Anorak News | A Ray Of Hope

A Ray Of Hope

by | 2nd, September 2002

‘ON Saturday afternoon at around one minute after the full-time whistle had blown, I received a phone call. At first, it sounded like a long distance message, but the interference on the line was not the crackle of static but the rare noise of jubilant Tottenham fans.

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”Have you seen it?” asked the voice. And before I could ask ”What?” I was told. ”We’re top of the league.” ”We” are Tottenham, and it should be said that I am not. That message was punctuated with an ”Aaaaahhhh”, a quintessentially football sound which used to be followed with a ”How d’yer feel?” I felt fine, and told the lunatic on the other end just so.

”You ‘ate it,” he said. Then he sang ”We are top of the league” a few times at me and said he had to go, no doubt to join the thousand-strong conga down Seven Sisters Road.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the same road, at Arsenal, all was peaceful. Birds were still singing, fully-stocked shops and pubs were still selling the finest kebabs and lagers and the sun was in the sky. Because it was still August, and, according to my official Arsenal calendar, that meant there were another nine months to go ’til season end.

I could be cruel at this point and point out how in the Spurs time zone, the season ends around Christmas, and with just four months to go, the lads in white are in with a shot of glory. I could, but I won’t, because to do so would be to admit that what I was being told has affected me in some way.

So instead I congratulated the voice on the phone. ”Well done,” I said. ”Enjoy it. Make the most of it. Live it large.” And it wasn’t me being disingenuous, it was me being genuine. I wholeheartedly wanted him to enjoy it.

And why was I not spitting blood? Why had I not slammed down the phone, or at least laughed at him? Why had I not verbally patted him on the head and told him, as George Graham had told me before he was carted off by the authorities, that the game is a marathon and not a sprint? Because he had shown that he cared.

He cared deeply enough to call me, a fan of the enemy, at his moment of joy. After years of affected indifference (it’s been three since Spurs were last top), of saying countless times how he and his like were ”bored” with football and ”who cares who wins the league”, he had finally played his hand. And I knew at once the pain he must have suffered over the past years and the pain, in truth, he is likely to feel at the end of this season.

But I also know that to laugh too hard is to set myself up for a fall. All rivalries, and few are more intense that the north London version, are based on fear. And my fear is that one day Spurs will rise again and Arsenal will fall from Wenger’s lofty pedestal.

And come that day I will sit and nod and say how football has lost its interest for me and that, although Spurs have won, they are an average side whose success says so much about how football has been corrupted by greed and fiscal pragmatism. And the voice at the other end of the phone will say: ”Never mind. Perhaps now Ray Parlour’s your new manager, he’ll bring the good times back.”

And, if he wants to really hurt me, he’ll say it without a hint of laughter or malice in his voice.

Posted: 2nd, September 2002 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink