i want to be in that number

buck shaw stadium
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.

yeah, that was offside

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.

mission at santa clara

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.

no time for losers, cos…

spurs reach the champions league

We’re not Champions, no, but it feels like it. Spurs, my team, beat Manchester City (again; sorry City fans) to guarantee fourth place and a spot in the Champion’s League for the first time. Peter Crouch (a man so tall he has to, erm, crouch to avoid volcanic ash) scored the winner; that is supposed to be him above, drawn in my football diary. I’m recording football events. I enjoy doing that; now I’m trying to draw some of the people involved. Hopefully I’ll see an improvement as I go on.

As I write, I’m watching the BBC online, the tail end of Election Night, and no clear winner; a Hung Parliament beckons. I’ll write more about this some other time. Perhaps it will go to penalties? Maybe even a replay (as they did in 74)? Or maybe, just maybe, football can learn something from politics. Get rid of penalties, spoiling World Cup Finals, and have a system whereby the team that comes second can do a deal with the team that comes third to become coalition world champions; of course to come second you’d have to lose, so that analogy doesn’t work.

Anyway, I’ll leave politics for tomorrow. For now, come on you Spurs!

much more important than that

england badgeI never thought I’d see the day. A couple of weeks ago, I bought the England away shirt, the new Umbro ‘tailored’ kit in red. I’ve never bought an England shirt before, but this one is nice. I live in America now, so I can wear it without getting the urge to throw chairs.  I am getting ready for the summer, when I will be following the South Africa World Cup. For those who aren’t aware I am World Cup crazy, and have been since I was a kid. I watched the last one on the Mexican stations, but this time I have upgraded to the English-speaking sports channels, which means I’ll nderstand when they talk stats, but will have to provide my own exclamations of“goooooooooooollll!!!!!”.

But before the summer of World cup, there’s a week of highly exciting Premier League left. It’s between Man U and Chelsea for the title, but for me it’s all about my own team Tottenham, and that fourth harry redknappChampions League spot. If you’d have told me at the start of the season that Spurs would be in fourth place with a week to go I’d have said you were nuts. Well we have to thank that guy on the left there, Harry Redknapp, Tottenham’s manager (drawn in my football journal-cum-sketchbook). That could all change in the next couple of hours of course, and we have to beat (or not lose to) Man City, so I am still expecting us to throw it away again. Even if we do, we haven’t been below 6th all year and that is incredible. Come on you Spurs!

Over in France meanwhile, the team I followed when I lived there, Olympique Marseille, are set for their first title since the early 90s when they dominated and then exploded in match-fixing disgrace. Again, I’m still expecting that familiar capitulation but I’m hopeful for l’OM. Besides, my other old favourite equipe, Auxerre, are right behind them. Lyon’s time is over, and Bordeaux have lost it. Allez allez!

“Football football football football football. What you men see in it I don’t know. A load of men kicking a bit of leather around a field. You men, the things you think are great fun.” (Mrs. Doyle, Father Ted) 

so let’s see your kit for games

27, football shirts

#27 of 30. Some of you know my love for football shirts (or soccer uniforms, if you prefer). I’m a bit of a connoisseur, an enthusiast. Not really a collector, but I have a few. I have a Spurs away kit from the early 90s which is signed by Klinsmann, Sheringham, Anderton, Ardiles, and the rest. I do wear my tops at weekends sometimes, but all that static polyester turns me into a walking van de graaf generator. 

I’ve wanted to have a chat – my annual chat, for sure – about this season’s footy kits. All summer I checked daily the following sites, footballshirtculture.com and football-shirts.co.uk, for news on every new shirt release around the world. As always, the South American and smaller British clubs choose practically naked women to promote their tops (almost oxymoronic there); see Linfield’s away kit if you don’t believe me. Some kits this year have been nice – England’s new tailored home kit is lovely, and is the first England kit I’d even consider buying. I’m incredibly envious of Arsenal’s two new away shirts. But there have once more been a slew of lame blah-blah kits this year, with few really original designs for clubs, particularly from the larger companies such as Nike and Puma. Oh, Puma – will I ever like a Puma kit? It’s funny, because the answer to that is yes – I will always like the previous one better than the new one, because they are getting worse. The current windscreen-wipers /chevron template they are overusing has produced some horrific results, but none more ghastly than Tottenham’s current home kit. Awful sponsor aside, the introduction of yellow streaks (cue jokes all over N5, “what do you mean ‘introduction'”, etc) to produce this monstrosity means I’ll be waiting another year for a home kit I might want. It’s not just Puma though – even Adidas have gone for the shock factor with Newcastle’s new yellow-and-custard striped away shirt. Poor Newcastle – they get relegated, and are then told to wear that shirt in front of thousands – okay, hundreds – of people.

But the foulest kit, the most shocking kit of all time perhaps, even more so than Arsenal’s early 90s away kit, has to be Partick Thistle’s new away kit, surely done as a bet, a pink/grey/white camouflage kit. It just has to be a joke. It’s chavalicious. And Puma again.

You can see many of the best and worst kits of all time at perhaps my favourite site on the net: historical football kits. The research these guys have done at HFK is beyond phenomenal, showing images of shirts from all years of English and Scottish football. Its readers help out by forwarding any information they may have; I once sent them a photo I’d found of the Spurs laundry-lady hanging out kits in the mid-30s, showing that we wore navy and white hoops away. Highly exciting stuff for the football kit historian!

And so there you have it, my football kit obsession. It’s funny really, because apart from the beloved adidas trainers, I actually really hate most sportswear.

he’s had a dream for a year or two

20, ossie

#20 in a series of 30. The cobalt copic fineliner pens are still holding out!

So this one is very appropriate, because right now Spurs are sitting at the top of the English Premier League, albeit after only two games. This new season has been very unusual – so far we have had no draws at all, and all of the London teams have been winning. But Spurs are top, and I’ll enjoy it while it lasts (that’ll be Saturday, then). It’s a nice change after last year, when we had to wait nine matches for our first win – and had to sack the manager to get it. Interestingly enough, the last time we won our first two matches was in 1994, when of all people Ossie Ardiles was manager! And he was sacked by November. Well, that’s Tottenham Hotspur for you.

Or “Tottingham” as Ossie used to call it. I was dumbstruck when I met him, outside the old Spurs training ground in Mill Hill, shortly before those two victories in ’94. I had met Klinsmann too of course, who had just arrived at the club, plus Sheringham, Anderton, Barmby, Mabbutt, all of those guys. After getting their autographs on a Spurs shirt (which I still have) and a few polaroids, I sat on the hood of a car to pack up my bag. And then Osvaldo CésarArdiles comes up and opens the car door! He was really nice, posed for a photo, said hello to my little sister, shook my shaking hand, and we left. He drove past as we walked down Bunn’s Lane, and actually waved. I know, it is incredible that a World-Cup winning footballer can actually say a few civil words and wave from a moving vehicle, but when you were the kid who wanted to actually be Ossie Ardiles, that is in fact a big deal. My knees were even trembly.

not another new dawn at white hart lane

So, another new dawn at Spurs. I was sad to see Jol pushed out, I think the board undermined him early on in the season going behind his back, and that has a lot to do with the situation we’re in. Now Tottenham are spending squillions on this Ramos guy who speaks no English. And I notice his CV is loooong…he’s managed 10 clubs in 14 years! Blimey. But I suppose that makes him perfect for Spurs: we’ve had about that many managers in the past 14 years. He’ll fit right in.

On a funnier footy-related note, check out these youtube clips, the first of a Spurs ball-boy who became an instant hero of the Shelf during a UEFA cup match, and the second (my absolute favourite football-reated clip of all time, this week) of a cheeky six-year-old Chelsea mascot playing a joke on Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard before a match. As the England midfielder walked down the tunnel with his team, the kid, with an absolute deadpan earnest face, held out his hand as if to shake Gerrard’s, but pulled it away and cocked a snook at him instead. Check it out here. Hilarious stuff!

Originally posted at 20six.co.uk/petescully