So Arthur turns to me, as he often does around this time, and says, ‘So what do you think, then?’ Good man he is, likes to chat, asks about the family, loves his Spurs. Been going for as long as I have. Seen it all before but comes back for more.
I paused. It was that sort of an afternoon. Warm in the pleasant autumnal sun on the Shelf, we basked in our superiority without becoming fully involved. The frustration of missing a series of chances was outweighed by the comfort that another one would be along in a minute.
I leaned forward. ‘Well’, I began, ‘I don’t want to tempt fate but…’
No such thing as fate. The universe comprises atoms and particles that behave according to the same immutable laws of physics that stretch into the unimaginably distant recesses of the universe. My life is governed by decisions and coincidences without recourse to mystical spiritual forces. We are human and make our own destiny.
However, this is Spurs, so better be safe than sorry. During a match I seldom make rash judgements, at least out loud. However on this one occasion, one lousy time I have to smugly link my brain to my mouth, you know what’s coming here, don’t you…. ‘…we’ve outplayed them’.
Well we had. No disrespect to Wolves, who worked hard and were willing to move it forward when they had the ball. It’s just that we were much better than they were. In stark contrast to this fixture last season, we could always find space and time in midfield. Bale was the main outlet, banging in a series of deadly serving pacy crosses, and through the middle Hud and especially Jenas could press on and move into dangerous areas. VDV drifted inside with impunity. We kept the ball and moved it well in all areas. Our opponents seldom ventured into our half.
Literally 20 seconds after I opened my mouth, they scored. I blamed Arthur, for asking me the question, and he graciously accepted responsibility, but the reality is: I confess. Strange but true.
After the interval, I expected some drive and tempo. Nothing. Wolves came right back into it, gaining possession and unafraid to attack. Their 4-5-1 was often 4-3-3, to their credit as they could have easily sat back and retired into their shell to protect their lead. Bale was on the receiving end of a couple of hard fouls and the time-wasting is so tedious but this is not a dirty team. McCarthy gets worked up but he knows a tackle. In the second half a Wolves player and JJ crunched in. The Wolves man stayed on the floor and the stretcher vultures twitched with anticipation but McCarthy remained seated. He knew it was a 50-50 and did not try to persuade the ref otherwise.
So the subs are on but there’s not a lot going on. Pav’s on for his mobility but he remains static, lined up with the others on the edge of their box, waiting for the ball rather than looking for it, easily marked by their back four. This is a real fault if we are chasing the game: we played into their hands.
When the ball is in the air, it’s the great equaliser. Our advantage in skill and ability, nurtured, practised and expensive, is negated in an instant because it takes most of our team out of the game. Crouch may or may not win the ball, but a man on man aerial duel evens up the odds. VDV crosses the ball beautifully- he sees it early,fine control and moves it quickly, class, absolute class. but however good the ball, that class will have a greater influence if we play through the middle sometimes, on the ground. With wide men like Bale and Lennon, it’s a potent brew, but strikers hanging around waiting for something to happen is a criminal waste.
Although Kaboul had another good game – he must be scary for opposition full-backs as this huge bull of a man charges forward at them, football’s equivalent of Jonah Lomu – the introduction of Hutton gave us more options on the right. Eventually, he picked up the ball and ran with it, and ran, ran….
The penalty turned the game. I could not see us scoring until then but whilst McCarthy will have blasted his team for an unnecessary tackle, we exerted sufficient pressure to make it happen. If Hutton had had a run in the side as BAE and Bale had, we would have a true measure of his ability. Better coming forward than defending, I’ve always felt he has been too easily dismissed by many Spurs fans. His ‘unfortunate’ moments against ManU, Birmingham and Arsenal came when he was not fully fit. Let’s not get carried away but with Corluka rightly left out he can press his claims. He and Lennon combined well yesterday and could develop an effective partnership. They used to get in each other’s way but Lennon has more to his game than he did when the pair first played together – better positioning, more options, can come inside and let Hutton carry on wide on the outside.
After the game Harry took the credit, saying what a good player Alan is. Typical Harry – as with Pav last season, he excludes men then when they appear because he has little alternative, if they do well he always knew their potential. Still, Redknapp was able to not only make the substitutions but also to shake up the team by resting Lennon, keeping JJ in the middle, dropping Corluka and bringing Gallas in. These changes did not affect the balance or effectiveness of the team. Also, players who come in are motivated to take their chance, JJ and Kaboul being the two best examples. They have seen how Harry will give men a run in the team – Benny, Bale, Dawson – and he deserves credit for creating that culture of opportunity.
Strange but true – we dominate and get nowhere, then score three times during our worst passage of play. Even after the penalty, Wolves pushed us back and in their best spell could easily have scored before a deflection fell to Pav. He took it calmly – one chance one goal, can’t really ask for more….today anyway. Then Hutton with a bit of luck, but again he made his own luck. The players seemed genuinely excited for him (was that sheer relief?). Except Benny, who half-heartedly ambled up to the collapsed scrum of delight under which Hutton struggled for breath, then strolled off again to get on with business.
Jenas had a fine game, looking mobile and strong in the centre. His hesitation when he drove forward, ball at feet, was frustrating and a glimpse of what he could have been, but as a DM he did just fine yesterday.
Gallas and King were solid and largely untroubled. I confess that I never, ever thought I would see the day when William Gallas set foot on the White Hart Lane turf in a white shirt and frankly I’m not sure I ever wanted him to. However, he’s Spurs now and the boos he received were vile and moronic. He’s Spurs, for goodness sake.
To be fair to Crouch, he won much of the ball today but little came of this. One good header, well-saved but too close to the keeper.
For Keano I feel no anger, only pity. Sadly off-form and out of touch, his eyes are hollow and dull. His chance in the first half begged to be hit first time but he took a touch, the tell-tale sign of a struggling striker. He missed one in the second but at least it was an instant strike. Maybe he can play his way back into some sort of form but it promises to be a painful business, for him and us.
So a welcome win, deserved overall, just. At half-time the three flags on the West Stand roof each blew in a different direction at the same time. Strange but true, rather like the rest of the day.
Sad news today of the passing of the great Bobby Smith. I never saw him play but from the moment I was a Spurs fan I knew he was a genuine legend. The half-time round of applause was warm and richly deserved, even before the news was out. Seeing him recently on the pitch, it’s clear that this was a fearless warrior of a centre-forward, proud and unbowed by the passing of time. My very best wishes to his family and friends.
14 thoughts on “Strange But True. Spurs v Wolves”
Strange days indeed.
Hutton our saviour, Keane looking like he is glad we don’t have a reserve team he could be dropped to and Jenas playing well – is this actually Spurs!!
Only point I think you missed here was the pointless and obviously pre-planned Pav celebration, leading to a booking. I
t is a stupid rule, but the rule is “shirt off = yellow card” so, towards the end of the season, if Pav is then banned for 5 cards, and we need a striker against a lowly club we should beat to get 4th place – will he be that happy that his celebration was a youtube hit??
Wolves fan here.
What a really good, honest appraisal of the match which is rare these days from a fan blog.
Think 3 goals flattered you though but after the 1st half control & chances you had the result as expected was the right one.
And thanks for pointing out that we aint a dirty team.
Good luck for the rest of the sason, with one exception of course.
No complaints about the result but very sad to hear of the passing of Bobby Smith, what a great old-fashioned centre forward he was!
‘Mr. Blogger’ you missed out on what centre forward’s were really like in the old days and unlike today where a striker cannot touch a keeper, Bobby’s days were full blooded and did keeper’s know about it!
My sympathies go to Bobby’s family and also to all Spurs fans who remember the great man.
Wolves fan in peace. A fair reflection. We were organised, you showed the flair – a good away performance scuppered by a few things:
1. An awful penalty decision not given. A foul is a foul is a foul. Not, seemingly, in the penalty area, especially if you don’t roll European style and over-exaggerate. Compounded by a ridiculous yellow for our right back for an innocuous challenge moments later.
2. Nouse. Whilst amicably able to recognise Wolves as a ‘lower table club’ (‘lowly’ is both historically and currently inaccurate – take a look at the league table!), our young squad are, well, YOUNG. There is no substitute for experience, and in that, you have an embarrassment of riches. Bale, VDV, Jenas, TH, King, even Lennon in his cameo, all had solid games. You are Champions league, YES! BUT, for large tracts of an entertaining game – we made you look ordinary. Yes, yes, we had a dirth of shots on goal and MH made great saves notwithstanding. Individual errors cost us. Great team spirit, belief and once even, the crowd behind you, it was always going to be difficult for us – yet even then, we pushed for the winner.
As a last comment, I thought our away support was fabulous as always, and it took 75 minutes for the lane to come alive – we though Molineux was poor! I like Spurs, and wish u luck for the ROTS – EXCEPT at our gaff! Make the most of it, for HR will surely be the next England manager!
Excellent appraisal. I know what you mean re Keano. I felt it too. I truly hope he rediscovers his form soon or moves on. My condolences to Bobby Smith’s family. A true player at a time when obscene money wasn’t the prime motivator.
Before the 1962 FA Cup final Bobby Smith had a knee problem. He goes to a private doctor and pays 5 quids for a pain killer injection. He plays in that final and scores the second goal against Burnely in a typical centre forward fashion. This is well documented and published in the press. For 40 years Bobby Smith held the record for scoring in two successive FA Cup finals. He had scored against Leicester City the year before to complete the Double. He was England’s fearless centre forward who used his head with impressive accuracy of ball passing and distribution as well as scoring with it at will. May his sould rest in peace.
Yeh, decent report. Thought we (Wolves) would nick it again! No complaints just dissapointed 🙂
RIP Bobby – he was a true battering centre forward, a very hard man but a great footballer.
I thought Foley was extremely lucky not to get a second yellow. Notwithstanding that, we did win on merit, and for a while, looked like we were going to have to face the jinx that we have against lower rated teams, where there GK has his best match of the season against him.
Sad to hear the news about Bobby Smith. He was an old-fashioned CF who was as tough as but without the cynicsm of Vinnie Jones. To give you some idea of his quality, he held a number of scoring records at Spurs that were only ever beaten by Jimmy Greaves and I think his 33 league goals in the double season, has only been beaten by JG and Clive Allen. RIP Bobby Smith
Thanks for the Bobby Smith comments, especially the Wolves fan.
I hear Cliff Jones visited him in the week and left a picture of the Double side at his bedside.
Al, you should be doing this for a living. Strange but true.
Excellent report and well set amongst some telling comments.
Even a free physics lesson thrown in. Good value for money.
Pavlyuchenko’s second important contribution lately.
Who would have “thunk” it?
Van de Vaart is excellent, though he even he was a little too ready to pass long to Crouch in the box (though he floats it rather than just lumps it, I suppose). I think just seeing someone so big must addle the brains of even the subtlest of players.
The challenge for the pen would have shamed a park player. Had that not happened 0-1 at the end? Then we would not, according to the press, have been resilient or determined or blessed with a squad 20,000 leagues deep. Kaboul’s header goes in vs Wigan and 1-1, resillience, determination, always liable to pull it out of the fire even when playing poorly (which we were for much of the 2nd half vs Wolves too, though we did play well for good periods of the first half), new improved Spurs.
It’s been a little bewildering so far and I think the season could yet go either way.