Like all supporters, Tottenham fans love a cult hero. A quick scan through my Spurs-supporting years bring to mind an overflowing (and slightly dubious) class of nominees: Justin Edinburgh, Nayim, Jose Dominguez, Andy Sinton, Teemu Tainio, Allan Nielsen, Ramon Vega, Pedro Mendes, Reto Ziegler, Clive Wilson. We could go on a fair old while.
In the case of dear Ramon and many others, “cult hero” can be a nice way to label a player more accurately described as “useless”. I never quite understood the Steffen Freund one. Sure, he ran around a lot and gee’d up the crowd like a novelty German wrestler. But I couldn’t get past the fact that he couldn’t tackle or pass and took the ironic crowd calls to “shooooot” as a genuine request to blaze the ball over the bar. During Wilson Palacios’s darker moments I force myself to recall those times.
Thinking about those names reminds us how lucky we are now. I can remember a god-awful relegation battle home win over Bolton in 1998 where my mate Chris and I were genuinely excited about witnessing Moussa Saib’s debut. Nowadays, Niko Kranjcar can barely make our bench. But, for me, one player who remains faithful to the club’s proud cult hero legacy is Vedran Corluka.
Charlie Boy has been speaking in the press recently about the battle to regain his starting right back spot from galvanised Scots flier Alan Hutton. His absence – and Hutton’s half-decent (let’s not kid ourselves: it’s been nothing more than that) form – will have forced Redknapp to seriously consider whether Corluka really deserves his spot. Because few current players split opinion like Vedran.
For some, he’s a lumbering weak link. A shirt-tugging penalty waiting to happen. Overweight, lackadaisical and not good enough for a Champions League side. For others, Corluka is a sturdy, consistent presence and surprisingly useful in possession. A streetwise defender not afraid to play dirty to get the job done. Truth is, he’s probably a bit of both. That Werder Bremen game formalised many of our fears: if a team isolates their trickiest player (rat-faced nuisance Marko Marin in this case) against him, there’s every chance Vedran will spend 90 minutes hacking at thin air. But Corluka isn’t likely to face opponents of Marin’s ability every week and he usually finds a way to strong-arm these pesky miniature skillsters into ineffectualness.
There’s every chance Vedran will be restored to the starting XI once back at full fitness, particularly if Hutton comes home with this new groin injury. However, many feel a fully-fit Younes Kaboul might pose his greatest threat. Offering a blend of Corluka’s bulk and and Hutton’s offensive galloping (with a unhealthy pinch of his own still-naïve defensive decision-making thrown in), our boomerang Frenchman could just mature into our very own budget Cafu. Leaving Charlie nothing but an assured place in my own pantheon of Spurs Cult Heroes.