The North London Derby is upon us. In the Cult Football camp, this match – more than any other – sees us set against each other. The fires were stoked with this initial lob: Bale isn't even better than Walcott.
**WARNING** – This article – teased a long time ago here – contains spoilers for all 5 seasons of The Wire. If you haven’t watched The Wire yet, go to amazon.com; buy the complete set, watch all 60 hours, then read this. You’ll thank me for it (probably more for having seen The Wire than for this article, but still).
Non-Spurs Fan: “If you know they’re going to end up disappointing and frustrating you, why do you keep supporting them?
Me: “Got to. This Tottenham, man“
As my wife would attest, I have a special way of watching Tottenham’s games – leaned forward, literally on the edge of my seat, with a nervous look on my face and the occasional nail being bitten – similar to how I used to sit in the Paxton Road end of White Hart Lane, now transferred to our sofa in Brooklyn. The only other thing that has brought me to this viewing position, this physical display of angst, nervousness and sense of impending doom, was the greatest television show ever made, The Wire.
Each season of The Wire is set up very much like one for Tottenham Hotspur: first you have to get used to a new cast of characters and squad members; the story of the season then unfolds with various highs and lows; the penulitmate act brings some type of heartbreak and you then lick your wounds, wrap up and look to see where it will go next year.
Ever Expanding/Changing Cast
The Wire was unique in the way it approached it’s story telling with such a large number of characters – introducing many new ones through the years and trusting that the audience would keep up. In the same way, many a time I’d arrive at White Hart Lane one January and have to try and figure out who the Japanese player wearing number 4 in our midfield was (turns out it was Kazuyuki Toda…no, I have no idea what happened to him either). Take a look at the major characters introduced through the five years of The Wire (listed as when they became involved in the plots not based on first appearance, cf. Prop Joe is in Season 1 but his significance becomes more apparent from Season 3 onwards), and the players who signed for Tottenham in that same time period (2002-2008)
Tottenham: (2002) Redknapp, Acimovic, Blondel, Ricketts, Hirschfield, Keane. (2003) Toda, Postiga, Zamora, Mabizela, Kanoute, Dalmat, Konchesky. (2004) Brown, Defoe, Robinson, Fulop, Defendi, Mendes, Sean Davis, Leigh Mills, Reto Ziegler, Erik Edman, Timothee Atouba, Naybet, Edson Silva, Pamarot, Carrick, Davenport. (2005) Mido, Hallfredsson, El Hamadaoui, Radek Cerny, Dawson, Andy Reid, Stalteri, Lennon, Huddlestone, Tainio, Routledge, Young-Pyo Lee, Rasiak, Jenas, Davids. (2006) Danny Murphy, Ghaly, Berbatov, Assou-Ekotto, Zakora, Dervitte, Malbranque, Chimbonda. (2007) Rocha, Alnwick, Bale, Taarabt, Bent, Kaboul, Rose, Boateng, Gunter. (2008) Woodgate, Hutton, Gilberto, Modric, Dos Santos, Gomes, Bostock, Bentley, Pavlyuchenko, Corluka.
(When it comes to the Champions League, I can’t help but root for any English team, unless that team is playing against Arsenal… How the Gunners beat Barcelona is not for me to decide, for I’m certainly not an analyst. My best answer is that Arsenal beat Barca the same way Arsenal can be beaten: Solid defending and goalkeeping, making chances count, waiting for a couple sloppy passes and scoring on the break.
As for the Spurs, I love to watch them. I’m an American Arsenal fan, so the Gunners/Spurs rivalry is a non-issue. Yeah, I get excited when they play each other, I get a bit worked up, but I watch my soccer on the t.v., not the telly. My villains are United and Chelsea, unless they’re playing in the Champions League, not against Arsenal!)
Dear North London:
Thank you for last week. Thank you for entertaining us in such dramatic fashion. Thank you for showing us the spirit of “The Underdog”.
Thank you for showing us that the EPL elite is comprised of much more than Reds and Blues. Thank you for showing us that English teams might rebound from last year and once again hold their own in Europe, against the most famous and well-established of teams.
Thank you for providing international ingredients, for Russia, Africa, France, Eastern Europe, and two vans from Holland. Thank you for a home-grown finishing dose (Lennon/Crouch), and for unfinished future droplets (Walcott/Wilshire).
Thank you for showing us that it just might be preferable to train and play under clouds and rain, rather than under models and breezy coasts.
Thank you for your fiery managers and coaches.
Thank you, beanpole and diminutive one, for your last minute heroics.
Thank you, North London, not from a supporter but from a fan.
Thank you, North London, for a rivalry I can’t truly understand.
Thank you for scoring on the break.
Good luck, North London…
Or at least it used to be. By the end of this season, it will be 20 years since Chas ‘n’ Dave wrote those lyrics. Since then, there has been very little for Spurs fans to cheer about. Prior to the formation of the Premier League, Tottenham were considered one of the “Big 5” clubs (along with Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton) and had a strong cup tradition.
The “Year ending in 1” superstition came from FA Cup wins in 1901, 1921, 1981 and 1991; the League in 1951; and the magic year of 1961 when Tottenham were the first club in the 20th century to win the League and Cup double. May 2011 will see the 50th anniversary of this achievement and 20 years of mediocrity with just a couple of League Cup wins in that time. This year brings a potential Champions’ League campaign, a tough fight in the league to cement our place in the top 4 and, with any luck, good cup runs alongside it. However, we’ve had optimism before and Spurs fans all over will fear the worst while hoping for the best. A Tottenham season has long been akin to a George Pelecanos scripted episode of The Wire; no matter how you feel at the beginning, you just knew that it would end with heart wrenching misery. But no more…right?! Can we dare to hope?
The last time I had been to a Spurs game was April 21st, 2007 – the day before I moved to NY. The game was a league match against our most hated rival, Arsenal, and had ended in a draw after a last minute equaliser for Tottenham. Thanks to a pre-season tour to the US, I was able to go and see Spurs in action again tonight, this time against NY Red Bulls and their new player, our old foe Thierry Henry. His association with Arsenal will never be forgotten for Tottenham fans and so, a game that could have been a routine tune up game, had that little bit more spice to it.
Travelling with my wife to the game, we arrived at the World Trade Center PATH station a good couple of hours before the game and it was somewhat surreal to hear the familiar chants I’d usually hear at Seven Sisters being belted out in downtown Manhattan. At the stadium, our seats were not far from the main section of Spurs fans
and, though there were plenty of Red Bulls fans
around me also, it definitely felt like home territory.
Henry was introduced to inevitable boos, Spurs players fresh for a new season were cheered on heartily as the teams were announced.