The final Tottenham Hotspur match of the season at Norwich City could have been stressful, what with rumors of illness mid-week and the importance it carried to Tottenham’s short term future. It emphatically was not. Needing a draw to clinch Champions League, Tottenham instead rolled to a 5-0 dismantling of Norwich behind two goals each from Son Heung-Min and Dejan Kulusevski, and another from Harry Kane.
If you were watching the American TV coverage of this match, you would’ve noticed that all of it was sponsored by the new movie “Top Gun: Maverick” which opens in USA theaters on Memorial Day weekend. This isn’t an ad for that movie, though I’m likely going to see it eventually. I want to talk about the ORIGINAL Top Gun.
That movie is a cultural touchstone for Gen-Xers like me. It debuted in 1986 and was a gargantuan smash hit, as popular with kids as adults. It was the first time anyone had attempted to make a movie about jet fighter pilots, and it was an incredible summer popcorn flick that embedded itself into the millieu of the 1980s. When I was in grade school, we used to watch it as a treat together as a class, with the teachers standing in front of the video cart and fast forwarding the VHS during the love scene. Classic.
It’s a big dumb action movie, but it’s a big dumb action movie that I genuinely love. So for the final player ratings theme of the season, I thought I’d revisit this Bruckheimer classic, by taking a close look at the coolest thing in that movie — the pilots. Here are your Tottenham Hotspur player ratings to the theme of Top Gun fighter pilots. As always, my opinions are 100% correct.
5 stars: Iceman
In the film, Maverick (Tom Cruise) is portrayed as the hero, the brash young pilot who flies “on instinct,” but in retrospect, Iceman (Val Kilmer) is right. Iceman doesn’t trust Maverick because he DOES endanger the lives of his fellow pilots and and literally got his best friend killed. “Maverick. Who was covering Cougar while you were showboating with his MIG?” Meanwhile, Iceman just went out there and flew the best, all by the book, and won the Top Gun award at a trot. Maverick’s the real asshole in this movie, and Ice is the hero (just like Neville is the real hero of Harry Potter, fight me). Should’ve made the movie about him. Justice for Iceman.
Son Heung-Min (Community — 5.0 ): I mean, how can I not? Two goals, enough to earn him a share of the Golden Boot with Salah, and he could’ve had at least three more if not for Tim Krul. That second goal was a worldy. You could see the passion on his face and what it meant to him.
Dejan Kulusevski (Community —5.0): The two goals are good enough, but god love him he also gets the five stars for trying to set up Sonny in the second half instead of shooting it himself. This guy gets it.
Rodrigo Bentancur (Community — 4.5): I don’t think I’ve given Lolo a 5-star rating this season, but he deserves it for this display. Two good assists, and looked extremely comfortable running the show in the center of the pitch. Well done.
Antonio Conte (Community — 5.0): He did it. He bootstrapped this team from mediocrity all the way to Champions League. Please stay.
4.5 stars: Viper
Tom Skerritt’s Viper is portrayed as the grizzled, wise old instructor, a guy who earned his wings in Vietnam. Or in other words, a pilot who SURVIVED air combat in Vietnam. Viper gives off gravitas in waves as a guy who’s SEEN some shit, and the Top Gun kiddies know it and respect the hell out of him for it. The guy can fly, too — that’s obvious. But you also get the sense that, despite having a wife and kids and a nice house, Viper can’t really shut off the Naval Aviator Guy persona — he can wear all the soft white cotton shirts he wants when he’s off duty, but we see straight through it. He’s all hard edges, the gruff Dad of Miramar who gives you tough love but deep (deep) down has a heart of gold.
Ben Davies (Community — 4.5): Had one important block in the first half and was lock-down solid on his flank the entire match.
Harry Kane (Community — 4.5): Just an overall solid performance. Got his goal, but also worked hard to set up his teammates and was a consummate team player.
(4.25 stars: Goose)
I had this all sketched out and then realized I can’t do this theme without mentioning Goose. He’s the true hype man of Top Gun, and the real tragedy is that he knows he’s flying with a giant asshole in Maverick and somehow does it anyway. That makes him incredibly loyal, and that loyalty got him killed. Deep down you know that Maverick envies the crap out of what Goose has got — the attractive wife and kid, the happy domestic life. But as a character, Goose is there for levity and comic relief, and that’s fine. Every pilot movie needs a comic relief valve, and that’s what Goose provided. Y’know, until Maverick killed him.
4 stars: Merlin
There are a lot of minor bit player pilots in Top Gun, but with all respect to Wolfman and Hollywood, my favorite is Merlin. Not just because he’s got one of the coolest callsigns in the film — who doesn’t want to be named for a kick-ass wizard? — but because he’s played by a very young Tim Robbins. Merlin was Cougar’s RIO — the guy who turned in his wings at the beginning of the movie — and Cougar was established as being better than Maverick. That means Merlin had some serious chops, but he never really got to show them in the film and was mostly shown crapping his pants while TWO of his pilots had existential crises mid-flight. I hope he got a promotion for that.
Hugo Lloris (Community — 4.0): Didn’t have all that much to do, honestly. Gets 4 stars for the clean sheet and for being French and awesome.
Davinson Sanchez (Community — 4.0): The competition wasn’t exactly fierce, but Davi really stepped up after Cuti Romero went down and he should be praised for it. No real errors on Sunday.
Eric Dier (Community — 4.0): Teemu Pukki may play for a bad team, but he can be a load. Tested Dier on occasion, but Eric kept the center of box well in hand throughout the match.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Community — 4.5): An energetic display in the center of the pitch, but my dude needs to stop shooting lol
3.5 stars: Sundown
We don’t see much of Sundown in this movie. Unfortunately he basically exists as the token minority pilot in a 1980s action movie, meaning his lines are few and contribution minimal. However, he’s the only pilot in the movie who can get Maverick so mad about being a grief- and remorse-addled flake that he snaps, and so fulfills an important role in plot resolution. But what really sets Sundown apart is that he’s the only pilot who gets to wear mirrored aviator shades, and my dude absolutely ROCKS them. All that said, I know it was the ‘80s but now that I’m an adult I can’t believe Jerry Bruckheimer got away with calling the only black Navy aviation pilot “Sundown.” Yeeeeeeeesh.
Ryan Sessegnon (Community — 4.0): If this kid can stay healthy, I think he could have a monster season next year under Conte. I’m at the point now where I’d rather keep him over Sergio Reguilon.
3 stars: Jester
Jester’s the ultimate wingman — a solid pilot in his own right, but knows his place is in Viper’s shadow protecting him and teaching his students the value of being a support player. Solid pilot, knew his job, doesn’t take any crap. But also isn’t especially special. Also I assume his callsign is ironic, because Jester doesn’t seem like he has one shred of a sense of humor.
We won and made Champions League, everyone was above average.
Emerson Royal (Community — 4.0): Played well enough to deserve his post-match social media comp. I... kinda hope we keep him?
Lucas Moura (Community — 4.0): He wasn’t bad at all in a short cameo, especially with Spurs already up big. Potentially his last action for Spurs? We’ll see.
2.5 stars: Slider
Slider’s the hunky wing-man flip side to Iceman’s by-the-book demeanor. It also means that he’s basically one-dimensional who’s role is basically to do whatever it is Ice wants and also look hot while playing shirtless beach volleyball. Honestly, as good an ROI as he is, he should’ve been forced to leave Top Gun in disgrace the moment Maverick sniffed him and said “You smell like shit.” Sorry Slider but there’s no way you can come back from that. Your career is over now. Those are the rules.
No Tottenham players in this category.
2 stars: Chipper
Did you know there was a pilot named “Chipper” in Top Gun? Neither did I until I came across his name while doing research and looked him up. Turns out his sole contribution to the plot is to ask where Maverick is while at the graduation ceremony. This guy is the C- student for the top 1% of aviators, probably just there to make sure that some other mediocre guy had a capable ROI.
No Tottenham players in this category.
1 star: Maverick
You knew this was coming, and it’s the hipster take certainly, but it’s also true. Look, Maverick sucks. I find it so difficult to fathom how so often movies get made about the brash cocky jackass who basically screws everything up despite having all the tools and then suddenly pulls it together by the end enough that they save the day and ride off on their motorcycle with the girl. Maverick was every attractive, popular, asshole jock I hated in high school. And now he gets a sequel. I hope he learned something in the last 35 years.
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as Maverick in Top Gun.
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating
Harry Winks, Steven Bergwijn