneys of the cement factory, and still I gaze dreamily into space.
Talking with people, the other major component of my role, has however been a belter. I’ve been on scintillating form, even if I say so myself. On the ball, sharp as a pin, empathetic and witty, where logic has failed to win the day, sheer charm has taken over. Perhaps work would fund a portion of my season ticket, if not in gratitude then as an investment in my future performance levels. I’ll run it past the chief exec and let you know what he says.
I can’t recall a week quite like it since I’ve been a fan, which is 1967 onwards. Not one with both the sheer joy of the victories against Arsenal and Chelsea but also containing such extremes of despair and elation. All suggestions welcome. One that comes to mind is the ’81 cup final, when the replay was on the Thursday following the first drawn match. The anticipation of what was my first final gave way to the realisation at some point in the second half that actually we were going to lose, then the ecstasy and overwhelming relief of our fortunate equaliser. Then that goal at 2-2 in the replay, the absolute pinnacle of being a Spurs supporter.
But of the all the things from this remarkable special history-making sodding brilliant week, one provides a glow so warm you could toast your marshmallows on it – the performance of players who in many quarters had been written off. Not good enough for Spurs, won’t take us to the next level, total waste of money. Get rid. At one time or another, these and other charges were levelled at the three supernovas in a galaxy of stellar performers, Gomes, Dawson and Bale.
Less than three weeks ago the mighty brains of the Sky pundit panel solemnly identified Gomes as Tottenham’s weak link. We who knew differently had faith, but the image lingered of the kindly face of this gentle and loving family man contorted into a rictus grin of terror every time he emerged from the safety of his line to deal with a cross. It was not so much the fumbles, although they were agony enough, it was the look of sheer bewilderment that followed that truly worried us.
So we roared our approval at his gravity-defying leaps into the top corner, gasped as his reactions palmed away goal-bound shots, cheered with gratitude as, one on one, in the tangle of long limbs the ball bounced to safety. Above all, in all this was the element of delight and pleasure that he had become one of ours, his struggle to demonstrate his skill and determination complete, and all this on our behalf. Show them, son, you show them all, every last one who sniggered as we suffered, you’ve shown them.
Dawson’s mask of devoted concentration broke towards the end of the Chelsea game. Ever alert and steely-eyed, he bent to pull up his socks, necessary as his mental exercise to gather himself and stay focussed, and he grinned. He finally took pleasure in his own performance as well as that of the team, as his name was belted out from all four stands. From a gawky clumsy and ungainly oaf to John Terry’s replacement. The Park Lane spotted it first, then the football media have followed this week.
We can only imagine how hard he has worked this season. Recovering from injury is difficult enough, but then he found himself out in the cold and watching from the sidelines as without him we secured a low goals against tally. He waited, and when his chance came, he made damn sure that he took it. Nothing was going to be left in the dressing room. In the past he’s held something back for fear of making a mistake, but his wholehearted approach is precisely his biggest strength. He let rip in a series of fearless performances, the background to which must have been not only the need to avoid jeopardising the team’s success but also the worry that this could be his final opportunity, with five centre halves in the squad and a manager impatient for progress. He is nothing short of outstanding.
And Bale, the terrified hesitant youngster or scourge of the best defences in the league, a rabbit stuck in the headlights or the most dynamic full back around? This force of nature was comparatively recently in danger of being consigned to the dustbin of Spurs history, the overflowing section labelled ‘Promising youngster – Failed’.
I’ve mentioned before a 5 Live commentary of a cup match when he came on as sub. The commentators could hear the bench screaming at him to get forward, in a game that carried little pressure, but he was immobile, unsure about how to react. Again he has suffered the pain of serious injury that for young players can leave emotional scars more lasting than the physical damage, but given the chance presented by BAE’s injury, he was determined to take it.
One of the things about writing on the net is that your opinions hang around in the ether for eternity and come the day of reckoning, all will be taken into account. A couple of years ago on MEHSTG I described Bale as a world class prospect, but I never realised that he was this good, and frankly, neither did he. We’ll gloss over the ‘this is JJ’s year’…for two years running…
Three magnificent footballers, who I dearly love and cherish, who should never leave us. They’re ours – we’ve watched them grow and mature, now as part of our family we can marvel at their talents.
In closing, a reappraisal. We were awful against Portsmouth but perhaps in the light of subsequent events my verdict that they lacked the resilience to perform at the top was harsh. They could have done more, should have taken hold of that game without playing well. However, in hindsight many of them were not fully fit yet they gave everything in terms of energy and commitment. Corluka was obviously totally gone but he kept moving and tried his all. I don’t believe that the Arsenal and Chelsea performances emerged solely from the motivation of defeat at Wembley. Deep down, it came from a commitment to doing their very best for Tottenham Hotspur, and you can’t ask for anything more.