I Wanna Be In That Number

There were many things to get excited about during the Crystal Palace game on Sunday evening; Kane’s wonder goal, the developing chemistry of Kane, Bale and Son or even that we’re starting to look more settled in the centre of defence.

However, from the moment I saw the team sheet my mind became obsessed with not the names on the team sheet but their numbers.

1. Lloris

2. Doherty

3. Reguilon

4. Alderweireld

5. Hojbjerg

6. Sanchez

7. Son

8. Winks

9. Bale

10. Kane 

27. Lucas

As if to highlight the discrepancy Word formatted this list automatically assuming that the eleventh number to add after ‘Kane’ would be ‘11’ and wont allow me to align #27 underneath the others listed. That’s right ten of our starting XI were wearing shirt numbers #1 – #10 with iust our #11 Lamela not on the teamsheet.

Now traditionalists, like me, may have craved for a #1 – #11 in the same way that we crave matches to kick off at 3pm on a Saturday or most frustratingly for teams to only change kit in away matches when there is a genuine colour clash. 

In fact the matter utterly consumed me to the extent that the thought of Lamela replacing Lucas as our first sub became my principal desire for the rest of the match which was only dashed when Bale and Winks were withdrawn thus rendering the #1 – #11 dream over for this week.

Strangely we actually have a #1 – #11 that would be functional though clearly not our best XI. I suspect most observers would prefer Aurier (#24) to Doherty (#2) and our central defensive options (Alderwerield #4, Sanchez #6, Rodon #14, Dier #15, and Tanganga #25) are subject to much debate. Additionally you’ll go a long way to find many that would select Winks (#8) over Ndombele (#28).  

So, the answer that I’m yet to receive a definitive answer to (email has been sent to official THFC historian) is when was the last time a Spurs starting XI was made up exclusively of #1 – #11?

I’m almost certain it would have been the final game of the 1992/93 season; from the start of the 1993/94 season squad numbers were introduced. Our final match of 92/3 was the largely forgotten 3-1 victory at Highbury on Tuesday 11th May which secured a very rare and indeed our most recent league double over Woolwich. I will let you think who was in that starting XI and will reveal at the end of the blog – Clue – there are a couple of real randoms in there!

When squad numbers were introduced for the start of the 1993/94 season its possible that many clubs would have filled these traditional numbers with a functional starting XI. Indeed our #1 – #11 could have existed as a team:

1 Thorstvedt, 2 Austin; 3 Edinburgh; 4 Samways; 5 Calderwood; 6 Mabbutt; 7 Barmby; 8 Durie; 9 Anderton; 10 Sheringham; 11 Allen

Our Starting XI on the opening day – a 1-0 victory over newly promoted Newcastle contained seven of those  – Paul Allen and Gordon Durie would however leave the club soon into the season and Nick Barmby missed the start of the season through injury only returning for the game against Manchester United in October in which Teddy Sheringham picked up a knee injury that kept him out until April. Steve Sedgley (#14) was our only ever-present with Sol Campbell (#23) and Jason Dozzell (#12) all playing in a majority of games which meant it was impossible to field a #1 – #11.

As the 90’s progressed some of our better and more important regular starters like Klinsmann (#18), Ginola (#14) wearing higher numbers ensured the phenomenom would not occur. There was a reset of numbers ahead of the 99/00 season which for the first, and last time until now, meant there was at least a functional set of numbers in place:

1 Walker; 2 Carr; 3 Taricco; 4 Freund; 5 Campbell; 6 Perry; 7 Anderton; 8 Sherwood; 9 Ferdinand; 10 Iversen; 11 Korsten

However, Ferdinand (#9) and Korsten (#11) started only 4 games each throughout the season. 

In the twenty years since then there have been many occasions where #1 – #11 numbers have been completely vacated which included the 2011/12 season where Brad Friedel started every PL game wearing #24 (Gomes having been allocated #1 went out on a season-long loan) and Dimitar Berbatov has been our only outstanding #9 who has been regularly selected in the starting XI . 

As was the case in the mid 90’s many of our most influential or reliable players have occupied higher numbers – Modric (#14), Eriksen (#23), Dawson (#20), King (#26) Dembele (#19), Dele (#20) to name but a few. With players personal brands becoming more significant and of course with so few of the current professionals even born before squad numbers were introduced it feels it will be a long while, if at all, before we see a straight flush of #1 – #11 on the pitch in lilywhite again.  It would be somewhat ironic given my traditionalist desires that if it does happen we will be playing in a third choice kit of pink/black stripes away at Everton on a Monday lunchtime Kick Off! 

I’d be intrigued to know what traditions you would like to see return to football? 

Anyway, here’s that starting XI in #1 – #11 from May 1993:

1 Walker; 2 David McDonald; 3. Van Den Hauwe; 4. Danny Hill; 5. Mabbutt; 6. Ruddock; 7. Sedgley; 8 John Hendry; 9. Anderton; 10. Sheringham; 11 Allen

Leave a Reply