NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 91
Submitted by Norman Giller
The season starts here!
The season starts here! And the good news is that Erik Lamela has forced his army of critics into the biggest climb down since Hillary’s descent from Everest. It is shameful what this talented young player has had to go through, almost being hounded out of Tottenham by people who (to borrow a Bill Nicholson quote) could not trap a bag of cement.
He is one of the most gifted footballers ever to pull on the Lilywhite shirt, but his confidence has been shredded by so-called supporters giving him the sort of rough-tongue treatment that they should save for the opposition, not one of their own players.
I first saw Coco playing in Argentina for River Plate when he was being hailed as the next Maradona. He was snapped up by Roma before I could get home to tip off my old mate Harry Redknapp about his potential. I was in Rome in the summer, and they still rave about his skill and they would welcome him back with open arms.
It is not his fault that he cost around £30m of the Gareth Bale money. He did not put the price tag on his head, but good judges thought Tottenham had got a jewel for their crown.
He struggled to adapt to the pace and greater physical challenges of the Premier League, and the confusion of having to answer to the demands of three different managers. It was the equivalent of being a master violinist having to follow the beat of three contrasting conductors, first AVB, then intimidating Tim and now his countryman Mauricio Pochettino, who knows better than all of us about his ability.
But it was obvious to anybody with any feel for the game that here was a player with unique talent. Name me three other players in Tottenham history who could have produced the audacious Rabona. I’ve been watching Spurs for 60-plus years and have never seen anybody do that before.
There was sneering, begrudging praise from many on Saturday along the lines of ‘about time’ … not giving a second’s thought to the fact that he was top of the goal assists last season despite a worrying back injury.
I have good contacts in Argentina, and they tell me that Erik’s father – the most important influence on his career and life – was saying in the summer that his son is not happy and a move back to Italy was on the cards.
But it was a family decision to give it until the coming January transfer window, and now Erik is beginning to flourish and at long last Spurs supporters are starting to appreciate just what he has to offer.
He will make mistakes because he is always trying to do difficult things that are beyond most players, but he is gradually learning that there are times when – in the best possible Tottenham traditions ¬– simple is best.
Erik is one of those people who needs to feel wanted. He will reward love with the sort of ball control of which few players in the world are capable.
Mauricio Pochettino knows that Coco is an entertainer who feeds off an audience, a true showman. That is why he gave him a lone walk-off in the 87th minute on Saturday, and that standing ovation was like putting money into the meter for the next match.
It was the most wanted he had felt since arriving at the Lane. Keep the applause going, forgive the occasional cock-up and he will reward us all with football tricks that will warm us through the coming winter. But if fans turn on him, we will lose him just as he is beginning to show us that the real Coco is no clown but a ringmaster.
For me, Lamela was the man of the match in Saturday’s magnificent victory over Manchester City, closely followed by Toby Alderweireld, whose partnership with countryman Jan Vertonghen is going from strength to strength. Yes, the season starts here!
We all know that if that had been the combination against the Woolwich Nomads last Wednesday we would probably still have the Capital Cup in our sights. Fazio is just not in the same league, and I am convinced Lloris would have stopped that first goal.
But that’s blood under the bridge and best wiped from the memory, all except that extraordinary scissors kick from Our Harry Kane that suggested a goal was around the corner.
It came against City, and will hopefully open the floodgates. During the barren spell Harry has gone up rather than down in my estimation. Not once has he dropped his head or felt sorry for himself. The boy is a class act, as a player and as a young man. You can see the sort of effect the lad has on people by the way England manager Roy Hodgson reacted to his goal. I thought he was going to do some consenting-adult stuff with delighted Dan Levy!
Now for Monaco on Thursday, and I am sure Mauricio will play Christian Eriksen. He was off the pace against City and was clearly ring rusty. He needs games under his belt to get back into his rhythm.
When he is back to his best, I am looking forward to seeing him function alongside what is developing into the Batman and Robin duo of Alli and Dier. Then there are Son and N’Jie.
Everything is looking good for the run-up to Christmas, particularly if the referees and linesmen are going to turn blind eyes to any of our players in off-side positions!
It was about time we had some luck against City after all those seasons of pain, but officials have got to get a grip otherwise our football will become a farce. If they had been playing to the letter of the law on Saturday, I reckon Spurs would have won 1-0. But we are all very happy to accept the 4-1.
SPURS ODYSSEY QUIZ LEAGUE, Week 8
Week EIGHT of our Spurs Odyssey Quiz League, and it is tight and crowded at the top of the table, with the majority of you again collecting three points last week by correctly answering this teaser: “I have won 78 international caps and scored for Spurs from the penalty spot in a League Cup final at Wembley. Who am I and against which Premier League team did I score four goals in one game for Tottenham?”
Yes, it was the mean, moody and magnificent Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov, who scored four goals in that mad, rollercoaster Premier League match against Reading that ended 6-4. He is the nearest I have ever seen to Alan Gilzean in a Spurs shirt. Both were like a Nureyev on grass.
This week’s challenge: “I won 53 caps, played in three FA Cup finals for Spurs and used to be regularly selected by Arsene Wenger. Who am I and against which team did I make my last playing appearance for Tottenham?”
You get two points for identifying the former Tottenham player and a bonus point for naming the team he played against in his last Spurs appearance.
Keep a check on your points tally, because the contestant topping the SOQL table at the end of the season will receive a huge, personally autographed photograph of Spurs legend Jimmy Greaves, plus a signed, framed certificate announcing the winner as the 2015-16 Spurs Odyssey Quiz League champion.
Email your answers, please, to Email your answers, please, to SOQL8@normangillerbooks.com. Give your name, the district where you live and how long you’ve supported Spurs. I will respond, and will email a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books to the sender of the first all-correct answer drawn at random. Closing date for entries: midnight this Friday.
First name drawn at random from the correct answers last week is George Jacobs, of Watford. I will email a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books to George, who says he first saw Spurs play when Jimmy Greaves scored his first goal at White Hart Lane … for Chelsea in August 1957, when Jim was a 17-year-old boy wonder.
Latest on Jimmy is that he will soon be examined by top specialists, to see exactly what damage has been done by his severe stroke.
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!
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