NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 249
Submitted by Norman Giller
Come with me to Tottenham’s old training ground at Cheshunt. It’s the summer of 1973 and I am standing alongside veteran manager Bill Nicholson as he watches his youth squad being put through their paces. I am there in my role as chief football reporter for the Daily Express.
A gangling young lad effortlessly traps the ball on his right thigh, lets it run down his leg and then sends a glorious chipped pass direct to the feet of a team-mate 30 yards away.
“Very nice,” shouts hard-to-please Bill, “but remember you’re a footballer not a circus performer.”
Bill keeps his all-knowing eye on the 15-year-old youngster as he tells me: “That’s Glenn Hoddle, from your neck of the woods in Essex. He’s been with us since he was ten and we’ve high hopes for him. We’ve just got to get some tactical nous into him to go with his natural skill.”
From that day on I was a Hoddle disciple and this first view of Glenn came sharply into focus on Saturday when I got a call from an old television colleague to tell me the Spurs and England legend had collapsed with a heart attack in the BT studio. I was one of the first to share the news on social media, because I knew how much love and respect there is out there for one of the greatest footballers of his generation. He needed all our thoughts and prayers.
“It was shocking to witness it,” my old mate Harry Redknapp reported, still reeling from being just feet away from Glenn when he suddenly collapsed. “If it hadn’t been for a BT sound man who knew first aid and how to use a defibrillator we could have lost him. A few moments earlier he’d been showing all his old skill playing keepy uppy. He’s a smashing bloke and everybody in the game will be rooting for him.”
This is not the time or place to bring out old skeletons, but I have never forgiven some of my former Fleet Street colleagues for the way they mangled him after he had allowed strictly private thoughts to become public when England manager. Each to his own. Let’s judge him purely as a football man and he goes right to the top of the tree.
Today I am pleased and relieved to report that Glenn is out of intensive care and his recovery is being closely monitored in hospital. It’s going to be a long road back, and we must give him the space and privacy to concentrate on returning to full health. His family – all Spurs through and through – have been overwhelmed by the messages of support for the man who would walk into anybody's all-time greatest Tottenham team.
He was in all our minds last night as Spurs came second to the fabulous Manchester City team that is as good as any I have seen since the Premier League launched.
Our Spurs Odyssey guru Paul H. Smith gives the blow-by-blow match report here. Tottenham showed character while being beaten by an exceptional side, and there were just fleeting moments when I thought we were going to pinch a point.
The saddest sight of all was the state of the once glorious Wembley turf, looking like a tired American gridiron pitch. It was like seeing a beautiful former girlfriend haggard with age. Our national stadium has sold its soul.
That would have been particularly upsetting to famous traditionalist Glenn Hoddle.
Hod the God. Get better soon ‘young’ man.
Question No 11 in this 2018-19 SOQL season:
Who won two FA Cups and a Uefa Cup with Spurs, also played for Rangers and Chelsea, and against which overseas team did he score in a penalty shootout?
Please email your answer to me at SOQL11@normangillerbooks.com. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will respond to all who take part.
This year’s prizes for the champion: two books from my Spurs collection with autographs from Jimmy Greaves, Steve Perryman and Dave Mackay, and a framed certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion.
There will also be a special bonus prize that I will announce later in the season. I promise it’s a collector’s item for anybody who follows the mighty Spurs.
Last week I asked: Which Surrey-born midfielder played 335 first-team games for Tottenham and what number shirt did he wear the last time Spurs won an FA Cup final?
Three points to all those of you who said David Howells, the unsung hero who wore the No 5 shirt against Nottingham Forest in the 1991 FA Cup final. Like Glenn Hoddle, he was loyal to Spurs for 12 years.
Please keep a check on your scores. I will be trusting you to count your points as I do not have faith in my email server.
Thank you for taking part. See you back here same time, same place next week. Keep the faith. COYS!
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