Not a good day of sport yesterday. Team Oog was hammered 7-0. Andy Murray was not the only shouty sweary Scot on the receiving end of a thrashing.
In Fulham, of all places. Newcastle was my culture debased. This is a different culture altogether. If you thought women urinating in the street was bad, try SW6. A land ruled by the Hackett no. 1 hockey top and by rugby. Alien territory.
Actually I lived here once. My first home in London, eleven years ago. Waldemar Avenue, the only place where I’ve been inconvenienced by football crowds rather than being the inconveniencer. And as football crowds go, the Cottagers (bless) are a lovely bunch to be inconvenienced by. Very polite and very very quiet. You could hear when they had scored a goal from my kitchen, but it wasn’t loud and it didn’t sound much louder in the stadium yesterday. I remember going to Fulham v Arsenal once and being disgusted, not only by Arsenal, but by not hearing a single song from the home fans across the entire 90 minutes. So yes – they have a very pretty little ground next to the Thames, and I appreciate that it’s only a 10 minute bus journey and three tube stops from my home, but I do not have a soft spot for Fulham FC. Enough edge is already lost in this premiership era without letting rugby fans and medium-sized-company directors have their own football stadium. It’s all West Stand no Park Lane.
Of course, that matters not one spiffing jot when you are in the away end and Tottenham Hotspur are in town. In fact I went a bit native and decided on a very pleasant meal in Putney with a couple of bottles of New Zealand white as pre-match preparation, joined by lady Oog and our friends Caro and Roger. It was Yid initiation day. Roger’s first game of football in England, so once we had left the ladies lunching we bought a sneaky bottle of beer each and joined the throng thronging throngily over Putney Bridge.
The last time I took an Australian mate to his first game was the infamous Man Utd debacle where we threw away a three goal lead and lost 5-3. So blame me. Yesterday will, thankfully, prove more forgetful. This was a less dramatic catastrophe, but a catastrophe all the same.
‘Luckily’ we were at the right end to get a close-up view of all the key incidents. I’ve got no complaints about either of the penalties. I had an absolutely clear view of Hutton’s challenge and it was soft but illegal. Dawson was at fault there, with a hospital pass that put Hutton in trouble, and although in real time I couldn’t see what the second penalty (let alone the sending off) was for, it’s good for the game that shirt tugging be penalised. A straight red was ludicrous though. This wasn’t a last ditch tackle when the man was already beaten. They were side by side and Dawson did what every defender does. It’s doesn’t make it a red – if he hadn’t done it he’d have still got a block in. I expect to see a lot more dismissals if this is the new sentencing guideline. It didn’t really matter yesterday – we were playing awfully and at 2 down and with Fulham rampant this was never going to be our day. But it matters going forward. Dawson had a stinker, but it’s a one off and he will be missed in the next three games. He’ll probably just be happy Gomes can’t throw the ball to him for a while – our loveable comedy keeper’s distribution was at its wayward worst yesterday.
After the first two goals (penalties look soooo easy when you are standing behind the goal) it was damage limitation. Or rather, it wasn’t. Fulham are no Inter Milan, but there was no Bale either. At least we stemmed the flow in the second half, looking quite comfortable as a tacit truce took hold until they went looking for a goal again in the final few minutes. Jolly bad sports.
So the year ends in one and unless we have the most memorable season in our history we will end it trophyless. The FA cup is never a distraction to me, but at least we can upgrade the cliché and focus on the Champions League. A horrible day at the office but I’m going to wait until after a tough away game on Wednesday before declaring this little spell as even a mini-crisis. We know our teams weaknesses – at one point in the second half Crouch ducked out of a simple six yard header to try and bring it down, side step and smash home – but we know our strengths too. This team can turn it around and whilst I fear fifth is the best we can get, that was my fear last year too. A £40m bid for Aguero is being reported as I write. That has the whiff of a PR stunt, and will never happen, but maybe by the end of today we will have something new and shiny to look forward to.
And I can’t be too down about yesterday. I love it when a Yid initiation goes well. Four nil down, seventy minutes in, Roger starts joining in with a yid army chant. I look at him, seriously. “That’s it. You’ve said it. You can’t go back. You’re a Tottenham fan now”. He nodded. He gets it. In fact, he even got it enough to spot, unprompted, Modric as quality. Yiddo [points at Roger]. Yiddo [points at Roger]. Yiddo [points at Roger].
This is probably the best way to be introduced to Tottenham. We used to get tonked four nil away all the time. And yet the fans keep singing. Yesterday all Spurs fans, old and new, were reminded of what it is to follow this glorious, ridiculous team. Keep the faith.