Now that David Bentley has made three consecutive appearances for the first time since whenever I wonder how many fans are feeling just a little humbled. On the pitch last night were three players previously deposited into the 'shit folder' along with Jermaine Jenas everyone's favourite scapegoat : David Bentley; Heuralho Gomes and Gareth Bale.
I omit Tom Huddleston as Harry's consistent selection of him in our best season since a long time has largely redeemed him, though not with everyone of course. Dawson, likely to be our new captain, is still mistrusted in some quarters as naive; Crouch is disparaged not just because he lacks all the skills but because he invites us to play in an anti-Tottenham way; Corluka is regarded as disastrously slow; Bassong as too inexperienced and error prone. All these players have been widely criticised , the sub text being that they are not good enough for the next level, which I have to point out we haven't quite reached yet.
That only leaves Kranjcar and Defoe untouched in the team that beat Leeds last night in style and with some authority. However did they manage it? Some are raising the dilemma that Harry might face because Lennon and Ekotto might shortly be returning to fitness. You can see where I am going here because both these players were the subject of widespread abuse until Aaron 'can't cross' Lennon and and Benoit 'most improved player' Ekotto redeemed themselves.
Its not so much that these players were written off but it is the speed and hostility of the process that is shocking. There seems to be no half way house. If you are not world class then you are hopeless. It is also the viciousness and personalisation of the attacks. Some of the criticism of Bale seems to imply that because he is not good looking he can't be a good player. Though of course as with David Bentley you can be too good looking to play well. No allowance is given for age, experience or injury problems; this applies to Lennon as well as Bale.
Now I am not a great fan of Peter Crouch and have been critical of him for his influence on the way we play but I don't want him to fail to prove a point. I am surprised but delighted that David Bentley has escaped his demons to turn in a Man of the Match performance at Leeds. I have been critical of Harrry on several occasions but I don't ask for him to be sacked because instability has been the curse of the club for decades.
On Wednesday night in hostile fan and weather conditions we imposed ourselves quickly and effectively and should have been 'out of sight' again in the first 20 minutes. I think I have already copyrighted that phrase. Defoe scored a hat-trick and could have scored five or six.. Bentley concentrated on getting the basics right and provided two assists. We had our 'Oh no, not again' moment when they equalised just before half time but did not allow it to faze us and came out with even more authority in the second half.
Even Jenas was 'not as shit as usual', high praise in some quarters, and even without two of our top midfielders, Palacios and Modric, we were not really stretched. As Julius Caesar said ' We came, we saw, we kicked arse'. No sorry that was 'Ghostbusters'. If we can win on Saturday we are almost back on track, and can start dreaming again as long as we don't actually fall asleep on the pitch.
Dawson needs to bring his back line out more quickly and not allow them to drop too deep. The penalty spot should be his last line of defence more often than the six yard box. Last night there was plenty of time to catch all four of the Leeds' attackers offside but we barely moved. He should concentrate too on directing his defensive headers as the vast majority go straight back to the opponents because he concentrates purely on getting distance.
Against Villa there are statistics favouring both sides and it would be easy to go for a draw. Defensively they have the best record in the Premiership but our own record at home is close. It will be tight but with Modric, Palacios and King rested and home advantage I think that we will win. We need to be careful not to get caught by a sucker punch on the break.
We need to cut Harry and the players a little more slack. I will continue to examine what we do as club and team with the slightly sceptical eye of a long term supporter without the blind fanaticism of some. 'Fanatic' is after all where the word 'fan' comes from. But it is done in the spirit of trying to improve the team, not slag it off into oblivion.
Perhaps it's the Danny Blanchflower position of equalising before the other team score. Getting your retaliation in first as they say in Rugby. Or calling ourselves 'yiddos' to defuse the power of the words before the opposition use it against us. You can't hate our own players more than we do so back off. Perhaps all this is understandable in the light of the history of Tottenham over the past few decades which could well happen again but its a misguided and unhelpful way to support a team.
I am a long term admirer of Michael Dawson and have advocated his captaincy for some time but it doesn't stop me making helpful hints for his improvement. It's a pity that he and Harry have better things to do than read this column.