The Biggest Game in our History™...ever.
Champions League edition
Having missed the first leg when it was shown live, and then having to sit through the full coverage knowing the gory details of our Keystone indiscretion, well…it was far from being anywhere near an enjoyable 90 minutes. I sat uncomfortably, shifting around unable to stop myself from endless disapproving nodding of the head, gasping, tirades of swearing interspersed with the word 'unbelievable'. There was more face palming than Jean Luc Picard would do on a day that would have the Borg attack Federation outposts whilst Data experienced an identity crisis and the holo-decks malfunctioned. Again.
The opening 30 minutes were very much akin to the French film Irréversible, directed by Gaspar Noé. You know the one. Some of the most uneasy viewing you could possibly ever imagine having to endure. A tormenting battering and brutal penetration leaving a dejected body, physically and mentally destroyed on the ground. And that was just the football and Michael Dawson. Don't even get me started on the film and that scene in the underpass.
But unlike Monica Bellucci's character, we are not left for dead beyond recognition (can this blog post get any more bad taste? Yes it can, hold tight). We have been embarrassed, almost humiliated. It could have been far worse, but it wasn't, and 3-2 may as well be 1-0 to them, except it isn't because we have two away goals, so the advantage is with us. It has to be with us. How could we possibly not score at the Lane? Unless we get served up a lasagne the night before, hand delivered from the Marriott Hotel by David Dein. There is simply no excuse for anything less than a convincing victory and safe passage through to the gold-paved roads of the group stages.
Perhaps in the first game we underestimated the task ahead. I know many of us did when we heard the draw. It was the best draw we could have hoped for, but not anywhere near as easy as it looked on paper. But then, that's naivety on our part. I mean, it’s a team from Switzerland, no? How could they handle a 100mph EPL club? Handle them well they did. Artificial pitch? Yes it did have a slight influence on the game, the way the ball zinged and pinged around and the way our players failed to take to it. Wasn't so much a subconscious lapse because you could visibly see them panic and freeze. Our defenders slowed down to a snails pace whilst YB cut through us like a hot axe through a cockerel made entirely of butter. I guess we were unprepared, which is scandalous considering what's at stake, but it's happened and can never be changed, so redemption is with making sure it doesn't happen again.
The more you look back the more disparaged you will feel about our initial inability to cope with the occasion. It was a choke. A combination of Harry's heimlich manoeuvre, a couple of wasteful finishes by the hosts and Pav's scorcher saving the day.
And so onwards we go into the do or die game at the Lane. Lessons learnt. The biggest game in our history, ever. Failure would mean a distinct lack of DVD releases. No 'Barcelona 0 Spurs 1' diamond encrusted club shop exclusive. No special edition Opus with it's extra glossy CL chapter with players bum-slapping each other in the changing rooms whilst Bentley and JJ dunk Harry in the bath. No doubt, over in East London, the streets will be packed with people eating and drinking like it was the Coronation all over again, another glorious chapter in their history written, statues built etc etc. Sky Sports News would probably petition to have the day extended from twenty-four hours to forty-eight so they can enjoy running the same headline long into the night.
Screw all this.
COYS. To dare is to do stuff. Positive stuff. It's no exaggeration to say that simply being there, in the groups, will be monumental in terms of stature. Sure, it might turn out to be a seasons worth of adventures, but it's one I want to experience. To push on, the players need to want it just as much. No sympathetic apologetic dejection thank you very much. Leave all that boxed up sitting next to the Ark of the Covenant in some warehouse somewhere.
But this Spurs side doesn't dwell in the past. Harry has instilled an ethic that does not disappoint when our backs are up against it.
Let's get the potential injuries out the way first. Modric, dos Santos, Pav, Keane - all apparently no-go's. King should return and apparently so will Defoe. I have a feeling (I hope) the injury plight is not half as bad as it looks, Harry mind games, with our players rested rather than risked away to Stoke.
There's also question marks surrounding our lack of goals from forwards. But the season is but two games old. And even if we do have one or two key players missing, we have enough quality, on grass, at home, to do to the Young Boys what they did to us.
They are smart, they might consider defending in numbers and counter-attacking. Frustrate us much like one or two managed last season. But do they have the class and belief to handle life outside of their plastic fantastic? The longer the game goes on with no goal then the more it will play on our minds, on the pitch and in the stands. This won't be easy. But then again the sheer noise the home faithful will make on the return of a glory glory night at the Lane, I can't think of anything better to settle the nerves of the players. YB have travelled to Turkey and won, so they won't be scared of the hallelujahs and drumming.
This is what it's all about. These types of pressures, expectations. Get use to it. The players should be loving the adrenalin rush. There's no hiding place. There is, but it's not an option. You either want it and go out and get it or you simply disappear into a dark corner and shake uncontrollably till you pass out. Everyone who isn't Lilywhite will want us to lose, more than ever. Embrace the hate. It means we're doing something right.
Early goal. An early goal will be perfect. I don't actually think they'll going to sit back, so I can't imagine them defending for 90 minutes. I reckon they will try to seek out an away goal positively knowing that if they succeed the game will open up for them because the pressure will be on us to try and claw something back. Which will leave them to be even more adventurous. If they do defend, then patience is key.
But worrying about the opposition is a wasteful exercise. Worrying about all the various possible scenarios that might play out is equally wasteful. When Monica Bellucci is confronted in the underpass, how different things would have been had she pulled out a gun from her handbag and shot the bastard in the face.
See, we might have been caught short on their patch. But on home territory, under the floodlights, we'll be gripping firearms like bloodthirsty assassins, firing bullets, ripping flesh off the bone till all that’s left is dog food.
Harry made some astute changes in the first game. This time round, we'll be as full strength as selection will allow us. Meaning Huddlestone will start. King will bring some much required calm at the back. Then there's the Kraken. No turning to stone for young Gareth. Bale, the beast, the stud, the Dark Knight, the best left-sided left-winger in the country (What? Yes, I did just say that, f**k you if you don't agree).
It's time to step up again. It's the life we have chosen for ourselves. Step up and cut through them like a hot knife through Swiss chocolate. A white hot knife, in a room with the air con off and radiators on full whack. In fact, the chocolate is in the oven when the knife does the damage. I want to swim in their chocolate blood.
We have the opportunity to be a part of the elite and kick the ball around in their playground. I don't care about ifs and buts about us being out of our depth if we get there. What a load of boll*cks. I want this more than I want Jessica Alba tied and gagged in my basement.
Get at them. Get at them the way we got at Man City, and get at them some more by finding the target, with no remorse. We've had far more tricky games recently. Far bigger tests of our guile and mentality. We didn't choke. I don't expect us to choke on Wednesday. I expect us to unzip and make them choke on us. Young Boys of Bern. We're going to hurt you. We're going to come from behind and beat you, beat you bad.
Ooh. Kenneth Williams would be proud.
COYFS. To dare is to f**king do.