NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 205
Submitted by Norman Giller
A strange thing happened at around half-time during Saturday’s submission of Stoke at Wembley. Tottenham had been struggling to find their form in a combative first-half. Then the call came to prayers, and that was when the massacre began.
I had better explain myself before I am taken away by the men in white coats. I was watching the match live in a sports bar in Bahrain, and at half-time there was one of the five-times-a-day call-outs by a muezzin (the caller from the minaret in the mosque) summoning Muslims to mandatory worship.
The bar virtually emptied and suddenly I was on my own in front of a huge screen cheering on Tottenham’s scintillating second-half performance. I was neither stupid nor disrespectful enough to ask my disappearing companions to say a prayer for Spurs, but it was as if a higher power had taken them over in the second session.
The villa where I am staying is the home of a 747-jet pilot pal of mine, Captain Paul Wright and his gorgeous wife, Anna. It is just a short distance from an ornately decorated ranch, with huge pillars at the entrance. When I asked what it was I found myself wishing I had kept quiet. It is a camel farm, where all the new-born camels are quickly killed for Arab dinner plates.
I was going to write that Stoke were like camel calfs to the slaughter, but as if I would be that distasteful. And I certainly will not say that under-fire manager Mark Hughes looked as if he had the right hump.
I felt in good company in the sports bar, because on the screen analysing the match were two old friends, Andy Gray and Richard Keys. You tend to forget how good they are when talking football, the job they did with distinction on Sky before getting themselves kicked out for loose lads banter that was interpreted as sexual harassment. (By current standards, I would be locked in the Tower for my flirting in the summertime of my life. As I taste the last of the summer wine, I no longer know the rules).
These days Gray and Keys are highly paid and highly entertaining football co-presenters in Doha, capital of Qatar just across the Persian Gulf from where I am typing this. Their repartee tickles the funny bone and their knowledge – particularly from Gray – is both informative and interesting. A huge loss to Sky.
Andy, who knew a thing or three about scoring in his playing days, singled out Harry Kane after his two goals helped flatten a very poor Stoke side. He rates Our Harry “the perfect striker who is always there to be found, never hiding and willing to be a team player as well as being a consummate finisher.”
He also zeroed in on the subtle skills of Dele Alli – “a true natural who does things other players can only think about.”
Richard Keys has Dele-style instincts as a TV conductor, and is ultra professional in the way he presents the programme with a mix of charm and a trained journalist’s coherent fact-checking. Some of today’s broadcasters in the UK could do with nipping down to Qatar to see how it should be done.
From my bar-side view in Bahrain, Harry Kane looked disappointed with himself, because he knows he should have collected another match ball. Four goals would not have flattered him, but by his sky-high standards he missed two easier chances than he took. It’s a sign of a great striker when he is dissatisfied with “only” two goals. Our Harry is a hungry son-of-a-gun who likes to shoot from both barrels, and his header was in the Tommy Lawton class (there’s a name for the golden oldies to drool over).
Only Alan Shearer has scored Premier League goals at a faster ratio than Our Harry, as Spurs Odyssey guru Paul H. Smith reports HERE. More, please, Aitch, against Brighton on Wednesday before the mountain climb against champions-elect Manchester City at the Etihad at the weekend.
Norman Giller’s Bahrain sports bar screen view of Richard Keys (left) and Andy Gray giving their assessment of Tottenham’s slaying of Stoke
Yet despite Kane’s brace of goals, for me the man of Saturday’s match was Son Heung-min, the Korean with the sunshine smile and stunning skills. He is one of the most popular players in the Spurs squad, and is always encouraging his team-mates, even when left on the bench.
The way he hugged his best pal Kevin Wimmer at the end after the former Spurs defender had been given a roasting by Kane & Co captured his warm, friendly personality. A lovely man and a credit to soccer in general and South Korea in particular.
Bahrain is the 34th country from which I have reported football, and it is up there among the most interesting places I have visited. Highly recommended if you are looking for somewhere different for a holiday break.
Only two problems – gale-force winds in what is their winter (average temperature 24degC) bringing sand storms across the border from Saudi Arabia … and red and white national Bahrain colours everywhere, which gives a constant reminder of a certain team. Oh yes, and you have to watch what you say, because Bahrain’s security guards will quickly come down on you if you are disrespectful to Allah or the national flag.
Goodness knows what the Big Brother spies thought of the mad, lone Englishman dancing all alone in a downtown bar in Bahrain as Spurs banged in those four second-half goals.
I am here researching for a book, and Bahrain has proved fascinating for people watching. Just one thing, if you come in July, August time you could get burned by near-50degC heat. Stoke know what I mean.
Now I must prepare myself to return home to freezing England, but I will warm myself with memories of that final Christian Eriksen goal and the exquisite pass from Son. This was Spurs football at its best; almost worth a call to prayer.
Ps Just heard the Champions League draw for the knockout stage: Juventus! A massive challenge, but the Tottenham team that mastered Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund can handle this. Yes, time for a prayer meeting!
Plug time: My latest book – No. 105 from my quill – is called ‘How to Self Publish’, and you can get a signed copy direct from me for just £8.50 plus p&p at www.normangillerbooks.com.
It is the ideal stocking filler for that person you know has a book in them … maybe you. Please support this hungry writer. How else am I going to afford to go to more exotic places like Bahrain :-)
Please hurry if you want to catch the Christmas post.
WEEK 18 of the Sports Odyssey Quiz League 2017-18. The rules are simple: I ask one Tottenham-related question for which a right answer earns you two points, and then a related teaser that can bring you an extra point.
The questions are always easy, provided you know the answers!
The winner this season will get a framed certificate proclaiming him (or her) the Spurs Odyssey Quiz Champion, plus a no-longer-in-print autographed GOALS book by Spurs idol Jimmy Greaves and another collectors’ item from my Greavsie collection: Football’s Greatest Entertainers, signed by Jimmy and Tottenham’s Mr Loyalty, Steve Perryman.
Now here comes the 18th question of the 2017-18 SOQL season:
Which former Tottenham manager captained England eight times, and led Spurs to an FA Cup semi-final in which they were beaten by which team?
Please email your answers by Friday’s midnight deadline to: email@example.com.
Keep a check on your points score, because I can never rely on my server that often loses emails in the ether.
I test you with Spurs questions until the last few weeks of the season, when I introduce the dreaded tiebreaker teasers that call for your opinion as much as your knowledge.
But please remember, we are all in this just for fun, with the common bond of admiring all things Tottenham.
Answer to last week’s question was Niko Kranjcar, the talented Croat who was signed from Portsmouth by Harry Redknapp. Harry liked him so much he signed him three times, including on a loan deal for QPR. Niko was an exceptional player but never ever quite reached his full potential because of a lack of consistency at club level. But when he was good, he was very, very good.
First name drawn from the correct answers is Vera White, from Skegness, who is entering for herself and husband Roland. They have been Spurs followers since before they were married 42 years ago. I will send them a screen version of my Spurs ’67 book (I have now sold all copies, and the book raised £4,000 for the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help our old heroes Thank you all those Spurs Odyssey followers who gave their support).
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. Snow permitting! COYS!
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