Apologies for the tardiness – busy times at AANP Towers. While it would have been nice to add my tuppence worth to the wave of euphoria in the 24 hours immediately after the Arse was spanked, the delay perhaps allows for a more circumspect few musings.AANP is classifying it a game of one half and two quarters.
For spells in the first half our lot barely got near the dashed thing, and with l’Arse hogging possession it threatened to be the opening scene of one of those Final Destination films, where the kid has a premonition of unabated carnage on all sides. With no Sergeant Wilson to roll out his little routine of charging up to opponents, stopping a yard off them, looking them in the eye and then daring them to pass him, our midfield pairing off Modders and Hudd looked initially like lambs to the slaughter, alternating between standing back or making woefully ill-timed lunges for possession.
And yet, as it turned out, we kept them at arms length. Other than a first-minute shot which BAE snuffled out on the line, I’m not sure l’Arse managed a shot on goal in the entire first half. By contrast, on the counter we created a couple of chances – and as for the opening goal… As the ball dropped from the skies, a montage of Gazza’s St Hotspur day free-kick and Bentley’s Emirates volley flashed through the mind, before the boy Rose took a punt and gained immortality.
Nice to see David Ginola (Cult hero! Cult hero!) at half-time, but I spent the interval cursing our lot for what they were about to put me through.
As it happened, the first half of the second half (you follow?) was simply wonderful. I’m not just talking about the goal, gorgeous though it was (who knew Defoe had the defence-splitting diagonal killer pass in him?) It was the manner in which we gave l’Arse the run-around for twenty minutes or so thereafter, with a maturity I simply did not know we had. Watching Gudjohnsen and Modders play keep-ball as weary Arse legs chased shadows was one of the most satisfying sights of the season.
On the evidence of Wednesday night, the January re-shuffle of Keane-Out and Gudjohnsen-In looked a master-stroke. Admittedly Gudjohnsen fluffled a glorious chance to kill the game, but that apart his calm, shielding of possession in midfield was brilliantly executed, and exactly what we needed. Difficult to imagine Keane giving us that sort of input if added as a late sub.
The inevitable nail-biting finale soon followed however, prompted by the arrival of Van Persie. It was desperate, last-ditch stuff at time, but by golly didn’t it make the chest swell with pride? From the front (Defoe racing around to execute sliding tackles) to the back (Ledley, an absolute Rolls Royce of a defender) they fought to a man, and when we ran out of men we were able to turn to a deity in goal. On my little Spurs Fixture List booklet, next to each result, I note down our goalscorers; for this game the notes read: “Rose, Bale, Gomes (3)”. His acrobatics and reactions defied belief.
Nerves shredded and fingernails chewed to the bone, my heart has now filed for divorce from me, on the grounds of persistent unreasonable behaviour – but it seems a price well worth paying. After the Pompey defeat, the lowest I have ever felt as a Spurs supporter, I tried to remember how the good times felt; not sure I’ll ever forget the feeling around 10pm on Wednesday night.
Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates: