When it really isn't more important

guestblog by Chris King


I was planning on writing something witty about the worst Spurs XI of my era.

I’d spoken to a few mates, asking them for the players that really struck them as being so bad – that they were the sort of acquisitions that you’d debate against ever really being Spurs players.

It could even be argued that writing down your worst XI is actually easier than trying to hand pick a team of Spurs legends – limiting your choice to a simple 4-4-2 formation.

And then Dean Richards died. And then the wittiness died with him.

When Richards joined Spurs, he did so for a fee that was then the highest for a non-capped player. He was the epitome of everything that was wrong about the Hoddle management era – a lot of promise, but ultimately failing to deliver.

When trying to plan the piece – for we bloggers do occasionally put a little thought in to the words we write – I put in “worst Spurs players” in to a search engine, and Richards’ name bounced around on more than one occasion. Some defended him, others questioned his fee; a fair amount did agree he was below par - whilst others gave him the benefit of the doubt due to his prolonged injury situation.

What I took from it all was that, and forgive the lazy pun here – he simply failed to earn his spurs. The fee went against him, the fact he only managed 73 games in four seasons went against him – the fact he retired for reasons that simply weren’t concrete went against him.

Yet, what Richards really suffered from was the fact that most of us expected more from him. There are countless Spurs players that were abject, hopeless – simply not Spurs players. Yet we half accepted them for their failings, and would happily buy them a pint should they ever wander in to our local pubs.

We give nicknames like the “Ginger Pele” to our bad players. We accept that some might simply have been signed to boost sales of shirts in the Far East market – we even embrace very average players who simply gave their all. There were periods when we expected too much – most of our worst players seem to come from the 1990s – there were other times when we just simply accepted what we had. Yet know one, when picking their worst Spurs XI, ever seems to agree that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Managers buy players based on a whole host of reasons. Usually it’s if someone has a good game against us, or a scout sees something no one else can – or DML has a highlights reel from Revisita la Liga. There are then a myriad of reasons why players fail to make the grade – to earn their Spurs. Yet the vitriol aimed at them is more often than not misplaced; over the top and not really becoming of fans that will stand up because they hate another team – then slag off their own players when another under-par performance is registered on the pitch.

Dean Richards dying doesn’t reverse his time at the club, but it does seem to have made a few people tweet or text their RIPs and condolences not long after their original view of his time in the side. Is in death, really the only time when we will forgive a player for their sins on the pitch?

There is another player who “we” are all supposed to hate. A player who accepted his 30 pieces of silver to travel, not too far down the Seven Sisters road – in the desperate hope that they may boost their career with a triumph or two. I wonder if, in death, he will be viewed differently – if all the bad Spurs players will be viewed differently when they finally pass away. For you can be sure that the club will wheel out the black armband – and a token minutes silence will fall upon the ground, followed by the customary round of applause to mark their passing – but will you be able to remember the last time you applauded their actual passing, or tackling, shooting, heading etc.

If Dean Richards sits in your worst Spurs XI of all time, does his death change that? Has the sad news that a 36 year old has been taken from us far too early in life, meant you’ve slotted another central defender in, in his place?

Football fans are a cruel bunch. The argument is that if you pay good money, you have the right to pass judgement in what ever way you want – at which ever player is the target of your abuse this time around. But when an ex-player dies, who is only a year older than the person writing this piece – it makes it all seem so pointless; futile, not really worth debating.

Our worst Spurs XI is the side that lost to Blackpool. Our best Spurs XI will be the side that wins our next league or UEFA Champions League game – that’s how football should be viewed. Dean Richards was never going to reach such heights, but was it really his fault – or was he just an unfortunate victim of a Spurs era that made average players look bad?

Someone once said that football was more important than life and death. But then he at least lived to the ripe old age of 68. When you die at 36, having failed to beat a long term illness that took away your dreams, your hopes, your life and than handed you an early death – football must seem ultimately pointless to the people you’ve left behind.

Dean Richards will be warmly remembered by both Spurs and Wolves fans when we meet next week. Very few will talk about how bad he was for us, or how much he cost – all they will do is simply give up a minute of their lives to think what a travesty it is that someone in the 21st Century is still able to die at the tender age of 36.

Then, when the whistle goes – he will be nothing more than a passing memory to both sets of fans who desperately want three points from the match.

What a waste. What a callous way to view a life.