Reflections On A Heartwarming Victory: Spurs Fans and Players Stand Together

The search for the lost heart of Tottenham Hotspur is over. It was there all the time, waiting to be found by three young footballers, Nabil Bentaleb, Harry Kane and Ryan Mason. They knew all along what it means to be Spurs and their performances in Sunday’s defeat of Everton not only showed their more experienced team-mates the path to follow, they ignited and inspired the crowd. Together, as one, as it should be.

This was Spurs’ best performance of the season, superior to the big win over QPR because the Toffees are a much better side. Tottenham were disciplined, keeping a shape that ensured Everton had few opportunities but flexible enough to quickly turn defence into attack. Yet what stood out was the spirit and commitment of the whole team, playing with drive, application and purpose. Regardless almost of the result, this was a remarkable transformation compared with the festering sore of last month’s apathetic and alienating efforts.

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The afternoon also revealed Adebayor’s deluded whinging about how our troubles were due to supporter negativity as the narcissistic self-indulgence it really was. The intoxicating mixture of the young men’s effort and noise from the crowd punctured once and for all the smug complacency behind his comments after the Stoke defeat. Players and managers spend their careers in crowded football grounds yet they never get it. Supporters and players aren’t different breeds. We’re inextricably linked, feeding off the emotional connection between us. This reciprocity isn’t about cause and effect: sometimes they get us going, sometimes we lift them. On the good days you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends, and this was a very good day. The alchemy created an exhilarating, emotionally charged atmosphere that lifted the spirits of player and supporter alike, in particular aiding a flagging side in the final 10 minutes to resist a series of Everton set-pieces as they searched in vain for an equaliser.

And this is what matters, truly matters, long after the final whistle. Matches, players, seasons come and go, fortune waxes and wanes, but keep the beating heart of a football club pulsing and you have the foundation of future success. The form of even the very best footballers ebbs and flows but if playing in navy blue and white means something to them, deep inside, they can find the strength to overcome adversity.

Heaven knows we’ve waited a long time for Bobby Soldado to score. We’ve gone through disappointment, frustration and anger to sympathy and condolence. Scoring goals on instinct since he was kid, once the flow dried up, he’s had no idea what to do about it. He’s like an old friend who has been through such bad times that you are compelled to look away as you wish him well because the pain in his eyes is too much to take.

So when the moment finally came, what mattered more to him, the billowing of the net or the ecstatic reception from the crowd? It was the noise, the song, the shared joy of a homecoming almost that surely will stay with him, that will mean he’ll give that little bit more when harder times come along. We had not rejected him despite it all. After the genuine celebrations in the corner, he took a long time to walk back to the centre circle, savouring each step, deep in reflection despite the elation all around him. The demons were banished. The half-time whistle blew a few seconds later and he skipped off to the dressing room.

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Kane and Bentaleb were outstanding throughout. Kane has been ‘a prospect’ for a few years but I did not think he could come on so swiftly. It’s like a child’s growing spurt – you see them every day yet suddenly they physically and emotionally mature. It’s part of nature but still we are surprised. And pleased.

No pace but his close control was always a threat to an Everton defence whose weakness for backing off proved to be their undoing. Spurs began the game in good order but just as it seemed nothing was going to come from our play, and a goal down by this time, Kane took matters into his own hands and ran at them. Suddenly the back four were exposed. Howard could only push his hard shot to the feet of Eriksen who with care and precision placed the ball into the far corner.

Kane began the match on the right, helping Lennon stifle the dangerous Baines. As the half progressed it became clear Azza was doing a fine job on his own, thank you very much, so Harry could drift in and be more involved. The midfield needed assistance as Everton had the lion’s share of possession – here’s Harry back to help out. Soldado could be isolated on his own but wait, Harry’s there to lend a hand. 50-50 in midfield becomes a Spurs ball because Harry’s in. Defence is suddenly attack, on the break Harry’s set Lennon free for his only run at the defence. On the break he slips Bobby in and the finish across the keeper is just perfect. Later, Barkley’s dangerous in the centre replacing the ineffective Eto, this could be trouble -wait! Harry’s got him. Outstanding.

Bentaleb was a presence throughout. He is always available, keeps the ball moving and was instrumental in establishing and maintaining a decent tempo in our play. That’s the mark of a quality footballer. He too has matured, if not overnight then at the World Cup. In his demeanour he seems 5 years older compared with the end of last season.

Mason had less of an impact but played his part in the most solid midfield of the season. He and Bentaleb sought each other at the end and hugged, mutual congratulations for a job well done. Lennon was excellent, dutifully up and down his wing, less winging and more tackling back it has to be said but goodness knows Chiriches, a mistake waiting to happen, needs all the help he can get. Right-footer on the right, playing well – who knew?

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Eriksen did well too, working hard from kick-off. Thought there was a different look in his eyes, more determination. As a unit they excelled, pressing high when required but mostly funnelling back to set up the barricades 40 yards out. Lots of calling to each other, encouragement, where to go, plug a gap. Soldado’s goal was preceded by an equally significant piece of play, where Everton had the ball for an extended period but were forced to go from side to side, unable to find a gap. Pushed back, they lost the ball and Kane did the rest.

We kept our shape and discipline throughout. This helped the back four immeasurably. Davies and Chiriches could tuck in or if they were brought out knew someone would slot in to cover. Vertonghen was clearly inspired by proceedings, visibly growing into the match and dealing with the second half pressure that came at him.

Lamela was the only problem. On for the tired Lennon and clearly given strict instructions to keep the shape, he just couldn’t resist. After a disciplined start, he left his post and charged around committing needless fouls. He could easily have been sent off rather than booked. Baines was livid with him for a couple of tackles and I don’t blame him. This weakness could end his PL career.

Much has been made of Spurs’ conspicuous lack of success on a Sunday following a Europa League fixture but the foundations for this win were laid on Thursday night. Bentaleb, Davies and Lennon had valuable game time while key pairings of Kane and Soldado up front and Fazio and Vertonghen at the back had time to get used to each other.

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I’m pleased for the manager that an incredibly brave decision to play Mason and Bentaleb in the engine room came off. Also his preferred set-up needs the forward able to get into the box and drop back, a role Kane fulfilled admirably. It’s a telling indictment of Sunday’s benchwarmers and confirmed that Pochettino does not have the type of midfielder that he wants. The young players listen and respond. Not asking a lot but too much for some, apparently.

Without getting carried away – Chelsea hot favourites tomorrow – there was so much to enjoy on an afternoon that began with a conspicuous lack of optimism in the stands. They found what it takes to be a winning side. Nothing but credit all round.

20 thoughts on “Reflections On A Heartwarming Victory: Spurs Fans and Players Stand Together

  1. Three thoughts. First we played more of a 442 than a 443 with width and pace from Lennon making a huge difference, Hope we stay with that shape going forward. Lloris’ comments midweek about how easy teams were finding it to stop us playing were telling
    Second I take what you are saying about Soldado, but the fact remains he offers little and should not be starting, certainly not against Chelsea. (If he does start and scores a hat trick I will be ecstatic – but…) Thirdly I felt Perryman’s appearance at half time and his words about us the fans really helped the healing process that we all felt in the second half. What could be a more appropriate source of bonding between players and fans?


    • Maybe this system with 2 strikers could be the key to Soldado getting back to his best Jill.
      Sunday for me, Soldado played very well and am keeping fingers cross he is back to his best .


    • Sorry Jill but to say that Soldado “offers little and should not be starting” shows that you have not been watching the games very closely. Even though he has not been scoring, he has been making some really intelligent runs off the ball which has given other players, Kane for example, more room to move. This has been happening every time he has been on the pitch. Unfortunately on many occasions his own team mates have not been quick enough to capitalise on the openings he has created. I would start him every time, and the goals will definitely come.


      • I watch Soldado very carefully with despair. The odd nice touch or run gives us hope but it is so much too little.I love how our fans are willing him to come good but he can’t hold the ball up or win headers and he lacks pace. And in the joy of his goal his role in Everton’s goal seems to be forgotten. Every time I see him it feels like we have 10 men. I think we were forgetting what a good striker can offer until Kane started to remind us. But we are so far off the days of Berba or Teddy without going back further. If Ade ever recovers he could be great with Kane. If not I’d like to see whether Eriksen, Lamela of Chadli can work off Kane. I also hope beyond hope that we might buy another striker in January.


    • Thanks for your comments, Jill.

      One goal does make a Soldado, or something like that. I thought Sunday was special because of the team/supporters relationship so I concentrated on that, especially as I’ve been justifiably critical over the last month or so. So deliberately no analysis of Bob but if you want one – an able striker whose confidence is shot to pieces. He was bought then successive managers did not know what to do with him. Certainly their formations were not geared to his strengths, which I suspect wasn’t the case in Spain. This is true but not an excuse for the other aspect of his time with us – whatever the formation he has had some awful games. He does make good runs but pointless if team-mates are on a different wavelength and he is terrible when he finally gets a chance. Let’s hope that’s all in the past.

      Re formation, I would say the best way of describing it is 4-4-1-1 but the real point is the movement and flexibility that makes the ‘straight line’ way of describing it outmoded. Players knew their roles and knew when to switch e.g. Kane dropping deeper. In the past we’ve been too static. Spursfanatic – link on the sidebar – writes about our tactics in a readable style, recommended.

      Regards, Alan


  2. Absolutely proud of the whole match day experience Alan.
    Even where I sit in East upper block D had sections urging and encouraging our team on, which I can promise you is normally quiet, except for me,the guy with Tourette’s :).
    So happy for Soldado. I suppose we want him to do well more so because he does have that bond with us, and I’ve not heard him moan about anything, that’s why we were so happy for him.
    Good to see the youngsters doing well. Was amazed to see Bentelab boss and encourage the back 4 to keep up the tempo, he is definitely one to be a future captain.
    Happy man and still buzzing from seeing our Spurs back to their best.
    Chelsea next!! I feel we can get a result from them, and would love it if we stopped their run of no wins.
    Good read as always Alan


    • It was a day to enjoy first and foremost, which I’ve tried to reflect in the piece. Bentaleb not only played well, he took on the responsibility of running our midfield. Just turned 20. There will be ups and downs but the future looks bright, providing we don’t expect too much too soon and too often.

      Regards, Alan


  3. Three thought of my own. 1) It was more of a 4411 than a 442 or a 433. 2) Soldado’s all-round game is excellent and even when he is not scoring he is creating, he should definitely play against chelsea tomorrow. 3) Adebayor needs to leave.


  4. Was nice to see you have a smile on your face at the end of the game on Sunday instead of the grimace you been wearing recently. However, as they say “1 swallow does not a summer make” although I suppose we have to start somewhere. Lets see how things progress over the next couple of weeks before getting carried away. Still, only another 20 points required to avoid relegation.
    Up the Spurs


    • I’m sure you were happy too, Steve! Enjoy a win, always, and this one was good as much for the change in attitude as the result, but I suspect that it will still feel a long season with tonight’s game and 2 unseasonably tough home games over Christmas. Some hope though.

      See you on Saturday, Alan


  5. I really do not understand why Soldado gets the support that he does. He works less than Ade yet Ade has the rep for being Lazy. He lacks the courage to keep putting himself in the positions to score-preferring to be invoved in link up play, which he also gets too much credit for. I want him to be good too He just has not been. we didnt play to the strengths of bent either but i dont remeber him getting anywhere near the support Soldado gets.


  6. Hull was the turning point. You could see a major shift happening. It had to. Stoke at home was turgid. Dire stuff.

    First half against Everton was was so, so much better. An energetic midfield allowing defence and forwards to do their job. Notable that Bentileb and Mason sought each other out for mutual congratulations, which was well deserved, at the final whistle.


    • There’s definitely something in this that the homegrown players have a feeling for the club and commitment to match. Fits with the other notion that some of the players came here to expect success and don’t want to battle. More to a game that this but right now, it’s a big factor.

      I was worried that shift wouldn’t happen. Couldn’t see where it was going to come from. Relieved.

      Regards, Alan


  7. Heartwarming Blog, Alan. You guys at the game were singing up a storm, and we could hear it all the way over here on the Left Coast. Great rousing stuff by both fans and players. But just recently it was a without or having little “heart” message with your Blog. Will it be back to “heartless” if we don’t get a result vs Cheatski? Until we let MoPo have a full year or more with us, I’m not jumping off-on-off the wagon. If he’s been given the go-ahead to bench the supposedly big guys (Dembele, Ade, Pauli, Kaboul, Capoue, etc. maybe even Lamela) for not getting with the program, then great. Back the manager, bring the young hungry lads in — just great to see those 3 lads earning their Spurs — scout for less over-priced talent (get analyzing Mr. Mitchell), and sing up a storm you fans over there! Maybe just a dream, but would so love to wipe that smirk off Moan-rinho’s mug! COYS! 😉


  8. Wonderful effort with the players responding to the crowd.
    It would be great to get a result at Chelsea, it would kick the season along.
    Robbie over Ade anyday!!!
    The younger players look the goods for a bright future.


  9. Lovely write up of an inspiring game on Sunday.

    The performance was gritty, determined, tenacious and purposeful. We played as a team with a shape.

    And at the heart of it was three Academy players, adored by the crowd and thus proving how wrong Sherwood was when he said Spurs fans always prefer foreign stars to home-grown talent.

    Utter nonsense. Just listen to the love there is for Harry Kane et al on the terraces.

    Having said that, my favourite moment was when the whistle blew for half time and the crowd serenaded Roberto Soldado off the pitch. Great to see him being hugged by Hugo as they left the pitch together.

    And it was the crowd who helped pull the team over the line in the last ten minutes when players who had played on Thursday tired.

    No coincidence that out best performance for months was without Adebayor and Kaboul. The latter should never have been made captain.

    Lamela was the best player on the pitch on Thursday, the worst on Sunday. His is a great talent; not sure it is suited to the quicker Premier League game.

    Hope MP sticks with this team. Whatever the result tomorrow night, if they play as they did on Sunday C…… will know they’ve played a game of football.

    At last the team performance I’ve been waiting for.


  10. Anyone notice how both SKY and BBC spent several minutes going over the Fazio ball to hand incident, but spent no time at all on Besic flattening Kane?
    Media bias against us perhaps?


  11. I was mostly enthralled by the sheer passion that we displayed through the game. Also when we went 0-1 down the players didnt flinch and for once they got on with the job.

    It seems there comes a point when the confusion,anxiety,anger,frustration,apathy gets all thrown up in the air and the words F**** It I’m not going to take it anymore!!! reign and all of a sudden out of the ashes rises the real Chicken Badge of Tottenham.

    Such is the way of life.The beginning becomes the end and the end becomes the beginning as the ball starts to roll forward again.

    We will see. I dont expect a win tommorow and maybe not even a draw.But I do expect our team to show up.


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