Spurs: The game after the game before
How bad would the hangover be? Would there be one? Everything was given, nothing left behind, so surely a crash was inevitable. There was optimism though, after it all, the future was bright, that we were going forward.
A defeat to the best team in the country, who’s defense were on top form, in the battling manner in which each individual never gave up, was no disgrace. A cup final, at the home of English football was an experience so important and certainly not overwhelming for such a young group of men who had an average age of 23, one that will surely be repeated in the future.
The fans of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club are in high spirits, in a way that is perhaps unknown to the younger generation of them. There are numerous videos of those who went to Wembley singing as they headed back to the train station after the defeat and the chants could be heard throughout the game. There is optimism, belief and pride in this group of players and in particular the manager.
As I got ready to leave to head to White Hart Lane, I wanted my shirt to be visible in some form, I wanted people to know where I was going, who my team were. Yet there it was, the niggle, the voice that just says to you ‘What if?’ What if, it was the same again, hope built up, just for us all to be let down again, like when we spent the Bale money, like when we beat Newcastle 5-0 in February sitting 3rd having only lost 2 of the last 23 league game looking pretty to qualify for Champions League again to win only 1 of the next 9, missing out again.
It was also a big night against Swansea for another reason. It was the night to pay respects to one of the greatest players to have ever of played for the club Dave Mackay. The standing ovation and minutes applause which broke into chants of ‘Yiddo’, was the least we as fans we could do for a man who without him at the club I may well not be a fan of the side. I wouldn’t of been there that night, had Dave Mackay was not such an influential leader and fantastic player in the best side the club has ever produced in the ‘glory years’. My dad was very young when he chose the Tottenham of the early 60s as his club and his love for the club has been passed down to me as I now cheer on the current generation of heroes such Nabil Bentaleb and Harry Kane.
There was a massive roar at kick off, a belief, a passion for the club, ‘Come on You Spurs’ echoed around more like an order than a desire. An order to deliver not just for ourselves but for this great man who had passed. Swansea were well organised and even threatened to break through our defense before Routledge was flagged for offside. Then Tottenham came screaming forward, like previously seen at their best this season under Pochettino, relentless pressure, through pace coming from deep, especially out wide from the full backs. Townsend and Chadli were also asking questions of the Swansea full backs but it was Danny Rose who put in a perfectly placed cross to Chadli to place a volley in to the left hand side of the goal.
Any doubts of a hangover where gone, this was the best way to recover, by getting back on it. Tottenham hadn’t won any of their last five in all competitions but the fans were confident, buoyant, the football was a joy to watch.
Then the noise slowly died to mere murmurs. There was a player face down on in the middle of the pitch. Flashbacks of a terrible time at the Lane came pounding into minds as players like Danny Rose and Nabil Bentaleb held their head in their hands in disbelief and what was most likely fear. Of course at the time of writing we now know he is fine and there wasn’t too much fear for him as he was stretched off as it was clear to see it was nowhere near as horrific as first feared and he was warmly applauded off the field.
Here we go again, kick off, pressure, pressing, possession, Tottenham dominated, penning Swansea into their own box it was like watching Barcelona except something was missing. A final ball. There was frustration as crosses and shots were delayed for another pass and another pass which occasionally ended up in shots that never really threatened to put Swansea two down. If this was six months ago there would be silence at White Hart Lane purely broken by growns of frustration, now the odd grown broke the songs.
Something that did break the momentum of the songs was the Swansea goal, a reminder that we are still poor at the back but there was an acceptance, that we were always going to concede. The songs began again, spurring the team on, again demanding more but with belief that it would be delivered. Tottenham dominated the rest of the half but toward the end of normal time, the pace of the play dropped dramatically, and Spurs fans as they do, wouldn’t accept it, no way.
Demands were made and met, they finish the half strongly as Danny Rose and Kyle Walker bombed forward from deep to try and create chances to score a late first half goal. It wasn’t to be it was a good half for the home fans, who witnessed strong attacking performances from the full backs, Nacer Chadli was everywhere, in a good way and Townsend showed how much he has improved under Pochettino, showing variety to his game despite being nowhere near the finished article.
There was a chuckle at half time as the stats were placed up on the board which developed into small debates about the interpretation of stats as it stated that the home side had had 10 shots on target in the first half, none, other the goal, had really tested the goalkeeper.
The second half started at a quick pace as is becoming characteristic of this Tottenham side but it was cries of ‘Hugo, Hugo, Hugo’ that rallied around the Lane early on as he acrobatically tipped over a long range Shelvey shot. That was followed by chants of ‘Yiddo’ as the loved and appreciated former Spur, Glyfi Sigurdsson came over the take the resulting corner which resulted in nothing.
The pantomime villain of the night was as is quite often, the referee, this time Michael Oliver. This was at it’s peak as he gave a goal kick to Swansea after Fabianski clearly tipped round the post a header from the prodigal son, Harry Kane after another really good cross from Danny Rose.
It wasn’t long until the fans chants of ‘Everywhere we go’ went from being chants of support to celebration as Ryan Mason regained the lead for the home side. Eriksen turned on the magic which had been missing from his last few games, ghosting past a few players to lay it off to the 23 year old Spurs youth product and fan who smashed it in in emphatic fashion. He wheeled off kissing the badge, which rarely in football nowadays did actually mean something, it was his first league goal for the club he loves and the club he had become a symbol of everything that is good about the current team and the future.
The chant usually reserved for man of the moment the ‘HurriKane’, ‘He’s one of our own’ was then placed upon Ryan Mason and it continued until Kane himself had a poor touch and it went out of play which sent a relaxed group of fans into laughter in the irony of the coincidence.
Nine minutes later Swansea had a rare second half chance but it was half cleared to Bentaleb who was clattered into as he nodded the ball onto Andros Townsend deep in his own half. Credit where credit is due, it was fantastic referring as he played advantage and allowed Townsend to burst down the wing with electric pace with only Kane in support, he cut inside his man and smashed it into the far side. Really party time now among the fans and more chants of ‘One of our own’ rang around this time for the goalscorer, done with a slight hint of disbelief as the winger is certainly one who splits fans opinions.
There was a real sense that we had done it, won the game, won it in style, playing good football, minimizing any real threat at the other end. The singing was constant, the usual abuse towards Arsenal fans, and new current favourite ‘Everywhere we go’ and a some classics drove voices hoarse.
Harry Kane had a great chance but it was to be his last contribution as he was replaced by Roberto Soldado. After the usual chants for both players finished it was replaced by loud murmuring as everyone discussed and joked about Soldado’s ability and likelihood of scoring. A much loved figure at White Hart Lane but many fans now don’t see any future for him at the club and have given up on him but will continue to support him. He went close with a very good header from a Kyle Walker cross, who himself had gone close minutes before. The man from sunny Spain had another chance as he slid in to try and reach a low driven cross from former Swan Ben Davies but couldn’t quite reach it.
The substitution of Ben Davies had led to some good moments between the two sets of fans. The Welsh fans claiming Ben as ‘One of their own’ to which Spurs fans replied by saying he left Swansea because they, in other words ‘weren’t very good’. To which they pointed out that Ben Davies had unlike the rest of the Spurs squad, actually won a League Cup. Where the home fans fell back on ‘ We don’t know what you’re saying’ due to the away support being from Wales.
There was a unheard of calmness that we had won the game, it was 3-1, there were five minutes left, people were leaving to get to the front of the massive queues at the White Hart Lane station. Yet, this is Tottenham.
This is Tottenham Hotspur Football Club a club that never do things the easy way a club who will shoot themselves in the foot and doing something ‘Spursy’. Walker failed to stop tricky substitute Jefferson Montero crossing a deep ball into former Spur, Sigurdsson who was unmarked in the box, who with his undoubted class volleyed in in the 89th minute to make sure of a nervy finish.
Hearts dropped. The inevitable. Here we go again. The Spurs of seasons past threatened to show us pain so very real. The headache was beginning, that feeling of unstoppable sickness in your stomach. A Swansea onslaught ensued. Cries of desperation rang out. This is Tottenham, super Tottenham.
One last chance, a corner, Fabianski is up, to revenge the abuse he received in the first half at the Park Lane end.
Cleared..oh..another chance…come on Tottenham.
It bounces around, it’s Montero again, Walker facing him up. He crosses, Williams is up, heads it…
I celebrated the save like a goal. We had won. Our captain had won us the game, a game that was so comfortable, that is so Spurs. ‘Hugo, Hugo, Hugo.’ rings around White Hart Lane once again after the final whistle. This is no hangover, maybe we’re still drunk.
The side is young, the football is so much better and maybe the most important thing, the players care, the passion is obvious and the fans are happy, optimistic. There are obviously still issues especially around the defending and the strength of the squad but as I left White Hart Lane, I left with an optimism that we can take on any team, that we can beat anyone on our day and take the fight for fourth until the end. No matter where we finish, fourth or seventh, each game this season and next we will get better and better under the guidance of the one we trust Mauricio Pochettino.
I have written this as I have watched the Tottenham youth side beat Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Youth Cup Semi Final First Leg, the future is bright, the future is Lilywhite. Come On You Spurs.
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