If an old Romany lady offers you heather outside White Hart Lane on Sunday, I suggest you buy a fistful. Somewhere in history, Tottenham Hotspur underwent a ‘luck bypass’ and the imbalance of fortune needs to be redressed.
Whenever Spurs score a goal, I instinctively look for the offside flag. Swivelling my head like a suspicious owl, I then check the referee’s body language. Is he fending off disbelieving Spurs players, their heads shaking like crazed bobbleheads? Other fans are celebrating and performing mid-air somersaults but my eyes are madly scanning the field, waiting grimly for fate’s next cruel turn. Only when the ball is placed on the centre circle, can I allow myself a belated punch in the air. Yet far too often I slump back in my seat a knowing but broken man, curling my lip at an unloving god.
In life, ‘You’re either paranoid or you’re right’, but there can be little doubt that Spurs are a bunch of unlucky f**kers. Thursday’s entertaining 0-0 draw with Italian ankle-tappers Lazio was another case in point with THREE Spurs goals disallowed. Two should have stood. Clint Dempsey’s stooping header beat the offside trap while Stephen Caulker’s late nod was inexplicably chalked off for a foul after beaten pasta merchant Stefano Mauri flopped to the deck. Had the likes of Romanian referee Ovidiu Alin Hategan officiated in the Premier League’s ‘golden era’, Alan Shearer would have registered three career goals. Bizarrely, UEFA's official website failed to mention any of Tottenham's disallowed strikes!
And so Spurs’ initial foray into the 2012/13 Europa League passed without reward despite an encouraging and cohesive display with rookie defenders Kyle Naughton and Stephen Caulker highlighting their potential for better things and new keeper Hugo Lloris a cat-like presence between the sticks. Andre Villas-Boas showed respect for Spurs fans and the competition by fielding a strong line-up and his team performed but were too often chopped down in promising positions, resulting in 22 fouls and four yellow cards for the visitors. Referee Hategan again displaying hippie-like leniency.
But what of that dreaded Spurs luck? We’ve been poisoned by lasagne and demoted by a flukey Chelsea penalty victory (add Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi falling inexplicably ‘ill’ before the semi-final) denying two Champions League berths; had a ball several feet over the line at Old Trafford missed by the officials and two game-changing goals awarded for Chelsea despite having not crossed the line. One of our greatest players John White was tragically struck dead by lightning with Spurs at the pinnacle of English football and the list goes on and grows.
Disallowed goals now flow like cheap pinot grigio. Last season Spurs fans watched, open-mouthed as a bizarre number of Emmanuel Adebayor strikes were ruled out despite replays showing their authenticity. Had just one been allowed, Spurs would have finished third. Already this season, five Tottenham goals have been disallowed in five games.
Knock on the door of your nearest caravan.
Footnote: Given the attendance of UEFA grand fromage Michel Platini at Thursday night’s game, the racist chanting directed by a section of the Lazio support towards Jermain Defoe and other Spurs players will hopefully be punished. Hearing ‘monkey chants’ at an English football ground felt like a grim rewind to the 1980s and cannot pass without penalty. Update: UEFA has since charged Lazio and its Control and Disciplinary Board will meet on October 18th to deliver a verdict. It's worth noting, however, that Porto were fined a paltry £16,700 for a similar offence against Manchester City. Punishment enough?