From nearly-zero to hero, here is why the Frenchman is such a favourite at Tottenham Hotspur...
Are you in the Parker camp or the Bale camp? This year most Spurs fans are rooting for one or the other as their player of the season. Parker appeals because in him we’ve found that midfielder we know we've needed for years- the one that could actually tackle and pass and get forward and shout at people a bit. With him we have finally managed to put to death the ghosts of Spurs centre midfield past; Stephen Clemence, Michael Brown, (shudder) Goran Bunjecevic.
And he also has nice hair.
The case for Bale is obvious; 8 Premiership goals for a winger in January is a pretty good return in itself, but it’s everything else he brings; the power, the passing, the ability to hoof a ball past a player and know he has the pace and power to shove past them and make up whatever distance deficit he has. He can tackle if he needs to, as well. When he is on form and has the left-back in his pocket-which doesn’t always happen, it must be said- he is untouchable.
thanks to an extended unbroken run this term due to Michael Dawson’s injury he is now centre-back #1
But if you then drop down into the realms of our second favourite player, there is massive love for Younes Kaboul. He’s had a funny Tottenham tale, old Younes, but it all adds to our affection for him. Signed for Spurs originally in 2007 at the tale-end of the Martin Jol era, he came with a reasonable amount of fanfare and a 8 million price-tag to boot. But he was pretty awful, seemingly incapable of keeping his focus for more than 17 seconds, and guilty of a litany of mistakes that saw him distrusted by fans, Jol and Jol’s replacement Juande Ramos. 28 goals conceded in the first 15 games of the 2007/2008 season with him at the back tell its own story.
What he did have on his side, however, was the fact that Spurs fans like to see themselves as old footballing romantics and can’t resist players with personality, the sort of defender that likes the odd unprompted (often insensible) bolt up the pitch to join an attack when he should be covering at the back. He scored goals- 4 in 29 games is not bad for a centre-back in and out of the team. He also had the fortune of jamming himself into Spurs folklore by belting a memorable last minute equaliser against Aston Villa in a 4-4 draw, a match that marked the clubs 125h anniversary where Spurs had been 4-1 down. Therefore when he went to Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth in August 2008 it wasn’t with a feeling of good riddance that we waved him off, but more one of affectionate relief.
So when he was re-signed by Harry in January 2010 we were a little surprised but a part of us was happy enough to see him back, mostly because we assumed he wouldn’t play all that often. And at first he didn’t, only getting on during a 1-0 defeat away to Wolves. However, his ability to play at right-back and midfield saw him get more opportunities and he was an ever present in the team from our game against Everton in late February onwards, playing a vital role in victories over Arsenal and Chelsea, before supplying the cross that was eventually nodded in by Peter Crouch in the 1-0 win over Manchester City that secured our spot in the Champion’s League that May.
Since then, barring a 3 month spell earlier this year when he was injured, he has been a virtual ever-present, though last season he was an occasional victim of Harry’s policy of drafting in the more experienced King or Gallas for the bigger games. But thanks to an extended unbroken run this term due to Michael Dawson’s injury he is now centre-back #1, his consistent and error-free performances meaning it was Dawson and not he that was dropped on Sunday for the game against Manchester City to make way for King. And he’s not getting shunted about all over the place anymore. He has made the centre-back position his own.
He still hasn’t lost his penchant for getting forward or flapping around in the penalty box, nor his knack for a vital goal, as proved by his game-winning header against Arsenal last season that saw us come from 2-0 to beat them at the Emirates (to get an idea of why any person supporting Spurs on that day will not forget Kaboul, check this video out).
It’s just he’s now backed all this up with a defensive game that would surely see him play for any Premiership team, barring, perhaps, Chelsea and Man City. Like that other Spurs enigma Benoit Assou-Ekotto (himself a candidate for everyone’s 3rd favourite player) he reminds us of what we like to think are ‘Spurs values’ –speed, attacking zeal, the vague threat of flakiness- whilst marrying this with a solidity that we are not used to and reflects our new-found (and frankly unsettling) status of being Quite A Good Team.
Anyway, come the end of the year it would be a massive surprise not to see one of Bale or Parker collecting the player of the season award on the pitch at White Hart Lane, but not far behind will surely be Kaboul, with the sounds of the Park Lane End's (surprisingly good) chant for him ringing in his ears:
Kaboul, Kaboul, Kaboul is on fire!
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