For a football club whose last major trophy dates back to 2008, Tottenham Hotspur undeniably came a long way to becoming a convincing unit under Mauricio Pochettino. With the Argentine at the helm of affairs, the Spurs played some exciting football and improved their game significantly while nurturing young talents.
The efforts of Pochettino and his team saw them giving their Premier League rivals some tough competition and eventually propelled them to the coveted UEFA Champions League final, their first, last season. Even if their loss to Liverpool in the Madrid final and a subsequent dismal run in the Premier League, earlier this season, brought an end to Pochettino's five-year-and-a-half reign, the Spurs continue to show signs of greatness.
Apart from their performances on the pitch, the Spurs' rise can also be measured from the intelligence of their ball boys. The second-leg of the last season's Champions League semifinal saw 14-year-old Oakley Cannonier rolling the spare ball towards Trent Alexander-Arnold whose swift corner kick allowed DivockOrigi to score their fourth and decisive goal to send Barcelona packing.
And, more recently, another Spurs ball boy's intelligence and swift action once again aided the London-based club in the Champions League group stage clash against Olympiacos. While Harry Kane and Lucas Moura might have been influential on the field during in their 4-2 win, the real hero for Spurs wasn't even on it.
Trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes, Spurs pegged one goal back just before half-time through Dele Alli and found their equaliser in the second half courtesy a smart, quick-thinking assist from ball boy Callum Hynes. As the host's team charged forward, Serge Aurier was able to take a quick throw-in courtesy of Hynes, with Moura receiving the ball, racing into the box and setting up Harry Kane for a routine finish.
The Spurs scored two more goals, scripting a sensational comeback, to eventually beat Olympiacos 4-2 and secure a Round of 16 berth. But, it's needless to say, the real hero for Spurs was the 15-year-old ball boy who didn't just impress the fans, but also drew plaudits from new manager Jose Mourinho.
Jose Mourinho at Tottenham is a new man pic.twitter.com/rwR8dMAPyoâ ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 26, 2019
While the whole team was celebrating Kane's goal on the pitch, Mourinho made sure to offer his thanks to the instigator, Hynes, on the touchline and followed it up with a tribute in the post-match press conference. "I love intelligent ball boys like I was. I was a brilliant ball boy as a kid. This kid today was brilliant. He reads the game, understands the game and made an important assist," the Spurs boss told BT Sport.
Jose Mourinho wanted to invite the @SpursOfficial ball boy into the dressing room to celebrate after his helping hand in the build up to the second goal against Olympiakosï¸ pic.twitter.com/gk9SS2Q5xXâ Hayters TV (@HaytersTV) November 27, 2019
Speaking at his post-match interview, Mourinho also revealed that he intended to extend an invite to the ball boy to join the Spurs team in the dressing room to celebrate, but the youngster had already disappeared.
For young Hynes, who is now into his sixth season as a ball boy, the big moment, especially drawing praise from the 'Special One', still seems "surreal". âI was just doing my job and I still canât quite believe what happened. I didnât even see the goal! I was busy getting the ball that had come off and then I heard the cheer. I turned around and Harry was celebrating," the young ball boy told Tottenham's website.
âI looked at the replay on the screen and watched exactly what happened. You can see from my smile it was just unbelievable. Jose didnât have to do that. It was really nice of him to come over to me. Itâs made my day, my life, really! I love Spurs and it was an amazing moment Iâll never forget. The whole way home I was using a torch in the car to go over my maths revision!â he added.
If Hynes was over the moon, his mother Keeley, too, was blown away by Mourinho's sweet gesture for her son. âWe were in the stadium and saw Jose go over to Callum. We just thought it was going to be a high five and didnât expect any more than that but then both of our phones started pinging!," she said.
âThe smile on Callumâs face! It was such a lovely thing that Jose did to say thanks like that. Callum always says that by sitting on the touchline watching these players he learns so much and takes it all away with him for his own football. Iâm so proud of him,â she added.
In the modern era of the sport, football teams are often seen stressing on the need for that additional push to get over the line in tough situations. We have seen the scores of fans often being labelled as the twelfth man for their respective teams, but as the sport becomes more competitive, it seems that having just a loyal fanbase is not enough. The football clubs also need these intelligent and alert ball boys to tilt the contest in their favour.