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Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 280) (19.08.19)

NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 280
Submitted by Norman Giller

UnVARnished truth about Coco Lamela, and a fond farewell to Superfan Morris

In a previous life as a full-time football reporter I campaigned long and hard for TV replays to be used to decide contentious incidents. Now that we are into the “camera-police” era I wonder if my crusade was justified.

Suddenly VAR – Video Assistant Referee – has taken over from the on-field action as the main after-match talking point. It is supposed to make the game less controversial and easier to referee, not to become the major point of discussion and debate.

Spurs were laughing all the way down the M6 after VAR had helped them steal a point at the Etihad on Saturday, history repeating itself following Tottenham’s escape in the Champions’ League quarter-final in April. Our guru Paul H. Smith reports the freakish draw HERE, when his notebook recorded 30 City attempts on goal to just three by Tottenham.

In any other season in the history of the game City would have been rewarded with an injury-time winner. Not a soul appealed for “hands” as the ball reached Gabriel Jesus, who deftly found the net after a corner from the right.

What nobody had noticed is that the ball had brushed a City arm on the way to the feet of Jesus, and it was only picked up in a slow-motion replay by the VAR team. No goal.

Joy for Spurs, despair for City. Moussa Sissoko knew how the Manchester players were feeling after a similar VAR call against him in the Champions’ League final.

Under the new law, it was definitely handball (any contact with the hand). Personally, I wish they would restore the word ‘intentional’, then let the VAR judges decide whether there has been a deliberate propulsion of the ball.

I got involved in one of my numerous spats on Twitter during the match when somebody posted: “Like him or hate him, Lamela has come up with a vital goal.”

The point I made is how can a Spurs supporter ‘hate’ a Spurs player? Makes no sense to me. The sort of thinking that almost destroyed Sissoko (and years ago Terry Venables, Alan Mullery and John Pratt). If they wear the Lilywhite shirt they warrant unconditional support.

Talk to any current Spurs player, and they will tell you that "Coco" Lamela is comfortably one of the most technically gifted players in the Premier League, and after career-threatening injuries is now starting to find his sparkling old form. Get behind him, not in his way.

The bottom line for Spurs on Saturday is that they got away with a point from a game dominated by the brilliant City team. Not too many sides will come away from the Etihad with anything to show for their efforts, so thank you VAR. But the unVARnished truth is that it is a less than satisfactory way of avoiding defeat.

Now for what should be on paper three points against neurotic Newcastle before the latest North London Derby showdown at the Emirates; hopefully not a bridge too VAR.


My feeling as the final whistle blew at the Etihad is that this one was for Morris Keston, the unique ‘SuperFan’ who passed on last week at the age of 87. He supported Spurs for more than 80 years and watched them play live more than 3,000 times. We shall be saying a final fond farewell to Morris on Thursday at the Bushey Jewish cemetery near Watford, and if half the old Spurs players he helped with testimonial matches and friendly personal support turn up there will be standing room only.

Morris was particularly close to the Legend Jimmy Greaves, and it is fitting to quote him from a 70th birthday tribute book that I composed with my son, Michael, and Jimmy’s manager Terry Baker. Morris told me:

"Jimmy Greaves is by some distance the greatest striker I’ver ever seen at the club; the greatest from any English club! Some days you’d watch him, and he’d do very little, but give him just half a second, half a yard and half a chance and suddenly the ball was nestling in the back of the net. He ruled supreme in one-on-one situations, displaying immaculate ball control coupled with the poise and balance of a ballet dancer. I never tire of watching replays of his goal against Man United in 1965. He received the ball 35 yards out with his back to the United goal. Then he instantly turned on a sixpence before dancing past the converging tackles of Bill Foulkes, Nobby Stiles and Tony Dunne before drawing the goalkeeper and stroking the ball into the net. Sheer genius. We will never see his like again."

And the same goes for Morris Keston, a true one-off. RIP.


Spurs Odyssey Quiz League

Question No 3 in this 2019-20 SOQL season:

Which son of an Irish father and Nigerian mother joined Tottenham from Crystal Palace, and against which team did he score a Premier League hat-trick at White Hart Lane in 1998?

Please email your answer to me at SOQL3@normangillerbooks.com. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will respond to all who take part.

The rules are the same as in previous seasons. I ask a two-pronged question with three points at stake. In the closing weeks of the competition I break the logjam of all-knowing Spurs-history experts with a tie-breaking poser that is based on opinion rather than fact.

Most of you were correct with the answer to the second SOQL question of the new season: Who won two England caps, wore the No 10 shirt for Chelsea and Spurs and with which London club did he finish his playing career in 1974-75? Yes, the larger than life Terry "El Tel" Venables, who finished his playing career with Crystal Palace under the management of another great character, Malcolm Allison.

This year's prizes for the champion: a Harry Kane framed and signed photo, two books from my Spurs collection with autographs from Jimmy Greaves, Steve Perryman and Dave Mackay, and, most important of all, a framed certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion.

You will be better informed if you buy my SHOOTING SPURS book that features every player who has scored 50 or more goals for Tottenham since the club was formed in 1882, with special in-depth features on Jimmy Greaves and Harry Kane, plus focus on exceptional managers John Cameron, Arthur Rowe, Bill Nicholson and current master, Mauricio Pochettino.

Cliff ‘159 goals’ Jones has provided the introduction, and profits go to the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help our old heroes who missed the gravy train and now have to pay medical and care bills.

It costs just £9.99 and I will send a signed copy to anybody buying direct from me at www.normangillerbooks.com. There is also a screen version for £4.99.

I hope you will support this great cause.

See you back here same time, same place next week. COYS!

The "Giller Index" - listing all Norman's articles for Spurs Odyssey

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