Life Is Sweet

Late into the evening I was still spinning and swooning. Head in a whirl, words jumbling, much to the annoyance of nearest and dearest. My heart and head were in a better place.

Kaboul’s twisted gymnastic header was a loop tape in my brain. This gawky young buck produced a sublime moment of contorted grace that’s running still. Always a fine prospect, I’ve praised his determination this season to take the opportunity bestowed upon him by our casualty list but when I talked about taking chances, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

The camera was right in line but so outrageous was this comeback, even Fabianski’s despairing dive (oh that phrase feels so damn good, ‘Fabianski’s despairing dive’) and the bulging of the net was not enough, for a second or two at least. Disbelieving, I rose slowly, then the dancing began. Stupid drunk uncle at a wedding dancing, round the living room, into the garden and back again.

Over the years friends and acquaintances have wondered what I see in football, or what anyone sees in it for that matter. For some reason I give the impression of retiring home each night to sip a vintage merlot whilst reading Proust and listening to classical music. Conversations take different forms but usually begin with something about ‘you don’t seem like that type’ and will invariably take in ’11 men kicking a ball’ along the way. Lately Wayne Rooney’s IQ being in inverse proportion to his bank balance has been cropping up too.

My answer, however, is always roughly the same. I try to describe moments like Kaboul’s header or the final whistle on Saturday. That 90 minutes of total commitment culminating in an explosion of joyous abandon that is unparalleled in any sphere of life. Really: what else is there that is not chemically manufactured and leaves you floating carefree and with enough energy to power the National Grid for hours on end? Maybe seeing a band, although the personal involvement is probably not quite the same. The conversation finishes in a well-practiced manner. I fix them straight in the eye and say, ‘I feel sorry for people who don’t get football, because you’ll never experience this’.

There are other great emotions to savour too. The feeling when one of the players is burdened with the pressure of playing poorly yet at the very moment when he could sink without trace, rises to the challenge, when truly he becomes one of us. William Gallas’s magnificent defensive performance was unquestionably one such example. Early on he came from right to left with a perfectly timed tackle and one on one he had a good first half. In the second, however, our opponents discovered that they simply could not get past him. In the box and outside, time and again, impeccable timing rather than power meant he came away with the ball. His presence inspired Kaboul, who had another decent match as well as staking a small claim to history. Gallas’s legacy as a leader of a fine central defensive partnership could be more valuable than breaking the ‘top four away’ hoodoo.

The most astounding, mind-warping element was the absolute chutzpah of a win after playing like a team of Mr Blobbys for the first half. There was I at half-time, my sole ambition to keep it to four or five and feeling that this may be beyond us. The back four were all over the place. The Man in a Raincoat used to rope his back four together and make them play like that in training to drill into them the importance of staying close and working as unit. Our lot acted as if they had never met before and the Woolwich boys strolled through deserted open spaces as peacefully undisturbed as a lone trekker in the Gobi desert.

Nobody had much of a clue as to what they should be doing. Jenas, who had another good game, urged his team-mates upfield in the early minutes to press the opposition high up the pitch, but then a few of them thought, well, they weren’t up for that. Lennon and Bale again, too wide and not coming back to help.

Second half, do what we do best, attack. Bale has been accused in some quarters of being a one-trick pony but here’s evidence of his football nouse, coming off his wing with a diagonal run to slot home with the aplomb of a Chivers or a Greaves. And that one trick – it’s a damn good one. Repeatedly he was fouled, players taking it in turns so they did not get booked. Memo to Stoke, Blackburn and others – when Wenger goes on about kicking, wheel out this DVD, but they were not dirty (no irony there) – Bale was just too good.

Defoe didn’t do much in truth, but that header that began the move will do. The pundits were sputtering about how he could win that header but in fact it was a clever little ball, played in front of Defoe so the centre half could not reach it. Any higher and it would have been lost.

With Defoe spinning wide, their back four was suddenly stretched  and Modric, Bale and VDV piled into the gaps. Meanwhile, JJ showed admirable restraint and covered the back four. We dropped back to concede a few yards in the middle but crammed the space from 40 yards out. Bale and VDV tucked in when not in possession. Now our opponents were hesitant – we exposed their lack of resilience, as demonstrated by the best player on the pitch, Fabregas, acting like a little boy at nursery school with his silly handball. Talking of nursery tantrums, there’s so much fun to be had when Wenger lets that water bottle go. I can almost hear him saying ‘Ooohh Betty’ at the same time.

Astounding, audacious…enough now. A superb game culminating in the finest of victories. Unable to find the time over the weekend to write, I thought this would be out of date but in fact it’s the best time, because 48 hours on, I’m still grinning uncontrollably. It’s good to be a Spurs fan. It’s good to feel truly alive.

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12 thoughts on “Life Is Sweet

  1. I was at the stadium, working on the big screens, and after the first half, I was beginning to wonder if Tottenham were going to ship 6 or 7. But after the usual diver’s boots slow start, they came back, with a belief I’ve not seen, maybe not ever. Last year, they talked it up, and rolled over. This year, they rolled, kept rolling until they were back upright again and showed how to fight back, and that’s all I’ve ever really asked for, and I’m delighted, absolutely over the moon. As an aside, I had the pleasure of working on the Arsenal Live/Fans Forum the night before, where all concerned predicted a handsome easy victory for the Arsenal, Gareth Bale was described as someone who has won one round of the X Factor and also as being nowhere near as good as Thomas Rosicky…. I look forward to next week’s show.
    As well as Arsene’s bottle chuck (and his ‘I didn’t see it’ when asked about the handball), others in the big screen gallery saw Fabregas rip off his captains armband and chuck it away. It’s still a bit warm in Spain this time of the year….

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  2. Good read, but I think you sell Defoe short. His coming on made us narrower and made the goons play deeper. This gave us space to operate and put us on the front foot.

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  3. I think Modric’s second half defensive performance needs special mention. This kid thinks only of the team performance and worked tirelessly to close Fabregas out of the game. A fantastic unselfish professional!

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    • Modric had a fine game, and bringing on Defoe really changed things. The only worry for me is how ineffectual Lennon has become, and how taking him off changed things so much for the better. Dispassionately, Fabregas was by some distance the most talented player on the pitch, but mentally, I fear he is not strong enough when things go against him.

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  4. You do know that death by a thousand disappointments is coming your way and possibly quite soon Alan.
    Less likely than in the recent past I admit.

    But as they say in ‘Casablanca’
    ‘We’ll always at have Inter Milan at the Lane and Arsenal and the water bottle at the Emirates’

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      • LOL What a season so far! We haven’t done great in some ways; however, we’ve beaten the Arse out of the Arse on their home ground, man-handled Inter Milan at the Lane in the Champions League, while ever so close to making the knockout stages.

        COYS!!!

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  5. Our defence was left exposed first half because their midfield overran ours. Once you get stuffed in CM then all hell breaks loose as we saw. Nothing goes right if you lose CM as badly as we did. Unbelievable that we fixed it and ruined their their day and made our own in just 45 minutes.
    Another goalless game for the strikers but we can fix that in January. If we do that then Harry is right we need to set our sights higher than 4th place.

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