Seven Minute Wonders

This year Tottenham On My Mind has often been in a reflective, philosophical mood. Underneath the delights and frustrations of this or any other season lies a search for something deeper, more profound. There’s something about being a Spurs fan, a culture and heritage that connects to generations of supporters past and future. Conversations with Julie Welch and Martin Cloake before christmas around their marvellous books fermented the process, provoking more consideration of what it is to be a Spur.

There’s a tension in these pages between this acknowledged weight of history and the evidence of the four seasons that I have been writing. Tactics, players and motivation dictate how we perform. Yet on Sunday, back comes the past, a little nudge in the ribs, a prickling sensation on the back of the neck. Don’t fool yourself, I’m still around, think you can put me to one side, eh? Won’t ever leave you.

And so this is Spurs. Dead, buried and worm-ridden compost in a match controlled by our opponents, three goals from nowhere turned despair to delight in a stunning frenzy of dazzling brilliance. It shouldn’t have to be hard, but it is. Like a relationship with a capricious and beautiful high-spirited lover, there are tough times when you feel that it’s just not worth it but in your heart you know you will stick around because when the times are good, they are like nothing else on earth. The way she touches me, and when she touches me, nothing else matters. Spurs will always be worth the wait if there are are ever another seven minutes like these. And that’s how it is.

For nearly seventy minutes, the big nowhere. Then Bale, the play passing him by, pretending to be fit but not sprinting hard at any point, not fooling anyone. Bale, out wide, suddenly has some space even though City have two fullbacks on that side. Walker finds him with an idle pass. Bale, outside of the foot, bisecting defenders and keeper. I don’t know what Kompany was supposed to do because that ball was perfection. Out of  nothing and nowhere, the perfect ball arcing across the box and Dempsey touches it in at the far post.

Relief and amazement in equal measure, but no time to think about getting away with it. Holtby’s perfect ball into Defoe’s stride, switches onto his right foot, a moment’s pause then the force of the shot rips apart the air and snatches the breath from our lungs. Amidst bedlam in the stands, Huddlestone picks out Bale, his pass curling between defenders and onto the Welshman’s toe, right on his toe. Confronted with Hart, Bale does not hesitate. In line with the shot, I see it beat the keeper but not hit the back of the net because I’m in mid-air already. A remarkable, unforeseen turnaround. Sometimes I long for the ordinary, the comfrotable victory, a stroll in the sun. Well hang that, give me the chance of seven minutes and three goals like that any time.

City were dull, and I mean that in a good way, in a way that Spurs can never be. By apparently doing very little, they sucked the energy from hearts and limbs. A goal down early on, Nasri criminally deserted in the box, Spurs shuttled the ball around but after a while it became clear this was not the purposeful calm of comeback preparation. This was it, as good as it would be. Nothing happened. Oh for the boredom of total superiority.

Long balls; has it come to this? Unable to move in midfield, we began to bypass the congested centre with varying results – sometimes Kompany won the ball but on other occasions Nastasic got there first. Still nothing. Adebayor worked to make himself available but could not hold onto the ball or find a team-mate. However, the service was low-quality, the link-up play worse.

But there are long balls and long balls. Tommy Huddlestone has received so much criticism for his lack of movement, we have forgotten that if he calibrates the range, he’s the best long passer in the league. Twice now Villas-Boas has brought him on to change the game when opponents have been retreating. This gives the Big Boned One that extra yard, that precious fraction of a second. He can look forward not around and behind him. Immediately on his well-timed introduction he began to pick out his man and the danger levels increased.

Bale had moved wide right from the beginning of the half, offering some width. Now he started to see some of the ball. Walker pushed on, working as hard as ever. But as Parker and the inconsequential Sigurdsson trudged off, the other substitution turned the game. This was Lewis Holtby’s breakthrough match. His energy lifted Spurs’ tempo and he sought the ball wherever it went in the centre of the pitch. For the first time in a Spurs shirt, he linked this to a real feel for the ball. His passing was excellent – that’s a fine left foot he has there. It’s the recipe for the perfect midfielder, plus he complements the sedentary, long-passing Huddlstone impeccably.

Slowly Spurs wrested control of tempo and territory if not the scoreline. City players could no longer settle and they failed to adjust to these changing  conditions. Then our Andre’s masterstroke. Defoe for Manu, speed and agitation for leggy despondency. He came away from the back four, hunting for space. Together, AVB’s subs won the match and did his manager proud. He tends to leave it too late sometimes for the subs to make any difference. This time, one set of tactics were not working so here’s plan B. Width and pace were rewarded. City will ask how they lost but when faced with astonishing football like that, they shouldn’t worry too much. They won’t see the like for some time. A truly memorable game or rather, seven minutes.

9 thoughts on “Seven Minute Wonders

  1. What a way to win a game Alan. AVB’s tactics to bring on all three made us into a whole new team. It was like watching Jekyl to to Hyde in an instant. Got to say love the way we played in a 4 3 3 formation, which I think suited Defoe more, than being up top on his own.
    This has to be one of the best game changer I have seen in a very long time, and this is down to AVB.
    Keep up the good work Alan.


    • Yup – a great seven minutes, just like the great two minutes that beat Arsenal, The result is all that matters in terms of CL qualification, but just one question: if AVB gets the credit for those seven minutes, who takes the blame for the previous seventy?


  2. A wonderful afternoon, another win against one of the *cough* ‘big’ teams (a rarity under Redknapp) and hard to remember a better seven minutes. You have to give credit to AVB for the substitutions which changed the game completely. Parker breaks up the opposition play but gives the ball away cheaply. Huddlestone is a more limited player in terms of speed and movement but was able to exploit the space which started to change the game. I’m sure he will be going in the summer (bit too slow for this team’s style of play) but yesterday reminds me why he’s an asset to any club. Holtby fizzed where Siggy had stuttered and Defoe provided the touch of class that Adebayor has been sadly lacking all season. A mention too for Dawson and Verthongen who really are the Rolls and Royce of our defence.
    Five games to go. Will it be happily ever after or heartbreak hotel?


    • Aaahh so well written and i’m sure, many of the gut feelings expressed so well, are shared with so many, especially the older brigade of Spurs addicts. What I find keeps me i front of the screen is that you just don’t know what to expect from this Spurs team. The fact that goals are coming from players in all positions and like bursts of lightening, the unexpected and impossible becomes possible and in our depths we truly believe that something can happen from an “impossible” situation as stated by Mancini. Amazing and really “they are like nothing else on earth” to a true fan.


  3. Those 7 minutes of Glory! If Spurs are glorious in victory it makes Heaven sing, or, if glorious in defeat, at least I (as a long term fan since the early ’60s) can feel proud, and to some degree, content! I can’t remember such ecstasy this season ,,not even Inter at home, or Man U away. To see Hudd at times conjure up Hodd at his best, to see a young spirited Holtby start on the path of fulfilling great expectations, and to see a man whom I’ve criticized since the late autumn (Defoe) score like Jimmy Greaves at his best, when it most mattered! To see Bale back, and even at his quietest (while getting back into things gingerly), producing two world class moments. A wonderful turn around to give us hope for the CL again (because it can’t be denied we WERE beginning to lose hope) despite Arsenal’s bloody annoying late drive to the line once more!
    But to be more sober about it ..yes, we were pretty ineffective for 70 odd minutes. The abundance of City creative midfielders on display, or left out, and yet there was us with Parker, Dembele (industrious, important, dangerous ..but not a playmaker), Sig (always too lightweight despite a few good moments in games), Bale a genius apart but not a playmaker as such, and Dempsey ..all trying to link with Ade, who doesn’t look as if he’d be able to link arms with someone on a hokey cokey night.
    All the teams around us have good playmakers and pretty consistent strikers …while we (all the world to nothing) are still in there fighting for CL glory! If luck changes for us, just this once, after prior seasons of just failing to qualify for the CL MUST finally prove that a top replacement for Modric and a more consistent end-product striker with intelligent link up play, are HUGE necessities. I don’t think we’d need anything more but these signings would breathe fresh life into others like Parker and the defense, bring out the best in Holtby, Sandro (even Sig and Dempsey) etc., and allow more freedom for Lennon and Bale (if the latter goes back to the wing where burning pace can supply regular chances again for proper and consistent scorers).
    Then watch us turn it on next season! . .


  4. Very tasty, Alan! In terms of all the stats — turnover, wages (surprising how precisely that figures in), goals scored, goal difference — we are a 5-7th placed team. We continue to try to punch above our weight, so got to applaud the effort to get into CL on a Europa budget! COYS!


  5. The seven minutes in heaven, not the awkward game of youth, locked in a closet with fighting off the shiny braces, instead a mature display whereby Spurs broke down the door, or more accurately unlocked it with AVB and his critical changes. Hud was morphed back 3 years , spraying passes with pinpoint accuracy, even Huddle would be impressed. Holtby looking more like a composed hunting dog than a Jack Russel Terrier, and Defoe the calm cool sniper. Bale proved once again that taking a ball early is so damn effective, that gorgeous outside of the foot early pass was pin perfect. I have been very critical of my fellow Yank Dempsey this year, but I believe this was one of his best games by far, hard working, quick movement and passing. No silly 30 yrd shots that make the hell snowball more likely.
    Will this be the springboard for the end of the season, certainly we can hope. Yet somehow we all know there will be hand wringing, there will be doubt and angst… this is Spurs after all.


  6. The old place was rocking. It brought a lump to my throat watching from far away.

    What the substitutions showed me is that we still have many many options, more than perhaps I’d realised. And importantly, a man who knows how to use them. It won’t always work but he was proactive and decisive, which as Alan says hasn’t always been the case. He’s young and learning, fast, it was a pleasure to see on Sunday.

    I liked Dembele further foward after the subs.


  7. Also, I don’t blame him or the players for the first hour or so. We were set up to match them, they played better is all. It happens. Man City are a very strong side when playing well and a goal on 5mins knocked us back considerably after a bright opening. Unlike Chelsea in FA Cup semi, we stayed right in the game, and while we struggled to make headway they didn’t carve us open often. The equaliser brought a wave of belief and we ran them over in the last 20.

    Yes, I rather enjoyed it.


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