Feel the love. Lot of it about at the Lane on Saturday. Not what I expected, to be honest, given the edginess that crept in on Tuesday night and its aftermath, but all the more welcome for that. Hallo clouds, hallo sky, hallo floodlights. Goodnight, and I love you all.
It all started with Robbo’s annual pilgrimage to the Park Lane. All good fun as he milks it dry but I wonder what the Blackburn fans think. He doesn’t seem to share as much affection for them. The warmth and generosity is real but it’s odd that he should be the one, considering that he wasn’t a home-grown player and the number of errors he made during his sad decline towards the end of his time with us. During which period, it should be noted, that he took some massive stick from people around me and no doubt in other parts of the ground. Other players such as Carrick or Berbatov, shone more brightly in navy blue and white and certainly have a place in my heart but receive a very different reception.
The interaction between fans and players is a profoundly complex dynamic. Spurs fans have always been appreciative of most returning former players, with the announcer’s comments of ‘and a warm welcome back to…’ reciprocated in kind applause. I’ve never bought the ‘fickle Spurs fans’ argument that is still trotted out today by lazy hacks as soon as the grumbles become audible. Fans of other teams are exactly the same, getting on top of teams or players when they do not perform to expected levels, and our crowds have remained high through thick and thin.
There are many factors in play, including the ability of players, how long they’ve been with us and great moments in their careers, but in the end fans come to an unspoken consensus about two related elements, namely their honestly on the pitch and their feeling for the club. Deficiencies are usually forgiven with the passing of time if we know, or think we know, that our man has given everything in the cause and that he cares about us. With Robbo, we helped him through his bad patch, muting the vocal criticism as he suffered, especially for England after the Croatia goal, which wasn’t this fault. Carrick and Berba were superb for us but indifferent, part of Barba’s charm for me. Carrick might have got away with it but both committed the ultimate sin that overrides any of these considerations – they wanted to get away, and the Bulgarian’s behaviour was awful.
Lots of love for Pav. Glad it was there, we nurtured him over his terrible miss and the penalty, and he responded, finally, with a thrilling header from Bale’s juicy cross. It works, but Crouch would not have been treated so kindly. As I’ve said many a time, I would play Pav in preference to Crouch but I’m not convinced by him. For every glorious volley against Fulham last season or Bolton, there are many clumsy failures. There’s a third factor here, one that Spurs fans have held dear in the forty years that I’ve been watching us. We know what good football is and how good footballers go about things. We know what it looks like, smells and tastes like, because it’s the fabric of our heritage. Crouch doesn’t match up, I’m afraid.
No love from or to another old boy, Chimbonda. His extended, earnest discussion with Pav before the penalty presumably wasn’t about catching up with old friends. It worked, alongside Blackburn’s blatant delaying tactics, and Chimbo reminded him of that fact with a few well-chosen words as the ball smacked into the hoardings. I’m still not sure which foul the penalty was given for. At the time I thought it was Robbo on JJ but I think I fell asleep during MOTD. Maybe my mind switches off automatically when Lineker and Lawro start droning on. That’s evolution, that is.
Not to worry, we felt it in our fingers and our toes. It was all around us, as the Park Lane sang, ‘Harry, Harry give us a wave’. All that bother was behind us, and we like mensches made the first move. Harry’s reaction was way over the top – it never occurred to me leaving the ground on Tuesday that there was a problem – but hey, forgeddaboutit. See, we’re warm and caring, we understand if the pressure gets too much. Just make sure you deserve us, H.
The football helped. Lovely, flowing play, moving the ball purposefully and easing through and around Blackburn’s massed ranks of defenders. Five at the back, haven’t seen that for a while. It seemed to confuse them and certainly didn’t stifle us. Modric and VDV, good interchanges, VDV coming in off the wing to make an extra man in the centre and leaving space for Hutton to overlap, which he should have done more. Two up front and after my complaints about Tuesday’s tactics, fair play to Redknapp for picking this attacking formation.
Even if others demur, I’ve still got the hots for JJ. At least, if he plays like this. His drive and stamina provided an extra dimension, even if not all the passes came off. We came at Blackburn from a variety of angles, rather than just down the flanks, and JJ filled the space on the left created by the two defenders who take on Bale. An excellent all round game and his chance of a richly deserved goal was denied by a good tackle from Jones, who despite the backpass error in the first half, is destined for big things.
It helps if we’re playing well and go a goal up. Ironically it came from a corner, ironic in the sense that Blackburn’s cast of extras from Land of the Giants were set up to repel precisely all such set-pieces and our inglorious failure on Tuesday night to provide anything other than defensive heading practice. A precise ball and a near-post header worthy of Alan Gilzean. There is no higher praise.
Nothing can stop Superboy. His early crosses were beaten away by the second man, one in for the tackle, the other just behind to cut out any stray balls. But Bale learned from Tuesday and put the ball in the air. The cross for Pav’s goal took the breath away, pulled back at full stretch, instep curled around the ball. Pav looked so happy as he was engulfed in the crowd. Relief, sure, but joy and gratitude too.
Bale’s surges are a wonder to behold. I take in every step, each touch, every moment where suddenly he has the ball and does the unexpected, he can’t get through, surely, but he does. Enjoy every moment – this is brilliance of the highest order and he’s nowhere near the finished product. We love him and he loves us, he must do with his endearingly silly heart gesture. That’s what I really love about him. He’s just a kid. Hope he never grows up, that the innocent, fearless ebullience of youth remains everlasting.
Halftime and there’s more love than San Francisco ’68. Hopefully fewer drugs. Ricky Villa had more average games than good, let me tell you, but not only did he provide the moment of my footballing lifetime, his affection for the club is genuinely touching. He means it when he says he can’t quite fathom how he can come from his ranch to be adored by each and every Spurs fan, even after all these years and a World Cup winners’ medal in his home country.
Second half and more cracking football, hugely enjoyable, although both our goals came from Blackburn errors. It will give Crouch some confidence. I hope he’s getting plenty of TLC from Abby because it’s in short supply at the Lane. The game was won by the time they came back into it. If Sam had only rung me, I could have told him that we’re more vulnerable if you attack us, rather than massing the ranks of defenders, but hey ho, the phone never rang. He could have picked it up from Tuesday night but by the time they played some decent stuff, and they did look good, they were four down and Sam spent most of the second half as if stretched out in a Blackpool beach deckchair.
We defended well as the crosses swung towards their big guys, Gallas in particular made two fine headers, against bigger men, plus one off the line in the space of a few minutes, but we were less strong with the second ball at the edge of our box. I think he’s been injured but I’m pleased Dunn stayed on the bench for so long.
Time and love to spare for Gomes, patting his badge and his heart but with this pleasant, modest man, it’s real. We’ve looked after him through his bad times and he’s grateful. Not the cocky know-all celeb reaction from him, for him we are important and he wants to give something back.
Let’s stay buoyant in this sea of love but keep an eye out for the sharks – two late goals plus two off the line, that equals four… but an enjoyable, open game and plenty of the good stuff from Spurs.