It’s all about being there. To make the most of life (and football), you have to grasp and appreciate the moment before it passes. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend all 12 of Tottenham’s Champions League games this season and I wouldn’t have missed this ride for the world.
We’d gone through too much to be here. Spurs were on the verge of Champions League qualification in 2006 when an ‘accidental pre-match poisoning’ barred our path. So we waited. We hoped. We dreamed. And then, guided by Harry Redknapp, everything fell into place.
Competing against billionaire owners in the Premier League and established giants, Spurs qualified for the world’s elite club competition and took on the continent’s finest with a refreshing, swashbuckling style of play and a never-say-die spirit that won admirers and games. More fancied teams underestimated us and were duly eliminated.
There were moments of breathless magic; Gareth Bale’s one-man crusade at the San Siro against holders Inter before dry-roasting Maicon in the return game and steely defiance; epitomised by William Gallas’ critical goal-saving clearance to deny seven-times champions AC Milan at White Hart Lane.
New stars were born (Sandro, Van der Vaart) and old heroes barely featured (King, Keane). There were four clean sheets, three red cards, two missed penalties and one plastic pitch.
The odyssey started there at the wonderfully named Wankdorf Stadion in Berne. At 0-3 down in 28 minutes against the unfancied Young Boys, my dad, who has a heart condition, was slumped face forward in his seat cradling his head in his hands. The dream seemed over in the starting blocks. But it wasn’t. The adventure had just begun.
Tottenham Hotspur, 2010/11 Champions League quarter-finalists, we salute you.
See you there next season?