Ajax 2-3 Tottenham: The Story of a Lifetime

Ajax 2-3 Tottenham: The Story of a Lifetime
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Sometime in 1997, my dad had a conversation with my mum that probably went like this:

Dad: I think we should call him Glenn, after Glenn Hoddle. Or Gary, after Gary Lineker.

Mum: I think we should call him Sean because I’m not a weirdo.

Dad: Oh, ok.

They settled on Sean.

Even before I was born, I was destined to be wedded to the trials and tribulations of Tottenham Hotspur. And for the most part – you guessed it – it’s been a struggle.

Every football fan has their moment. Where time stands still, where the game becomes an out-of-body experience. 90min’s Andy Headspeath had Istanbul 2005, Chris Deeley had Jimmy Glass saving Carlisle, Toby Cudworth had the three minutes where Paulo Di Canio sat on the floor refusing to play. I had Amsterdam (but from The Butchers Arms, High Barnet).

My dad and I were among about 15 people crowded round this one TV in the corner by the bar. The big screen was reserved for some of the elder gentlemen – or that’s what my memory tells me, I was several pints deep at the time (do you even drink mate?).

By half-time in Tottenham’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Ajax, the tie looked over – the Dutch side were two to the good on the night, three up on aggregate. But you probably know that. You probably know what happened next.

With 94 minutes on the clock, those in the pub began to sing ‘Oh When the Spurs Go Marching in’. Drunk and emotional, I whipped out my phone to film and post it to Twitter with some crap about how proud fans should be. My hands were sticky from resting on the bar and I couldn’t quite configure it in time.

But then the ball fell to Lucas Moura. First time hit, and it felt like it was in slow motion. I was convinced André Onana was going to save it and it would be pointless wasting my energy being disappointed that he did.

But it went under Onana’s arms.

Everyone was climbing and jumping on each other, everyone was crying. I nearly choked the life out of my dad – at some point I started recording the video and it looks like he’s in a sleeper hold.

The only downside to this tale is that I really, really hated that green shirt. And now I can’t. I’m even wearing it as I type this. If it wasn’t for that night, I’d never want to see it again.

Lucas Moura struck gold, more of the Midas touch than that of Lord Percy’s from Blackadder II.

Mauricio Pochettino is a man who prides himself on emotion – it’s essentially the first line of his philosophy to show passion and aggression – and it made him perfect for Spurs; the serial overachievers without tangible success.

It’s why it hurt more when he was sacked in November. Desperately not wanting to sound cliché, he just got it. Judging by his comments recently, he still gets it.

For all of the progress under Pochettino, Spurs were still yet to have a defining game, a defining night where they were kings. Many assumed it would be winning an FA Cup or League Cup. And maybe if this semi-final was a routine win for Spurs, then it might not have stood out as much.

But, as now detailed in accounts from within the club by The Athletic, the Argentine saw this as the culmination of a five-year journey. Whatever happened in Amsterdam, it was going to be the night.

Spurs ripped up the fairytale story that Ajax had written, that had touched the hearts of neutrals across Europe, and penned their own. Cast as the losing villains in Leicester’s title-winning season, Tottenham found it in themselves to be the winners this time around.

Spurs could have flamed out and gone down with a whimper, and they threatened to do so after they were 3-0 down on aggregate with 45 minutes of the tie remaining. If Ajax had come out and instead been the ones to score the three goals that half, then no one would have blamed them for succumbing to a great footballing side, even if they still would have beaten them with the old ‘Spursy’ schtick.

I’m not a believer in things happening for a reason, in destiny or fate or anything or that ilk. I was never raised that way, and even if I was, I’d probably have rebelled against the ideology of it at some point, probably as an angsty teen.

On commentary for BT Sport that night, Darren Fletcher proclaimed: “You start to wonder if it’s going to be Tottenham’s night.” Jermaine Jenas followed that with the more ominous: “Something’s happening here.”

Think of all of the little things that the human race needed to happen to exist. For the Earth to be this far away from the sun, for the ratio of gasses in the air to allow for us to breathe, for every single thing that happened in the billions of years before we arrived to work in our favour to live one day. By my calculations, there was a better chance of all of those things occurring than there was for Spurs to turn it around. There was probably a better chance of me being called Glenn.

We don’t believe the improbable isn’t impossible until a precedent is set, until we see it unfolding before our eyes. These eyes have shown me lasagna-gate, Chelsea stripping us of fourth spot, and a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of 10-man, relegated Newcastle – that’s just the football I’ve watched.

But Tottenham vindicated a lifetime of struggles. This was the night. The moment.





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