NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 201
Submitted by Norman Giller
Forgive the shaky writing. My hands always start to tremble approaching the visit to the Emirates, and this weekend’s game against the old enemy is arguably one of the most vital for many a year. Coming away with at least a point will confirm that Professor Pochettino has got Spurs on the right road towards being an established power in the Premier League.
A big question we are waiting to have answered is whether Hugo ‘The Boss’ Lloris will be fit to take his place on the goal-line. He missed the French international matches and, of course, was sidelined for the Crystal Palace game with a thigh strain.
His understudy Michel Vorm was also out of action, and it gave Pochettino the opportunity to unwrap the “new Gazza” – Gazzaniga, the third-string goalkeeper who has followed MoPo from Argentina and Southampton. He looked the business against Palace, but facing Arsenal at the Emirate is a slightly different proposition.
I got myself involved in a heated debate on Twitter this week as to just how good a goalkeeper Lloris is. This followed somebody from the younger generation describing him as the greatest Tottenham goalie of all time.
As a leading member of the unofficial Pat Jennings Appreciation Society, I was not going to stand by and let him get away with that. At the risk of repeating myself (yet again - Ed), Pat has been a pal for, gulp, more than fifty years, and I have not seen a better goalkeeper in all that time.
He is back in the Tottenham fold after suffering the indignity of eight lost years down the road at the Arsenal. I am jesting, of course. The big, affable Irishman was just as popular and successful at Highbury (pre-Emirates) as he had been in his peak years with Spurs.
I thought the Tottenham directors were bonkers to allow him to move to the Woolwich Wanderers in August 1977, when he was 32. It was like Paul McCartney going from The Beatles to the Stones.
Spurs obviously thought he had little left to give, and they had Barry Daines as a replacement. Pat was cheesed-off with the Spurs board at the time because they would not give him a loan to help him buy the house of his dreams. They just had no idea how to repay him for his great service to the club. Pat answered Tottenham’s lack of faith in him by playing on for another eight years at Arsenal, and he became as big a hero at Highbury as he had been at White Hart Lane.
He played a major part in getting the Gunners to three successive FA Cup finals, emerging as a winner in the middle one, against Man United in 1979.
“I know a lot of Tottenham supporters were upset with me going to Arsenal,” Pat told me in his distinctive bass-baritone voice. “But it suited my domestic life, because there was no need for the big upheaval of having to move to a new area. I was just happy to still be playing at the top level and I gave Arsenal the same one hundred per cent commitment I had always given to Spurs.
“Of course, the fact that my old Northern Ireland captain Terry Neill was in charge at Highbury helped make it a smooth transition. I never thought I would cross over to what many Spurs fans consider the enemy, but the Tottenham directors were obviously not concerned and so I made the move. But deep down I will always be a Spurs man.”
Pat semi-retired in 1986 to concentrate on golf, which he loves, but he kept his eye in by returning to Tottenham in a coaching capacity while retaining his player registration. At the back of his mind was playing his last game in the 1986 World Cup finals, and he tuned up by going in goal for the reserves. His dream finale came true when Northern Ireland qualified for the World Cup finals in Mexico.
All eyes were on him when he made his last competitive appearance with what was then a record 119th international match against Brazil. To add to the fairytale finish, it was his 41st birthday. Brazil won 3–0, but Pat was carried off at the end as an all-time hero of Irish football.
Warmed by his rich memories, Pat is now a regular with the Tottenham Legends as a greeter and meeter and he was a popular corporate host in the fittingly named Pat Jennings Lounge at the old Lane, and is now a regular and welcoming face at Wembley. You could not meet a nicer guy, whose next boast will be his first.
There is one weakness in the case I make for Pat to be acknowledged as the greatest Tottenham goalkeeper of them all. Pat – dear, honest Pat – says that Hugo is a better goalkeeper than he ever was. “He makes world-class saves in every match,” he says, “and gets to shots that would have beaten me.”
This is typical Pat, always hiding behind a shield of modesty. But take my word for it, he was as good a shot stopper as Hugo, and a far better distributor of the ball. He would use those massive hands of his to catch the ball – often one handed – and would then always find a team-mate with a well-directed throw or a monster kick that he developed while playing Gaelic football in his youth.
We will be sweating on fitness tests this week for Hugo, Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and, of course, ‘Our Harrys’ – Kane and Winks. And we have to worry our way through tomorrow’s friendly against Brazil, hoping that Captain Eric Dier and the Spurs contingent come through unscathed.
Whether or not Hugo is the greatest Spurs goalkeeper of all time, I know we will all feel much happier to see him taking his place at the back of the defence at the Emirates. Meantime, let’s give the one and only Pat Jennings a big hand.
WEEK 14 of the Sports Odyssey Quiz League 2017-18. The rules are simple: I ask one Tottenham-related question for which a right answer earns you two points, and then a related teaser that can bring you an extra point.
The questions are always easy, provided you know the answers!
The winner this season will get a framed certificate proclaiming him (or her) the Spurs Odyssey Quiz Champion, plus a no-longer-in-print autographed GOALS book by Spurs idol Jimmy Greaves and another collectors’ item from my Greavsie collection: Football’s Greatest Entertainers, signed by Jimmy and Tottenham’s Mr Loyalty, Steve Perryman.
Now here comes the 14th question of the 2017-18 SOQL season:
Born in Basildon, Essex, in 1969, this defender payed in two cup finals for Tottenham eight years apart. Against which team was he sent off in the second final?
Please email your answers by Friday’s midnight deadline to: email@example.com.
Keep a check on your points score, because I can never rely on my server that often loses emails in the ether.
I test you with Spurs questions until the last few weeks of the season, when I introduce the dreaded tiebreaker teasers that call for your opinion as much as your knowledge.
But please remember, we are all in this just for fun, with the common bond of admiring all things Tottenham.
Answer to last week’s question was David Howells, the always-reliable and dedicated Spurs servant who wore the No 5 shirt in the FA Cup final triumph against Nottingham Forest in 1991. Several of you fell into my trap by naming Paul Allen, but he did not match David’s 12-year marathon stay at the Lane.
First name drawn from the correct answers is Jack Carter, of Teddington, who has followed Spurs since the early 70s. I will send Jack a screen version of my Spurs ’67 book (I have now sold all copies, and the book raised £4,000 for the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help our old heroes Thank you all those Spurs Odyssey followers who gave their support. Have you thought of writing a book yourself? My latest book, ‘How to SELF Publish’ has now gone to press. `it is the perfect present for that person you know has a book in them, perhaps you! Full details at http://www.normangillerbooks.com.
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!
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