Sunday, 10 April 2011

Stoke* - a rare win and medium well done

We won't know whether or not this was an important result until Monday night, when Liverpool play City.

Actually, we do already know it was an important result, we just don't know why. If Liverpool win, it just about gets us back in the race for fourth. If City win, it just about secures fifth. Is that important?

I heard two conflicting views yesterday. A friend I went to the match with said he was angered and amused by Spurs fans dismissing the Europa league as somehow below us. His view is that we can win it - and that winning it would be a great achievement. And that the Champions League is above us.

Later, someone on Twitter expressed the view that if we weren't going to get fourth, he hoped we'd miss fifth as well; finish sixth and 'concentrate on qualifying for the Champions League'.

You could interpret that as 'let's not enter a competition we can win so we can put all our efforts into (probably not) qualifying for a competition we'll never win'. Especially if you're pathologically pessimistic.

Anyway, we're going to be in it next year. So let's be in it to win it. It's not like English sides have been nonchalantly dominating the competition in recent years. Rather they've been losing to European sides who they've probably underestimated by dint of them not being Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Yesterday's game was a schizophrenic affair. In attack we occasionally looked as good as we have for months. In defence we were sloppy first half and then pretty resolute second half.

This was a strange Spurs side, a Spurs side that showed glimpses of all that is good and bad about us, but never for any sustained period. It was like a Spurs tribute side.

There were flickers and flashes of brilliance, but not enough to really bury a poor and predictable side that have lost there last six away games.

The minute we looked like we were on full power, our circuitry fizzed, spat, buzzed and blinked, as the connections just couldn't hold for 90 minutes.

On the plus side, Kaboul looked good in his first match back. I wonder if, in the post King and Woodgate age, he will become our first choice centre back.

Thud looked remarkably good and showed some of the passing and prompting we miss when the more dynamic and combative Sandro plays next to Luca. It was also gratifying that he hadn't come back weighting 19 stone. Six months off for a lad who doesn't look naturally the fittest could have been a disaster...

It was also Pav's best performance of the season. Surely he'll start on Wednesday. (Like it matters)

Crouch, of course, won't. It was easy to be wound up by Tuesday's debacle at Real Madrid. But harder to be vehemently pissed off with Peter Crouch. Bewildered, maybe, but not much more.

This was proved when, about 20 minutes in, he sized up a 50/50 ball, took the first few steps towards a crunching challenge with a defender - and then thought better off it.

White Hart Lane didn't hold back with the ironic cheers. That's not the sort of reaction he'd have got if it wasn't for the crowd's underlying affection.

Listen, if we sell him in the summer, I won't mourn his departure, but he's hard to hate.

We're still going to finish fifth. We've been finishing fifth since the season started. But good old Spurs have got us hoping and dreaming of more. If the UN got involved that would be labeled cruel and unusual punishment.

* Stoke sounds a bit like steak. Fuck you.

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