NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 309
Submitted by Norman Giller
Promise not to laugh at me, but I honestly fancy Tottenham’s chances at the Red Bull stadium in Leipzig tomorrow night. No Bull. If the Argentinian aces Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela are fit and well I feel Spurs can overcome the 1-0 deficit from the first leg and proceed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League (again).
Perhaps I’ve got The Virus (that I’ve been trying to avoid like the plague), but I saw in the second-half at Burnley signs that Tottenham are at last turning the corner. And it’s all down to Lo Celso.
What an accomplished player, mainly left footed but adept with his right, skilful and quick on the ball, a great picker of passes and a deadly deliverer of the stationary ball. I see him and his countryman Lamela becoming as vital cogs in the Spurs squad as their compatriots Ossie Ardiles and Ricky (1981) Villa several decades ago. Particularly if they have the Brazilian bull dog Lucas Moura buzzing alongside them.
There is so much about Lo Celso that reminds me of the little master, Ardiles. He is upright and stately just like Ossie used to be, with full vision of the field and a commander on the ball who is always looking to dictate the direction and tempo of play. Perhaps we will not miss Christian Eriksen as much as I feared.
The one thing I am not sure about is whether Giovani has Ossie’s controlled temperament. I have seen flashes of Latin temper come to the surface, but it is all part of his package and Tottenham will welcome his competitive edge.
Right, that’s the confident, positive stuff. But if I had composed this at half-time at Turf Moor I would have been in the mood for hara kiri and mourning the absence of Harry Kane. Spurs were appalling in that first 45 minutes, with defending that could have been bettered by a Sunday morning pub team.
But when Lo Celso and Moura were sent on as Spurs substitutes by manager José Mourinho we saw a revival of the ‘old’ Tottenham, with football that was fast, incisive and deserving of more than the equalising penalty goal from Dele. If they can reproduce that high intensity play in Saxony tomorrow and be more accurate with the final ball, I have every hope that Spurs will be going into the hat for the Champions League quarter-final draw.
Our guru Paul H. Smith gives his eye-witness account of the match at Turf Moor HERE, and heads for Leipzig with an unexpected spring in his step – despite a below-par performance from record signing Tanguy Ndombele that brought a post-match rocket from Mourinho.
I think José purposely picked on the Frenchman to try to get a reaction from him on the field of play, but I personally don’t approve of those sort of public humiliations. Better, in my judgement, to whisper in the ear than shout to the world (which possibly explains why I would never make a decent football club manager … dear old Bill Nicholson regularly used the media to buck up some of his players with some well-aimed verbal shots)..
I wanted to put a sympathetic arm around Eric Dier after his rush-of-blood run into the crowd after the disappointment of the Norwich penalty shoot-out defeat. I detest the way fans abuse players these days. We see it here on line. People who would not know how to trap a ball telling pros how to play the game. Bottom line is that Eric was wrong to go into the crowd and he will get punished. He's an intelligent young man from a distinguished sporting family. He just lost it
No apologies for repeating this little anecdote about the Dier family that will give an indication of the fires burning in Eric’s genes when he went to the defence of his brother …
I have followed the Dier career closely from his earliest days with Sporting Lisbon, because his late maternal granddad Ted Croker – former supremo of the Football Association – was an old acquaintance of mine, and he would have been bursting with pride at the way Cheltenham-born Eric has carried on the family football tradition.
I never tire of telling the story that Ted was a real man’s man, a war hero who won a gallantry medal after crawling a half mile from his crashed bomber with broken ankles to get help for his injured crew mates. He recovered to continue his football career after the war at Charlton with his brother Peter, and later became a hugely successful businessman when starting an earthmoving equipment company in Gloucestershire.
He was head-hunted to become the voice of the FA at a difficult time in the 1980s, and almost certainly cost himself a knighthood when he had the guts to tell Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to her face: “Don’t blame hooliganism on football. It’s your society you need to get sorted out.”
The son of former professional tennis player and later high-powered sports agent, Jeremy Dier, Eric was born a year after his Granddad died, and I have been able to tell him that Ted would be enormously proud of what he is achieving in the game.
Eric moved to Portugal at the age of seven when his mother landed the job of helping organise the hospitality for the 2004 Euro championships, and as well as becoming bi-lingual he developed as a defender with Sporting CP in Lisbon. Something to note with apprehension: He admits the club he supported as a kid was Manchester United.
He is a born leader and has captained each team he has played for at every level since he was seven. His adaptability allows Mourino to switch easily between three or four at the back, and that will keep opponents guessing as Spurs approach the business end of the season. He can also ride shot gun in midfield.
Spurs will need the battling Dier spirit at Leipzig tomorrow. The Germans have an exceptional team but I am feeling very buoyant about our chances.
Perhaps I should go into self isolation. COYS!
Question No 32 in this 2019-20 SOQL season:
Who at 23 has won 29 caps, joined Spurs from Ajax and for which country did he play all three Group matches in the 2018 World Cup finals?
Please email your answer to me at SOQL32@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.
Last week’s SOQL question: Who started his career at Chelmsford City, played more than 100 matches for Tottenham before being forced by injury to retire at 26. Against which team did he help Spurs win a League Cup final at Wembley
The answer: Peter Collins, a League Cup final winner against Aston Villa in 1971. Sadly, two years later he was forced out of the game by a recurring ankle injury at the age of 26 when being groomed to take over the No 5 shrt from the great Mike England. Several of you plumped for Jimmy Pearce, who was also in that team against Villa and was also forced to retire early because of injury. Jimmy, of course, was Tottenham through and through, having been born and raised within earshot of the White Hart Lane crowd. Truly, ‘one of our own.’
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.
See you back here same time, same place next week. COYS!
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