Never let it be said that we are a one trick pony. Tiring of victories from behind? Let’s switch to even more improbable victories with ten men. But just as you think there’s nothing left to pull out of the bag we only go and get a clean sheet for the first time in half a premiership league season. I’ve seen some amazing things at the Lane, but…
It might only be for a day, but victory against Newcastle gives us the chance to look down on Chelsea in the second half of the season. The last time we did this it was probably the era of Mark Stein and Paul Furlong (for younger readers, he was basically the Didier Drogba of his day).
In truth, we’d have been kicking ourselves if we hadn’t won. Newcastle were well organised but ordinary. Even down to ten men you felt we had more thrust to our game. This was far from a vintage performance, though. It was all a bit flat in the first half. So much for our supposed squad strength – we named exactly the same team that started against Villa with the obvious exception of Defoe. Tiredness must have been a factor. I was slightly surprised that Crouch didn’t start after playing his part in the Boxing Day game, but no matter. The good thing about having three very good but not excellent strikers is that it doesn’t really matter who starts, who’s injured, who’s suspended and so on. I wish Defoe wasn’t out for three games – but we’ll hardly miss him.
Talking of England strikers with a propensity towards violence, I was looking forward to spending this game on Carroll watch. Not because I think we have a chance of signing him – we don’t. I’ve just seen so little of him during his meteoric rise. Back when I watched a lot more non-Tottenham premiership football, he was practically anonymous. Interchangeable in my head with David Edgar. I was vaguely aware one of them was Canadian. Now everyone knows who Carroll is but for me the jury is still out. Not really his fault – as with his England debut all he could do was win the odd high ball and show commendable spirit whilst receiving next to no support. He definitely has a presence – Dawson and Younes / Bassong all had to be on their guard but really, they were in their element and we coped well with their one idea.
Unfortunately Carroll watch was hijacked by Barton watch. I have mixed feelings about Joey Barton. He’s clearly a problem to himself and to everyone else, but as with Roy Keane he has an intelligence that marks him out as slightly more interesting than your average thug. But an interesting thug is still a thug. What a snarling, angry man he seems. Angry at what, or who, I don’t know. Himself? The world? Sol Campbell for not being around to share the flak? In the first half I really thought a legbreaking challenge or a craftily concealed cigar being poked into someone’s eyes was inevitable. Aside from a mean spirited booting of the ball into touch after we had stopped the game for an injury, he managed to keep it in check a bit more in the second half. The inevitable abuse from the crowd came his way, and at the final whistle he misguidedly blew kisses to the Tottenham faithful as if he was a pantomime villain rather than a dangerous hooligan. Thus concludes Barton watch. Warning: do not attempt Barton watch unless you are at least fifty yards away from the Barton you are watching (and do not provoke the Barton unless there are 36,000 other people backing you up).
It was a bits and pieces first half. We weren’t on our game and Palacios, I’m afraid, had a stinker. I will continue to defend Wilson. His wastefulness in possession can be tolerated to a degree – but not to this degree. He was rightly hauled off at half time – being on a yellow probably helped Harry make the decision – and JJ gave us a bit more shape and fluency.
Still, it wasn’t the all singing all dancing Tottenham show we were hoping for. I think we need quality opposition to bring that out of us. The goal when it came initially looked a beauty by Lennon but it took a crucial deflection which just lifted it over Krul’s despairing reach. I’m not complaining.
After that things seemed a bit more right with the world, and whilst we never hit the heights, we looked solid defensively. Gomes cannot get through a game without some kind of eccentricity but today it was of the ‘inexplicable punch of gentle looping crosses’ variety rather than anything more self-destructive. He’s just an eccentric man, isn’t he? He needs to get it out of his system somehow. Perhaps we could let him do magic tricks at half time. Does he like animals? We could let him tend to a pet llama just behind the goal line. I’m not fussy – anything to stop him always doing something crazy during the game.
We should have killed Newcastle off when JJ released Lennon on the right and his drive fizzed just past the post. Poor JJ- people scream at him to do something whenever he’s running at defenders and he’s actually very good at waiting to release the ball at the right time. Even when he finally does play the killer ball, people remember the delay and not the execution. Oh well, the Jenas baiting is more humorous these days. When I started this blog I had initially planned to use the regular catchphrase ‘I blame Jenas’. I was a very late convert to realising he was rubbish, and as soon as I got coconuts off the ground he stopped being rubbish. Most annoying. I blame Jenas.
Never mind, I’ve got Benoit in reserve – he earned his money today. And Dawson and Kaboul were looking comfortable until… until…
What happened? I genuinely had no idea at the time – ‘reacting’ to a challenge with his head, apparently. It took about half a minute to work out who had been sent off, let alone why. Never mind. We won, and we always somehow have two defenders available, every game. It just means we can’t let Bassong leave in January.
The winner was a Bale special. A cut infield, then back towards the bye-line and a low drive aimed perfectly into the far corner. A screamer, out of keeping with a forgettable yet strangely enjoyable game.
Finally – let’s work through the “man of the match” flowchart.
Did Spurs win? – Yes. Go to:
Was Bale out of this world? – In spurts, but not exactly. Go to:
Did Vfondevfoort win us the game? – Not today. Go to:
Did Modric play? – Yes. Modric gets it.
My new year’s resolution is to praise the little man more. The problem is that he doesn’t score hat tricks against the European champions or have a suave Dutch swagger to his game. Instead he keeps things ticking over, spots a pass, drives us forward and lays it off neatly. Every Messi needs a Xavi! Bale or VDV complete our team – Modric shapes it.
And as we head into 2011 our team is in pretty good shape. What a shame Man City are doing so well too. Never mind, like I’ve always said – it’s all about Chelsea.