So it looks like Berba is chickening out of a return to the Lane tomorrow, the big girl’s blouse. There is also some talk of Carrick possibly missing out through injury, although I suspect he’d be due less vitriol than the Bulgarian swine. Loyalty means nothing to players, nothing new there, but everyone loves a pantomime villain, especially at Christmas, and should Berba play he can expect to be roundly booed for the manner in which he upped and left. Of sulky demeanour at the best of times, his departure was conducted in such a surly manner he didn’t even bother to make the usual polite utterances about how grateful he was for the opportunity and support at Spurs etc. There’s probably a sense in which his honesty is refreshing, but I missed it in the midst of my indignation that anyone would dare to leave the amphitheatre of N17, or that, contrary to the song, there is actually another team around which is by far the greatest the world has ever seen.
Some players will always be warmly received at the Lane – Waddler, Ginola, Klinsmann et al. Guys, mi casa su casa. The criteria are pretty straightforward – play the sort of champagne football that the Lane regulars love, show that you care for the badge and, possibly above all else, don’t leave acrimoniously. Getting shunted out by an unscrupulous chairman/manager tends to assist the returning player in the popularity stakes.
By contrast, declaring that you’d rather leave Spurs and join some other lot, who have handily become the club you supported as a boy, will grant you the sort of treatment that even Emmanuel Eboue would consider a tad harsh. And leaving to join l’arse on a free, after you’ve been club captain for years – well, suffice it say that ten years on and that’s now become a matter for the polizei to investigate.
With Rooney and possibly Evra also missing from the Man Utd line-up tomorrow, and our bizarrely impressive record against the top-four so far this season, there may even be grounds for optimism ahead of the game. I think we’ll get stuff myself, but personally I’d rather lose this one and win the Carling Cup final against them.