Steffen Freund has completed the journey from Spurs player/cult hero to ticket-paying fan to assistant manager. The German returns home to White Hart Lane this summer as AVB's number 2 and here's why he's so loved...
Tottenham’s Steffen Freund is one of those curious fans’ favourites that other clubs (for good reason) just don’t get. I guess the best analogy is that it’s an inside joke. But only we’re allowed to laugh.
That’s not to say our affection is insincere, it’s more plain inexplicable. He really wasn’t very good. Wikipedia says he was popular for his ‘work ethic and commitment’. I hear the woman who handles admin at the ticket office also puts a shift in. Shall we name a stand after her?
Freund’s also celebrated for never having scored a goal. The word ‘cult’ is often mentioned. The obvious joke will not be made. Not here.
In a similar vein though, because he never failed to trouble the scoreboard – except by hitting it when attempting a shot – the White Hart Lane crowd would always bellow ‘Shoooot’ at him whenever he was within 30 yards of the sticks. This often sounded like ‘Boo’. Perhaps marginally more so because that is, in fact, what I was shouting. Okay, I wasn’t, but I certainly wasn’t joining in.
Another quite vivid memory of Freund is of a ‘confrontation’ with Man Utd’s rival midfield enforcer Roy Keane. It was at the Lane, we may even have beaten them, actually, which might explain why their skipper was in a particularly fractious mood (or it might be because the sun had come up that day, the bastard). Anyway, there was a snarl up, there were studs and there were handbags. Freund ran quite some distance to get in his opposite number’s face and ‘make a point’, but as he approached Keane turned round and, I think, actually growled at him, which caused our man to swerve quite sharply away from the line of confrontation and literally jog on.
Wikipedia says he was popular for his ‘work ethic and commitment’. I hear the woman who handles admin at the ticket office also puts a shift in. Shall we name a stand after her?
Generally though, he was a hard(ish) man in a soft team, and his effort, determination and obvious passion for the cause secured our affection. It was sort of something to cling to. Think ‘less talented Scott Parker‘. And when you consider one of Parker’s main ‘talents’ is Getting In The Way Of Things, that’s a sentence that should be read quickly.
Since he left, he has endeared himself even more to Spurs supporters by, well, by being a Spurs supporter. He turns up at games, not in a corporate capacity, but because we’re his team. Social networking sites have thrown up plenty of pics as evidence of his genuine fan status. And when you pay God knows how much per year to follow your team, very little resonates more than that sort of (excuse the now poxed phrase) ‘we’re all in it together’ attitude.
Now he’s back as assistant head coach after a spell spent largely with German national youth teams. It’s too early, of course, to judge whether this will be a smart appointment.
If Andre Villas-Boas and Spurs have researched it properly and picked him because he’s shown real promise in an under-age system that seems to set pretty high standards, then let’s have it. If he’s here as a sop to the fans, and largely to clench his fists and shout about getting stuck in, then it’ll be a mistake. And, to be honest, a surprise. AVB and Daniel Levy seem smarter than that. And Freund seems to be a genuinely good, honest bloke, someone who would put the best interests of Tottenham first, even (especially) when it comes to his own appointment.
The one guarantee is that he will be welcomed back with open arms and will give it his all. Let’s just hope the crowd doesn’t think it will be hilarious to exhort him to ‘Shooooot’ every time he sets foot anywhere near the touchline.
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