Reds' White Hart-ache
Iain Macintosh
Wed, Aug 19, 2009
The New Paper

I ALWAYS enjoy a trip to White Hart Lane.

Sure, it's in the middle of the north-east London badlands, a destination made even more remote by London Transport's fascination with shutting down the tube on match day, but there are consolations.

For starters, there's the stadium itself, a hulking old noise-trap packed with 33,000 rabid foot-soldiers of the self-professed 'Yid Army'.

Then there's the press 'lounge', a tiny featureless room with little tables, hopelessly dwarfed by the vast media suite at Arsenal but a thousand times more intimate and homely. Most of all though, it's the press box.

Most football clubs plonk the journalists somewhere half-way up and half-way across the stadium, somewhere they can see the action perfectly.

Not Spurs. For some reason, their pressbox is right behind the bench, so close that you could reach over and tweak the ears of the substitutes, should you be so inclined.

It meant that when Sammy Lee raged at Stuart Attwell on Sunday afternoon, I could hear every single Anglo-Saxon oath. In fact, I was so close that I could see the veins throbbing at his temple.

I think, had he actually exploded in fury, the blast might have singed my eyebrows.

Rafa Benitez, by comparison, was surprisingly calm given that his season appeared to be unravelling in record time.

When Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel clashed heads, he had substitute Daniel Ayala warming up within seconds of the impact.

After some thought, he kept faith with Skrtel, explaining his decision to the youngster with a warm smile and a pat on the back.

Back on the pitch, the wounded Skrtel didn't seem too sure about his chances.

How did Steven Gerrard keep his composure all afternoon? Baited by the fans throughout the afternoon it took tremendous strength of will to fire home the equalising penalty, especially while being serenaded with a roaring chorus of, 'You're supposed to be in jail.'

A follow-up chant of, 'Self-defence? You're having a laugh!' kept the Spurs fans amused for the rest of the afternoon and Gerrard can expect more of the same from every ground he visits this season.

Once one of the more universally respected players in the Premier League, he may find that his patchy attendance record for England and 'that' court case have exhausted the goodwill.

Plenty of goodwill

The Liverpool fans, approximately 2,500 strong, had plenty of goodwill for one of their old boys.

While Robbie Keane was entitled to a polite round of applause from the travelling supporters, Peter Crouch was given a standing ovation and treated to a rendition of, 'He's big, he's Red, his feet stick out the bed,' one of my favourite football songs in recent years.

Crouch, a genuinely nice man who seems to get taller every time I see him, was delighted and applauded them while grinning broadly.

The tension on the benches by the end was palpable, the roar at full-time was deafening.

This was a massive result for Tottenham, a huge boost for their season and more points in one game than they accrued in eight last campaign.

For Liverpool, it's a hard slap of reality across the face. From the pressbox, yards away from the men who matter, you could see every stress wrinkle worming its way across the faces of the coaching staff.

As I say, I am rather fond of White Hart Lane...

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