Just what Spurs needed – three points. No alarms, a decent effort that lacked a cutting edge to convert our massive superiority into more goals but none was needed in response to opponents who reeked of the sickly unpleasant odour of apathy. And people have said our players don’t care. I’m surprised the Blackburn squad could summon up the effort to climb the stairs of the team coach.
Then on the way home, the Big News. In years to come, will you remember where you were when Hodgson became odds-on for England manager? No, me neither. That apathy, it’s spreading. The South Circular for me, as a matter of record. Looks like our Harry is going to stay for a while longer, whether we like it or not. I bet he’s hurt, at not being asked. Maybe he was, discreetly. More likely the quiet little chat was between the F.A. and Daniel Levy. It went something like this. David Dein: “HOW MUCH?”
The fans are not so sure but Levy wants his man to stay, hence the big contract. Hope that leaves some cash for a transfer budget worthy of the name. In the meantime, it’s one down, three to go.
Motivation was an issue for both teams, given recent performances. From the start Spurs showed plenty of appetite for the task ahead – my imagination but did the huddle last a fraction longer than usual? Gallas’ ankles are going but there’s fire and ambition in the belly still. Modric and Sandro took the midfield from the kick off and everyone was keen to get on the ball. Quickly we established the rhythm that has served us so well this season and when we added the high tempo, we could really swing.
Blackburn however were indifferent to the point of fascination. Fans of all clubs splutter at the baffling decisions of their manager but for Kean to set up his relegation threatened side so they did not have a single shot in the entire 90 minutes takes lacklustre to cosmic levels. Five the back, they never closed down the space in front of their box thus presenting us with total control. Injury time approached, two down but they weren’t going to budge. Oh no, not them. Never mind the score or league position, this is the set-up and we are sticking to it. Several of their more experienced players were happily chatting and smiling throughout. I’ve had a lot of time for the dignified way in which Kean has refused to either buckle under the pressure or criticise his fans despite the abuse he has received (whereas Redknapp bristles indignantly at the slightest provocation), but this was unfathomable.
I’m not given to extravagant predictions but last season I called Sandro a world-class prospect. Yesterday he showed how much we have missed him. The perfect defensive midfielder is strong, athletic, fearless in defence with good positional sense plus the passing ability to launch attacks. Don’t ask for much, do we, but he delivers. He’s lost weight and looks all the better for it. He tackled, thundered the bar with a long range hammer and above all never looked stretched. When he tired in the second half, he hung back and covered, just as a DM should when we are leading. Complete control, of the pitch and of his own game. Best not to slide tackle around the Park Lane penalty spot, though. Spilling your guts for the team is one thing but that was going too far.
Modric had a good first half. Early on he dashed deep into the box to cross from the byline and it was good to see him so involved in proceedings. Again, it’s something else we’ve missed. That drop of the shoulders that gives me goosebumps, he’s away and calling the tune. The whole game picks up when he’s on the ball. Some delightful passing including one curling ball into the box for Lennon that combined sublime touch with the prescience of Mystic Meg.
This fine partnership provided the impetus for a return to the delightful passing and movement of the good old days. Seems like so long ago. The Newcastle game was only 2 months ago, feels like I’m talking about a different side. The old problems were there: a lack of sharpness in the box. Adebayor making good runs but he’s too far in front of the near post when the cross comes in to be of maximum danger, Rafa and others hanging back when they should have been belting towards the 6 yard box. It’s the sort of stat that I think I’ve misheard but 5Live said that Jelavic has scored his last 28 goals with his first touch. We should take note because it won’t happen at Spurs.
The goal was a message about what works. A deep cross from Lennon that Bale got his head to and the rebound was forced in by Rafa. Nice to get a messy goal for once but the point is, the cross was aimed to a man, not space and we had men on the spot to score from close range. Too often we’ve been outnumbered.
Gallas hit the bar from a corner, shame, it was a good header, but it will probably be another 150 -odd corners until we score another one.
We didn’t start the second half as well as the first but it didn’t matter because Blackburn were so flaccid. We went through the motions without causing many problems. I was waiting for the inevitable breakaway and the one shot one goal equaliser that’s so familiar. Blackburn have the pace that other teams have used to unsettle us but they didn’t believe in giving Hoilett or Yakubu the ball. Anyway, Kaboul was mighty at the back, three solid headers from awkward deep balls and unbeatable on the ground, one great tackle on Hoilett in particular. Gallas was determined but neither were stretched. It was so quiet, I could hear Friedel barking out instructions to his defenders, and I sit near halfway.
None of which stopped me worrying. Talking of apathy, nothing induces it more than a Spurs free-kick within shooting range. May as well count the pigeons in the stands. The pundits around me are fine upstanding loyal fans, behind the team through thick and thin, it makes watching the game even more of a pleasure. I had to agree with the voice that said, ‘My money’s on the goal kick’ as Walker stepped up, then a flash and a blur and it’s in the back of the net. The first league direct free kick since January 2101, I do believe. I won’t say it was worth waiting two years for but a shot of that power, spin and accuracy is a bit of a marvel. Wonderful.
Neither Rose nor Bale had outstanding games but together they were a threat. Rose’s crossing wasn’t quite up to scratch but he did well enough. His presence enabled Bale and Modric to make use of the space inside the full-back even though Blackburn had an extra man at the back. Walker did well bar one missed tackle. Once again he played on in some discomfort, at least for the entire second half. His battered legs look as if they are stuck together with tape, such is this new high-tech strapping. He is focussed and committed, as well as being a top class footballer. A big favourite of mine.
I’d hoped the relegation places would have been a bit clearer by now but what with Villa being pulled into it, I expect more fight from our opponents in the next two games. Little can be judged from this one but if Sandro’s attitude can spread just a touch through the team, we’ll be in with a great chance of making it two out of two on Wednesday night.
Competition corner: It’s like Vision On, only with words. Another one for the kids there, which last week’s competition certainly wasn’t. The Spurs player pictured was Terry Naylor, who before he was a footballer used to be a Smithfield meat porter and he treated full backs the same way as he handled those carcasses. the winner was regular correspondent I Know Alan Gilzean, mainly because he was the only one who got both parts correct. Good man!
I have been promised a copy of Louis Saha’s book Thinking Inside the Box by those lovely people at Vision Publishing. Yesterday on 5Live Ian Payne described it as ‘extraordinary, like no other footballer’s autobiography.’ Sounds promising. here’s the deal: I’ll read it then you can have the chance to win my copy. Stay tuned.