Casting one’s eyes to the League Table in one’s favourite periodical is very much like lifting a bandage for a queasily compulsive look at a self-inflicted duelling wound, or rolling over after a night on the jazz salt to inspect one’s temporary horizontal dancing partner.
One doesn’t really want to do it but one’s subconscious is a powerful driver. And it’s ones own fault anyway. So look at the table we must.
Horrific. Six games to go, and we’re seven points even from the Pewter Trophy for Fourth Place. More troublingly, we are 14 points behind Hotspur of Middlesex. Barring the Spursiest meltdown of all the Spursy meltdowns of recent years, this year will be a year when they finish above us, meaning we must refamiliarise ourselves with St. Totteringham’s evil twin.
It has been so long – 1995, to be exact – since we celebrated Saint Shitfloats day that I will assume little knowledge on the reader’s part of Tottenham’s own patron saint.
Saint Shitfloats was an 18th Century priest in what is now the modern-day area of Tottenham, but of course until April 1965 was in the area of north-east Middlesex. Even in those days the character of the area was recognisably Spursy, with regular riots, house-burnings and a high degree of petty crime. Londoners would not venture into the badlands of Tottenham; missionaries were burned or boiled, books were treated with the utmost suspicion, and a deep-seated fear of the colour red, which pervades among the locals to this day reached its apogee with the burning of a baboon, recently brought back as part of a zoological expedition to Arabia simply because of its red bottom.
Yet amidst this miasma of disease and moral decay stepped our hero – Saint Shitfloats. Born Frederick Obediah Yehudi Smyth in the East End of London in 1770, Frederick was known from an early age for his ability to quote scripture. His party trick was to fall over at the slightest contact, much to the amusement of everyone around him. He entered the priesthood at fourteen, and declared that he had been chosen by God himself to “Converte the Heathennes of Hertfordshire, to civilise and train themme in manners and morals, and to save their very souls.”
And so he set off, heavily armed into what is now modern-day Tottenham. All went well, until a fateful day in 1786, when there was an unusually heavy rainfall on the River Lea, which winds its way from Leagrave Marsh near Luton in Bedfordshire through to the River Thames at Limehouse. As you would expect, the hovels of Tottenham were extremely fragile, held together with horsehair and scavenged twine from the dump, and made largely from human and equine excrement.
As the river level rose, in the middle of the night, hundreds of dwellings of the filthy and disease-ridden peasants of the area began to wash away. Lives were in peril. Do not forget that these people only knew how to drink and breed; swimming was regarded with suspicion, especially as it involved close contact with the cleansing properties of water. And so the poor wretches began being swept from their straw beds into the torrent.
The Reverend Smyth, as then he was, made his way as fast as he could to help. He began to pray for relief from the driving rain and the deadly river, but when his prayers remained mysteriously unanswered, a thought struck him. The voice of God? Perhaps. He then shouted the immortal line:
“GRAB HOLD OF YOUR HOUSES, BECAUSE SOMETIMES SHIT FLOATS.”
Sadly, at that point, he suffered from a very early incidence of Spursiness, when he was struck upon the head by an expired chicken and killed. This is of course the origin of Tottenham’s crest. He was canonised a hundred years later as Saint Shitfloats in honour of his lifesaving endeavours.
Ever since that day, Spurs fans have celebrated the ultra-rare occasions when they finish above Arsenal by toasting Saint Shitfloats because, as the man said, sometimes shit floats.