Another win in a game where we played some decent football without ever being in full control. It’s becoming a bit of pattern. This time we defended in the second half with uncharacteristic but welcome vigour. Naturally by this time we had tried to throw the match away but Sunderland weren’t quite good enough on the day to exploit our lacklustre start by getting any more than a single goal clear, and by the end I was enjoying some old fashioned everyone back bodies in the way defending.
I can’t remember why www.dictionary.com send me a Word of the Day. Probably one of my periodic attempts at self-improvement that usually ends with a swift click of the ‘delete’ button before it’s been opened. However, Saturday’s word was ‘risible’. How appropriate. In my reflections on last week’s match, I noted our talent for the farcical, starring Gomes as N17’s Brian Rix (one for the kids there). Just when you think all the gags have been done, b’dum tish here’s new one. Gallas goes off to change his boot, teammates apparently totally oblivious to this fact, huge gap into which dashes sharp opposition striker. The eventual outcome on the game has meant this incident has been underplayed but how on earth can a professional football team get up to such rubbish?
Throughout the first half we showed a distinct lack of drive and imagination. Despite our good squad, we don’t adapt well to the loss of certain key players. We’ve learned to cope without Huddlestone but looked lost and bereft without Luka or a matchwinner like Bale or Rafa to turn the game and set the creative juices flowing. Even with the absences we should be able to generate some momentum from within but none was forthcoming, although it provoked a concerted burst of arm-waving from Harry. Our task was made harder by Sunderland’s pressing game, pushing right up on our back four to stifle attacks at source. This left gaps in behind their midfield that we tried to exploit with a series of long balls but this isn’t Pav’s game, back to the goal, so back it came. We searched in vain for a ball out wide but no width either. JD worked hard for the team, pulling out to hold up the ball. He deserves credit for this and he held it up well enough, but we were stuttering at this point.
I’m grateful for the goals when they come, obviously, but sometimes I wish we don’t need to wait for a goal to shake us from our lethargy, or a stunner to win it. How we needed Dawson’s header. The keeper should have done better. We’re off then. More bounce and nouse. Still much to be done and nothing was being created for our strikers. Then Nico’s stunning volley, studied technique preceded by shrewd positioning: rather than take the easy but worthy option of the space at the far post, he came inside diagonally to just the right spot.
Now we were keeping the ball much better. Corluka’s value was demonstrated once again in the way he times his runs (his strolls?) forward. No pace of course but he comes up from deep when the attack may founder and there he is, out wide, enabling the centre midfield to switch the point of the attack. As with last week, Benny did this less but just as effective once he got the hang of it.
Jenas had another strong game, working hard and energetic from first to last. Nothing more. Won’t say anything. That’s two or three now…STOP IT!
Sunderland as expected had plenty of possession as the game went on but we protected Gomes well. More often than not, our opponents were forced to shoot from a distance. When they did get into the box, the centre backs were able to come across to intercept because our midfield shield provided the first line of defence. So often this season we’ve conceded because that has not been in place and the back four have been compelled to come out.
Sandro played an important role in our win. Recovering well from a poor first half, he showed promise and application in the second. To me he looks a natural defensive midfielder for the modern game. In particular he seems comfortable just in front of the back four or dropping into the box when we are under real pressure, as opposed to Palacios who is more of the old style midfield destroyer, ranging across the centre looking for tackles. Equally, Sandro has good touch on the ball and can pass short or long. He moves well, gets forward quickly and usually his first touch sets him well for a quick pass on, should something be available.
His weakness is getting caught with the ball and Sunderland tried to pressure him. Too frequently in the first half he played the ball forward and it was intercepted. However, this wasn’t all his fault. He usually played it to feet as Pav or JD dropped back and they were easily dispossessed, whereas a run into the channel and a ball to match could have suited better. That’s not just for Sandro: surely our strikers, who had barely a chance between them, could thrive on those sort of passes and start their runs from deeper, rather than being caught with their backs to the goal.
So a resolute second half plus a brilliant goal and we have yet another win without playing fantastically well. Yet in its way this current run that we are putting together is remarkable. On Saturday we were without the heart and soul of the team. Four top class footballers were absent – Modric, Bale, Van der Vaart and King. Let’s not forget the excellent Huddlestone or the promising Kaboul, who has done so well this season. Umpteen changes in the back four, different players meaning different patterns, yet we are regularly wining matches. Such an injury list would unbalance any team – just look at Chelsea with all their riches and how they struggled without Lampard and Terry. Full credit all round.
Public Information Service: don’t go yet. TOMM is warm-hearted and generous, thinking only of its readers’ well-being. I’ve been contacted by a few people with some things you might like to know, so read on.
First, a shirt from our friends at Philosophy Football:
Double winners Les Allen; Peter Baker; Maurice Norman; Cliff Jones and Terry Dyson will be appearing at the Memorabilia Show, NEC Birmingham, 26-27 March.
Finally, Our Ledley endorses a worthwhile scheme, showing our Spurs make an effort in the community:
LEDLEY KING SPURS ON BRITAIN’S APPRENTICES
On the final day of National Apprenticeships Week, www.notgoingtouni.co.uk has received the backing of Tottenham Hotspur and England defender Ledley King. King has joined forces with the online portal for apprenticeships and vocational opportunities, to encourage young people to consider vocational opportunities during National Apprenticeship Week 2011.
“Apprenticeships are a great way of entering the world of work for those who, like me, know what they want to do for a living,” King said to notgoingtouni’s free digital magazine for prospective apprentices. “Apprenticeship Week is the perfect time to start looking into the options. I came up through the Tottenham youth academy, so I know the value of on-the-job training. And I know it can lead to the best job in the world!”
The increase in tuition fees, as well as one in five graduates currently being unemployed, is opening the door for more and more young people to consider vocational qualifications.
“Young people looking to enter the professions are now beginning to discover, for example, that it is actually quicker to become a chartered accountant through an apprenticeship programme than via a degree, with a higher proportion finding employment at the end of it,” explains Spencer Mehlman, managing director of notgoingtouni.co.uk.
A free digital guide for Apprenticeship Week, is available at www.notgoingtouni.co.uk, also tells the story of Rohan Duncan, 25, who joined Tottenham Hotspur Foundation’s Future Job Fund programme in February 2010. He was offered an apprenticeship on completion of the programme and now leads coaching sessions and studies for an NVQ Level 2 in Sports and Allied Recreational Studies at Croydon College.
“I was a Spurs fan before I got the job. I went to the job centre because I’d been unemployed for a while and I saw there were jobs going coaching at Spurs. I’m a sporty guy but I’d never done any coaching before. I didn’t think I’d get it – it seemed too good to be true!” Rohan explained.
Now, Rohan coaches young people from the local community, leading PE lessons, table tennis sessions and the Kickz programme aimed at keeping young people out of trouble on the streets.
“I’m on contract until June,” Rohan adds. “I’d like to stay on at Spurs, but even if I don’t I’m much more employable than I was before. I’d like to stay in coaching or mentoring.”
40,000 companies work with notgoingtouni.co.uk including industry giants such as IBM, British Gas, Rolls Royce, Unilever and Tesco.