I demand my rights as a taxpayer and citizen of our great country. A public inquiry, nothing less. Maybe a Royal Commission, I’d accept that if pushed. Never mind Chilcot and Iraq, the might of the nation’s investigative forces should be re-focussed on a single key question: who told Daniel Levy that Rafael van der Vaart was available for transfer from Real Madrid?
The story goes that in mid-afternoon on deadline day, Levy rang Harry Redknapp to say he’d heard the player was available at an acceptable price. Might H be interested? No doubt you’ve heard this one, a moment in our modern history that is fast becoming part of the club’s folklore. What I want to know is, how? How did Levy know? Who called him? Why Levy and not some other chairman?
The reason is, find that person and I will give them everything. The house, the car, new flat-screen TV, that nice art-deco lamp from my wife’s family. Take it, anything you want, I’ll get down on my knees in gratitude because you deserve it, my friend, you deserve it.
Well, actually, you know, it’s a lease car so that’s not really on. And the house, nice little end of terrace but mortgaged to the hilt, so you might have to wait 20 years. OK then, all my worldly goods and chattels. That’s it, I’ll collect all my chattels for you. There’s the watch – no, that stopped 9 months ago and I haven’t got round to fixing it. The laptop! No, from work. This second hand thinkpad notebook that I’m typing on now…. Look, Ok, it turns out that I own nothing of any value whatsoever, but have it. What are chattels anyway?
You all adore him already. Bet I love him more than you. The control, vision, the quickness of thought matched only by the pace at which he moves the ball on. Athletic, squat and bullish. The confidence and swagger. Pointing, the ball here, give it here, now. Let him roam, wander wherever you wish. Where you end up, it’s the right place to be.
More than this, he makes everyone else play better too. They scurry around where before they would be still, waiting for something to happen. Now, now they want a piece of this. So Pav comes off the front man, Crouch peals away in expectation, JJ pushes forward with determination, head up, looking for the channels, Bale and Lennon on the charge out wide, Hutton comes from deep and Luka, lovely Luka, has a partner at last, someone on the same wavelength. Push and probe, up the pace of the attack suddenly at the edge of the box. VDV, just by being himself, opens up space. Defenders are uncertain, on the back foot, anxious. Notice how we had room for one-twos around their box. Not all worked but there was room for willing runners.
Dream away, there are goals too. The first, prosaic. A far post cross (the sight of one striker crossing to his partner, rare with Spurs these days but so welcome) and he with predatory instincts makes a run that Pav, Keane and JD should be able to do with their eyes shut, but don’t. And he’s in there, muscles needed now, no danger that anyone else will beat him to it, the power to force it home, the will to be first.
The second, breathtaking. Another header across the box, this time he’s in the thick of it. He hears Dunne’s heavy tread thundering down upon him, the brave defender launches what he believes, certain, would be another block like that which thwarted VDV earlier…and Rafa shimmys, a flicker of movement enough to take the ball under control…it’s like he has the power to manipulate the laws of physics, such is his ability to create space. Elemental particles bend under his thrall. So there, as the ball bounces to knee height, there is clean air where before there was none. Then the hammered volley. A moment of shimmering brilliance that will live long in the memory.
Before I go on, one more thing: what a fan-bloody-tastic game of football. The second half in particular pulsated with excitement, end to end, thrilling football, high drama, top quality skill from both teams at breakneck pace, near misses galore, heroic individual performances, old-fashioned physical challenges, frustrating mistakes. We are lauding a fine victory in what has been a great week for the club, while any Villa fans glancing at this will be aggrieved at not picking up a point to reward their excellent counter-attacking, but in the end we all love this game of ours. Here was a reminder of why football so captivated us as kids and weaves its magic spell to this day.
One reason for such an open game was that neither defence was able to get on top. Villa brought 10 or 11 men back without hesitation and for once Spurs deserve great credit for consistently finding a way through rather than floundering on the massed ranks at the edge of the box as happens so often. Movement, purpose and the ability to come down the flanks as well as through the centre created several chances, Pav, Hutton and Pav again failing to hit the target in the first half when well placed.
At the other end, our 8th choice centre half was targeted by Villa as our weak link. First Heskey then Carew was pushed up against Big Tom to exploit his inexperience in the role. Heskey destroyed Huddlestone. He had no idea whether to come tight or to drop off, and Villa wreaked havoc in the opening exchanges. Young was excellent throughout: I had long since dismissed his potential but in a freer role he will prosper. Always a danger yesterday. Albrighton looks a real prospect too.
Heskey it was who bullied the hapless Bassong into conceding the ball, then a bulish run into the box led to the goal. Coincidentally, he was a celebrity audience member in last night’s Comedy Roadshow. Michael McIntyre duly took the piss re the World Cup. Nothing like a bit of topical humour. Heskey smiled sweetly throughout his humiliation as the crowd roared their derision, but his wife’s fixed grin was truly terrifying. Astonished that this could happen, she then gazed at the stage with a rictus grin, eyes burning laser beams of hate straight into McIntyre’s heart. His performance today was a reminder that with all his faults, and there are many, he could have been so effective a player. His injury was a turning point – it relieved the pressure on our ailing defence and allowed us to move forward with less risk.
After the break, Harry allowed VDV more freedom in the middle and Lennon out wide kept Villa’s left side occupied. Most significantly, Jenas was stronger in the centre, offering more defensively and coming forward into the gaps ahead of him. Another fine performance.
However, there were still wide open spaces at the back that became a series of heroic individual contests, Benny and Seb one on one with their attackers, deep in the box. Great stuff, and they both did so well. Bassong is much better alongside some experience, playing off another centre half, but he had a good second half. Benny had a stormer, hurling himself into challenges and barely putting a foot wrong. Positioning not so hot for either of them but one on one they won their battles.
I would have liked Hutton to have tucked in more to assist Huddlestone but Harry was urging him forward. On the other flank, Bale as ever a danger.
In the first half, Villa counter-attacked at pace, effective indeed but we gave them the ball all the time. back it came, pinging off Pav and Crouch’s feet. This was another thing we handled better in the second period, keeping the ball.
Luka played in fits and starts, good combination play with VDV in particular but he does not look match sharp as yet. Together as regulars in midfield – dare we dream?
So a marvellous game and a deserved win, just about. Villa obligingly refused to spoil our week when two players missed the same cross and whilst they were always threatening, Gomes did not have to make a difficult save.
Rather than losing momentum in the international break, it will provide precious healing time for our injured centre backs. Without wishing to sour the mood, we won’t get anywhere without at least a couple coming back to full fitness. Then watch us go.