I won’t waste your time. Please don’t continue if you are after a match report on the north London derby. I was there. It was enthralling, compelling, utterly absorbing. Every neutral I have spoken to tells me it was a fabulous match and I’m sure it was. Just don’t ask me to tell you what happened.
Don’t expect reasoned or indeed reasonable analysis. It was a classic derby, raw and fullblooded, so chronicled not by a minute-by-minute report but by the circadian rhythm of body and emotion over 90 minutes. Individual moments become clear like isolated tops of skyscrapers poking through the mist. How they fit in relation to each other I’m really not certain. Alli’s volley in the second half after an insignificant match where he failed to make much of an impression but he can change things in an instant and I thought, hoped this was that instant, before it hit a defender and bounced over. Alli was still shaking his head when play restarted.
Dier flying in, the product of total commitment, frustration that we had let a lead slip and tiredness – hard game, long season. Bound to be sent off, two bookable offences, just as Couquelin had, refs always even it up. Except this time.
Wimmer’s heroic late block when suddenly we found defending hard again, saved us against the ten men. And Kane’s goal, when legs that have been wasted and soggy over the past few weeks suddenly for a second rediscovered their spring and the ball curled improbably, ridiculously into the top far corner. A goal deserving of victory in any match, anywhere, but as ever it’s the celebration in the stands that will stay with us as long as the exquisite memory of the goal.
Except it wasn’t enough in the end. At the end, disappointed didn’t cover it. Odd certainly, numb almost. I needed time to settle down and come to terms with the comedown after the biggest north London derby in my era, probably the match with the most significance that I have ever been to in person.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve embraced the joys of cup finals at home and in the UEFA Cup, which of course was also at home but you get my meaning. Perhaps when we had to beat Leeds in the last home game of 1974-5 to stay in the top division, but in those days the disparity between the divisions was not as great as it now appears. Less money in those days. Maybe a couple of desperate matches towards the end of Pleat’s caretaker reign in the wretched spring of 2003 when we could easily have dropped out of the PL. But the title has always been too far away even to dream about. So remote that it’s not even locked away in my deep subconscious. Beat Arsenal. The title. Beat Arsenal to the title. With a goal that good. From a player that good. With a team that good.
Logic, you want logic? Really? After what we have been through. Rationality, I still have a few traces left that have not been shredded along with my nerves. Look, Spurs played well. We took the game to our opponents without making the impact in the final third we deserved. In the first half especially, Rose ever-willing and alert on the left, put four or five balls hard and low into the near post. Intended or miss-hit we won’t ever know but what we do know is that no one was attacking them.
I saw Arsenal get strong in the middle where in their last three games they have been as softcentred as a Newberry Fruit (one for the kids there). Paying us the respect we deserved, that we have earned this season. Everyone raises their game now. ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham’ has a very different meaning these days.
I saw us dominate possession but let goals slip, the first and last, by giving the ball away carelessly. The second was especially galling as we had moments before defended superbly before letting it go.
I saw us rampage forward once the equaliser went in, 5, 10 minutes, I honestly don’t know, glorious stuff, off the line by a centimetre, two goals. Unstoppable. Or so I thought.
The rational explanation: nothing much has changed for Spurs. We play at our very best if we have a full team who are all fit and playing well. Against the top sides there’s little margin. Alli not quite on it. Needs a rest, a little knock I hear. Eriksen everywhere but his passing accuracy failed to come up to scratch. Lamela, again busy and pressing like billy-oh, except we needed also one moment of calm and precision with the ball at his feet, not to be on Saturday.
So that feeling. I wanted my moment. NLD, top of the table, Kane’s goal. I had it and it had gone. That’s what it was all about. I don’t think for you but I wonder if some of you, the ones who felt low rather than angry or disappointed, I wonder if you felt the same.
Maybe I’m being greedy, because last season in this fixture I had my moment, when I was right in line behind Kane’s unexpected header as it spun over and over and time stood still. But this felt different and I know why now. That moment was for me. For you too, and my son and my granddaughter in one of her very first games, but that was about feeling good, a great goal beats the old rivals.
This time, it wasn’t for me. I wanted this moment for the team. This wonderful surprising over-achieving team. This lot who are as committed and determined as any supporter. Who may be on the threshold of something special not so much in the next few weeks but in seasons to come. I wanted people, I wanted football, to see how good they are. To talk about Tottenham. Praise them, to marvel at how we got right up there. To see what Pochettino and his squad have created.
To take on the Arsenal and beat them with a goal like that. My Spurs can do that. Youngest side in the PL, outstanding, this is what they can do. I feel for them, not for me but for them. I wanted them to have that moment and for you and me to be part of that.
We saw enough, have seen enough, to know there may be other opportunities. Flat out now after a tough week, foot down, don’t think of tiredness, only of the rest week coming up. It’s mental tiredness not so much the relentless pressure on the pitch. That’s what gets the young and inexperienced so just go with it. Dortmund will inspire them, save enough for 6 points in the next two games, then let’s draw breath.