Decency dictates that we start with this chap and do him a bit of homage. It’s hardly an unusual script – great swathes of tepid dross punctuated suddenly by a moment of quality from Kane completely out of keeping with the rest – but even more remarkable for it.
Covering the specifics first, and when Kane received the ball one would have hardly expected the Fulham gang to sound their klaxons and generally lose their heads. Admittedly, Kane receiving the ball just outside the area is not ideal for any opponent, but contextual factors at least seemed to be stacked marginally in their favour.
He received the thing with his back to goal for a start. This by no means neuters him, but one would have expected the Fulham ‘keeper at least to allow himself a short puff of the cheeks, for the immediate threat of a shot seemed pretty low on the Risk Assessment.
On top of which, Fulham had their back-line in position and ready to get down to brass tacks. The chappies on Sky Sports took to whining that one of the centre-backs might have moved half a yard more to the left or some such guff, but when such intricate witterings are being voiced it is time to block the ears and move on. Our attacking move was in what rugby bods might call its third or fourth phase, and Fulham were fairly well organised, with banks of four and five and whatnot all neatly arranged.
Moreover, on receiving the ball in this position of fairly bleak promise, it is not as if Kane then dipped a shoulder, unleashed a Cruyff and was suddenly clean through on goal. He, understandably, collected it and set off on the scenic route, around the outside of the area. If those in Fulham’s Control Room had started shooting each other quizzical looks, with hands hovering uncertainly over the button marked ‘Panic’, one would have understood, because through this manoeuvre Kane was, if nothing else, setting himself up on his right foot. Nevertheless, there was a whole gaggle of bodies stationed between him and the goal, so if alert levels had remained low one would have sympathised.
Kane, however, being of a different plane, cared little for any of the above, and simply spanked the thing, without even bothering to look. To repeat, it was a piece of skill entirely out of keeping with what any of what had gone before, and well worthy of winning a match of high quality, let alone this onerous dirge.
While the chatter in some quarters is that Greaves has two Charity Shield goals that have not been credited to his account, which would bump his tally up to 268, I am happy for the pedants to tie themselves in knots over that one. Kane would no doubt have settled for a deflection of a lesser-used body part while he looked the other way if it had added to his numbers, but for him to equal our record in this particular fashion felt particularly satisfying.
On top of which, sources of good repute have been reporting that the curious bean is actually interested in extending his contract at N17, which, while welcome news, does make me wonder if the poor fellow has lost his mind. Still, it all made for a match-winning innings and rounded off a fun night-time jaunt. Who knows, it might even make those who once considered him a rotter reconsider their stance.
2. Our Passing (First Half vs Second Half)
To say that things started poorly is to speak rather kindly of affairs. We were, as is so often the case, pretty dreadful from the off. Fulham sorts seemed to scurry down the flanks at their convenience, producing a steady stream of crosses into our area throughout the first half, with which our heroes dealt with varying degrees of assurance and success. I suppose the important stat is the big fat zero in the ‘Goals Conceded’ column, but this vulnerability did make me sweat a bit, or at least would have done if I had had any optimism left in me while watching Spurs these days.
Anyway, aside from the free pass Fulham received down our sides, I found myself registering considerable bafflement at the passing display by our lot in the first half. Obviously, this being Spurs, one is used to seeing experienced international players set about their tasks like they’ve never seen a football before, but even by our standards the errant passing on display was pretty tough to digest.
Of course, nobody is perfect, and the occasional pass that doesn’t reach its mark one tries one’s best to shrug off. There tend to be mitigating circumstances – proximity of an opponent, lack of options, pressure to clear danger – that sort of stuff.
But as I watched on with ever growing incredulity in the first half hour or so, our lot seemed routinely to pass straight to opposing players. Sometimes under pressure, sometimes under none. And not those near-miss passes, the sort when an attacking nib is trying to thread one through the eye of a needle to set a chum clean through on goal – this was just basic five-yard stuff inside our own half. For the life of me I couldn’t fathom what was going on.
Anyway, whatever the mysterious goings-on afoot, we made it through to circa minute 44 unscathed, at which point we then turned up the dial a few notches and gave Fulham a few things to think about for a pretty impressive spell of about three minutes, culminating in Kane’s goal. Which did make me wonder quite how things might have panned out if we’d found our range and given them a bit of going-over a little earlier in the piece, but sometimes it is best not to overthink these things.
In the second half, our heroes tightened things considerably, and Fulham barely had a sniff. As impressive as the defensive arrangements was the fact that having blunted any approaching danger, our troops, in eye-catching distinction to the first half, started passing the ball around opponents and out of defence as if pinging it through a field of mannequins.
It was jolly impressive stuff per se, but particularly in light of the nonsense that had preceded it in the first half, I could scarcely believe what I was seeing. Put it this way, if you were in the market for thirty seconds of crisp, one-touch diagonals, you need not have looked much further.
After a while, these little moves stopped happening in any real attacking sense – the on-field consensus seeming to be that one goal ought to be enough – but whenever possession was won in and around our own area, the impressive little triangles would kick off once more.
Those who care about such things would probably hammer home the fact that Sonny, strictly speaking, set up our winner. This I suppose is true by the letter of the law but does have about it the sense of one claiming to be a chef after producing a plate of beans on toast.
Still, it is one for the tally, so good for him. But if anyone were to point to that and use it as a defence of his performance, I would personally lean over and give them a pretty meaningful eye.
Make no mistake, Sonny continues to struggle through matches well below par. Every attempted dribble ended in a calamitous ball of limbs as he was pretty much snuffed out at source. In fact, every time he simply tried to run with the ball it looked as if either his feet or the ball, or all of the above, were drenched in treacle and then deposited in quicksand for good measure. In short, this vexing trend of things just not quite clicking for him continued to vex.
The gentle pass into the path of Kane, for his goal, was something of a highlight, not just because it led to the goal, but simply by virtue of it being an instance of him successfully finding a teammate.
Now I doubt there is a soul alive of lilywhite persuasion and sound mind who advocates any particular draconian fate ought therefore to befall the chap. Nobody is calling for his head, or suggesting we slap a price-tag on him and cart him off to the highest bidder.
But given that we have invested in a fellow of the beans of Richarlison, it does not seem too radical a proposition to suggest we swap the two of them around every now and then, what? If Sonny is simply not firing as programmed, so be it. Let him sit out a game or two, and there will hardly be a dip in quality if we shove Richarlison on in his place with instructions to do his worst. Different sorts of laddies no doubt, but the Brazilian seemed pretty bucked while on World Cup duty (albeit playing as central striker), and more to the point he would do no worse than the Sonny of Season 22/23.
If Richarlison is still labouring under whatever the latest ailment might be, then one grudgingly accepts that he is best left on the bench for now. Otherwise, however, the whole bally approach makes little sense. If he is not started now, when Sonny is at his lowest ebb, then when the hell will he be started?
4. Our Travelling Fans
A note in passing on the racket kicked up by our lot in the stands. Dashed impressive, I thought. High energy and relentless from first whistle to last, the only shame being that it did not occur to the eleven on the pitch to emulate them, but one can’t have everything I suppose. At one point our fans even cleared the throats for a rendition of McNarama’s Band, which had me raising a particularly impressed eyebrow.
On this business of the polite requests for structural reorganisation within the corridors of N17, AANP waves a weary hand, happy to let those better informed exercise their democratic right. But I was certainly taken by the din produced, back-slaps all round.