Belated though this blog may be, the stench of Sunday’s first half is still blowing in the wind. Can’t get it out of my nostrils. Boy did we stink the place out. If the Lane provided showers, unlikely as some parts of the ground only got hot water a couple of seasons ago, but if they did, at half-time I would have washed that game right outa my hair.
Never mind all the tactical bollo. Means diddly if players can’t pass ten yards to a team-mate. Throughout the half it went on, a determination to give the ball away, that precious object so beloved of AVB, revered, the Holy Grail. Just hang on to it lads and go from there. Nope. It became so bad at the end of the half, they were pausing before precisely picking out the opponent when it was simpler to pass to a white shirt.
Maybe it’s reassuring that they are the same as us. Mere mortals who bow under pressure, tiredness perhaps after a busy week means they can’t think straight or just a bad day. But I don’t want them to be like me. It’s like politicians who want to be men and women of the people. Shaking hands uncomfortably with the plebs in a meat-packing factory. Call me Dave’s shirtsleeves for the CL Final. Our passing was the footballing equivalent of William Hague in a baseball cap.
I don’t want them to be like me. I want them to be cleverer, more decisive, energetic and not collapse in front of the Dave channel every night. Same for Spurs players. Get it right. Put everything into every game. Succeed with gravity-defying leaps and improbable shots. At least the wind changed at half-time.
Writing about the game a couple of days on lends a sense of perspective. Three points helps with some welcome balance. Villas-Boas has yet to find his best team and this was one major step forward. He discovered Bale has to start left midfield, not full-back. I hoped the team had some possibilities. Width could come from Walker and Bale, cover from the midfield freeing them to go up and it makes room for another forward in Dempsey.
That proved to be a triumph of optimism flying in the face of reality. We were totally disjointed and dire. Players looked forlornly left like a lost lamb searching for its mother. They turned back into the Rangers massed ranks and promptly lost the ball. Again and again.
Good managers not only acknowledge their mistakes but can put them right. Caulker moved in to replace the invisible Sigurdsson, enabling Vertonghen to move to full-back, Bale to move up and Spurs to win the game. Jan the Man is fast becoming a White Hart Lane legend, charging forward or popping up in defence, he made a huge difference. A top class footballer. Whoever scouted him, take a bow. You deserve a moment in the limelight. His goal-saving tackle on Hoillet, while not quite in the Ledley on Robben class, was masterful and miraculous. Typically when we were at last on top we had to make a ricket at the back. Hoillet settled comfortably on the ball, straightened his tie and made sure his hair looked good for the celebrations. No problem: he had enough time for that and a cup of bovril, then Vertonghen swooped in as if from nowhere to take the ball rom his toe.
Although the second half was much improved, a slice of good fortune turned the game our way as Caulker’s header (he wins a lot in the opposition box) clipped Faurlin’s back, who made a fatally half-hearted movement towards the ball out of character with an otherwise fine performance and it rolled in.
QPR lost focus momentarily, Vertonghen galloped forward and Defoe banged in the rebound as Bale’s shot came back off the bar. From then on, the day was ours and we should have had more. Rangers will be deeply disappointed. In the first half they were as excellent as we were lousy. Before Sunday I thought Granero was an over-priced muesli but discovered he’s cultured midfielder. Zamora dominated our defence. He linked well with players around him and scored a neat goal but we gave him far too much room that deep into our box. Never did that for us but if he performs like that he could yet do something for England.
Special praise for Friedel who played them on his own for the first half. One save, strong hands to his left at full stretch, was outstanding. Hang on Hugo, you’ll have to wait.
So remember folks, the difference between try and triumph is a bit of umph….Try that at work everyone, see how it goes down….Playing badly and winning is the usual line but underlying the winning ugly schtick is something more permanent. Often it’s strength and mental resilience, or the presence of a match-winner perhaps. Against QPR it was a manager brave enough to make decisive changes early enough to make a difference, and that’s a precious quality to have.