Nearly three decades ago, Keith Burkinshaw left White Hart Lane and made the famous and sad observation that "there used to be a football club there." The years that followed of Irving Scholar, Venables and Sugar, George Graham and Christian Gross were not all bad, but few Spurs supporters would associate them with glory and, above all, with pride.
We fell out of the big five, we signed either marquee players who failed to deliver or mediocre has-beens and never-weres. Even the glimpses of sunlight such as when Pleat introduced 4-5-1, or Ossie played 5 strikers, when Glenn returned to the Lane, or Ginola entertained us, were just blips on our journey to mid-table irrelevance. Our famous ground was too small, our managers came and went, our board seemingly had no plan. Arsenal and Chelsea were clearly London’s big two. We could be proud of our tradition, an occasional cup run and, above all, our wonderful atmosphere and fans. But that, my friends, was about it, if we’re honest.
And then, almost imperceptibly at first, something happened. Again, there have been blips on the return journey but a proper football club has steadily risen once more, phoenix-like, out of the ashes of the 1990s. There were Martin Jol and his two fifth place finishes, a Carling Cup and another final in successive years, and then Harry arrived and at last proper glory, glory nights returned to the Lane. Genuine marquee players who actually delivered were signed. Youngsters were brought in who developed into proper players. Above all, a man with a plan sat in the Tottenham boardroom.
There is a lot more to running a football club than flashing a cheque book and sacking the manager. There have been several great moments these past 3 years from Crouch’s winner at Man City to Bale’s filleting of Maicon, from 4-0 against Liverpool to beating Newcastle 5-0 and that momentary glimpse through the clouds of the Premiership summit. This Season, whatever happens, is one to be proud of.
But the time I felt proudest of all was just after 6 o’clock last Saturday evening. Our players reacted with distress and dignity in equal measure. Our fans showed the world how to behave at such a shocking moment. Above all, our club’s medical staff were exemplary, hopefully helping to save the life of a young opposition player. I can’t help feeling the Spurs of a few years ago wouldn’t have got everything so right.
I don’t know where Keith Burkinshaw is nowadays, but I’ll say it for him anyway. It is, above all, a tribute to Daniel Levy and our long suffering Spurs community. "There’s a proper football club there again."