world cup and spurs

08.06.2006

Got your plastic England Elvis wig from Sainsburyís yet ? Thought not.  Or how about that St Georgeís Cross squeaky hammer dog-toy ?  Me neither, although judging from the plaintive expression on our Flossieís face I think she feels let down.  Similarly berated by the family for not joining in the rush to buy special offer plastic England trainers (ďbut the wristbands are freeĒ), I succumbed and am now the proud owner of a blue tracksuit top, 100% unofficial, with ĎEnglandí spread across my chest.  

Itís not that I donít want England to perform well in Germany.  I do, I really do, and Iím looking forward enormously to thirty days of quality football.  I care, itís just that I donít care that much, certainly not nearly as much as I do about Tottenham. Be honest, what would you rather see, England win the World Cup or Spurs win something next year ?  No contest for me.  Iíd gladly line the streets to cheer Martin Jolís blue and white army when we bring home the cup, or throw my own street party for the league, but I wouldnít get out of bed if the England open-top bus drove down the end of my road.  

I suspect that Iím not alone.  Most regular supporters of league teams are more concerned about the fortunes of their clubs than they are the national team.  When England lose I will be disappointed but the feeling will quickly fade, whereas even after all these years I cannot shed so easily the adolescent anguish of a Spurs defeat.  In many ways itís almost a relief to watch England, supporting a team, enjoying the peaks without the possibility of plunging into the troughs of despair, setting aside temporarily the rivalry with fans of other teams.  Actually, though, that rivalry is a fantastic element of being a Spurs fan.  I donít want to be the same as Arsenal or Chelsea supporters, thank you very much. Whatís the meaning of displaying an England flag in the window or on your car ?  Standing up as an England fan to the other 35 million or so England fans in the country is not much of a statement in my book.  

What I really hope for in the coming weeks is that England do well because of the performances of our players.  Robbo could easily finish the competition as amongst the best keepers in the world, Lenny is creating the same buzz around the country as he has in his short career at the Lane and Carrick might in the end be the difference between a good and a great England tournament.  I place their individual success above that of the national team.  When England concede, my instinctive reaction is Ďare they going to blame Robbo ?í  I become intensely protective if our players are criticised.  

So Iím proud that we provide so many members of the squad.  At the same time, Iím worried that the backbone of our team will start the season jaded because they have had no summer break.  Typically the summer tournaments take their toll on players around Christmas-time as the fixtures pile up and the grounds get heavy. When Ledley was not selected I genuinely felt for him, but secretly I was glad to know our best player will be fit and raring to go right from the start of the season.  Also, a good tournament for any player means their value will dramatically increase.  Spurs have clearly altered their buying policy this close season to get pre-World Cup prices on their transfer targets.  When you hear players preferring to wait until after the World Cup before deciding on their future, you know this translates as Ďa couple of good games and Barca may come in for meí.  We could therefore get left behind in our pursuit of certain transfer targets and also become victims of success if, say, Lennon or Carrick suddenly attract the interest of Europeís top clubs.  

At the moment everyone is on a high. Players can go from villains to heroes just by doing a silly dance as a goal celebration.  A sense of humour helpfully puts it all in perspective (the robot dance was being ironic, wasnít itÖ?).  However, one mistake at the wrong time means tabloid crucifixion. Ian Walker conceded a few years ago in an international against Italy and was never quite the same player afterwards, no matter that England played poorly, that one of the worldís best players, Zola, was the scorer and the shot took a slight deflection.  

So hereís hoping for an England win, with our wonderful Spurs contingent doing well, but above all stay injury free.  I guess in the end Iím a bit of a miserable git, and Iíve failed in my patriotic duty because I still canít get worked up about the England team suits  - Ďtake us through the suit from shoes up, David.  How does it compare to previous England suits you have worn?í I confess that I canít be a true fan as I didnít travel 4 hours to crouch in the hot sun by the perimeter fence at Luton airport just for a glimpse of our brave boys boarding an aeroplane.  But if Robbo makes a match winning save from Ronaldo, bowls the ball out to Carrick whose forty yard through-ball sets Lennon free, his cross finds Jenas coming late into the box at the end of a lung-bursting 60 yard run and he smashes a late winner into the top corner, I promise you Iíll be the first to raise a cheer.  

ALAN FISHER

 

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