The love that dare not speak its name
PART THE SECOND
By Tim Charlesworth
Many thanks to those of you who resisted the temptation to abuse me after part one of my homage to Tottenham Hotspur. For those who didn’t resist, I remind you of Arsene’s post-Stoke words: ‘Maybe when you go home and watch it on television, you are less proud’. Here’s part two:
I think the thing that I most love about Tottenham is the pleasure that they have given to Arsenal down the years. After all, they are the club that gives us St Totteringham day every year, and we all enjoy that. The use of a spindly cock as the club motif is also a generous gift to satirically-minded rivals, and its not even the best bird logo in the Premiership (Liverpool). Quite why the cock perches improbably on top of a ball (another gift) is a mystery, as the ball in question is clearly a basketball.
Although I rather like the Tots myself, I obviously have lots of Arsenal friends who enjoy seeing things go wrong for them. I like to see my friends, and indeed the whole Arsenal community, enjoy themselves. And the Tots have been a particularly rich source of enjoyment in recent years.
The Champions League era has been particularly kind to Arsenal fans. On top of our wonderful qualification record, bettered only by Real Madrid across the whole of Europe, the Tots have had a true nightmare. An endless succession of fifth place finishes has been statistically improbable in its own right. However, the pain of the Tots has been increased immeasurably by the fact that they keep losing out (often by ridiculously narrow margins) to us. This has been the kind of story that you simply couldn’t make up. The highlights have been:
Lasagne-gate – This was the end of our final season at Highbury. We had reached the CL final, but it looked like our new ground would be christened by a season without CL football. Going into the final game, the tots were one point ahead of us in fourth, with a relatively simple game at West Ham. The Hammers were safely mid-table and had an FA Cup final to look forward to. They had no stake in the game, and would surely roll over meekly, allowing the tots to confirm themselves in fourth place. That’s what should have happened.
What did happen, was that ten of the Spurs team came down with a tummy upset (a common complaint of my infant daughter). Spurs manager Martin Jol tried to get the game postponed. However it is important that all games are played simultaneously on the last day of the season and so the league would not agree. Poor Martin didn’t know what to do. Should he play a team of invalids or a team of reserves? In the end he just decided to send out his first choice eleven and cross his fingers.
At one point in the first half, the tots were drawing 1-1 and we were losing 2-1 at home to Wigan. It looked like the tots would be OK after all. But then Thierry Henry (who was then considering leaving Arsenal for Barcelona) scored a hat-trick to help us win 4-2. The Spurs players visibly wilted as the match wore on with the pivotal Micheal Carrick looking like he was about to fall over. West Ham scored with 10 minutes left to complete Spurs’ misery.
The fun just kept on coming for Arsenal fans. Tottenham called the Police. An investigation by health inspectors showed no irregularities in the food samples, or the way that the food had been prepared. Jol then tried to persuade the Premier League to replay the match. All to no avail.
2011-12 – the absurd sequence of events – This one is even better than Lasagne-gate. Its so ridiculous, that I can hardly write about it for giggling. The tots were in third place for most of the season. On 26 February 2012 they took a ten point advantage over Arsenal to the Ems after 25 games. They went 2-0 up against a lacklustre Arsenal team after 34 minutes (Adebayor, of all people, scoring for the tots). This was one of the great low points in modern times for Arsenal supporters. This was genuine despair. Surely this time, even the tots couldn’t screw this one up?
Arsenal woke up and scored five goals. A demoralised Spurs team then managed to throw points away in the ensuing weeks whilst Arsenal hit a purple patch of form. After 37 games the tots trailed Arsenal by a single point. Both teams won on the final day (Arsenal with a very scrappy win at West Brom, Koscielny scoring the winner), and Arsenal finished in third place, one point ahead of the tots again!
But it was all OK. Despite a humiliating capitulation and a failure to beat the Arsenal, everything was fine, the tots had still finished fourth, in a champions league position. There was one little problem. Chelsea, in the midst of their worst season in the Abramovic era (soon to be exceeded, surely), had finished in a disappointing sixth place, five points below the tots. However, they had also completed an improbable run (featuring a truly absurd victory over Barcelona) to the Champions League final where they faced Bayern Munich.
After Liverpool’s CL win in 2005, UEFA had introduced a new rule, that if a club won the CL, but failed to qualify for the next year’s competition, they would take the place of the lowest finishing qualifier from that country. This meant that, in the unlikely event that Chelsea were to win the CL final, the tots would lose their CL place. But Chelsea were no match for Bayern, surely?
Chelsea were completely outplayed in the final, which was co-incidentally played at Bayern’s home stadium. Bayern finally scored after 80 minutes and Chelsea’s freakishly lucky run seemed to have finally come to an end. The tots were safe after all. But two minutes from the end, Drogba equalised for Chelsea with a header from a corner, and then Chelsea held on for penalties, which they won. Spurs remain, to this day, the only club in Europe to lose a CL place in this manner.
The end of Bale
The sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid has been a great source of fun for Gooners the world over, particularly as it facilitated the signing of Mesut Ozil. The tots behaved like kids in a sweetie shop and managed to blow the £80m proceeds (and more) on a series of remarkably bad signings. This all came on top of a wonderful piece of last day drama on the final day of the 2012-13 season.
Yet again, Arsenal had slowly reeled in the tots lead over the final few weeks of the season (you really couldn’t make this up). After 37 games, Arsenal again led by a single point from fifth placed Tottenham. But this time the odds were a bit more heavily stacked in Tottenham’s favour. Arsenal had a tricky away fixture at Newcastle, whilst Spurs were at home to a weak Sunderland team.
Spurs endured a tense afternoon. They couldn’t find a way to turn their dominance into goals, even after Sunderland went down to ten men. Over the previous few weeks Gareth Bale had kept them in CL contention by rescuing them with spectacular, late, individual goals. After 88 minutes he did it again.
But up in Newcastle, Arsenal were scraping through with an unconvincing performance. Laurent Koscielny scored a priceless scrambled winner that was remarkably similar to the one had scored on the last day of the previous season (also to break Tottenham hearts). In injury time, Walcott missed a practically open goal to seal it. The final whistle blew at WHL, with Arsenal still playing. The tots could only wait and hope, but we hung on.
The whole thing was topped off by a wonderful moment (lovingly recorded by MOTD). As hope ebbed away for the tots, a rumour floated around WHL that Newcastle had equalised. The ground erupted in celebration, and looks of pure joy flashed across the faces of the Spurs fans. Of course, the rumour was untrue and the tots were desolated again. Star player Bale, deprived of the chance to play in the CL, was so disgusted that he agitated for a move to Real Madrid. Happy days!
Anyway, there it is, I’ve said it now. I have ‘come-out’, confessed my Tottenham love, and my soul is cleansed. I am braced for the abuse from all proper Spurs-hating Arsenal fans. I am delighted to give you an outlet for your frustration after the horrible game on Sunday.
My final observation is that I am a bit of a jinx. Just before Flamini’s terrible game against Chelsea, . Tottenham are now only two points behind us in the league. Their team looks good and they seem to be genuine title contenders. Spurs-sympathy is all very forgiveable and funny, as long as we beat them. But one day we won’t beat them………
- 28 January 1950: Arsenal 2 Swansea 1, FA Cup 4th round, en route to Wembley. Goals from Logie and Barnes (a penalty) saw Arsenal through. This was the first season Arsenal played all their FA Cup games in London.
- 28 January 2004: Jose Antonio Reyes transferred from Sevilla for £10.5m. The home supporters didn’t want him to leave, and much was expected of him, but he didn’t always show the talent he undoubtedly had, either at Arsenal or later.
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