“SPURS are one of the greatest clubs in soccer and it’s high time we finally proved it by winning the title.”
King in 2011? Ginola in ’99? Gascoigne in \’91? Hoddle in ’85, when Tottenham led the table on New Year’s Day?
No, Perryman in 1975, actually. And the yawning wait since doesn’t seem to have agitated them enough. Over time, too many Tottenham people have swaddled in Blanchflower’s famous comfort blanket.
“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. The game is about glory. It’s about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”
Danny, of course, spoke from a position of strength. With a double done. The glory, however, that many Spurs fans claim as a birthright doesn’t necessarily come with the baggage of success. At times, that has suited everyone, especially directors during periods of underinvestment. A cup run, a hero, a swagger and a right go when the year ends in a one. That has been enough for them.
Even when Ossie dreamt and Keith Burtenshaw assembled their best team for an age, Spurs couldn’t knuckle down for the long haul. In The Boys From White Hart Lane, Perryman remembers pleading with the gaffer to target genuine glory. “Let’s go Arsenal style. Let’s close the doors and be a bit more ordinary, but on our bad days get draws.”
But Burtenshaw knew his people. “Steve, if you ever sit behind this desk, you’ll know that’s not possible.”
That was fine until Arsene Wenger’s arrival in North London, when glory and success joined hands up the Seven Sisters Road. Suddenly the high moral ground was lost in a cloud of inferiority.
It was only ever going to be a man not made of Tottenham who could break the cycle. A man whose dreams hadn’t been shrunk by the mean streets around White Hart Lane. Which is why Harry Redknapp has half a chance.
Harry isn’t Spurs. You fear at times he might break out in hives, twitching uneasily on their touchline with his back to a wall of bitterness and self-loathing, the mass of barely contained pustulant that sometimes breaks out in the shape of Clive Allen.
Harry might be the best thing that ever happened them.
It has taken time. When today’s visitors to the Lane arrived last February, in finer fettle, Owen Coyle’s side successfully frustrated, until, with 90 minutes spent, news reached the stands that Arsenal had misplaced a four-goal lead at Newcastle. The eruption of bonhomie spilled onto the field where Niko Krancjar fired a winner. Progress, but still a people forever looking down the road.
Much progress since Harry also began with Bolton at home two years earlier, just 24 hours after he was spirited away from the south coast. Two points from eight games was his starting handicap, the crutch he leaned on through every setback he encountered since.
Sensibly, once the first great breakthrough of Champions League qualification was achieved, Harry cast that crutch aside. He has also discarded the other stick that has kept them limping along for decades – Spurs can no longer consider themselves a cup team.
Instead, while Arsenal talk of top four, Harry welcomes the Trotters today on the back of nine wins from ten and with title talk openly leaking from players to fans. For the first time, the shadow from the Emirates doesn’t appear to extend as far as Highbury’s did.
Unfortunately, ambition might not be enough. As Harry quipped to a hostile audience when he returned to Portsmouth to accept the freedom of the city just 48 hours after that first Bolton win; “my timing has never been great”.
The odds are stacked against him. The ENIC pursestrings have tightened just as City splurge, Liverpool splash on a refit and Abramovich tries one more push. Arsenal, too, will soon be debt-free.
But he has a splendid team, decked out this year with finishing touches.
At its base, the arrival of Friedel, who seemed to have lost agility but had simply been sucked into the Villa quicksand, has given them an authority Gomes lacked. Ingeniously, he will have gotten the best from Adebayor before they have to talk turkey.
And when he hailed the performance of his jigsaw’s final piece, it’s no accident that Harry skipped the unfulfilled generations to compare Scott Parker with Dave Mackay.
Mackay’s days were truly Tottenham’s glory days. For Harry, there’s glory in getting them to finally have another go.
First published in the Irish Examiner