Friday, 25 February 2011

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 7




7) Wimbledon 2 - Spurs 6
Premier League
Selhurst Park
Spurs Scorers: Ferdinand, Kinsmann (4), Saib

'Greatest' might be stretching it.

It was very nearly 'worst'.

Including it in this line-up is probably 'most humiliating'.

With five games to go we had 35 points.

We'd just lost away at Chelsea. Of course we had, it was a year ending in... well, a number, basically.

Relegation was a stomach-churningly real possibility. I was genuinely struggling to sleep. Even at work.

We drew at home to Coventry. Nicola Berti scored. What a strange, strange signing he was. Astonishing hair.

36 points, four games to go.

Next up was Barnsley away. They showed it on the big screen at the Lane. Barnsley away. Beamed back live to N17. These were terrible times. I went. These were terrible, terrible times. I went on my own. These were terrible, terrible, terrible times.

I just couldn't bear having the game unfold any way other than me watching it. I had to witness whatever it was, even if it was gruesome.

Speaking of which, I popped into the Bricklayers Arms for a nerve-steadying pint before the game. I have never drunk in the High Road apart from on match day or when celebrating a Cup Final win. I never will again.

There's a bit in Withnail & I when they walk into some particularly grotty pub and 'I' says 'It was like walking into a lung'. This was like walking into a dead man's lung. And he'd been a really heavy smoker - who also suffered from chronic BO. Jesus it was a grim place. The perfect place, in fact, for a drink ahead of a relegation scrap with Barnsley.

Colin Calderwood scored. Good old Calderwood. A limited defender and a more than limited player, sure, but he always looked like he cared, did Colin. The game finished 1-1. I remember feeling relief. A defeat would have been a disaster, I'm sure of that. A draw wasn't - at least partly because it stopped Barnsley getting three points (God it's embarrassing typing that, even 13 years later)

We then beat Newcastle at home, 2-0, with goals from Ferdinand and Klinsmann (who we'd brought back to the club specifically to help save us from relegation and with the assurance that we wouldn't use his shirt to wash any more cars).

But for some reason that wasn't enough. Results must have gone against us. And, indeed, looking at the table, I see Bolton got relegated with 40 points - always referred to as "the magic 40 points", only this year it made you disappear.

So we needed to win away at Wimbledon. It was May, for fuck sake. I remember doing one of those deal-with-God type things, promising that never again would I moan about our season being over in late January if this is what it took to keep us interested way past Easter.

I listened to the game on a radio at home. It was torture. Worse than The Archers – even the episode with the Duchess of Cornwall (did you hear her? good lord why didn't someone intervene? And by 'intervene' I mean hit her with a shovel).

We went 0-1 up thanks to Sir Les. But then suddenly we were 2-1 down because of a brace from, wait for it, Peter Fear. Brilliant, huh? If Gary Fuckofftoobscurity had snatched a third we'd have probably been down and out. Or out and down...

Thankfully, Jurgen equalised just before half-time, stabbing home a Ginola cross.

After half-time Ben Thatcher, a future Spurs.... what's the opposite of legend?.... we'll settle for 'player', but we'll use quote marks... more or less assaulted Allan Neilsen and got himself sent off.

Pretty much straight away, Klinsmann scored two more, securing a hat-trick for himself and safety for us. Oh and then he got another one.

(There's some sadly grainy footage here. Watch it and feel your heart break as you realise what a side we'd be with a striker like that right now. We'd be challenging for the title, we really would).

Moussa Saib even got a sixth. Yep, Moussa Saib.

It was a beautiful day - weather-wise, I mean. I remember shouting out of the window to my wife who was in the garden:
'Jurgen!! I fucking love Jurgen!!'
'Moussa Saib!'
Moussa. Saib.'
'M-O-U-S... look it doesn't matter, you'll never hear of him again; the point is, we're safe.'

What else happened that season? Oh yes, Arsenal did the double. Now that, as Spinal Tap would have readily pointed out, isn't just perspective, it's too much perspective.

Look, this isn't a glorious moment in the annals. It's not something to be hugely proud of. No one comes out of this looking good – except Klinsmann, maybe. And Berti, with that hair.

But it was mightily significant. At least it felt that way, on a sunny afternoon in May 1998. And the first cold beer of that early summer evening tasted very, very good.

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