Gareth Bale – A True Tottenham Great

Bloggers are free and easy with words. We churn them out like manic 5 year-olds with their first Playdoh set, misshapen splurges of gloop strewn all around, ideas left incomprehensible to those who look on with tolerance and, sometimes, patience, but clear in our heads as we rush on to next one. 

Words deserve more care. Some must be cherished, lovingly wrapped in soft tissuepaper and stored away for special occasions only, so that when they appear, they dazzle and amaze with their shimmering brightness.

Here’s one I’ve unwrapped because the time is right. It’s simple impact has been long since mired in a quicksand of over-use and hyperbole, but for some it has meaning still. ‘Great’ carries not only the heft of significance but in a mere five letters includes also a sense of perspective, because it compares something with others around it and with examples from the past. It’s a mighty word, not to be used lightly. To me, Gareth Bale is a great Tottenham Hotspur footballer.

The greats have two things that set them apart. One is that they possess a distinctive signature, something in the way that they perform the same tasks as their professionals that remains unique. Hoddle’s long pass, stroked rather than kicked with precision and spin, backspin to hold it up into a striker’s stride or top to let it roll on invitingly into space. Gascoigne’s burst, arms out, head down, sucking a gaggle of defenders into thinking they could get him before emerging with the ball at his feet. Greaves’ effortless glide across the turf, the ball always two or three feet from his foot, the pass into the net. 

Shut your eyes and see Bale at top speed, perfect control again but this time with pace, power and muscle. He can trap a ball, shoot from range or in the box, pepper the keeper with long shots or slide one past desperate outstretched fingers to nudge it inside the far post, but in 45 years I’ve never seen a six foot 13 stone player run like that with a football at his feet.

The other unique quality that marks out the great ones is their enduring capacity to astonish. Even if you have seen it all before, this run, this pass, this shot is a thing of wonder that leaves the spectator dumb with awe. When Bale gets the ball, I’ve discovered that I no longer cheer encouragement – why would I, he doesn’t need my help. Instead, I gawp like a lovestruck teenager. He runs, my mouth falls open and I hold my breath, I am drawn from my seat by some mysterious force. Time restarts when the move is over.

In an age when the average is given preposterously inflated status, when mundane is the new top class, Bale continues to amaze. At Spurs we are privileged to see him blossom into a wonderful footballer coveted worldwide. I bore my kids with context, with stories of heroes and magnificent occasions from Tottenham’s past. I’m so delighted they have a player whose career they have seen from its awkward beginnings and who now weaves tales they can spin for their children and grandchildren. An honour and a privilege to see him play. Enjoy every moment, I beg you – this doesn’t happen very often.

Yesterday Bale won the match with two very different goals and could have scored two more. From a starting position on the left, he came inside more as the match went on as it became clear that Spurs needed some inspiration to lift the spirits as well as the tempo. Beforehand there was talk of him playing as a striker. It’s tempting as right now, you feel he can succeed at anything he likes. However, he needs a few yards to get going – defenders would love it if he had his back to the goal and pace was taken out of the equation – so that free role is perfect. 

Over the last few games, Spurs have been busy but lack a cutting edge. Bale makes the difference, versus Norwich, West Brom and now Newcastle. In a bright opening, he burst down the left and Dempsey should have touched in his perfect low cross as it skimmed along the six yard line. Then a free kick after Dempsey’s good turn was cut down by Colloncini. In a footnote, Spurs had men spare at the far post but a cross was never an option. We no longer joke about Spurs and free-kicks. Over the wall and down again, enough to bounce before it plopped into the corner.

The game was bookended by decent spells at the beginning and end. In between, we struggled to impose ourselves. Going a goal up after five minutes paved the way for some lovely flowing football with everyone involved but gradually Newcastle came back into it. Last week I suggested that with a striker shortage, we could always tighten up at the back even though ‘one nil to the Tottenham’ doesn’t have much of a ring to it. The suggestion seems reasonable and we played two defensive midfielders in Parker and Dembele. While Parker was there, Dembele is wasted in that role. Three times we left acres in front of the back four. Cisse missed with a header, unmarked as Caulker and Naughton looked on when they should have done much more, then no closing down and an equaliser. 

Newcastle have a strong midfield that at the moment lacks the capacity to control a game but they were always dangerous in bursts and kept Spurs quiet for the rest of the half. In the second we had more of the territory and I can recall Lloris making only one real save, an important one late on at Ameobi’s feet. Meanwhile we had the ball without making much of an impact. Dempsey was poor up front, showing his uncertainty in that role by dumping his stock in trade, the awareness and one-twos at the edge of the box, in favour of three long shots when others were much better placed. Holtby impressed in an advanced role but was wasted by being moved wide left in a reshuffle at the start of the second half. Predictably the game passed him by and he was withdrawn in favour of Adebayor. Parker drove on from the back but exercised poor judgement and accuracy with his forward passing. Lennon fizzed and came back to help out the defence.

Enter Bale. Just when it seemed the deadlock would not be broken, he seized on a mere moment’s hesitation between the Newcastle centre halves. At his feet, an innocuous bouncing ball in the middle suddenly became a charge on goal. This wasn’t a mere lunge to a high ball. He got there first and controlled the ball. A gallop, three touches, the fourth slid the ball home.

We became a different side. Bouncing around now, we protected the lead well. Dembele got into the match and Dawson came into his own, dominating his area to close out the match. Bale’s athletic long shot was touched over gymnastically by Krul, then the Welshman put the easiest chance of them all over the bar from close in. 

So not entirely convincing but we remain four points clear in fourth, although Arsenal are ominously coming into form and Chelsea can never be written off with talent such as theirs. The pressure will increase with every game and we will have to play much better when the key battles versus our main rivals come along. Time to get Adebayor motivated – he is key – and find the best midfield shape. In the meantime, relish what we have. Gareth Bale is 23 years old.


16 thoughts on “Gareth Bale – A True Tottenham Great

  1. Bale was outstanding, no question about it-but I’m getting increasingly annoyed at the total lack of acknowledgement and credit to our defence. and the team in general
    Lloris could’ve been on a mini break for the past few games as apart from a couple of good saves and occasional sprint off his line has had very little to do! Walker’s rubbish, Benny’s erratic, Naughton’s a novice, Daws is all hoof and Vert’s is off colour, Gallas is past it and Caulkers not a patch on his Swansea form of last season-God knows how we survive with that lot defending eh? Perhaps looking at the work Lennon’s been putting in at both ends of the field or Dembele’s, Parker and Sandro before him industry-or at the very least giving AVB a little credit ? But I guess if it’s Bale who’s our one man McNamara’s band then so be it!


    • 99 times out of 100, I’d agree with Essexian76 but yesterday Bale was just in a world of his own. It was a virtuoso performance amidst what was otherwise a workmanlike performance by both teams. With the exception of Holtby’s first half brightness, I think it would be hard to identify anyone who had a great game but collectively they did well enough but Bale was the sole difference between what could well have been a frustrating afternoon and one that will live long in the memory. It was his day and his alone.


    • It was time to write about just how he good he is, because he is and because we may be in the middle of a player’s golden age and should not let that pass.

      But you are right, Lloris is currently the most underemployed keeper in the Premier League. And I would not swap him for any other.

      This blog has always appreciated Daws when others have not, but I must give Walker credit for a decent defensive performance yesterday.

      Regards, Alan


  2. Hello Alan,
    I couldn’t help but throw in Glen Hoddle’s fellow warbler Chris Waddle into your ” Great Debate “.
    He carried the side after the 87 team disbanded and seemed to have affection for the club.
    Terry Venebles was astonished at the way England managers seemed to be oblivious to his talents.
    As for yesterday, I felt we looked far more balanced when Adebeyor came on and yes, Bale was ” Great “.


    • Heh, a great game. Sticking to players I’ve seen, Mackay was a real figure but I was too young to fully appreciate him. Waddle is not quite there, shame he did not stay because he was wonderful on his day.

      Greaves, Hoddle and Gazza are for me the holy triumvirate, joined by the matchless Pat Jennings. One mere step down are Ardilles, Chivers, Gilzean and King. Apologies to all the other wonderful men I did not mean to offend or reject.

      I’ll change my mind tomorrow….


  3. Yes, I believe Bale has earned the right and privilege to be called a true ‘Spurs Great’ now. From the early 60s to the present day, I’d include Blanchflower, Mackay, White, Jones, Greaves, Jennings, Peters, Hoddle, Ardiles, Ian Moores (just kidding), Gazza and, oops, I’m struggling. I’d put Lineker, Clive Allen (especially for that one season alone), Waddle, Klinsmann and Ginola almost up there, but ultimately, for either time served or the limited results of their endeavours, I’d say they were short of true Spurs greatness. Modric could have gone on to be a true Great, but like Berbatov, he leaves a nasty taste. Two seasons in a row he buggered up our start to a season in his desperation to get away ..the first in 2011/12 when we lost our first two games massively because the teamp was disrupted by his absense and his head being elsewhere. And again in 2012/13 when we started with 2 points out of 9. Obviously there’s loads of other candidates ..but we’re looking at true Spurs’ greatness here. Some would say Roberts was a Spurs Great, but he was no Mackay, despite similar leadership qualities. So let’s throw them into the hat everyone.


    • Roberts was never a Spurs great in my opinion, but I couldn’t agree more about most of the others you’ve mentioned and those you’ve dismissed. It irks me to see the likes of Lineker and Klinsmann up there with true legends. I define a ‘great’ in terms of loyalty to the club, performance on the field and above all longevity.
      Ledley King certainly ticks all those boxes and Waddle, who started dreadfully, but for three seasons was simply unplayable and only sold because of the financial incompetence of our then chairman. I’m sure I can think of a few more, but my point is there are so many ‘World Class’ and ‘Legends’ being touted, that to be just a good player isn’t sufficient praise any longer.


  4. Quickly following on from that, some have sprung to mind that were, for various reasons ..whether one memorable moment, or years or service, or commitment to the cause etc. ..deserving of getting near the title of true greatness. Gilzean (the King of White Hart Lane and one of the deftest headers of a ball ever seen. Him and Jimmy were our G-Men), Perryman for his amazing length of service, loyalty and games played (and he deserved more than just his one cap), Mabbutt too, Even Daws (Spurs players through and through), King (for what might have been), Keane (because at his peak he deserved better players around him), Lennon (for his contribution since 2005/6 where we’ve finished 5th or 4th so many times), Sheringham would have been a true Great but for that sojourn at United, Anderton if he hadn’t continually turned up with a sick note, Villa (for that one heart bursting moment in 1981), Chivers and Smith (two great club and England forwards, although the former never quite delivered as was expected ..especially after scoring twice away at Old Trafford on his debut to earn a draw in the 3rd round of the FA Cup in 1968 when Spurs were the holders and United were the League Champions and European Champions in waiting. OK I’ll leave it there.


  5. There’s only one Steffen Freund…
    Great not because of his skill or prowess for goal (!), but Great for his love, respect and selflessness for the club.


  6. I’ve not been able to see the last few games (though I always read TOMM), but have caught up on MotD highlights for the past 3-4 games this weekend.

    I’m pleased Bale is getting so much attention as he truly is a special Spur and player. And that’s a fine write up as ever Alan. But equally, I’m a little annoyed that (some) media critics are trying to label Spurs as a one man team. Lots of very good and consistent performances through the team.

    It’s a good and fast improving side, well coached by a good and fast improving coach. We can rightly be proud of them all.

    I still don’t see us hanging on to 4th, but I won’t consider 5th or 6th to be a failure, not given the way we’ve grown through the season. I’ll be disappointed but there’s lots to look forward to. Maybe a top striker one day …

    My Spurs holy trinity (in my time) Ardiles, Hoddle, Perryman. I’d have Waddle with the greats, too. I thought he was better than Gazza in the latter’s first season and was very special for 2-3 seasons.


  7. A one man team like Real Madrid and Barcelona no doubt.
    I’d like to see Christiano, Lionel, and Gareth go out on the pitch and see how they do on their own.
    From hoodoo to solid gold in a couple of seasons.
    Nice tribute to the boy. If he had a right foot he would be quite dangerous.

    All well at the Musings Alan. We’re getting almost confident over here.
    Just between ourselves that is.


  8. Bale might be good, might even be better than that, but, he couldn’t do what he does without a half decent team behind him. i now firmly believe, that at last, we actually have a half decent team with a half decent coach and that maybe, with one or two very good additions we can become a very good side. However, it does become paramount to keep the best players at The Lane which means having to pay top wages and, unfortunately, that means that until the club decide to pay market rates for the top players we will always be in the situation where some our best players will be subject to temptation. I can only hope that they look at the example of a certain Mr Modric and ask themselves if they are happy with a seat on the bench and £150k per week or would they like to become “an immortal” and go on to become one of the few players to win the league with The Spurs.

    By the way, my best three that I have seen at Spurs, Mackay, Greaves and Hoddle closely followed by Gazza. All greats in their own way !!!


    • Steady on, my friend. Half-decent team? We must be doing well if you are optimistic…heh heh good man, let’s enjoy it while we can.




  9. I notice that twit, Robbie Savage, has been sticking his oar into the great Bale debate, although to be fair I don’t know specifically what he said, or whether it was some ghost writer who forced the man’s ignorant comments. In essence it amounted to Bale having to move on to fulfil his potential. What a load of crap!
    Move on where? To Barca or Madrid, where those clubs are already so full of egos, and have a certain way of playing (esp Barca) that actually may NOT give him the opportunity to fulfil his potential!? Also, isn’t that exactly what he’s doing now at Tottenham? Fulfilling his potential? Or is the Savage talking about fulfilling his wage packet instead? Spurs aren’t exactly a 2nd tier club (we’re in the top 20 of the richest clubs in the world, and with a grand history and tradition), plus we’ve finished 4th or 5th about 6 times in the past 8 years, in the most competitive league in the world. If Bale were playing for Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and the new kids, Man City, would Savage be saying such nonsense about needing to move on to fulfil his potential? Of course not! Yet Spurs have been a better side than Liverpool for the past 4 seasons, have a greater legacy by far than City and Chelsea still (and they’ve got even bigger egos playing for them and running them than the Spanish clubs have), and are finally rivalling Arsenal again.
    Bale is currently enjoying being popular at Tottenham, of that there’s no doubt. And that doesn’t mean small town attitude either. He’s in one of the finest cities on Earth, playing for a top PL club, and he knows there are fine players around him who are prepared to give him the ball and let him play. Yes, he’s been the difference in the last few games, but many players go through that phase, so let’s just keep enjoying his contributions as we once enjoyed those of Greaves, Hoddle or Gazza (or would Dobby Savage have said in his columns that THOSE players should have moved on at a young age to fulfill their potential?).
    He’s naturally ambitious like any top player, of course, but he knows that Spurs also have real ambition, and want to press forward with a squad that can not only qualify for the CL, but also push for the title and other honours, and get that larger stadium in place. He’s not a turncoat, or a ‘um, which badge am I kissing?’ type of player like Modric, Berbatov or Carrick. At least Hoddle and Teddy, at advanced stages of their careers, left only when they wanted a change or couldn’t see things getting any better. Spurs are on the cusp of something again, more than they’ve been at any time since the mid 1980s. Bale senses impending ‘glory’, and seems to be a really nice well paid young guy enjoying his football, and more importantly, enjoying it at Spurs, along with all the adulation!
    He also knows Spurs are just two good players away from making a proper title challenge next season.
    One thing I will say is that it’s hugely important for Spurs to finish in the top four (with no Arsenal finishing 5th and winning the CL …that would be suicidal throat cutting stuff for the second year running). Once Kabul and Defoe return to the fray, 4th or even 3rd is certainly not beyond them. Bale will, please God, continue to do his bit without injury, while the others around him will ‘fulfill their potential’ too!


    • Good post. In the end we will not know what’s going on in his
      mind and his life. I think you are right, for him at this stage it’s not just about the money.

      Don’t take any notice of Savage until he starts to think before he opens his mouth.

      Regards, Al


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