I won’t lie to you. Because of a family bash, I missed Saturday’s match and I’ve not tried to confabulate an in-depth, incisive match report on the basis of MOTD and Football First. All right then, you forced it out of me, even then I dozed off for a moment or two.
Not my side of the family, mind. Good people and a fine time was had by all, but 3pm on a Saturday, the very idea. My kids know better, let me tell you. I’m so proud…
But Monday is a fine time to lean back, suck a thoughtful tooth, look the world in the eye and say, ‘Hallo world, I’m doing very nicely, thank you.’ Not a classic but there’s a great deal of satisfaction to be found in the way we refused to give ground as the throws were launched and the tackles flew in. They thought Luka would go under, that his mind was as frail as his body looks, but how wrong could anyone be? They put him down, he picked himself up. Riding a tackle is a skill in itself and Modric is a master. That took some determination; it’s not that long since his leg was broken but he never flinched. Bale too; he’s growing up before our very eyes.
The sound of twanging hamstrings is the soundtrack to our lives. As Pav went off, that completed my Crocks XI, as featured in my last post. Not quite the same feeling as completing the Spurs page in a Pannini sticker album, mind you.
Gudjohnson was given his chance and he took it with two memorable moments that stand out even in this season of fine football. Shoulder to shoulder with the defender, a man previously known for his guile did not waver and then smashed the ball home. Net bulging, no messing, so good. Then the step over, the pressure brought a moment of total poise and in a blur Kranjcar followed up. He too smashed. Or lashed. A fine goal superbly taken. His ability to come off his wing and enter the box could be crucial as we reach the season’s climax.
Although Eidur has been off the pace (and judging by the timber he’s carrying on the carbohydrates), he’s gradually found his fitness and finally some match sharpness. The speed is not what it was but the brain is still fine-tuned to what’s going on around him. He’s a clever player who can both score and bring others into the game, and his leave for the second was a simply stunning example of this talent.
A few scary moments at the back, and without wishing to puncture this blissful contentment, some yawning gaps appeared once or twice and Gomes’ looked like he thought he had been transported back in time to last year’s debacle. I’d prefer not to rely on the opposition missing chances, but then again they should get some better players.
BAE is an excellent full back but loses it at times, for no apparent reason. It flashed through his mind that he would be beaten in the air, and so pushed in a moment of panic. Perhaps not so crazy: all-in wrestling was apparently permissible in the box in the Chelsea-Inter game, as was pushing Gareth Bale.
He should take lessons from Corluka, who is superb at nudging his man without conceding a foul. But wait – the only reason he’s likely to take Charlie to one side is in a dark alley to punch his lights out. Over to Harry this morning:
Redknapp said: ‘Charlie (Corluka) was upset that he didn’t come back and do his job. Benoit is a strange boy. He’s a bit highly strung and hardly speaks English. If you say something to him he’s hard work. He hasn’t improved his English in the couple of years he’s been here.’
Asked why the player had walked off on his own, Redknapp replied: ‘He didn’t know the result! He probably thought we’d drawn.
‘He’ll turn up Wednesday and play great, but he won’t know we’re playing Fulham until someone tells him. That’s how he is. He’s unreal. He walks off and he’s thinking about the music he’s going to play when he puts his headphones on.’
Potentially a manager’s nightmare but Redknapp has handled him well. It’s an interesting point: in this world of badge-kissing and the clamour for commitment, Benny goes his own way and is he any less of a player because of that? He clearly worries about his work (and I use that term advisedly because ‘work’ is what it is to him) because he can be unsettled, as he was on Saturday and, say, against Everton when he fell apart. I cannot conceive that level of concentration and application without some form of motivation. Maybe being in his own world protects him from the stresses and strains of professional football at this level.
Tony Pulis’ whinging does him a disservice. He was right about the second booking but not in revealing what is a blatant attempt to influence who referees Stoke’s matches. I’m talking about his letter requesting that Dean not officiate for his team. He would do well to remember that many refs would not have dared give a penalty for a push in the area, and indeed he turned down our appeals for a similar offence on Bale, and that his teams give officials a hard time with their physical approach. Pulis has won considerable respect for the way in which Stoke have quickly become an established force in the league, on merit. They are brisk and tough but play decent football and do not rely solely on the long ball or those throws. He’ll lose that kudos if he turns into another Wenger or Benitez.
Talking of whinging, hark at me. TOMM is nothing if not constructive, Harry, but all this talk of how we’ve been hit by injuries and loans. Loans are not a force of nature that we are powerless to prevent. They are the result of hard-nosed decisions around money and player potential made by human beings. In fact, by you, Harry, so I’d keep quiet about it if I were you.
At the end of the window I protested at the loans of Hutton and Keane in particular. They may never have turned out again this season but they would be there if needed, as well as offering alternative tactical options. In the second half of the most important season for donkey’s years, there was simply no need to move them on.
But Spurs move in mysterious ways. Maybe Harry’s comments are not so strange if they were in fact directed at Levy, who may have put on some pressure in order to save a few bob.
For me, at the do, the moment of victory had a peculiar feel to it. We were wandering around the host’s newly refurbished terraced house in Archway, admiring the oh-so-tasteful features whilst curling an inward lip at the sheer fortune that it cost. The last thing I want is a TV over the bath but when no one was looking I had to turn it on. I hate myself, I felt dirty.
Reaching, eventually, the top landing, I took a deep breath and turned on the mobile for the scores. A win! I punched the air, and glanced up over the rooftops, dishes and aerials of north London, only to see the Emirates, bathed in light in readiness for their evening kick off. Look out behind you, we’re coming for you…
Winning at Stoke, 10 man Stoke if it comes to it, may not be so big a deal normally. To me, however, it feels as if a threshold has been crossed. We are fourth on merit and the door is wide open to that CL place, or Wembley come to that. It will be a tough path to travel, I’m under no illusions, but without these three points it would have seemed empty and futile. I am just so excited about the rest of the season.
Finally, Tottenham On My Mind has been asked to guest blog on the site of a new fantasy football game, Football 3s, that can be found here: http://football.picklive.com/
It’s fantasy football in real time, as the game is being played and you can play along as you watch. Touted as the next big thing, they are featuring Spurs Fulham on Wednesday.
And later in the week, a TOMM competition – win a copy of Spurs Cult Heroes, courtesy of All Action No Plot. I’m looking after you, eh, now come on, eh?