On Sunday morning I noticed someone had posted “Etherington = Yid” on Twitter the night before. Having inexplicably forgotten that City had had a game, I asked myself why. Had we decided to mark Damien Comolli‘s return by adopting his transfer policy of signing completely unsuitable players? Had we grown so bored of re-signing Jol players that we were now going for ones from the Hoddle era? I was puzzled and frankly, horrified.
I’ve always seen Etherington as something of a hate figure. As hate figures go he’s a pleasingly unthreatening one. He probably won’t rip us to shreds like Berbatov might or one day I’m sure Bale will. He doesn’t win league titles at our hated rivals, like Sol did. If you want a hate figure it’s better to aim low. Go for someone we can generally get the upper hand against. Someone we can laugh at.
It’s all because of a 4-0 home defeat on the last day of a long (and best) forgotten season against Blackburn. The slightly tricky winger chose to respond to a no doubt entirely reasonable assessment of his performance from someone in the crowd by shouting something along the lines of ‘f*** off you c***’ back. Possibly fair comment, possibly not, but generally it’s a good idea not to abuse your own supporters. I don’t think Etherington ever played for us again, and lo, a premiership journeyman’s career was launched. That’s not a bad type of journeyman to be. He’s actually a reasonably decent player for Stoke. Presumably that makes him a millionaire several times over – although unlike him I wouldn’t bet on it – but I like to imagine that he cries into his diamond encrusted cereal bowl every morning at the fact that he never made it at the famous Tottenham Hotspur.
It’s entirely possible that none of the above actually happened and that I’ve completely misremembered it. But maybe it’s time to forgive and forget anyway. Etherington’s last minute cross shot at a frosty Britannia stadium on Saturday meant that a win against Liverpool would move us to within a point of 4th place. Forget the Champions League. Forget our 3-2 away victory against l’arse. Forget talk of league titles. This is still what this season is basically about. Consolidation. Finishing above City. The daily grind. It’s not very Tottenham, is it? But it matters, and if we live in a world where we can give Gallas a yid-hoot – and we do – I suppose that we can let bygones be bygones and say that Matty Etherington is, on this occasion, a Yid hero.
Because everything City does matters almost as much as everything we do. The league is looking a lot like last years and it’s back to cheering on two teams a week – Tottenham and City’s opponents.
If fourth is the new first, what of Liverpool? Is sixth their new second? What is success for this Liverpool team? Is fourth (which is their old fourth) on their radar? I heard someone (to be fair I don’t know if they were connected with the club) say that if they were serious about getting into the Champions League Liverpool would need to win at places ‘like’ Tottenham. Poppy, and cock. We are living proof that you can get there without beating any of the top 4. It’s away victories at mid-table teams that get you into the champions league. Beat teams ‘like’ us away and you are either very lucky or challenging for the title.
And Liverpool so nearly could have beaten us. After half an hour, it was clear what this Liverpool team are. They are this year’s Everton or Villa. A properly competitive team. Neat, tidy, organised. They can hurt you. But they lack that depth of quality to put them at the same level as the big boys like us. And yes, I really enjoyed writing that.
Of course, they have two mega stars. But one still seems in an Iberian funk and one is crocked. I reckon injures are going to catch up with Gerrard sooner rather than later now he’s the wrong side of 30.
An Everton or a Villa still need to be beaten, and we had to work really hard for the three points. The opening quarter of an hour was even. Lennon should have put VDV through but backheeled just as he was shaping to play him in. VDV had a couple of half chances but managed to injure himself and if it’s a hamstring that could be that for a month or two.
Benoit Dilly-Dally put in an early appearance, deciding to have a ‘moment’ just as one of the world’s top strikers was hovering nearby. Overall though he earned his money which is all anyone, himself included, asks. Our other suspect full back is also looking much more solid these days, well done Hutton. Wilson, on the other hand, was even sloppier than usual in possession ‘early doors’. I’m not too worried. He’s a bit rusty and the main thing is that he is getting stuck in. The injuries are mounting and there will be plenty of opportunities to play himself back into form. In the second half he was tidy. We’re going to need him to step up because Sandro is potential and nothing more at the moment.
As the first half wore on Liverpool looked the more likely. Maxi, who seems to have improved under Hodgson, had a couple of shots, forcing a good save from Gomes. When the goal came it was probably deserved. In the last five minutes, the first half decided to ‘do one’. It went a bit mental. Maxi went clean through but messed it up completely. Bale, who hitherto had looked a bit weary, pressed the L2 supersprint button and went on a run from the left, through the centre and possibly onto immortality and the greatest goal since whenever his last goal was until the inevitable cynical (but totally sensible) tackle scythed him down. Then Torres was also put clean through but dithered in a way that suggested ‘I am still in an Iberian funk’ before Bassong, who was excellent today, got in a last ditch tackle. A scrappy competitive game was threatening to get away from us.
But this Tottenham team has character and quality. And in the second half we showed it. It was all too breathless and rushed for me to remember the order, but a couple of shots blocked on or near the line (Defoe and Bale), our standard penalty for handball from a free kick, our standard penalty miss (that has to be sorted out ) – we upped the pace and kept on knocking, whilst always giving Liverpool enough space to look dangerous. Eventually we were rewarded. We can add shapeshifting to Bale’s many talents. He looked for all the world like a small Croatian fella as he went on a trademark run, jinking in from the left, ghosting past three opposition players and teasing a beautiful low driven cross into the box which Tommy Htchison (remember – it’s all about Manchester City) turned in. Talking of own goals, Jamie Carragher remains locked on three league goals for Spurs (only one less than for Liverpool) and a late injury prevented him adding to his tally for either side today. If we don’t see him again, let’s take a moment to salute a great servant for our club.
I actually felt like we would lose it after the equaliser, as we were struggling to achieve any kind of fluency. We were resorting to route one by the end but route one can work. Yet another Crouch assist (doubtless to be forgotten next time he misses a chance) put Lennon through. The eyebrow express showed great strength and composure to shrug off his marker and slot home. Along with Modric, he was fantastic today. I’m going to give him my MOTM. We can’t rely on Bale and VDV every week. Players like Lennon performing means that we don’t have to.
Overall I’m not sure this was a game of great quality but it was great entertainment. Beating Liverpool still feels good, and they still ‘feel’ like a top four side even if they don’t quite play like it. They clearly still think of themselves that way, with some top four type moaning at the referee. I was pleased to see them punished for it.
The premiership sands have shifted over the last couple of years and a new reality is emerging. We’re better than Liverpool. City are all that matters. In the shorter term 2 points from 12 has been followed by 9 from 9. Matthew Etherington is a Yiddo. What a turnaround.
We haven’t won four in the league since Birmingham at the start of last season. Look who we’ve got next. If you’re serious about the Champions League, you’ve got to get wins away to teams ‘like’ Birmingham. Manchester City usually do.