AVB having curiously opted against inviting me into his inner sanctum (despite that halcyon era playing Football Manager in my second year at Uni when I masterminded three consecutive wins to help Spurs avoid relegation on the final day of the campaign, admittedly having steered them to the foot of the table in the first place), I will never know whether, in that world of gravelly beards and even gravellier voices, our erstwhile supremo really did send our heroes out to battle with the order ringing in their ears to pass sideways and sideways again, ad infinitum, until their own brains, the brains of their opponents and the brains of all witnessing the dirge literally melted, forming a puddle of cerebral matter over which he could stand and wax lyrical about his project. Maybe he did, maybe not, but in the brave new world the drill seems to be to point the compass goalwards when plotting one’s next move, and the saints be praised for such a blessing.
One change that can most definitely be attributed to Sherwood and chums is the switch to two upfront, which once again paid dividends. In a general sense there seemed to be bodies in the box whenever we galloped forwards, and on a more particular note the combo once again brought about a goal, Soldado finding Adebayor in the build-up to the penalty. Whether this two up-front gambit will work away from home and against mightier opposition than today’s rabble remains to be seen – and will be seen jolly imminently as it happens – but today things panned out swimmingly.
If nothing else, the boy Soldado can take a mean penalty. (If you pardon the wild digression, watching Soldado step up with such confidence again has me wanting to eat my own elbow whenever I hear our national heroes bemoaning a penalty shoot-out as a ‘lottery’, as if the thing were entirely in the lap of the gods. Practise the bally things like Soldado evidently does and every penalty becomes a gift-wrapped opportunity to wed Mr Ball to young Ms Net.) Soldado might want to indulge in a little extra shooting practice from other angles, but at least the chances are now being created, and sooner or later they will presumably start flying in.
That said, one would probably caution him to steer clear of Paulinho when they toddle off for said shooting practice, because the Brazilian still appears to be aiming for a spot about 15 yards high and to the right of the net. Elsewhere, Adebayor is still beavering away like a man sniffing a new contract, or transfer, or whatever it is that perks the chap up every now and then, and while it sometimes does appear that the messages simply do not transit from brain to foot in time, his inclination to poke a first-time pass rather befuddles the opponent and endears him to me. Lovely also to see Lennon making hay, neatly topped off with a goal that had us all purring.
The Annual Rant Against Stoke.
While we might have been fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty or two in the first half, when limbs seemed to entangle in all manner of ways in our area, one of the most pleasing aspects of the whole afternoon was that, for a change, we gave Stoke an absolute roasting. London-based sentiment aside, I do not think there is a team I have abhorred more over the years than this lot. While dissent is good for any democracy, and therefore Stoke’s traditional anti-football is probably in some way healthy for the beautiful game, watching them push, pull, niggle and shove their way to countless one-nils at the Lane had me fearing the worst as we dominated without scoring for the first half hour. This being the new era however our heroes took the most impertinent step of sowing the thing up with twenty minutes to play, securing a three goal lead of all things. Most perplexing, but undoubtedly lashings of fun. Moreover, by breaking from tradition and taking the liberty of winning by more than just a single goal our lot have now moved on the exalted perch of a minus two goal difference. Minus two! Whatever next?