AANP has never really been a dog person. No objection to the fine beasts, you understand, I’ve just not really got much connection to them. As such, happy to let them go about their business, and have them extend the same courtesy back. ‘Non-aggression pact’ about sums it up, and that’s the way it’s been for a few decades, until my sister recently came into possession of a pup of some breed unknown to me.
I mention this gripping aside because the sister’s pup’s behaviour is most prominently characterised by boundless energy and unshakeable optimism, in relation to whatever task it is approaching. And watching young Bryan Gil treating his every involvement in today’s game as if it were the most fun he had ever experienced, I was struck by his similarity to the aforementioned bonhomous canine.
Gil has now been a lilywhite 18 months, in which time he has not yet made 18 appearances – but if anyone thought that these deliberate oversights on the part of the Top Brass would dampen his spirits they will have some pretty comprehensive re-thinking to do. Rather than let week after week of inactivity (and a release on loan for six months) chip away at his mood, it seems simply to have heightened his excitement. I get the impression that each time he was omitted he simply became even more beside himself with elation, reasoning that his big chance was therefore even likelier to arrive the following week.
A charming attitude, and one he seemed determined to advertise to the entire viewing public once the game started. If he were not in possession he eagerly buzzed around seeking it; and once he received it he wasted no time in flicking through the repertoire to find the most effective means of making a positive dent in things. Watching his infectious enthusiasm I rather wished someone would throw a stick in his radius, just to see if he would bound after it.
Enthusiasm on its own, however, is not worth a great deal unless married to a certain degree of effectiveness (thought processes around this hypothesis might be aided by reflection on Oliver Skipp’s recent performances). Merrily, Gil was, for the second consecutive game, amongst the more eye-catching young pills on display.
We were treated at various points to stepovers and whatnot, and quick jinking feet, but also crisp and aware shot passes, the sort that bisect opposing bodies and give a sense of urgency.
Gil has pretty swiftly elevated himself to the sort who quickens the pulse every time he receives the ball – and given that a fortnight ago he had not yet made a League start for us, this is one heck of a trajectory. All sorts of complications stand in the way of him becoming a regular any time soon, and I doubt that any amongst us would try arguing against Kulusevski waltzing straight back into the cast list for the visit of Woolwich next week, but Gil has taken his opportunities with aplomb, and is looking an increasingly viable option.
A spot of post-match hobnobbing with various Spurs-supporting beans suggests that I might be ploughing a slightly lonely furrow with this one, but I thought that young Sarr once again earned himself a respectful salute.
“Neat and tidy” seemed to be the anthem on his lips, and not a bad philosophy either, to bring into a day’s work as a slightly defensive-minded midfield bod. His midweek cameo had featured ticks in such columns as ‘Interceptions’, ‘Tackles’ and ‘Passes (sub-heading: Unfussy and Prompt)’. And, clearly one of those fellows who thinks that if he’s onto a good thing he might as well just keep peddling it over and over, he brought that approach from his substitute appearance vs Palace into his starting appearance vs Pompey.
With Skipp seemingly keen to elbow his way into the final third at every opportunity, Sarr played yang to that particular ying, positioning himself back at basecamp as something of a security guard for the midfield.
As against Palace, who were dead and buried by the time he emerged, one is hesitant to lavish too much praise upon a performance against a team that I don’t think managed two shots on target. Nevertheless, one can only hope, when one flings a young buck into the arena, that he will do all asked of him and to a decent standard, and in this respect it was a pretty successful afternoon’s work for Sarr.
Nevertheless, this was yet another of those performances that was drifting slightly aimlessly in the first half. One could see that various in lilywhite were remembering vague ideas and trying to apply them – Sessegnon popped in a stream of crosses that didn’t really hit the mark; Davies repeatedly trotted forward with a determined look on his map, before passing harmlessly sideways; Son dipped his shoulder and put his head down, before being robbed off the ball and left in a heap. And so on. Things were not really clicking. Things were not even doing whatever it is happens in the moments before they click. Life was just passing us all by.
So yet again it was left to Kane to drop a little deeper and perform his weekly alchemy. When he received the ball, 25 or so yards from goal, it appeared that a scene regularly witnessed was about to unfold yet again, for many in lilywhite had had possession in these sort of spots, and faced with pretty much every Portsmouth player stationed between ball and goal.
And yet, somehow, where all others had tried and failed to make any useful inroad, Kane simply forced his way through with that curious mixture of brute force, classy touch and sheer act of will. Before one could say “Was that an intentional one-two?” he had in one movement received the ball back from Sessegnon, escaped his marker, dug the ball out of his feet and set himself for a shot.
I suppose it hardly sounds like rocket science when spelled out like that, but yet again it was all of a level a country mile above that being produced by anyone else.
There then, of course, followed a shot like an Exocet missile, the sort of finish that would have had us gasping in a giddy mix of shock and joy if it had come from the clog of pretty much anyone else in our number – but when produced by Kane simply prompts a knowing nod, as if to say, “As expected, what?”
It was a moment worthy of winning a game, and helpfully changed the dynamics of what might potentially have been an awkward scrap, the sort that prompts dubious murmurings about the players, manager, chairman and so on. It also sets the chap up nicely to become our record scorer against slightly more notable opponents next weekend.
The second half in general did see an improved performance, the general sense after the opener being that we were more likely to score again than concede. While an all-singing, all-dancing, multi-goal salvo would have been fun, safe negotiation of these early rounds is pretty much all that is needed.
(Not that any of this detracted from the giddy excitement of three younger members of the AANP clan, visiting from Australia of all places, to see their first ever Spurs game – a charming reminder of how the lifelong attachment begins.)