Spurs 4 Liverpool 1
(Kane 2, Son, Dele), (Salah)
Hoodoo? Spurs did for Liverpool yesterday with a comprehensive win despite only having 36% possession.
Liverpool are meant to be Spurs’ bogey team. Wembley is meant to be a hoodoo ground for us. Both narratives were chewed and spat out by our players and manager yesterday.
Damn but I was proud of every one of them. Kane was given Man of the Match for his 2 goals and overall play but it’s fair to say that just about any of our line-up could have been given the award. Dele had a magnificent match in a deeper midfield role. Winks continued where he left off against Real Madrid midweek. Son bolted out of the blocks like his namesake U-son Bolt. Aurier did well out of position at left back against Liverpool’s frightening attack. But silly to even start naming names. They were excellent to a man. They were gifted goals and took them clinically. They worked, kept shape and defended resolutely. Oh, and that Lloris save ! Wow.
I was privileged to attend the match with Samir Hammam, who is the friend of a friend. Sam entertained us royally in an executive box (see images in previous post). Most fans will know that Sam owned Wimbledon during the Club’s most successful period in the 1980s and 90s. He’d invited Joe Kinnear (manager), Dean Holdsworth and Dave Beasant (players) along as well. Back in the day Joe, of course, was one of the best right-backs in Spurs history. Even before kick-off he confidently predicted that we’d score 5.
I have to admit I too had a good feeling myself before the game. My ‘gut’ doesn’t always turn out right but it’s correct way more often than it’s wrong. I never bet on Spurs but would have gone for 2-1 if I had to put money on a result.
Pochettino is really starting to enjoy himself. When we got the team sheet it was another ‘WTF’. I didn’t know Dier was ill at that stage. In fact, I wondered if the Daily Mail’s coverage yesterday of Poch and Dier in Balague’s new book might have been an issue? Everybody thought we would be light in midfield without Dier, Dembele and Wanyama. But Poch had a plan. Play Dele deeper and rely on young Winks and industrious Eriksen to hold their own against Henderson, Milner and Can. Hold their own? Hah.
One of the many symbolic images from yesterday was Dele nicking the ball from Can in the 44th minute, only for Can to haul Dele down and give away a freekick. We didn’t even send up our centre-backs, obviously happy to go in 2-1 at Half Time. But about 8 Liverpool defenders contrived to allow 3 Spurs players a third goal; Matip tees up Dele who volleys in for 3-1. That was the end of the game as a contest.
Earlier there was another image that embedded itself in my mind, even though I was high up behind Lloris. When Lovren missed his header and Kane set off down our right wing, I could see this white blur streaking down the middle past red shirts. On TV later, I watched Son outpacing Milner. But it wasn’t just his raw speed that impressed. It was determination. It was his utter desire to meet the standards of commitment and hunger and skill our manager demands.
Mauricio Pochettino. He’s magic, you know. Not the greatest football lyric ever written. But pretty much the truest. This is a man now finding a whole new level. Just as Kane (and others) are relentless in their search for self-improvement, so is Pochettino. It could have been so easy. To have said to himself; ‘I’m a very good manager. It’s widely recognised. I’ve achieved 3rd and 2nd place finishes on a tight budget. I’m great with young players. I’m fighting for Top 4, season after season. I can’t help it if Chelsea, City or United have superior resources. I’m working at a fantastic level already’.
Or he could decide; ‘No, I’m not there yet. Don’t kid yourself Mauricio. There’s always more. You demand it from your players, your staff, your academy. What about yourself? Do more. Find those marginal gains in thought, word and deed that will make a difference’.
So many people in life settle for something less. ‘Alright’. ‘Okay’. ‘Yeah, I work pretty hard’. ‘I expect a fair bit from myself’. ‘I’m better than average’. ‘I’d give myself 8 out of 10’. ‘Well, you can’t win ‘em all, can you?’
Think of all those Spurs managers. The good, the bad and the plain ugly. Even decent ones like Jol and Redknapp settled for less than they might have done. Yeah, we did alright with what we had, didn’t we lads?
And then Daniel met Mauricio. Two perfectionists. Our chairman wouldn’t settle for anything less. He was criticised for the ‘revolving door’ at Spurs, the sackings and new appointments. He didn’t seem sure exactly what he was looking for; old school ‘Arry or new-fangled AVB. But he kept looking. He knew he’d recognise it when he found it. Old school values allied to new ideas. And some magic dust.
Two final images; of the greatest footballer in history sat next to Levy, taking a bow at half time. Messi and Ronaldo are wonderful players but at his peak Maradona was like them both combined. And one of the NBA Greats, Kobe Bryant, joining in the fun too, inevitably introducing a few more American fans to Tottenham Hotspur.
And a final surprise. Alan Shearer has a sense of humour! His tweet (‘he’s coming for me, Harry Kane, he’s coming for me’) was a nice touch and recognition by one great striker of another.
What a wonderful week that was.
After it we still lie 3rd in the table but are now level on points with Man United (on 20 points) a quarter of the way through the season. We have a 6-2-1 record and a goal difference of +13.