Here we go again then, the second leg of this triple run of mettle-testing Premier League fixtures, with Guardiola’s flaccid scalp now tacked up to dry on the wall of Mourinho’s Hotspur Way office.Continue reading “Win Win Win”
Tottenham will be without defender Toby Alderweireld when they host Ludogorets in the Europa League on Thursday.
Spurs are top of Group J on goal difference, with three teams level on six points after three matches.
Belgium international Alderweireld, 31, suffered a groin injury in the 2-0 win over Manchester City on Saturday, but it is not as bad as first feared.
“He has a muscular injury but not as big as we initially thought,” said Spurs boss Jose Mourinho.
“He will have time to be out, but not like a month which was immediately what we thought. I would say between two and four weeks.
“It’s bad news. He was playing his best football. He’s an important player that we’ll miss.”
Republic of Ireland full-back Matt Doherty is available again following a positive coronavirus test while on international duty, but Mourinho says forward Erik Lamela remains absent with a foot injury.
There had been doubts over the match taking place, with reports in Bulgaria suggesting some Ludogorets players had tested positive for coronavirus.
“According to my information, that’s not true,” said Mourinho. “The problems they had were immediately after the game we played there [a 3-1 win on 5 November].
“They have had one more game after that, which they won, then the international break.
“Of the team that comes, I believe only two players who played against us are not playing. Apart from that, the other nine are in the list and ready to play.
“I don’t understand the news. There is a big contradiction between the news and the information we have.”
The best of the stats
- Tottenham have won both of their previous meetings with Bulgarian opposition (2-1 v Lokomotiv Plovdiv, 3-1 v Ludogorets), with this the first time they’ve hosted a Bulgarian side.
- Ludogorets have lost four of their five meetings with English sides in all competitions (D1), conceding 16 goals in the process. Their only previous visit to London ended in a 6-0 defeat by Arsenal in October 2016.
- None of Tottenham’s past 16 home games in European competition has ended in a draw – they have won 11 and lost five. There have been 62 goals in these 16 games, with Tottenham scoring 40 and conceding 22.
- Ludogorets have conceded four goals via set-pieces this season in the Europa League, the most of any side.
- Ludogorets have faced the most shots of any side in the Europa League so far this season (62), while only five sides have had more attempts at goal than Tottenham (50).
By Phil Dawkes, BBC Sport
“Awful news followed by worse news”, “talk about a giant leap in the wrong direction”, “they’ve lost the plot”.
When Tottenham sacked Mauricio Pochettino and replaced him with Jose Mourinho on 20 November 2019, the responses from many Spurs fans were a little spiky.
Here was an attack-minded, progressive manager in Pochettino, who had led Tottenham to the brink of domestic and European glory, replaced by a perceived park-the-bus merchant; an apparent yesterday’s man following his sacking by Manchester United.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, but fast forward a year and Spurs are top of the Premier League table with an evolving squad playing positive football and a seemingly harmonious support.
On Saturday, they achieved arguably their most impressive result of the season – a 2-0 home win over last season’s runners-up Manchester City.
And what of the man who has overseen it all? Has he won over the Tottenham fans?
‘Doing a deal with the devil’
To answer this question fully, we must go back to the beginning.
The quotes that opened this article are among the top rated of more than 3,000 comments on BBC Sport’s story detailing Mourinho’s appointment and represent the more volatile reactions from the Spurs fanbase.
The general response, though, was wariness towards a manager with an undoubted record of success but whose achievements had been overshadowed by inconsistent results, accusations of negative football and an ability to fall out with players – Paul Pogba being the most high-profile example.
It also didn’t help that he was so ingrained in the Premier League rise of Chelsea – one of Tottenham’s fiercest rivals.
Mourinho himself spoke of humility and lessons learned at his Spurs unveiling. But Simeon Daniel, who along with his brother Ben runs WeAreTottenhamTV, told BBC Sport that the appointment felt like a compromise at best.
“I think a lot fans felt like we were doing a deal with the devil,” he said.
Ben continued on the theme: “I felt like we were selling our soul
“When my brother asked me if I wanted Mourinho as manager, I said: ‘No chance do I ever want him. He’s a dinosaur. Look what happens to him at every job. He’s a ticking time-bomb.’
“There was a definite split. Half the fans we spoke to were saying that he was a born winner, that he wins everywhere he goes and that it was what we needed after Pochettino, who had brought so much positivity but was missing that first trophy.
“But the other half saw him as a Manchester United/Chelsea reject who was past it.
“I remember in some of the early days, songs backing Mourinho would start in the crowd and others would grumble, saying they couldn’t sing his name.”
‘100% on the Mourinho bandwagon’
The squad Mourinho inherited had been allowed to pass its peak as the club balked at the kind of transfer activity undertaken by their nearest rivals and focused their energies instead on the building of a new stadium.
When Pochettino was sacked, they were without a win in five, leaving them 14th in the table and 20 points behind then-league leaders and eventual champions Liverpool with only 12 matches of the season gone.
They would struggle for consistency under Mourinho for the remainder of the campaign, eventually finishing sixth thanks to an impressive post-lockdown unbeaten run of six matches.
The promise of that mini-run has been realised so far in 2020-21, with six wins from nine games producing 21 goals and moments of attacking brilliance.
Saturday’s game was a masterclass of game management, showcasing a defensive rigidity to keep City at bay and lightning-quick, ruthless counter-attacking to pick them off.
It has re-energised the fanbase, prompted realistic talk of a title challenge and altered many perceptions of Mourinho.
“I have been proved completely wrong,” said Ben. “I am 100% on the Mourinho bandwagon.
“I think a lot of fans got on board after lockdown. You saw a different Tottenham when they came back. That is when the belief started to grow.
“Such is the nature of football fans, you get the odd fan here and there who still doesn’t like Jose. But as a whole the feelings are overwhelmingly positive.”
How has Mourinho changed opinion?
Ultimately, by winning games of football.
However, the Daniel brothers feel the seeds of his newfound popularity were planted by events off the pitch, captured in the Amazon documentary, ‘All or Nothing’, which charted the club’s 2019-20 season.
“He came over as so charismatic. You can’t not want to watch him,” said Simeon. “We even heard from rival fans who fell in love with him after watching the doc. It was a fantastic PR move by the club.”
“After the documentary, Mourinho had Tottenham fans eating out of the palm of his hand,” added Ben.
He has also impressed in the very areas for which he was criticised at Manchester United – recruitment, tactics and man-management.
“I’m just over 30 now and the last summer transfer window was the best of my lifetime,” said Ben, who saw his side bring in Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Sergio Reguilon and Gareth Bale in the summer.
Simeon added: “We have precision targeted the weak parts of the team but also brought in a good blend of talent, leadership and experience.”
Spearheaded by a remodelled version of the already prolific Harry Kane/Son Heung-min pairing, which has seen the former operate in a deeper, creative role, Spurs are the second-highest scorers in this season’s Premier League.
The 11 goals they have scored in the opening 45 minutes of games alone is more than Manchester City have netted overall in the competition this season (10).
Son is the division’s top scorer with nine, including the opener against City, while Kane has a league-high nine assists.
“Last season, Mourinho didn’t go out specifically to win every game as he felt there were some we couldn’t,” said Ben. “He said recently that he would not accept a draw this season. He sets up to win games.”
On the man-management front, his most high-profile dealings have been with Dele Alli and record signing Tanguy Ndombele, both talented midfielders, but with questions over their application.
Alli has been absent from the first team for much of this season, but never frozen out, while Ndombele is currently playing the best football of his Tottenham career, which he highlighted through the chipped assist for Son’s goal on Saturday.
To truly get a sense of how different the mood around the club and its fanbase is now, you need only read some of the comments on the report of Saturday’s game…
“A Mourinho masterclass… the doubters are decreasing”, “Jose has Spurs purring like a kitten”, “Spurs are contenders this season that’s for sure”.
After the phoney wars of Burnley, Brighton and West Brom, here comes Pep with the ink hardly dry on his contract and the prospect of things getting truly Messi when the window re-opens on January 4th.Continue reading “Blue Sky Thinking”
Forget the next league match for a bit and let’s just travel down memory lane by 46,058 days, or a little over 126 years. Let’s journey to an age before the new “Tottenham Hotspur Stadium” and even before the old “White Hart Lane Stadium”. Two world wars have passed and a multitude of other conflicts. Queen Victoria still had more than six years left to rule and my Star Trek memorabilia collection was almost a century from its inception.
H.G. Wells’ famous ground-breaking “The Time Machine” was published in the year following the grand event reported below. This being Tottenham Hotspur’s first foray into the Football Association Challenge Cup in October 1894, a trophy which we won for the first time a mere seven years later and, for a then record eighth time in 1991. West Herts were our guests at our home ground at Northumberland Park.
Enjoy this enthralling contemporary account of our famous introduction to this great competition that was published in “The Sporting Life” on Monday 15 October 1894, two days after the event. This has been “carefully” transcribed, with original errors and punctuation by 61 Spurs Nut, and includes both team line-ups and train times added from other sources.
THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v. WEST HERTS.—For several seasons the West Herts Club, then known as the Watford F.C., were regularly drawn against their somewhat near rivals Chesham. For once in a way the draw turned out otherwise, and hence the Watfordians on Saturday last had the pleasure of journeying up to town and then to White Hart Lane for the purpose of meeting Tottenham Hotspur at Northumberland Park, Tottenham. Neither side was the strongest that could have been placed in the field under more favourable circumstances. The “Spurs” during a part of the game were carrying two passengers in Goodall and Stanley Briggs; the latter not having recovered from the injury received in the previous week, whilst Goodall was at times about as lame as a cat supposed to be. On the other hand, the visitors were without the services of a couple of their best men ; still, a more evenly-contested game will possibly not be seen again during the present season at or on the “Spurs” enclosure. When the rivals took the field, slightly over 2,000 spectators lined the ropes, the weather being of the best and the turf in first class order. Having lost the toss, the visitors had to face the slope for the initial half, and promptly to time Anderson started the ball towards the top goal. Hobbs and Wright immediately went away, and the latter from a free kick all but scored. At this time the “Spurs” were playing a very loose sort of game, but a few minutes later on settled down. Still, the superior combination of the visitors’ forwards told its tale and though immensely superior in the weight department, it was not until ten minutes from the start that Hunter opened the scoring account from a pass by Eccles. On the ball being restarted from mid-field, the Herts forwards attacked on the right. Welham just on the nick of time deprived Hobbs, and Briggs returned the ball. Payne and Eccles at once went away, and forced a couple of fruitless corners. Play then became of the fastest, a strong attack by the “Spurs” was only put aside by the splendid play in goal of King, who saved five shots in less than a minute. After the lapse of twenty minutes Payne, getting possession, went away on the left, and passed to Hunter, who, in turn, transferred to Goodall. The latter sending in a low screw that King could not possibly reach, placed the “Spurs” two goals ahead. If anything, after this up to the arrival of half-time, the visitors had the better of the exchanges, but failing to score, crossed over two goals to the bad. Within a minute of the resumption the visitors were swarming round their opponents’ goal. Anderson forced a corner off Tull [Jull]. Green taking the kick, placed the ball into the mouth of goal. Wright shot, Monk fisted out, but Wright again getting possession sent the ball into the net. Again fast play became the order, but half-way through the second moiety, from a pass by Wright Hobbs headed the ball through, and so caused honours to be easy. Apparently a tie must result, but some ten minutes before the call of time the “Spurs” broke away. Hunter getting round Robins passed to Goodall, King made a mistake in leaving his charge, and hence Goodall was enabled with a soft shot to score the winning goal of the match, the result being three to two in favour of Tottenham Hotspur. Referee, Mr. E, Bisiker. Linesmen, Messrs. H. D. Casey (Tottenham Hotspur) and C. M. Peacock (West Herts, hon. sec.).
C. V. Monk (goal), J. C. Jull (captain) and J. W. Welham (backs), W. J. Shephard, J. W. Julian, and S. Briggs (half-backs), A. W. Cubberley, D. Goodall, P [A. C.]. Hunter, J. M. Eccles, and E. Payne.
S. King (goal), J. R. Paul (captain) and J. S. Lidderdale (backs), G. E. Green, F. C. Robins, and J. Penney (half-backs), S. G. Hobbs, S. S. Taylor, J. O. Anderson, R. G. Wright, and H. R. L. Wright
Kick-off 3.30. Trains, 2.21, 2.25, 2.37, 2.55 Liverpool-street to White Hart-lane.
By Paul Wilson, The Guardian
Gracefully athletic player, who has died aged 72, was one of England’s finest keepers and a legend at Liverpool and Spurs
Ray Clemence was not just one of the finest goalkeepers England has ever produced, he was a link back to the time when footballers used to have day jobs or summer occupations. Impossible as it will now seem to imagine, there was a period relatively recently when promising young footballers would find themselves meeting and dealing with members of the public, as Clemence famously did when working as a deckchair attendant on the beach in his native Skegness.
Just in case younger generations find this hard to credit, photographs exist of a young Clemence not only distributing the aforesaid folding finger-traps, but also leaping around on the sand on being asked to demonstrate his goalkeeping ability.
At that precise time in his life Clemence was on his way from Scunthorpe United to Liverpool, where once he started playing he would make his name and quickly force his way into the England reckoning. Bill Shankly did some excellent business with Scunthorpe, but before he picked up Kevin Keegan for £35,000 in 1971 he spotted and signed Clemence for around £18,000 four years earlier. Even as a teenager Clemence had already played 48 games for Scunthorpe, but though the Liverpool manager recognised his precocity, he initially signed him for the Anfield reserve team.
Clemence would have to wait until 1970 to break into the senior Liverpool side, watching Tommy Lawrence in the later years of his Anfield career, until Shankly decided all at once that his powerful side of the 1960s had been allowed to grow old together and culled Lawrence along with Ron Yeats and Ian St John to give a younger generation a chance.
Tall, slender and gracefully athletic, Clemence was a different type of goalkeeper to Lawrence and he never looked back once he gained his opportunity in the first team. He was a virtual ever-present in the Liverpool goal for the next 11 seasons, and by the time he left for Tottenham Hotspur in 1981 he had claimed five league titles, three European Cups, two Uefa Cups an FA Cup and a League Cup.
With Spurs he would go on to add another FA Cup and another Uefa Cup, and go on to join the exclusive club of players with more than 1,000 official appearances. Clemence played 1,117 senior games in all, 61 of them for England, and his total of caps would have been much greater but for having the misfortune to play at the same time as Peter Shilton.
Those two were arguably the last of the production line of notable English goalkeepers that thrived throughout the 1960s, and it was a dilemma for England managers of the time which one to choose. Clemence played more often in the 1970s and Shilton ended up first choice for most of the 1980s, though there was a considerable period of overlap during which Ron Greenwood deliberately alternated between the two.
Though a more than capable shot-stopper, Clemence was one of those goalkeepers who read the game so well he did not always need to fling himself about the goalmouth. His anticipation usually meant he was in the right place at the right time, whether to collect a cross or to reach an attempt on goal. In his first full season at Anfield Liverpool equalled their own record of conceding only 24 goals in a 42-match campaign, and in 1978-79 they bettered that by some distance, winning the league while conceding only 16 goals.
That was not all Clemence’s doing as by the late-1970s Bob Paisley had a formidable side with an extremely organised defence, though there can be little doubt that the reassuring presence of an outstandingly reliable goalkeeper spread confidence through the team.
Clemence’s consistency was also remarkable – he missed no more than half a dozen games in racking up 665 appearances for Liverpool – but when Bruce Grobbelaar arrived as a signing for the future he took the opportunity to move south and join Spurs.
Though 33 at the time Clemence was still at the top of his game, as the £300,000 transfer fee Tottenham were happy to pay would confirm. Though many thought that price a little high for a swansong in the capital, Clemence proved the doubters wrong by playing well over 300 games for his new team.
He missed the 1984 Uefa Cup final against Anderlecht, watching from the bench as Tony Parks made the penalty shootout saves to secure victory, but was between the posts at Wembley as late as 1987, when Spurs lost to Coventry City in Clemence’s fifth FA Cup final.
When an achilles tendon injury forced him to stop playing later the same year, bringing an end to a playing career spanning more than two decades, Clemence joined the Tottenham coaching staff, and after a couple of years spent managing Barnet, he rejoined his former Spurs and England teammate Glenn Hoddle as goalkeeping coach for the national team.
He remained in that position under Keegan and Sven-Göran Eriksson, and though Fabio Capello brought over his own specialist from Italy, Roy Hodgson reinstated Clemence to the England position. He also worked as the FA’s head of development, with a brief to monitor and encourage the progress of the team.
Popular wherever he went, and even esteemed in retirement as was evident when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer 15 years ago, Clemence might have been unlucky to come to prominence with England at a time when the national side were in the doldrums and unable to qualify for World Cups, but he more than made up for it with a stellar club career. Of all the great players who performed so impressively for Shankly and Paisley, few proved as permanent a success story as Clemence and even fewer were able to win as much
By Richard Conway and David Lockwood
He was one of English football’s first black players and the British Army’s first ever black officer to command white troops.
But 100 years after he died aged 29 on the battlefields of World War One, the name Walter Tull means little to most people.
Tull was an orphan who had to overcome adversity all of his life, including being racially abused while a pioneering forward for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town.
His death received little media attention at the time, and it is only in recent years that his powerful story has started to be fully recognised, in large part due to the work of historian and biographer Phil Vasili.
A campaign for Tull to be awarded the Military Cross is ongoing, with renewed calls for the prime minister to intervene.
This is the forgotten story of a footballer and war hero.
The obituary of Walter Tull, 100 years on
Second Lieutenant Walter Tull died while engaged in combat near Arras in Northern France. He was 29.
In the early hours of 21 March 1918, a fog hung over much of the British line on the Western Front in France.
At 4.40am, a German bombardment began. It was of a different order to any that had come before it.
It marked the start of what became known as the German Spring offensive – a last throw of the dice to turn the war in their favour and score a decisive breakthrough.
Over the next five hours more than 6,600 German guns fired 3.5 million explosive shells on British positions. The sound could be heard as far away as London.
Into the midst of this death, destruction and chaos came Walter Tull, an officer of the British Army in spite of his “non-European” heritage, which should have barred such a commission.
With the British Army fighting a fierce rearguard defensive action, Tull was shot and killed.
Tull had played many roles throughout his short life: a brother, a son, an orphan, a footballer, a soldier, an officer and, finally, a war hero.
At every stage he had to overcome adversity and challenges – obstacles he refused to let define him.
Born in Folkestone, his young life was marked by tragedy when his mother, Alice, died of breast cancer when Tull was just seven.
Two years later, his father, Daniel, passed away of heart disease.
Daniel Tull had arrived in Britain from his native Barbados in 1876 having worked his way over as a ship’s carpenter.
The death of both parents left their children facing severe financial difficulties. Walter and his brother Edward were eventually taken in by an orphanage in Bethnal Green, part of an organisation known today as Action For Children.
“Walter and Edward found themselves in the most precarious and vulnerable position,” says the charity’s chief executive Carol Iddon.
“They were welcomed into a national children’s home, where staff encouraged Walter’s love of football – helping to shape both the life he would lead and the man he would become.”
The brothers were together and kept in contact with the rest of their family back in Folkestone.
Further trauma was to befall Tull, though, when he and his brother were separated through Edward’s adoption by a couple from Glasgow.
Now alone in the orphanage, Walter excelled at sport and went on to play for amateur team Clapton FC.
Spotted by Tottenham Hotspur, he was soon playing at White Hart Lane in front of crowds in the tens of thousands.
One of the first black players in the English game, he was subjected to terrible racial abuse. One newspaper report at the time described how, during a match at Bristol City in 1909, “a section of the crowd made a cowardly attack on him in language lower than Billingsgate”.
The reporter wrote: “Let me tell those Bristol hooligans that Tull is so clean in mind and method as to be a model for all white men who play football. In point of ability, if not actual achievement, Tull was the best forward on the field.”
His career at Spurs drifted following the racial abuse he suffered. Confined to the reserves, his fortunes were revived when Herbert Chapman signed him for Northampton Town in 1911 for a “substantial fee”.
He went on to play 111 games for the club before the outbreak of World War One took his life down a radically different path.
Tull enlisted with Middlesex Regiment, part of a ‘Footballers’ Battalion’ that drew professional players from a range of clubs.
He fought extensively in the war, at one stage being sent home suffering from “shell shock” – what today would be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder.
He returned to the conflict, having been made an officer, and served on the Italian Front from November 1917 to early March 1918.
It was here he was cited for his “gallantry and coolness” by Major-General Sydney Lawford, after leading 26 men on a night raid against an enemy position. He and his men crossed the cold River Piave into enemy territory before returning, all unharmed despite coming under heavy fire.
Major Poole, the commanding officer of the 23rd Middlesex Regiment, and 2nd Lt Pickard said Tull had been put forward for a Military Cross. Pickard wrote Tull “had certainly earned it”.
His family are still waiting for that medal to be awarded but Tull’s great nephew Ed Finlayson is keen that a renewed focus on Tull’s life focuses on more than the issue of the Military Cross.
“We have seen the creation of educational materials, publications, community projects, activities in the arts and sport – including dramas, plays, and documentaries – concerning Walter’s life and issues of inequality and discrimination,” he says.
“This year of centenary may provide a particular spotlight on his story and life.
“If aspects of his life have been helpful in supporting and promoting the need to challenge inequality and discrimination – and perhaps provided some encouragement in this endeavour – you hope this will not diminish once the centenary of his death has passed.”
Such activities have included the #Tull100 campaign , a government and Lottery-funded initiative that aims to use Tull’s story to boost community cohesion and inclusivity. A range of projects are taking place across the country backed by the Football Association, the Premier League and the EFL.
Tull’s death was therefore not the end of his impact on British society.
But he was not to know this in the chaos and confusion that followed the enormous German offensive of March 1918.
Such was the ferocity of the attack, the British Army had considered falling back to defend the Channel ports given the pressure they were under and the huge loss of life. British and French forces suffered a combined 250,000 casualties but, ultimately, the Germans ran out of momentum and the tide of the war was to eventually turn irrevocably against them by November that year.
On 25 March, Tull was shot and fatally wounded.
It is reported Private Tom Billingham – a former goalkeeper for Leicester Fosse – attempted to drag Tull’s body back to the British position so he could be buried. His efforts failed and Walter’s body lay in the soil of northern France, like so many that fought and died in the Great War.
Tull’s life is now commemorated at the Arras Memorial, meticulously maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves. His name is engraved along with 34,785 other soldiers with no known grave, who died in the area between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918.
A lasting memorial and remembrance garden in the shadow of Northampton Town’s stadium also remembers the life of one of Britain’s most unknown and under-appreciated heroes.
With thanks to Phil Vasili, Tull’s biographer and author of “Walter Tull – 1888 to 1918, Footballer and Officer” (London League Publications)
BBC Sport 23rd March 2018
By Wayne Veysey, Football Insider
Tottenham have been offered the chance to re-sign Christian Eriksen ahead of the January window, Football Insider has learned.
Inter Milan were keen to let their January signing head out on loan before the transfer window shut last month and will provide an even bigger window for interested teams to swoop going into the new year.
A recruitment source has told Football Insider that intermediaries have offered Eriksen to his former club Spurs as well as other leading Premier League sides.
Inter are keen to trim their wage bill and need to raise funds through player sales or offloading big earners on loan.
Eriksen fits into that category after joining in January for a fee of around £17million and landing a £200,000-a-week contract.
His form tailed off in his final half-season at Tottenham as speculation over his future appeared to have a negative effect on his influence.
The once nailed-on starter was in and out of the side, both under Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino before he was sacked last November.
At Inter, Eriksen has not made the impact that Antonio Conte and the Inter hierarchy had hoped.
He has failed to score or assist from his seven appearances this season, and was an unused substitute in yesterday’s 1-1 draw against Atalanta.
It is a far cry from his former status at Tottenham, where Eriksen developed into one of Europe’s top playmakers after signing from Ajax in 2013 when Andre Villas-Boas was manager.
Tottenham have already re-signed one club legend this summer when they completed the loan signing of Gareth Bale.
Well, this one just has all the classic ingredients for a Tottenham tragicomedy, doesn’t it?Continue reading “The Six Year Itch”
Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets Razgrad hope to make a “dream come true” by beating Premier League side Tottenham in Thursday’s Europa League tie, says interim manager Stanislav Genchev.
Spurs suffered a shock Group J defeat by Antwerp in their last match, while Ludogorets have lost both games so far.
“It’s a great privilege to play against a team like Tottenham,” said Genchev.
Spurs will be without Sergio Reguilon who is ill, with Erik Lamela and Serge Aurier also missing out.
Manager Jose Mourinho said both Lamela and Aurier had a “little problem” and did not want to risk either player.
Ludogorets are top of the Bulgarian league on goal difference, but have lost to Antwerp and LASK in Europe so far.
Genchev added: “They are famous around the world and it will be shown around the world if we manage to win.
“To play against Tottenham is a dream come true and it would be an even bigger dream to beat them.
“It doesn’t matter what the result in the first two games was, we will play the same way against Tottenham. We know they are one of the elite teams in Europe so it is a pleasure to play them.”
- Ludogorets and Tottenham have never previously met in European competition.
- This will be Ludogorets’ fifth game against English opposition, losing three of those other four matches, the other being a 2-2 draw at home to Liverpool in the Champions League in November 2014.
- Spurs had never previously faced Bulgarian opposition but will do so for the second time in the space of two months having already faced Lokomotiv Plovdiv during the qualification stages of this competition in September, winning 2-1 away from home.
- Ludogorets have only won one of their last 11 home matches in the Europa League (D4 L6), a 5-1 victory against CSKA Moscow in September 2019.
- Spurs have only lost back-to-back Europa League group stage games once previously, losing to Rubin Kazan and PAOK Salonika in November 2011.
By Miguel Delaney, The Independant
Mourinho has been branded yesterday’s man of late but Tottenham’s strong start to the season combined with a successful summer window has returned ‘the Special One’ of old that we have missed for too long.
“When I have five minutes, I am going to go on Safari, to see the Real Madrid websites and what they say.”
The wider reference is of course to the criticism Bale has got from the Spanish press, but it is the specific reference to the very type of internet explorer he uses that somehow raises it and adds that bit more spike.
Not Google Chrome or Firefox, or even just “online” – but Safari. That kind of attention to detail is actually a regular piece of Mourinho’s rhetorical style, and often elevates his unique brand of mischief.
It is also a reminder that, when it comes to this kind of thing, the Portuguese really remains the master. When he’s on form, he’s exceptionally funny. He knows how to deliver a line.
The issue is that was easy to forget because it’s been a while since we’ve really seen it. The majority of his time at Manchester United saw a figure who seemed prickly and grouchy, as if he wasn’t enjoying the job.
The last time we really saw him in this kind of form was probably six years ago, at the start of the 2014/15 season. That is not a coincidence, and carries a few parallels with this season.
It was his last true title challenge, and the last league championship he won, but also the last time he got exactly what he wanted in a transfer window – until now. That seems key to this.
As in the summer of 2020, the summer of 2014 saw Mourinho get all the signings he wanted, and almost forensically sort remaining issues in his team to really take them up a level. Chelsea secured the signings of Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis and just took off. The football played in the first four months of that season was among the best of Mourinho’s entire career – until now.
That isn’t a coincidence either.
In contrast to the attacking ideologues like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola that rule the game now, Mourinho believes in “guided discovery”, and likes attackers to figure out problems for themselves. This can pay off spectacularly when everyone is on form and in a good mood – not least the manager himself. It means they instinctively interchange, executing attacks that seem so integrated. Again, you only have to look at Son Heung-min and Harry Kane for proof.
This was Eden Hazard and Costa in 2014/15.
It reflects a content working environment. We are in that stage where Mourinho is in total command of a dressing room. Even some stories of players dissent – like those unhappy they have been dropped – hasn’t led to the usual stories of division, or unrest. They instead reflect his power.
This all feeds into his own contentment. He was generally thrilled with the business Daniel Levy did for him in the summer, which marked such a contrast from the frustration of so many windows with United.
Some would argue that was all that was really missing from his time at Old Trafford.
It seems all the more conspicuous as his side develop a rhythm and an ability to get results that sees them now run Liverpool closest.
We just shouldn’t run away with that theory either. While the first half of 2014/15 saw Chelsea build up enough of a lead to claim the title, it’s also true too many rivals were in transitional periods to properly challenge them.
The same factors that saw Leicester City win the title in 2015/16 were actually in play the season before.
The same factors that saw Mourinho suffer such a fall in 2015/16 were also seeded the season before. That is actually relevant to their current title challenge and – crucially – its sustainability.
That 2014/15 campaign was genuinely a season of two halves. Chelsea looked completely different in the last four months, and so much more constrained and cautious.
The real story of that season is that Mourinho lost his spell over the players when he started to endlessly go on about referees, and to try and convince his squad to push this line in the media. They found it unusually “obsessive” for a team soaring clear at the top. The 5-3 defeat at Spurs – coincidentally enough – also spooked him to the point he locked everything down.
Chelsea lost their momentum and thereby lost their verve. The main problem was that, when they lost form, they lost all attacking impetus. Without an ingrained system to fall back on, they looked predictable, and dull.
That wasn’t such an issue in what now feels a transitional period for the league around 2014. It became a real problem when the new super-managers began to arrive, and figures like Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte and a developing Mauricio Pochettino started to assert the influence.
The game had changed.
The wonder this season is how Mourinho and Spurs will react when the dynamics change, when they encounter problems and a drop-off in form. That is something this congested calendar will really test.
Right now, everything is going their way and almost everyone is happy. Mourinho will no doubt allow himself a smile when he goes through the Madrid sites on his search engine of choice.
What to make of that, then? Yet another sequence of three matches in seven days, one good performance resulting in a good win in Europe, one poor performance resulting in a vital win in the Premier League, and one poor performance resulting in a defeat that, in the great scheme of trying to win the Europa, really shouldn’t matter at all.Continue reading “It’s Not So Bad, It’s Not So Bad…”
By Jim White and Charles Richardson, The Telegraph
Jose Mourinho accepted the blame for his Tottenham Hotspur side’s defeat in Belgium. Asked why he had made four half-time substitutions, the manager said: “I wish I could have made 11. But I take full responsibility. I picked this team.”
He may have made the selection, but he was right to feel let down. With nine changes from the side who displayed such resolve at Burnley, giving opportunity to players such as Dele Alli and Steven Bergwijn to demonstrate why they should be regularly involved, he saw his starting XI playing as if they had been barely introduced.
Passes went astray, movement was limited, they were frequently caught dallying in possession. Good interactions too often broke down before they reached the opposition area. Like the one Gareth Bale instigated and Carlos Vinicius surrendered with a tame pass to an opponent. In the opening skirmishes, Bale had a couple of shots well wide, Giovani Lo Celso at least tested the goalkeeper Jean Butez, as did Bergwijn. But nothing in the way of genuine chances were likely to be forthcoming from a showing as lacklustre as this.
And, as Spurs stumbled, Antwerp provided telling evidence as to why they are unbeaten at home in 14 months. Unlike Mourinho, their manager Ivan Leko stuck to the 11 that secured three points against local rivals Beerschot at the weekend. And how familiarity had the upper hand. Ritchie De Laet, who won the Premier League with Leicester City, brilliantly organised the back three, forever getting in the way of Tottenham initiatives.
Up the other end of the pitch, they used their wing-backs to drive in behind the visitors’ defence: Simen Juklerod twice got in down the left, while Koji Miyoshi was a regular threat down the right, one incursion requiring Harry Winks to scrabble a cross behind.
With Spurs so far off the pace they appeared to be playing walking football, the inevitable happened. Dieumerci Mbokani caught Ben Davies lingering on the ball, piled forward and squared to Lior Refaelov. The Israeli international had clearly been studying the way Marcus Rashford finishes and leathered the ball past Hugo Lloris.
Furiously applying several underlinings to his notes as he watched, Mourinho brought on the half-time cavalry in the shape of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Eric Lamela, Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min.
“I tried to improve the situation, but it was not enough,” he explained afterwards. “The dynamic of the first half was still there. In the end, Antwerp got what they deserved and we got what we deserved.”
Indeed, the purpose of wholesale change was almost immediately undermined after a poor back pass by Winks sent Refaelov charging in on goal once more. A brilliant sliding tackle from Davinson Sanchez saved the blushes. Moments later Miyoshi got in behind yet again and somehow Mbokani spooned his invitation of a cross over the crossbar from no more than a yard out. The other wing back Juklerod then obliged Lloris to save sharply.
At which point, Mourinho had seen enough and sent on Harry Kane to replace the wholly peripheral Bale. But even the appearance of the team’s talisman could not alter the game’s trajectory. Sure, propelled by Hojbjerg’s forward passes, chances began to appear. Lamela found Son with a cross, but Abdoulaye Seck superbly closed him down even as he shot goalwards. Serge Aurier’s searching cross was then missed by a diving Lamela.
And, as Antwerp pressed and squeezed, insistently closing down the space in which Spurs could operate, the break was always on. Indeed, Juklerod should have scored after barrelling through from the halfway line. Instead, he hammered the ball into an empty stand. And the substitute Birger Verstraete required a combination of Davies and Sanchez to keep him out as he eased towards goal.
Even as a burst of fireworks exploded in premature celebration behind a stand, the refashioned Spurs tried to restore the natural order. As time ran out, Winks danced through, but fired over, the outstanding De Laet somehow got in the way of a goal-bound Son shot, while Seck threw several parts of his body in front of Kane’s effort. So it was that Antwerp stayed resolute, their red wall defence refusing to yield, to secure a famous victory.
For Spurs it was not a defeat terminal to their chances of progress; they have sufficient remaining fixtures in this competition easily to get back on track. But it may signal the end of some of Mourinho’s fringe players featuring getting another start.
“You know what our best team is,” the manager said, when asked who might be playing in the game against Brighton on Sunday. “I like to think that the players deserve an opportunity, we have a big squad, it is my responsibility to give them opportunity. But it is also their responsibility to catch the chance with both hands. You always ask me why this player or that player is not playing. Now maybe you know the answer. After tonight my future choices are going to be very easy.”
By Simon Stone BBC Sport
Tottenham goalkeeper Joe Hart says team-mate Harry Kane is virtually faultless.
Hart, 33, was part of the England squad when Kane was called up for the first time in 2015, and recognised the striker’s ability then.
But he says his appreciation of the 27-year-old is greater now they are club-mates.
Kane has been involved in 13 goals already this season – more than any other player has managed in the first six games of a Premier League campaign.
“He has always had that ability,” said Hart.
“I struggle to find a fault with Harry. He is absolutely brilliant. Every single pass, every single shot, every single decision.
“He is such a team player. His leadership is doing it, which is often more important than being vocal.
“We have seen how selfless he is. He is a special player and I love being in the same team as him.”
Hart on choosing Tottenham
Hart joined Tottenham in the summer on a two-year deal after his Burnley contract expired. It was initially thought he would move to a club where he would be first choice but opted to join Spurs after talking to manager Jose Mourinho.
Hart: “I crave football. I realised I just love being at the top. I love being around a club where you play three games a week and if you don’t win it is a big deal.
“I am not stupid. That opportunity was not going to come in a given number one slot. After working out what Jose wanted from his squad and what he thought I could bring to it, it matched what I thought.
“I haven’t come to shake it up. I have come to make Tottenham better.”
Hart on trusting Mourinho
After Mourinho was sacked by Manchester United, critics suggested his best days were behind him. However, Tottenham extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches by winning at Burnley on Monday – their best run since early 2018.
Hart: “Jose is very clever at how he works the media. He is a different guy in his own environment, with his own players. He asks you to give your best and show your quality. That is how I work.
“I don’t claim to be the most talented guy in the world but I will give it everything.
“Trust works both ways. He definitely gives that and I enjoy working with him.”
Hart on learning to win
Having been part of the Manchester City squad that grew from a mid-table side to Premier League winners in the space of six years, Hart knows what it takes to win. His current employers have not won a trophy since 2008.
Hart: “We are moving in the right direction. Jose inherited a good team and he has made some shrewd additions.
“There is a big difference between saying you want to win something and showing and believing and doing the right things to put yourself in the best position to win.
“Where you want to be is when all the finals are over and the Premier League is finished, everyone can look at each other and say we left nothing out there and threw everything at it.”
Hart was speaking to present and retired armed services personnel in an event set up in the absence of the normal Remembrance Day commemoration at Spurs’ stadium next month.
Gary Neville believes “every team in the world” would sign Son Heung-min given the opportunity.
The Korean scored the winner for Tottenham Hotspur against Burnley on Monday.
It was the latest instance of the 28-year-old’s phenomenal form this season, with 10 goals and four assists in all competitions leaving Neville in awe.
“I think Son is so understated and he doesn’t get the glitz of some of the other top players in the league,” Neville said on Monday Night Football on Sky Sports.
“He is an absolutely amazing player Son, he is a brilliant player. It’d be a nightmare to play against him he makes all the right runs.
“You talk about Sterling regularly, we talk about Mane and Salah at Liverpool, he’s right there with them. If he was at Liverpool or City he’d be doing what those lads are doing.
“When Son was out last season he was a huge miss. As I said before the game he doesn’t get the credit.
“I think Jose Mourinho was asked a question last week about when does he become world class Son and Jose said he was already there.
Kane and Son’s ‘nice little partnership’ has Spurs going places
Kane provided Son with a seventh goal of the season as Tottenham beat Burnley at Turf Moor
“They’re (Kane and Son) brilliant together, brilliant players and I think every team in the world would take Son. There isn’t a team in Europe or in the Premier League that wouldn’t take him.”
Jamie Carragher then suggested that Manchester City and Liverpool would look at Son should they ever lose Raheem Sterling, Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah.
Neville responded: “I absolutely agree and you said that if Mane or Salah was out for Liverpool and they could pick any player in the league it would be him (Son).”
If it wasn’t for twelve pesky minutes, what a promising week that would have been.
Even those twelve pesky minutes weren’t completely devoid of excuses – I felt Bale should have had a penalty for Yarmolenko’s double-handed shove without any attempt to play the ball as our returning Welsh-wonder burst through and looked as if he would make it 4-2 in injury time.Continue reading “The Mad World of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs”
Football stadiums are of course not the same without the fans that create the incredible atmosphere inside them.
However, if there’s one tiny positive to take from the empty grounds it’s the ability to hear what the players and managers are saying to one another.
That was certainly the case during and after Tottenham’s Europa League victory against LASK on Thursday night.
The very design of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is meant to amplify the noises within, so without the fans and their wonderful chants and varied reactions, so it is those performers on the stage itself that you can hear loud and clear.
The loudest man by far at Spurs is Joe Hart. Put simply the man does not shut up.
He shouts, organises and bellows from before the first whistle until the final one and at one point the 33-year-old even yelled: “He’s behind you.”
Those of us fortunate enough to be inside the stadium suddenly weren’t sure whether this was a pantomime or a football match.
So constant and loud is the stream of words coming from Hart as he talks everyone through the game, you do wonder whether the defenders and those ahead that he’s shouting at take it all or in or switch off at times.
To be fair to the former England international, Spurs did register their first clean sheet of the season with him between the sticks so it did the trick.
Hugo Lloris is also a talker, not to the degree of Hart, but you can hear him without the crowd when perhaps before he gave the impression of a leader by example rather than words.
Then there is Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese is a bundle of energy and contrasting emotions as he patrols his technical area like a prowling tiger.
He praises – “Bravo” being his favourite word – and the players will hear his voice if there is a ball to chase down and be won and they’ll soon learn of his happiness or displeasure depending on whether they put in the effort he expected.
Carlos Vinicius got plenty of coaching through the game from Mourinho, some in their shared Portuguese, some in the English the Brazilian is attempting to learn.
The Spurs manager’s playing down of the 25-year-old’s performance after the game, while acknowledging it was a decent debut, surprised some Tottenham fans but it was in keeping with his mixed reactions on the touchline.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is another big talker, mostly encouraging around the pitch and he likes to use Mourinho’s favourite “bravo” word.
He likes a hug does the Dane or at least an arm around the shoulder. Everyone gets one pre-match and sometimes during if they need a pick up. He’s the same in training.
Then there are nicknames. It became clear on Thursday night that the Spurs players have decided to refer to Sergio Reguilon as “Reggy”.
That’s a hard ‘G’ like Peggy. Presumably it’s to set him apart in the heat of battle from Serge Aurier. Nobody has the time to work out whether Serge and Sergio was shouted in a top flight football match.
It’s not just about nicknames and instructions, the lack of background noise also means you can hear the player’s banter.
Gareth Bale might be a world star and the returning hero at Tottenham Hotspur, but that doesn’t mean Serge Aurier won’t try to distract him and make him laugh while he’s doing interviews.
The Ivorian was heading out to go through the warm down for the unused substitutes.
He was alongside Tanguy Ndombele when the pair started giggling and looking across at Bale as he went through his interviews at the pitchside following his second full debut for the club.
Then Aurier started to repeatedly shout out, in the highest pitch possible, “Gareth, Gareth” while the Welshman was speaking to the various media outlets.
He must have done it about six or seven times, with increasing volume, to leave most of the press box and groundstaff around the stadium laughing but not a thing from Bale, who remained straight faced and ever the professional.
So while the fans are missed enormously, and those inside the stadium are no longer part of that collective roar, the eerie silence does at least let you enter the realm of the players and hear what goes on between them, the frustration, fun and delight.
I’ve got a little bit of time off to take in the weeks ahead, which has built up over the strangest of years and that long transfer window, so this newsletter is going to take a little hiatus before returning next month.
Don’t worry, it will be back with a vengeance with plenty of little trips inside Tottenham Hotspur as the games come thick and fast after the international break.
Catch you later,
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho believes he can keep up his 100 per cent record in the Europa League by winning his third title this season.
The Portuguese has competed in Europe’s second-tier competition twice and won it both times – with Porto in 2003 and Manchester United 2017.
Tottenham host Austrian side LASK in their Group J opener on Thursday.
“We’re going to try,” Mourinho said. “It is difficult, it is a very long competition, the group phase is tricky.
“Then you go to the knockouts and you get teams coming from the Champions League which is very unfair.
“If you play Champions League and you don’t qualify you go home. In the Europa League group phase if you finish third you go home, you don’t have another competition to play.”
Spurs return to the competition after three seasons in the Champions League.
“So the record in the Europa League is great, never knocked out. Of course, lost a few matches in the group phase but managed always to win it,” added Mourinho.
Spurs reached the Champions League final in 2019 when they lost to Liverpool under then manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Mourinho did not say whether Gareth Bale would start against the Austrian side and only confirmed that centre-back Davinson Sanchez would be in his starting XI.
Bale came on as a 72nd-minute substitute in Sunday’s 3-3 draw with West Ham in the Premier League for his first appearance since returning to the club in a loan deal from Real Madrid.
- Mourinho – Nobody plays better than Spurs with the ball
- Jose Mourinho says Tottenham were not ‘Spursy’ against West Ham
Defensive duo Eric Dier and Japhet Tanganga are both injured, but Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso are set to return after missing the 3-3 draw with West Ham.
LASK reached the Europa League round-of-16 last season, where they were beaten 7-1 on aggregate by Manchester United.
The second leg of that tie, a 2-1 loss at Old Trafford, was their first match under boss Dominik Thalhammer. They made it into this season’s group stage via a 4-1 play-off win at Sporting Lisbon.
Spurs return to the Europa League – The best of the stats
- This will be Spurs’ first match against LASK. They have faced Austrian opposition on four previous occasions, beating Stockerau twice and Austria Vienna once (D1).
- Spurs were eliminated by Gent at the last-32 stage in their most recent Europa League season (2016-17). They have successfully navigated the group stages with each of their last four attempts since failing in 2011-12.
- LASK’s only previous meeting with English opposition was a 7-1 aggregate defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the last-16 of this competition last season.
- LASK finished top of a group containing Sporting, PSV Eindhoven and Rosenborg last season, earning 13 points.
- Spurs striker Harry Kane has scored 28 goals in 50 appearances in major European competition, though he has failed to score in his last four matches in the Europa League.
When the stewing over the draw against West Ham is over, Jose Mourinho can take heart from a talisman and team that looked as in sync as they ever have done
Sport Feature Writer, The Independant
This might seem a bit like raving about the sinks in the ensuite bathrooms on the Titanic… but did you see Harry Kane’s defensive header in the 94th minute?
With Tottenham Hotspur clinging on to a 3-2 lead, Kane rose to clear an Aaron Creswell free-kick aimed for the runs across the near post made by Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice. It wasn’t the first header of that nature for Kane. Though Spurs’ third goal came from the same forehead, you could argue that, in the moment, this was the most important header of them all.
What immediately followed was, well, unfortunate – for Kane, Spurs and this intro. A tame flick away from Harry Winks and a cultured rasp of Manuel Lanzini’s right foot consigned this bit of responsible donkey work to the stats sheet, where it’ll forever be eclipsed by the sexier 3-3 scoreline that effectively captures the absurdity of West Ham flipping a match in which they were 3-0 behind with eight minutes of normal time to go.
It was one of three clearances made by Kane, if you were wondering. Part of five interventions in the box that included throwing himself in the way of an attempt from Vladimir Coufal at the end of the first half.
That block at the time felt like a real hallmark moment in Kane’s Sunday performance. A moment to shout “Bingo” after you had already ticked off the two goals, the 60-yard raking assist and the gimme of the captain’s armband. This was all that was left on your Roy Of The Rovers card.
It ended up being all for nothing. Or rather, just a point. But it was instructive that Jose Mourinho refused to lay into his team for their late collapse. “It’s easy for me to praise them [West Ham] than to criticise us,” said Mourinho, though he did lament a mental fragility at the death. “My guys were not strong enough to cope with it psychologically and in the last few seconds we lost two points.”
By now, Kane was low down on the agenda. But when the stewing over this result has been completed, Mourinho can take heart from a talisman and team that looked as in sync as they ever have done.
That’s more to do with the rest rather than Kane. Dropping back is nothing new – though all the way into defence is a tad excessive – and the criticism of that particular move was as much down to losing a threat in an attacking position as it was about losing Kane in an attacking position.
Now he has the accomplices to cover for his sojourns into midfield. Not just Son Heung-Min, with whom he has combined with for 28 Premier League goals – the fourth-most of any duo – but whoever occupies the other wing, whether that’s Steve Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela, too. On Sunday, further assistance came from full-backs Sergio Reguilon and Serge Aurier, and, for the final 18 minutes, Gareth Bale.
Even Tanguy Ndombele, the forwardmost of the three in midfield, found himself moving further on, with and without the ball. There was a point in the 19th minute when the Frenchman carried the ball forward and had four options in front of him – and none of them was his captain.
Kane still did the traditional centre-forward stuff, too. When Spurs defenders hit the ball long rather than over the top, he was the one tussling with Angelo Ogbonna in aerial duels. When transitions were not so slick, his 6ft 2in frame came in handy to shield possession. He even played off the shoulder a couple of times and ended up being the only Spurs player caught offside in part because Son could not find the speed and execution of pass to set him off.
In a literal sense, the 27-year-old was everywhere and at the heart of everything good for the hosts. But it is worth considering if that ended up being the problem.
Kane visibly tired during the second-half, walking up the field on a handful of occasions following shifts further back. It meant the ball spent more time in front of him and less at his feet – the latter a particular struggle for Moussa Sissoko and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who used that time to set themselves as the foundations on the pitch. Thus, Spurs lost their structure and West Ham were allowed to keep themselves in the game.
Of course, maybe that’s being a bit too galaxy brain about it all, and maybe why space is needed to ensure those final 12 minutes do not cloud judgement on whether the good and not so good are intrinsically bound.
Mourinho was probably right not to swallow the bait whole when asked if this was solely down to complacency. Granted, it is hard to take his words at face value, but there was a whiff of sincerity in his view that this group of players have evolved.
“Even defensively the team is much better than before. Even defensively we are much stronger but in the lat part of the game this happens and sometimes it’s difficult to explain.”
What follows is a favourable set of fixtures for Spurs, with three of the bottom six over the coming weeks and then Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool in the next four. By then we will have a better idea of how sustainable this system is, and whether Sunday’s late aberration was just football being football in 2020.
One thing we can be sure of after five goals and seven assists (and a few clearing headers) in five league matches is that Kane is, probably, the most complete forward in the game right now.
By Jason Birt, The Telegraph
When Gareth Bale ran on to Harry Kane’s pass in injury-time, cut across Angelo Ogbonna and had only Lukasz Fabianski to beat, the goal and the headlines beckoned. The story was clear. The dream debut. Except Bale sent his shot wide and, seconds later, this incredible sport delivered another and very different ending as West Ham claimed the most unlikely point in the history of the Premier League.
Never before has a team not lost when they were three goals down in the 81st minute and, yet, 13 minutes later another substitute Manuel Lanzini struck an arresting 25-yard first-time shot that hit the angle of post and cross-bar and dropped over the line. It was the final kick of this remarkable game.
Cue the jokes. Has the curse of Bale struck again? In his first 24 league matches for Spurs, stretching over two years, he failed to be on the winning side and the manager, Harry Redknapp, was so keen to end that sequence in 2009 that he put him on with his team 4-0 up against Burnley in the 85th minute. They won.
Bale came on in the 71st minute here after his season-long loan from Real Madrid was secured in an attempt to bring some joy back into his career. Precisely 2,709 days after he last played – and scored – for Spurs in 2013 he was back and it seemed certain he would be tasting victory amid claims that once again Jose Mourinho may just be about to mount a title challenge.
How that changed and how the first 16 minutes, when Spurs were unstoppable and Harry Kane seemed determined to remind everyone who deserved top billing, seemed a distant memory as Lanzini ripped off his shirt and West Ham manager David Moyes admitted he had his own “David Pleat moment” as he danced on to the pitch in celebration.
Before kick-off all the focus was so much on Bale that perhaps even West Ham forgot about Kane. They – and everyone else – were given an emphatic reminder of the devastation he can cause as the striker scored twice and claimed a superb assist which set up Son Heung-min.
With their first passage of meaningful possession Spurs scored. Kane collected the ball and arced a wonderful long pass forward that swung into the path of Son allowing him to cut across Fabian Balbuena and curl his right-foot shot beyond Fabianski. Just 45 seconds had elapsed and it was Kane’s ninth assist of the season – six of those for Son.
The second goal came with Kane again instigating the move with another excellent pass, this time to Steven Bergwijn, and when he eventually regained possession he first nutmegged Declan Rice on the edge of the West Ham penalty area before striking a low shot through Ogbonna’s legs to beat Fabianski.
Kane’s third was more routine but was again expertly taken as West Ham allowed Sergio Reguilón the time and space to stand up a cross beyond the far post and not one of their three central defenders was close to Kane as he rose to guide a header back beyond Fabianski.
Game over, surely? West Ham came into this fixture buoyed by two wins but were being swept aside and it only appeared a matter of time before Bale would come on to complete a perfect afternoon for Spurs.
The only problem was it ignored the fact that West Ham were much better after the first-half and delivered warning after warning that something could happen. Indeed had Moyes borrowed that line from his mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, who, according to Roy Keane, once said “lads, it’s Tottenham” by way of a team-talk? Even so when Pablo Fornals headed over the bar from just two yards out after Michail Antonio’s shot spun up what followed would have seemed inconceivable.
It was even more inconceivable when Son teed up Kane whose first-time shot from the edge of the area beat Fabianski but struck the outside of the post. A goal then and a Kane hat-trick would have ended of any lingering doubt. Kane and Son are such a potent combination that it will be interesting to see how Mourinho integrates Bale.
Suddenly it switched and it was even more impressive from West Ham given the stadium was empty and there was not the usual swirl of emotion and anxiety to play on Spurs’ nerves. Mourinho will have to dwell on that and ponder how, given the undoubted strengthening of his squad, they were unable to see this game through. This was ‘Spursy’ but it was not Mourinho-esque and he will not accept it.
Still, surely it was just a consolation when Moussa Sissoko allowed Balbuena to reach an Aaron Cresswell free-kick and head the ball past Hugo Lloris? On the touchline, though, Moyes, back after a period of self-isolation, clearly thought differently and bellowed at his players to get the ball for a quick re-start.
The haste was rewarded as ubstitute Andriy Yarmolenko slipped a pass to Vladimir Coufal who crossed only for Davinson Sánchez to intervene and inadvertently send another header past Lloris.
Incredibly there was tension in front of the vacant seats and it was palpable as panic began to spread for Spurs before Bale was given the chance to ease it. Instead he missed and lay on the turf in disappointment. Even so time was against West Ham but they earned one last free-kick which was only cleared by Harry Winks, under pressure, as far as Lanzini who instinctively let fly. Lloris got a hand to it but it was not enough and the injury-ravaged West Ham forward scored the kind of goal that Spurs fans have seen in the past from Bale.