The pleasure of seeing Spurs play football. White shirts, navy blue shorts, a proper game. That’s all I ask. Not so much the victory, not even its emphatic nature, but just to know that our season is under way and a sense of how we are and what’s to come.
Monday’s cloud of Great Depression, created by an unhealthy combination of high quality mystery drama and an increasing sense of personal anxiety, has blown away. Yesterday’s concern about the media antics of our manager and the conflict at boardroom level won’t disappear so easily but last night we saw that Redknapp has been working hard with his players and prepared them impeccably. A potential disaster became a triumph. An early goal settled the nerves – of the fans I mean, the players seemed utterly focussed – leaving us to relish some breathtaking passing interplay and cracking goals.
Hearts fans must have been disappointed with their team. I don’t watch nearly enough Scottish football to make any sort of judgement on the quality of their league but they must have played better than this in the recent past. I suspect they understandably haven’t settled under yet another new manager, and their fans deserve credit for their warmth towards both teams at the end.
Opponents don’t have to be on top form to deny us the room to play; we’ve seen that often enough in the last few years. Hearts packed the area 30 or 40 yards out and pressed hard, yet we passed our way around them as if they weren’t there. No big centre forward meant we had to keep it on the ground. Considering this was our first competitive match of the season, the movement and surefooted interchange was outstanding. Van der Vaart moved freely between midfield and their box yet we never looked short up front because there was plenty of support for Defoe. Bale and Lennon provided width without becoming detached and although Hearts lacked any penetration both worked hard defensively when required.
Kranjcar kept things moving in midfield, Benny did the same from the left while Walker’s pace and strength (he’s filled out a bit in the last two years!) kept the Scots busy. All the talk is about his attacking prowess but on two occasions he showed how valuable his speed will be in defensive situations, dashing back to rob attackers plus the timing of the challenge under pressure when he got there. Livermore impressed in the first half especially with a thoughtful, disciplined performance. He’d been well coached in his role; he stayed back when he needed to, always made himself available for a pass and timed his few runs forward perfectly, notably for his sumptuous goal. What a first touch and then quick feet for the shot.
Defoe consistently took up decent positions and let’s hope he’s learned something in the close season. For his goal he found space between the two centre halves and didn’t stray offside. It’s asking a lot to overcome the biggest problem of his entire career. When they came on, Hudd and Townsend were on the pace and passing well. Lennon’s superb breakaway goal came when Hearts were down but they still had three men back when that move began. Townsend’s pass and Lennon’s run took them out of the equation.
We can enjoy last night without getting carried away. The serious business begins on Monday night, when defensive uncertainty similar to that shown at the start of the second half will be ruthlessly exposed. However, we can only play who we play, and last night they could not have done any more. Above all, the team were purposeful and focussed, organised and highly motivated. Whatever is going on behind the scenes has not affected the team in the slightest. That desire, teamwork and camaraderie, the genuine delight in the moves that led to the goals, that’s why the clouds have gone and sunlight streams.