What the new ground needs, wherever we may end up, is a statue. It’s the thing these days, dignifying our improvised chaotic representation of beauty with the use of an art-form that stretches back beyond antiquity. Wolves and Wembley have had one for a while but there’s been a spate in the last few years. Bremner outside Elland Road, grinning wildly whereas to make it lifelike he should be scowling into the eyes of opponents spreading fear and loathing. Jimmy Armfield stands outside Blackpool’s ground, all fitting tributes to true club greats and then at Fulham there’s Michael Jackson.
Outside the New Lane fans will gather pre-match to worship. Children will clamber over the plinth and pose for photos. Their parents’ stories of past glory days and the legend behind the bronze will pass down the love of the club through the generations as the kids rush off to the club shop. Only one symbol from the modern era can truly represent Tottenham Hotspur’s heart and soul: Ledley King’s knee. Shiny metal, each ligament, bone and cartilage in detailed relief, sadly more solid in perpetuity than in life. If only.
Written off by many, although not by this blog, even I had almost given up hope that we would ever see him play again. Dignity in retirement seemed the future
rather than a series of limping comebacks. Barely a flicker’s difference in the expression as he trudges off but the slumped shoulders betray the agony of failure that for this dedicated Spur outweighs the pain in his leg. Yesterday he’s back as if he had never been gone, like he’s had a couple of weeks break in the sun. The familiar scuttling run, feet low to the ground to save precious energy and minimise impact. Running on empty, he conserves what’s left for short bursts over 5 and 10 yards, that’s all you need in the box. Above all, the mind is keen and alert, match sharp like he’s played every game he’s missed in his head. Perfect positioning, a refusal to be shifted out of place by dummy runs, uncanny anticipation born of years of experience.
A quiet man on the field, he has no need for conspicuous fist-pumping or bellowed vocal encouragement. True leaders inspire by other means. He lifted Dawson in particular, the two of them a solid central barrier to an attack fast becoming one of the most feared in the league. Danny Rose once again slotted into an unfamiliar role with aplomb and he and Kaboul stayed tighter in defence, close to the regal reassurance of their leader and master. Sandro patrolled in front of them, diligent and tough.
A couple of Spurs sites are doing their ‘Best Ever’ polls at the moment. Too young to see Norman at his mightiest, I was brought up on England, a giant in the middle with Beal sweeping up around him. Mabbutt and Gough, the latter teasing us with what have been if he stayed for longer. A few votes for Miller, but not mine. Since 67 I’ve seen them all and Ledley King is the first name that goes down. His injury has cruelly robbed us of the finest centre half in the last 40 years, so let us relish what we have.
I’ve been critical of some of Redknapp’s recent tactical decisions and player choices but full credit for what was a brave option, plunging King back into action in the game that could save our season sliding into oblivion. Also, Rose at full-back is a fine piece of player potential judgement. Yesterday the team was balanced throughout. Sandro and Modric once more showed that they are a formidable combination in centre midfield. Sandro’s progress is astonishing, as is Luka’s consistency. Everything flowed through and around him: selfless work, the touches, he holds it when it needs to be held and gives it when it needs to go. He does penalties too, apparently.
Unfortunately my opportunities for more detailed comments, and indeed for my enjoyment of the bloody game, were severely hampered by a stream so dodgy I may as well have drawn stickmen on the corners of a notebook’s pages and flicked through them. Try it – it’s like having Peter Crouch right there in your living room. Liverpool may have had some dangerous moments but my screen was frozen in anticipation for so long, I wondered if I had stumbled on a photo site by mistake. ‘This has been withdrawn through possible copyright violation’ – well, copyright violation is the whole point, isn’t it?
As the teams played the best game of statues ever (I’m not inviting you lot to my kids party at Christmas), attention wanders to the message stream in the sidebar. Correspondents named ‘lovespurskillgooners’, ‘parklane007’ and ‘spursbigboy’ readily share their views not just on the game but on life itself with ‘redtildead’ and ‘nukemancs100’. Presumably the number is to helpfully distinguish him from the 99 other ‘nukemancs’ out there.
I’m up for a bit of football banter as much as the next fan but these boards expose the reality that ‘fan banter’ is in fact rank abuse. ‘Scousers rule’ Spurs provokes the witty rejoinder, ‘no they don’t, Spurs rule scum.’ Terrace wit, this is what the younger generation will never know. U f off, no u f off out of it. And so it goes. It’s the process behind it that gets me. It’s Sunday, there’s football on, I know what I’ll do. I’ll go online and abuse other fans in textspeak. Out of the blue, another voice appears. ‘Grimsby are going nowhere!’ It came from the heart.
The ether cleared suddenly to reveal the penalty in stunning clarity. I say penalty but we all know it wasn’t. If anything Pienaar took the Liverpool’s player’s ground. It sealed the win and from then on we played well but it must have been a difficult moment for all the Spurs Howard Webb conspiracy theorists out there.
Adopting a less gung ho madcap attacking approach, we looked more comfortable and composed, more of a unit. It’s got to be the way to go. Praise for the attitude of the manager and the players. Redknapp has been talking down our prospects, to the point where we might have gone on holiday with two games left. Maybe that’s the way he likes it, comfortable with the underdog role, which in itself does not bode well for a top team but we’ll let that aside go for now. The players lifted themselves, showing determination to finish on a high.
The same attitude next Sunday will see us in Europe, and I’m all in favour of that. I understand but don’t accept the anti-Europa Cup arguments. The tournament itself has been ruined by UEFA’s insistence on the group stages, although to be accurate, it’s the clubs who make up UEFA and want the guaranteed cash that demand it. To be a top club, you fight on all fronts. You can’t turn a proper winning mentality on and off when you feel like it. It’s precisely the art of scraping through games, winning those we have drawn or lost this season when we should have done better, to handle squad rotation without falling apart, that we need to learn. Concentrating on the league isn’t a viable option, it’s a cop out, with no guarantee of any success. It limits us severely in the transfer market, and being out of the CL will be bad enough in that respect anyway.
Above all, I’m old fashioned enough to still believe that winning something is better than coming 4th and having a decent bank balance. Play a weakened team, get through the group and then go for it. Imagine bouncing your grandchildren on your knee. They look up at you with adoring big eyes, moist with emotion. ‘Tell us about the good old days, granddad’.
‘Well kids, I remember the time when our income stream exceeded salaries and other outgoings by 10 or 20%.’
‘20% granddad. Wow, things were so different in the old days…’
With winning comes the memories, and memories last. I know which I would rather have.