This could be fun. After weeks of ITK telling us Spurs are ‘preparing a bid’ for Sven Bender or ‘are 48 hours away’ from completing the moves of Andriy Yarmolenko or Saido Berahino, the capture of Heung-min Son has come out of nowhere and been completed within two days of the story leaking.
There was no anticipation of this one - no blurry selfies with the player at Stansted airport, no quotes from the player’s agent and no mention of Son on the Sky Sports ‘Transfer Centre’. The announcement has nonetheless brought much excitement and expectation.
Son arrives from Bayer Leverkusen with a fantastic reputation in Germany. A predominantly wide player, with two good feet, speed and a terrific long range shot. His goalscoring record is also impressive, netting at least ten league goals in each of his last four seasons in the Bundesliga. It seems Son could be just the sort of player that Spurs are crying out for, someone who can change games, support Harry Kane and bring some much-needed pace going forward.
Ironically, The Sun will be just as pleased with the acquisition as everyone at Spurs. The tabloid’s writers are likely already at work drafting potential puns to include on their back pages if Son proves to be a hit, much like my awful attempt in the title of this piece.
He seems likely to be popular with the Tottenham faithful too. There’s endless song potential for those in the stands, an opportunity many have already jumped upon. He will surely bring a lot more attention from his home country of South Korea too. Roberto Soldado proved you don’t necessarily need to be successful to become a fan favourite, but Son’s popularity will only sky-rocket if he recreates his performances in Germany at White Hart Lane.
We love players that bring excitement at Spurs, those with an electric turn of pace, a step-over or two, or the ability to thrash the ball in from 30 yards. Paul Gascoigne, David Ginola and Gareth Bale have all represented that flair we associate with our club, although far from something unique to Spurs, it’s certainly something we especially cherish.
The closest we currently have, a player that makes something happen out of nothing, that brings the crowd to their feet are surely Kane and Christian Eriksen, although in different ways than those the past. It’s impossible to predict whether Son can join this club of entertainers, but he certainly has the attributes that can bring some desired excitement to the club. ‘Bold and daring - this is how I like to play’. If he lives by his words, Son will be adored.
Among the excitement though, a darker side to the South Korean’s arrival has emerged. It hasn’t taken long for the old stereotypical jokes to be made about Son’s heritage. It’s the usual sort of thing that you’d expect regarding Asian players, although it’s slightly disappointing that so many have already resorted to this less witty brand of humour to ‘welcome’ our new number seven. Luckily, it’s already proving to be a signing that has lifted the fanbase as a whole, but it’s still disconcerting that the event has been slightly tarnished.
A much smaller minority have sadly sunken further, to obvious racism towards Son. Examples of labelling him with the most offensive of racist terms for those from Asian countries and commenting on the colour of his skin have disgustingly already made appearances on social media. It’s depressing.
England has come a very long way in terms of racism with black footballers, unfortunately the journey is not quite as advanced when it comes to attitudes toward Asian players. Of course, the country’s top division has seen far fewer footballers from Asia compared to black players, a contributing factor in the ignorance of some fans that still think the same tired old jokes are amusing. Mindsets are changing and it’s reassuring to see the vast majority of the Spurs community shaming those that have used racist language towards their latest squad member, but the fact that this needs to happen outlines that the problem is still well and truly alive.
The arrival of Son will hopefully lead to further steps forward, particularly if he goes on to star in the Premier League. Asian players have tried and failed to make a mark before. Shinji Kagawa signed for Manchester United with huge expectations from Borussia Dortmund, but failed to ever fit into a role at Old Trafford. Kazuyuki Toda and Young-pyo Lee at Tottenham seemed to be more a case of raising the club’s profile in Asia, but neither failed to impress particularly.
Ji-sung Park has been the exceptional success among other flat-out failures including Ji Dong-Won and Chu-young Park. The former Manchester United man had a hugely successful career in his seven years at Old Trafford, building on the momentum of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan and finally giving Asia a hero in the Premier League. More recently, Sung-yueng Ki has been establishing himself as a key component of Garry Monk’s Swansea team.
Son is already a celebrity in South Korea, but if he can match and exceed the success of Park, he will become an icon for football in his country and continent. Hopefully, if he and others from Asia can continue to achieve in the Premier League, football fans in our country can take strides forward too. We can hope that soon, Son will be judged solely on his achievements at Spurs rather than on his origin and in the future, this will not be an issue that needs addressing.