Spurs legend tips his hat to Lane's latest entertainer
Sunday 07 November 2010
The old Chas and Dave hits were blaring out from Rudolph's, the pub on the corner of Bill Nicholson Way, late on Tuesday as Tottenham fans celebrated victory against
Internazionale. While "Ossie's Dream", the 1981 FA Cup final song inspired by Osvaldo Ardiles, invaded the night sky outside White Hart Lane, inside two other Argentinians reflected on the jaw-dropping brilliance of Gareth Bale.
"I am a friend of [the Internazionale striker Diego] Milito and he said to me, 'This lad is from another planet'," recounts Ricky Villa, Ardiles's old sidekick and hero of that 1981 Cup final. "If we look at the two games against Inter, he scored a hat-trick and then got 99 per cent of two goals in the second game. You could put that performance up there with [Lionel] Messi."
Villa, an Argentina-style No 10 who, by his own admission, struggled in his day with English football's straight lines, was thrilled by Bale's virtuosity. "I sometimes think English football is very average – it is well-organised, the teams defend and attack in specific zones, the patterns are rigid. But [Bale] broke out of that, he played alone, in a different key.
Whenever he got the ball, everyone was on their feet expecting something. That is football, when you earn applause and make people happy."
Villa, 58, did that during his Spurs days. The title of his new autobiography underlines the point, And Still Ricky Villa being part of John Motson's commentary when he weaved through Manchester City's defence before scoring the winner in the Cup final replay 30 years ago next May. Villa had grown up on a farm and the solitary hours spent dribbling between the trees bore spectacular fruit as he went past Tommy Caton and Ray Ranson on the outside, then back past Caton on the inside before beating Joe Corrigan.
"Sometimes I say that for the majority of people I played only one game and scored only one goal in England," he says, smiling. "I don't think it was a great goal. It was a South American goal in English football. In the mindset of an English player the first thought is not to dribble but it was for me. I always dreamed of scoring a great goal in a great place and my dream came true."
Tottenham had stunned English football when signing Ardiles and Villa after the 1978 World Cup. Yet while Ardiles had the industry to thrive in England, Villa was a laid-back playmaker who drifted in and out of games, and found the training demanding. "Every day I had to show the manager Keith Burkinshaw that I was working hard and sometimes I rebelled against that."
A gregarious individual, he felt "shut in" by a language barrier he struggled with, yet unlike Ardiles he resisted criticism from back home to stay with Spurs during the Falklands War before leaving for Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
He loved playing with Glenn Hoddle, whom he rates second only to Diego Maradona among old team-mates. "Sometimes I feel in England you don't recognise Glenn as a top player. He had everything."
He watches Tottenham's games back on the farm in Argentina and sees something of Hoddle's passing and vision in Tom Huddlestone. "I have heard he is too slow but he's quick in his head. I like him a lot and he has shades of Glenn – 50 per cent but that's good, that's a lot."
Chas and Dave may have split but the good times really are back at White Hart Lane.
And Still Ricky Villa – My Autobiography with Federico Ardiles and Joel Miller, published by Vision Sports, £18.99
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