Here at Spurs we are proud of our traditions. The list is as long as it is illustrious, dotted with as many legendary players and record-breaking stats as there are stars in the sky; The first post-war British club to win a European trophy. The first post-war league and cup double. Top-flight English football’s all-time record goalscorer, Jimmy Greaves. The fastest Premier League goal courtesy of Ledley King. Special, special memories. Yet there is one tradition even longer and more richly detailed than any of those previously mentioned. It is rarely spoken of – a hushed whisper, as soft as the night breeze. We all know it’s there, we just show enough decorum and tact to not mention it. I am of course talking about Spurs’ glorious history of signing the next great white hope, nay, the future saviour of the game as we know it. Fans dance in the streets and managers sit beamingly in the press conferences like Midas atop his empire of gold. Only it then turns out that the signing is a bit shit. And then they get shipped off. After about one season. One really, really average season.
So, what better way to start off this list than with the very embodiment of the ‘Spurs signing’, as it should be known if it isn’t already. Young Timothée (with a hard ‘th’, don’t you dare call him Timothy) arrived at the Lane at the very zenith of his career. Having played more than one-hundred games in the Swiss first division, he had recently won the double with FC Basel in the ’01-’02 season and was all set to fix Spurs’ left-back problems for years to come. However, it turns out that Jacques Santini’s judgement was slightly off, a rare lapse indeed.
Rangy, lean, tricky: all words used to veil the fact that he was uncoordinated, lanky, and tripped over the ball more than your average five year old in the back garden. Perhaps most fondly remembered for his knack of attempting long throw-ins that traveled about ten yards, he was also the master (creator?) of the ‘step-over in your own area’ maneuver which in hindsight is a terrible idea, flawed in just about every respect. Poor Paul Robinson must have nearly had a coronary when Atouba, lacking the vision to play a simple hoof up the pitch towards the target man, decided to embark on a mazy run back towards his own goal before laying it off to the befuddled stopper.
Eighteen appearances and one admittedly astonishing goal against Bobby Robson’s Newcastle later big Timmer was out the door to Hamburg. He then proceeded to give the finger to the crowd twice, getting beer (or what he hopes was beer) chucked all over him for his troubles. Three seasons later he was due for a medical at Newcastle, the one team to ever see him have a good game, only to baffle Hamburg staff by turning up to training that afternoon. He now plays for Ajax, which is incidentally the third time he’s found himself under Martin Jol – the only man who ever loved him.
By Callum Tennent
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