What a curious three-point haul. It was neither outstandingly good nor egregiously bad, just blisteringly average. Once upon a time Spurs played in an all-action-no-plot style, attacking with free-flowing, gay abandon, scoring four and shipping in three. In a parallel universe this probably continues. Last night I had duly sharpened a knife with which to attack the team and performance etc, but ended up repeatedly stabbing myself in the eye just to keep myself entertained.Such a strange game, a million miles away from the hyperactive entertainment of recent years. Hull would string two passes together, then one of their players would trip on his own laces, then Keane would have a moan, then the camera would cut to Dawson warming up and then we’d win a corner. And the process would begin all over again. After 15 minutes I became distracted by the sight of some paint drying in the corner of the room. Glancing up I saw some huffing and puffing, players falling over, Bent giving that “Soooo-close” look and then we’d win a corner.
Each of the players seemed strangely hindered by their own particular demon, which prevented them, try as they might, from escaping the bog of gentle mediocrity and attaining something a little more eye-catching. Corluka’s demon, as ever, was the inability to find a different gear from “lumber”. Like a slowly falling oak he plodded up and down the right flank, and at the crucial moment, when nimbleness was required, he succeeded only in getting his entire torso in the way of the ball and conceding a needless corner. From which they scored.
Keane’s demon was an obsession with twisting and turning until he found himself surrounded by three or more opponents. I closed my eyes and saw the annoying kid in the playground, resolutely refusing to look up, instead just spinning around in little circles of three yards’ circumference, until swamped, like Hudson being dragged to his death in Aliens.
Bent’s demon, was the lack of talent, or a lucky break, or anything, to elevate him above his perennial in-built mediocrity. He’s earnest, by goodness he is earnest, and out of the blue he almost delivered a most un-Bent moment of brilliance – controlling, spinning and volleying like some sort of Berbatov. But realistically, it was never going to happen. It was not that sort of game, and he certainly is not the sort of footballer. When everything else clicks into place the footballing gods simply won’t allow him to be amazing, as long as he’s a Spurs player.
Cudicin’s demon appeared to be gallons of oil smeared all over his gloves. Quite why he had an attack of Gomes-itis and resolutely refused to catch anything was baffling. He flapped and he slapped but he appeared determined that he would chop off his own head before he took the bold step of grabbing the round thing. In his defence he was not aided by the strangely liberal attitude of the referee towards attempted on-field-rape-of-goalkeeper by the Hull forwards, but nevertheless, it was the sort of unconvincing performance which makes the heart skip a beat whenever a set-piece is conceded.
Jenas’ demon was that he is Jermaine Jenas, and that his life is therefore full of Jermaine Jenas moments. A curious zen-like attitude has seeped into me in my old-age, to the extent that I no longer swear and curse and bludgeon to death with their own walking-sticks passing-by old ladies whenever Jenas goes anywhere near the ball. No, these days I roll my eyes as soon as he obtains possession, and scan the pitch for Palacios or Woodgate or someone to rectify the damage he’s about to cause. It’s very beneficial, you should try it.
There were the occasional, all too fleeting moments of style, flair and élan, which suggested that deep beneath the surface there does still lie a champagne football outfit. The glorious first goal for a start. Peach. The burst of pace from Ledley in the second half, to make a recovery tackle, rolling back the years. The early cross from Ass-Ek, and Woody’s swift rise up an invisible ladder to a height of around 18 feet, in order to head our second. And then there was that effort from Palacios, scientifically proven to be the hardest a football has ever been struck in the history of mankind. Fleeting moments, but just about enough to keep a flicker of optimism burning.
This is not meant to be particularly critical. I screeched like a chicken that had had his beak wrenched off when we scored the second, and will build a little cot in my bedroom to look after the three points we earned. All season we’ve played like that and then lost late on, so the players deserve credit for reversing that trend. Had Man Utd won in similarly scrappy style, observers would have trotted out clichés about the sort of performances that win titles.
It was all just strangely dour and scratchy. Ultimately I think we won because we were playing Hull. Back in the day, Marney and Gardner weren’t fit to wipe the excrement from the training boots of Ledley, Keane et al. Inevitably, the Tottenham rejects seemed to match our lot stride for stride for much of the game, but in the end they succumbed to the fact that they are Hull, and as such just not particularly remarkable. Cousin’s random volley was classy, but that aside they did little that had me running for the hills and cowering in fear. Much to the chagrin of their manager Phil Brown, whose blood swiftly boiled until he began to resemble a rabid dwarf.
I guess at the start of the season it would not have taken Einstein to pinpoint Hull away as a potentially scrappy game. One to be consigned to the annals, under lock and key, immediately after the final whistle, never to be spoken of again. Let’s keep it that way.
Bravo boys, now let’s bring home that tropy. And the Carling Cup (boom boom).