It’s been a pleasant few days, as we’ve all had ample opportunity to bask in the warm afterglow of the well-deserved win over Liverpool. It has also been pleasing to note that, despite this, a healthy sense of perspective has been retained. Most reasonable souls have avoided the temptation to conclude from the win against a top-four team that we’re just about nailed on for the title. One swallow does not a summer make, and the opening-day win has accordingly been treated with good humour but restraint.Two swallows however, would be a slightly different story. A second consecutive win would be pretty impressive, and set an agenda of European qualification rather than relegation avoidance for the season.
While it would probably be stretching things to suggest that a win against Hull would be a better result than a win against Liverpool, it would nevertheless be a mighty impressive notch on the bedpost. We saw on Sunday that in a big match atmosphere, in front of a buzzing White Hart Lane and against one of the best teams in the country, our players can motivate themselves and deliver the goods. The top-four jinx which afflicted us for so long under Martin Jol (blessed be his name) has been laid to rest.
Now, in order to mount a serious challenge for a top-six spot (or higher) we have to show that we can also do the business away to Hull on a Wednesday night. Hull are likelier to be fighting relegation than challenging for a Champions League spot this season, but they present exactly the sort of challenge that Spurs teams of so many seasons past have shirked.
Another Big Night For Hudd
The challenge facing the team as a whole applies equally pertinently to one man in particular. If the Hudd wants to be taken seriously this season, he will need to show that he can produce the goods consistently, against the glamour teams and the unfancied battlers. Evidently heading the queue, at least in the absence of Jenas, to partner Palacios in centre midfield, he did no harm to his chances of permanency in the starting XI, with a determined showing on Sunday. It will be important that he and Palacios do not get outfought and overrun in the early stages tonight.
The furrowed brows of those at AANP Towers this afternoon can be attributed to the prospect of a central defence bereft of its King. Ledley’s absence tonight is likely to mean that Corluka moves to centre-back and Hutton to the right. My reasons for concern are twofold. Firstly, Corluka is no Usain Bolt. He does have the uncanny ability to muscle and think and steer his way out of trouble at right-back (Corluka, not Bolt), but the thought of him having to dash back towards his goal to make a Ledley-esque last-ditch saving tackle does not fill me with too much confidence.
Secondly, well though Bassong played on Sunday, I thought he benefited from the calming presence of Ledley alongside him. Ledley is not exactly a vocal leader of the foghorn variety, but I did notice him talking and cajoling along the new boy at various points, and as a result the two of them looked pretty solid. Typing this preview has become unnecessarily complicated, as fingers are firmly crossed at AANP Towers that Bassong acquits himself as well tonight in the absence of Ledley.
Will Keane Really Be Dropped?
The other big partnership will be in attack. Keane worked his socks off on Sunday, and although his rubbish finishing made it easy to point an accusing finger at him (ha! How the tables have turned) he did a mighty good job for the team, particularly in dropping into midfield to help nullify Liverpool threats at source. I presume that ‘Arry will deploy him in this way again in future matches against the top four, but tonight? Hull away might be considered the primary reason we have Crouch in our ranks. As long as it works I won’t complain, but I’m worried to the point of paranoia that his presence in the starting line-up will turn us into long-ball merchants. A Crouch-Defoe partnership would also mean dropping the undroppable. Does ‘Arry really have the bottle to relegate Keane to the bench? Does Keane’s contract even permit such ignominy?
The invitation is still open to share your memories of White Hart Lane legends, in anticipation of Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book that rather does what it says on the tin. Memories of Jimmy Greaves here and of Jurgen Klinsmann here…