Harry Kane's goal against AEL Limassol, one of fifteen he has scored so far this season. Illustration Richard Swarbrick
On the first day of 2014 Harry Kane came on as a late substitute for Tottenham at Old Trafford and, with the team hanging on to a 2-1 lead, famously kicked the ball into row 'z' before accidentally gobbing on himself and taking his yellow card for time wasting. Immortalised in a vine, this moment encapsulated the cult of Kane at the time. A budding folk hero, the fans loved him but they couldn't take him seriously. Very few would have guessed that one year later he would be among the best strikers in the country. A natural goalscorer - only Sergio Aguero among top flight strikers has scored more in all competitions - he has vision, technique and an irresistible will to win and is now being compared to illustrious predecessors like Martin Chivers and Teddy Sheringham. No one would be surprised if he emulates them by being selected for Roy Hodgson's next England squad in March.
It's been a tough year for Spurs fans. The first half was spent cringing at 'Winking-Tim' Sherwood's cack-handed cockney banter as he tried to seem like a real football manager in post match interviews. The second half has been spent wincing at his successor Mauricio Pochettino's attempts to fashion a football team out of the flakey, unwieldy squad he inherited. But just as the new year beckons there is tentative optimism in the air. At the time of writing Spurs are unbeaten in five league games and look a good bet for a Capitol One Cup Final appearance with winnable looking ties coming up against Fiorentina and Burnley in the Europa League and the FA Cup.
The team hasn't been wholly convincing but certain aspects of its play - work rate, stamina and spirit as exemplified in the battling Boxing Day win at Leicester - are improving, giving rise to hopes that more frequent pieces of fluent, coherent football night follow. In terms of great, joyous victories the whole year passed without another to match that afternoon at Old Trafford, but last Sunday's 0-0 draw with United at White Hart Lane provided one or two reasons for cheer, not least the stunning performance of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, Tottenham's outstanding player of 2014. The fans, ever ready to find the cloud behind the silver lining, see every world class performance as taking him a step closer to the clutches of Real Madrid or Barcelona, but he should at least stay until the end of the season and sometimes a magnificent 'keeper can be the decisive factor that clinches a trophy.
Best outfield player across 2014 has been Christian Eriksen. Like most gifted geniuses he can't claim to be Mister Consistent but he has more often than not been the classiest player on the park when Spurs are playing. Elegant and wily, he is another that the fans cannot bear to lose but fear they probably will.
Happily there is no talk of losing Harry Kane, the lifelong Tottenham fan who hails from nearby Chingford and has risen from the ranks. Dare the faithful hope that his journey from likeable trier to deadly operator might be similar to the one the team is on? The last time Spurs lost in the league was in early December at Chelsea and the same opponents arrive on New Year's Day for the return fixture. If Tottenham can at least make it a competitive contest rather than roll over as they did so many times against the top sides in 2014, the fans might just allow themselves to look forward to a happier new year.