A spoon full of Sugar makes the Venables go down
The news of the moment is Liverpool (I'm going to choose to ignore Stratford and Gullivan for the time being). Board shenanigans, Yanks, take-over bids, humiliation on the pitch, continued embarrassment off it. Their dirty laundry aired in public for all to see. It's almost like someone has rummaged through our bins and plucked out from the rubbish our discarded tag as the never-ending media circus and stuck it on the back of the Anfield club.
Once upon a time Liverpool conducted their business with complete discretion. The football did the talking. Not even a whisper from the chairman and owner in terms of bickering or disharmony. All focus was on the pitch. Modern times are now all very public, messy, contradictory and soul-destroying for the upside down flag waving regulars of the Kop. Since the Americans bought in. Hardly surprising.
Brings me onto an article I read online (Daily Express) that had me grabbing the nearest piece of upstanding furniture, to aid in supporting me from falling to the floor, all faint and dramatic and struggling to catch my breath. A cup of tea got me sorted, lost deep in a flashback to the early 90s.
Ah yes, the 1990s. Mostly forgettable for the complete lack of direction and progression - and that was just me bumming around doing very little. Don't even get me started on Tottenham.
It was a good decade in parts. Mostly for discovering Jenna Jameson (in the later part of the era) and dating a girl who looked like Jenna (if you've seen the 'artistic movie' The Kiss - that particular incarnation of Jameson). I also got myself a proper job in the IT industry which was practically in its infant days, back when only the lucky ones had dial-up modems that made connecting to the internet not too dissimilar a task than attempting to load a game on a Spectrum 48k.
There were also many pivotal moments in our clubs history that took place during the decade of Brit Pop. We had some great players and great escapes and a League Cup final win to end it on a high. Personally, looking back, it was mostly about the players we had. We got our pleasure and satisfaction from our side from individuals rather than from the collective.
Christ, we had some fantastic players. Players deserving of fantastic teams. Except we also churned out some pretty pathetic transfer signings and managerial appointments. It really was quite shit. But not all of it. Sort of started well, bit in the middle was crap, and sort of ended well. But we muddled through and being Spurs, we always entertained.
1991 was emotional. Off the pitch, we were at deaths door. Financial meltdown, the reminisce of Irving Scholar coming back to bite a massive chunk out of our backside. Keith got it so right.
I get the feeling nowadays, it's all quite under-stated when looking back. Not sure how many of the younger ones amongst us appreciate how big a mess the club was in. It truly felt at the time that we had to win the FA Cup. They all said it, win it to save yourselves. That's how it played out in my head and in the heads of the shelf-side (my original home at the Lane) mob. Either that or I'm holding onto distant memories of back page headlines from The Sun.
If we wanted a buyer we had to at least offer something in the way of a reason for them to even look in our direction. I'd hate to think that we'd have been left to go under. It was grim and it hardly looked positive.
I was ever-present in our FA Cup run that season. Went to the home league games to collect all the necessary vouchers to apply for a semi-final ticket. By apply, that's stand in a queue that finished at the ticket office on the Park Lane and wrapped itself around the corner all the way down to Northumberland Rd where I stood for hours at the arse end of it. Worth it, of course. The day of the Wembley game against the scum is something I've written about before. They were coasting the league. This was the defensive beast of a machine, the Arsenal, boring beyond belief yet practically unbeatable, against the Tottenham in turmoil.
For them, the double was just two sets of 90 minutes away. For us, lose this, and end of days. Both league games finished 0-0 that season.
The journey to the game however did not reflect the potentiality of depression that could have befallen us that day had things turned out differently. I lived in Walthamstow at the time and made my connecting journey to Wembley and found our lot to be the more vocal of the two sets of fans. The gooners appeared reserved. A good friend of mine who also went to the game (a scummer) said that behind a lot of his pre-match bravado, on the day itself, he had a gut feeling about it going in our favour. The odds staked so high in their favour, it made him nervous, because everyone, well most, couldn't see how we could beat them.
My personal highlight was a gooner telling his mate on the train "If we lose, I'm going to hang myself from a tree on the Seven Sisters road". I think, regardless of colours, we all had the same thought.
It's a NLD, it's going to be intense regardless, but this game was beyond anything I had experienced. Well, I guess since the '87 League Cup semi-final trilogy. Which hurt. Badly. Both needing, wanting to win for completely different reasons. One for glory, the other for survival.
At the Twin Towers we had the privilege of welcoming the Arsenal coach and players. We greeted them with a gentle hand wave and cheeky wink. All very pleasant and gay. They smiled and waved back. Post-game rumours suggested they had already recorded a cup final song only made our waving that much stronger.
Why would anyone other than Chas'n'Dave record a Cup final song when the year ends in one?
As for the game.
What I witnessed that day was comic book fantasy. The very definition of wtf is happening mind-blowing unreality sexed up ripping of shreds football. It was both the most unexpected and greatest opening 10 minutes of any game I had or have witnessed. Quite simply breathtaking.
The urgency, the desire. That free-kick. The sheer cheek of scoring twice. It was shaping up to be a monumental upset. Smith scoring before the end of the second half to give them hope. I can remember thinking how could we possibly hold out. You always knee-jerk to the worst scenario you can think off. It's your subconscious tuning you up for protection from the despair you'll experience if it happens.
Spurs face up to Arsenal in the 1991 Wembley FA Cup semi-final
The second half was equally immense in a different type of way, digging deep and then that counter (Mabbutt, fed it well, Nayim to his left and Samways up ahead, but Lineker uses him by not using him, good try, he scored, and David Seaman will be very disappointed about that it seemed to go through his fingers) and the ecstasy of being 3-1 up. We stopped them, double dream dead, and we breathed life back into our bodies as we marched onwards, and of course, won the cup against Forest in the final.
3-1, we beat the scum 3-1.
Venables, in our eyes, saved the club off the pitch too by bringing in Alan Sugar who had the clout to plug the draining black-hole where our money once sat.
Dream team. Or not.
Fast forward to 1993 and it had all gone sour. El Tel sacked, boardroom struggles, high court dates. It's easy (and yet quite uncomfortable) to look back now and accept that Venables was not exactly in the right. He was fairly left to the right. By some distance. It's not quite the same as the Liverpool situation, but the one parallel is the uproar from the fans in support for what they believed in. Again, not the same thing and arguably its far more black and white for them than it was for us.
I was at the High Court, I'm pretty certain, on most if not all of the days. Standing outside with an assortment of Spurs fans, all varying age groups, all with pretty much nothing else to do when everyone else was at work. All of us some what blinded by the details and simply there to support the footballing man over the business man. Back in those days, we didn't have the safety net of internet message boards. It's was all terrace and pub talk and what the hacks are scribbling. It was spent the only way we could have spent it back then. Standing around singing songs and smashing up Amstrad computers.
In the end Sugar won and his decision to sack the manager was validated by the courts.
We moved on. Tel was no saint and that became apparent later on. Our loyalties completely clouded, not really wanting to accept any level of betrayal. Of course, regardless of the facts, the alleged sub-plots, the suggestion Venables never had the £3M investment he was going to stake in the club and that Sugar then had to cover it when purchasing Spurs…I still never took to our bearded saviour, the one with the cash that saved the club. Even though some argue that it was still Venables who actually got him to do the saving by getting him involved. I can’t think of any other suitors at the time who would have stepped in had Sugar nodded a no and walked away.
From a philosophical perspective, it was always doomed from the start when considering the colourful and differing backgrounds of both Sugar and Venables.
I guess looking back now it was probably the best thing to happen to the club in our recent history because of the structure and balance Sugar instilled at the Lane (be it he cocked up several times in matters of a footballing nature) but he gave us a backbone in terms of how we managed ourselves off the pitch.
And of course selling up to ENIC and a certain Mr Levy has birthed a new chapter which is doing its best to drown out most of the misery from the 1990s. It's taken us this long to get back into the game. A very long and winding road of recovery.
As for Lord S, bless him for his honesty in retrospect relating to Klinsmann and the t-shirt in the bin incident, George Graham and the admittance of one or two other related matters concerning his loudmouth presence and conduct when he was at Spurs in the capacity of chairman.
Liverpool fans, don't despair too much. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Well, unless you're Leeds Utd, but then when you spend a fortune on a fish tank and offer extortionate wages to Seth Johnson, you deserve relegation twice over.
And as for days outside the High Court…hands up if you were there. That might have been me you were standing next to when dancing around the smashed up pieces of a home computer.
You've been reading the third part of Spooky's International Break diary journals.
Part one can be read here.
Part two here.