Who needs 'em?
The Tottenham Circus swept through the Midlands yesterday in a special Xmas performance. Roll up, roll up: admire the skill of the juggling ball-players; thrill to the bravery of the tightrope walkers as they defy the odds; marvel at the last ditch defenders: tremble at the awesome speed of the cannon ball kids: tremble before Wilson the strong man, gasp at the man on stilts; wonder as the whole team go through their escapology routine. Apologies to our opponents who were hoping to see the clowns: they failed to show up.
The posters proclaimed 'We can beat them with one hand tied behind our backs'. Well the football equivalent anyway; playing with ten men for an hour. This is another to add to our list of achievements: we can come back from a goal down with ease; we can come back from two goals down if it's Arsenal; we can sail through the early rounds of the Champions' League; and beat the reigning champions on the way..And now in addition to all that: we can beat a Premiership team, away from home, with ten men.
This was the 'deja vu' game for the 'deja vu' Connoisseur Collection: the same scoreline, the same scorer for both Spurs goals, the same scorer for the Villa goal , and the same striker off before you could say Emile Heskey as in the previous Villa game.
The dismissal of Defoe was an unwelcome extra. The decision was harsh but Defoe certainly caught Collins in the face with his arm and in real time it probably looked like a red. Harry won't be appealing it as in his dignified way he probably prefers to keep his powder dry for a more obvious injustice. A wrongly disallowed goal by Kaboul and a good call for a penalty for Villa when Gomes and Heskey clashed made this a difficult game to sleep through..
It's getting hard not to count our cockerels before they hatch but this was a Spurs performance to savor. Is it only last year that the fan-sites were full of discussions about 'mental strength' and how we might get it.? By Jove I think we've got it. It wasn't the signing of Van der Vaart that brought it, we had already begun to acquire it, but he makes sure we don't leave it in the dressing room.
Add to that the return of the real Wilson Palacios who has been excellent for three of four games now; the emergence of Luka Modric who increasingly takes responsibility as the play-maker; the return to form of Lennon and the continuing presence of Bale and you have a heady brew producing intoxicating football. The defence can't keep a clean sheet but they are doing enough to give us a fighting chance in every game.
Harry got it right yesterday by keeping Bale and Lennon on as their potential threat prevented Aston Villa from being too adventurous in trying to press their advantage. As soon as they did on 67 minutes they were hit by a blizzard of pace and precision. A superb lay off by Van der Vaart, pace and power from Bale; vision by Lennon, the only man capable of keeping up, and Rafael arrived just in time to pass the ball into the goal for the crucial second. I expected to see Crouch on earlier for either of the two flying flankmen but when he came on it was another Redknapp first: the defensive striker.
The first goal from the pass of the game, season, decade even, from Modric into the wide open spaces behind the Villa defence for Hutton to get to the byline and to cut it back first time for, guess who? Yep the bargain of the year, season, decade? Mr. Rafael Van der Vaart. He injected his skill, workrate and commitment straight into the main arteries of the team.
To be fair, which as we won I can be, Villa dominated possession, shots, and corners and could have been a goal up early on. But it's not just about quantity here it's the quality that counts. We did more with less and gave a young and inexperienced Villa squad a frustrating evening. Bale, even when he is well marked and not at his best can still produce match winning moments which he did for the second goal.
Both full backs played very well and both Dawson and Kaboul show the determination which once again speaks to the 'mental strength ' agenda. Palacios patrolled the midfield in his usual threatening manner but with more control than before and his passing which had been letting him down lately was exemplary.
A necessary win to keep pace with the top teams but one that the team as well as the fans reveled in. The camaraderie at the end was heart cockle warming and gave us yet another day to be proud of. The last couple of seasons have produced a lot more positives than negatives and that's something I'm not used to in the last couple or three decades. But I'm slowly get ting used to it.
It's a long journey down from Newcastle and they won't be anticipating the fixture with pleasure after hearing of the exploits of our boys. With eleven men we might just be a real handful at the Lane although I know it doesn't always work out like that. They might hope for an element of tiredness but we have quality reserves who are all well rested and can help to spread the load.
So a rousing welcome to the Lilywhite Entertainers, now with added grit.