I’ve decided to cobble together a list, in no particular order, of the ten most defining Spurs matches of the past decade for me personally. Not all of them matter because of the matches themselves – sometimes there’s a sort of symbolism which they represent.
I started writing this piece completely unsure who it was aimed at or even if it should be disseminated at all; I saw it maybe as a good tool for refreshing my memory and indulging in some nostalgia and nothing more. The more I got into it, the more I wanted to share my story.
A lot is said about how the teenage phase constitutes one’s formative years but I have to disagree. I think that ‘young adulthood’, loosely defined, is the period when you explore the world at our own pace, form your own interests, develop and flounder. And for me it’s the 2010s when this process took root.
In 2010 I turned 17, finished school as I had been longing to do and with a university place under my belt embarked on a gap year that would change my life. I look back through living in three countries, two degrees, many more jobs and a whole lot of often changing social circles and see the one constant: Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
Spurs have come a long old way in those ten years. We began the decade with Harry Redknapp in charge and while his faux-plebeian demeanour seems laughably amateurish compared to the slick Champions League regulars we now see at the Yet-To-Be-Branded Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, what was really remarkable was that he genuinely felt like the best we could ever have; a less-than-elite but likeable and not untalented manager, gelling together the boys from the band plus once-in-a-generation star quality (Bale, Modric, Rafa van der Vaart) with snappy motivational soundbites.
Now, ushering us into the final month of 2019 is José Mourinho. Let that sink in. The most tenacious scourge of the era when ‘Three Points Lane’ was still a thing, a proven winner, ultra-competitive sleazebag, and we don’t know what to do with it all because he’s the furthest thing from Spursy you could possibly imagine. I hope his attitude can rub off on the club but more likely the club will rub off on him.
Throughout the 2010s I’ve watched Spurs in an incomparable diversity of locations. Compared to the early teenage years when the experience of watching games was basically generic (on TV at home, occasionally with my dad on hand to wield irritating wisecracks at Spurs’ expense, or for a change on TV at a mate’s house, with the sole exception of being on holiday when in an age before ubiquitous internet I would eagerly hunt the following day’s English-language newspaper).
I’ve subsequently spent matchdays in stadiums, bars and living rooms, dingy student digs and Israeli bookmakers’ kiosks, army bases, fan clubs and on long bus journeys desperately refreshing the ailing stream on my phone. I’ll never miss games unless I’m literally on a flight or have some other irrevocable commitment. And because I don’t miss games, Spurs accompany me at every step along life’s journey.
That also means that my Spurs journey has been accompanied by the soundtrack of defining personal and social events. Elections, revolutions, girlfriends and weddings, parties and bar mitzvahs, exams and job interviews. I don’t make it to London so much these days, which means that my itinerary for my sporadic visits is based around the Spurs game: where I’m going to watch it, who with and what I won’t regret missing out on because of it.
That’s the background over. I’ve decided to cobble together a list, in no particular order, of the ten most defining Spurs matches of the past decade for me personally. Not all of them matter because of the matches themselves – sometimes there’s a sort of symbolism which they represent.
Here we go.
Man City 6-0 Spurs
A Cold Winter, 2012
Of the many abject thrashings we received that season this was the most pathetic. An away day in Manchester, having stayed the night before the match with my friend Jonathan who was at uni there, which meant that I arrived still drunk and freezing from his central heating deficient student house. The utter humiliation was a reminder of the fragility of the Villas Boas and Sherwood eras, and the gulf in class which had emerged since we first battled City to pip them to the nouveau riche crown. Jesus Navas scored before anyone had even started watching, while the only Spurs player I remember being on the pitch was Younes Kaboul – which can never be a good thing.
Spurs 5-3 Chelsea
New Year’s Day, 2015
The rest of the world remembers this game as Harry Kane declaring himself a top, top, top player with a brilliant brace. I remember it as utter delirium, and it’s probably the only entrant on this list for which I don’t need to specially look up the date. It was the night after the Last Night of Limmud, which was also New Year’s Eve, which means little sleep, much alcohol and even more hormones. It’s unclear how I survived driving back to London, still the more with three precious brains and bodies in the car, with the result that by the time I reached the Lane I was in complete zombie mode. It took a couple of days before I really internalised that the game wasn’t a dream.
Spurs 1-0 Man City
9 April 2019
The night when old orders were toppled, even if we couldn’t say so for sure at the time. At precisely 22:00 Israeli time I was glued to Channel 13’s exit poll, Gantz and Netanyahu, neck and neck. By 22:02, when the anchors had finally worked their way down the list to reach the Meretz vote, over to the sports channels for the first ever Champions League game at the new stadium, and a surprise win powered by Son Heung-Min. Both the elections and the quarter-final required a second leg, although while our win was secured a couple of weeks later the Israeli political system has so far taken eight months and counting. If only the Knesset could use VAR.
Ajax 2-3 Spurs
Yom Ha’Atzmaut 2019
After losing the first leg 1-0 it felt as though the dream was over and we’d trodden out limply in the wake of the cascading Ajax narrative. 60 minutes in and our worst nightmares became reality, we’d offered nothing and I’d taken to stabbing aimlessly at some bitter cake that had been offered as a palliative dessert, while wishing they’d just shut up about their Three Little Birds. Then we got one goal back and I’m jumping. Two and I’m outside sliding on my knees in silence. Why silence? By the back end of the decade I’ve reached the age and stage where babies form an integral part of my social life and 1-year-old Amitay is sleeping in the next room and that has to take precedence. When Lucas slides in the winner I’m making every gesture, leap and bodily contortion possible without uttering a decibel. Just as well, because my screams would have woken up the entire apartment block.
Chelsea – Bayern, Chelsea win on penalties
2012 Champions League Final
Only a Spurs fan could make a list of their team’s most memorable matches and include a match in which Spurs weren’t even playing; that’s how far our narrative is influenced by external factors beyond our control. English fans in an English student bar watching English TV of course all wanted pitiful bus-parking underdog Chelsea inspired by Gary Neville’s goalgasm to defeat the team which actually played good football. I was in a corner with another Spurs fan and I think it was the last time I’ve cried. Chelsea, by the way, weren’t the fun-loving crop of youngsters around today but full-on Generation Dickhead. Everyone knew it was unfair and everyone lapped it up anyway.
Spurs 2-1 Woolwich
Woolwich 2-3 Spurs
April and November 2010
Grouped together because they represent both the end of Woolwich’s perennial dominance in NLDs and a sea change in my life. When Danny Rose’s screamer (in fact Almunia’s error) went in I was on a train back to Stoke-on-Trent having just been successfully interviewed for a gap year program, which had already begun when I was rushing out of a seminar to catch our first away win against Woolwich in….my entire life??
It was at a kibbutz in southern Israel where satellite TV was the only way of knowing that the world had changed since the 1980s. Rafa van der Vaart for me personified that victory; an emblem of the new, cool Tottenham; a top-level talent who we hadn’t just fluked our way into signing. Now players like that come all the time and it’s become rather mundane.
Real Madrid 4-0 Tottenham
This was the polar opposite, an affirmation of our non-belonging at the elite level. Jermaine Jenas on the right wing, Peter Crouch (one of the last vestiges of the time when we were more banter than serious contenders) and his senseless sliding tackles, Jose Mourinho and Emmanuel Adebayor. It was also a time when I was trying to prove myself during the Indian summer of my teenage years, and for some reason sought in Spurs’ unexpected Champions League progress an additional source of self-legitimisation. Didn’t work too well, but the Wembley win in 2017 neutered a bit of the psychological damage.
Spurs 2-1 Woolwich
At that stage I worked a lot of weekends and was frequently reduced to following games via unconventional or outdated methods, on this occasion thanks to an old-school table radio. I’ve never had huge exposure to radio commentary because I’d grown up more with iraqgoals.net and suchlike as a means of watching non-televised fixtures, but when Harry Kane’s twin headers powered us into a comeback lead something about the hurried burst of interjections which carry on until you suddenly realise that we’ve scored a goal made for a very special atmosphere.
Also, while writing this I wanted to remind myself of some of the finer details about that game so I found an old Telegraph match report which described Kane as an ‘England hopeful’. Lol.
Spurs – Bolton (match abandoned)
FA Cup, 2012
This gets onto the list as the one moment that really transcends football: the eerie spectacle of 35,000 spectators watching a man battle for his life. It’s such a vivid memory: William Gallas’s shriek which reached the upper tier, Jermain Defoe prostrating himself on the pitch in prayer, and the awful shock compounded by the total media blackout in the immediate aftermath of Fabrice Muamba’s collapse. Apart from repeatedly chanting his name nobody had anything to say. My brother Josh and I joined the silent lines streaming out of the stadium and went for a sorrowful burger.
That’s the lot. If I was going for an XI (rather than 10 matches for 10 years) I’d add the Battle of the Bridge (2-2) with Chelsea to the list but I don’t want to think about that awful imitation of shithousery too much.
Upon rereading I’ve noticed that there is (unsurprisingly) a lot of Jewish content in these lines. The 2010s have also been the years when debate surrounding ‘The Y-Word’ has come to the fore – I doubt it was ever so controversial beforehand. I’d like to think that my 2012-ish Oxford Student op-ed on the matter made a valuable contribution to the public discourse.
In any case, for me the connection between my Jewish identity and my Spurs identity is clear. Both are based on generational traumas, fear of failure and a certain timidness associated with being so close to the hegemonic powers and yet very much not a part of the elite. Inferiority and superiority complexes at the same time. But there’s also a rich tradition, taking pride in your heritage…’and if you know your history, it’s enough to make your heart go…’ is basically a line from the Passover Haggadah. With whatever meaning you choose, the thing I love most is being a Yid.
Team of the decade (3-4-2-1): Lloris; Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Walker, Wanyama, Dembélé, Rose; Eriksen, Dele; Kane.
‘Cos it’s actually a TEAM, not a bunch of individuals randomly thrown together.