Sunday, 11 September 2011

Spurs home and away

Spurs came to Coleraine four days too late for me. September 15, 1982. Just a few months after winning the FA Cup (for the second time in a row) the team I'd supported since the early seventies arrived in my home town. Unfortunately I'd left for Scotland and university on September 11. (On this day of anniveraries I've just realised that it's 29 years today since I left home - the  beginning of the cutting of my ties with Northern Ireland.)
So I was in another country when the tie, a European Cup-Winners' Cup game (first round, first leg) kicked off at the Coleraine Showgrounds at 4pm (due to a lack of floodlights I guess). Maybe I saw the highlights presented by Harry Carpenter on Sportsnight that Wednesday evening, although if I'm honest I can't remember now. I've just watched the goals again online. Spurs won the game 3-0. Steve Archibald got one, Garth Crooks two. Some 12,000 filled the Showgrounds that afternoon (quite a few shifts must have finished early that day).

Although I still look for Coleraine's results I was and am first and foremost a Spurs fan. It was my Uncle Tommy's fault. Him and one of my best mates John Millar. Both were Spurs fans and eventually peer pressure and the fact that I always looked up to my uncle meant I switched allegiances from Wolves (who I'd supported because Northern Ireland's Derek Dougan played in gold and black) to Spurs some time in the early seventies - the days of Chivers and Peters, Gilzean, Cyril Knowles, a Welshman called England and Pat Jennings of course.
But really it was the Spurs of the early eighties that were my team. Villa and Ardilles, Tony Galvin on the wing and Glenn Hoddle, who's still, if you pushed me, my favourite footballer. Even now, in these post Eileen Drury days the shine is still just about there for me.

I'd even got to see him in the flesh just over a year before. August 8, 1981 at the Oval in Belfast. A friendly against Glentoran. Another uncle, my uncle Bob, who'd grown up in that part of Belfast, took me up and left me at the ground with my ticket for the pre-season friendly.  This was the team that had had me jumping round the living room a couple of months before during that memorable FA Cup final replay with Man City. There was no mazy Ricky Villa winner in Belfast though. The game ended a 3-3 draw which at the time felt hugely frustrating, though if I'm honest the real memory of that day was not the football but driving past an abandoned car in the middle of the road in Belfast, its body already consumed in flame - for me a rare first-hand sighting of the Troubles.

Thinking back now I wonder if my Uncle Tommy would have accompanied me to that game if he'd had the chance. I'd like to think so. He'd drowned in the River Bann a few years before. Growing up he encouraged my interest in pop music and American comic books but his real legacy is the football team I support. He gave me Tottenham. There may have been some days when I wouldn't thank him for that. But not many.
Spurs won the second leg 4-0 by the way, but Aberdeen won the Cup that year. Fergie was in charge. Nothing changes.

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