Give Us a Smile, Benny

Benoit Assou-Ekotto scored his first ever goal for Spurs against Liverpool on Sunday, and it was a beauty.

In the London Paper, he described it as an odd feeling, strange at first then he got to like it. Same as the first time for all of us, Benny.

MOTD followed him off the pitch and he could not resist the attention, suddenly turning to the camera with a big grin and making a V-sign. In a good way. Actually, it was a touch disconcerting, more grimace than grin with a presumably unintentional touch of the Shining.

Perhaps that was me, because I’m not used to seeing Bennyboy smile, or for that matter, any expression cross his face to shatter his impassive mask of concentration. At White Hart Lane I sit near the halfway line, close enough to the pitch to look into the whites of the players’ eyes. BAE’s expression seldom changes during a match. A winger flying by might be signalled by a Gallic raise of the eyebrows, but other than mild surprise that’s all you get.

I never felt this blankness indicated total focus on his performance, rather, a slight indifference to everything. This fed into the rumours that he wanted to return to France. However, one change is apparent: he no longer shows fear. I always rated him as an extremely talented player with good control and passing skills, and credit to the much maligned Comolli for spotting that, but he never seemed suited to the pressure of the Prem. Now, that focus is there, born of the confidence of a series of excellent displays last season and of the confidence of his manager.

I detest the comedy mugging towards the camera now de rigueur for goalscorers, and don’t get me started on those choreographed goal celebrations (I said, don’t get me started…). But for once, I was glad to see Benny’s grinning mug. He enjoyed that goal and he enjoys our Spurs. If he’s happy, I’m happy.

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