Exhausting, exhilarating, adrenaline pumped
Exhausting, exhilarating, adrenaline pumped, sick feeling in the stomach, sick taste in my mouth, dizzy ache in the head...a volatile mix of emotions ready to explode at any given second. Spontaneous combustion the likely conclusion.
It's still hours before kick-off and the nerves settle in and begin to eat away at my patience.
Get the game started.
Can I not just fall into stasis until kick-off? Why does real life have to interfere by placing blocks of unnecessary time between me and the North London Derby. Christ, I hate losing to this lot. I can't stand losing to them. I'd still rather lose to them than be one of them.
Now it's kick-off.
Can't really focus, every movement and every pass, scrutinised and amplified beyond normal criticisms. Every kick of the ball feels like it's the last ball that will ever be kicked. Every misplaced pass is the worst pass I've ever seen. Every time they have the ball it feels like this might end badly for us.
Brain needs to filter the altered state of conciousness I'm experiencing. Man up and concentrate. We've got the players to handle this.
Walker runs the full length of the pitch, a juggernaut of pace, but the final ball is knocked out of the field of play.
I'm screaming, I'm shouting. Vertonghen is composed and confident, Giroud dispossessed.
There's a white and there's a red high-line and early Arsenal possession in the middle of the field. Plenty of tips and taps from the visitors, plenty of pressing from us. Their midfield more precise but without end product. We're soaking it up.
Patience. Concentrate. Look around. They're not hurting us. They're being forced to play their way out of that congested midfield.
We're beginning to calm the tempo down. Arsenal's bright start, defused, but my heart ignores it and continues to smack against my chest.
Reckless from Adebayor. "Steady man, steady". He won't have heard my pleas. Yellow card, not red.
Then a prelude. Siggy plays a neat ball to Bale who beats the offside but doesn't reach the ball.
Arsenal continue to ask questions in attack. But they're whispers and not shouts. Their crossing, rushed and hardly crisp in delivery.
I check the time. Twenty-six minutes.
Mazzy run from Lennon. Our first corner of the game. Some **** throws a banana at Gareth Bale. For a second I aim expletives at the away support, then realise just how jealous and bitter they must be to see someone of the quality of Bale wear Lilywhite. I laugh and applaud.
Arsenal counter, but cross too early, again hardly crisp with their delivery. Then we counter. End to end football.
Vertonghen booked for a foul on Giroud.
Bale heads the ball back towards Sigurdsson, he holds onto it, shifts and looks up. Bale stares into the space ahead of him, sees red shirts. Adebayor makes a diagonal run, pulling a player along with him, Bale accepts the invitation and pushes into the space created. Sigurdsson is left with the most simplistic of passes, through two Arsenal defenders where Bale (perfectly onside) wishing farewell to Mertesacker and Vermaelen who push up instead of back.
Bale in on goal. This is too easy.
Bale, outside of left foot, sweetly leaving Szczesny rooted.
GOAL. Punch the air, punch punch punch punch scream scream punch. GET IN! Bale, born to play for Spurs. White Hart Lane erupts. Every Spurs fan in front of every pub projector or home cinema or tv, volcanic in celebration. No red lava here, just white hot heat.
My breath. No time to catch. As I climb down from the heavens, Parker is on the ball.
Lennon is attacking down the right. Four red shirts close in tighter as Scott looks up. Lennon senses he can get behind the four, in hope of a threaded ball. Like lightning he does just that. The four don't react. No communication, no spacial awareness. Monreal comically steps up as Lennon makes his dash.
Lennon. Through on goal. This just happened, didn't it?
Szczesny can only watch, best seat in the house for the second time in as many minutes. Lennon floats past him at pace.
GOAL. Two shots. Two goals. 2-0.
Devastating. Punishing. Clinical. Possession is over-rated.
The desire to hurt, the desire to make it happen, to pressure them into mistakes, to hit them with a flurry of uppercuts, leaving them dazed and confused. Embarrassed.
I'm up in the heavens again.
When I come back down, a guardian angel reminds me that my feet are best kept firmly on the ground (for now).
I see a Szczesny clearance that Adebayor almost gets to.
I hate half time. Fifteen minutes where alcohol is best consumed to aid with deflecting the minds thoughts away from the almost certain concerns that come attached to a healthy lead. We've been here before and gave it all away. God damn the voices in my head.
It won't happen again. It can't happen again. We can't ever let that happen again.
Second half kicks off.
An early goal will finish them off. An early goal will do just that.
Bale delivers a cross that deserves a white shirt to make contact with it. No one does. He'd have as many assists as he has goals if someone would honour the quality of his deliveries.
Then down the other end, a free-kick is given away near the corner flag. I mutter something ominous to myself. That was cheap and silly. Walcott sends the ball in. Mertesacker loses Adebayor and connects. The ball hits Bale, not in a wild way, but enough to send it past an out-stretched Lloris for an Arsenal goal.
Lucky. Lucky lucky lucky.
Free-kick. Unnecessary. Defending, lazy. Go on then. We all know there's no easy way, there's only the hard way which is the Spurs way.
Arsenal fans tease the home support, a song about all of us getting nervous. Memories of capitulations begin to tickle the brain before I dismiss them out of hand. This isn't a Tottenham side that is prone to feeling sorry for itself. This isn't an occasion for a fortunate helping hand to be dished out to our olde needy enemy. This isn't going to be a blip or a catalyst. Our grip on momentum is resolute and tenacious.
This isn't a one dimensional superfluous attacking Spurs side. We all love our football pretty but you need to be strong and you need to be bullish and any given system that wants to evolve and grow into something all-consuming and powerful has to start somewhere. The bells and whistles will come in time. Never underestimate what a true unit of players, playing to a strategy are capable of. It might not be easy on the eye but it's effective and it can still retain the flashes of brilliance and the gasps of genius that make it all worth while.
I say all that, in hope. I hope this isn't a false dawn and I hope Spurs can hold true to their performance so far. It's 2-1. It's okay. We're still winning.
I don't have any hair to lose. I don't ever bite nails. Instead I lose myself in a trance, a day-dream. I'm visualising the final whistle. It doesn't help calm me down.
Lloris superbly takes the ball after a Jenkinson cross. Top drawer anticipation, owning his penalty area. Arsenal with renewed intent and belief. Urgency with the tempo of their football. Yet still, no incisive final third pass. I don't complain.
I think to myself, 'where's your dynamic fancy football now?' Not easy against eleven men is it? Then I remember Adebayor is on the pitch. Then I slap myself for hating on Adebayor. I'd just prefer he'd hate on Arsenal a little more. Guess he used up all his venom when he wore the City shirt.
Then Spurs remind us all, this isn't going to follow the usual script.
Almost 60 minutes on the clock, a glorious passage of simplicity. Passing and movement, played out from the back, releasing Dembele who runs and then spreads the ball out to Benny. His low cross, a beauty, only to see it blasted over by Bale.
That was 3-1. That should have been 3-1. Spurs stylish on the counter. Should have been 3-1.
Rosicky on for them. Arsenal continue with busy football in and around our box. Vertonghen, bossing it, with another tackle this time on Walcott who left Benny for dead.
Then a bit of drama. Adebayor down injured. Arsenal not kicking the ball into touch. They don't need to. Much like we didn't when Cazorla was 'hurt' before our second goal. Although he wasn't hurt hurt. Just footballer 'hurt'. Clattenburg blows his whistle for a foul on Wilshere. Dawson has a go at the ref then has a go at Vermaelen. Rag lost. Handbags. Daws is spoken to by the ref who tells him to play to the whistle and 'it's my responsibility' to stop play. No yellow. JD comes on for Adebayor.
I watch all this and think to myself...Holy ****, Wilshere's on the pitch? I didn't even know he was playing. Maybe Frimpong can confirm this on Twitter?
Midfield is now congested with red shirts, not enough white ones. Bale drops deep to help out. It's a curious battle in there. Arsenal trying to formulate and create, Spurs in part, allowing them to do so because they can't quite find their way out of the no mans land conquered. The game, the goals, they won't be birthed out of that area of the pitch. Did you not see our two goals Mr Wenger? Did you miss them?
Rosicky loses possession, Bale (in that deep position) plays a curling pass with the outside of his feet which is utterly delicious, so much so, I'm back in that trance thinking about how tasty it would be if that cross was an ice cream. I'm very disturbed, you'll have to just move on from this one if it makes you uncomfortable.
The pass finds its way out to the flank where Defoe picks it up, cuts in and across and sends the ball to Siggy who hasn't been picked up by anyone. OH GOD YES THIS IS THE KILLER MOMENT.
Into the penalty area he drives...damn it, touch too heavy, not controlled, not enough time, Siggy cuts it back across as he can't shoot, Szczesny did enough. Mertesacker clears. Yet another brilliant counter. Should have been yet another brilliant goal.
I check the clock. 70 minutes gone.
COME ON REF, BLOW YOUR WHISTLE, I'LL TAKE THE 2-1. Twenty minutes in the North London Derby time-zone feels like it's about forty minutes.
Defoe wraps his foot around a shot which glides past the post. The substitution, is inspired. Now with Bale deep, Defoe offers a more direct approach.
Heart is still beating faster than an industrial techno tune. Lennon dancing with ball at feet. Every supporter, gurning.
Ball drops to Bale, shot, saved, straight at keeper.
Podolski on for Arteta.
Ramsey drifts in, unmarked, his effort wide. Phew.
Siggy has a wild shot. Just how good does he look in the side? Settled and with assured intensity in a game that is fuelled by it.
Dembele down after a challenge on Wilshere (he's def playing, that's Jack alright, he had his tongue sticking out earlier, def him). Dembele clutches his knee. Subbed. Livermore on.
Walcott freekick, beats a weakly made wall, but goes wide. I check the stats. Yep. He's still better than Bale.
Blow the whistle, I jest. Six minutes of injury time are added. My heart no longer beats. Great time to fall into stasis. The longest six minutes of my life are now upon me.
Six minutes? I could have sex twice in six minutes.
Bale heads to the corner, to waste some time. Asking too much from him to keep it there until the ref blows.
Benny kicks the ball into orbit.
Podolski effort over, takes deflection. Szczesny comes up for the corner. Lloris, the magnificent Frenchman, claws the ball away.
Bale heads to the corner again.
Walker is booked for kicking the ball away.
Gallas on for the relentless Lennon.
Spurs defend a free kick.
It's full time.
I wonder if I'll be able to find any Arsenal supporters anywhere, online or otherwise, in the next week?
Yep. It's full time. I hate losing to this lot. They must be utterly utterly sick losing to us.
This is a good day.
Seven points clear. 3rd in the league. A Spurs Prem record of 12 games unbeaten (Christ, we've never had it so good). Immense defensive display of collective organisation. Clinical cut-throat attacks. Kept our nerve. Kept our faith. Believed we would hold on more than they believed they could get back into the game. Spirit is strong with us, a mere ghost with them.
Drilled. Mentally and physically. Lloris, Dawson, Vertonghen and Sigurdsson all impressive. Lennon, never stops running. Gareth Bale, the mark of a truly world class star. Doesn't have to do much. Scores. Sticks in a shift.
Andre Villas-Boas. Slow brooding monster. We grow and we develop and we better ourselves. There is no stagnation. There is no standing still.
We make mistakes, we take them on as part of the learning curve. We never look back, just forward. Just 12 goals conceded in the league since Arsenal stuck five past us. New club record of 54 points after 28 games. We didn't even play to our capacity. Then again, what is our capacity with key players missing and one or two dream signings still floating around in that trance of mine.
Tottenham, resolute. I love saying that. The momentum with us. We wanted to win, we believed we would win. We won. Immense human dimensions.
My heart now thumping with joy against my battered chest, which I thump with passion.
This is Tottenham. This is north London. This is our patch.
Onwards we march. After a cold shower and a cold beer.