Monday, October 02, 2006

Controversy, Abuse and 3 Points

Lets deal with the controversy first, which surrounded the build-up to the game with Mido’s ill advised comments about Sol Campbell and then again during the game with Zokora’s dive for the first half penalty. Neither incident is the sort of thing that should, in an ideal world, be associated with Tottenham Hotspur. With the Mido thing, Jol rebuked him in the press and then dropped him from the side too. It was some good man management by the Big Man, who took the sting out of Harry Redknapp’s team talk and showed that Spurs are above that sort of thing. Mido can sit and stew over his actions, and will have to wait his chance in the team again to show that he can take his size 12s out of his mouth and put them to good use on the pitch.

The Zokora penalty is less clear cut. Yes, in an ideal world diving shouldn’t happen, and yes, THFC should be above that sort of thing. BUT, everyone else does it, Spurs are in a bit of bother at the moment and the guy comes from leagues where diving is part and parcel of the game. Zokora, and Spurs have got a bit of a caning in the press today over the dive and it shows the anti-Spurs bias that exists in the English media. Did they do the same when Henry chucked himself on the floor to win the free kick from which they scored in the Champions League final? How about when Gerrard and Owen fall over in the box playing for England to win penalties – is that OK? It is according to the Goon and Hammer loving journos who write for most of the papers based in London. So what should Spurs do? Well BMJ should have a word and say well done Didier, but if you’re going to do it again, try and make it look a bit more realistic next time. Spurs rarely get the rub of the green in these scenarios, and it is actually a refreshing change to see us get a decision like this. It is not something that should be seen on a regular basis, but a win was so badly needed yesterday that almost anything justified the means. We don’t want to get a reputation for it, and we don’t want to win all the time by cheating, but taking a tumble with a bit of contact in the box occasionally is not the worst thing in the world, and if means the difference between 1 and 3 points, then lets have a bit of it. Everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t we?

It was also the annual return of the pantomime villain yesterday, and for the first time dear old Sol experienced defeat at the Lane since deserting the ship. The abuse is fine, and chants like “Campbell loves Barrymore” and the “…I wanna know oh oh, why you’re such a…” chant are acceptable and still reasonably funny but the one about him hanging from a tree steps over a line and should really be phased out. Likewise, it’s a shame that the way to let Ledley know our fondness for him is by first wanting to stick his predecessor somewhere painful. Campbell should never be forgiven for what he said and then did to Spurs, and it should be made clear to him that he is not welcome back to the club, but the sooner he retires and the sooner this annual charade is over, the better it will be for all concerned, as the fans don’t cover themselves with glory when he’s back. Having said that, some of his pained facial expressions were very amusing, as defeat was the last thing he wanted, and exactly what he got.

So, looking at the actual football it wasn’t a bad performance by Spurs considering how low on confidence they were, and all the chopping and changing of the line up required. The return of Berbatov up front was much like the return of Ledley at the back, a bit of class and an air of authority injected into the side. Within 30 seconds, Berbatov got closer to scoring than Mido had in the previous 5 games, with a header that David James parried and Murphy flicked into the net. It was a nice reminder seeing him back out there that he was where most of the summer transfer kitty went, and with it our hopes for the season. Watching him play you can see he just exudes class, and even though he clearly wasn’t fit yesterday his movement and awareness of where his team mates were was excellent. At one point you could see him telling Defoe to look at him, and watch the run he was making. Let’s hope JD listens, as it will make him a better player too. It was a surprise that Berbatov didn’t take the penalty, but Defoe needed a goal and looked like he argued the best in the discussion with Berbatov and Murphy as to who was going to take it. A 2-0 lead at half time would have been a good reward for a decent half of football, but it was a sloppy equaliser to concede, with Kanu scoring his customary goal against Spurs. An inquest will be needed as either King or Dawson let him go free, and that isn’t what we expect from the skipper and the future skipper.

The loss of Chimbonda at half time was a blow, as it interrupted Spurs’ flow and game plan, as it was he that was supplying the width on the right. Ghaly, who keeps on impressing did well filling in at fullback, but it wasn’t quite the same, and by the end BMJ felt the result was more important than anything else, as Spurs defended deeper with only one close call, an effort from Lua Lua, brilliantly saved by ENO. Jenas could have had a hat-trick in the second half though, with a shot well saved by James, a mazy run with a blast over the bar, and one which looked like a swing and a miss from about 8 yards out, turned out on the replay later, to have been affected by a bobble. JJ is some player, he’s got strength, pace, stamina and skill, he scores goals and never stops working, yet the crowd are clearly divided over him because his passing and shooting is occasionally off target. Hopefully a few more goals will turn them around.

Spurs now have two weeks to patch up the wounded, get some players out of the treatment room and work on some clever routines before a trip to high flying Aston Villa, followed by a tight schedule of UEFA Cup games, a home game against West Ham, a trip to the Milton Keynes football franchise in the Carling Cup and then away to Watford. This will be where the squad will comes into its own, and barring any more international related injuries, the team could be close to full strength with the return of Lennon, and maybe even the introduction of Malbranque.

Keep reading for reactions to tomorrow’s UEFA Cup Group Stage draw and any other Spurs related tit bits that follow throughout the week as usual.

The Waddler.