The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Squad Member

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

In all that delirious absurdity of the last goal 3-1 win at Swansea, did anyone notice Georges-Kévin N’Koudou?

He’s done next to nothing of moment in first-team action since he joined the club. A flickering substitution here and there. That snappy cross to Ben Davies who scored his first goal against Aston Villa. Anything else?

Yet there he was at the end of the Swansea game, brought on with ten minutes to go as a final throw of attacking unexpectedness when all looked desperate. Did he make a quick difference? Not obviously.

Then Tottenham score twice. Frantic scenes.

Swansea push forward and win a throw-in near our goal-line. The ball is headed back to N’Koudou, back deep on the goal-line itself. A quick touch and pull-back to control it. He looks up, and launches a strong straight sharp pass upfield right to Vincent Janssen’s feet. Out to Dele. In to Eriksen, waving at the space opening in front of him. Swerve. Bang. Goal. Madness.

When you watch the replay of all that, you might not notice N’Koudou flashing across the bottom of the screen as he sprints up the length of the field down the wing past Dele. The yawning space for Eriksen opens up in part because the Swansea left-back has an eye on N’Koudou’s run before turning towards the centre. Superb teamwork.

Thus Vincent Janssen. He’s not Harry Kane. But he delivered the last two goals of that Swansea win. First by the deft unexpected back-heel nutmeg that put Son though for the second goal. And then by his superb first touch to control the long N’Koudou pass that allowed him to hold the ball, stretch the play and then move it smoothly on to Dele.

* * * * *

To us mere fans getting more stressed as the season advances, it’s hard to see that all points scored in a long league race count the same. The point won in a hard-fought draw back in a drab game somewhere in October has just as much weight in the final season tally as each of the three points in the resounding win in the final game that secures Champions League football next season.

To win each point is a slog. It’s never going to happen that the same eleven players appear in every game. The depth and resolve of the squad are tested as the season unfolds. Accidents can happen at any moment.

Who knows? Maybe you scarcely get a full first-team kick for months. But then in the final league game or the FA Cup Final, a crazy combination of injuries and suspensions thrusts you on to the field. With only minutes to go. The whole season may be defined by what happens in those minutes.

That’s the fate and huge responsibility of the ‘squad player’. To spend all those long months in training, so that if/when the moment comes you’re ready to do what it takes, both off the ball and on it. Not losing focus. Staying cheery and positive.

Not being desperate to shine in those few minutes that may or may not be given, but to be disciplined: adding something new and energetic, while fitting in seamlessly with the rest of the team.

To make a difference. To be a 100% reliable member of a team that makes it over the line as a team.

Thanks this season to Georges-Kévin, Vincent, Kevin, Cameron, Josh and Pau. For being there. For being ready.


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