Gareth Bale: Born To Play For Spurs
On the 1st September 2013, Gareth Bale completed his move from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid for a reported world record fee. Whilst Madrid followers from all around the world rejoice in the glory of another galactico signing, Tottenham fans are left in a flurry of emotions. As a Spurs fan, it’s up to me to unravel this situation.
In Bale’s first season for Spurs, he was playing left back and the only thing I can remember for certain is his immaculate speed down the flanks. Was he destined for greatness at that point? Of course not. Bale’s debut season was very depressing, potentially soul-destroying for the young man, especially when he hadn’t won a fixture with the Welshman in the side for his first 27 starts. Safe to say, I wasn’t expecting much from him.
The first time I really began to notice Gareth Bale as anything as a player was midway through the 2009/10 season. That season as a whole is littered with glorious moments, but the most promising player out of all the bunch was our skinny Welsh left back. Bale was beating players down the left flank like no other, and creating problems for almost every team in the league. He showed drive and ambition; he wanted to succeed. To think, he could’ve been outed by Harry Redknapp to Nottingham Forest or Birmingham in January if it weren’t for a few cameos in December! Funny old game, football.
Bale excelled the next season. In October, the man was the leading star in our Champions League debut season. After Bale put three past Julio Cesar and Inter Milan with his left foot, he put in a world class performance in the return fixture at White Hart Lane, known to all the Spurs fans by the song we sung that night, ‘Taxi for Maicon’. That was one of the great European glory nights at White Hart Lane. Seeing that moment makes me long for Champions League again. As for Bale, I said that night that he was destined for greatness and that soon, all the top teams would want him. He went on to win PFA Player of the Year for the first time that season.
The 2011/12 season was not one where he wowed the millions, but one where he tried to find his place in the team. He was first put in a central role that season, but quickly shifted back to the left flank when Redknapp could not bring the best out of him. I always found Bale was at his best when he drove through defences, whether it be in the centre or the left, torturing them, ripping them apart. From an early age, he always had that in his locker. Proof? Goals last season came usually from a drive through the defence or the more majestic long shot.
In the 2012/13 season, Gareth Bale started it as a world class player and ended it a superstar. 31 goals in all competitions, many games and points won for Tottenham and many YouTube-compilation-worthy moments, drew comparisons between the Welshman and Cristiano Ronaldo, to many people the best player in the world (in my opinion, he is the most exciting player). From the very start, Bale set the house alight, scoring a wonderful free-kick against Croatia for Wales. The moment that will live in many Spurs fans hearts will be the last minute winner against West Ham at Upton Park, leading him to embrace Andre Villas-Boas on the touch line. Both manager and player admit their partnership brought the best out of the Welshman. To me, it was one key element that allowed this to happen: confidence. How confident must he have been to take that shot at Jaaskeleinen from 30 yards out, rather than chip it in the box? How confident must he have been to step up to that free kick against Lyon, winning the game and the first leg for Spurs? How confident must he have been to think he could curl in shots from all places, impossible to 99% of the football world? AVB gave Bale the confidence to deliver the impossible.
Bale’s transfer saga has left a bitter aftertaste in the mouthes of many fan. The non-stop coverage from Sky Sports bored most football fans from the first minute, reporting any story from the most unreliable of sources, including many of the Marca, despite admitting it is Madrid’s mouthpiece, a tool to engineer transfers. Real Madrid approached this transfer thinking they could claim Bale without any questions asked, known from the moment Florentino Perez said the player was ‘born to play for Real Madrid’. The transfer rumour mill was non stop, all the papers looking for a breaking news exclusive. In the middle of it, there was a young Welsh boy who just wants to play football. I will never blame Bale for the way he had to leave. I blame the rotten way the media report transfers. From the gossip columns to the Deadline Day with Jim White, the whole thing is enough to drive you suicidal.
I hoped for most of the window that Bale would wear the Lilywhite shirt again, but that hope vanished when we began looking at Erik Lamela, expensive and talented to be touted as Bale’s replacement, sought with money that could only come from one place: Madrid’s back pocket. For 100 million Euros, I believe it was out of the best interests of the club for Levy to accept and reinvest, make the squad stronger with players that can drive Spurs to the top of English football (…hopefully).
Bale leaves White Hart Lane after six years, four of which will live in our hearts forever. In his statement to the fans, Bale said ‘I have had six very happy years at Tottenham but it’s the right time to say goodbye. We’ve had some special times together over the years and I’ve loved every minute of it. Tottenham will always be in my heart.’ As a young Spurs fan, writing this with warmth in his heart and a tear in his eye, I can safely say that no player in my lifetime has brought more ecstasy and glory that Gareth Bale. My only wish that in his wake, Tottenham’s future will be filled with moments of glory akin to last season. The club move forward, and we, as fans, will have to as well. But as Danny Blanchflower said many years ago, the game is about glory. There is no player that lives up to that mantra than Gareth Frank Bale.
I wish him well.
Visit Jonny Walczak’s original article on his personal blog: Rants from an Angry Yid
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