No messing about. Fulham are good but tonight’s match is there to be won, because we are better. The path has been laid out for us: one match from a Wembley semi-final where we will start as favourites, two league games against teams below us in the league, then the fireworks begin…
I’m in an upbeat rather than complacent frame of mind. We have to go out and win those matches, which is not straightforward. What I do believe, passionately, is that we are capable of linking high quality football with the strength of character that will see us through, even that will enable us to look forward to the challenge as opposed to fearing it. Without playing superbly, and certainly not playing with our best team, far from it, we are unbeaten in seven, five wins included. Disrupted team selection, defensive tactics, the physical approach, we’ve taken them all on lately and sent them packing.
Wilson is likely to return tonight: the rumours circulating round the boards that he is unfit appear to be unfounded. Otherwise, the same again with Eidur starting up front. I suspect he’s not ready for 90 hectic full-on minutes, so there’s just the merest thought that Harry could leave him on the bench until half time and allow the game to open up a little before he comes on. Possible but unlikely. Gudjohnson’s preference for hanging back off the very front could unsettle Fulham’s back four who when defending do not like to come too far forward. They will therefore be presented with a dilemma – do they desert their post to follow him, thus leaving a gap for Luka, Bale or Kranjcar to fill, or stay at home and thus provide Eidur with a bit of space. Whatever, Modric and Krancjar are once again our key men. Nico can drift in from the right and use that sledgehammer shot while Modric will buzz in the middle to move the well-organised Fulham midfield around.
On Sunday our opponents rested a few of their best as a mark of respect towards us. Although they were easily beaten in the league fixture at the Lane not so long ago, the fact that they will be sterner opposition this time is due largely to one man, Bobby Zamora. I had written him off as terminally average but relatively late in his career has been given the target man role by the canny Hodgson, thus making the most of his limited abilities. Here, expectations are clear and horizons narrow, i.e. staying fairly central, often with back to goal and hold it up or knock it off to a grateful and always willing midfield. By restricting his game, he’s become more effective. He was poor in the league match but was just coming back from injury. In the away tie he tried to drift left towards Bassong rather than Dawson, but Seb did well enough. Further danger will come from Murphy’s probing and Dempsey’s desire to get forward.
Spurs have as ever been active in the community, and so to publicise the events there are two good interviews today with Modric in the Times and Kranjcar in the Standard. Both are enjoying life at the Lane. Luka provides an insight into Harry’s methods, describing his half- time talks when things are going badly as scarier than those of Bilic, his national coach, who I had always thought of as one hard case. This lays to rest once and for all the image of cuddly ol’ Uncle Harry that he cultivates so assiduously with his media mates. I’m not bothered: I want a tough man as a leader, and Redknapp allows his men to play their natural game, once they are favoured. If not, then as Bentley, Pav and Bent all found, life can be hard.
And before I go, a word in praise of Daniel Levy. He’s not been in the headlines this week, or last for that matter, and that’s just the point. Although I have been heavily critical of his past dealings with managers, he knows how to run a business. That’s something that cannot be said for most football clubs but years of prudence have left us financially sound. In stark contrast, Davids Gold and Sullivan are seldom more than a few feet away from a microphone and camera intoning their mantra that everyone at West Ham is rubbish, including their manager which is eminently helpful in their campaign against relegation, and that there is a rising groundswell of opinion that the club need to move to the Olympic Stadium. West Ham have fast become a byword for bad judgement under the Icelanders, the nation not the shop, although the lowliest checkout operator could have told them not to buy Dyer and Lundberg on 70k a week. I’m not that bothered about where they play, and although they hate us, I expend all my energy despising the Arse and Chelsea. And it was clever of them to pay for 30,000 clappers last night that made a booing sound.
However, when I heard Gold talking last night about ‘what a good product’ it was, this sticks in the throat. Football is passion and glory, joy and pain, everlasting love. It’s a business too, I don’t doubt that. But the idea of it being ‘product’ is simply abhorrent and revolting. Never, whatever your colours, never.
Look out for the Tottenham On My Mind competition to win a copy of the spanking new book ‘Spurs Cult Heroes’ – unsigned!! You never know, if I finish my report his afternoon, it could be up by this evening. Must get on.