Sunday, 21 August 2011
Reasons to be cheerful - three parts
1) Gareth Bale
Thanks to the ongoing Modric saga (Jesus, I'm not even calling him 'Luka' anymore. A year ago it was 'honey-bunny'), the speculation spotlight stayed away from young Gareth this summer.
It was, in fact, a mercifully quiet close-season for the lad who, just seconds after the final whistle at the San Siro last year, was more or less put up for auction at pitchside by the ITV team of pundits (Curly, Larry and Twat, or whoever was on duty that night), such was the level of assumption that a player that good simply couldn't or wouldn't want to stay at Spurs.
Thankfully, in the end, Bale spent his holidays in a chalet in Tenby with his mum and his gran, sipping tea, running up and down mountains in the morning and re-reading his Harry Potter books in the afternoon, tongue lolling constantly but quite charmingly out of the corner of his mouth.
Obviously he may have spent the summer roasting wannabe wags in that resort where Michael Winner and Simon Cowell go - Cunt Island, I think it's called - but in my mind he's a good boy.
And the real point is that he remains our boy.
Last year, whilst he hit some very high highs, he was sometimes not consistent or imposing enough in bread and butter league games. This year, we must hope, he becomes a great player who has the odd and totally understandable off game, rather than a good player who has quite a lot of not-much-better-than-average games (and the odd almost inexplicably brilliant game).
Inevitable downside because that's the nature of this blog, supporting Spurs and, let's face it, life: Still wonder if he might be a little fragile - or at least over-susceptible to injury. The new Darren Anderton, basically.
2) Rafa van der Vaart
I didn't swoon quite as wholeheartedly as some when the surprise signing lit up the start of our season last summer/autumn.
Me and Rafa just never really clicked. And he did fade a bit - in the second half of games and in the second half of the season. Plus, I always presumed he'd arrived here by mistake; that the first he'd heard of it was a profusely apologetic call from his agent at 00:05 on September 1st: 'Now, before you say anything, just hear me out...'
But, he scored goals, and he oozed confidence. He didn't seem like a Spurs player at all. He seemed surprised (possibly even angry) when we lost. And he relished big games - again, not a typical Spurs trait.
This year, he'll have done a proper pre-season, he's not sneakily looking at the back of shirts to know which name to shout during matches. So, rather like Bale, perhaps this year he'll be one of the Premier League's outstanding performers, from beginning to end - of matches and of the season.
Inevitable downside because that's the nature of this blog, supporting Spurs and, let's face it, life: He does fuck with our 'preferred' shape and system. To get the best out of him he cannot be a second striker in a rigid 4-4-2 - and do we have the tactical nous/flexibility to change?
3) Benoit Assou-Ekotto
Just because, really. Yes he's a much better left-back than pundits give him credit for, but that's because they tend to buy into a set of mutually accepted half-baked truths (or, just as often, cliches) about clubs, players, manages and not have the wit, insight or courage to deviate from them (In psychiatric circles it's know as 'Lets himself down with his final ball syndrome').
Anyway, who gives a fucking fuck what Steve Claridge, Alan Hansen or Garry Neville think about our Benny. We know that he's prone to the odd lapse, but he's also cooler than Fonzie in a fridge, fast, smart and always capable of springing into attack.
Plus, he's that rare breed: a modern footballer with a sense of perspective and honesty. Benny's no badge-kisser and the vast majority of us thank the lord for that.
Rather than trot our PR-approved platitudes, he knows he just happens to have ended up playing for Spurs because that's where his professional life has lead him, that's where he could get the best deal, and that's where he'll stay until a significantly better deal comes along. And while he's here he'll try as hard as he can because that's what he's paid to do.
Inevitable downside because that's the nature of this blog, supporting Spurs and, let's face it, life: There's a nice little contradiction brewing here. Because of his honesty, because he refuses to pretend he loves the club, or us.... well, guess what, we love him! And I think he knows that, and I think he likes that. I even think he maybe values that. So, perhaps, completely by accident, he will end up caring, 'doing it for the fans', rejecting better offers from bigger clubs and seeing out his days with a blanket over his knees in the directors' box, revelling in his honourary, lifelong and specially created role: Tottenham's Director of Cool.