IN 2009, I sat on the bench at White Hart Lane and watched as my Stoke City team-mate Glen Whelan hit a screamer with five minutes to go to beat Spurs 1-0.
As a sportsman trained to win I spontaneously leapt to my feet and punched the air, but almost immediately my euphoria gave way to a strange sense of loyalty to Spurs, which is the club that I’ve supported all my life.
I didn’t watch the remainder of the game hoping that Spurs would equalise but I do remember sitting on the bus afterwards and lamenting the fact that Tottenham’s hopes of a first Premier League top four finish – and Champions League football – had been badly dented.
After the game, I did a tongue in cheek interview in which I said that it’s always great to play against Spurs but that I couldn’t help wonder what it might be like to play for the opposition. I was told by the first team coach, Mark O’Connor, that Tony Pulis had a complete sense of humour failure when he heard the interview.
My family was born in Tottenham. My Father grew up watching the great Spurs double side of 1961 and he went to school next door to the stadium.
I grew up watching Hoddle and Waddle in the 80’s and later, Lineker and Klinsmann.
While this is undoubtedly the best Spurs team of the Premier League era, I find myself increasingly of the mind that there isn’t too much for me worth living for these days, and so it’s the hope of my Father and I that Spurs can win a significant trophy before one of us snuffs it. No pressure.
I’ll be screaming them on against Dortmund tonight.
MISPLACED PASS Jadon Sancho delays Dortmund flight to London after forgetting his passport
Loyalty is a funny thing in football. Players are pilloried by fans for not showing enough of it but when I mentioned in an interview that I was a Spurs fan, it was immediately thrown back at me during a fans forum by supporters that said I would never be able to give my all in matches against them. Bulls***!
If anything I tried even harder to make an impression against Spurs because I wanted to play for them – pick the loyalty out of that one!
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A year earlier I played for Reading in a 6-4 defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane. I scored twice while my Father watched on from the stands. It’s a stand out memory.
But my openness got me in to trouble. Abuse from opposition supporters was ugly and culminated in a fight on a train with a group of Chelsea fans heading home from Stamford Bridge who knew I supported Spurs. I’d been allowed to travel home separately and was still wearing my club tracksuit.
I may as well have had a target painted on my face.
But even when I played in the Premier League for Stoke I still went to White Hart Lane to watch Tottenham take on Arsenal. Mid way through the second half the entire stand turned to me and began chanting, “Kitson is a Yiddo”, which I have to admit put me in a very awkward position for a number of reasons.
So I can understand why most players try to keep their club loyalties a secret even if it’s no secret at all that every current player would have grown up on the terraces.
Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher famously grew up in Everton supporting families, but nobody can tell me that either of them left anything on the pitch in a Merseyside derby while playing for Liverpool; save for the odd stud mark down somebodies shin.