NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 392
Submitted by Norman Giller
Middlesbrough away in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Could be worse, could be better, but with the new air of optimism generated by Antonio Conte Spurs can go to the Riverside Stadium confident of progressing into the quarter-finals.
Just one cautionary note: Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea look likely to be waiting in the last eight, so we must not get carried away. I've seen comments on social media suggesting the victory over Brighton could signal Spurs winning silverware this season. I need to remind those dreamers that Chelsea have beaten Tottenham four times this season … three times last month.
Hopefully, Boro used up all their luck on the way to eliminating Manchester United on penalties. United had enough chances to have been five goals clear before the game went to the dramatic shoot-out.
I was amused (and a little confused) to see the couch coaches making studious assessments of newcomers Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur following Saturday's 3-1 victory in which both played just a walk-on part.
Let's judge them over weeks not minutes. Both have a pedigree that suggests they will be perfect for Conte's style of quick counter attacking, but to read criticism of Swede Kulusevski so early in his Spurs career was just ludicrous.
Surely now is the time to be showering Kulusevski with plaudits, not pummelling him. There is a new-style supporter that I just cannot fathom, one who feels justified in knocking his own players. They need to learn about the bedrock of dignity and sportsmanship on which the club was built. Goodness knows what John Ripsher and Bobby Buckle would think. And if you don't know who I am talking about you need to brush up on your Spurs history. (Ed:- ...or use the site search box on the home page)
I am sure Kulusevski and Bentancur will get much more time to show their wares as Tottenham play catch-up with their fixtures, starting with a Premier League date against Southampton at home on Wednesday evening.
What thrilled this old observer against Brighton was the sight of Tottenham playing the vintage-style passing game that is in the Spurs DNA. Every player was committed and passionate, which has not always been the case in cup ties.
Harry Kane showing his old enthusiasm and accuracy is like welcoming back a treasured friend. I honestly feared we had lost his heart, but Conte has found the way to reignite him. Welcome home, Aitch.
'The gaffer (Conte) has been brilliant,' Harry said after the elimination of Brighton. 'I can't speak highly enough of him as a coach or as a person. He's really changed the mindset of a lot of players in the team'
I have not heard him this passionate since the peak days of Pochettino.
Harry coulda, shoulda had a hat trick against Brighton, and he is now 30 goals away from the club record set by The One and Only Jimmy Greaves, which cues me nicely to point out that I am now taking orders for my official, authorised biography on Greavsie, my pal of 64 years. You will find full details at www.normangillerbooks.com.
I hope you will support me, knowing that for every book I sell a donation will go to the Tottenham Tribute Trust, to help our old heroes. I would appreciate you pre-ordering direct from me. You get the book post-free and with a special, exclusive souvenir photo card featuring the autographs of Jimmy and Steve 'Skip' Perryman.
I was delighted that rumours of the passing of Tottenham legend Maurice Norman last week were greatly exaggerated. The news came to me from various sources, all in good faith, and when I sincerely posted my condolences on line his wife of 60 years, Jacqueline, was quick to point out that her husband was still very much alive.
I was a press corps spectator of their wedding in 1961, two months before the historic clinching of the Double and the entire Tottenham first-team squad along with manager Bill Nicholson was in attendance.
Maurice – 'Mo the Norfolk Swedebasher' – was enormously popular, and the rock on which Bill Nick built his 'Super Spurs' defence. He would almost certainly have been No 5 in England's 1966 World Cup team but for badly breaking a leg in a meaningless friendly against a Hungarian team warming up for the finals. (Ed:- that friendly against a Hungarian Select XI was my first visit to White Hart Lane)
At the same time Jimmy Greaves was in hospital with hepatitis, Dave Mackay was recovering from a twice broken leg, Danny Blanchflower had been forced to retire with a recurring knee injury and dear John White had been killed by a bolt of lightning while sheltering on a golf course. 'We feel cursed,' Bill Nick confided.
Maurice, once a farm boy, never played again and retired back to his beloved Norfolk, where he showed he had green fingers in his beautiful garden, while Jacqueline became a respected local artist. He has been suffering from the old footballers' nightmare of dementia in recent times and the wonderful Jacquline continues to be his loving prop.
There is a revealing interview with Maurice (and Jacqueline) by loyal, Lilywhite-blooded senior club journalist Paul Miles here: https://www.tottenhamhotspur.com/news/2021/may/60-years-on-a-poignant-interview-with-maurice-norman-rock-of-the-glory-glory-years/
Warning, it will challenge your tears glands ... and also tears of happiness for Welsh Wing Wizard Cliff Jones, who celebrates his 87th birthday today and every time I talk to him seems younger than springtime. Love to Maurice and Jacqueline and Cliff and his wife of 60-plus years, Joan.
The 24th week of season eight of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League challenge, and the question is:
Which Scouser joined Tottenham three years after collecting an FA Cup runners-up medal with Fulham, and which club did he join from Spurs in 1983?
Please email your answer to me at email@example.com and make the subject heading Quiz Week 24. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will do my best to respond to all who take part.
The rules are the same as in the previous seven seasons. I ask a two-pronged question with three points at stake – two for identifying the player and one for the supplementary question. 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. That’s when I become as popular as Sol Campbell in an Arsenal shirt.
This year’s prizes for the champion: A rare out-of-print book from my now very special Greavsie collection with autographs from the late, great Jimmy Greaves, Dave Mackay and Steve Perryman, and, most important of all, a framed certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion 2022. Plus a signed copy of My 70 Years of Spurs book AND a special bonus prize, the Eighty At Eighty book that I have written in harness with Sir Geoff Hurst, still the only man to score a World Cup final hat-trick.
Answer to question No 23: Which former Tottenham player has won 71 caps, played in the 2014 World Cup and which manager bought him from Newcastle United on transfer deadline day?
Moussa Sissoko and Mauricio Pochettino. Moussa rivalled even John Pratt for being (wrongly) booed and baited by Tottenham fans. A far better footballer than most of them realised, and he eventually got most of the fans on his side.
See you back here same time, same place on Monday. COYS!
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