Football does a strange thing to a human. Corporate executives and lackeys alike spend their days as slaves to their email accounts and their various bosses, living in a world of greys and beiges. But an odd thing happens as soon as you engage in conversation about football. The greys and beiges are replaced with effervescent, glowing colours. The email accounts are left unchecked, their boss can wait, their world brightened for just an instant.
When Peter Crouch planted his gangly head on a left-footed Bale cross with barely 5 minutes on the stadium clock, a collective colour glowed from the heads and hearts of the 36,000 odd who had been nervously nursing their pre-match alcohol just hours before. It was blue and it was white. Joseph would be disappointed at the limited amount of colours – but we Spurs fans don’t see in technicolour; our dreams are blue and white.
Apologies should be made on my behalf for this report coming two full days and a cheeky few hours after the match that put Tottenham Hotspur back into the big time; but if I’m honest, I’ve needed that time (albeit spent at Lords and on a couple of golf courses and at BBQs) to really think about what that game meant to us.
Hamilton Hall @ 3pm, Gourmet Burger and a pint of Carlsberg (I know I know but it’s included in the price). Nervous. Very nervous. I uttered to Mr Dan of talkshowhost86 fame and a Jimbo of jimbo fame that the atmosphere in the pub was massively contrasting to the night we played Arsenal before the 5-1. Raucous singing was replaced with pockets of half-singing, the anxiousness was palpable and it was cutting through all who were dwelling in the pub. The Bell & Hare was no different, this game was bigger than us.
So that it was ultimately settled whilst you could still hear the faint echoes of the UEFA Champions League Music That Get You Very Excited™, was very odd. I commented in the Match Thread (admittedly post beers) that it was very untypical Tottenham. We were efficient, we were solid, we were sensible and we were peacocking by the end; our feathers out strutting around the gorgeous grass impudently passing the starred ball around a beaten set of boys.
But back to the match. HG spent some time rolling around in front of his goal. He wasn’t a happy camper, and despite not having a save to make he looked awkward and uncomfortable. Dawson was even taking his goal-kicks. The only threat of note from Young Boys in the first half (that I can remember) was the Hochstrasser dipper. A half-broken up attack fell to the Swiss, who immediately volleyed goal-wards only for Gomes to hobble and moan the ball wide.
By this time, BAE had assaulted a poor young boy with a venomous drive from a semi-cleared corner and more importantly we were 2-0 up. Palacios imperiously won a header in midfield – imperiously is the only way Palacios does things when he’s on form, he’s either all or nothing WP and thankfully he’s started being a bit more “all” – and this fell to Jermain Defoe who helped it back to the Welsh Wonder (The Bale), who delightfully dinked the ball over the starstruck Young Boys defence. A twist, a turn, a hand, a touch, and a delightful strike gave us a cushion – the nerves disbanded around the Lane, the second goal was the clincher and Defoe who had been horribly short of goals since the New Year could claim a pre-op strike that will do his confidence absolutely no harm at all.
He even had another chance as he read the line well, twisted on a through ball and in his Wigan scoring position he dragged wide when Palacios and Crouch were begging to be played in.
Half time came and went, and we swapped goalies: bringing on Carlo Cudicini for his first competitive appearance since the horrific accident which put him out of action for so long. Another positive that we can say we have two quality experienced goalkeepers, with maybe a Pletikosa to come as well.
If the first half was about Defoe’s redemption, the second half was about the big man. Not Huddlestone on this occasion, whose performance delighted me in my drunken haze to use such words as “Wowzers!” The boy passes the ball with such a disdainful ease, that I think it’s almost cheating. But this half was Peter Crouch’s. The man whose header clinched last year’s 4th place play-off would show us exactly why he’s going to be very important to us this year.
His first meaningful involvement in the second half was a sharp chance that dropped to his feet that he probably could have hit first time, instead taking a touch and being charged down by the keeper. His next meaningful involvement was another header, but this time the Young Boys backline had no answer for it. Bale’s delightfully flighted ball in was met by a rising Crouch, who firmly planted his header downwards into the Paxton end’s net. The flags were all out now, party time for Tottenham Hotspur and their fans. 3-0.
Here follows the equation to our fourth goal: BAE delightful ball over the top + Bale run + Lulic tackle = Penalty. Crouch’s penalty was sublimely cool, sending the keeper the wrong way and just for arrogance’s sake hitting his target in the very bottom left hand corner. To make matters worse for the Swiss minnows, Lulic was sent off – although collectively his team executed some nasty tackles and probably deserved to be reduced to ten in some manner.
We were 4-0 up and cruising and even had time for Crouch to miss a good chance. A tremendous ball from Huddlestone on the half-volley found a marauding Pavlyuchenko down the left hand side who cut in and teed up 3MP who couldn’t slot home past a struggling keeper from 10 yards.
And so there you have it. A brief history of our rollercoaster Young Boys experience. Although, it seems that the ride peaked in its first half in Switzerland. This match will not go down in history for a Wigan-Nine-One-like 10/10 all round performance. It won’t go down as a tense Chelsea 4-4 last minute equaliser performance. Instead, it will go down in history as the day Tottenham shrugged off their soft-touch nicknames and their “bottling” tags and became a Champions League (proper) football club.
It’s now sunk in, these two and a half days later. We’re Champions League and we’re going to Holland, Germany and Italy to play some top drawer teams.
Soon enough, the fans return to their greys and beiges. Their raucous singing and their amusing chanting fades and is once again imprisoned behind a wall of work emails and deadlines. But they know their next escape isn’t too far away. It’s Wigan on Saturday and they will get a chance to be colourful once more. Football does a strange thing to a human; especially Champions League football.