THERE’S one thing I can guarantee about Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham — he won’t be waiting 24 games for his first win!
I took the Tottenham manager’s job in October 2008 and everyone knew we had a special talent on our hands.
Yet for one reason or another, we never seemed to win a league game when Gareth was in the side, even though it was nothing to do with the lad himself.
League Cup, FA Cup, Europe, they were fine . . . it was just in the Premier League and it was a run that dragged on for ages.
Then, in January 2009, we had an FA Cup game at Manchester United and I was chatting to Sir Alex Ferguson, a big mate of mine, a few days beforehand.
Bale’s name cropped up and I remember Fergie saying: “I’m superstitious, I wouldn’t play him, I’d be thinking there was a jinx.”
I thought no more of it, Gareth played — and played well — but we lost the game and that was that.
It was only afterwards that it crossed my mind Sir Alex was probably trying to get me to drop him so he could nick him for tuppence ha’penny!
There was no way that was ever going to happen . . . just like there was no way I was ever going to let Gareth go on loan anywhere, despite all the rumours I’ve heard over the years.
He went from being rated the best full-back in the world to the crowd chanting “taxi for Maicon”. Gareth tore him to shreds and everyone in Europe realised what we already knew.
Apparently I was ready to let him go to Nottingham Forest for a spell — well, I can tell you now, that is 100 per cent rubbish.
They may have made a call to someone at Spurs, but certainly not me, because they’d have got a short and very blunt answer.
He may have had to wait for a Premier League win, but Bale was special. We saw it every day in training.
I’d known that since I watched him for Spurs against Fulham when I was Portsmouth boss and he had me and Joe Jordan drooling in the stands. They still only drew, mind!
In the end it took 20-odd matches for Gareth to finally win a Premier League game . . . and I made sure it was nailed on.
It was about seven games into the 2009-10 season, we were four up at home to Burnley and Gareth came off the bench for the last five minutes. No jinx was going to stop that!
Spurs finished fourth that year and made the Champions League — and that’s when it took off for him.
In the space of three weeks he scored a hat-trick in the San Siro as we lost 4-3 to Inter, then ran riot when we beat them at White Hart Lane and destroyed Maicon in both.
He went from being rated the best full-back in the world to the crowd chanting “taxi for Maicon”.
Gareth tore him to shreds and everyone in Europe realised what we already knew.
Bale was actually playing left-back when I went to Spurs, with Luka Modric — who I was determined to use through the middle — on the wing.
Everyone at the club told me Luka was too small to be in there, but I was sure we’d get more from him centrally, while Gareth would be a star pushed further forward.
I don’t think too many would question the decision if you asked them now. He was a fantastic talent, every day he’d do something in training that took your breath away, whether it was his pace, one of those incredible dribbles, or a 30-yard screamer.
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And he’s definitely the guy who can make all the difference to Tottenham’s season because, to be honest, they looked pretty ordinary last week against Everton.
They’ve got the best stadium, the best training ground and Daniel Levy knows they must have Champions League football to go with it — and Gareth can take them there.
Look at the squad Jose Mourinho’s got . . . Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Dele Alli, Lucas Moura — it’s full of internationals.
Now they are adding Bale to the list because the top four is a must for them. Anything else is a failure.
So the pressure will be on for Gareth to deliver, and he has to be given a bit of time to settle in.
But he won’t need long. He’s a fit lad, keeps himself in shape and he knows about the Premier League.
It makes me laugh when some say he leaves Madrid as a failure.
Four Champions League medals says otherwise, never mind anything else.
And 105 goals for a winger isn’t too shabby, especially when you have people raving over some centre- forwards who’ve got 13 in a season.
He was a sensation before and he’ll be a sensation again. I wouldn’t mind managing a team of flops if they were all as bad as Gareth!
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