NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 40
Submitted by Norman Giller
The cold splash of reality
Are you ready for the cold splash of reality at the Etihad on Saturday?
We went into the international break buoyed by a victory over Southampton, but champions Manchester City could push all the optimism on which we warmed our hands into the deep freezer.
I still come out in spots when I think back to the thrashings of last season – 6-0 in Manchester, 5-1 at The Lane. We will feel like David Cameron going back to Clacton for a paddle.
This is the biggest test yet for Pochettino’s tactical nous. He managed to hold City to 1-1 at St Mary’s last season when in charge at Southampton, but took a 4-1 thumping at the Etihad.
Much will depend on how Mauricio can control the influence of his countryman Sergio Aguero. He has followed the Argentine striker’s career closely since his early days with Independiente and then his rise on the international stage with Atletico Madrid.
Aguero, shaking off his injury nightmare of last year, has made a stunning start to the season, with five goals in seven League appearances to give him the best goals-per-minute ratio in Premier League history. He has averaged a goal every 114 minutes, which beats the previous record set by a bloke down the road called Thierry Henry, who found the net every 122 minutes (I wonder what Greavsie’s ratio would have been!).
That canny fox of a manager Manuel Pellegrini, has gone on record with the opinion that the 26-year-old Aguero can beat the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the Ballon d'Or if he can stay clear of the injuries that have continually interrupted his career.
City, of course, are far from a one-man team, and I can’t believe Pochettino will risk playing his bold high back line against a side that counters with speed and venom.
I always try to radiate a positive attitude, but am finding it hard to think of ways how we can puncture City’s determination to chop Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table.
There are a lot of keyboard coaches out there coming up with ways to topple City. Easy on paper, but difficult to do it on the pitch against one of the most powerful sides in Europe.
If Tottenham can escape from the Etihad with a point I will be over the blue moon.
As an old hack who was around to see the likes of Ted Ditchburn and Bill Brown, I am continually being asked how Hugo Lloris rates in the list of great Tottenham goalkeepers.
After just 82 Premier League appearances for Spurs, he has already entered the land of Lane legend because of a string of astonishing flying saves that could have come out of the Clark Kent (aka Superman) catalogue.
I absolutely refuse to put him above my all-time favourite Pat Jennings, and he needs to prove his consistency over 200-plus matches before we can put him ahead of the redoubtable Ditchburn, who was a magnificent last line of defence for the Push and Run team. Bill Brown, Mr Safe Hands for the Double side, also rates above him for reliability over three wonderful seasons.
Hugo must improve his distribution if he is to get into my top three. He has dropped into the habit of clearing his line wildly rather than with care and concentration. I am sure the Poch will be working with him on releasing the ball with counter attacks in mind. He will do well to get hold of some old film and study how big Pat Jennings used to feed his team-mates with an accurately thrown ball, often to as far as the halfway line.
To this day Spurs fans ask how and why Pat was allowed to move to the other North London club after giving 13 years fabulous service to Tottenham, continually proving himself the No 1 goalkeeper in the land.
I clearly remember him having tears in his eyes when he told me back in 1977: “I’m signing for the Arsenal.”
I thought I’d misheard him, and made him repeat the news. It was like hearing Paul McCartney saying he was joining the Rolling Stones, or Harold Wilson was crossing over to the Tories.
Gentleman Pat, one of the nicest people ever to cross my path, told me the full inside story, how Tottenham decided he was past his best and did not offer him a new contract. He was 32, and considering offers from half a dozen clubs when he went back to the Lane to say goodbye to his old team-mates.
“Every one of the directors just blanked me,” he said. “Not one offered a handshake or a ‘thanks for everything’ compliment. Terry Neill had been nibbling away at me, and I thought ‘bugger it’ – I’ll sign for Arsenal because it won’t disrupt my family life and we can stay in the same house. I admit that, in a way, I wanted to get back at Spurs for the way the directors snubbed me.”
Pat gave eight great years to the Gunners, and won medals galore and became as big an idol at Highbury as he was at White Hart Lane.
He ultimately came back into the Tottenham fold, and said: “It was like coming home. I have since always been treated well by the board, and – more important – the supporters, who forgave me playing for the old enemy because they understood the situation. I remain Tottenham through and through.”
Pat agrees with me that goalkeepers do not make ideal captains, and I know he would argue on my side against those who think Lloris should be made Spurs skipper. He does the job for France, but there is a lot of controversy in the French media as to whether he should wear the armband.
For me, a captain needs to be at the hub of the action, and able to give encouragement and motivation in the heat of battle, and also put the team’s view to the referee if there are any disputes. If you are stranded on the goal-line there is no way you can get involved when the main incidents are at the other end of the pitch.
Just for the record, this is my Top 10 post-war Tottenham goalkeeper table:
1. Pat Jennings
2. Ted Ditchburn
3. Bill Brown
4. Hugo Lloris
5. Ray Clemence
6. Erik Thorstvedt
7. Ian Walker
8. Paul Robinson
9. Heurelho Gomes
10. Barry Daines
Ray Clemence was an exceptional goalkeeper, but left his best behind at Liverpool, where he was one of the untouchables. He keeps closely associated with Spurs and has the honour of joining the Tottenham Hall of Fame next month.
Each week here in my Spurs Odyssey home I test your knowledge of Tottenham. Last week I asked: Who was the Bethnal Green-born midfielder who played 193 League games for Spurs and collected an FA Cup winners’ medal before joining Everton in 1994?
Most of you were right: Vinnie ‘Sideways’ Samways, who I did not think got sufficient recognition for his energy, enthusiasm and a left foot that could open safe doors. He eventually went off to Spain where he became much loved, despite a dodgy disciplinary record.
The first name chosen at random from the correct entries: Tom Boustred, of Staines, who wins an autographed copy of Lane of Dreams.
This week’s teaser features a real golden oldie and tests your knowledge of Tottenham history: Who was born in Edmonton, played for Vicenza and Torino and was on the winning side in the 1963 European Cup Winners’ Cup final?
I have another copy of my best-selling Lane of Dreams book – including the autographs of Jimmy Greaves and Steve Perryman – for the sender of the correct answer whose name is randomly drawn first. Email your answer please to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like a paperback copy of Bill Nicholson Revisited or a hard-back version of Danny Blanchflower This WAS His Life, please go to www.normangillerbooks.com. A donation goes to the Tottenham Tribute Trust for every copy sold.
My sincere thanks on behalf of myself and the Trust to Clive Newbury, of South Wales Spurs, who has donated £113 to the Trust from sales of my Spurs books at a Tottenham Legends night in Bedwas, Monmouthshire. Let me know if you want books to sell for the Trust. I give them to you free and any profits go to the Trust to help our old heroes who are struggling to pay medical and care bills.
Alternatively you can have either of the books delivered right NOW to your computer screen for NOTHING. If you like it, just please make a donation to the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help our old heroes. Please email me at email@example.com. Yes, this is really something for nothing! Thank you
Thanks for your company. COYS!