Sunday, 17 April 2011

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 2









2) Tottenham 2 Chelsea 1 (aet)
League Cup Final
Spurs scorers: Berbatov (pen), Woodgate

The first leg of my journey to watch our Carling Cup final against Chelsea was a solitary walk from my house to the station.

The first song that came on my iPod was 'Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?' by ostentatiously bookish indie stalwarts Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.

It was a good question. I was certainly expecting to be heartbroken. But was I ready? Would I be able to cope in anything like an adult or manful capacity? Unlikely.

Our relationship with Chelsea had only just started to change. We'd recently beaten them in the league for the first time in forever, but we hadn't nullified the dread that had been drummed into the fixture through years of humiliation.

The monkey was off our back, but we'd yet to beat it to death with a shovel.

The last leg of my journey was not to Wembley, sadly, but to The Beehive on Tottenham High Road. For some reason this pub just opposite Bruce Grove tube had become part of our match day ritual, so we decided to pile in early, get a good seat, a bit pissed, and prepare for the worst - cheeseburger and chips in the Beehive.

We got through it, however, and the match itself started really well for us. We looked bright, we nearly scored and, most importantly we didn't look over-awed.

Then we gave a free kick away about 25 yards out. Drogba took it and didn't miss by much. Five minutes later we gave away another one in the same place and he didn't miss by anything at all.

It looked like being a typical Spurs performance against a big side: match if not outplay them in the opening 15, 20, 30 or even 45 minutes, fail to score, then concede, crumple and take a regulation defeat.

We were still playing pretty well, but just couldn't get a break. Then, we got a break. A Chelsea player committed a needless but obvious handball and the ref pointed to the spot.

Berbatov's penalty was the coolest thing I've ever seen. We're talking Fonzie in a freezer.

I mean I didn't actually see it, obviously, not as he took it. I never watch penalties. At the ground, when everyone else stands up to watch, I remain seated and stare at the ground. Then, hopefully, when I hear the cheer, I stand up to join in the celebration and ask m'colleague to tell me exactly how the pen was slotted. (He pretty much always says 'perfect pen', now I think about it.)

In the Beehive, I went to the toilet. I was in mid-stream when I heard the cheer. I couldn't celebrate too wildly so just clenched my fist - and immediately regretted it. Wrong fist.

Back in the pub there was pandemonium. I could only assume this was most of these people's first game. They clearly didn't know that what Spurs were actually doing was finding new ways to torture us. They'd now very cleverly set up the perfect last minute loser scenario. And if I had to bet I'd say the culprit would be.... Lampard.

As it turns out, it was Spurs that nearly won it in 90 minutes. Didier Zokora was put clean through and was about to make it 2-1.... when he suddenly remembered he was Didier Zokora. Actually, he hit it pretty well, and it just smacked Peter Cech in the face. Normally, a result. But, on this occasion, not quite what we were looking for.

So, extra time, and, almost straight away, that silly, lucky, wonderful pinball goal from Jonathan Woodgate. Way too early, of course. Having blown the 'last minute heartbreak' option, Spurs were now going to stick us with the pain of a penalty shoot out. Cunning bastards.

Time ticked by. Robbo made one great save and Chelsea should probably have had a penalty of their own.

By now I had turned away from the screen and had buried my face in the thankfully cushioned back of my seat. My plan, my ingenious, brilliant plan, was not to watch the game (Are you mad? That would be asking for trouble), but to just listen to the Spurs fans singing, because they only sang when there was nothing really happening. When we or, as was happening more and more, they were in a properly dangerous position, the singing stopped. And then maybe I'd have a peek. Or a coronary. Maybe both.

So, as long as they kept singing we'd be fine. Keep singing boys, please just keep singing (I was actually saying this over and over in my head).

(By now, one of our number had abandoned any sort of interaction with the match and was pacing up and down in the garden, waiting for the sound of celebrations to signify the final whistle. He tells me it was packed out there).

I knew time was up now, and the singing was louder than ever. Then suddenly, it stopped, replaced not by a euphoric roar but by horrible, horrible silence.

Please God no. I actually felt a bit sick. But as I turned to look at the screen, the first thing I saw was the wondrous sight of Ledley King raising his hands in celebration and letting a Chelsea player run past him (he actually went on to hit the post).

The singing had stopped because a flick on from Chelsea had looked like setting up a late, late chance. That was the moment I turned round. But before that chance materialised, the whistle had blown and then there, finally, was that euphoric roar.

It was 'only' the League Cup, but it was a huge and special win for us:

* We'd beaten Chelsea, a completely full strength and fired up Chelsea.

* We'd beaten Chelsea after going a goal down.

* We'd beaten Arsenal (6-2 on aggregate, just FYI) to get to this final and so finishing the job was doubly important.

* We'd won the one that mattered. Chelsea's record against us had been staggering. Embarrassing, actually. But when it came to Wembley, when it came to a cup final, when it came to 'it', whatever 'it' is, we'd won.

* That was now two finals and two wins against them.

* It was about to be 10 years without a trophy. Now it was O minutes without a trophy.

* The last manager to bring silverware to Tottenham wasn't George fucking Graham anymore.

So, we stayed in The Beehive and, to misappropriate another song from Mr Cole and his Commotions, we had a perfect skinful.

Watch some extended highlights here.

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