The unpredictable nature of football meant the New Year got off to a great start. Against the odds and the cynical predictions of players turned pundits, Spurs fans went through the second day of 2015 with a Ready Brek glow and an instinctive smile, while Jose Mourinho continued to turn himself into a caricature, with even once fawning journalists now talking about his usual deflection tactics, as his scapegoating of the media and the officials no longer hide his own failings as well as he thinks.
At an event in East London two weeks ago, Greatcoats for Goalposts, which reflected on the significance of the football inspired truce during the First World War, one hundred years on, the writer David Goldblatt noted that football is one of the few remaining areas that regularly brings masses of ordinary people together. It’s true. The Unions have largely been dispersed and working man’s clubs now only have a broad reach when Channel 5 show re-reuns of Chas and Dave specials from the early eighties, but the people’s game still attracts hundreds of thousands of people into football grounds every week.
On New Year’s Day every English Premier League club played, Gary Lineker trumpeted the best Match of the Day of the season “by a distance” and the beautiful game captured the imagination again. Nowhere more so was this the case than at White Hart Lane. An old ground, built not at an out-of-town shopping complex, but in amongst residential terraced homes, schools, community centres and small shops. The stadium still holds over thirty-six-thousand in the all-seated age without losing the wonderful night-game atmosphere that comes from the stands close to the touchline and the home team playing as their tradition and history demands, as was the case on Thursday evening.
It has been clear for months that Harry Kane deserved to be the sole striker in the Tottenham first team, adding energy and determination to a game that is based on intelligence and great striking ability of both feet. He has a deft touch if looking clumsy at other times (often he has a wonderful first two touches while sometimes later stumbling when there is no movement off the ball from other players to either give him options or create space when he can attack with the ball, as he did superbly on Thursday); he occasionally misses sitters, but is so often in the right position he will weigh in with goals in a good team; and his attitude, coupled with the central freedom finally given to Christian Eriksen and the good form of a a confident Nacer Chadli has helped Spurs to be a consistent force in the final third for the first time post-Bale.
Kane is a Spurs fan. And his attitude, alongside other graduates of the academy who started on Thursday – Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentilab and Andros Townsend – has lifted the side and also a crowd tired of seeing ambivalent players with sloping shoulders. Townsend’s bottle was crucial to the win, taking the initiative with an injury-time penalty, which if missed would have given all the momentum to Chelsea. Just moments earlier Spurs would have been bearing down on goal but were denied a break by a poor refereeing decision that favoured Chelsea but is now airbrushed from the narrative.
At that stage Danny Rose had already scored Tottenham’s second, a lovely finish that blew away the memory of him being all at sea for Chelsea’s opener. Spurs went in at the break with three different English scorers against a multi-national crop of international names hand-picked by their billionaire owner.
Chelsea, with the most complete squad in the country and the strongest first XI, which they put out on Thursday, were recently being hyped to go through the season unbeaten. Yet they were under the pump from the first minute on an action packed night by a vibrant Spurs. The five goals Tottenham Hotspur scored brought back memories of the 5-1 win against the same opposition 13 years ago in a League Cup Semi-Final second leg when, under Glenn Hoddle, Spurs put in one of their finest footballing displays for years.
On New Year’s Day 2015, Spurs were once again showing sport at it’s best when the future is unwritten.
Mourinho can bully ball boys, try to intimidate match officials and fob off reporters, but in a match that seemed like an eventful Roy of the Rovers cartoon strip, he seemed like an old school villainous manager; smoke may as well have been coming out of his ears as he continually ranted on the touchline, before a huff down the tunnel and his predictably disingenuous post-match attacks on the match officials while still sniping about other defeats (embarrassingly bitter enough to again call Newcastle lucky from a few weeks ago.)
He may be in such denial it wouldn’t be a surprise if it is revealed one day he keeps his own score book, and writes down the score he thinks it should have been. But then this a man who toward the end of his first spell at Chelsea felt compelled to reel off the honours he won in press conferences, including Charity Shields, without being asked.
While Mourinho rages against the world, his day after New Years Day must have been more painful than the average hangover. A head banging with resentment, bloodshot eyes resultant from no self-restraint and a dehydrated tongue salivating for a universal acclaim he’ll never receive. Meanwhile, Spurs fans who were at White Hart Lane had a day of pleasure only a football fan can experience.
Mel Gomes is the author of the e-book Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley which documents Tottenham’s return to the European Cup. It is available to preview for free and download in full from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.
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