Normally the points in this fixture are rather an irrelevance, but this time there is more at stake than just bragging rights. The sides go into the game separated only by goal difference, and the three points up for grabs could prove crucial come May. Ultimately, league position is the gauge, and this season for a change we have a realistic chance of finishing above l’Arse. Our squad is much improved, a degree of consistency has been added and player for player there isn’t much to choose between the two teams, even in the absence of our pint-sized attacking triumverate. Plus, unlike the last time we challenged them, Paul Stalteri is now nowhere near the squad. Irrespective of the result tomorrow, the gap has narrowed and come the end of the season we could well finish higher than them.I earnestly suggested all this to my l’Arse-supporting colleague at lunch today, and while he nodded politely enough he could not disguise a smirk. Which speaks volumes.
The Good News
The good news is that Ledley is back. “Good news” is an understatement, for these are almost certainly the three greatest words in the English language.
Woodgate may be available; Crouch – threatening a robot celebration if he does the business tomorrow – has a hat-trick to his name against l’Arse, in his previous incarnation as a scouser; while Bentley must have gazed at his reflection in the White Hart Lane mirrors even more adoringly than usual after his excellent performance as Lennon’s deputy on Tuesday, against Everton. Full-strength we may not be, but strong nevertheless.
The Usual Grumble
Curiously, for a man so uniquely capable of inspiring a thousand foul-mouthed tirades from his own fans, Jenas has a rather impressive pedigree against l’Arse. A couple of years back he scored a lovely last-minute equaliser at the Lane; and a year ago almost to the day he produced an absolute blinder at the death in the 4-4 game, the sort of goal about which pundits and fans alike would been raving all season if scored by anyone who wasn’t Jermaine Jenas.
I also recall, with some bewilderment, that there was a brief period under Wendy Ramos when Jenas grew his hair and became awesome. He genuinely looked like he had indeed stepped up a level, and his feats included the first goal in the 5-1 spanking of l’Arse. It proved the exception rather than the norm in his career, but provides some cause for optimism.
Things I’d Like To See on Saturday: Absence of Kamikaze
My wish-list for this week therefore comprises things I don’t want to see happening. Like Sergeant Wilson picking up two reckless yellow cards. Or Robbie Keane having a penalty saved. Or Gomes dropping a clanger. There would be something quintessentially Spurs about doing all the hard work and then gifting away the game on a plate, through one moment of madness.
I was going to end with a little SWOT analysis of our opponents, but then I realised I don’t actually care about them. Instead, have another viewing of Bentley’s greatest moment in lilywhite.
As ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann hereY