Thump thump. The cross, as sudden as it is unexpected, flies into the box.
Thump thump. The header. Kane, twisting backwards, it loops. We are right in line.
Thump thump. Towards the goal that despite Spurs’ frenzied pounding, their midfield dominance, their unceasing creativity, has been breached just once. Time is trickling by. For the first time in the match the level of intensity has dropped, a fraction maybe, to a level that a few weeks ago we could only have dreamed of but today represents a falling away such has been the ferocity of our performance.
Thump thump. This soft header has no place here, amid the fervour and ferment of this dear old ground which has seen it all but seldom seen something like this, the bedlam in the stands, the shaking, the rocking that has energised navy blue and white for one last effort.
Thump thump beats my heart against my chest. This is the game, my club, my team. The Arsenal, the derby and we have taken them on. Umpteen years they’ve finished ahead of us but today, no more. Today, two young men from close to home led the way. Two others came from equatorial heat and Scandinavian chill, a manager from far away, they pulled on a white shirt, looked at the red and fought like the cockerels on their hearts and said: enough.Embed from Getty Images
Then nothing. At the top of the arc, the ball is still and so are we. Not even the ringing in our ears from the noise, the perpetual accompaniment to this most thrilling of occasions. Everything stops, there is only the ball, shining in the cold north London air. We watch, spellbound.
It floats, gravity defied, no longer subject to the laws of the universe but in its own time and space. For the last 85 minutes, our world has been within these four high grandstands, shutting out the rest, there has been only this. Nothing else matters, only white shirts and navy blue shorts.
Hanging in the air. The cross came as a surprise because Tottenham had been reluctant to cross the ball even when well-placed to do so. After all, there had always been other options. Tirelessly Rose and Walker dashed eagerly into the gaps out wide, to exploit any space and take the game to the Arsenal. Inside, Eriksen bobs like a hungry sparrow, head down to the ball up to find the runner, move because being still means danger, down again ball to feet move it on to me down and move it head up and who’s in the space. Alongside him, Dembele, a hunched giant take it off me go on take it I dare you knock me down and I get up go on take it I dare you.Embed from Getty Images
Nabil Bentaleb struck the cross. Before kick-off he looked at his team mate Ryan Mason and said, you know what, we’re going to show that lot a thing or two. A couple of World Cup winners, a team of internationals, we’re going to show them how to play. Never gave them an inch.
It floats. We had waited for it to stop, the running, the pressing, the passing and the moving. We would have been grateful, thankful for what we had seen and what they had already given. The tackles, the blocks, the running always the running so Arsenal had been penned back in the own half for much of the game, immobilised. Delighted with the movement, not so many chances but the final ball was hard to thread through a disciplined defence. They were all back. After all, they had nowhere else to go. Had to be.
Except it didn’t stop. It floats and the game is a blur of creative energy, it was exhausting to watch. They never let up. Never stopped trying something, and I’ve not seen anything like it for many a long season.
The ball is dropping now, so slowly it is bound to be saved. Such a shame. We couldn’t truly enjoy the first half performance because it was tainted. Tainted Tottenham, never get it quite right, always frustration souring the mix. Always a stupid mistake at the back. Vertonghen and Walker argued furiously as they trudged back to the halfway line but it was an old familiar problem, Walker drawn across and leaving his man. Ozil had all the time in the world. Spurs back in it so the second half was rocking and rolling after the ball fell to Kane from a corner and he obliged from a few yards.
Dropping and it must be saved. Dropping and we are in line. Dropping and there’s only crossbar, post and a wide open empty space, what was once as big as the eye of a needle but right in line and suddenly it’s as wide as the Grand Canyon. The goal rushes towards the ball.
Kane places the ball into the corner of the net with the tender care of a jeweller replacing a diamond into velvet. The silence hangs in the air for a moment.
It’s in it’s gone in it’s bloody in stuff them it’s in it’s gone in Kane you beauty have that it’s Kane it’s in. Thump thump.
I’ve missed one north London Derby at White Hart Lane since 1970 although for the life of me I can’t remember why. I couldn’t have been doing anything better because there is nowhere better to be. I can’t recall a better day.
I’m afraid you will have to go elsewhere for a tactical analysis. Spurs Fanatical is my favourite. Sorry but this one transcends analysis. Having said that, I must mention Eric Dier, a callow youth in this company yet totally composed on the day, and his manager Maurico Pochettino who was brave enough to pick him when Fazio and Vertonghen were essential to us turning the corner a couple of months ago.Embed from Getty Images
You don’t watch the Derby, you feel it. What I recall is the complete and utter absorption in a game that overwhelmed the senses. The noise level was astounding, I could not hear myself think at times. I’d say it was like the old days except it was better. Constant.
At the end the players did an impromptu half-lap of honour. The moments a few seconds after the whistle blew and they begun to realise what they had achieved were a joy to behold. Harry Kane cut a solitary figure, slowly walking past the Shelf to receive his applause, taking it all in. He was clearly emotional, close to tears of joy. Supporters and players together. One influences the other, on the good days you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends. The greatest achievement of these young players and their manager is to banish seasons of growing alienation and close the gap between fans and the club. We’re in this together and we the fans have every reason to be proud. It’s been a privilege to be at, to feel, some great games at White Hart Lane. This is right up there with the best. Very proud.