We were in our places a few minutes earlier than usual, standing not sitting, hopping around not so much to stave off the bitter cold, more in excited anticipation. Even the veterans haven’t seen anything like this.
The players had a prematch kickabout, the mascot’s nervous pride shone through as they found a hero to play with, but all eyes were on the tunnel. Harry scuttled to his seat, eyes down, surrounded by his loyal lieutenants. A few short paces, but the march of an ancient Roman Emperor returning to the city from a successful campaign could not have been greeted as a greater triumph.
The ground sang his name from beginning to end, ‘one Harry Redknapp’, ‘we want you to stay’. Pause for breath and it was ‘Pardew for England’. As if determined not to be overshadowed, the players proceeded to rip their hapless opponents to shreds. Inspired by a tidal-wave of goodwill, they swamped Newcastle in a breathtaking display of bewilderingly complex movement, stunning pace and ice-cold finishing.
Modric dominated the centre, sinew and artistry in contrast to his team-mate Bale, pace and muscle
rampaging through the defence. He and Krancjar swapped sides, Saha became 10 years younger in an instant. Throwing off all those injuries and scars as he drank deep from an elixir of youth. Assou Ekotto strolled up and down the left and was both playmaker and unlikely scorer. And through it all Emmanuel Adebayor provided the focus and vision around which every attack revolved.
Beforehand Redknapp tried to pretend this was business as usual but as the goals went in one by one he was as thrilled by his marvellous side as any fan in the land. He’d created this, a team of all talents that swept away a rival for the coveted top four. Harry’s a tough old bird but he’s seldom seen football this good, and he made it happen. This was beauty, the way the game is supposed to be played. He punched the air after the first goal then quickly sat down to regain his composure. Less than twenty minutes later, number four and he punched the air, a little dad at a wedding dance, part joy, part incredulity, much relief. After a week like he’s had, everything had come right and the expelled tension flowed into the night air. The Lane is home now. He’ll never feel safer.
Everything happened around and because of Adebayor. Four assists plus a sweet delicate chest high volley, it’s hard to believe he’s been out of sorts lately even though his most disappointing game was only 6 days ago. Maybe that’s the sign of a quality professional, that he decided to do something about it. Drifting wide he took the defence with him, leaving the keeper cruelly exposed, as for the opener when Benny had enough room to throw down a picnic blanket and open the hamper at the far post. More central, he held on to it under pressure or toppled sideways, in the act of falling touching back to a team-mate, eye on the ball, mind on the half chance.
His work for the first two goals was masterful, an irresistible combination of skill, pace and precision. He’s top dog here if he plays like this. He has no rival for that position. Rather than making him complacent, that’s where he wants to be, on the pitch and in the dressing room. That’s why we don’t get any disruption from him. This was the definitive modern lone striker and the first half should be used in traingn videos.
We prospered from the stream of crosses and neat balls into channels that came from all sides. Walker, Modric, Bale, Benny, Niko, a few from Parker who for the most part stayed in the background and made sure nothing much happened at the other end. Although Saha was playing off Manu, his instincts take him into the box. Recently I’ve mentioned that if I do have a niggle, it’s about scoring more goals from inside the area and noticeably we had a couple more bodies in there last night. Our second showed the value of how an ageing striker may not have the legs but he has the instinct. Right place right time, only the finest goal scorers make it look that easy. I’ll leave you to the blockbusting blasters from 25 yards. This is my kind of goal. I’ve watched it 20 times on ESPN goals and you now what, I’m pausing for a second to have another look. Oh Harry, you’ve done it again.
Manu and Louis again for the third, back to the goal touch this time, Saha close by. They say it takes time for partnerships to build and develop, but 20 minutes?
Newcastle are shattered and there’s still three-quarters of the game to go.
Adebayor has pulled them all over the place. Like an old woollen jumper after a downpour, they are sagging and out of shape. Collocinni has no idea what to do but he makes a better effort than the rest of his defence. Our opponents had injuries but no pattern or organisation. Their midfield offered no protection whatsoever and their fullbacks will have nightmares for years to come, in the depths of the night a vision of blurry white shirts rushing past them from all angles. Make it stop, in heaven’s name stop, have mercy! You don’t have to be a first-teamer to stand in the right position but they failed to do even that.
The gaps opened and e filled them, piling into the space at lightening speed from all directions. Saha almost with a hat-trick then Niko followed up.
We drew breath and the second half was bound to be an anti-climax after that. We strolled, largely untroubled although Friedel made one good save, as attentive to his duties as ever. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him on the end of one of those first half crosses, such was our superiority.
I love Harry Redknapp, Harry Redknapp loves me. I think he’ll go but if anything keeps him here, it will be nights like these. The Lane is rocking, the football is delightful and Harry’s heart was pounding. He’s one of us now, and he likes that feeling. He’ll forever be associated with West Ham but Harry, be honest, you never had a night like this one at the Boleyn, now did you?
On a day when the headlines have been dominated by the wretched Suarez and a minority of apologist Liverpool fans who seek to justify his foul, base attitudes, this was the perfect antidote. Football as it is supposed to be. An outstanding, stunning performance.