Jack Smith makes his debut on The Fighting Cock by reminiscing about the season he broke his Spursy cherry with Helder Positga.
My first Spursy
It’s the summer of 2003, and in a bid to better the previous season’s mediocre 10th place Premier League finish, part-time synth-pop star and Tottenham’s Sh*t My Dad Says manager Glenn Hoddle is bringing-in fresh faces to rejuvenate an ageing squad.
Teddy Sheringham has been released and the darling of the White Hart Lane faithful joins Premiership newcomers Portsmouth on a free transfer. With Les Ferdinand already gone in January and Stefan Iversen joining fellow promoted side Wolves, Hoddle spends £3.5million on West Ham’s Fredi Kanoute, £1.5million on Brighton’s Bobby Zamora, and £6.5million on young Porto striker Helder Postiga to partner Robbie Keane for the forthcoming season.
Postiga comes with a good reputation, scoring 22 goals in 58 appearances, including five on their way to UEFA Cup success just weeks previously. It looked to be a shrewd investment by the club, as at only 21, Postiga seemed to possess all the attributes to become a new hero of the Lane.
Postiga is twice put through on goal, and on both occasions, fluffs his lines and the lead remains slender. Woolwich win 2-1
The season begins with a dismal 1-0 defeat away at Birmingham City and Spurs look to earn their first win of the season at home against Leeds United. Postiga was on exciting form – becoming one of ‘those’ players who makes one lean forward when they are in possession of the ball. Unlucky with a few chances missing the target, it looked as if once he found the net, he would be unable to stop.
Skipping forward to November, Hoddle has been sacked, David Pleat is in caretaker charge for the 87th time (a conservative estimate) and Postiga has found the goal as elusive as a dragon to a chasing crackhead whereas Kanoute has bagged six and has become the club’s leading goalscorer and new favourite of the fans.
On the 8th of the month, we make the short trip to Highbury for the North London Derby, and against the likes of Henry, Berkgamp, Vieira, Pires and Ljungberg, Spurs grab the lead in the fifth minute through Darren Anderton. It’s not a lead that Spurs look to sit on, and continue to press for a second. Postiga is twice put through on goal, and on both occasions, fluffs his lines and the lead remains slender. Woolwich win 2-1.
With two goals to show for a high transfer fee, it looked as if Postiga’s move to England might alienate him from his countrymen, but apparently not, as he his selected for Portugal’s Euro 2004 squad
On December 3rd, Postiga finally bags his first goal for the club, with a smart strike against Manchester City in a League Cup tie which we win 3-1. His relief is palpable as he removes his stretchy Kappa lilywhite jersey off his back like a man possessed (or at least like a man with an aversion to lycra) and proceeds to hurl it into the crowd of fans who are hoping that this is the moment the young Portuguese begins a goalscoring run.
Sadly, we are forced to wait six more weeks until he scores again, this time his first in the league against Liverpool at the Lane, with a superb finish after a through-ball from Johnnie Jackson (no, I scarcely remember him either).
At the end of a dismal season, Spurs finish in 14th place, and are only saved from relegation with the continued form of Kanoute, and goals from Keane and January signing Jermain Defoe, part of a deal that took the equally-abysmal Zamora to a club more his level – West Ham. Conversely, the 38-year-old Sheringham scored 10 goals that season, helping Portsmouth finish above Spurs on goal difference. With two goals to show for a high transfer fee, it looked as if Postiga’s move to England might alienate him from his countrymen, but apparently not, as he his selected for Portugal’s Euro 2004 squad.
Postiga doesn’t play a single moment of Portugal’s three group games, from which they qualify, and which they are rewarded with a quarter-final against England in Lisbon. Despite losing Wayne Rooney through injury, England are leading through an early Michael Owen goal with just fifteen minutes left, when, Portugal manager Luiz Felipe Scolari makes a calculating throw of the dice. He sends on Postiga for captain and renowned hero, Luis Figo, and if I remember rightly, much to the bemusement of John Motson, and most likely his team-mates, the England players, anyone who had watched him play all season, and Figo as well.
Scolari sends on Postiga for captain and renowned hero, Luis Figo much to the bemusement of John Motson, and most likely his team-mates, the England players, anyone who had watched him play all season, and Figo as well.
Eight minutes later, with England holding onto their slender lead, a cross from the left is met by an unmarked Portuguese forward and expertly headed past David James to give the hosts their equaliser, but for some reason, Postiga is the one wheeling away in celebration. After a disbelieving few seconds, every Tottenham fan realises what has happened – the man who could not find the goal with a map and compass even against the more modest of Premier League defences, finds it with seven minutes of a European Championship quarter-finals against an England back-four that at the time had ten league title medals between them.
Then in the penalty shoot-out, with the score delicately poised at 4-4, Postiga strides forward and delicately chips the ball down the centre like a seasoned veteran, helping Portugal to go on to win the shoot-out, further rubbing salt and an unholy portion of Tabasco into the wound. Just over a fortnight later, Postiga is sold back to Porto in exchange for Pedro Mendes.
At age 11, it was an early lesson in the sort of disappointment only a Spurs fan can understand and suffer. It was approximately seven or eight years before the term was coined, but it certainly was the first event in my Tottenham Hotspur fandom that truly was ‘Spursy’.
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