Friday, 7 March 2014

Darren Alexander, 1971-2014


Myself with Darren Alexander (right) at his 40th birthday party in 2011.

Like so many people who knew and had met Darren Alexander, I was incredibly shocked to hear of his untimely passing. And like all of those who were close friends of his, including myself, I am deeply upset at the thought of never again seeing my friend; I’ve barely stopped crying all night.
Condolences obviously go out to his family and girlfriend Katrina, and anyone else who was especially close to him.
It was incredibly hard reading all the messages about Darren on social media on my way home tonight, I’ve never cried so much when reading anything, and I’m even crying as I write this, forgive me if I ramble on too much.
The reach that Darren’s influence has had is incredible and heart warming. So many people who didn’t know but knew of my friend have said so many nice things about him. His family and closest friends would appreciate it so much. It was good, really good, that even Spurs carried it as a news item, he would have loved being mentioned by them so much.
Because Spurs was one of the many things that Darren was about. For many of us, supporting our football club is the one thing to look forward to after a hard week. It’s one of the few constants in life, it’s always there, sometimes changing, but something that at times can give more joy than almost anything you can imagine. Darren knew that just as well as anyone. He cared for Spurs and what it gives us, and the game itself. And perhaps more importantly, he cared for the people who followed it as well. On the day he passed from us, three Spurs fans found out that no further action would be taken against them for use of the Y-word. He would have been so happy about that having done his part to help them and all those who have shared concerns over the direction this case was taking.
I was immensely proud and impressed when my friend became joint chairman of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust. This is a supporters group that helps liaise between the fans and the club, while also spearheading and supporting various campaigns within the game itself, such as the return of safe standing at games. This allowed Darren’s passion for all things Spurs to extend to fans of other clubs as well, even to that lot down the road (shhh, that’s Arsenal, just in case you were wondering).
And even fans of our beloved Gooner rivals, who knew of Darren because he and the Trust had worked with them on various issues tweeted their respects to him. Truly wonderful the influence he had and the respect they have shown in kind. Darren knew that Arsenal were also part of the game and that if something he and the Trust were working on related to and involved everyone, then it really should include everyone. He didn’t hold a closed court; everyone was welcome.
I attended a Trust meeting that Darren handled, and it was wonderful to see this project that gave Darren a new and very purposeful direction in his life. That, and coupled with the joy that being with Katrina gave him was so good to see. Honestly, I thought it was bloody brilliant that he had found such a nice, charming and intelligent person to be with.
I first met Darren nearly twenty years ago, when another friend of ours, Ivan Cohen, ‘phoned me up at work one day and suggested that I go along to watch the Spurs Reserves play that night. At that time they were playing at St Albans. I’d never been anywhere near the place and I had to look up how to get there. But I thought why not, even though it was nowhere, I really mean nowhere at all(!) near where I lived. I gave no real thought whatsoever to how I would get home that night. Hey, it’s football, you know? So a train ride later, and there I was, watching the Spurs Reserves play. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
At the ground Ivan introduced me to a few people, including Darren. As we watched the game we chatted and it became clear we had more in common than just the mighty Spurs. When Darren found out that I had a long and tiresome train journey home, he offered to drive me back, almost insisted if I remember rightly, even though it added at least another five or so miles to his journey home. How kind. I was incredibly grateful, and glad that I did take him up on that offer, because it meant we became good friends. And of course, this also meant I found out how incredibly generous and kind hearted he could be. It’s not often you can remember so clearly how you first meet people, but with Darren, it was crystal.
We not only went to away games together but hooked up in other ways, I remember going to see the movie The Net with Sandra Bullock at the cinema with him. Darren joked that he only went to watch it because he wanted to find out how to configure his internet connection!
An early example of Darren’s sense of humour, this was. He got better, it got quite incredible at times. I’ve never met anyone so funny who wasn’t on stage. He could hold a whole conversation where meaningful point-laden dialogue would at the same time be the funniest thing you’ve ever heard. Darren would maybe not be too bothered by the reaction he got, that’s the point of comedy, get a reaction, and if you love someone enough, who cares what they do? I’d give anything to see any part of what made up Darren’s personality again, good or bad.
I think that sometimes where I often try to joke about things perhaps a bit too much that it comes from Darren. If it does, I think that’s good, it means that I help make some part of him still live on, in a way.
Darren really, really did have a comeback for anyone and anything, he was unbeatable. And he knew more about celebrity and popular culture than anyone else I knew. It was like he not just read every issue of Empire magazine from cover to cover but consumed it as well. I don’t know if he actually did read it, but it was like he did!
Darren had a heart of gold and the fact that he wanted to help all football fans through the Trust proved that. There were a few times when he was just about the only friend to be there for me when I needed one, and likewise there was a time when I was the only one there for him. So this tribute is how, in my own small way, I can help preserve his memory, selfishly perhaps for my own sake, but hopefully for anyone else who takes comfort from this.
After a particularly bad week at work, all I was looking forward to tonight was relaxing in front of the tv. But my week pales compared to that of my friend, and his loved ones. I am so consumed that all I can meaningfully do is sit down and write about how much he meant to me, and others, and how much we will miss him. I guess this is my tribute to Darren.
Thank you for reading, but a bigger thank you to Darren for being my friend, coming into my life, and achieving so much in such a short space of time in the last few years. Your loss will leave a hole in all our lives that will be impossible to fill.
R.I.P. Darren Alexander, 1971–2014
I Can’t Smile Without You.

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

Spurs 1-0 Cardiff City, 2nd March 2014


It’s quite funny really. I’m lucky enough to have been to a few of the amazing eateries across the US that Adam Richman has featured on his show, and now he has been lucky enough to visit White Hart Lane, the most amazing football ground he will ever have been to.

Adam is of course the Brooklyn raised dude who hosts Man v Food, this crazy yet enticing show where he used to eat as much as he could stomach at these most incredible restaurants in a set time. A bit like some of us used to do when we were younger. So why is this significant, you ask? At half time we were introduced to Adam, which was wonderful in itself, and this sweet half-time chat with our Man v Food guy allowed us to escape the Man v Dire fare that Spurs were dishing up, in a they-will-never-win-Masterchef sort of way.

Like cooking, preparation is so much the key in football, and with Lennon on the right, Townsend on the left, Adebayor and Soldado up front, things looked very well balanced indeed. Time to light the fires.

But Paulinho and Dembele failed to put in a decent shift, and Townsend’s lethargy coupled with his usual desire to shoot on sight if he can even sniff the goal meant Tottenham’s midfield were as far away from being cooked to perfection as one of the greasy burgers along the Tottenham High Road.

Okay, enough of the food analogies, as they’re getting a bit stale. Adebayor played more off Soldado than alongside him. Ade sported a rather large bandage on one leg and there had been talk that he had been playing in some pain. Fortunately for Spurs that hasn’t stopped him scoring, playing well or being someone we can’t do without. He was indispensable yet again, even setting up the goal for Roberto Soldado that had been promised for such a long time now. Adebayor’s slightly deeper positioning may have been a result of his minor injury that he possibly has, or Sherwood playing Soldado more centrally in the hope that he may score which he did, or both, even. Whatever, even though the midfield misfired yet again, this tactic worked out fine just enough to win the game.

The jubilation on Soldado’s face said it all. He had been waiting for it for so long, and his goal was even more important in that it proved to the winner; he was smothered by the entire team save the ‘keeper while celebrating in front of the Park Lane crowd. Robbie played well on top of that as well, linking better than most of the midfielders. He is quick, he tries hard, and the White Hart Lane crowd have sung his name without yet being rewarded with goals because they know they will come, with interest.

Nice touch of the day came when the Spurs crowd started singing to anyone associated with Cardiff “you’re supposed to play in blue… (repeat ad infinitum)” to which the Cardiff City fans responded in kind followed by respectful applause all around. Generally, we all have a healthy competitive dislike of each other, but as football fans, on some things you just can’t help but stand together, and Vincent Tan’s disrespectful change of colour of the Bluebirds’ kit left a bad taste in the mouth for everyone. You just know that the next owner will change it back. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but how else could you possibly get the entire fan-base on your side so quickly? Restore the club’s history and traditions, that’s how.

On the flipside, Cardiff’s Craig Bellamy showed that he hasn’t totally shaken off the slightly annoying bad boy image that has followed him around. After one naughty tackle by his team mate Kim, Bellamy said something to rattle the referee’s ire and got booked. The ref had barely turned away to allow the game to resume when Bellamy stupidly mouthed off again. The ref turned back to him and for a moment it looked like he was going to wave a second yellow and then a red. But he didn’t, and Bellamy stayed on the pitch. Lucky boy, lucky boyo?

Cardiff may be languishing near the bottom of the table but they created chances, as they did even when mauled at home by Hull city last week. They came close to equalising a few times. On one of these occasions a corner found the head of a Cardiff player but it was luckily blocked by Lloris who was, to be honest, more perfectly positioned to block than he was able to react to stop it.

Spurs fans would have been expecting more than one goal after the aforementioned slaughter by Hull. Three points are of course the most important thing, but performances are in the doldrums. This is getting a bit concerning as a string of very tough games are coming up. A look at the fixture list will have Spurs fans reaching for the bottle. Losing Kyle Walker is massive as he has been one of the most important players for Spurs this season. I find myself even missing Danny Rose’s industry; he’s not a left back by any definition, but he penetrates deeper than the uninspiring midfield and even looks more capable of scoring than they do.

Michael Dawson blocked in the way that sometimes only he can do, but he has to show this consistently. Jan Vertonghen may be emerging out of his dark place which will be of much use in the coming weeks. Goalie Hugo had to get in the way a few times which is just fine, but his distribution is worse than Postman Pat with a dodgy sat-nav.

Timmie’s Boys go marching on, they are still just about in touch of a top four place, but there are some mighty strong teams to displace up there if Spurs can come through the coming fixtures relatively unscathed. It will be tough, but at least Spurs can at least rightly say they are in a position to challenge. Up until four or five years ago they wouldn’t have been at the races. But they are now. So you really, really do have to watch this space.

Come on You Spurs! 

Follow me on Twitter at @BruceEJLewis

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Copyright Bruce Lewis, 2014.

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