Sep 26th, 2014 by 'holic
It’s the eve of the match like no other. Our rivals these days may come from the west of London and the north-west of England, but there is something about facing the neighbours that still stirs the blood. I only have to hear the word “Tottenham’ and the memories come flooding back. 1971, 2004, Raddy, Ray, Liam, Alan, Rocky, Charlie, Tony, Thierry, Bobby, Tomas, Theo. Fabulous wins and the odd painful reverse. It’s a fixture that divides families. My late grandfather, a late uncle, and cousin are from the dark side. The rest of the family knew that North London is red.
There was a spell when I would confidently demolish the marsh-dwellers ahead of our meetings, but as the austerity years hit so they have enjoyed the odd isolated triumph, immediately burned onto disc. Their only league win at the Grove came in 2010 when we watched on, almost disbelieving, as a 2-0 half-time lead was tamely surrendered. The following season, on a pivotal day for Arsene Wenger, we were 0-2 down early on. Many felt that had the result gone against us that day we would now have a different man at the helm. Bacary Sagna sparked the fight back, and triggered a five goal salvo that will always be remembered by those who saw it.
A repeat 5-2 the following season gave the lie to the mythical ‘power-shift’ claimed for so long by those well and truly in our shadow. That claim resurfaced last summer. A figure in excess of £100 million was splashed (polite version) on a veritable chest of tat. Olivier Giroud’s 23rd minute strike did for them in the League, and then Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky humbled them in the FA Cup third round tie that was the springboard for us winning the competition.
This season they have yet another manager for Arsene to see off. Mauricio Pochettino looks to have a bit more about him than some of the clowns who Tottenham have appointed in recent years but is starting to realise the challenge that faces him. After beating West Ham and Queens Park Rangers in their opening Premier League fixtures the neighbours have taken just one point from the next three, at Sunderland, and suffered successive defeats to Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion.
Arsene was complimentary in his pre-match presser when quizzed about the visitors and their new manager.
“It’s early in the season to judge a team but they have certainly less introduction of new players. They will benefit from stability and he’s a quality manager. He has shown that at Southampton.”
The team news was much as expected. We remain without Mathieu Debuchy, Nacho Monreal, Theo Walcott, and Olivier Giroud. The temptation to go with the side that won so impressively at Aston Villa last weekend must be huge for Arsene. If there are to be changes one would assume the options revolve around whether to recall Abou Diaby and/or Jack Wishere for Mikel Arteta and/or Santi Cazorla. A little something is telling me Jack for Santi is the likeliest of those two, which would have important ramifications for Mesut Ozil.
The ‘holic pound harks back to a historic result for a historic fixture. In our first double season, 1970-71, we played Tottenham at home in September. Wee Geordie Armstrong scored both goals in a 2-0 win that day, and I fancy a repeat at the Grove. I’ve taken what I consider a generous 10/1 with one High Street bookie.
Unfortunately, for the first time I can remember in years, I will miss the annual ‘rip it out of the neighbours’ in the flesh. I will be at a wedding in a barn in the middle of nowhere, praying for a mobile signal, or better still a wifi link so I can get the match on the phone. As ever I am reminded of an old cricket tale when this game approaches. “If God is on our side we shall win. If he is on their side they will win. But if he keeps his beak out of it we’ll bloody well thrash them”, or words to that effect.
Have a good one ‘holics.