Our old friend Ryan Bailey, former editor of The Spoiler and a member of the DT World Cup 2010 dream team, makes his triumphant return with a look behind the curtain at Wednesday's 0-0 draw that allowed Spurs to advance to the Champions League quarterfinal over Milan.
The life of a football blogger isn't always glamorous (unless you consider sitting in your mom’s basement in your underwear furiously tapping into a Pop-Tart-crumb-covered laptop glamorous) but writing for a classy affair like Dirty Tackle sometimes affords a reporter the kind of bewitching access that makes it all worthwhile. Tonight was such an occasion, as Champions League sponsors Heineken invited me to Spurs' encounter with Milan, where the fascinating behind-the-scenes access more than compensated for the slightly crappy match.
Here's five things I learned in my evening in North London...
1. The Spurs players arrive at White Hart Lane on a team coach, but their stupendously exotic cars are driven to the ground for them by lowly employees. Jermain Defoe has almost certainly done lots of disgustingly sexy stuff in his car, so I don't envy the minion who gets handed his keys.
2. Before kick-off, my UEFA chaperone treated me to a walk down the tunnel, strictly on the understanding that I would avoid getting in anyone’s way if they looked important or Italian. As luck would have it, the Milan team arrived as we were loitering outside their dressing room, all dressed in immaculate Italian suit. From my close-up perspective, I can confirm that Pato looks like he is six years old, and Zlatan "I always manage to disappoint in big games" Ibrahimovic is much taller and slimmer than one would expect.
3. The TV gantry (see picture above) is scarily high up, a bit dirty, quite cramped and harder to get to than the Lost City of Atlantis. For Champions League games, an extra three blocks of seats below the TV gantry are taken up by international commentators and journalists. That's a few hundred seats that don’t have fans' butts on them.
4. As my incredibly shaky video shows, I was treated to a walk along the touchline before kick off. This provided an opportunity to earn a contemptuous stare from Marcel Desailly (which you can just about make out at around the 35-second mark) and shortly after I learned not to walk on the hallowed turf, as this makes the groundsmen very shouty.
5. Harry Redknapp is nothing short of hilarious at press conferences. When one journalist asked a question the gaffer deemed to be too negative, he simply blew into the microphone. When another questioned the importance of the game he simply said "we played AC Milan, not Raggy Arse Rovers FC," and as you can see in the video above, his patience with the Italian translator was thinner than Charlie Sheen’s grasp on reality.
Brilliantly, the White Hart Lane press conference room is also a bar.
[A massive thanks is owed to the good folks at Heineken, who invited me along to the game tonight and allowed me to show off my crappy photography/video skills to you all.]