koonal shah's column

            8.8.2002            How Very 'Sir' Les
            21.8.2002          More Misery for Poor Sergei
            10.9.2002          Love of my life
            29.1.2003          The Football Genius is Leaving
            20.8.2003          Forward thinking
You Canuck Be Serious
            1.9.2004            Oh, Fredi Fredi
            23.3.2005          The Best Team In Europe



How very 'Sir' Les

Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand have their similarities.  Both arrived at White Hart Lane slightly overpriced.  Both have underachieved, due to a mixture of poor big-match performances and injuries.  And both now find themselves on the bench (or even in the stands) in most fans' ideal match squads.

Last week, Sherwood heavily criticised Tottenham, claiming that they lacked ambition and were becoming what he referred to as a 'nursery' club. In a sense, his comments echoed the feelings of many Spurs supporters, who have also been disappointed by the lack of 'big-name' signings this summer. Because Sherwood is a lifelong fan as well as a player (as he is so keen to remind us), it is slightly easier to sympathise with his outburst, but there is no doubt that offending his manager and his club's board was an unwise move.

On his icons.com website, Ferdinand also showed concern for Spurs' reluctance to spend and their lack of firepower up front.  But rather than launching an attack upon his employers, he gently encouraged them to look for 'a new face to increase the competition for places and give the manager better options.'  Ferdinand admitted that he and Teddy were ageing, and welcomed the possibility of Spurs signing a new striker to try and win his place off him.  One gets the impression that he really does care about the future of the club and the supporters that cheer him on every week.

Further evidence of this came after Spurs' mediocre display in last season's Worthington Cup final against Blackburn.  Whilst Sheringham and Hoddle moaned about the ref's 'poor decisions' and Friedel's inspired keeping, Ferdinand made no excuses ... he apologised to the fans, promising to work harder in the future to ensure improvement.  THAT is what we wanted to hear. 

Ferdi was also one of few players to give public support to out-of-sorts striker Sergei Rebrov last season.  Sensing that the Ukrainian's poor performances were related to his lack of confidence, Ferdinand praised Rebrov, claiming that he wanted him to stay at White Hart Lane, despite the fact that the two were rivals for a place in the starting XI.  Whether or not he meant it is irrelevant: his defence of the much-criticised striker was intended to improve the morale and team spirit within the club.

A man who cares about his club ?  Definitely.  Ferdinand last month donated a large part of his pay cheque to aid his former club, QPR, who are struggling financially.  Of course, we'd have preferred it if he had contributed it towards the signing on fees of potential Spurs transfer targets (!), but it was a fantastic gesture by a player who genuinely seems to feel a sense of responsibility towards his employers, and towards his supporters.

Whether or not his on-the-pitch displays are always worthy of his seemingly guaranteed place in Tottenham's starting XI, I believe that we should continue giving our support to Leslie Ferdinand. Sir Leslie Ferdinand.

Feedback always welcome by sending your views to koonalshah@hotmail.com



'More misery for poor Sergei'

There is no doubt that Sergei Rebrov has struggled since his £11m move from Dinamo Kyiv two summers ago.  Particularly under George Graham's long ball tactics, the little Ukrainian has often been found to be too lightweight when facing some of the Premiership's tougher centre halves.  But, the twelve goals that he did manage to score in his debut season indicated that he could, given the right sort of service, become a prolific striker for the club.

Hoddle's arrival at the helm was bad news for Rebrov, mainly due to the fact that it was soon followed by the return to the Lane of Teddy Sheringham.  Most fans expected Hoddle to play the two together, but it was, in fact, Les Ferdinand who was preferred as Sheringham's strike partner.  Rebrov was used mainly as a substitute, if at all, and any starts he did make were usually the result of an injury to Ferdinand.  It soon became clear that Sheringham-Rebrov was not the most effective of partnerships: both forwards enjoy working behind or slightly wide of a 'target' striker, and whilst the two link well in terms of passing, there is nobody present to finish off the chances that they create.

An obvious answer to this dilemma is to play both Sheringham and Rebrov behind a goal poacher, either Ferdinand or Iversen for the time being.  This 'triangle' attack was used in the latter stages of the pre-season friendly at Watford (with Qu Bo playing the 'goal poacher' role) and it worked well.  However, the main drawback of this tactic is that it leaves the midfield looking seriously lightweight ... effectively one of the midfielders is being moved into attack.  So, it looks like its back to the bench for the little Ukrainian.

Fair enough.  If Hoddle doesn't feel that Rebrov deserves to start matches at Sheringham's expense, that's his decision.  I'm not going to argue with that.  It simply means that Rebrov's has to make the most of the opportunities that he is given: substitute appearances, the odd cup tie, and pre-season friendlies.  Hoddle did, in fact, select Rebrov in most of Tottenham's pre-season friendlies, including two that I attended - the matches against Watford and Crystal Palace.

Throughout both games, the crowd gave Rebrov a considerable amount of flak ... there was no customary chanting of how 'There's only one Sergei Rebrov'.  Every few minutes the words 'Oh, come on Rebrov!' could be heard, but more often than not, he hadn't actually done anything wrong.  Incredibly, some Spurs fans even began moaning about Rebrov's 'lack of motivation' when the player in question wasn't anywhere near the ball !  It seems that the continuous media assertions about Rebrov's 'misery' at Tottenham have been drummed into fans' heads so many times that every time something goes wrong, they immediately point their finger at the striker.

It seems ridiculous to say 'it's because he wants to leave the club' every time a player fails to hit the target, but that is exactly what has been happening recently.  Unlike his teammates, Rebrov can't be 'unlucky' anymore - every time things don't go his way, it is seen as further evidence that his heart is no longer at Spurs.

This has to stop.  Whether you rate him or not, he is still a Tottenham player, and because of that we should continue to give him support and hope that he turns things around and proves that he really is an 11 million pound striker.

Do you think that we should continue to back Rebrov, or has the Ukrainian had one chance too many ?  
Send your praise and abuse to koonal.shah@zoom.co.uk



Love of my life

I have just read Mark Waldon’s ‘this illusion’ column (http://www.mehstg.com/dis_illusion.htm), in which he speaks of how his life as a Spurs supporter has become so miserable that he wants ‘a divorce’ from the club.  A very interesting read.  He asks whether it is possible to divorce your team … my answer to that question is yes.  It is widely believed that once you begin to follow a football club, you can’t then change your mind and turn your back on them.  But that’s rubbish … just look at Sol Campbell.  Do you really think that he still considers himself to be a Spurs fan?  Many players talk about their ‘boyhood club’ in interviews – referring to the club they USED to support.

People begin supporting teams for a number of reasons.  They might, for example, follow them because ‘their dad did’, or because they wanted to follow an ‘ambitious’ club that plays good football.  Whatever the reason, once you begin supporting a team, you become a follower of the club’s philosophy (in a footballing sense, anyway), and spend endless hours defending the club against criticism.  Last season, for example, Liverpool fans spoke of how the aim of playing football was ‘to win, not to play attractive football.’  Undoubtedly they would have preferred to have watched their side in exciting, end-to-end encounters rather than clinging on to dull 1-0 victories, and would have probably criticised another club for employing similar tactics, but as a supporter of Liverpool football club, they automatically become supporters of Liverpool’s style of play.

Problems arise when fans find themselves defending the ‘undefendable.’  Imagine if Spurs adopted a slower, duller style of play, and sold off their young talented players like King and Davies, only to replace them with a host of ageing players from Division One clubs.  Could you continue supporting them?  If you began following the club because you enjoyed watching fast, enthralling football, surely Spurs are no longer the right club for you?  What if (hypothetically speaking, of course) Sol Campbell was to return to White Hart Lane?  Would you be able to continue cheering on the club, given their new ‘forget the past’ policy?  I certainly couldn’t. Mr. Waldon’s marital analogy that ‘the sex has been terrible’ is not entirely apt.  If Spurs were to change in the ways that I have described, they would have cheated on me repeatedly … and they certainly wouldn’t be the same team that I married twelve years ago! 

However, I believe that the main reason that people are so against the idea of divorcing their club is not because they couldn’t turn their back on their team, but because they couldn’t bring themselves to support anyone else.  Like other Spurs fans, I have grown up loving Spurs and hating everyone but Spurs. Therefore if I stopped supporting Spurs, I would have nobody else to love and cheer for, and I would not just lose Spurs, I would lose football altogether.  In Mark Waldon-speak, I will not only have lost my first love … I will have lost my ability to ever love again.

But regardless of whether you can or can’t divorce a football team, I must make the point that Mr. Waldon’s timing seems slightly strange.  Since Hoddle’s arrival at the Lane, we have improved remarkably, and are currently sitting pretty at the top of the Premiership.  We have a number of young international stars in our ranks, and there is a real sense that we can challenge for Europe this  season.  In fact, during my 12 years as a Spurs supporter, I have never been so positive (of course, my age has prevented me from experiencing any of the real ‘glory glory’ days).  If he was an Aston Villa fan, I would understand his misery, but he isn’t.

I know Spurs fans have a bit of a reputation for being moaners, but how the man can complain when his team is top of the league, I don’t know.  As crazy as Big Ron?  I think so!

Could you ever turn your back on Spurs?  Send your praise/abuse to koonal.shah@zoom.co.uk



The Football Genius is Leaving…

It’s been a while since I last wrote, but there is one issue that has been filling me with passion such that my hand has been forced.

On Monday, it was announced on Tottenham’s official website (www.spurs.co.uk) that Steffen Freund, known to many as ‘football genius’ will not be offered a new contract, and will thus leave the club at the end of the current season.

This news upsets me.  Steffen Freund has gradually become my favourite Tottenham player, because as well as being a footballer, he is the team’s cheerleader.  I have never heard a louder roar of approval than when our favourite German ran up to the East stand and enthusiastically waved ‘come on!’  No other Spurs player is anywhere near as charismatic.

I am a big fan of players who take some time to talk to and communicate with the supporters.  And that’s what Steffen Freund is all about.  As well as being one of the most committed autograph-signers ever to ply his trade at the Lane, he also runs a brilliant column on the club’s official website, ‘Steffen’s diary,’ which he updates regularly.  In his articles, he is just as willing to criticise the team as he is to praise them.

Now here’s the controversial bit … I think that Steffen Freund is a good footballer.  Since Hoddle has arrived as manager, Freund’s ‘foul the attacker before he gets to Ledley and Deano’ role has become more and more important. 

He is great at breaking up play and ‘winding up’ the opposition.  And he takes an excellent throw-in.  Granted, his ball skills are close to non-existent and his passing is a little wayward at times, but I feel much more comfortable in the knowledge that Freund is playing in midfield rather than his rivals for the position (Tim Sherwood and the recently departed Stephen Clemence).  It is no consequence that after Freund got injured in the Worthington Cup semi final last year, the club’s season went downhill and we became much more fragile at the back.

But, I feel that the club have made the right decision in letting Steffen go.  He is 33 after all, and although the last two years have seen a massive improvement in his game, I can’t really see him developing any further.  And whilst he is undoubtedly a better player than Sherwood, there are similar players around who could probably do Freund’s role as well as throwing in a bit of skill and accuracy !  The club have just unveiled the signing of the Japanese international Toda, who will undoubtedly need some time to settle in, but could become the new ‘Steffen Freund.’  Another foreigner with a crazy appearance and an uncanny ability to play the man rather than the ball … these are the makings of a new Spurs cult hero.

Hoddle’s decision not to offer Freund a new contract, coupled with the sales of Clemence and Ferdinand, signal that he is finally starting to mould together ‘his’ team, and that his five year plan (now approaching the end of its second year) is fully underway. 

Everyone has said that if Freund were to score on the final day of the season, it would go down as one of the greatest moments in the history of the club.  I agree, but personally I wouldn’t be too disappointed if he didn’t score.  Steffen’s goal-to-game ratio is what makes him the hero that he is.

Good luck, Steffen!

Is Steffen Freund’s departure a good thing for the club? Do you think he’ll
get a goal before the end of the season? Send your praise and abuse to



Forward thinking…

Typical isn’t it? Spurs sign three new strikers and fail to score at Birmingham. The three they let go grab a goal each on their respective debuts for their new clubs.

But I’m still smiling about our prospects this season. This time last year we were all begging the Spurs board to add to the strike-force, which then consisted of Ferdinand, Sheringham, Iversen, and Rebrov. All four are no longer with the club, unless what I’ve read is true and Rebrov has been sent back by Fenerbahce … no news from the club itself though. Whilst all four had been, at some point in their career, fairly prolific goalscorers, it is hard to argue against the fact that, at this time last year, they were all well past their sell by dates. There was nothing for Spurs fans to look forward to.

Then came Robbie Keane, who has quickly established himself as a real favourite amongst the fans.  I spotted a large number of kids at the PSV game sporting the new sky blue away shirt – more than half of them had Keane’s name and number printed on the back.  Why ?  Because he’s young, quick, and fresh.  Even when he has had a poor game, he is never heavily criticised: everyone seems to share the belief that he is going to get better.  We all believe that he is the future of our club.

And now, Postiga, Zamora, and Kanoute have joined him.  Now that’s an exciting strike-force.  Arguably, all four strikers have yet to reach their peak.  I say ‘arguably’, because I am yet to be convinced by Kanoute, as he has suffered long-term injury problems in the past and is the oldest of the four.  Furthermore, I am still hopeful that youngster Jamie Slabber can make an impact on the first team this season, something that has been made unlikely by Kanoute’s arrival.  That said, I can safely say that I am happier seeing the Frenchman lead the Spurs attack than any of the four we had last season.  And that, I think, is a sure sign that we have improved.  Bring in a good ball-winning midfielder, Glenn and you’ve got yourself a very capable squad. 

By the way, did anyone else notice the fact that Gary Doherty made a couple of appearances as a striker for the reserves during pre-season ?  What’s that all about ?  Fair enough, he was needed up front last season when we lost Iversen to injury, but with our new additions I thought I’d seen the last of Doc trying to score – it’s painful viewing !  Maybe we’re giving him some practice for when he next plays up front for Ireland …

Will Kanoute impress, or will he simply join the queue to the treatment room? Send you praise and abuse to koonal.shah@zoom.co.uk



You Canuck Be Serious

“And at the bottom of the table, the Wolverhampton Wolves came back from being 3-0 down to win 4-3 against the Leicester Foxes.”

Okay, not every sports announcer in Canada talks like that, but there is definitely a tendency to refer to teams by their nicknames.  For the first time in years, I heard mentions of “the Toffee Men” and “the Villains” … although there was a bit of confusion over the identity of “United”. 

So when the Canadians caught sight of my Tottenham flag, proudly hung up in my university residence room, they would ask me if I supported “the Hotspurs”.

The Hotspurs. I like that name. It’s deceptively glamorous.

Another thing I learnt from my five-month stay in Canada is that European competition is the key to worldwide recognition.  Not because qualifying for the UEFA Cup gives a team experience of playing superior opposition on a regular basis, or even because playing in Europe attracts more illustrious signings.  It is simply because global time differences mean that the North American “soccer” enthusiast has to wake up before eight in the morning if he (or she) wants to catch a live Premier League game.  As a result, Manchester City’s game against some unpronounceable Polish outfit is a far more attractive option than the North London derby.  Nobody cares that City only qualified for Europe because of some dodgy fair-play ruling: all that matters is that the match is being played during pub opening hours.

When I left for Canada in late August, all the talk was about Europe.  Now, it’s about relegation, feeble midfielders, and the fact that David Pleat is a <insert abusive remark here>.  To be honest, I haven’t seen enough of Spurs lately to say whether I agree or disagree with some of the criticism being hurled at our acting manager, but one thing I have noticed is that a number of angry fans are urging him to “give youth a chance”. 

Hang on a second.

At the beginning of the season, I had a long discussion with a Tottenham-supporting friend about the club’s prospects in 2003/4.  I said that I could forget the mediocrity of 2002/3 under then-manager Glenn Hoddle if he became more willing to play younger, fresher players.  Given the fact that the club had just parted with old-timers Freund, Ferdinand, and Sheringham, this prospect seemed more likely to be fulfilled than it had done in previous seasons.

We made a list of players who, on the evidence of reserve and friendly matches, were ready to make the step up to the first team.  The list contained the following names: Blondel, Kelly, Marney, Ricketts.  Having just signed three strikers, I wasn’t confident about the chances of Jamie Slabber making an impact, so he was omitted.  My friend and I agreed that if, by 2004, all four youngsters had played some part in the first team, then we would be on the right track.

It is now 2004, and not only have all four players featured, but Jon Jackson, another youth prospect, has also started games for the club.  It’s a start, at the very least, and from what I have read on various message boards, the Spurs fans have high hopes for all five players.  As soon as we lose old man Poyet (lovely guy, but past it as a player: it’s been said repeatedly and it’s still true), then we will have one of the youngest squads ever seen in the Premier League.  And isn’t that what we all wanted?

Send your praise and abuse to koonal.shah@zoom.co.uk



Oh Fredi Fredi

After over a year of armchair viewing, I finally returned to the Lane to watch Spurs grind out a 1-0 victory over Birmingham City.  I returned home delighted.  The result was good, the new players performed well, and most importantly, the Lane was buzzing. It was almost moan-free.

I say “almost” because I still came across a few disappointed comments, mainly aimed at Frederic Kanoute.  The Malian striker came on for Robbie Keane halfway through the second half and didn’t have much of an impact, bar a few one-twos with Defoe.  Some of the fans around me complained that he was “lazy”, “uninterested” and “ready to leave for Southampton”.  Although it wasn’t a vintage performance by Fredi, I took offence with some of these criticisms.

It seems that since he chose to play for Mali in January, Kanoute has found it increasingly difficult to please the Tottenham supporters.  This topic has been covered in great detail, and I don’t want to go into it too much in this column.  My opinion, for the record, is that the fault lies not with Kanoute, but with FIFA for introducing the absurd nationality-changing rule.

Then, when Santini arrived as Head Coach, many predicted that Kanoute would be offloaded because of past disagreements between the two at French club Lyon.

Kanoute responded to these claims on his icons.com website:
“I hear that there has been a lot of noise being made in the media about the fact that Mr. Santini was with Lyon when they allowed me to join West Ham and that we didn’t get on too well in France.  The truth is that I don’t really know him that well. He was not manager of Lyon at the time, he was Director of Football, and I never really had a lot to do with him.”

This failed to quieten the media, but Kanoute made a positive move by turning down an opportunity to represent Mali in the Olympics in order to play in the opening games of the Premiership season.  And although Defoe has undoubtedly been the star of the show so far, I believe that Kanoute has had an important role to play, particularly in the absence of the injured Keane. 

There has also been much speculation in recent weeks surrounding a possible swoop for Southampton’s James Beattie.  Many newspapers claimed that Spurs would offer “unsettled” Kanoute in a player exchange deal.  Again, Kanoute was aware of these rumours and responded on his website:

“I also hear that I have been linked with a move to Southampton as part of an exchange with James Beattie.  I can assure you I know nothing about that.  It seems like I am always talked about in terms of leaving Tottenham but I just don’t know why ?  At the moment I have absolutely no intention of going anywhere else.  I am happy at Spurs and looking forward to the season ahead.”

The transfer window has now shut, and Frederic Kanoute is still a Tottenham player.  I’m glad.  Watching Keane and Defoe together up front is exciting, but it is clear that the partnership’s lack of height will pose a problem, particularly if the wide players continue supplying lacklustre crosses.  Against Birmingham, Defoe challenged for every long ball, but failed to win a single header (if I’m not mistaken).  Kanoute is also very good at holding up the ball and releasing it into space for a quicker player: something he showed with Defoe at West Ham, and last season with Keane (remember when we were all raving about the KK partnership?).

We’re lucky to have three very talented strikers at the club.  Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and Frederic Kanoute are capable of making a huge impact at any Premiership club.

Let’s give all three of them our full support.

Send your praise and abuse to koonal.shah@zoom.co.uk



The Best Team In Europe

I apologise in advance if this column ends up turning into meaningless, uncontrolled rant.  But I haven’t been this infuriated by an item of football-related news since the day that Sol Campbell decided that red was his new favourite colour.

David Gill, chief executive of Manchester United, has called for a change in the Champions League seeding system whereby the more glamorous clubs are given a improved chance of reaching the tournament’s latter stages. It seems that in the second round draw, for example, he wants the number one ranked UEFA team (currently Real Madrid) to be paired with the number sixteen ranked team; the number two team with the number fifteen team, and so on.

Gill’s reasons ? “It’s not good for the big clubs, not good for TV and sponsors if there are no Spanish clubs in the quarter-finals.” 

Predictably, money is the primary concern: last year’s Porto-Monaco final was clearly far less lucrative than, say, a showdown between Manchester United and Barcelona.  But surely the competition’s purpose is to determine the best team in Europe, not ‘the best team out of all of Europe’s biggest and most powerful’ ?  The achievements of Porto provide inspiration to everyone – they have shown that with sound management and hard work, anything can be achieved.  The fact that people like Gill have suggested that such an outcome is “not good” does nothing but undermine their success.

Personally, I’m averse to seeding of any kind.  Maybe that’s why I like the FA cup so much – anyone can be drawn against anyone – for me, that’s what a proper cup competition is all about.  However, I think that if UEFA wants to reward past performance (which seems reasonable enough), then the current system of pairing group winners with group runners-up is spot on.  If Manchester United really are a top European side, then they’ve got six group stage games to prove it. 

This season, we’ve witnessed something truly special at Everton, a club with, and I think I’m being pretty kind here, a playing squad that can be described as average at best.  Admittedly, they’ve wobbled a bit lately and might well have slipped down the table by the time you read this, but as I write, they’re in fourth place – and I rate their season as having been nothing short of outstanding.  Although I have no attachment towards the club, I am delighted to see them up there (imagine us in their position, and Arsenal in the position of their local, ‘superior’ rivals Liverpool, and you’ll understand why).  But Everton aren’t exactly TV-friendly, and Gill’s proposals imply that the game is better off if such ‘fairytales’ never happen again.  Effectively, the big clubs seem to want to create a closed shop in order to ensure that small fish like Everton and Porto aren’t given the opportunity to obstruct their path to world domination.

And just as Manchester United were on their way to becoming my most hated team, along comes Mr. Wenger with an equally ludicrous comment: “You can’t afford to have Real Madrid and Manchester United – big clubs who invest so much money – going out in the last 16.”

Interesting. So Wenger believes that clubs who have invested vast sums of money ought to be lent a hand. Somebody better inform him that Tottenham have spent even more than Arsenal over the last 10 years … where’s our place in Europe? At least when Tottenham moan, we moan that we’re not good enough, rather than moaning that the Premier League aren’t making it easy enough for us !

For me, there’s only one solution.  Let’s grant the wishes of the ‘big clubs’ and let them form their European Super-Premier-Championship, or whatever they want to call it.   I’m sure it will be sensational – the continent’s most famous teams, the world’s most talented and marketable players – it’s a sponsor’s dream.

Then the rest of us can be left in peace to enjoy proper football.

Please send your praise and abuse to yidarmy@gmail.com



Losing is the new winning

As strange as it might sound, I enjoy a bit of tragedy.  There's something compelling about watching someone fight and struggle, but eventually collapse in a pit of failure and self-loathing.  For example, two of my favourite television characters, George Costanza from Seinfeld and Gil from The Simpsons, might be found under the dictionary definition of the word 'loser'.  Admittedly, much of my pleasure comes from the fact that I am able to laugh at their misfortunes, but I also find myself sympathising with them, willing them on and supporting them during their disasters.  In a way, they are the perpetual underdogs of the television comedy world, but it wouldn't quite feel right if they were to cause a shock upset and end the episode in a triumphant manner.

I've recently begun to wonder why I am so attached to these losers.  Is there something to admire about losers?  Can you ever truly enjoy losing ?  Probably not, but I hope to show that there is something special about losing, and that losing is important aspect of being a dedicated football fan.

I have often found myself looking down at the so-called 'glory hunters' who attach themselves to clubs like Manchester United and (more recently) Chelsea during triumphant times.  I accuse these fans of not being as committed as followers of their less successful rivals.  However, I've always envied these glory hunters, secretly accepting that they get the better deal.  More celebrating, less misery - sounds good, doesn't it ?

But all that changed on 8th January 2006, when I travelled to the Walkers Stadium to watch Tottenham take on Leicester City in the third round of the FA Cup.  Due to the inconvenient kick-off time (Sunday evening, moved for TV coverage - on the BBC, no less), I couldn't convince any of my friends to accompany me, but I arrived in high spirits nonetheless, confident of victory against our lower league opponents.

Indeed, for forty-three minutes, I was having a wonderful time.  Five-thousand Tottenham fans, watching their side cruise into a comfortable 2-0 lead, were jumping up and down so ferociously that I thought that Leicester's brand new stadium was on the verge of collapsing.  I had already lost my voice thanks to numerous renditions of 'Spurs are on their way to Cardiff' and 'Oh when the Spurs go marching in'.  It was turning out to be a fantastic away day.

But if you're a Tottenham fan reading this, you'll know what happened next.

I didn't get to see any of the BBC's coverage, but I imagine that the Match of the Day bosses must have been rubbing their hands in delight as viewers were treated to a stunning comeback by the mediocre Championship side - 'magic of the FA cup', and all that jazz.  Injury-time winners always make for good television, don't they ?

Disconsolate, I left the ground alone, and stubbornly refused to approach passers-by for directions to the train station in case they turned out to be gloating Leicester supporters.  Inevitably, I got lost.  Perhaps even more inevitably, it started raining.

For some reason, I saw this series of calamities as a chance to stop and reflect on the situation, and soon realised that my morale was at its lowest point of my 15-year career as a football fan.  But in a strange way, I recognised that there was something glorious and virtuous about my suffering that evening.  I had put myself through anguish and torment (in the most dramatic manner imaginable) for the sake of my treasured club.  But despite my pain, I still loved Tottenham Hotspur, and knew that I would be willing to put myself through it again.  I decided that the experience had made me stronger, and that the next time we were victorious, I could refer back to this horrifying evening and applaud myself for having earned success through my toils.

Today, I look back on the 8th January 2006 with affection.  It was the day I found myself in the middle of a real-life horror film - the day I proved myself as a 'proper' fan.  Ever since then, each time we lose I remind myself to smile and say 'it could be worse'.  Last season, my morale was persistently strong - even in the face of unfortunate results such as the defeats against Newcastle and Sevilla.  After the latter, my housemate seemed puzzled by my composed manner - he clearly expected a committed supporter to demonstrate more dismay and disgust after such a loss.  But I explained to him that although I was disappointed with the outcome of the match, I believed that the defeat, like all defeats, would eventually form a significant and worthy part of my overall experience as a football fan.

Of course, everyone loves a happy ending.  Manchester United fans get happy endings week-in, week-out.  But for me, many of them have missed out on the joys of seeing a dark thriller unfold in front of them - something that I can always be proud of.



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