He’s been brilliant lately, hasn’t he? This is Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur’s great young Welsh star, drawn on another Chinese envelope. I have him up between the drawings of Messi and Ronaldo next to my desk, and he is probably in that company. His free kicks lately have been spectacular, Spurs have barely needed a striker with Bale moving about up front. He needs to do something about his barnet though. Young people, eh.
Paul Gascoigne, as I will always think of him. For those who read my blog and don’t know the names of every footballer I mention (and I mention a few), Paul Gascoigne – aka “Gazza” – was a player from the late 1980s to early 2000s, who had perhaps his greatest playing period while a young cheeky lad in the white shirts of Tottenham, scoring a bullet of a free-kick against Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi-Final in 1991. As an England player he was perhaps the most ‘gifted’ player of his generation, playing with unrivaled passion yet a tinge of tragedy, famously crying on the pitch after receiving a yellow card (undeservedly) in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany, meaning he would have missed the final, if England had been any good at penalties. He became a national hero and an international icon. His golden spell at Tottenham ended with an FA Cup medal in 1991, though he never finished that match, having been so hyped up that he attempted to kick a hole in the chest of one player (laughed off by the Gazza-loving ref) before seriously injuring himself trying to remove the legs of Nottingham Forest’s Cary Charles. That injury put him out for a year, after which he was transferred to Lazio, and so on and so on. You can look up his history in Wikipedia or something. While he had a few moments of wonder, such as his amazing goal against Scotland at Euro 96, Gazza never quite reached the heights we knew he was capable of. Injury, personal issues, drinking, (cf Chris Evans and Jimmy Five-Bellies), famously being left out of the 98 World Cup squad, he never could live up to the hype of being Gazza. For me and so many other Tottenham fans, that free kick against Arsenal was the defining moment (and for me, all the more fun as I watched the match with my Arsenal-supporting dad). At his best there was nobody in the country even close.
Gazza has had a lot of trouble in his life since his glory days, alcoholism, domestic troubles, mental health issues. And now last week he was admitted into a treatment centre in the US, having suffered another setback in his health. It’s unlikely he will ever be free of his demons, but I’ll always think of him like this, young, cheeky and brilliant.
AVB – or Andre Villas-Boas as he prefers to be called – is the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. He is also Manager of the Month for December, following Spurs’ fantastic run lately. He is young too, and the first Spurs manager ever who is younger than me. He doesn’t like shaving (I can relate, though I can’t do stubble for very long without getting grumpy about it). I drew him yesterday lunchtime, when I was too tired to leave the office for lunch, and stayed in to draw on one of many envelopes I get at this time of year (this one is from Shandong University in China). It has been a very busy week, with an even busier one to come. In fact I was so tired yesterday that when I got home I fell asleep almost straight away, and when I woke up at half past five this morning this man was on the TV, leading Spurs in a 0-0 draw against his predecessor, Harry Redknapp, now boss of bottom-placed QPR. I like AVB. “A valuable boss.”
White Hart Lane Stadium, on Tottenham High Road, home of the mighty Spurs. Well, we could be a bit mightier, but still we’re pretty mighty. We ‘might’ have come third, etc, we ‘might’ have gotten into the Champions League, Harry ‘might’ have committed to staying about four months ago rather than let uncertainty about England affect our previously epic season, etc. It’s all water under the Stamford Bridge now (by the way we did finish above Chelsea, though of course Arsenal pipped us in the end). Ah well! New season, new manager, new kit, new dawn at White Hart Lane. New stadium too, in a few years time, or so the plan goes. I hadn’t been up there in a good while, to the Lane, so on tis one day when a day trip to Brighton was aborted due to very bad traffic, my friend drove me over to Tottenham to look around the Spurs shop (I picked up a nice retro 1981 Cup Final top), and gave me a bit of time to sketch the stadium. There’s no truly great angle to draw it from the outside, so I chose a spot which I think sums up this block. Many of the older buildings which were there the last time I visited have been knocked down, in preparation for the possible new ground, to be built directly north of the current ground which Spurs have occupied since 1899. My older brother, an ever-present at the Lane for several years as a boy himself, took me to games when I was a kid, back in the days of Hoddle, Ossie, Falco, Clemence, the Allens. Whatever happens with this club, I will always have that. The thrill of approaching the stadium after a long walk up the High Road from Seven Sisters, and entering the ground which was smaller then but seemed massive with the packed terraced crowds, reading the matchday programme while bigger men around me sang, swore, shouted and clapped, as real-life football sticker heroes ran around the perfect turf; now that was football.
I didn’t have a great deal of time to sketch, so I drew the stadium and the outline work of the rest, and finished off the detailing and colour later on. I had to make sure there was a lamp-post – legend has it that the grammar school boys who founded the club as Hotspur FC in 1882 would meet beneath a lamp-post (and shortly after that they sacked their first manager, changed the lightbulb and ushered in a new dawn, the first of many).
Do you know the difference between Basil Fawlty and Victor Meldrew? There is a broad range of character defects between the two but I’ve narrowed it down to this – things tend to happen to Victor, without them necessarily being his fault, whereas Basil’s woes are almost always entirely his fault and pretty preventable. As the episode of Fawlty Towers goes on you see him diggin further and further into a hole which it is almost impossible to get out of, and you can just tell is going to get worse. So what about Harry Redknapp?
I won’t go into the story, footy fans know it, non-footy fans have turned off already. Harry has been great for Spurs and may continue to be but this England job thing hangs over the whole club. Sure the FA are waiting on their decision – but I think it might make things a lot easier if Harry actually came out and said if he will or will not take it if offered. Spurs’s season since this whole thing came up has resembled an episode of Fawlty Towers (at least, I can’t get the image of Basil/Harry falling off the ladder trying to ‘look at girl in room’, that being the champions league), and wondering whether this business-end-of-season-collapse is Harry’s fault for not committing or the FA’s fault for not asking. That is, is Harry a Basil or a Victor?
Hmm. If someone had said to me in mid February when we were nine points clear of Arsenal that two months later we’d be six points behind them and sinking, I’d have said “I don’t believe it!” Now I keep imaging Harry picking up a puppy instead of a phone.
I forgot to post this when I drew it. Back in July, I went to see MLS outfit San Jose Earthquakes play my team from London, Tottenham Hotspur. It was fun, though a long way. Anyway, I got a phonecall from San Jose Earthquakes this week, which was a surprise. They were just following up on my recent visit to Buck Shaw stadium and wanted to see how my experience could have been improved. Welcome to America folks, seriously, can you imagine English clubs calling up everyone who went to their matches – including away fans – and asking about customer service? (Maybe they do these days?) Incredible, I was really impressed. I had actually enjoyed the day immensely and told the guy so (even mentioned that I cycled which helped me beat the post-game traffic). As for suggestions, I told him to ban Arsenal shirts (that got a laugh). I was going to say they should have gotten rid of their cheerleaders and had Ossie Ardiles sing a few half-time numbers (Ossie had been meeting fans in San Francisco the night before – how I wish I’d been there! As you know he was my childhood hero). Football football football.
The World Cup is over, and it’s a long wait until the Premier League season begins. But that doesn’t mean no footy! And who should come to California for a friendly but my own beloved Tottenham Hotspur FC. They kicked off their US tour with a match against their club partners in the MLS, San Jose Earthquakes, who happen to be my ‘local’ big team. When I say ‘local’ it’s all relative of course – San Jose is almost three hours away by train, and I’d never been before Saturday. When I say ‘big’, it’s all relative… their ground, Buck Shaw Stadium, is located on the Santa Clara University campus, and the Earthquakes recorded their largest attendance there with a whopping 10,712. I was in that number.
Sure, the match ended 0-0, but it was a fun occasion. We had our big names there, those who didn’t go to the World Cup – Bale, Modric, Huddlestone, and the returning Robbie Keane (who missed some sitters). I coudn’t believe how many Tottenham fans there were! A good deal of whom were American, but many were British (with their American kids tagging along; that’ll be me in a few years). And it was like a walking gallery of Spurs football shirt history! I’ve never seen so many different era Spurs shirts, not even at the Lane. All the classics were there, with the exception of the 1986 hummel one, I never saw that. My one wouldn’t fit me now, I was only ten back then. I wore the all-white Kappa shirt. On the field, the players were wearing the new Tottenham shirt for the first time, and it’s a beauty, I’ll be getting that. Surprisingly, here and there were dotted people in bright and obvious red Arsenal shirts; unsurprisingly, each of them were roundly booed as they passed (and some looked genuinely surprised at that fact too). There were lots of other shirts on show from all sorts of clubs and countries, something you also wouldn’t normally see at the Lane. A guy sat near me had the old Wales away shirt from the early 90s, the white Umbro one with little green and red arrows and lines on it. Haven’t seen that in years. Even the Earthquakes fans were well decked out, and I saw kits going from the current black Adidas tops to the old Nike blue ones with white arms.
But enough football-kit geekery. You know I can’t help myself. I enjoyed watching the Earthquakes; it’s America, for sure, and there are cheerleaders and sunburn, but it felt a lot like how football used to be, or still is for small clubs, intimate, friendly, informal. I really enjoyed that. I would go again. I also liked that I cycled to the stadium from San Jose train station. Good job I knew the way.
Oh yes, and some urban sketching. Before the match I drew the Mission Santa Clara de Asis, on the SCU campus right by Buck Shaw.
Come on you Spuuuuuurs!!!!!!! Tottenham play New York Red Bulls on Thursday; I think I’ll watch that one on telly.