The 10 best Tottenham players of the Premier League era
Without trophies as ballast, how do you weigh greatness? Tottenham have spent the Premier League betwixt and between mini-eras: sometimes on the up, occasionally on the down, but rarely standing still.
Without a truly level playing field, it’s difficult to measure the impact of different players given the varying circumstances they often faced. This is not a list of the brightest and best, rather a collection of those who did and meant the most within the context of their particular time.
10. Michael Dawson
Dawson never gave the impression that anything mattered more to him than team as a whole
During the recent defeat of Hull, with Tottenham cruising into a 3-0 lead, the White Hart Lane crowd chorused their affection for Dawson. Maybe there's nothing unusual about that: a nine-year career probably warrants some gratitude. But there was a tenderness to that moment that betrayed more than just casual respect.
Dawson wasn't the quickest defender. He wasn't the best in the air and he wasn't immune from making costly errors. But if you were to write down all the human qualities desirable in a footballer, he would have them all. He would run through walls, take fizzing shots to any part of his body and do anything within his physical power to stop the score changing.
Though his place in the team was never guaranteed and he would invariably become vulnerable whenever a more talented centre-half arrived, Dawson never allowed his ego to show. At another club he could perhaps have enjoyed more security and maybe even added to his four England caps, but he never gave the impression that anything mattered more to him than team as a whole.
There are other players who have a stronger superficial claim to be on this list; there are even other centre-halves. But Dawson belongs by virtue of his sporting and social decency: a reliable and occasionally excellent performer on the pitch, a modern athlete with a conscience off it. He's the kind of player than any fanbase in the country would gravitate towards and, in Tottenham parlance, the anti-Campbell.
9. David Ginola
At a time when life at the Lane had become dour, his ambition in possession and exhilarating running were soothingly cathartic
During Ginola's three years in north London, Spurs finished 15th, 11th and 10th in the league. It was sign of the times: that was an ordinary team full of flawed players. Admittedly, he was one of them: he didn't want to defend and, when he didn't have the ball, he wasn't overly keen on running.
But to understand why he's here, it's important to remember what it was like to watch those teams play - or, more specifically, what he was able to bring to them. Despite playing for Christian Gross, David Pleat and George Graham, Ginola still managed to be fun. Not in a trite, incidental manner, but in a more pertinent "reason for going to the football" way.
The Graham/Ginola union was a strange one. In March 1999, in an interview with the Independent's Bill Pierce, the player was effusive in his praise for his manager. Johan Cruyff had just anointed him the best player in the world and yet, far from ego and bluster, Ginola talked enthusiastically about free-kick routines and his tactical role. Graham evidently had a positive influence on him, too. Later that year, the Football Writers' Association would vote him Player of the Year and, after Spurs won the 1999 League Cup, he collected his only major English trophy.
But Ginola transcended the winning and losing. At a time when life at the Lane had become dour, his ambition in possession and exhilarating running were soothingly cathartic.
8. Harry Kane
In Kane’s progression lies a lesson for us all about experience, patience and the importance of nurturing talent
What a captivating story. It's not just that Harry Kane was a boyhood Tottenham supporter, came through the club's academy and plays with a fan's enthusiasm, it's that he was a wonderful surprise. He was a highly touted prospect for many years but, on first glimpse, most were unimpressed: he was slow, clumsy and ready to be filed away with Jamie Slabber.
Some knew better and they were proved definitively right. In Kane’s progression lies a lesson for us all about experience, patience and the importance of nurturing talent.
His subsequent rise has been extraordinary, but also coated with normality: Kane lacks the airbrushed finesse of many of his contemporaries and, allied with his local roots, is an obvious everyman.
And yet his output has been extraordinary. His goals and all-round game have been essential to Mauricio Pochettino's impact on club fortunes, but his emotional symbolism has been the binding mastic for a notoriously fractured fanbase. Kane is the common ground for everyone: universally loved and appreciated, he arrived at just the right time to become the talisman for a new, healthier direction.