Building for the new stadium has not yet begun but already it looks as if they are moving ahead on the naming rights. White Hart Lane has become the Pleasure Dome, a place of euphoria and delight. Last night Spurs overwhelmed a weakened Inter Milan side with 90 minutes of sustained flowing football that simply brushed one of the top Italian teams aside as if they barely existed.
Lovely stuff and the fans responded, a wonderful celebratory atmosphere less for the tie itself and more for the football Tottenham are playing, for the manager whose efforts are deeply appreciated by an initially wary Spurs crowd and for the growing belief that promise will be fulfilled.
Measuring my anxiety levels is a complex undertaking, admittedly not quite on a par with the Hadron Collider’s calibrations but a nevertheless complicated cluster of interacting variables. There’s gum-chewing of course, subdivided into intensity of bite and chews per minute, glances at the clock in the second half and that odd hand-wringing thing that I do. The details aren’t important but if blood is drawn, things are going badly.
Yesterday, levels veered crazily into the positive, at times they were off the scale. What a revelation to watch an anxiety-free Spurs game. All-round good performances, an early goal, silky passing, cracking atmosphere throughout. Inter even went so far as to miss the obligatory chance out of nothing, the forward shooting straight at Friedel when clean through. No Spurs cock-up! I did look at the clock but only in the hope that we could have more time.
Once again Villas-Boas selected a very strong team, as he has throughout the competition. Inter? Not so much. I’m no authority on the reserve league in Italy, no really, I’m not, but I’m certain half of this lot don’t see much first team action. By the end they were bringing on players who looked as if they had come for the Beat the Deckchair competition.
Unfair – they had a sprinkling of experienced players and it was a shame to see them in such reduced circumstances. The motivation, organisation and application of Our Andre’s Spurs has been a feature of last few months but nowhere has it been more obvious than in the stark contrast between these two sides. From the kick-off Spurs were willing and eager, pinging it around and by-passing their lacklustre opponents with inventive pass and move football. They know what they are supposed to do and where they are supposed to be.
Parker and Dembele were the pick. Both had an extra yard or so available and they plundered this rare freedom to great effect. Parker’s problem this season has been his release of the ball. At his best when he can win it and lay it off or drive forward ten or fifteen yards and then let it go, he’s forgotten the simplicity of his game or not been able to pick out a man amidst a packed defence. Either way, he ends up holding onto it longer than he has to.
Last night, he had the space to move and his teammates could get into space to be found. Similarly, Dembele had more room to roam. Some of his play was delightful. Lennon was energetic excellence throughout, dashing back to cover as well as whizzing at the Inter backline. It’s good to see Siggy have some gametime. His miss on Sunday, passing when clean through, betrayed his lack of confidence. At Swansea and Reading, his trademark was goals from midfield. With us he’s developing a knack for the alert tap-in, following up Defoe’s shot to tap in the rebound off the keeper. It should help him overcome a lingering inferiority complex – I suspect he’s still coming to terms with this step up in class.
Vertonghen was imperious at the back, Gallas had enough time to charge forward in the second half. Brad was a spectator. The only disappointment was Defoe’s failure to score. He knows goals are the only thing that feed his confidence and his pre-injury instinct for the corners of the goal deserted him. His efforts to hold it and shoot rather than pass to a better placed team-mates became increasingly absurd. They just rolled their eyes and looked to the heavens.
No matter. Bale put us one up after five minutes with a header, because he can do EVERYTHING, and missed another similar opportunity. Siggy next, then Vertonghen with a header. Three and could, should, have been more but no one really cared about what might have been. Fans right across the spectrum came together to experience the pleasure of watching Spurs play good quality football. The guy next to me wore a baseball cap pulled down almost over his eyes and his scarf covered his face. When the ball nearly hit us, he ducked down for fear of the cameras catching a glimpse. I suspect that guy’s been banned…
To my right, a three or four year old with eyes as bright as his new white Spurs woolly hat. His first game and the memory will live long. Glad to share it with him.