I had planned on holding off writing this match report until Monday morning which would’ve given me the time to have had a decent night’s sleep, would’ve permitted the alcohol to have worn off and would’ve probably given me the opportunity to reflect on the proceedings in a more rational and mature manner.
Fuck that though.
Dele Alli’s a massive bastard who deserves to have his face removed with an envelope opener, Harry Kane’s jaw is a physical anomaly that will baffle archaeologists thousands of years from now and Moussa Sissoko is a non-entity who deserves to live an eternally unfulfilling and miserable life.
Pre-kick off my optimism levels were up to Defcon 1* and, although I may be getting all misty-eyed and nostalgic here due to the booze and my general faith in the goodness of my fellow man, the lads I spent the day with seemed similarly enthused as to our chances of getting something from Spurs. Having the fortune/misfortune (delete as appropriate to you) of living and working in London with several Spurs fans I got the impression from them that their team was there for the taking. A section of the support was annoyed that they hadn’t gone out and strengthened and quite a few were very upset with Danny Rose’s comments only a few days before the start of the season.
Arriving at the stadium was a treat. The flags looked stunning and the atmosphere seemed to be one of hope and relief. Finally, after the longest pre-season ever recorded since records began, footbaaaal was back and equilibrium was restored to people’s weekends.
The team selection, in my opinion, was bang on. Seeing Gayle named in the starting 11 was a real moment of joy. The first few minutes saw us playing with a bit of urgency but the game then quickly settled in to the pattern that it was always going to follow with Spurs dominating possession but being contained and not looking particularly threatening. Dummett went off with a hamstring injury after 7 minutes, Lascelles came on and Clark went to LB. The reshuffle didn’t change the pattern of play and I think the general feeling was that the team was doing what Rafa had asked of them. Lejeune looked assured, calm and very composed. One interception in particular, bringing the ball down and playing it out to feet, had me so excited that my voice regressed to pre-pubescence.
And then in the 35th minute Kane clobbered him. As I write this I’m convinced it was a two-footed tackle which was so severe and violent it ought to lead to Kane doing a 3 year stretch in Durham, only surviving daily beatings by hiding fellow prisoners’ contraband in his massive underbite. However, the ref gave him a yellow card, which is dead nice and all that, but Flo-Jeu went off to be replaced by Mbemba and our back 4 was reshuffled again. Early reports indicate that Wor Flo might have ligament damage, the thought of which is making me want to punch myself in the face on this train. I hope I’m wrong so I’ll save the self-flagellation for now. The rest of the first half played itself out and there was a general feeling at half-time that, aye, we could nick this. Atsu looked dangerous and we’d managed to restrict Spurs to a couple of Eriksen long range efforts despite their dominance of possession.
And then Shelvey got sent off for being a stupid manchild. We had the free-kick and Jonjo reacted to the fact that Alli pushed the ball away. Now, don’t get me wrong, Alli is up there with Mugabe, Trump, Erdogan and that Hungarian Prime Minister in terms of how much of an absolute bastard he is but Shelvey shouldn’t have done what he did. The fact that he did do it, and was sent off for it, led to Micky of the TF Podcast stating that as a minimum Shelvey might as well have damaged Alli. A Spurs supporting mate texted the same thing. I’m no advocate of violence but I can see the logic.
Spurs finished second last season and absolutely battered teams towards the end of it. With Shelvey going off I think the consensus changed from ‘we could nick this’ to ‘a 0-0 draw would be a good result’. The inevitable happened and Alli scored. It was a shit goal and boring move and, like Spurs’ second goal requires ZERO comment.
We created a couple of decent chances. Atsu testing Lloris and Clark (who looked comfortable at LB) going close. However, I think we all knew that at 1 down with only 10 men we were probably done which is a real shame as we had competed up to that point and, even after Shelvey’s red card, the team didn’t look deflated or defeated. Under any of our 3 previous managers that would’ve been a 4-0 job.
The full-time whistle went. I didn’t sense any negative vibes where I was standing. There were certainly reasons to be positive. Atsu had a cracking game, Lejeune looked good until Kane attempted to murder him, Merino had some good touches when he came on and, for me, the revelation was Manquillo. He’s obviously ridiculously poor because that’s what SAFC fans have told us but he looked assured, passed and moved intelligently, and put in tackles. There’s potential there, no doubt. The singing section was boisterous and incessant and hopefully it’ll grow and grow and impact positively on the rest of the stadium as the season progresses.
We all know that Rafa as a minimum wants a striker and a keeper before the window closes and, should he get who he wants, there’s no reason for us not to think we’ll be alright this season. However, as I write this I’ve not yet seen the full Ashley interview so all this optimism may have completely disappeared by the time this is published and I’ll be lying foetal on the decking in the back garden, crying. For now though Huddersfield and West Ham can’t come quick enough.
NUFC man of the match – Manquillo (closely followed by Hayden).
Spurs man of the match – don’t care as they’re harbouring war criminals.
*Defcon 1 – The DEFCON scale uses a minimum of 5 (for normal peacetime status) and a maximum of 1 (for situations of global severity, like nuclear war). Using this scale it’s clear I was very excited.
Norman Riley @likethegoat
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