What elevates a player to 'legendary' status? Do we have any legends in recent history? Do any of the current squad have what it takes? Tom Float returns to The Fighting Cock to share his views.
Narrative may be the single most dominant factor in the modern game of football. There is nothing in the world of sport that comes to us without some background. We need to know every why, how, when and who of almost everything. It adds a whole new, unstable, dimension to a game that, at its essence, is simple, pure and beautiful. Narrative has even played its part on this article. I have had the majority of this written since before the FA Cup Semi-final match but after seeing such an unfair result poorly reflect our dominant performance didn’t have the heart to finish it feeling the way I did. Then the mature and assured match against Palace sparked in me the energy to flesh it out. Then the evil puppet master, narrative, took over. I know that when you discuss Tottenham Hotspur and the potential we have built the only way to really round off an article is to wait until after the Arsenal game. So I waited, as did this article, and boy was it worth it.
The phrase ‘legend’ is one of the few remaining unspoiled terms of football and is still only awarded to those who truly deserve such a visceral accolade. It is understood by every club that the label has to be earned and cannot stick to those who merely just entertain to a high degree. The legends of the game have given something unique to the sport or their club and have seen their contribution last longer than their career.
Tottenham Hotspur has been as valuable a contributor of legends as any club in world football and even fans of other teams will struggle to deny this. We have given the game so many names that to list a few is insulting to any that are left out but we can all name at least five straight off the bat, regardless of whether we, as fans, were around at the time or not. We have had some glorious teams and some seriously wonderful individuals throughout our history and their achievements are still the standards that we match our current crop against to this very day.
The phrase ‘legend’ is one of the few remaining unspoiled terms of football
Over the year I have noticed how often I have screeched at the screen ‘YES KANE YOU LEGEND’, or, ‘what a pass Eriksen you legend.’ I have no doubt I am not alone in shouting these kinds of sentiments. But I have to wonder, what is it exactly that defines a legend?
My time as a Lily-white only began in earnest in 2003 when a brand new season ticket was placed into my hand by my dad and a career of long car journeys to White Hart Lane began. As time has passed we have seen many fantastic players work majesty on the pitch but only one has ever been spoken about as a ‘legend’; Ledley King.
Hundreds of players have donned the white of Tottenham since King played his first game but in that time only he has elevated into a club that has recently seen very few worthy applications. Keane got close but his claim of supporting multiple clubs as a boy saw his loyalty factor dip somewhat dramatically. That second stint just didn’t quite feel the same after his failure at Liverpool. Van der Vaart was also a man much loved by the Spurs faithful and remains so even now. Unfortunately, two years is not long enough to establish that connection that goes anywhere near deep enough that we all have for The King. Waves of others; Michael Dawson, Paul Robinson & Gareth Bale all gave something to Spurs that was received with gratitude and admiration but still, all have fallen short.
So what will it take to get any of our boys now, to become the next legend of Tottenham? King might just be the model in which to answer this question.
First of all, King lifted a trophy. It may have only been once and it may have only been the League Cup but watching him lift silverware was a magical moment. He had led a Spurs team to the top of a pile and that lives in the memory.
King was also a genius football player. He only needed an hours session in the pool every day to prepare himself for solid performances week in, week out. Ledley was simply brilliant at football and in theory, this should be the hardest hurdle to leap when a player heads towards to the label of legend.
Thirdly, he displayed an ethos that every fan respected. He was a no-nonsense player that tried his very hardest regardless of the score. He would make the same gut-busting run to track a striker at 3-0 down as he would at 3-0 up. You also knew that he would always catch that striker and would dispossess him cleanly, retaining possession and begin moving back towards the opponents’ goal.
Lastly, and most crucially, he loved our club. Little else needs to be said about this final aspect of how Ledley King became a legend at Spurs. He played every game for the badge and despite spending countless days injured, still got across his passion for Tottenham. Upon his retirement, he immediately became an ambassador. It helps that he came from our academy and never played for another club, even on loan!
These are four key factors to becoming a legend. How many can be applied to our squad right now? Surprisingly, not many. But there is so much potential.
It is understood by every club that the label has to be earned and cannot stick to those who merely just entertain to a high degree.
Not a single one our current squad has won anything at Spurs but this cannot be taken too heavily. Since our 2008 league cup triumph, we have been a club in major transition only having finally found a concrete identity under Poch over the last three years. Silverware is coming, so long as we stick together as a squad.
Now, ‘genius’, is a word that can be attached to many of our players. Kane, Eriksen, Alli, Alderweireld, Lloris, Dembele all have touches of something magical. Other players have traces of fantastic ability but these six players are where our wicked pace and ingenuity are birthed.
In terms of ethos and desire, there is certainly an argument to be had that potentially every single one of our starting eleven possess an attitude that we as fans adore. Fostered under a manager who himself has boundless legendary potential, the players show so much passion for each other and so crucially, the badge. Tottenham has become a juggernaut of English Football on the pitch and off of it we see a tightly packed bunch of professionals who are all desperate to prove that they can succeed. They can laugh and joke about and allow us to see their lighter side and that’s wonderful but what they show us every single time is unity, and as fans, we thrive seeing this.
Finally, we come to love for the club. Something that is unquestionably the easiest thing for us as fans. There is nothing other than Tottenham. It holds our deepest affections and it is second nature to assume anyone else who is associated with the club feels the same way. Unfortunately, this is just simply not the case, especially to players. Football is first and foremost a job to those that play it and our boys are no different. So narrative once more turns its ugly head. Modern players of the game cannot simply just focus on football the way they used to. Even players of King’s generation navigated infinitely less distraction. Players need to be so media-savvy that they can only give so much of their personality to the cameras and reporters. Loving a club is harder these days because every day, players are being linked to bigger clubs or being accused of some insecurities with their current employers. Loyalty to one club is becoming so rare that even players like John Terry are being remembered with a feeling that is sickeningly close to fondness. The stories and narratives that are created by faceless, malevolent and passionless writers contribute to the destruction of the chance for players to grow a sense of true belonging.
The players show so much passion for each other and so crucially, the badge.
However, let’s dare to dream, shall we? The North London Derby proved something to the football world; Tottenham Hotspur is once more ascending to the top and we are rocketing. We packed up our rivals and sent them home with their tail between their legs and those players loved it as much as we did. They are the first team in over two decades to put an end to the curse and that places them in the very fabric of our history. They are on their way to becoming something more than just a great team. They are currently playing for one of the most exciting clubs in Europe right now and so are at the forefront of narrative. To become legends, yes, they do have win trophies with us and they do have to prove to us that they love the club. They do have to emulate the same qualities that Ledley King once showed but they also have to do something that even The King never had to contend with; they have to fight narrative. They have to fight against unrealistic expectations, aggressive punditry and pathetic rumour mill rubbish churched from the pits of the internet. They have to come to a realisation that Tottenham is a place where magic can happen and that if they want it enough, they will become memorable. They will become legends.