Sat 1st – Spurs 1 Fulham 0
A workmanlike win was achieved thanks to Gareth Bale’s flicked header from a Van der Vaart free kick. What we didn’t know at the time was that this would be Bale’s last goal of the season. The clean sheet against Newcastle was our first in the league since the opening day of the season, less than a week later, here was another one. Fulham played like Fulham do, spells of neat football but rarely convincing. Have said that we had to earn the win before we could get back to reading stories of wild transfer speculation in peace.
Weds 5th – Everton 2 Spurs 1
Our eleven game unbeaten run came to an end in scruffy and disappointing fashion at Goodison Park. Behind to an early goal, Van der Vaart equalised, once again getting on the end of a Crouch knock down. Both teams had opportunities to take the lead before Everton scored the winner on the counter attack, Coleman netting the rebound from a Saha shot that Gomes perhaps should’ve done better with than spoon straight back at the oncoming attackers. As at WHL in the reverse fixture Gareth Bale received more than his fair share of rough treatment. He was withdrawn after an hour with the first occurrence of the back problem that was to disrupt the rest of his season. The chief instigator of the violence was Phil Neville whose availability rather bizarrely became the subject of several inquiries from Redknapp after the game and throughout the transfer window. Not exactly the goal machine we were after. Talking of goal machines, Robbie Keane played his last game of the season for us in this match before being dispatched to ‘help’ out at Upton Park.
Sun 9th – Spurs 3 Charlton 0 (FA Cup Third Round)
One of the most tedious media stories of the winter overshadowed this cup-tie unfortunately. The David Beckham circus was in town. He had signed a deal to train with us for a month but for some reason best known to himself Harry seemed keen for more than that. Heaven knows why. Every cheeky grin, pull on his woolly hat and nose pick was recorded and splashed over the nation’s websites and newspapers – it was a relief when it was all over.
Anyway who needs Becks when you’ve got Andros? Redknapp gave Townsend his debut in this game and he was mightily impressive. He was probably our best player in the first half as we struggled to make chances. Luka Modric came on at half time though and the whole game changed. Townsend got the first from outside the box and Defoe followed up with two more. Sandro started and for the first time, he also finished. Townsend’s reward for such a promising debut was to be shipped off to the Championship for the remainder of the season, first Watford then Millwall.
Sun 16th – Spurs 0 Man Utd 0
There was lots of crazy talk going round at this time suggesting that we were serious title contenders. When this game was played we were eight points behind our visitors and they had a game in hand. Hm. This was a pretty even encounter with both sides limited to half chances rather than clear opportunities. As ever, Van der Vaart was at the heart of our best attacking moves but even he couldn’t make a decisive contribution on this occasion. United shut up shop with twenty minutes to go when the excitable Rafael was given an early use of the soap after several rash challenges. Alex Ferguson’s admiration for Luka Modric can only have increased as the diminutive Croatian gave another sparkling performance in midfield, treating the ball as though it were a pet dog he was taking for a walk, to paraphrase a quote that described Lionel Messi.
With a decision due later in the month on the future of the Olympic stadium this was the game that saw the ‘Say No To Stratford’ banner get held up to the window of the TV pundit box in the corner of the Park Lane. Rotten shame that they’d gone to adverts but it well illustrated the depth of feeling building against the move.
Sat 22nd – Newcastle 1 Spurs 1
Less than a month after defeating the Geordies at WHL in the league we faced them again. Gomes, Palacios and Assou-Ekotto were all missing with injuries meaning that Cudicini got another game, Bale was moved to left back and Steven Pienaar made his debut on the left side of midfield. That flank took an even more unfamiliar look when Bale went off with a dodgy back very early on. We wouldn’t see the flying Welshman for another six weeks or so and, probably due to this injury, he never recaptured his early season form. Bassong came on at left back but it was a mistake on the other side that led to Newcastle taking the lead, Alan Hutton giving Collocini too much room to swipe a volley across Cudicini. We rarely looked anywhere near our best and only put pressure on the home team near the end when we switched to three at the back. In the dying minutes Aaron Lennon stole us a point by cutting inside and firing inside Harper’s near post. Huzzah for Azza!
Sun 30th – Fulham 4 Spurs 0 (FA Cup Fourth Round)
Public suicide is rarely pleasant to watch. Michael Dawson’s display of Hari kari meant that we were two goals and a man down with barely ten minutes on the clock. There was no ten-man fight back this time though as we crumbled before the might of Dempsey, Murphy, Dembele and Hangeland and were four down at half time. All very poor. That didn’t stop some defiant singing from the away end though with most of the content questioning Daniel Levy’s integrity as well as stating that ‘North London is ours’. The Olympic stadium decision had been postponed until early February and whilst on that score we didn’t know what the future held, we definitely knew that this time round it wasn’t ‘lucky for Spurs when the year ends in one’.
Alan Hutton had had a bad time in the last few games and it was after this match that he seemed to disappear for a while. He never appeared on the injury list and there were rumours of an almighty bust up with Redknapp. He did eventually resurface, playing a couple of games in March when Charlie was injured but Corluka had effectively wrested back the full back shirt for the rest of the season. (Apart from the games when Kaboul took it off him of course).
Premier League table as at 31st January
P W D L Pts
1. Man Utd 23 14 9 0 51
2. Arsenal 23 14 4 5 46
3. Man City 24 13 6 5 45
4. Chelsea 23 12 5 6 41
5. Spurs 23 10 8 5 38
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