The great Ginola no match for crisps and mini-Tango

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The Independent Online
THEY GO together like Chateau Lafitte and chips. And yet, earlier this month, a crowd of more than 4,000 witnessed a meeting of kinds when the Frenchman bestowed his talents upon a match officially opening the Ryman League side's new stadium. It was magnifique, even if it was only a phoney war.

Posters displayed around the town, advising of the visit of a Tottenham XI, had stirred some interest in the weeks preceding the fixture. Like most people, I concluded that the opposition would consist of a side drawn from Tottenham's youth and reserve teams, with perhaps one or two familiar names making an appearance.

But as the day of the match arrived, many-tongued rumour passed round the town that big names were involved. Names like Les Ferdinand. And Sol Campbell. And - ooh la la! - Da-veed. `They're all going to be there,' I was solemnly assured by one of the mothers at our children's school. `Their shirts are already hanging up in the changing-room.' I should have asked her how she knew this.

She was wrong, as it turned out - Ferdinand and Campbell's involvement amounted to an evening of autograph-signing - but I am still intrigued to know how she got hold of this convincing detail.

By then, however, I was convinced that this was the perfect opportunity for my seven-year-old son to see his first football match. Especially as he had recently been confirmed as a Tottenham supporter in a private ceremony involving the purchase of a replica strip by his season-ticket- holding half-brother.

While this afforded both a good deal of excitement, I cannot pretend that it was a pleasant occasion for me. Having supported West Ham since I was 10, I had harboured the predictable hope that my son would travel as I had with my dad to view the sacred turf at Upton Park.

I swear the first sight of that scuffed pitch - from high up in the main stand - was a magical one for me, like the first glimpse of a theatre. After all those hours of poring over West Ham pictures in Shoot! and Goal magazines, here was the place itself, with the dug-outs, the shallow goals jammed back against the advertising boards, the overlooking high-rise flats.

And there, actually down there - was Bobby Moore...

Sadly for me, however, Tottenham had poached the promising new talent in my own backyard. And as he strode with exaggerated boldness through the crowds, swinging his elbows, it became clear that my son was in a very large majority - at least, judging by the number of other young boys around sporting Tottenham gear. The local team didn't appear to register.

We stood behind the Stortford goal, and very soon the ball began to arrive there from a variety of angles. This was all very satisfactory for the debutant Tottenham supporter hoisted to my shoulder. The finer nuances of midfield play, in which Ginola played an elegant if detached part, were a mystery to him, but goals were goals, and there were bagsful.

"I've only come to see him," said a woman standing nearby. "So have I," said her friend. They might have been referring to Tottenham's recent signing from Wimbledon, Chris Perry. But I think not.

Personally, I find all this female attention for Ginola irksome. OK, so he's fabulously talented and good looking. And rich. And charming. But that said, what does he amount to? While my son was gratified to be watching a real live Ginola, and happy enough to be told that Perry was a good buy as a defender, and that Jose Dominguez had missed a sitter, and that the Stortford forward Martin Hayes had played under the current Tottenham manager, George Graham, while both were at Arsenal, which may have been one of the reasons why Spurs had brought such a strong side up for the match, I sensed a certain waning of interest in him over the closing stages.

Even five Tottenham first- teamers proved to be an insufficient match for the crisps and mini-Tango drink provided by one of his schoolfriends whom we encountered near the programme stall. As he set about reducing his empty can to crushed, re-cycleable proportion by regular application of his foot, the activities on the pitch began to pass him by.

Ginola was long gone from the play by now, a besieged figure on the sidelines. And beyond the lit confines of the ground, darkness had set in - albeit a darkness compromised by the orange glow of the bypass and the lit undercarriages of planes preparing to land at Stansted Airport.

Tottenham were winning 6-0. Hooray for Tottenham. But one little boy just wanted his bed.