Plenty of words on the net bemoaning the close season and anticipating the start of the next. Not round these parts. I enjoy it, look forward to it in a perverse fashion. It’s part of the natural order of things, a time for regeneration before the hopes and dreams of a new season come into bloom. Summer is a time for cricket not just because the sport is so quietly and unobtrusively compelling but also because it’s not football.
Not so much like the close season as need it. Take a break from the pressure. I can’t hack it for 12 months straight. Even this week’s announcement of the fixture list caused unwelcome flickers of anxiety rather than anticipation. Palace first game, newly promoted teams always up for it in August, play them in the darker days of December or January when it’s beginning to fall apart for them.
Tottenham On My Mind in the summer is resolutely a no ITK zone. Which is why the page views are so low. A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about ITK – summary: it’s all lies. It had the phrase ‘no ITK’ in the title, yet scored more hits than almost any of my articles over the last four years, I can only assume because ITK was mentioned and the moths were drawn to the flame.
Anyway, this is modern football. If you want to really know what’s going on, head for the financial pages. You have probably seen the news this week that Gareth Bale has applied to register his heart-shaped hands goal celebration as a trademark. These days I get all my ITK from the Patents Office.
It won’t be a surprise to regular readers that I’m not a fan of choreographed goal celebrations. The defining moments of the game are somehow devalued if the only thing in the goalscorer’s mind is to gather with his team-mates by the corner flag and do the St Vitus dance. Rushing to the crowd is fine, although of course badge-kissing is strictly prohibited. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Gilzean’s single raised arm or Greaves’ shrug – yes, I am that good, shouting about it won’t make it better. Or as Bale himself demonstrated to touching effect with the winner at West Ham, a heartfelt dash to the bench and his manager’s welcoming arms, because that was so obviously genuine.
If Bale’s application is successful, I’m not sure what it means. If he runs to the Shelf after a goal, can I wave? Or publish a photo here? Yesterday one of Brazil’s goalscorers did the heart thing – Bale was rubbing his hands in anticipation of the royalties.
So I’m looking forward to my Christmas present of a necklace with ‘Alan’ in gold inside the heart-shaped pendant. What bothers me is what it means for Spurs and for our finest player. What was a childishly irrelevant gesture has been transformed into an absurdly pretentious, manufactured act, and if there is one thing that football fans do not like, it’s pretension. If it is in pursuit of more cash for highly paid sportsmen, so much the worse. In short, he will get massive stick from opposition fans as soon as he touches the ball. Top professional players have to learn to take the abuse that comes their way but I can’t see how this will help his performance or that of the team. It’s avoidable, something we don’t need.
Bale already gets the bird because of his so-called diving. He does go down easily sometimes and I don’t appreciate that. In reality, he is discriminated against, having been booked for simulation at least four times last season when he was clearly fouled and was denied two penalties. In other words, the public’s perception of Bale has been irrevocably harmed by poor refereeing.
That annoys me because it’s unjust. I’m not naive but I may be hoping for too much. I remember times when we used to look forward to seeing the great players of our opponents, unless they needed taking down a peg or two or we had a genuine grievance. These days it seems to be the way of things that at every ground they get pelters just by being good. But the ones who get the worst are those with airs and graces, and they deserve it.
Part of Bale’s charm is that he seems so grounded. With his rustic cheeks and sticky-out ears, despite being built like a welterweight there’s more of the schoolboy and less of the superstar about him. His huge transfer valuation has never gone to his head. He’s a footballer not a celebrity, and because of his refreshing humility there’s a fair degree of goodwill in the game as he progresses.
It’s a shame to throw that away, partly because it will provoke unwanted attention, partly because there’s a danger that his attitudes are turning him into the same as every other modern player, chasing the cash. Bale, he is different.
Ironically, this deal could keep him at Spurs. In my end of season piece, I suggested that his sudden rush of appearances in adverts for home consumption could supplement his income to the point where it was worth his while to stay at home.
Whatever, I guess this is what happens when a player has the eyes of the world upon him and I will have to get used to it. We didn’t find him but we’ve watched him grow and he’s part of the family. It’s natural that I should try to protect him.
More pieces over the summer. I should be taking a rest but it’s in the name of the blog… In May I was about to write my usual detailed post-season summary but when it came to it, that last piece said what I wanted to say about the club, more so than tactics, formations and strikers.