Every underdog has its day
Monday morning, and the world shines anew. Grown men skip down the street, pensioners raise their walking sticks in solidarity, babies gurgle contentedly, unseasonal birds tweet the Internationale.
“Lovely day!” says the man selling tickets at the Tube station.
I don’t think I’ve seen him smile before. If the much-missed Paul Foot were still around he’d doubtless be quoting Shelley:
Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you —
Ye are many — they are few.
Yes, the massed ranks have won and Chelsea have lost. Such optimism has not been felt since May 2 1997, and the first day of New Labour.
Bob, a Spurs fan of many years’ standing, is hoarse from shouting. “It’s like we won the league,” he croaks. Ben, another fan, says he’s trying to play it cool, but the idiot grin gives him away. Meanwhile, at a local school where I help out, a young boy in a wheelchair and Chelsea top rolls past, his head lowered dejectedly.
Anne, the head teacher, slaps him on the back. “Unlucky, mate,” she shouts joyously. And she’s not even a Spurs fan. (Orient, seeing you ask.)
Every underdog has its day. Charlton, Sheffield United, Watford — unbelievably, the bottom three all won over one weekend. And West Ham beat Arsenal. Great stuff. But not, of course, as great as Tottenham’s epic victory over Chelsea.
In the past, this newspaper has been accused of being anti-Chelsea. While I’m sure it’s not true of my more esteemed colleagues, I wish to state categorically that I would never attempt to bring objectivity to my analysis of the club. Truth is I’m so biased that I find it hard to admit Didier Drogba is having a decent season or Claude Makelele hit his goal sweetly on Sunday.
My prejudice knows no bounds. I detest Chelsea. I despise everything about their soul-destroying, peasant-plundering, oil-pimping, wallet-waving, pitch-ruining, ref-abusing, knee-falling, opponent-cussing ways. I despise the fact that they have made me a bigot. I despise the fact that I get more pleasure from seeing Chelsea lose than Manchester City win. I despise the fact that I’d rather Manchester United won the Premiership than Chelsea. I despise the fact that I tick off every week Andriy Shevchenko doesn’t score a goal as another victory for the unmoneyed majority. I despise the fact that I take pleasure in Shaun Wright-Phillips having never scored for Chelsea despite the fact that I once loved him so tenderly. I despise the fact that I take comfort in the belief that Chelsea are getting worse and worse—two seasons ago they lost once in the league, last season twice, and less than a third of the way through the season they have already been beaten twice. I despise the fact that I know the word Schadenfreude means something akin to bitter, vengeful bastard.
Yet I know I’m not alone. The line between nihilism and idealism is often a blurred one—indeed the original Nihilists were an idealistic, if violent, Russian revolutionary movement. And there are many others out there who share my contempt for Chelsea and hope that Tottenham’s victory could herald a brave new world in which Nottingham Forest will win the Premiership after two successive promotions, Oxford United clinch the Carling Cup and AFC Wimbledon run off with the FA Cup.
Back in 1997, of course, we were not so much celebrating the emergence of Tony Blair as rejoicing at the end of the Tories. There was springtime sun, elation at new beginnings and a conviction that free-market madness was at an end. Similarly with Spurs.
Where were you when Portillo fell in 1997? Where were you for Spurs-Chelsea in 2006? All the omens are there. Just as England’s football team enjoyed a “historic” victory over Italy in 1997, this current England team are unbeaten in almost a month and enjoyed a historic victory over Andorra; as England’s cricket team had beaten Australia in the first Ashes Test, the current England team have only recently won a one-day international; and as for Cool Britannia, Oasis are back with a greatest hits album.
But we shouldn’t get carried away. After all, look what happened to New Labour.
Perhaps by 2015 Tottenham will be bankrolled by a Russian billionaire and will be looking to complete a hat-trick of successive Premiership titles. Perhaps by then they will be unaffectionately known as Spurski. — Â