So, three wins in seven days following that narrow City-slicking, and off we trot to Palace for a game that’s likely to be another huge test, even though the Eagles are perched in fourteenth and have lost seven and drawn two of their opening eleven games, with both wins coming away from home (v Fulham and Huddersfield, who are, respectively, bottom and third bottom right now).
Their two points from draws have come at Selhurst, though – nil-nil v Newcastle and two-all v Goons (via two penalties – Palace are yet to score from open play in the Prem so far this season, so are no doubt looking forward to Charity Spurs rolling up and gifting a first).
When I heard Palace were gimping the Gooners one-nil I immediately rushed off to the telly to sit and gloat through the second half, then switched off in disgust eight minutes later with the Gooners two-one up: Similarly clueless, I’ve not even seen the highlights from their 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge last weekend, so have no idea if they deserved to pull level through Townsend in the 53rd minute before going on to England-Hodgson it up.
The only game of theirs I’ve seen more than a few minutes of this season was their home loss to the Dippers in the second round of fixtures: Whether it’s Crystanbul or memories of the 1990 FA Cup Semi-Final, I have happy associations with Palace V Dips games so it’s one I always try to watch if it’s on TV. Despite the nil-twoing, I thought they gave a good account of themselves: Once Palace were reduced to ten men around the 75th minute, Liverpool always looked as if they had a breakaway second goal in them, but Palace also looked just as capable of levelling the game too.
All of which suggests we’re not going to have it easy today, and Palace away, to my mind, is one of those fixtures where spineless Spurs often fail to make their quality count and, more often than not, come away with a draw or defeat because they’ve failed to work as hard as the opposition and earn the right to play their own game.
When I checked my facts, though, I found this isn’t the case: Last season, we won a very tight game one-nil courtesy of a Harry Kane header (from a corner! We scored from a corner!) in the 88th minute. The week before that, we’d beaten Arsenal one-nil at Wembley, so this was definitely one of those games I’d have looked at and thought, yep, we’re going to drop points at Palace, that’s what Spurs do after a really good win. Then, the previous season, when we were the last team applying pressure to Chelsea, a Christian Eriksen 30-yarder saw us chalk up another one-niller and keep the gap down to four in yet another game I’d have expected us to lose.
I might be a dumb-dumb, but I’m a pessimistic dumb-dumb most of the time.
As for the season before that, we travelled to Selhurst in what, to me, seemed a sticky patch of form. We’d narrowly lost to Leicester at home two games before (Kane smashed the bar in the second-half; Huth found the back of the net with a towering header from an 83rd minute corner), and then played out a dreadful first-half against Fat Sam’s Sunderland, going behind to a van Aanholt goal in the 40th minute, before promptly waking up with an Eriksen leveller two minutes later and three unanswered second-half goals. It was one of those games, on that dark pit of despair and angst flat-oeufers first ascended from, where the team were treated to dog’s abuse for the first half and like the dog’s bollocks in the second, though I thought the level of performance was pretty poor all the way through, and what was really required was patience and quiet appreciation of a young team under a young manager finding its legs after a gut-punch of a defeat against Leicester.
And then off we trotted to Palace, January 23rd 2016, where a Verts own-goal brought an end to an eight hour goal drought for Palace, their last goal having come against Stoke in the middle of December (Charity Spurs, once again – there is no way on flat oeuf we’re keeping a clean sheet this weekend – my money is on a Davies or Sanchez own goal within the first seven minutes). Kane pulled us level just after the hour, but, for Verts, to add injury to insult, Connor Wickham took exception to his shirt-pulling exploits and smashed him in the face with an elbow. Off he went, on came Wimmer, Palace hit the bar twice in quick succession, and up stepped Alli with that beautifully improvised flick and smash into the bottom corner of Hennessy’s goal from the edge of the area in the 84th minute, all topped off by a great goal from Chadli in the 95th. All in all, one of the best games I’ve ever seen Spurs involved in, and the first one post-Christmas I can remember taking a breath at the end of and thinking ‘we might actually have a chance of winning the league’, a belief which grew as we won our next four (including that two-one win at the Etihad where Eriksen scored late on) until those pesky pikeys peed on our chips and we let a two-one lead against ten-man Gooners slip in the following game, all while the rest of the league began to roll over for fairy-tale Leicester and up their game against us.
So, all in all, we have to go back to Poch’s first season in charge to find our last league surrender at Selhurst. This, though, finally fits the narrative I had in my mind when I first started typing: On new-year’s day, we stuffed Chelsea five-three at The Lane, one of the first performances under Poch which suggested he might really have something about him. In our next Prem fixture, on the tenth of January, we lost an entertaining game at Selhurst two-one, allowing them to end a run of eight league games without a win, allowing all-round smug-git Alan Pardew to celebrate his first game as Palace manager by waving that ever smug fist of his around in the air, and all despite Kane giving us the lead with his 18th goal in a break-through season he would sadly never replicate, fading away like Gary Docherty and a host of others before him: If only he hadn’t been a one-season wonder, where might Tottenham be now?
Hmm. Probably back above the Gooners (who find themselves in that usually Spursy position of having made their best start in ages and yet still somehow looking up at their underperforming north London neighbours), fourth in the league, and still in with a (faint) shout of progressing from a difficult CL group despite a lack of investment and not having had a home-ground for a season and a half: That’s probably about right where we’d be.
We’d also be three points better off than we were this time last season after the equivalent number of games and one point better off than in games against the same opposition: This time last season, we’d just narrowly squeaked Palace one-nil at ‘home’ and were about to let ourselves down miserably at The Emirates in a two-nil no-show. This was the first of a four-match winless streak in the league I trace directly back to our heroics against Real Madrid just before we played Palace – I’ve always thought the major weakness so far with Poch’s Tottenham is a tendency to follow a peak performance with a trough of sub-standard ones. So far this season, there have been no peak performances, so no subsequent trough of sub-standard results. If we can pick up all three points against Palace tonight, it’s Chelsea at ‘home’ and Arsenal away, with Inter Milan in-between, and we’ll finally be able to judge whether this team has been ‘getting away with it’ or really does deserve to be in the mix for another great league campaign and in with a better than faint chance of progressing in the CL.
Being a pessimistic dumb-dumb, I’m expecting us to blow it tonight and then coast to victories in the next three. I’m also hoping for Poch’s Tottenham to prove me wrong for the fourth season on the trot, though, with a clean sheet and the sort of nice tidy three-nil away win last week’s visit to Molineux fleetingly threatened to be.