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Bale’s big Spurs return set for the small screen

Osley: 'Tottenham's returning hero must at least start his second term in an empty stadium, the legion of fans watching only on pixels'

24 September, 2020 — By Richard Osley

EARLIER this summer, when a lot of rich footballers were looking the other way as if nothing was happening, Gareth Bale stumped up almost a million pounds worth of funding for the coronavirus relief in Wales and then in Spain.

I won’t be saying this when he inevitably scores a hat-trick against Arsenal later this season, and you may say that to a man of his wealth he wouldn’t have noticed that the money was gone, but he doesn’t seem the worst of men.

And like when Thierry Henry re-signed for Arsenal and scored the winning goal against Leeds United in the FA Cup, Tottenham fans have been buzzing that he has returned.

Never mind the valleys or even the golf course, apparently he is now “home” – a home, of course, he can decorate with wondrous silverware obtained elsewhere.

The shiny things must be causing quite a stir at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium among bedazzled new teammates.

And yet the difference between Henry’s cameo and BALE IS BACK is quite tragic.

For the last few days, we have seen a quite beautiful emotion among the Spurs fans we all know, their lips quivering with nerves until the deal was watertight, done and dusted. This means the world to them.

But when Henry scored that goal against Leeds, a whole stadium erupted in noise. The Emirates Stadium can be quiet even without a pandemic, but that night it was pandemonium, an earthquake.

In contrast, Bale must at least start his second term in an empty stadium, the legion of fans watching only on pixels. His finger hearts will have to be shoved down a camera lens.

Such a historic moment for Tottenham will be experienced on the small screen. It’s not meant to be like that.

Arsenal have just seen what it was like to win the FA Cup that way: fun, a distraction, but nothing like the roar it’s meant to be.

And announcements made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week made it all sound even bleaker: new Covid restrictions for six months.

When he talks like he did this week, you wonder what anybody’s transfer hustles of this past summer have been about. Football could shut down at any moment.

No wonder only Chelsea really gorged on new players. They have a set-up which can write off multi-million pound signings like madcap casino bets.

Everybody else was probably wise to hold fire. At the very least, we are sort of being told that fans won’t be inside a stadium together for at least half a year. No gate receipts for six months. And for Spurs fans, perhaps no sight of Bale in the flesh for that same long period.

That’s not just tragic for them after all this excitement, it’s the tragic new normal for all of us.


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