Harry Kane seems to have started the ball rolling on his quest to eventually do one from Tottenham, which got us casting our mind back to the days when Gareth Bale was doing the same.
But what if Bale had never got to that point with Spurs? What if he had moved to Birmingham in January 2010, when Alex McLeish asked about the struggling left-back who at that point was essentially a curse to Tottenham, having not participated in a league win for his first two seasons at White Hart Lane and was being kept out of the team by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Harry Redknapp, Spurs manager at the time, turned down Birmingham’s advances on the basis that they had a few too many injuries, but what if he hadn’t? How might things have been different in this curious space-time reversal in which Bale moves to Brum?
It’s time for another exciting edition of Flip/Reverse It, from this Thursday’s edition of the Totally Football Show: take it away, Duncan Alexander:
“January 2010: Bale moves to Birmingham and nobody really notices. It’s just one of those moves that appears on a ticker and people go “oh yeah, that guy.” In real life that season Birmingham came ninth, which was a pretty good campaign for them. Bale improves them, they finish seventh, everyone’s reasonably happy.
“We go into 2010/11 – now you might remember this was the season when Birmingham won the League Cup by beating Arsenal. They still win the League Cup but they win it 5-1 against Arsenal: Gareth Bale stars, tears Arsenal to pieces, scores a hat-trick and he’s suddenly becoming this amazing player that everyone rates. Arsene Wenger meanwhile, has to resign and disappears for a bit.
“Summer 2011: you might remember Kenny Dalglish is trying to rebuild Liverpool after the Roy Hodgson experiment went horribly wrong. In this world he doesn’t sign Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing: why does he need to? He just goes to Birmingham and makes a massive offer for Bale.
“We move onto 2012: Bale and Luis Suarez form a devastating partnership for Liverpool, reminiscent of Barnes and Beardsley in 87/88, in Dalglish’s first spell. Along with Craig Bellamy they form this thing the media calls the BSB, in a lovely nod to the nation’s satellite TV heritage.
“Liverpool comfortably finish in the top four this season: you might remember that in real life Liverpool won the League Cup but lost in the FA Cup final. Not with Bale – they win both trophies, he’s known as this cup final king, almost unplayable.
“Now 2012/13. Bale’s playing at a level that nobody can cope with, Liverpool are irrepressible with Bale up front. They actually win the league title in 2012/13 under Kenny Dalglish, Alex Ferguson leaves Manchester United in disgrace with Liverpool back on their perch – in fact Liverpool sign James Perch as a really oblique reference which really annoys Ferguson.
“At this point Real Madrid come in, and Liverpool say “you know what, we’ve got our title back, it’s fine, off you go.” They reinvest the money sensibly, needing to build on their record of 19 English titles, and everyone lives happily ever after.”
Phew. Let’s briefly check back in on reality, with Emma Saunders.
“What actually happened in that transfer window (January 2010) was Birmingham signed Spanish midfielder Michel from Sporting Gijon, who made nine appearances. He went on to be an Azerbaijan Premier League winner with Qarabag. Bale: what could’ve been for him.”
What of Spurs in this alternate timeline? What impact would not selling Bale to Real Madrid for a world record fee have had on them?
“I wonder whether we would ever have had Harry Kane as a Spurs striker,” speculated Emma. “Let’s not forget that Roberto Soldado was one of the players Spurs bought with the Bale money, so his decline coincided with the rise of Kane, so had he not been there to make that decline, would Spurs ever have had Kane [in their first-team]?”
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