Chelsea 4 Spurs 2
22nd April 2017
Another day, Dier’s header goes in. Another day and Matic’s shot balloons into the stands. Another day even Kane’s last-minute free-kick squirms over the line.
But it was not to be. One of the things I have committed to with this blog is to write up post-defeat as well as post-victory. The latter’s easy with the golden glow of success in your fingers. It’s much harder to type up the bitter taste of defeat.
Chelsea won. Fair and square. But I took three things away from the 90 minutes. Firstly, these really are the two best teams in the PL. Sure, Liverpool, Man City and even United have their moments but Chelsea and Spurs are better, more consistently, and that’s why one of them will win the League this season. Yet what struck me more than at White Hart Lane in January, is that Spurs now really are (just) better than Chelsea. It’s just that Chelsea are still better than us at winning tight games like this one.
Two individual errors (Lloris, Son), a team error (bad marking at Chelsea’s first corner of the match) and a one-in-a-hundred strike did for us, despite dominating Chelsea for long periods and scoring two fine goals of our own. Pochettino will probably reflect that Conte won their battle of chess. Conte also has strength in depth that Spurs’ bench cannot match.
The second thing I took away was the realisation that the BBC’s coverage is vastly inferior to Sky. If I could have ‘reached for the Sky’ remote I would have done. I began watching football in black & white when MOTD first came on air. I grew up glued to World Cups on the Beeb. I’ve always seen our national broadcaster as a pinnacle. But yesterday, I realised that Sky really does offer the true football fan something much superior.
Of course, I understand that the BBC may see its role at a Cup Semi-Final as more rounded than just showing the actual sport. It’s a drama after all. But the number of times the live action was lost to a replay, or to a shot of the fans, of a plane in the sky, or an aerial shot from above was unforgiveable. The paucity of insight from the BBC panel compared with Sky’s Neville, or even Carragher, was striking. And when a TV programme tries to whip up conflict on the panel (Shearer v Jenas) like it was the X-Factor, you know they’ve given up on trying to give us something useful.
How the media loves a narrative. I don’t believe that the press as a whole have it in for Spurs any more than the other top clubs. That’s a paranoia that a ‘certain type of fan’ has, regardless of whichever club he / she supports. But what is undoubtedly true is that it’s easier for almost every journalist, commentator, writer or broadcaster to spout the consensus storyline that’s widely accepted. It requires less thought, less research, less insight and less skill. And the accepted plot is that (i) this Spurs team are serial bottlers. (ii) they must win something this season and they won’t. Hence (iii) their best players will be sold in the summer and they’ll settle back in their rightful place at about 6th or 7th in the PL. As I wrote in my previous posting, Spurs are being ‘set up’ (and no, I don’t suffer from paranoia!). It’s simply how the media works. And if, by some miracle, Spurs win the PL, that’s a fairytale storyline too! So easy journalism wins both ways.
The third thing that I took away is that football isn’t a matter of life and death, despite that famous quote (below) of Bill Shankly’s. What happened to Ugo Ehiogu was a tragedy. It’s tragic for his family and friends. But it is heartbreaking for Spurs too. Ugo seems to have been a man cut from the same rock as Pochettino.
Since starting at our academy in 2012, and especially since being appointed Coach of our under-21/23 team in July 2014, it’s very evident Ugo quickly became much more than just a football coach to our young players. He was a life mentor and father figure too.
Harry Kane called Ugo ‘an inspiration to the younger players’; Ryan Mason said he ‘was a huge influence on the young lads’ and Josh Onomah spoke of ‘a father figure as well as a coach’. Kyle Walker-Peters thanked Ugo for everything he’d taught them both ‘on and off the pitch’.
That we should have lost the chance for Poch and Ugo together to continue to mould young Spurs lads as men, and not only as players, is immensely sad. Professional football is much more than just a game. It’s a huge global industry responsible for livelihoods, opportunities and entertainment. But sometimes the world needs reminding that the people working within it are all just individuals; courageous but fragile human beings. Their lives are more important than the result of a single football match.
Of all the tweets about him by ex-players and others, it is Ugo’s own last tweet that caught the public imagination. Sent a few weeks ago Ugo said:
‘gave a homeless girl £10 last night. She didn’t ask or beg. Random impulsive act from me. Not gona lie. Felt good. #dosomethingkind.’
I think that’s a fine obituary.
* “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.”
(attributed to Bill Shankly, Liverpool Manager, 1959-74)
Spurs 4 Bournemouth 0