Monday, 21 January 2013
My life as a Spurs fan.
(By Mike, Aged 26 and a Half)
I still recognise Martin Jol being sacked seemingly milli-minutes before the UEFA Cup match
against Getafe in 2007 [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/t/tottenham_hotspur/
7063013.stm] as being one of the most emotionally turbulent evenings of my life.
("Spurs in Europe? Really? Why would you ruin this, Mr. Levy? WHY?")
I remember standing in my parents' living room, holding the Sky remote, agog, staring
disbelievingly at the TV and feeling so confused and unable to comprehend the words
that were falling into my unreceptive ears. Having dragged an otherwise average Spurs
team from the doldrums of lower/mid-table into the respectability of second-tier European
competition - and playing football capable of inducing moments of doe-eyed ecstasy I'd
not experienced since a solitary night of assuaging libertinism at Sheffield Student Union
sometime in 2005 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIaehhYLVZA] - my heart felt like it
had been ripped from my chest.
Ripped from my chest by some bald git in a suit who didn't understand comparative success
at a football club that hadn't tasted said success since the Worthington Cup win vs. Leicester
City in 1999 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMusajtjxbs] - a fair few years before tonight
- the football success equivalent of eating an out-of-date Happy Meal, cold and alone, in
a service station car park. NOTHING mattered that evening. Not the result. Not the future.
I felt, rightly or wrongly, that the club I loved had mistreated someone I felt had 'done us
right'. And for that I felt bad. Guilty almost. I doubted my loyalty to Tottenham. Things had to
change from here on, I thought. And change they did.
Juxtaposed with these comparative notions of success - and related to the final direction of
this piece about the football club I will love until the very day I die - preferably post-coital at
90mph, high on cocaine, whisky and Nandrolone [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nandrolone] -
Mauricio Tarrico [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauricio_Taricco], rightly or wrongly, is one of
my all-time favourite Spurs players. I could relate to him - his on-and-off-field troubles and
his highly-unusual choices of hairstyle [http://shop.sportsworldcards.com/ekmps/shops/
league-football-trading-card-18311-p.jpg]. Seemingly schizophrenic in his inability to
distinguish between making a fantastic bone-crunching tackle or undertaking a blood-
curdling Mortal Kombat finishing move on some poor unsuspecting Bolton youth team
winger, I loved the charisma and the flair that he offered a Tottenham team that contained
Tim Sherwood. Spurs have always been (to my eyes) a team who want to entertain. We
won't (ever reeeeally) play dirty. We don't finish teams off brutally - patting them gently on
the back whilst handing them the cyanide capsules. If we were a United Nations
ambassador, we'd be representing Switzerland. Scenic. Respectable. Classy. Completely
useless in Europe. We historically collapse under pressure from our bigger neighbours. But,
by God, we're beautiful [http://anthonycolpo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/
Back to Tarrico. He was exotic - coming from Argentina, via George Burley's hay-munching
Ipswich Town of all places, to The Lane - my Lane, your Lane, our Lane. Being also from
the countryside (Worcestershire [http://www.oldukphotos.com/graphics/England%20Photos/
Worcestershire,%20Broadway,%20The%20Cross.jpg]), I was definitely more and more
convinced I could be the English Tarrico. Last I heard, he was a coach at Brighton & Hove
Albion, with another old friend, Gus Poyet. I always liked Gus Poyet, and his bicycle kick
slow-mo goal vs. Sunderland (99-00 season) on the old Match of the Day opening credits
But when you're a kid, you want to be a footballer - unless you're not allowed to stay up late
to watch Match of the Day. Or your parents' egos dictate that they want you - their beloved
offspring - to go to Oxbridge and chain you to your bookshelves and cut off your oxygen
supply to real life. Obviously, as you get older, this changes. You discover girls (or boys),
and cigarettes, and the joys of alcohol - and then you want to be a rock star. But then reality
bites, you and your friends go to university, your band(s) fall apart for whatever reason
and you accidentally end up working somewhere you didn't initially envisage and - dya
know what? - it's not actually all that bad. The rock star thing dies. And the footballer thing
definitely does. But way before that, way back when... I was THERE. In the "dream" stasis
zone. I was 13 years old and I definitely (one-million percent) wanted to be a footballer.
I was completely shit. Twice a week, I'd drag myself along to training, waiting for my John
Barnes at the Maracana-moment of genius to manifest itself [http://youtu.be/9SCyXGiJ-
jc], optimistically and patiently, sitting on the non-existent Sunday league subs-bench at
weekends, waiting for the moment I could "prove" to my knuckle-dragging, balding, fattening
manager that I was a footballing God. If I had any skill, perhaps I would've been idolised as
a footballing philosopher. A thinker with a sweet right foot. Kind of like Eric Cantona [http://
youtu.be/JGMVwcxF2Nk]. Or Joey Barton, but not as much of a prat. But I didn't. I was shit.
So, I idolised Tarrico.
I'd just started getting into Business Studies at secondary school, and was desperate to do
it at GCSE level. I was quite sharp at school. After a bit of what I considered to be market
research, I decided that if I was going to market myself as a left back (and a fairly bad one at
that) this meant I had to replicate Tarrico's talents. This was a mistake.
Tarrico was brutal in the challenge [http://images.icnetwork.co.uk/upl/nechronical/apr2009/
to over-compensate for, and take attention away from, the mistakes made by the Wacky
Races centre back and defensive midfield combinations Spurs had during this period. Gary
Doherty, Goran Bunjevcevic and Anthony Gardner come immediately to mind. Therefore,
I had to market myself as a double-hard bastard and kick people, so they wouldn't try
to run past me like they did to poor Gary Doherty [http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=RXaTs5Zos9g] week after bloody week. I was just over 5 foot tall at the time. This wasn't
going to happen. But at least I tried - I had spirit and wide-eyed misdirected enthusiasm.
I got kicked in the shins by the taller lads for my sins, and got really used to keeping the
subs bench warm on Sundays. It was a dark time of my life. Formative. "Unknown Pleasures"
by Joy Division is now one of my favourite albums [https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=wVvoQIdD80U]. I bet Ian Curtis spent a few hours on the subs bench before he jumped
off that washing machine.
Things had to change (see third paragraph of this piece re: Martin Jol). I saw how
Tarrico could kick the ball REALLY hard (see his goal vs. Leeds Utd, in 2003 - https:/
/www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUOhLjj8_LM). I KNEW I could do that. I had to learn
how to shoot from distance, teaching myself 'the punt' (i.e. big toe, through the ball) -
the ethical equivalent of a girl kicking Muhammad Ali in the balls during a fistfight and
running off really really quickly. Not classy. But bloody effective. Punting was my thing. I
scored one magnificent 25-yard free kick and retired satisfied at the end of that season.
It was my Tony Yeboah moment [http://youtu.be/EBBnKu5bnCE]. I was 16. I was shit at
football. I wanted to watch Spurs play football, drink lager, talk to women and listen to the
Buzzcocks "Entertaining Friends" instead [http://www.discogs.com/Buzzcocks-Entertaining-
Friends-Live-At-The-Hammersmith-Odeon-March-1979/release/1106502]. No more football
for me. But my love for Mauricio Tarrico, and charismatic Spurs players with flair (Steffen
Iversen, Jose Dominguez, Giovani Dos Santos), remain to this day.
Tediously, in the same way that everyone seems to know, be or have had sex with a
Manchester City fan nowadays, even though a few seasons ago (pre-success) you couldn't
find them anywhere - much like Wigan fans, and also, curiously, in my experience, Fulham
fans - Manchester United used to be THE club that you would support at primary school
if you wanted to be popular. A few of the challenged subversive kids claimed to support
Liverpool, wearing their green and white 95/96 away kits [http://www.oldfootballshirts.com/
img/shirts/10/liverpool-away-football-shirt-1995-1996-s_70_1.jpg] with "Babb 6"
and "McManaman 17" on the back with pride, but I always thought they were twats. I
quite liked Peter Schmeichel and the way he would bollock the hell out of his team-mates,
screaming fresh hell - or well-smoked [http://youtu.be/ZCAmZ9cOaoc] sturm and drang - at
footballers that defined a generation (Cantona, Hughes, Giggs... and, uhhh... Steve Bruce).
I thought that I too could get away with it if I claimed allegiance to Man United. I felt dirty, but
in my pre-revelatory Tarrico years, I started masquerading as a goalkeeper in homage to the
Great Dane. I used to have fantastic knees ("lovely", my Mother would say) but knackered
them to such an extent - diving to make saves on frozen playground concrete during winter
break times - that they are now about as pert and attractive as Harry Redknapp's tax-
dodging jawline. Either way, I blagged a trial for Hereford United's youth team by impressing
at one of those fantastic Football In The Community summer schools (age 11 - true fact)
before the insightful Hereford scouts swiftly realised I wasn't very tall, and that outfield was
the safest place for me to be. This appealed to me. Outfield. Less responsibility. Goals.
Glamour. Peter Schmeichel left Man United. My cloak of deceit fell. I went back to being a
Being a Spurs fan, when not cripplingly frustrating, is absolutely brilliant. We've had some
fantastic players. I've never spent the time reading enough about the glory teams of the past
outside of my living memory (I respect them greatly - Danny Blanchflower, Jimmy Greaves,
Bill Nicholson et al - and will endeavour to read up on them all properly one day). However,
I've always been lucky enough to experience Spurs teams who always had at least one
world class player in their ranks (e.g. David Ginola, Luka Modric, Gary Mabbutt). Alongside
Tarrico, my favourite Spurs players are Jurgen Klinsmann (I love this guy and hope he
ends up managing Spurs one day, following his success with the USA national team,
Bayern Munich and Germany - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luHMIIM8Sys) and Paul
Gascoigne (I really hope he returns to full health soon - http://youtu.be/GVMaIUSeRxA). I
think my earliest memory is being stood in my grandparent's living room, surrounded by my
toy cars, watching the Italia '90 England v Germany semi-final descend into That Penalty
Shoot Out, and my grandfather swearing fantastically at the telly when England lost [http:/
/youtu.be/swa0VHtWe8s]. I recall that this confused me greatly, because my grandfather
was a great man who never ever swore, so what had just happened was obviously culturally
significant. I was aged 4. Whoever this Gazza person was, that my grandfather had just
sworn at so profusely, was someone I was inspired to find out more about as he had
provoked such a fascinating reaction. I received a 6" tall poseable plastic toy of Gary Lineker
around this time also, presumably from my grandfather (I sadly don't remember) in response
to my developing love of football. Cumulatively, I think this is where my assignation to
Spurs happened. I had been snared and was now locked in for life. I still have the Gary
Lineker toy and have kept it on my bedroom window sill ever since [http://www.vectis.co.uk/
So, the modern years. What happened post-Martin Jol? And how did I feel about it - how did
I bring myself back from the brink of losing all faith in my beloved Spurs - the Ramos years
etc? The appointment of 'Honest' Harry Redknapp, and the chronology of love, tears and
cacophonous bloodshed that followed, certainly helped.
I almost lost my faith. Harry Redknapp became my Lady Macbeth, the voice in my head
telling me 'it'll all be alright at the Lane' - allowing me to leave the house on Saturday
evenings without snot-nosed kids pointing and laughing and saying to their disapproving
Arsenal-supporting mothers and fathers - 'look Mummy, a Spurs fan'. That 4-4 draw with
Arsenal [http://youtu.be/UASYr7lRIZo] let me know that everything would be ok. That things
could change. That we could challenge with the bigger teams in the League, hold our own
and then some. The development of some existing, and inspired, signings (Modric, Bale, van
der Vaart, Parker) into world-class first team players was an evolutionary process that was
brilliant to experience, and for that, I thank Harry Redknapp.
The cohesion within the squad looked brilliant under Harry. Yes, we struggled tactically at
times, and didn't utilise a "Plan B" against teams who would stick 10 men behind the ball
and batter us at corners (which is why I was so confused when we sold Peter Crouch (a
potential "Plan B") to Stoke). But we had a bit of style. For a brief fleeting few months, we
got into the Champions League. People wanted to watch Spurs play again, because they
knew there'd be goals, entertainment and, perhaps - most excitingly - our manager was FUN
Opinion-makers started saying nice things in the media about Spurs. Match of the Day
would refer to him as ''Arry' and generally be quite positive about Spurs. We had good media
relations, he always gave post-match interviews that were honest, incisive and entertaining.
Spurs were cool, with a cool manager. I was so glad he wasn't Sam Allardyce, or David
Moyes, or any of those other boring non-descript, permanently non-plussed managers, who
vent just enough of the same old spiel, week-in, week-out, to keep their Chairman and MOR
insurance salesmen fans happy. If I wanted to be spiritually inspired by a squeaky clean
leadership figure, I'd go on golfing holidays with my boss at work, or join a monastery. But I
don't. This is football and I want to be entertained. I want to hear interesting things. I want to
laugh. Harry had opinions and things to say and he said them. I liked that. I knew he wasn't
Spurs through and through (more on that in a bit) but he was evidently a fan - of the game if
nothing else - and that stood out. I really like(d) that side of him. A bit of heart on the sleeve.
Additionally, buried somewhere within this fairytale football themed-episode of Only Fools
and Horses, my appreciation for Mr. Levy and his way of 'doing business' began to develop.
He evidently didn't take prisoners (see my beloved Martin Jol). He (appeared to) want to stay
out of the limelight, letting his manager do the PR and talking. Mr. Levy bought players. He
spent money. And he also had the cold dead assassin's eyes of a Bond villain. I knew he
wouldn't be holding back in negotiations to bring in, and hold onto, the best players he could
[http://youtu.be/g24Mk6TiAjc]. He had a reputation on the line, and he looked like someone
who wanted to protect that reputation. As with Martin Jol, and later with Harry Redknapp,
I realised Mr. Levy operated with a strong mindset: that sometimes you have to give away
some good stuff, in order to achieve some much greater stuff. Like Merlin football stickers.
So, without Jol, there would have been no Redknapp; without Redknapp, no Villas-Boas;
without Villas-Boas, no 4th place in early 2013.
Sadly, I now have mixed feelings about Harry. I have no doubts he is a great man, and a
fantastic manager, but there was something really disheartening about the England/Chelsea
job and tax-fiddling cases and how they all overlapped into a horrible sticky few months.
I'd love to speak with Harry and try to understand what his game plan was at the time. He
must've known what he was doing, right? Him and his legal team must have had a plan
or something up their sleeve that didn't quite materialise as they intended? I don't mind if
he wanted the England job - could you blame him? I'd have taken the England job in his
England-job-after-tax-charge-acquittal-article862923.html]. It's the greatest honour you can
have as an English football manager (surely?). Sadly, Harry's statements and profile at the
time just didn't reassure me in a time of need - as a Spurs fan - about his loyalties and plans
for the future regarding Chelsea and England which Spurs could've operated around or
During all the tax dodging nonsense which we can now look back on and take the piss
about, despite it being genuinely worrying at the time, the Spurs fans were fantastic
to Harry. We knew he'd done something a little bit wrong, but we never thought it was
anything sinister; a little bit of the old Del Boy here and there perhaps, but, y'know, that
was absolutely fine [http://youtu.be/xJBsI7RAuvk]. You must have had the conversation
yourself, right? "Not to Harry? Little old Harry? Nah, good old Harry! He's a good bloke."
(and the "God, I do hope he IS innocent" you'd whisper into your pint, when your mate went
off to the bar/toilet etc). The support the Spurs fans gave him was superb and I think Harry
appreciated that. The problem is Harry's really charming. I know this and I'm still drawn in
even though he's now at QPR. I just can't be annoyed at him for all the nonsense last year
and the effect it evidently had on Spurs at the end of an otherwise "t'riffic" season. He's like
a puppy that is smiling expectantly at you, but earlier that afternoon left a turd on the carpet
in the hall. Deep down, you just want to give it praise and a Bonio (Rosie 47, anyone? [http:/
/i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02118/redknapp-rosie_2118140b.jpg]), but it probably
deserves a gentle boot up the arse and bed with no tea. Harry Redknapp is a good man, a
great manager and I'm gutted he left. But, going back to my earlier point, I trust Daniel Levy
And whilst we're on the subject of trust and warmth, one of the most memorable moments of
my football supporting life, for both good and bad reasons, was the Muamba game - Spurs
v Bolton game in the FA Cup last season [http://youtu.be/XkptgB3jXP8]. With my birthday
money, I treated myself to a Spurs ticket (I was a student at the time, thus skint) in West
Stand and looked forward to a great seat at my first experience of an FA Cup match at the
Lane. What happened that day was both sad and incredible, and it remains such a relief that
Fabrice Muamba made it through ok. The warmth and ongoing applause of both the Spurs
and Bolton fans, and the wider footballing community post-match, was staggering and it
such a powerful experience - one I will never ever forget. On a lighter note, Paul Whitehouse
sat near to me for the replay game, and apologised for treading on my feet as he left just
before full-time. I think he felt obliged to apologise, as he may have been slightly scared
of me and the Dutch bloke I was sat next to, after having heard how loudly we had been
screaming at Rafael Van Der Vaart to track back and cover Chris Eagles for the past 85
Van Der Vaart, eh? That was a master-stroke at the time [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/
Rafael-van-der-Vaart.html]. A purchase I'd been dreaming of for years, but never for once
expecting to materialise. Us, involved in a business deal with Real Madrid! That doesn't
happen! But it did. Yet, try as we might, and resist it as much as we can, Spurs have been
a reluctant selling-club in previous years. Plateauing at a decent level (a Carling Cup, or a
UEFA Cup campaign) and then ending up flogging an integral player with ambitions bigger
than our budget. Look at Sol Campbell to Arsenal, Sheringham to Man United, Carrick to
Man United, Berbatov to Man United, Modric to Real Madrid, VDV to Hamburg. If we'd only
have hung on to those players, eh? This season especially. But we didn't and we've now
spent that money elsewhere. But there's always that "what if", isn't there? I hope this doesn't
happen with Gareth Bale, but - deep down - I know it probably will. This is because we don't
have £100 million to throw at squad players that could sustain a title challenge or European
campaign. Which is what would happen if Gareth left for Man City or Chelsea or Real or
somewhere similar - he'd become a squad player. So don't go, Gareth.
The man who I think can stop this happening, with performances instead of clever words,
and can inspire this current squad to continue to stick together, is Villas-Boas. Admittedly,
when he was at Chelsea, I thought he was a meddler, a lunatic and a bit of a berk. Mucking
about with formations and styles, undoing tried and tested systems. But despite all the
barracking he received, he kept his composure (classic Spurs material) and being part-
Portuguese (like me), I had a soft spot for him as a manager, even though he appeared to
be absolutely bloody useless in the Premiership. When he came in to replace Harry, I was
amused to say the least. This soon transformed into warm-hearted optimism, me crossing
my arms and thinking "come on then, what have you got?". And I guess I still feel a bit like
that. It's good fun at the moment under Andre. I haven't worked him out completely yet, but I
like what he's doing and am looking forward to seeing more of it.
So, the future. Well, wouldn't it be great if Spurs DID finally challenge for the title? Being
realistic, this won't be for a little while - sadly unless Mr. Levy throws lots of money at the
squad, like a Man City, Chelski or whoever Mark Zuckerberg may decide to invest in. We still
throw away points against the Stokes, Norwichs and Readings of the world (no disrespect
to them, but we're much better at football) - but then somehow manage to muster epic Old
Testament-style away wins at Man United [http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/sep/29/
manchester-united-tottenham-hotspur]. This kind of nonsensical horse-bollocks is frustrating
beyond belief, year-on-year, but all forms part and parcel of the joy of being a Spurs fan.
You need to have a sense of humour if you're a Spurs fan. Remember when everyone in our
first team squad got the trots against West Ham [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/
2336560/Spurs-dealt-devastating-blow-by-food-poisoning.html]? One of the biggest derbies
of our season. Sky Sports News has latched onto the story, and now the whole nation knows
we're necking Imodium and Dioralite to hold our arses together after eating a dirty lasagne
the night before. Great. Nice ego boost pre-match. And kudos to the club dietician (a waged
job) for having chosen that precise meal for the players, proving himself about as useful as
Sergei Rebrov's left bollock in this particular situation.
You need those highs and lows. For me, this means those Redknapp moments and the
Martin Jol moments. I'm overjoyed about Spurs (ever) getting into Europe. It gives us
something to get excited about mid-week, playing similarly reputable and optimistic (but
realistic, in terms of ambition) football teams. The ones who can string a few passes
together, you may recognise a couple of players from the last World Cup at and may
consider (once or twice) playing as them on FIFA. I love knowing I'm going to watch my
team play Lyon and have half a chance, rather than us playing Real Madrid and getting
smashed 5 nil. This is because I know Scott Parker is NOT as good as Cristiano Ronaldo,
but I will love him and his passionate devotion to the cause never-the-less. Why would I want
to watch something (Spurs) I love getting demolished in a competition we're not ready for?
It'd be like Roadblock from Robot Wars getting eaten by Sir Killalot and being thrown into
the fire-pit (when secretly we all know we wanted Mortis to lose. And lose really badly - http:/
/youtu.be/mth_yu55BHI). Or those self-funding bands who take out a loan to buy a Transit
van, go on a tour, eat loads of Ginsters pasties, sleep in service station car parks and end up
playing to absolutely no-one. It all sounds so fun until it happens, and then you're there, and
it's miserable, and it's REAL.
So, let's be optimistic. Let's support Villas-Boas. I've loved his approach to managing Spurs
so far, rightly or wrongly giving us a breath of something fresh and different compared to
Harry's charisma and motivation-focused style of management. AVB brings that little bit
of European-minded experimentation, outside of the box thinking, real tactics, something
different to our style of play and (thank God) has managed to retain that bit of classic Spurs
flair. Let's remember AVB has won the Europa League, so deep down, there's no doubt
that this man knows his bacon (like Peter Schmeichel). Let's cross our fingers and see what
happens. And for God's sake, let's finish above Arsenal.
Michael D. Wynn (aged 26 and a half) - Follw him on Twitter here
I have a recurring dream where every evening I'm in France, and end up taking a dump in
Arsene Wenger's bed. I calmly replace the divan, neatly tuck the corners in (like the most
devout chambermaid you've never met) and shut the bedroom door with a gentle click,
before I wake back up in reality. I've absolutely no idea what the dream means, but it feels
really satisfying to have non-laterally shat in Wenger's bed and often cheers me up on the
commute into work in the mornings. Try it yourself.
My All Time Spurs XI (since 1986)
Gary Mabbutt (c)
Giovani Dos Santos
4-4 draw with Arsenal-era Harry Redknapp - the world was his oyster.
First year with Autonomy home kit 09/10 - sharp as hell.