For everyone there, it will be a night to remember. The veteran players rolled back the years, the current bunch mixed the right levels of showmanship and commitment, the tributes to Ledley were fulsome but never mawkish (not until Emeli Sandé blared out at end anyway), Howard Webb proved that he’s a natural clown, the half time entertainment was exactly that for a change but best of all was the Park Lane which sang from beginning to end and made sure that the party atmosphere never dropped for a second.
Ginola, Anderton and Sheringham were the stars in the first half, all combining at various stages to give Dawson and Kaboul an (apparently) hard time. The full house enjoyed cheering on Ledley’s XI and giving the ‘home’ team a hard time whenever they enjoyed a period of possession. (Given the constant clamours for his expulsion I don’t know how Dawson stayed on the pitch but that’s Webb for you I suppose). It was Daws who pulled Ledley to the floor at a corner thus allowing the man of the moment the chance to open the scoring from the spot. Adebayor equalised soon afterwards when Michael Brown proved that you can’t teach an old dog when he couldn’t restrain himself in his six yard box but then Berbatov sublimely put Teddy through for an emphatic finish past Friedel and goal celebration that had everyone in raptures. Berbatov was as laid back as ever but still managed to rile Kaboul (I think) into nipping at his ankles drawing a sulky limp from the Bulgarian at one point. Davids, Perry, Parker, Tarrico, Tainio (a sub for Parker) and Neil Sullivan made up the remainder of the Guest XI.
At halftime, the for once non-irritating Paul Coyte supervised a bizarre re-enactment of the 1984 UEFA Cup final penalty shoot out with a group of MPs (including David Lammie) of all people substituting for the Belgians. Graham Roberts, Mark Falco and Mickey Hazard all put penalties past Tony Parks before Martin Chivers, still in his suit, hit the bar. Ledley and Ledley Junior then tucked theirs away whilst Tony Parks played the fool. It was all for charidee but highly enjoyable.
The current Spurs team was replaced by nine youngsters and Holtby and Capoue at half time whilst only Ledley remained from the starting XI on the other side. The staged substitution duly arrived after 55 minutes when he left to a rapturous standing ovation – one had also taken place on 26 minutes. Holtby, Steffen Freund (who hit the bar but didn’t score of course) and Webb were the stars of a second half that saw a sublime finish from Nathan Oduwa, a long range effort from Capoue and an absolute cracker from Louis Saha (thus completing his hat-trick) to finish proceedings. There was a fair amount of knockabout stuff, a spectator running the line, Robinson and Parks conducting the Park Lane singing and Freund and Holtby engaging in some sort of German civil war but it was the latter’s hacking down of Webb when the bald bloke decided to take part in the game briefly that was probably my highlight.
Chimbonda, Thelwell, Bassong, Crouchy, Ruel Fox, Stalteri, Palacios, Simon Davies and Luke Young all joined in the amusement as well after half time but alas no Sherwood….
Aside from the fun and the money raised for charity the evening was there of course to allow everyone to pay tribute to Ledley. The fans affection for the big man was clear and loud throughout. Adding to those who contributed via the programme there were also messages broadcast on the Jumbotrons (including one from Boris Johnson oddly); the face that got the biggest cheer by far though was that of Rafael Van der Vaart, he would have loved the evening had he been able to attend in person. The players seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the fans, and it’ll do the youngsters the world of good to have played in front of such a big crowd and in such an (albeit very friendly) atmosphere.
Ledley was interviewed at the end and even in the face of Coyte’s banal questions it was clear how much he appreciated all that had gone before. His quote, “This is my club, my one and only club”, is now up on the Park Lane as a permanent reminder, or at least until the bulldozers move in anyway.
Those who’ve read King’s book will know that he feels his career with Tottenham and England is full of might-have-beens and if-onlys. There is no doubt though that Spurs and the fans made sure that this evening was a total triumph and one he will never forget. King of The Lane indeed.
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