Gareth Bale’s remarkable turnaround from outcast to legend
Article by Oli Gamp
THROWN INTO THE FIRST TEAM at just 18, hopes were high for young Gareth Bale. His ability was recognised so early on that at school, his PE teacher would force him to only play football with his
weaker right foot to make it fair for the other players. Having alerted Premier League clubs with impressive performances at Southampton at just 16 years old, it was clear this boy was going to be a star one day. He eventually moved to Spurs for £10 million and his career got off to a flyer when Martin Jol decided to start him at left back for the opening few games, and his boldness was rewarded with goals against Fulham and Arsenal. An unfortunate injury against Newcastle United ruled him for the rest of the season; meaning he
missed the Carling Cup final win against Chelsea, and had to make a good impression on new manager Juande Ramos when he returned from injury in Pre Season. He impressed, and started playing games again until he was sent off against Stoke and Ramos was sacked.
Harry Redknapp took over and opted to go for Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back while Bale served his suspension- and the Frenchman did enough to convince Redknapp that he was the safer choice out
of the two. Not only this, but Bale had built up a bit of a reputation as an ‘unlucky charm’, having never played in a Spurs side and won. He spent months on the bench, with only substitute appearances
to his name and talk of him going on loan to Championship side Nottingham Forest. Just when Bale might have been thinking his Spurs career was over, something magical happened. Assou-Ekotto got injured during a training session and who was the only player in the squad who could play at left-back? Gareth Bale.
The Welshman knew this run in the team might only be temporary, but he also knew he could make it permanent if he played his game and turned out a performance he knew he was fully capable of. He delivered. A man of the match performance in a 2-1 win against Everton during the 2009/10 season led to praises up and down the country from fans and pundits alike and the confidence was back. The curse was
broken: he had won a game and now nothing was holding him back from being the legend he was touted to be when he signed from Southampton as a teenager. And nothing did hold him back. He went
on to cement his place in the side and help Spurs to finish fourth for the first time since the Premier League begun; scoring vital, decisive goals in quick succession against Arsenal and Chelsea when the team was faced with a daunting run of fixtures against all of the top three. They had to win at least two and Bale contributed to make it happen.
Redknapp realised what almost everyone had realised long ago. Bale wasn’t a left-back. He was poor at defending and possessed too much pace and general attacking qualities to be fielded so deep.
He experimented and played him at left midfield and he didn’t disappoint. He ended up starting in that position in the all important game against Man City at Eastlands; the game which would confirm
Spurs’s place in the Champions League if they won. No one would have guessed it, but he managed to go from almost being sent to the Championship to being an indispensable member of a Premier League team and playing Champions League football the following season.
Now, Bale is one of the most sought-after players in world football, yet he remains loyal to the team that put him on the map; signing a new deal this summer to the delight of Spurs fans everywhere.
His sensational hattrick against then-reigning champions of Europe Inter Milan, and then his man of the match performance in the return fixture, let the world know just how good he was. However, I think the real reason Gareth Bale is so highly respected, and possibly the catalyst behind his fairytale revival, is his humility. Shortly after the games against Inter Milan, Redknapp decided to give Bale a week’s rest. No, he didn’t for a night on the town and take a load of prostitutes back to a hotel room. He went back to Wales and spent some quality time with his Mum. I think that’s what really makes Gareth Bale a legend.