Ironic that The Glory Glory Nights, Martin Cloake and Adam Powley’s luscious history of Spurs in Europe should arrive unexpectedly just before kick-off. I’ve preserved its shrink-wrapped beauty until now. Seemed wrong somehow to expose it to Spurs in Europe, the 2012 version. Borey Borey night, more like.
This otherwise forgettable effort contained one notable feature. Lazio away marked the arrival of Hugo Lloris as a Spur. He spent the evening flinging himself across his goal and all over his area. Diving saves, calmly snaffling crosses, hurling himself at forwards’ feet like a fifties custodian. He kept Spurs in the game. One point to Lazio, one to Hugo Lloris.
Lloris has the hallmark of a real Spur. He’s classy, catches the eye and distinctive. And he also possesses the classic characteristic of all great Spurs: the man has style. There’s no other keeper in the Premier League like him. Because he’s so different, he has his moments. We must get used to his punching and his fondness for coming off his line will lead to wincing as well as gasps of gratitude. However, as I said earlier this week, the good far outweighs the scary. He leads from the back.
It’s not as if he’s a flamboyant man. Many keepers are ‘characters’, or bonkers as their team-mates would call them, and they relish the limelight. Lloris does not strike you as that kind of man. This, he’s decided, is the best way to do his job and how well he did it last night. His is a quiet determination to protect not just his goal but his area too. A relatively slight man, he maintains a presence by fearlessly getting amongst the bodies in the box. His mind is sharp too. He can see the play spread before him and as sweeper he dashes to the edge of his territory and beyond to snuff out danger. This in turn enables us to play a higher line and have more bodies in midfield.
He’s even got that magic ingredient, that somehow the headers and shots are drawn to his feet and legs rather than a foot or so either side. My son who was at the game reports that he threw his shirt and gloves into the crowd at the finish. One of us now. It may not even rate a footnote in the next edition of the Glory Glory Nights but his emergence could be the catalyst to energise our fortunes this season and for years to come.
He certainly had more than enough opportunity to demonstrate his talents. The defence was porous throughout and Lazio earned a steady stream of chances, created by clever passing picking out forwards who consistently found the gaps between our back four. They were far too wide apart and the full-backs should have tucked in much more than they did. Sandro did some sterling work in front of them and Carroll is always willing but mostly we failed to cut those passes out at source. Pressing from the front was effective in the second half on Saturday but we seemed to quickly forget that lesson. Given that Dempsey and Adebayor failed to get in a goal attempt between them, they were badly anonymous.
Overall, the match was characterised by the timid vagueness typical of our away performances in this season’s Europa League. The fans are waiting for something to happen – it’s as if the team are too. These group games have ‘dull’ wired into them but we could have been actively dull yesterday by holding onto the ball better, even if we were unable to create any chances. Siggy on the right allowed for more men in the box at times, something I’m in favour of, but he hardly made much of an impact. Once more Carroll showed his maturity. Apparently unfazed by the pressure, he is always looking for the ball and his touch means often he can do something valuable with it. Things might have been different if his superb early through ball to Bale had met with the plaudits for an excellent goal it deserved rather than an unjustified offside flag.
AVB (boring, some say…) went for the points but the arrival of Lennon and Defoe merely hastened the deterioration in our defence. An away point in Rome is fine. As it happens, my suspect maths confirm that the task would have been the same even if we lost. Win or draw in the last game and we are through. At last – proper cup football where results matter now. It’s how the Glory Glory Nights were created.
The Glory Glory Nights by Cloake and Powley is published by Vision Sports, review to follow next week
Last week I was copied into a letter from Alex Stein re the Spurs yids issue, which was sent to the editors of the Guardian, Times and Telegraph, Peter Herbert, Daniel Levy and me. That’s the company I keep. It’s the first item in the comments section and adds some perspective as the premeditated attacks on Spurs fans in Rome could well be the work of fascists.