This was a time when it felt good to support Spurs again. For one night at least, the magic was back. That unique Tottenham voodoo hung heavy in the air…exhilarating forward play balanced by a dose of slapstick defending. Songs were sung with passion and gusto, the football flowed and that old European magic crackled in the air.
The dearly missed White Hart Lane atmosphere, which in recent months has been sucked into a vacuum of boos by parasitical glory fans and OCD hand-sitters, returned like an old love with a wink and a smile. And how we loved it. Positivity is infectious.
This was so much more than an enjoyable 3-1 romp over Slovenian champions NK Maribor that kick-started Spurs' Europa League campaign. It marked the invasion of Block J by the vociferous 1882 movement and the emotional return of Fabrice Muamba to White Hart Lane less than eight months since his heart stopped beating for 78 minutes. Miracles can happen. Maybe modern football can be saved. Don’t stop believing just yet.
The sight of Muamba in tears as he visited the site of his near death experience was humbling and inspiring in equal measure. Somehow the former Bolton midfielder found the composure and grace to thank the Spurs fans on a night where many would find the mere thought of words overwhelming. His half-time intervention was almost divine and the goodwill seemed to spill over into the second half where Spurs finally took control of a game they had dominated, yet threatened to throw away, courtesy of Jermain Defoe’s sparkling hat-trick.
The 1882 movement commandeered Block J of the Shelf and set the tone for the evening with their songs and boundless enthusiasm, inspiring fans in all stands to raise their voices with pride. The ethos of 1882 is to support Tottenham and the team regardless of the fortunes unfolding on the field. They represent a modern twist on the true, old school support that once pumped through the arteries of White Hart Lane on matchdays before the vulgar marketing of the Premier League and cynical trophy purchasing of oligarchs and sheikhs.
“For many reasons the atmosphere at White Hart Lane has dwindled. Last night it felt like we had our Tottenham back,” explained 1882 standard-bearer Flav from The Fighting Cock podcast. “For 90 minutes, we sang our hearts out and it was honestly one of the most enjoyable experiences at Spurs that I've ever had. When Maribor scored there wasn't the usual deflation and silence as the away support revels in their glory, last night we were singing before Hugo Lloris picked the ball out of the net. And I think the players reacted to it. There was no tension in the air, just positive reinforcement, and the players played with confidence. The 1882 movement is open to all Spurs fans, young and old. Just bring your lungs.”
Defoe’s clinical hat-trick saw him move to 126 goals in Spurs colours, inching him ahead of Teddy Sheringham into eighth place on the all-time goalscorers’ list. One day Tottenham will name a lounge after the celebrated ladies’ man allowing the next generation of young women to joust with the legendary ‘little swordsman’. Matchdays will always be, er, busy in JD’s lounge.
The pint-sized hitman certainly benefitted from the presence of Emmanuel Adebayor, whose touch and physicality freed up space and occupied the overworked Maribor defenders. Central midfield featured an unfamiliar but strangely effective pairing in midfield Tom-Tom Club Huddlestone and Carroll. While they differ in stature and experience, both have an eye for a telling pass and were heavily involved in Spurs' more incisive approach play. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon revelled as roadrunners on the flanks of the 4-4-2 system that has served their reputations and Spurs so well in the past; food for thought for Andre Villas-Boas as he copes with injuries to key players and tinkers with the starting line-up.
A number of appalling decisions from Finnish referee Antti Munukka, and a dreadful mix-up between Hugo Lloris and Kyle Naughton that briefly levelled the scores, failed to dampen the party. Why can’t all matchdays be like this one? They can, you know. All you have to do is sing and love the shirt.