Bale – Reason To Believe

When he does those things, I just stand and gasp. Goal celebration bedlam feels wrong somehow, a vulgar demeaning of greatness. Several times this season, the instant adrenalin rush has propelled me from my seat, then I’ve stood, barely clapping, swaying gently as the wonder of it all flows over me, seeps through the skin, travels along each nerve until I eventually sit, long after the whistle has blown for the restart, in a little world of my own.

It recalls the time when I first heard soul music, I mean proper r’n’b soul, live, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in of all places Canterbury Odeon. I knew their songs but not that feeling, a ten piece soul band battle-hardened through hundreds of gigs in sweaty down-at-heel clubs let loose on an impressionable middle-class English teenager. After three songs I was holding onto the back of the seat in front of me for fear my legs would give way.

Bale’s goals are like that for me. Each as fresh as the first time, a driving horn section, swirling hammond, thumping bass, the crunch of the snare and screeching riff all rolled into one. That feeling.

They are all different. No speculative potshot that happens to fly in. This one began in familiar fashion, a little shuffle to the left, then acceleration and another touch, not beating a defender but simply sliding the ball where he cannot reach it. The final movement protected the ball in the instant of contact, leaning over, distorted body shape to enable the perfect contact. Low and hard this one, right in line I watched it arc into the bottom corner, finding a gap where there had been none for the previous 80 odd minutes.

Empty phrases like “world-class” don’t cut it, even if he is. Gareth Bale is a reason to believe, in the beauty of the game, in the team, in our ability to compete against the very best, to keep the faith. That anything is possible. I urge you never to take this for granted. In my late fifties, I have never seen anything like this. Greaves, Gilzean, Chivers, Hoddle, you name them, Bale is thier peer. This isn’t world-class, this is better than that. This is the fabric of myth and legend.

Until then, Bale’s demeanour and performance could not have been more at odds with this sensational moment. The other great ones strut and preen even if they are not playing well. Bale cut a forlorn figure, lost in midfield as the game went on around him. It was as if playing against his old club cast him back five years to when he was a youth team player finding his way. It was a reminder that even now he’s little more than a kid.

Lost and forlorn sums up this match as far as Spurs were concerned. It was a collective failure of epic proportions, as if the players had been introduced to each other for the first time in the dressing-room before the warm-up. To describe it as disjointed implies they knew what they were doing in the first place, which as the time passed I came to seriously doubt. After an hour, they became incapable of string three passes together, and that was when we were playing better.

The nadir was a little later. We had totally run out of ideas, then rallied with Manu and Holtby providing some much-needed impetus. Still, it was all a bit desperate. Something nearly happened, maybe we got vaguely near the Southampton box (it was that sort of game, even that lifted the crowd) and the ball went out for the throw. To break things up still further, three of their men went down. Benny restarted with three of our side having a drink by the bench, oblivious not only of the fact that the ball was in play but also that some urgency was required to rescue this god-awful mess. Walker was the width of the pitch away from his position. It showed that their minds had gone.

In the case of two key men, Dembele and Lennon, their legs had gone too. Both barely got involved, both went off injured. Neither was fit and neither should have started. Spurs were weak before the game kicked off.

It all adds up. iI the team is paying well, you can carry a man who is slightly unfit or out of position. However, we started with two men unfit and Dempsey vaguely left midfield. That’s fine if we are on top and he has some freedom to cut in. Yesterday, Southampton strangled the space and pushed him back, and the Deuce is no left midfielder. It showed. Benny was no help. Trying too hard, he gave the ball away frequently. He depends on having an outlet, but Dempsey gave him nothing and Defoe’s movement was limited. Collective responsibility. Hud’s long passes can be effective but the Saints did not allow our forwards any room. Also, the team are not used to the long ball game. With Bale denied space too, we looked distinctly uncomfortable for almost the whole match. One shot on target in 90 minutes tells its own story. 100% success rate, though.

Saints were organised and cultured, a fine side who surely won’t go down and will prosper next season. By the time Bale let loose they should have had the game sewed up, spurning two golden chances in the first half.

In an undistinguished afternoon, a little mention for Lloris who in his understated way did everything he had to and on one occasion something very special, hurling himself low to his left to tip a free kick onto the post. A lifesaver – even with Bale, such was the poverty of this performance we may not have come back from that.

Three games left and who knows. We’ve never looked less like a top four team as in the last few matches yet with Bale there’s a reason to believe. As I’ve said for a while, the defence is the key. We may not be scoring heavily but the problem is, we are shipping soft goals. The irony is, this was our first clean sheet for umpteen league games and our worst performance. Enforced changes may mean a more defensive set-up in midfield for Wednesday but Holtby and Siggy may be what we need. His goal covered up a dire effort but let’s worry about that in the close season, because with Bale on the break there’s a reason to hope.

19 thoughts on “Bale – Reason To Believe

  1. I too am a fan of SS Johnny, I saw them in he Seventies and again in the naughties, unfortunately the last time Johnny had a cold and so his voice was sub par, but the rest of the band played their hearts out to save the day. Remember La Bamba?.The point I’m trying to make is even when we are playing sub par we have can have hope until the fat lady sings, we have match winners, not just Bale.. CL qualification will go down to the last day.

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    • Nicely put. I do indeed remember La Bamba, saw them a few times, truly memorable. Good to hear from another fan.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  2. It was a lovely goal but so little else to commend that performance. Dembele and Lennon shouldn’t have played, Dempsey might as well have put on a red shirt, Dawson hoofed, BAE had one of his ‘clueless’ outings. Defoe should have gone for a run on his own on Hackney Marshes such was the rest of the team’s inability to find him. The subs helped but neither looked particularly purposeful.
    Just one moment though can change a match and what a moment. My friend’s away so I was joined by an Italian who had come just to see Gareth Bale. He’d sat bored for most of the match wondering what all the fuss was but he went away happy, another witness to the growing legend. The agony and the dream lives on for a few more days.

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  3. I’m gonna say it. The system is the problem. If Azza and Moussa are fit for Chelsea I say 4-3-3 with a midfield if Thudd, Moussa and Holtby, Bale left, Azza right. If no Moussa then a midfield three if Siggy, Holtby and Thudd as DLP

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    • I think Lennon and Dembele are just not fit and should be rested until they are. We can’t carry them, the risk is too great against a side as good as Chelsea. I’d focus on what we have with Holtby and Siggy keeping a tight centre midfield in front of the back four, where Chelsea are really dangerous, set up Bale and Defoe on the break.

      Regards, Al

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  4. Very below par performance but we ground out the 3 points. We will be better against Chelsea when we are slight underdogs and hopefully wont be as jittery. COYS

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  5. Still the desperate hope lingers.
    Can the glory that is currently Bale carry us over the line …or have we reached a (Stamford) Bridge too far?
    For, despite our luck against the Saints, no other results in recent days (or for the past few weeks for that matter) have really gone with us.
    I really thought Harry would do us a favour, and to be fair QPR tried hard in that 2nd half to do just that.
    Then again I thought Liverpool would do us another turn by beating Everton, thus ensuring Everton take the fight to Chelsea on the last day of the season in order to secure Europa League and to finish higher than their Merseyside rivals. Even an Everton WIN would have been better for us ..but 0-0 means the Toffees will be stuck on 6th (not fighting for 5th and not worrying about 7th) as they face Chelsea.
    Then there was the late afternoon! A weakened Man U with VP spurning 1st half chances with a smile on his face, and a late Chelsea winner!
    Won’t these two irritating and loathed London rivals just please have some blips or poor fortune over the next 12 days???
    There is just no let up.
    We now have to WIN our 3 remaining games, or draw just one of them and hope Wigan and/or Newcastle can find a relegation battling mentality against Arsenal. Even if we beat Chelsea (a long shot even with Bale having his most stupendous game of the season, while the Blues look certain to be top four anyway) we will still be left (nerve-wrackingly) trying to force two victories against teams looking to shake clear of relegation.
    All we can hope is that Arsenal drop points to Wigan and Newcastle ..but just two more wins for the Gooners, after their 2nd season running long impressive late challenge, is not beyond them!
    This is God’s chance, however, to prove he’s not just on the side of the present big battalions!
    We are simply two players short of a great squad that can challenge for the title next year …a creative midfielder and striker ..but we can only hope to get them, and keep what we have, if we have CL!
    We’ve wasted the last couple of years ..playing some lovely all round football but blowing it ultimately in our taking of scoring chances! This season, the football has not been as lovely, while Bale has almost single handedly kept us in the top four loop, but I don’t think I could cope with the tragedy of yet another ‘near miss’ (especially involving those same two damn clubs as last year) and another huge setback for a talented squad that has just been short of a couple of major cogs in order to make it more streamlined and efficient!
    But anyway, COYS ..once more unto the Bridge dear friends, once more ..or seal up the wall with our Tottenham dead!

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  6. I don’t know what to think. Having said that, I do think we’ve done very well to still be in contention til the end here, but we have looked too slow and deliberate, like early season Spurs, for most of the last few games.

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    • Fact is, we’ve been poor lately. Can’t escape that. Will need a real change of form to grab CL, but we’ll see…

      regards, Alan

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  7. Good write up Alan. I used to love soul music and was a proper soul boy in my late teens. Absolutely loved that Era.
    Missed this game because had me cousin and his family over from Cyprus and gutted I was not there to witness another great goal from Bale.
    Going to the game on Wednesday and just hope we can turn them over, but realistically I think they are a team on the up and will be a hard game for us. But as JImmy Greaves says, football is a funny old game, so who knows.

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    • Great goal but it was a truly awful performance, I mean really bad, so don’t beat yourself up too much about missing it…plenty to thank your cousin for, in fact…

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  8. Am sure we’d all be happy with a scrappy, scruffy, lucky win (the football gods owe us big time, especially against the Blues) or at worst, a hang-in-there draw. Let’s just hope we’re not in for a right old tonking. Then again, it may open Mr. Levy’s eyes. COY-mofo Spurs!

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