Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My Life as a Tottenham Supporter: Year One

Sunday marked the last match in the Spurs season and my first year as a Spurs fan. So how did it go? Surprisingly well. It's a little odd becoming a fan of a new team for a sport that really isn't heavily covered in your country. I knew the rules of soccer going in, but I still had to learn the league. You have to learn the fan culture of the game from hated rivals to what is viewed as good and dirty play. You have to learn the referees and how they call a match. It's more of an undertaking than I even thought it would be. Still, I think I'm getting there.

The season itself was an up and down affair. It began with an awful start, with Spurs winning only one of their first six Premiership matches. A month later Spurs beat last years champions Chelsea in one of the matches of the year. Despite that huge win and others, there were some tough losses to Newcastle, Reading and Sheffield United. The main problem this season was giving up goals on set pieces, and letting teams back into matches. Once strikers Keane and Berbatov became comfortable with each other we had no problem putting the ball in the net in often spectacular fashion. It was the lapses on defense that turned wins into draws and draws into losses. Part of that problem was injuries like team captain, Ledley King being out much of the season. It still shouldn't be an excuse. There were too many times a man was unmarked or pressure wasn't applied allowing too easy of goals. Sure this all makes for exciting soccer but it's not the enjoyable kind of excitement. It's nervously hoping your relief pitcher doesn't blow it in the ninth kind of excitement.

Spurs still had a successful season. The ended fifth in the league which puts them back into the UEFA next season. They didn't match the point total of last season, but they are still the best of the rest. Progress has been evident. We have two outstanding strikers in Berbatov and Keane. Though there is concern that one of the richer teams will buy Berbatov which would be devastating. Young players like Lennon, Jenas and Huddlestone showed progress. Dawson has shown to be the iron man on the team playing in all but one of the matches this season. It seems we are just missing two or three pieces in order to contend with the big four teams.

So, it's been a hell of a first season, and I find myself disappointed that it is over. I'm already anticipating next year.

A couple other side notes. I find it irritating that I only got to see maybe a third of Tottenham's season on TV. I realize soccer is never going to be big in the US, but I can't imagine that an EPL site wouldn't make some money over here. If SkySports or someone did a pay-per-view like the MLB or NFL package it would do reasonably well I think. Obviously, they wouldn't be able to show all the games live, but they could air all the matches that day. I would pay for that, especially if the games were in HD.

Because of the lack of games I could watch, I've relied on the simple but well done EPL Review show. What's great is that they expand the highlights to more than just the goals. They give you the importance of the match and what each team is looking for in this match. It's also not just the player kicking in the goal, but the development of the play.

I know it would be impossible to implement this into any of the big sports in America. But the fact that the EPL sends the last three teams in the league down to the lower league adds some great drama to the league. Take this Sunday where three teams were fighting to stay alive in the league. Those two teams that survived celebrated like they had won the championship. Also add in the side story of one of the surviving teams making it because they weren't docked points for illegally signing a player and it just ratchets up the drama. Especially when the deciding goal was scored by that illegal signing.

It has been interesting watching a player like Berbatov comes to the team as new player and watch him win over the fans. He's scary cool how he plays. He's that guy that seems to just stand around, and you know he's going to do something but you don't know. Then he gets the ball, and you're just wow.

I tried to find a youtube clip of Spurs goals, but all them were early poorly edited or had placed horrendous music under it. I found this one that is a little better edited. The song is cheesy but at least it's familiar and not awful. Also, it's only Berbatov goals, but there are some great ones in there.

Finally, some time in my life I have to go to White Heart Lane to see a match. Just so I can sit in the stands and sing Di-mi-tar Ber-ba-tov. That is if he's still there.

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