i suppose this is what it feels like. Supporting a top team. I mean Spurs, always a top team to me, right up there, don’t anyone try to tell me different or I must ask you kindly to step outside. But this real. Third place, two points behind Manchester United with a home game in hand. Playing the best football I’ve seen for thirty or so years. Lauded by other fans and the media because we have goals, victories, and above all, style. People want to watch us play.
We’ve done top four in the recent past, of course. We were fourth because we deserved it over the season before last, but be honest – there was a big gap between us and them, the top three. They played classier football, the way it should be played. Now there’s no us and them. We are them.
It’s taken me a while to get used to it but I’m fine with it now. A little stunned at first, waiting for the wheels to fall off, just like they always do. 40 plus years of support, it will surely go wrong soon enough, just when that sense of false security creeps up on you. Even on this run, we had a bit of luck at Blackburn and Fulham. Yeah yeah, winning ugly, I know, but come on, between you and me, luck, huh? But this week we slaughtered a decent mid-table side and overcame West Brom yesterday. Hey, what the hell. We’re brilliant, exciting, fluent, beautiful, did I say brilliant already? Top three, doing things in style. I can handle that.
I watched the Villa game with someone who likes football but has never been to a Spurs match before. She said she was ‘dazzled’ with the live experience, being close to the players, the crowd, the ebb and flow of the play with the fans being part of it. I replied that I’m on my way to half a century and I was dazzled too. Yesterday we showed some of those breath-taking moves, movement of players into space faster than we spectators can keep up with, the ball shifted from one end of the pitch to the other in the blink of an eye, we saw these on a few occasions, especially towards the end when our redoubtable opponents were pushing on and left gaps. The example was Defoe’s goal, a memorable and stunning moment, one pass from Benny, a deft flick that opened up acres, then a thirty yard run before a bludgeoning finish. Pace and delicacy capped by a sudden eruption of power.
But the real deal manifests itself in other ways too, and that’s what has really hit me. The ball’s played upfield, no worries, we’ll get it back soon enough. Stretching for it, it’s OK, kept it. Always someone available to touch it on to. Long ball down the middle of our defence, meh, Kaboul’s sorted it. Or Brad’s swept it up. Sweet. Any Spurs fan will tell you, we are not used to that feeling. Uncharted territory. I’m still exploring but I kind of like it.
This week we faced two new challenges. On Monday we resumed after a long break against a decent side. How many times have these matches been our downfall? The ones we are supposed to win. Our opponents keep it tight, we go down to a late winner. Not so long ago this was Spurs. Stoke, Wolves, Blackpool. Yet we destroyed Villa. Moreover, they came to the Lane and they were scared. They didn’t see Spurs as beatable if you put in a shift and get stuck in, but intimidated.
Yesterday we faced and overcame a new and different challenge. For the first time this season we were confronted by a well-organised team who pressed us mercilessly, leaving us no time to settle and play our football. Time and again we were pushed back, back passes when we are used to sweeping onwards. No time to set any rhythm or tempo. Modric’s true influence apparent in his absence. Then a goal down, Bale’s ineffectual defending gave Reid too much space, then we failed once again to deal with a cross, albeit a fine one, placed between our centre halves. Not for the first time – it’s a weakness that was nearly exploited by Odemwingie near the end. I’d be interested to hear if anyone reading this is a coach. It’s a tricky decision for defenders – centre forwards have been trying to set themselves up in the gap since football was first played – but I assume Kaboul as the man who can see the forward should leave his station and come to him.
We’ve faced such challenges before and folded. Not now. We have the ability to change and a manager able to get the message through. Under pressure, we shifted slightly, same shape but more attacking. Defoe pushed up to get closer to Manu, who worked magnificently, his movement opening up the defence throughout but he was isolated in the first half. Parker moved up, just a bit but he lead us whereas earlier the match largely passed him by. Full-backs pushing on – Benny superb today, dominating that flank, more passes than anyone else. Bale on the right stopped Thomas’s advances and shut down that attacking option for the Baggies. Sandro, booked and surely one foul away from red, remained diligent and composed. Fearless, he did not shirk a tackle or physical challenge. Such poise and bravery is top class.
We introduced width and upped the tempo. The second half was ours despite West Brom’s continuing efforts. The players responded with relish but Redknapp deserves full credit. Manu got a late third after missing other chances, including a penalty but we make so many chances these days.
So a fine win and a glorious week. Fabulous football, enjoy it with me. I can’t recall a spell quite like this one. Quality yes, plenty of that over the years despite what we Spurs fans might say, but never the consistency. In 82 we might have cracked the league but for a crazy fixture pile-up that left us worn out and with only a dull cup win to show for it. That came close but this is right up there. And the best thing is, there’s more to come.