More Gareth Bale brilliance elevated Spurs above a spirited West Ham stoked by the memories of the legendary Bobby Moore. The Hammers may have lost their ‘cup final’, but I understand premium horsemeat lasagne was available at David Gold’s post-match banquet. The meat passes better than Guy Demel.
To quote a twisting Peter Griffin, ‘third is the word’. Tottenham battled back from a 1-2 deficit to nudge ahead of Chelsea and maintain a four point gap over Arsenal before Sunday’s crunch north London derby. Inevitably, our old friend Howard Webb played his part in the drama, but an elite side usually finds a way to negotiate adversity rather than reach for excuses. Silently and impressively, Tottenham now resemble a team of that description.
Spurs have negotiated 27 league games without winning a single penalty as our rivals inch towards double spot-kick digits – it took Webb a mere 25 minutes to allow West Ham to surpass our non-existent total. Was it a penalty? I think so. Returning ‘hero’ Scott Parker certainly followed through after winning the ball despite the initial reaction that this was more jiggery-pokery from Yorkshire’s least popular ex-copper. Undoubtedly, the kick would not have been awarded the other way. There were at least two penalties within a second before Gylfi Sigurdsson’s prodded equaliser. Most of us were just grateful that the former Right Said Fred impersonator allowed the goal!
But for the fly-squatter palms of Jussi Jaaskelainen it might have been a baseball score. The oddly under-appreciated Finn was, again, sensational between the sticks involved in repelling 25 shots on the hammered goal. West Ham sweated blood for seventy minutes, but eventually they ran out of fuel like a second hand banger and true (Aston Martin) class told.
Andre Villas-Boas’ selections and substitutions were immaculate. The Portuguese wisely opted for a more physical back four to cope with the wayward arms and papier-mache legs of Andy 'Caravan' Carroll. His removal of the influential Mousa Dembele (who the home side were doing their level best to remove ahead of Sunday’s crunch derby) was a relief, but the introductions of the energetic Sigurdsson and clever prompting of Tom Carroll provided unexpected dividends. Suddenly, Spurs dominated a tiring Clarets midfield who began blowing bubbles from the wrong end.
To his credit, Webb did allow the critical advantage that enabled the felled Bale to right himself before taking Carroll’s neat pass to stroke home the ridiculous last minute winner. The 'spirit of Stalteri' was reborn.
The embrace of Bale and Villas-Boas in the euphoria following the Welshman’s winner illustrated a special relationship not evident with the previous manager. Not long after Harry Redknapp’s ungrateful removal, the world class Welshman signed a new four-year contract and, grinning, remarked upon the new tactics and modus operandi of his replacement. One cannot help but suspect a certain ‘method’ in Daniel Levy’s ‘summer madness’. This is a bold, new Tottenham and, with due gratitude to the past, I’m delighted to witness the revolution.
* Bobby Moore was, for most of us, the greatest footballer ever to pull an England jersey over his head, a true gentleman and credit off the field. The world class, consummate defender almost joined Spurs, Bill Nicholson certainly wanted him, but sadly that move never came to fruition. My admiration for the man is boundless and it is a great source of pride that my dad and dear, departed uncle were present at Wembley to watch Moore, Peters and co lift the World Cup in 1966.
But it is a pride tinged with sadness. So much of the adulation for Moore’s achievements and defensive grace came long after his passing. This is modern football where a misty-eye, black armband and minute’s applause apparently erase the sins of the past.
Where was the support from West Ham, and more notably England and the FA, when the legendary Moore was scraping a living doing minor, 'fish and chip’ commentary for Radio Essex?
Bobby died in relative poverty and these after-the-event eulogies and the belated, mind-crunching hypocrisy carry a heavy sting in the tail. Another reason why I am ‘against modern football’.
The likes of Paul Gascoigne and others need this help and appreciation right now. For the love of god, let us learn from the mistakes of the past and not wait for these grand heroes to be buried six feet underground.
** Spurs fan and prolific author Norman Giller has written a timely book on Bobby Moore 'The Master' where all profits go to the most worthy 'Bobby Moore Fund' set up by the great man's widow shortly after his passing. Norman knew Bobby throughout his storied career and the book is a wonderful way to learn more about his mistreatment and pay respect to his legacy of helping to find a cure for cancer.