The Final The Hard Way. The Spurs Way

The moment Tottenham Hotspur reached the League Cup Final,the Sky cameras focussed on the face of Christian Eriksen, whose late goal, a sublimely serene finish amidst the bedlam of an underdog cup-tie comeback, secured a precious victory. Tdhey found no elation, just a blank expression as he gazed into the middle distance, coming to terms with a trip to Wembley rather than the gut-wrenching indignity of extra time in a match Spurs seemed to have thrown away as carelessly as chucking a fag packet out of a car window.

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Relief next as the magnitude of what he had acheived sunk in. Only then was there joy. The players joined hands to celebrate in front of the 5500 who had travelled a long way on a bitter winter’s night in search of cup glory. They were led by our own, the young Spurs, proper Spurs, for whom this meant so much. Supporters and players for once as one, experiencing the same emotions. Ripping pain aside, joy unconfined, on our way to Wembley.

Wembley the hard way. The Spurs way. Is there any other way? I don’t mind how we got there as long as we get there.For all I care our centre forward could have repeatedly stamped on our opponents without punishment then go and pinch a late set-piece winner, but you could never get away with that. Semi-finals are never pretty but it felt as if Spurs won this one twice over. Ending the first half a goal to the good, we were unable to fully sustain our first half dominance but come 70 minutes, two up on aggregate with an away goal, we had surely done enough. But Spurs are always vulnerable. A couple of decent balls into the box and it turns out we had built a house of straw. Sheffield not only drew level, they missed a decent chance to win it. With United rampant and baying for blood, time dragged so slowly I truly believed 180 minutes had passed.

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Spurs learned their lesson from the first leg and from kick-off took the game to our opponents. We harried and pressed, confining this game, well-organised United team to their own half. Kane demonstrated the folly of starting last week with Adebayor up front by repeatedly finding the channels between their back four time. Sadly his finishing did not match the quality of his movement. He missed several good chances but because we were on top, you were confident another one would be along in a minute.

At the other end, United posed few problems. Those that existed were largely of our own making, giving away possession unnecessarily. To break the spell, Vorm dropped an innocuous cross but we scrambled it clear. Never again doubt Lloris and his choice to frequently punch.

To our credit, we did not allow that to faze us. Dominant again, the goal when it came was deserved but from a free-kick rather than open play. Stambouli drove on towards the defence but was fouled. From the right, 25 yards out, Eriksen’s right-footed shot looked to be curling wide of both the keeper and the woodwork, then it nestled into the top corner as softly as a mother bird settling on her eggs. A beautiful piece of skill, impossible to save. Flat-footed Keeper rooted to the spot, looking up, back to Eriksen, then up again. It was in my friend.

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Spurs played particularly well up to half time, smooth possession football, untroubled and untouchable. Most unlike us. Not quite so superior in the second half as United came out with nothing to lose but still effective. Mason and particularly Stambouli swept up everything in midfield, snuffing out any sparks of danger and moving the ball forward as soon as possible. Mason added a couple of lung-busting late bursts into the box but failed to convert. Dembele came into his own too. His strength on the ball meant he was nigh on impossible to tackle and he took the game to our opponents repeatedly, not only easing pressure on our defence but making chances for others too. Far more dangerous further upfield, which has become the sub-title for this blog. Echoes of old failings though in the way he eases up at the edge of the box just when something decisive is required.

Duty bound to slip in at this point the fact that Lamela was excruciatingly awful, wilfully ignoring space and preferring to run with the ball towards the nearest defender. Given that he did nothing defensively, one of those performances when despite watching football for over 50 years, you have no notion what was going through a player’s mind.

Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy yourself….Stambouli and Mason are a good pair when the ball is in front of them. It’s a different matter when our opponents get behind us. How we miss a fit Sandro in these situations, slipping back into the back four to cover any gaps. United hit some good balls into the box and boy did the gaps appear. The lack of midfield cover out wide left the full-backs exposed. Drawn out, our centre backs were isolated. Suddenly United were level, one cross to the far post, one deflected shot impossible to save.

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Spurs were as trembly as Ossies’ knees. The sound of crashing dreams was almost audible. It’s not resilience that gets us through. True resilience would mean we wouldn’t need late winners after being ahead but hey, this is the cup so remember only the magic. Desperate times call for cool heads. Up against it, we have a couple as cool as James Bond at the North Pole. Kane perfectly controlled a tricky ball then his pass to Eriksen tore the defence apart. Into the box, left foot, Eriksen calmly stroked the ball across the keeper and wheeled away in triumph. A top class moment irrespective of context. To win a semi-final, it was the touch of a master.

The hard way, the Spurs way. Something more was required. I wouldn’t have played Vorm, not because he’s bad, he isn’t, but because Lloris is by far our best and leaving him out gives the wrong message to the whole side. But Vorm hurled himself at a forward’s feet and 50/50 became 100/0 in our favour.

A day out at Wembley to look forward to, even better in the company of these young players whose exuberance and application have got us there. Kane and Mason chatting afterwards on the pitch, Mason with a Spurs scarf, sure he got it from a grateful fan but you felt as if he could have worn it on the train coming up. One of us. Good times. Fans and players loyal and committed. Better times to come.

I’ve been contacted by Jeff Astle’s family. Read their message from the Justice for Jeff campaign, if you’re at West Brom on Saturday, please support

JUSTICE FOR JEFF ASTLE

Nine minutes into Saturday’s game a large banner will be unveiled in the Birmingham Road End (opposite the Tottenham supporters) reading ‘Justice for Jeff’ which starts a minute’s applause – nine being the famous shirt number our dad wore. The two big screens at The Hawthorns will also display a picture of Jeff with the words ‘If in doubt, sit them out’ which refers to the dangers of concussion in sport.

Spurs fans are more than welcome to join in with the applause if they choose; for which we would be very grateful for; but if not we would like to take this opportunity to make them aware of our campaign if they haven’t already seen it via the national media.

The Justice for Jeff banner has been at every West Bromwich Albion home and away game and will continue to be for the rest of this season. Hopefully by then the promised research into the links between heading footballs and brain damage will be in its early stages and, just as importantly, the research into former players and instances of dementia will have commenced.

We are aware that your great club has also had old heroes who suffered or are sadly still suffering with Alzheimer’s or some other Degenerative Brain Disease. Arthur Rowe, Alf Ramsey, Tommy Harmer, Danny Blanchflower, Peter Baker and the ‘ indestructible Dave Mackay, to name a few.

We would also like to respectfully ask that if you are aware of any other former players who may have died of, or are sadly living with Alzheimer’s or any other Degenerative Brain Disease please contact us by emailing dawnastle@justiceforjeff.co.uk – this information is vitally important to forthcoming research.

 

Our dad was the first British footballer to have been confirmed to die from CTE but he wouldn’t of been the first and certainly won’t be the last.

 

You can keep up-to-date and learn more about our campaign by visiting our website justiceforjeff.co.uk or through our Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/justiceforjeffastle) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/astle1968 #justiceforjeff) pages.

Yours Sincerely,

The Astle Family

 

23 thoughts on “The Final The Hard Way. The Spurs Way

  1. Supporting Spurs is so much like life, it’s nearly always the hard way. But that’s the point in supporting Spurs, you’d better enjoy the eff-ing journey, because there’s no guarantee of a happy destination. Also, as I’ve suggested elsewhere, it’s written in the fine print that when you become a Spurs fan as a nipper (or older, as seems to be the way over here with our new Yankee fans), that supporting Spurs will be inimical to your health. So man up, hold on, buckle up…for sure, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Which brings us back to life…what a bumpy ride! COYMFS! Cheers Alan and fellow yiddos! 😉

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  2. My humorous Arsenal supporting cousin messaged me with 20 minutes to go: ‘You’re almost there. Well done. Brilliant goal by Sven Goren Erickson.’ I managed a brief chuckle but knew, deep down, that we were, by no means, almost there. It was one of those classic Spurs “it’s all going too well” moments, when dark forces appear from the ether to press the THFC self-destruct button. We were a bobble away from pain and recrimination as their rookie struck that shot just over the bar. And then, as you say Alan, relief followed by ecstasy.
    In terms of the final, I fear that Poch is going to select Vorm again, which will be a massive mistake. We are not the same team without Hugo and everyone knows it. Let’s hope he comes to his senses. I loved Eriksen’s post match interview – what a cool cat he is- when he was asked about playing Chelsea again and he simply said “we have no fear.” And that mindset will be crucial if we are once again to defy the odds. As for the rest of the season, I would like to see us prioritize the Europa League, as I believe it’s a competition we can win, but no doubt Poch won’t approach it that way. Finally, as the Leicester game proved, I would never play Kaboul, Chiriches and Adebayor, they are liabilities. COYS.

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    • I didn’t hear that interview, glad you told me about it. I think he means it – not just media-coached platitudes but really what the team believe.

      How times have changed.

      Regards, Al

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  3. Lovely write-up Alan. Some terrific lines in there. One of my new season’s resolutions back in the summer was to read only one Spurs blog, i.e. this one and this is why.

    My highlight of the game was seeing Kane’s and Mason’s celebrations at the end with the fans. They felt it like we did. They and Bentaleb are the future. I’d take a team of them over big name superstars like City or C…… any day of the week regardless of where it leaves us.

    On a separate note not related to this game, whatever his faults (and he has plenty) the booing of Adebayor is disgraceful.

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    • Thanks Russ, much appreciated. Means a lot, try to make the blog a considered view of the Spurs in a way that’s easy on the eye and engages the brain – if only for a few moments!

      I would never, ever boo a Spurs player. I genuinely don’t know exactly why – realise of course why he’s not popular but is it because of that pic of him and henry? They both did play for the arse after all…why boo though?

      Regards., Alan

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  4. I’ve always wondered why people support Tottenham Hotspur let alone a football team. If they can’t handle supporting Spurs then please go to another club and leave us real fans alone. It’s a major part of anyones lives and sadly the not so good times outnumber the great times. But if you can get through things when it’s not going well then moments like Wednesday game makes it all worth while. We’re off to Wembley and like the author in his good article said, it doesn’t matter how you get there, it’s all about getting there. I’m sure there are the haters sorry a large group of Spurs fans who will analyse this game and point out everything that is wrong with the players, poch and their favourite pantomine villains Levy and ENIC. I love Spurs, always have and have never regretted supporting them. COYS

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    • Well said. Social media has encouraged a negative style of comment/writing where people seem to prefer to be right about their side (not just Spurs) even if that means the team does not do well. I fully realise the faults in our players and the team but you glory not in being right but in the cups. And guess what – teams have always had their problems.

      Regards, Alan

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  5. Lamela was not brilliant but nor bad either. He defended well and tracked back which was more than Townsend did when replaced him. The Sheffield goals were the result of the right sided midfield not tracking back as they launched the kitchen sink.
    Andros should have tucked in , but instead played as a striker thus exposing our defence. At least Lamela defended well and battled his heart out, but faded as was not fully fit. Our right side was exposed as we played Eriksen as a winger but he is our goal scoring creator so no blame there.
    Yes we won the Spurs way but we really need to sort our midfield positioning , how we miss a Scot Parker to protect the back four. I hope we get Eriksen to sign a new contract or we are in trouble. Lamela will improve , i see a good player in there who is working hard, unlike Ade, Capoue, Paulinho who need selling. Who should be made accountable for the bad signings of Capoue, Paulinho, Chiriches, Soldado. ?

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    • A time to celebrate so less today about the long-term. I liked Parker a lot in his first 6 months and didn’t join in the rubbish when his form declined. Lamela works hard but not purposefully, his positional play is poor. But he is a talent that needs to be nurtured, good enough to be given time to learn and plenty of it.

      Regards, Alan

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  6. Always great to see Spurs walk out at Wembley, and we can definitely take the other finalists all the way. We will need to play near our best and have a bit of luck here and there, and a strong ref who wants to do something about their systematic fouling and cheating. I hope all of our famous 5 academy products play.

    As I don’t recognise any of Chelsea’s trophies since they were living the dream a la Risdale and Leeds under Harding and Bates and esp since the global super criminal saved them from the wall at the last minute, it’ll be a strange one.

    A word of praise for Sheffield Utd, who pushed us all the way and provided a fine football story for the season

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    • It was great to see a win with those young players, who are leading the way and the experienced guys are following. And I truly admire that attitude about the trophies – that is a masterful approach my man, superbly bitter.

      Regards, Alan

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  7. Living through the Sixties,and going to every one of the 1960-61 games home and away at the impressionable age of 13,was incredible but it also offered its own curse Tottenham being the most powerful club in the land,which continued with the buying of Greaves in the summer of 61 and the Dazzling European Cup Winners Cup victory in 63 set the tone for the rest of the years.
    I moved to Canada in 1969..My timing was perfect from a Tottenham perspective.We won the cup in 1967 and thats was it for a while. News of footie here in Canada at that time became scarce. When I heard about Arsenals double I was pained but I didnt have to deal with it so much. there were all these American sports to learn. They were the opposite of Tottenham. They geared their games for heroes in the last 2 minutes.At Tottenham it was lets hive him a great early life,give him some of the best football the world has ever seen and then take it away.
    Its not that I never saw Tottenham.Its just that it wasnt on the radar every day and I didnt have to deal with it. The fall from Grace to the second division. But as the news started to get a lite more international,we started to get a little better and I could enjoy glimpses of Glory. But no matter what it never got as good as it was.
    Wins are always nice. But I like good football too. Harry Kane’s pass to Eriksen and Eriksen sublime taking of the goal was a thing of beauty,could have been Danny or White to Greaves. It was a touch of heaven.
    Getting to a final is always good. Of course its the game but its also the anticipation. For years it was a big part in Tottenham’s DNA but over the years it became less so.The years with a one dissipated more and more in significance.
    Our money (most of us) is on Poch to bring back the glory.
    Sure this is still a project that will take some time but we can but rejoices in some flashes of brilliance and be on our way to Wembley. Our knees are not quite tremby but we are there. On the Road again.
    Sheffield wasnt easy.Not a lot has been easy. The sweetness of the past is gone and now its more of struggle to get to where we have to go.
    I am very happy about this as we all are. For me gone is the absolute confidence in our glorious lot. Ive seen to many gaps in defence and too few through balls for that.But there is hope.
    Ive been away but Ive always loved Tottenham. I just hope the boys can make the moment fitting for one of those Danny and Bill banners that grace WHL. That we can say we touched on something of the past that would be a sign for the future.would be enough.
    ,

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    • Hey Ron
      Good to hear you’re not as ancient as I had always imagined — 1948? Hell, you only got five years on me!!

      Seriously though, one minor quibble – while all Alan writes usually chimes well with me, there’s one sentence in today’s blog to which I cannot blindly subscribe: “I don’t mind how we got there as long as we get there.”

      I know what he means but I think, Alan, you’ve been a tad too forceful. I want us to get there, but playing the game Billy Nick and Keith Burkinshaw (as well as many others) demonstrated, demanded and mandated.

      Unrealistic? Perhaps, but hopefully achievable again.

      Cheers and COYS

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      • Thanks Steve! actually and anciently it was 1947. My father took me to my first game in 1950 I think…at WHL against Newcastle.
        I came to Canada in 1957 for 4 months to see my uncles and actually I saw Tottenham play two games here that summer. In 1969 I came back.But never really left N17.
        About that point really about winning.I think its ok to take an ugly win occasionally. But sustainability and confidence comes from quality and consistency. Lucky wins dont last but carry some instant gratification. These days I look for quality.To see Tottenham in a flow. Its not about the odd good goal for me though that is ok.I want to see my team create on attack and close space down in defence. Its not just about style though. Style comes with confidence yes,but style alone is also not good enough..What is more important is to create a flow that creates goals and a defece that tightens a noose around an attack.

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  8. Good insightful read as usual Alan.
    One thing sure about this final, regardless if it’s not the FA cup, this will be the final of the season.
    Let’s hope we can undo them and, see that smirky smile of Mourinho wiped off his face again.
    COY MIGHTY SPURS 😉

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  9. After today’s 0-3 win away, the moaners and whiners will be noticeable by their absence, at least for now. LOL, sorry that the Boss, Eriksen and Hurrikane (and their supporting cast) ruined your weekend! COYS! 😉

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  10. A (hopefully) resurrected Dembele was in on both our early goals, winning FK for Eriksen to score and taking Lamela’s pass to slide into Hurrikane for goal. Eriksen sees the game a step ahead of most others. Pauli actually put in a shift! Hugo is the Boss. And, our GD up to +5…for now. Next, a whole week to practice, then NLD followed quickly by Pool on Tuesday, then 9 days before a challenging Thurs – Sun – Thurs – Sun (LC Final) sked to end the month. Bring it on! 😉

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    • Ashley,Dembele may very well be the answer to our creativity with Eriksen and Kane more forward. I think you are right.Dembele has been ressurected.He is fitter,more mobile than he was and I think reads the game really well and can create (a bit of a Yaya Toure type emerging)

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    • and of course Paulinho looked more mentally up for it except he was hesitant at times (I think its natural after what he has put himself through over the past two seasons) maybe he has turned the corner.He does seem eager and he has got a lot of class if not confidence

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