Well we can postpone work on those “Sack ‘Arry” placards for the time-being at least. With a maturity that even they themselves probably did not realise they possessed our heroes adapted to the conditions better than the other lot, made better chances and saw out the game with consummate professionalism. While I braced myself for a late bout of insanity from someone or other, the players abandoned an age-old Tottenham tradition and instead navigated through to the end without any scares.The pitch hardly made for champagne football, and for a while it looked like our lot were under orders to bypass the mud by pinging long balls at every opportunity, but to their credit they persevered with the passing game as much as the conditions allowed. (Before Modders came and made it look like he was playing on a bowling-green.)
As well as their use of the ball and acclimatisation to the conditions, the willingness to roll up sleeves, slide through the mud and fight the attritional war was also most gratifying (in theory at least, although Messrs Defoe and Bale adopted dangerously dubious interpretations of the notion of “getting stuck in”). While we did not necessarily always win those 50-50 balls, neither did we look like we would shirk the challenges. Top marks, chaps.
The Opening Goal
I suspect even objective Wigan fans would admit that we were good value for the win, but there is no denying that the first goal went miles beyond the boundary of “fortuitous”, and ensconced itself comfortably in the world of the downright absurd. While Bale’s charge down the left merits thumping applause, Defoe had, as ever, clearly jumped the gun. He did at least have the grace to look suitably embarrassed by it all.
C’est la vie. Statistics may suggest otherwise, but AANP is of the train of thought that these things loosely even out over a season, and we have certainly been hard done by in recent weeks (off the top of my head Defoe’s disallowed goal against Liverpool, and penalty shout against Villa, in recent weeks). Moreover, for all the controversy surrounding it the opening goal did not make a huge difference to the general pattern of the game, throughout which manful efforts to plough through the quagmire were achieved better by our lot than theirs.
However, there is a counter-argument that that opening goal was crucial for us inasmuch as that breaking the deadlock has become something of a mental barrier for us in recent weeks. Time and again we have played well but failed to get that all-important first goal, with the result that we have ended up battering away at a ten-man defence. On Sunday, through outrageous officiating we found ourselves ahead – and were then able to play against a team forced to edge out towards us. Wigan did not exactly come at us all guns blazing, but nor were they able to pile bodies into defence. As a result, particularly in the second half, our forwards found themselves man-to-man against a defender, rather than facing two banks of four.
He is evidently a popular little bunny amongst his team-mates, but ‘Arry did not exactly look thrilled to bits with Pav’s little cameo, the camera close-up straight after the third goal capturing a particularly morose expression across the face of our glorious leader. However, there is now no avoiding the fact that our head honcho has a selection dilemma. An inspired twenty minutes as substitute is one thing, but can Pav produce the goods on a regular basis? Does he only play like that against weaker teams? How would he fare if given a regular run in a settled side (I discount the Wendy Ramos era in which he featured as not constituting “a settled side”)? Would he and Defoe work as a combo?
Such questions are unanswered at present, but he looked mighty darned classy on Sunday, the contrast with his gangling strike partner neatly emphasised when he scored precisely the sort of chance Crouch had missed moments earlier. Not many tears would be shed if the lanky one were dropped to the bench and Pav given a starting-berth alongside Defoe for a few games. Crouch is a jack of various trades but master of none, and the time might be right to lock him in a cage labelled “Plan B”.
Corluka: Not So Super
All told however, it was a staggeringly professional display. Solid in defence; determined and creative as necessary in midfield; sharp in attack. That’s three consecutive halves of good football from our lot – so for one week at least the Prophets of Doom have courteously shuffled aside, to let the Top-Four Delusionalists make themselves heard.
AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, will be in shops from 6 March – but is available to pre-order now from Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith,Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play
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And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here