This seems as good a time as any to stand to attention and offer a pretty meaningful salute to our finest. As if anyone needed reminding quite what a different plane it is on which Harry Kane operates, he belted in our opener with his first kick of the game, pretty much by way of a warm-up. Thereafter, I thought he beetled around hither and thither, in rather an understated way, popping up occasionally to inject a bit of impetus whenever we needed it.
He gave the impression that, having stumbled upon the general midfield vicinity almost inadvertently, he enjoyed himself enough to set up camp in the area, occasionally surfacing to join in with the lesser mortals and chivvy things along.
It worked out splendidly. Whenever the ball bounced off our defence and out towards halfway, Kane was happy to collect the scraps, wriggle free of surrounding limbs as necessary, and ping a pass off into the wide open for spaces for Sonny or whomever to gallop off after.
Leeds, for all their bluster, were amongst the worst we’ve played this season – which makes sense, when you think about it – meaning that the biggest impediment to Kane, as to most of our lot, was that pitch. Not that Kane let it get to him. I’m not sure it could have bothered him less if he had been one of those royal horticulturalists who knows every blade on their lawn inside out. The ground being bobblesome, Kane simply took to lofting his passes through the atmosphere, bypassing the middle man, as it were.
The piece de resistance of his performance came at the halfway stage. And when you consider that on a day on which he scored twice his highlight was something else altogether, you know it was something pretty special. As ever, he received the thing back to goal and somewhere near the halfway line, the sort of situation in which even the Leeds mob, dreadful though their day had been from start to finish, would not have had the alarms bell ringing with any great fervour.
Kane, however, was in that Magic-Something-From-Nothing mood, and having flicked the ball back over his own head, in a pleasing homage to Gazza at Euro 96, he gave the ref a polite shove from his path and set off towards goal. Leeds duly dispatched two of their finest to put an end to Kane’s rampage, and this pair reasonably enough decided that squishing the fellow between their combined frames would do the trick; but Kane was having none of it. As is often the case when he builds up a head of steam, he opted for brute force over any semblance of finesse to surmount this particular obstacle, and simply shoved his way between the two of them like an irate bear.
That done, the attack was still really only at ‘Promising’ level, there being a far bit of legwork left before we got to the really salacious stuff, but Kane didn’t hang around. At this juncture admittedly he received a fairly thick wedge of assistance from the admiring gods, as his attempted pass inside the centre-back – which really would have made the eyes water if successful – bounced off the legs of the latest in a whole queue of hapless Leeds defenders, and kindly for Porro to do the rest.
It was the manner in which Kane received the ball on halfway, however – it bouncing and he with back to goal – and turned it, lickety-split and via two opponents, into an attack bursting at the gills with promise, that really took the puff.
There then followed his 30th goal of the season, made to look straightforward even though Richarlison ten minutes later would bungle a near-identical opportunity, but by this stage one simply took the chap for granted.
Which is a point worth pausing at and hammering on about for a while – he is rather taken for granted. As in that season in which he won both the Golden Boot and whichever object is doled out for most assists, and yet somehow didn’t win a Player of the Year trinket, so this year his 30 league goals, in a team as bad as ours (and having rather gone through the ringer of a World Cup-induced blow to the solar plexus halfway through) has simply been shrugged off, seemingly on the grounds that “It’s Harry Kane, what did anyone expect?” Which is a dashed sight less than he deserves.
As to whether he will still be lighting up our days and nights come August and beyond, the AANP tuppence worth is that I can’t really imagine a universe in which Levy simply shrugs and agrees to sell the fellow this summer, no matter how much Kane might want it.
In terms of mooching off elsewhere, the Man Utd link makes little sense to me, given that they sure as heck won’t win the Premier League, and seem a pretty long shot for the Champions League. If he wants an FA or Carabao Cup, he might as well stick around in N17; but frankly a ’legacy’ at our lot would seem to be worth more than either of those trophies. I’d have thought Chelsea or possibly Newcastle (pending great big sackfuls of transfer cash being flung around) would therefore be likelier destinations than Man U, if he wants to win the meaty trophies – but who’s to say quite how the cogs whir from the Kane neck upwards?
Back to the match, and as mentioned, Leeds’ resistance seemed to be token at best. It’s rather easy to damn our lot by suggesting that the opposition weren’t up to the job, and I should probably slap on another lashing or two of praise, because pre-match I sure as heck was resigned to our heroes wilting in the face of a team needing a win to survive. A hammering by a team in the very act of getting relegated would have seemed the perfect coda to Season 22/23, what?
So credit to our lot, principally for dealing with the barrage of crosses and throws repeatedly hurled towards the frame, but also for having the good sense to transfer documents from back to front faster than a Leeds player could mutter “Dash it, we don’t have enough bodies to stop a counter-attack”.
If Kane was pivotal in the countering, I thought Bissouma excelled in the more studious role in midfield, of collecting possession, hopping away from a swinging leg and spreading the play this way and that. He had a remarkable ability to do the above in a most unflustered manner, which had the benefit of puncturing any atmosphere or urgency our hosts attempted to manufacture, whilst also lending to our play a calmness that has been a pretty rarely-sighted beast this season. It wasn’t flawless, but it was certainly encouraging.
At one point a nearby chum, while watching Bissouma skate away serenely, murmured something about Mousa Dembele, and while all sorts of caveats abound when invoking this sort of name, and it would be remiss to take such musings seriously, one roughly got the gist. There is something in Bissouma’s size nines that lends a certain optimism to the piece.
3. Lucas Moura
It feels like the Lucas Moura Farewell Tour has been trundling along for a goodish while now – which actually stands to reason, as he announced he was off a good few months back, since when every sighting of him has been accompanied by a brief eulogy, on top of which he was last week given a chance to wave to the galleries in the home stadium.
Anyway, the final leg of his great send-off was actioned in the dying embers yesterday afternoon, but by golly, if we thought this would just be a close-up of him entering the fray and then the toot of the final whistle, we were in for one heck of a shock. One could not have scripted a finale quite like this – something of a running theme for Lucas, come to think of it.
While it is easy to submit to recency bias and get rather carried away on these occasions, even 24 hours later that goal strikes me as one of the best individual efforts I’ve seen from one of our number. While not being of the occasion of Villa ’81 or Lucas himself vs Ajax, for sheer aesthetic delight it was right up there alongside Ginola at Barnsley, and close to Sonny vs Burnley. (A doff of the cap at this point to Gareth Bale, who has literally about half a dozen solo efforts to his name in lilywhite.)
Back to the goal itself, and even on repeat watchings it had a rather mesmeric unpredictability about it. On each re-watch Lucas somehow seemed to leap off in an unexpected direction at every point in his journey, all the while retaining complete balance and control of the ball.
First Leeds chappie slid in to chop him at the knees? Nothing he couldn’t hurdle. Three more Leeds blighters try to converge on him at once? Nothing through which he couldn’t slalom. Goalkeeper flinging six feet plus of muscle at his feet? Nothing over which he couldn’t dink.
Of course, this being AANP Towers, I couldn’t drink in this goal of perfect execution and timing without giving tongue to a grumble or two, so I don’t mind admitting a spot of bitterness that we didn’t see this more often from the chap. He tried it pretty much every time he received the ball in the entirety of his five years with us – and as yesterday showed, he’s been capable of pulling it off all along – yet I can only remember it working previously away at Man Utd. Blighter.
Anyway, a marvellous way for Lucas to ride off into the sunset, a little cherry on top of a career that is already permanently etched into Spurs folklore (and, cough cough, a second instalment of Spurs’ Cult Heroes).
4. Farewell Season 22/23
More broadly, it was actually a completely inappropriate way for our lot to sign off for the season. Some ignominious thrashing would have been more in keeping with the general fashion, but nothing lifts the mood around these parts quite like a Tottenham win, so I drank it all in as giddily as ever. It may only have been Leeds, but as mentioned above, we might also easily have folded, as we often do, so to see this level of verve and creativity about the place was quite the tonic.
Looking ahead, the mood amongst just about every lilywhite I know is one of absolutely doleful pessimism; understandable of course, but the AANP lineage has never really gone in for such negativity, and isn’t about to start now.
A few new signings are undoubtedly needed – only one of yesterday’s back-four ought to start for us ever again, and another day sans Messrs Dier and Hojbjerg stirred no sense of longing from this quarter – but there are a handful amongst our number, both on display yesterday and propping up the stools in the treatment room, who might inject a bit of life into the old beast yet.
Moreover, enough teams around (and above) us that have demonstrated that even with deadwood floating amongst the ranks, a spot of organisation and freedom can bring home a bit of a harvest.
The absence of midweek traipses around the continent will help. And frankly performances (both individually and collectively) like yesterday’s suggest that with a spot of pruning, and a few well-judged additions, we would have at least a nucleus of a side with a beady eye on the Top Four. All that remains is to bring in a manager of sound mind – and front-foot style – and Season 23/24 practically takes care of itself, what?