Monday, 17 December 2012

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Swansea City 0

You may deduce from most of my postings on here and the matches I choose to attend that I’m firmly against the kind of greedy, champagne-quaffing, canapé-gobbling commercialism that makes the cogs turn in football these days.

The reality is, I’ve never had the proverbial prawn sandwich wafted under my nose, so I was never really in a good position to judge. I did have some hospitality at Boston United once about a decade ago but they’d just put some peanuts out in the pay bar and all I remember is the director’s box being position right next to some very foul-mouthed Dagenham and Redbridge fans. 

That all changed on Sunday and, I’m not ashamed to say, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. If a match ticket to a game like this is a dollop of vanilla ice cream, then the hospitality at White Hart Lane was the sprinkling of chocolate drops, the hundreds and thousands, Flake or lashing of strawberry sauce.

It’s not something I’d be able to do often, of course, because it costs several hundred pounds per game but when it’s offered through work by Under Armour, the suppliers of Tottenham’s kit, then I was never going to turn the opportunity down. And, admit it, neither would you.

A great cavalcade of entertainment was laid on, starting at 9.30 in the morning - four hours before kick-off. This kind of hour is never comfortable on a Sunday and I was embarrassingly red-cheeked by the time I’d walked to the ground from Seven Sisters Tube, relying on nothing more than my natural sense of direction and the position of the sun in the sky. 

Yes, it was that black hole of the month when the data allowance has run out on my phone and Google Maps loads as though it’s being powered by coal and steam. Grey pixel by grey pixel.

First up was a champagne breakfast and a mini-tour of the Lane before the players and fans showed up. We poked our heads round the door of the home dressing room, which had been immaculately laid out by the kit man with the meticulous organisation of a Buckingham Palace dinner service. The massage table was covered in litres and litres of Lucozade and metres and metres of liniment. Whatever happened to Deep Heat, I wondered.

Tottenham's kit was laid out with the precision of a royal banquet
Anyone need some energy? 
It was then on to pitchside and the stadium had an eerie calm-before-the-storm feel about it. Stan Collymore, there for Talksport, was taking pictures of the pitch on his iPad. “He’s just come from a lay-by,” someone quipped. Ooooohhh.
It's so quiet down the Lane...
We then had a souvenir photo with our table's designated Spurs legend. Ours was great keeper Pat Jennings, who was top quality company, talking about quagmire pitches and the virtues of steak and chips as a pre-match meal. 

We had our picture taken with the FA Cup given to Spurs after the 1991 win over Nottingham Forest - I think they decided to forge a new one because Paul Gascoigne dropped it in the bath and the lid bent, or so the tour guide said.

There was plenty of time for a few pints of Guinness and a sumptuous four-course meal which was the best feed I’ve had in a long while. Not that this says much when I subsist largely on ready meals which can be stabbed with a fork and zapped in the oven. That and Percy Pigs.
Up for the Cup with Pat Jennings
Before we knew it, the players were emerging and the Super Sunday clash was underway. Naturally, the seats were excellent and nicely padded in blue leather. Unfortunately, the first-half didn’t live up to anyone’s expectations - when you have two sides like this, whose philosophy is to play pleasing, passing football, there is always the chance that the contest is actually awful. That is what transpired and my fiver on a 3-2 win for Spurs might as well have been folded into a paper aeroplane and thrown from the upper tier.

I had been excited to see Michu in action. He’s actually quite tall in the flesh, ruining my perception that he was a petite and agile Messi kind of player. Whatever his build, he was pretty ineffective here and did nothing for the game or my fantasy football points.

Spurs dominated possession and created what few chances there were - Dembele was pretty lively, as was Aaron Lennon, but often they would run into a Welsh cul-de-sac. Swansea were their own worst enemies, surrendering possession three or four times when trying to work it out from the back. 

After the half-time Guinness and nibbles, the match sprung eventually into a living, breathing entity. Tottenham continued to dictate and there was a good chance for Kyle Walker, only for him to hit row Z. 

Eventually, the breakthrough came and in the most glorious circumstances. You see, I’d decided to have my annual gamble (I’m not a betting man) and opted for a fiver on Jan Vertonghen as first scorer at 22-1. The only reasoning was that he was the first footballer I interviewed at the Mail and he seemed like a nice bloke. 

So when Walker swung in a ball and Jan’s right hoof collected sweetly to land me £110, I came to the conclusion that Vertonghen is, indeed, a good man. For the first and most likely only time in the hundreds of matches I’ve watched in my life, I made money!

Perhaps I should get the hospitality treatment more often...

Next Match: With Graham Drury installed as the new Boston United manager, I’m going to watch them at Altrincham on Saturday for the start of a new chapter.