There’s something about Tottenham Hotspur FC, that lends itself to an almost Shakespearean-like comedy in football. Make no mistake, Spurs are one of the biggest clubs in England, and have had some of the finest players these shores have seen; Greaves, Lineker, Hoddle, Gascoigne, and a certain Welshman plying his trade in Spain right now, have all had spells in the Lilywhite of North London.
But for every Greaves, there’s a Postiga. For every Lineker, there’s a Rasiak. Hoddle? Taarabt. And for the real painful stake in a Tottenham heart that for every Gareth Bale, there’s a Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Soldado and (for the money spent on him) an Erik Lamela.
A club that every year is expected to do well, yet somehow completely loses the plot. Things could be going so well, but before long whether the owner gets an itchy trigger finger, the boss gets linked with England or the lasagne isn’t quite cooked enough, the club implodes. It’s like a metaphorical balloon with a sleeping hedgehog inside it. You don’t know when, but you know it will and you know it’ll be downright disastrous. It’s so… Spursy.
But for all the mud thrown at Tottenham for somehow managing to treat the £85m that Real Madrid spent on Bale like the guy who’s can’t hold it any longer on a night out and happens to meet a random wall, the fact that the club are deemed to have completely frittered that money away is wrong. There is one who has excelled.
This season, pundits have been properly jumping into the Harry Kane brigade; he’s come from nowhere, he’s been scoring goals for fun, he’s English and seems like the sort of guy who if he wasn’t a footballer, he’d be Harry the plumber, drinking a cold beer in your local by the pool table after a hard week at work; he’s a fan’s dream, the proverbial ‘one of us’.
But rather less has been made about the “Harry Kane support acts”. A fair few plaudits have gone to Hugo Lloris, who quite rightly has been hailed as one of the finest goalkeepers in European football, but yet not nearly half as much credit given to Harry Kane by pundits is given to the best Tottenham outfield player, Christian Eriksen.
There’s something that makes players like Eriksen so much more magical when you watch them with your own eyes and thoughts rather than through a ball-following camera with someone speaking those thoughts for you. When you’re in amongst a noisy crowd, players like him help to truly immerse you in those moments.
In amongst the fast-paced hustle and bustle of a Premier League match, it’s the likes of David Silva and Mesut Özil who are just a delight to watch, and the Spurs man is of the same ilk. I may not be a Tottenham fan myself, but seeing this ghost-figure glide past brutish defenders like he’s floating on air is a real joy, the closest the defenders get being the flash of “23” go past them.
The former Ajax man also is impressive on the stats tables too; ten league goals from midfield is a very reasonable return, whilst also making two of them too. It may seem a low number, but often it’s his contribution that starts the move off, not the final piece. When he gets them right, his free kicks are sights to behold, too.
You can see that despite coming from the rather less exotic Denmark he’s a very talented player and had a fine education in Amsterdam at Ajax. He carries himself confidently on the pitch, and the perception he is the new Michael Laudrup are worthy, not exaggerated.
He comes across the same way in post-match interviews too, answering questions as intelligently and thoughtful as he plays, never in clichés. He’s had to do plenty to Sky this season, and often he’s given the Man of the Match champagne at the end of them.
It’s just a shame that he doesn’t seem to be recognised by fans, he’s never named in anybody’s best team. His nationality plays against him; fans expect that from Silva, with all his Spanish flair, and Özil’s place in a Germany side who have changed perceptions and his time in the exotic climes of the Bernabeu. Even Phillippe Coutinho gets more credit than Eriksen, yet has been nowhere near as consistently brilliant as the Dane this season.
But it’s always been like that since he arrived at Tottenham after outgrowing the Eredivisie. In amongst the bigger purchases of that summer they lost Bale, it was Eriksen who has represented the best value for money, only arriving for £12m.
Perhaps Tottenham are beginning to learn from him. Resisting calls from the fans to break the bank for Louis Van Gaal or Carlo Ancelotti, Daniel Levy appointed Mauricio Pochettino, who earned rave reviews at Southampton, and he has made sure that Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb aren’t lost behind flashy purchases.
Tottenham are ridiculed because they want instant success. They’re laughed at because of their incessant need to be recognised. By buying sensibly like Eriksen for a decent fee, plus the smaller purchases like the highly rated Kevin Wimmer, steps in the right direction will be made. But then again this is Tottenham, and it could all coming crashing down again. It’s all so… Spursy.