NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 32
Submitted by Norman Giller
Smells like Team Spirit!
TAKE away the euphoria of Eric Dier’s injury-time winner at West Ham and the realists among us will recognize that it was a satisfactory rather than sensational start to the era of Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs.
The best that can be said about a disjointed performance was that the new manager has clearly generated a team spirit on which you can warm your hands, but there is plenty for him to work on before producing the flowing football that is his sworn philosophy.
There was little sign of rhythm against an ordinary West Ham side but, in fairness, the balance of the team was knocked out of kilter once Kyle Naughton was harshly red carded for what both Paul Smith and I saw as a ball-to-hand incident.
For me, that was a dubious penalty award and Naughton getting his marching orders suddenly made a crisis out of a drama. The situation demanded that the Tottenham players work their socks off to make up for being a man down, and every one of them put in a full shift as West Ham threatened to take control after the justice of Noble’s rare missed penalty.
Let’s be honest, most of us would have been ready to sell our grannies for a victory at Upton Park after the humiliation of three successive defeats by Big Sam’s warriors. The fact that it came in such frantic, last-gasp circumstances made it all the sweeter.
The best thing to come out of the game was a promising debut performance by the baby-faced Dier, who looks as if he should be sitting his A-levels rather than playing Premier League football. He appeared comfortable in the centre of the defence and then as an emergency right-back following the dismissal of Naughton.
Then, in that heart-stopping last minute, he showed the coolness of a veteran striker as he calmly turned a superb pass from Harry Kane into a killer goal.
I knew Eric’s granddad, the late Ted Croker, in his days as chairman of the Football Association. He was a great servant of the Beautiful Game and I could sense him beaming down on his grandson as he stroked the ball into the West Ham net.
Dier will never forget that glorious moment that sent Spurs fans into a delirium of delight. But, let’s be frank, the rest of the match will not sit for long in our memories.
What amused me is that on the internet all the vile bile was saved for Ruud Gullit, for his double-barreled Match of the Day attack on the performances of Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen.
Gullit was one of the greatest footballers of his generation and knows the game inside out, so perhaps the amateurs among us should accept that he knows what he is talking about.
Those watching with two eyes rather than one will accept that Tottenham failed to function well in midfield, where Lamela and Eriksen were often outnumbered and outthought.
We will know whether Pochettino intends to persevere with them as twin pistons when Harry Redknapp brings his QPR troops to the Lane next Sunday. It will be fascinating to see what sort of welcome Harry gets. He gave us three memorable seasons, finished fourth-fifth-fourth, yet there are still a lot of Tottenham fans who seem to harbour hatred for one of the game’s great characters.
Meantime, Tottenham kick off what now seems a traditional Thursday routine of Europa League football. I anticipate wholesale changes in the Tottenham line-up for the first qualifying play-off against AEL Limassol in Cyprus.
One of Pochettino’s hardest jobs will be keep active and happy his overload of players who all think they should have a starting place in the first-team. Most of those who make it on to the pitch in Cyprus can almost certainly be considered members of the second-string section.
It is a classic banana-skin tie, and Mauricio will have to remind his players that it is not as easy as it looks on paper. There is huge support for Spurs among Cypriot football followers, but they will be getting behind their local heroes in the hope of willing them to an upset victory.
Those of us of a certain age will remember Tottenham’s visit to AEL for a warm-up friendly back in 1968 when they swept to a 7-1 victory with three goals from Alan Gilzean, two from Cliffie Jones and one each by Jimmy Robertson and Dennis Bond. Don’t expect it to be that easy this time round on a notoriously bumpy pitch that makes ball control difficult.
But it’s that Premier League match against QPR that matters most. As much as some of us love ‘Arry Boy, we don’t want him walking away with the points.
Harry must not be allowed the last laugh. It is now Pochettino time.
THE GILLER TEASER
Each week here in my Spurs Odyssey home I test your knowledge of Tottenham. Last week I asked: Who started his career with Port Vale, joined Spurs from Luton, won an FA Cup winners’ medal and once had his jaw broken by Joe Jordan?
Yes, it was goalkeeper Milija ‘Elastic’ Aleksic, who played only 25 League games for Tottenham, but left with a coveted FA Cup winners’ medal from the famous “Villa Match” in 1981. Many of you gave full chapter and verse on how he had his jaw broken in a collision with the awesome Joe Jordan in an FA Cup tie against Man United, and that Glenn Hoddle went into goal, with Ossie Ardiles scoring an extra-time winner to keep Spurs on course for Wembley. Tragically, Milija passed on in 2012 at the age of just 61 after emigrating to South Africa. His name will always live on in Spurs FA Cup history.
The first name chosen at random from the correct entries: Jim Shaw, of Basingstoke, who wins an autographed copy of Lane of Dreams.
You can get a copy of Lane of Dreams, Bill Nicholson Revisited, Tottenham The Managing Game or Danny Blanchflower This WAS His Life delivered right now to your screen. Send me an email to email@example.com and I will reply with a file. If you like it, all I ask in return is a £5 donation to the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help our old heroes who have hit difficult times. If you have Spurs in your soul, you will want to support this great cause. Thank you.
This week’s teaser features a player who followed in the footsteps of the Tottenham legend Len ‘The Duke’ Duquemin: Who was the Channel Islander who scored 37 League goals for Spurs before joining Manchester City?
I have another copy of my best-selling Lane of Dreams book – including the autographs of Jimmy Greaves and Steve Perryman – for the sender of the correct answer whose name is randomly drawn first. Email your answer please to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like a paperback copy of Bill Nicholson Revisited or a hard-back version of Danny Blanchflower This WAS His Life, please go to www.normangillerbooks.com. A donation goes to the Tottenham Tribute Trust for
Thanks for your company. COYS!
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