It’s not the indecent amounts of cash swilling around the game, or that we’re all now at Sky’s beck and call. Not obscene ticket prices, not even the player’s loyalty to the one thing that truly matters, their bank account. No, I’ve discovered what’s crucifying football – 5-0 victories. Absolutely fatal. The modern curse. Join me comrades on TOMM’s grand crusade to rid our great game of the evil within. Ban them from all football! NOW!
I’m certain that I could never be bored watching Spurs play football. That would be going too far. Suffice to say this may well have been the closest I’ve ever come. The disjointed nature of our play plus Hearts’ inability to score even if they played for another week gave the evening the feel of a testimonial, although it’s a puzzle who benefited. The stars were indisputably the Hearts fans, determined to have a good time. They sung for the whole time, loud and long, and I sincerely hope for their sakes that their chairman isn’t as bonkers as he appears to be and gives them a decent team for the season to come.
Regular readers and I have an unspoken bond. Although I like to think the 40 plus years I’ve been a Spurs fan brings a certain perspective to my observations, if I ever begin a sentence with the phrase, ‘In my day’, feel free to shoot me. All I’d say, though, is that we’ve taken big leads back to the Lane before in European competition and, well, made them bigger. Keflavik we added 9 to a five goal first leg lead, off the top of my head.
Times have changed. Organisation and fitness levels go a long way to even out the disparities. Also, whilst it’s ‘good to see the kids’ the boys on show were just that, boys, and we shouldn’t either expect too much or read anything significant into their performances last night. A team is just that, a team, and this lot had never played together before. On the field, Livermore played the old hand, encouraging those around him, and Corluka did likewise for Fredericks, consigned to a wide role and looking increasingly forlorn and detached as the evening passed him by. He’s quick mind, faster even than Lennon over 5 yards.
Carroll had the best debut, even though he looked like his mum had bought him a kit the next size up so he could get another season’s wear out of it. Never mind, he’ll grow into it. I liked the way he wanted to be involved, probably risking the ire of the coaches by coming inside to search for the ball. Lovely pass for the Kane penalty chance.
Kane on the other hand has been eating girders since he could take solids, washed down with iron filings in his bottle. He’s quick as well as powerful with an eye for the half chance and good movement and control. Not his fault he experienced the same problems as his elders, the lack of good chances. The two he had, he moved onto them with purpose and poise. Never mind the miss – he had to wait a while, too long to think – he had the gumption to take it, on his debut, and that’s what’s important in the long term.
They chased back when the ball was lost and want to play the game the right way, all of them. Remember these are one level removed from the group who are next in line, young men like Caulker and Mason who are learning their trade in the league.
As the game wore on, it became dominated by the Pavyluchenko Parallax, an occasional but potentially dire phenomenon that at its worst can, like last night, empty a ground in a few short moments. Normally strikers get a sighter, then find their range. Pav is the opposite – a sizzling early left footer followed by shooting increasingly wayward, to the point where fans took evasive action when he moved onto the ball, not just those behind the goals but in the wings of the East and West. A final effort signalled a deafening banging of upturned seats as the ground emptied, or perhaps fans feared for their safety. For both he and Hudd, best said that they were playing their way back to fitness and leave it at that.
I welcome the arrival of Adebayor. More about him in the next couple of days, but provided he is motivated, he’s just the alert, powerful and mobile striker we crave. Strong in the air, Lennon and Bale at last have a target vaguely interested in what they have to offer, while Rafa and Luka will look to his movement. If Luka stays. No more about that. Wait until the deadline passes, we might have a respite of at least ten minutes before they start going on about January.
It’s good to be back at the Lane once more, easing gently into the new season. A warm welcome for those of us who got there early: pie and a drink, £5, pie and lager £6.50, bottle of water £2. The east stand bagels have shrunk in inverse proportion to their increased price. At what point does a smoked salmon bagel become just a bagel? They came close last night, whilst in front of me Janice’s seat, £900 or so for the season, encrusted in bird’s dollop. Baked on, by the look of it. They really don’t care, do they.
Half time from Tottenham’s own Smashie (or is he Nicey?) was for once worth a glance. Tom White, John’s brother, returned to the Lane for the first time since he played for Spurs in his brother’s testimonial in 1965 or ‘66. He looked genuinely touched, a reminder that football means something. Surely he is the subject of the all-time football trivia question: which player has spent the shortest time at a club? To comply with the regulations and play for Spurs in that game, he signed for us for the duration of the match and then Hearts signed him back when it was over.
Finally, a touching moment or two in the company of greatness. Frail and grey, unable to say even a couple of words, Dave Mackay walked out uncertainly but when he stood on the pitch where he and he alone once ruled, he stood upright and proud as the ground rose. Age cannot diminish his achievements. The legs were unwilling but the glory days will never leave him, not when fans stand to honour the memory of a true master. Forever mighty.