NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 329
Submitted by Norman Giller
If I live to be a hundred (and I’m well on the way, folks!), I will never understand those Tottenham fans moaning on line about Spurs qualifying for the Europa League thanks to a 1-1 draw at the Palace (and, more vital, Chelsea walloping Wolves at the Bridge).
Many argue that they would have been happy to miss out on what they sneeringly dismiss as ‘the Thursday League.’ Thank goodness the misguided souls do not control my purse strings.
These myopic supporters clearly have no sense of economics, let alone a Mystic Meg hint of excitement over the prospect of a long run in a tournament that Jose Mourinho knows how to win.
If I were a betting man, I would be putting a few sovereigns on Tottenham lifting the Europa League Cup at the climax of next season. If so, they will be doing it the Mourinho Way, with as much emphasis on protecting the Spurs goal as well as putting the ball into the opposition net.
The money the Europa League will generate (with a good run at it) will be the difference between Tottenham building a mediocre team and a star-studded side fit to challenge the powerhouses at Anfield, Old Trafford and the Etihad.
Okay, the ’second tier’ European competition is obviously not as prestigious as the Champions League in which Tottenham have featured for the last four seasons. But it is a great compensation to be competing in Europe, even at the lower level.
As dear Bill Nicholson told me many years ago: “You’re nothing when you’re not in Europe … nothing!”
The first British manager to find the formula for winning a major European title, ‘Sir’ Bill loved the challenge of taking on the top Continental sides. Mourinho has the same sense of occasion, which is why he dropped his mask (not the Covid one) and joyously celebrated with his backroom team as yesterday’s final whistle blew at Selhurst Park.
The only sad thing is that Jose could not find the opportunity to give Jan Vertonghen a final run out in the Lilywhite shirt he has always worn with pride and distinction. You can mention him in the same breath as great Tottenham centre-backs like Harry Clarke, Maurice Norman, Mike England and even Ledley King. There can be no higher praise. Thank you, Jan, and good luck with your life on and off the pitch. You will always be warmly welcomed ‘home’ to the new Lane.
Mourinho would, I know, be happy to work with Jan sometime in the future. If Jan takes the coaching route, he could have no better nor more successful teacher than Jose. That mantle falls to the one and only Ledley, who will be taking over as Jose’s new righthand lieutenant. There is not a more suitable man for the role on this planet. Go for it, Leds!
Spurs were 14th when Jose took over from our beloved Mauricio Pochettino. They finish the season sixth. That’s progress in anybody’s language.
Those of us desperate for silverware must accept the Mourinho safety-first tactics if we want us to carry on what has become a rusty tradition of winning a trophy when there is a ‘one’ in the year.
Our guru Paul H. Smith captures the last rights (sic) of the season HERE, a match that was a hard but eventually worthwhile watch. Our Harry Kane pinged in his goal with such aplomb that we almost take it for granted that he will find the net. As Roy Hodgson, veteran Palace manager, observed: “He scored when most people did not even realise a shot was on.’
That’s what Harry does … and that’s why Spurs must sell the family silver if necessary to keep him at Tottenham. Ex-Gooner Ian Wright is mischievously trying to sell him off but Spurs can keep him if – and what an if – they can convince him that trophies are on their way.
We can now wrap up this best-forgotten season, and we need to get totally behind Mourinho as he shapes a side that will hopefully end that silverware drought. It might not be pretty but I think most Spurs fans will accept winning the Mourinho way if we have a title to shout about at the end of the season.
I will be taking a break from my Spurs Odyssey beat until the new campaign kicks off in September. Thank you – and in particular Paul Smith – for your company, Please all stay safe. See you in Europe!
During this surreal summer, I am sure you will all want to support my crime novel writing adventure (three stories in one paperback from www.normangillerbooks.com). Meantime, here at Spurs Odyssey we continue with the serialisation of my story of Tottenham’s goal scorers. The book is called Shooting Spurs, with all profits going to the Tottenham Tribute Trust (actually, I’ve passed some of the income on to the NHS, sure nobody will mind). It spotlights every player in Tottenham’s history who has scored more than 50 League and Cup goals since the formation of the club in 1882.
Today we focus on the goal gourmet Irishman …
Born: Dublin - 8 July 1980
Playing career span with Spurs: 2002-08/2009-11
Goals in 306 matches: 122
ROBBIE KEANE was a have-boots-will-travel goal machine who roamed the football world like a professional hit man, with goalkeepers in his sights. He twice stopped off at Tottenham during his journey from his home town of Dublin and scored goals by the bucketful in a career that was all about getting the ball into the net.
The Keane goal stats are, as David Coleman used to say, quite remarkable:
· Two goals in his 1997 League debut for Wolves, aged 17
· In 1998, aged 18, he scored the first of 68 goals for Ireland
· 122 goals in 306 first-team games for Tottenham
· 104 goals and 59 assists in 165 MLS matches for LA Galaxy
· 126 Premier League goals for six different clubs
· Only player ever to score an international goal in 19 consecutive years
From launching his career with local schools team Crumleigh United, he set off at the age of 16 on an adventure that reads like Gulliver’s Travels. Over the next 20 years he stopped off at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Coventry City, Inter Milan, Leeds United, Tottenham (twice), Liverpool, Glasgow Celtic, West Ham, LA Galaxy, Aston Villa and ATK in the Indian Super League.
A self-confident man, Robbie got into several scrapes with his forceful personality. He had a major bust-up in his first spell at Tottenham when fined £10,000 and forced to train with the reserves after he had stormed from the sub’s bench to the dressing-room during a match, and he and clubmate Edgar Davids had a headline-hitting fist fight during a training session.
Yet for all the controversy, Robbie remained popular with the fans and was the first to win Player of the Year three times.
Robbie Keane, the Dublin Assassin. Sketch © Art Turner
His mixture of strength and subtlety on the ball made him a handful for defenders, and he packed an accurate shot in either foot. He was a gifted all-rounder who had the versatility to play in any of the forward roles, and also had the intelligence to come through from deep to scheme goals or play support striker. Proud of his athleticism, the 5ft 9in welterweight famously signed off goals with a trademark acrobatic cartwheel followed by a forward roll and mimed two-pistol shooting from the hip. The Dublin Assassin.
He became the piggy in the middle of a huge row between Tottenham and Liverpool when the Merseysiders publicly let it be known that they would like Keane in their squad after he had notched 23 goals in the 2007-08 season. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy was apoplectic with rage and filed a complaint to the Premier League over what was naked tapping of a player.
With Robbie clearly unsettled, Spurs reluctantly agreed to sell him to the Anfield club for a fee of £19 million in the summer of 2008. He signed a four- year contract and announced: “I’ve been a Liverpool fan all my life, going back to when I was a kid growing up in Dublin. I always had a Liverpool shirt on my back when playing with my mates. So, to be here now as a Liverpool player is incredible and I couldn’t be happier.”
Tottenham continued to fume but dropped their official complaint when Liverpool agreed to apologise for their behaviour and make a donation to the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. Levy made no secret that he remained unhappy, saying he had been forced into transferring Keane due to Liverpool’s unsettling interference.
Robbie’s dreams of playing for his favoured club turned into something of a nightmare, and he failed to hit the consistent scoring form that had lit up his boyhood imagination. Tottenham were delighted to welcome back the bubbly Irishman in the January 2009 transfer window for a fee of £12 million, £7 million less than Liverpool had paid for him. He became captain on his return and started hitting the net again until wanderlust took him on a loan period to Celtic and then West Ham.
Next stop was across the Atlantic with LA Galaxy where he became a legend on the American soccer circuit with 104 goals across six seasons. His plan for a final flourish to his career with Indian club ATK fell flat when manager Teddy Sheringham – who knew a thing or three about scoring goals for Tottenham – was dismissed almost before Robbie had unpacked his shooting boots.
When he finally retired with a record 146 Irish caps and 325 goals in the bank, he still had not got football out of his system. He passed all his coaching exams and eased into the role of assistant coach to the Republic Ireland team for which he had written himself into the history books with 68 goals.
“From Crumlin United around the world to the likes of Milan, London and Los Angeles, I could never have imagined the path my football life would take,” Robbie said when reluctantly hanging up those famous boots. “My career exceeded all the hopes I had as a football-mad boy growing up in Dublin. Now I am prepared for the next phase. It has been an unbelievable journey so far.”
Tottenham fans are delighted that White Hart Lane was one of his stopping off points. He left a lasting impression, not only with his goals but also with his celebrations. It was quite a hooley.
We will kick off next season with the focus on the goal machine that is Jermain Defoe.
What a picture, what a photograph … bow the knee to our 2019-20 Spurs Odyssey Quiz League champion, Emily Hadjinicolaou, the Surrey actuary who figured out how to win this season’s title …
The sharp eyed among you will note that her wall is already adorned with another magical moment in her life, when she was at Wembley in 1981 to see Ricky Villa’s ‘goal of the century’ against Man City.
Queen Emily, who will be defending her crown next season, said after receiving her framed SOQL champion’s certificate: “This is my proudest moment as a Spurs supporter. It gave me a huge lift during the terrible lockdown. I have also won a framed autographed picture of Harry Kane that will get a place of honour alongside the certificate and Ricky’s unforgettable goal.’
Emily, a Tottenham season ticket holder who follows them home and away, has taken part in the competition for the six years that it has been running and has never once got a question wrong, a true walking record book on Spurs.
Last week’s answer, which of course Emily knew …
Which former Spurs manager started his League playing career as a defender with Liverpool, and at which club was he coach immediately before joining Tottenham?
Of course, wonderful Keith Burkinshaw, who was a coach at Newcastle immediately before joining Tottenham under Terry Neill, the man he succeeded as a hugely successful and popular Spurs manager.
See you back here in September. COYS!
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