When it’s time, know when to let go with a smile and slip away peacefully. The final home game of the season took place in hot sunshine but couldn’t work up a head of steam and certainly didn’t fire up the fans.
Even relegation-threatened Hull did not display the expected passion. In the end they succumbed meekly to two fine Spurs goals completely out of keeping with the leaden mediocrity of the rest of our performance. 2014-15’s time had come, and judging by the way the team have faded since the League Cup Final, it’s unlikely to be lamented.
Spurs trotted out resplendent in their new shirts, now on sale at the club shop. I haven’t bought a team shirt since promotion in the Admiral top with a collar and nasty cheap knitted polyester, but think I am right in saying that in recent years it’s not been available until early September and several games into the season. However it does mean that to keep up, fans have had to buy two different designs in one season.
Oozing PR blather like pus seeping from a blackhead, designers Under Armour say it’s part of our heritage, inspired as it is by the six lines below the cockerel on the emblem atop the West Stand. The six lines that are ENGRAVED ON THE HEART OF EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US. I think it’s hideous and inspired by a tin of Tesco Value Baked Beans but then I’m old and see Spurs in white shirts and navy blue shorts, nothing else. I don’t even know the squad numbers off the top of my head. In some ways I’d prefer if they just came out and said, “Look, we’re trying to flog as much schmutter as we can and what can you do with a farkuckter white shirt?” At least that’s honest. Leave the heritage stuff o when it matters.
Everyone’s ready for the beach. Even the ‘lap of appreciation’ was over in a trice and we strolled back to join the ‘queue of frustration’ at White Hart Lane station. The players nipped out, followed by excited kids holding a banner saying, “So long suckers, thanks for the cash.” Most people had left by then already. Except three Hull fans. Why do three away fans always stay behind for our lap of honour?
Every year I’m cynical about it, and every year I stay so the only sucker is me. It’s part of my end of season ritual. Endings have to be done properly and so I wait until the very last player has disappeared down the tunnel before taking a last look round the old ground and turning for home. Glad this season is done but wondering how I’ll spend the summer without it.
As the stewards came out near the final whistle as they do for every game, I chuckled that they were ready for the pitch invasion. Looking towards the Park Lane, the numbers of high-vis jackets meant it looked as if they really were. More like the brightness would wake a few people up. I can confirm there was no hysterical emotional surge towards the front as the players trooped round. I know it doesn’t matter in the slightest but they could make a bit more effort. Half of them chatted amongst themselves paying little notice to the stands. They used to kick a few footballs into the crowd and give out some tut from the shop, corny but why not. Adebayor posed for selfies last year (absent this by the way as was the club captain and the manager), again it’s corny but it’s some rare and precious interaction between fans and players.
Only Hugo at the head of the column and Kane proudly bringing up the rear really tried. Harry didn’t want to get off the pitch in a season that he will never forget. He will stay but this could have been Lloris’s last lap. I can’t see him starting next season, not even because he’s inspired by the new goalkeeping jersey. A sad loss but glad I could bid him farewell.
We bade farewell to another Spurs keeper, Brad Friedel. Spurs gave him a new lease of life as his career looked to be on the slide. Not only grateful for the chance, he fully repaid us with much-needed reassurance at the back. The respect and influence he engendered behind the scenes was shown in the way the substitutes joined in the applause at the beginning and end of his half-time interview.
Through these soft-focus, misty lenses of my specs, more nostalgia. Or maybe they just needed a clean. Michael Dawson received a standing ovation from all four stands on the final whistle in appreciation both of what he gave us and what we have lost. I know what he could and could not do. I don’t see that what we bought was a significant upgrade and we could have sorely done with his spirit and heart.
Ah yes, there was a match. Spurs’ early intent was not matched by cohesive football. Several moves ended prematurely. At the back we looked unsteady but Hull like many opponents this term missed the chances that came their way. As the game went on, Hull appeared to be stiff with nerves and never showed the urgency I was expecting.
Into the second half, much of the same. Chadli and Lamela were reasonable in roving roles. It suits them, but other teams much better than Hull have exploited the gaps they left behind. Yesterday they combined to produce a fine goal. Lamela’s rabona brings me less joy than his ability to slide in a diagonal pass from 25 yards out. We’ve seen it several times this season. Here, it took out the whole defence and Chadli’s clever run took him past the keeper and he rolled it in.
That was my favourite but Rose followed close behind. He and Mason both had decent games. Their turn to combine, Mason chipping over the back four to Rose whose slightly mishit volley sailed in. Runs and through-balls that found the runners. Take note.
End of season and time for big changes. More about this over the next couple of weeks in the usual summaries of the season, but the essence is: these players are not good enough. Tactics, motivation, manager: all relevent but Pochettino has spent the last nine months discovering how thin this squad is, both in terms of talent and how their skills fit the way he wants to play. The optimistic post-League Cup Final articles saying we had the spine of a team in our youngsters were sweet but wrong. I like Mason, Kane, Dier and Bentaleb, Rose has come on leaps and bounds, but at a conservative estimate we need two centre-halves, one DM, wide midfielders who can defend as well as attack and two strikers to join these young men and create a strong squad with options. And that assumes Lloris, Eriksen and Vertonghen stay. But let’s worry about that another time.