Twenty minutes early. Bagel in hand. A friendly chat with whatwouldjimbodo, at his first game in a while. Wrapped up warm and it’s not even that cold. Supporter of the famous Tottenham Hotspur, who recently beat their not-so-noisy neighbours (premature olé’s aside) 3-2 away. Life’s good.
What could go wrong? Well, as the champions league music blared out once more, the thought did cross my mind that this could be the last time I would hear it at the Lane. Ever. A small shiver. A smattering of nerves. And then…?
Nothing. Calm. Workmanlike. Professional. A little bit flat. A little bit, whisper it, dull. Exactly what I was hoping for.
Bremen, eh? The boys from the Weserstadion. What happy memories. So young, innocent and wide-eyed back then. Nervous and excitable. Could never keep clean sheets. Couldn’t even get served a beer. Couldn’t believe our luck at losing our champions league cherry. Couldn’t stop eating sausages.
But we’ve grown up. At the Lane there were no reminders of the team that ran us ragged in that second half. Werder are on a miserable run in Germany. A successful era may well be drawing to a close, with the usual green shoots of young talent yet to emerge and the current crop failing to yield expected results. Received Tottenham wisdom would suggest that we might somehow contrive to mess it up against them. Perhaps Wilson would give possession away a few times. How about a Hutton mis-control to put their striker through? Benoit to dilly-dally unnecessarily on the edge of our area when he could just get rid? I’m sure that can be arranged. Maybe an injury to disrupt our carefully laid-out plans? Or just dominating without quite killing the game off early?
All that actually happened. But this was a very poor team we were up against, or perhaps just one lacking any kind of confidence. A team who already knew that their season will be about salvaging self respect in the Bundesliga rather than achieving any kind of European glory. The only notable thing about this Bremen team was how oddly shaped their players were: all incredibly tall, incredibly thin, like a team of slightly smaller Crouch shaped beings but led by a little green man, Marko Marin. Wikipedia claims he is two inches taller than Aaron Lennon – he looked a head smaller to me. I’m willing to accept this may not be physically possible.
I suspect a top level Tottenham performance could have ripped them apart and seen us go goal crazy. Vfondevfoort would certainly have had fun against the Hamburg haters. As it is we flirted in a very respectful, non-invasive way with making it difficult for ourselves but we were there to do a job, and we did it well. We never even looked like being punished. The crowd had fun and even gave Gallas his “yiddo yiddo” initiation (discuss). Wilson did give possession away a bit but was also crunching in the tackle and that’s probably more important for his confidence. Lennon looked good even if it’s hard to remember when he was meant to be the unplayable threat on the wing. It was good to see Defoe offer a different (if understandably rusty) type of threat up front.
I would like us to have got the second quicker. I would like Bale, apparently only a human being though still a pretty special one (level par performance for him – my man of the match), to have tucked away the penalty and have given us the second half off. I would just like to see us do this more at the Lane* – kill off teams and then shut up shop. But tonight was as near as Tottenham get to solid and efficient. It’s not as exciting as scoring four and then conceding two, it’s not as frustrating as immediately conceding after taking a lead, it’s not as daft as the world’s best hat-trick at 4-0, and it’s not as memorable as beating the European Champions or your local rivals. Frankly it makes writing a blog harder. I’m not too worried.
Beating teams comfortably that you should beat comfortably. If you can do it in the Champions League it gets you into the knockout stages. Now let’s do it regularly in the league, starting with the mid-table outfit we entertain on Sunday.
*and yes – at the Lane, or thereabouts, is where I want to see it. I’m not usually one for petitions, but I’ve signed this and so should you. If, you know, you want to. Each to their own and that. I will probably write a post about the whole stadium issue soon. I certainly won’t be boycotting Spurs if they ever move to east London (don’t tell Daniel Levy). But I don’t want to go there. There’s more to life than transport links…