The summer sun is great for a lazy Sunday afternoon: eating an ice cream as you walk the promenade; a frisbee getting stuck in a tree as a kid screams his lungs out; a petulant teenager watching his cricket bat circle the earth after being cleaned bowled.
And so it was at St James Park. Everyone was enjoying the sunshine. There was so much sunshine at Newcastle, the locals thought it was an eclipse.
The Newcastle team were playing very cautiously, all behind the ball as if it was a crucial Champions League away game (can hear the music already). Only it wasn’t. It was the first game of the season and in front of their home fans. Over 50,000. A full house.
Tottenham were controlling the tempo and it was a slow one. With the heat they were playing a patient game, stroking it about, looking for a space or a special movement. There wasn’t much in the first half as Newcastle rarely threatening to get out of their half when Tottenham had possession. They were busy in their half, rushing here and there, working on their allotments, a bit of weeding, planting, maybe some water for the sun stroke plants.
I am having a go at Newcastle because, in front of their own fans, they should’ve showed more attacking endevour. In fact they had the two best half chances of the first half when Gayle got behind the Spurs defence and got into scoring positions. Only for his attempts to be poor and wasteful.
The best news from the first half was the debut of Walker-Peters (yes I kept messing up his name on the podcast – these double barrel names are confusing, as if it’s some kind of 19th century novel about owners of big country estates – books that I hate and never read). He looked quick and in tune with the flow of the match and kept the right side well guarded. An offside flag stopped him from giving away a penalty, but he did recover and made a couple of excellent saves that dulled any Newcastle danger. His positioning was naturally quite conservative for his debut game. A word from Poch and he was consistently forward in the second half. Nice if someone passed to him though. His name will shortly cover the backs of many a Spurs shirt. Luckily the days of paying per letter are long gone or there would be an almighty swear a thon when the parent saw the final bill in the Spurs shop.
Yes talking about names on the back of shirts does mean that the first half was mostly uneventful. Two sides wary of making a mistake so early in the season. Though I did enjoy some of Dembele’s play.
The second half came around and it wasn’t long before that dark lane GBH street urchin Shelvey did what he does best – get in some right stupid dirty play. This time he tried to hide an ankle stamp on Dele in front of the eyes of the referee. Too easy for the ref. And in the words of the old FIFA games “he’s off for an early bath”. With his reputation every referee will always keep a special eye on him. Even if he had done it waiting in the pie shop queue, the ref would’ve spotted it. It was that obvious. Ritchie then got stuck in on Dele. And he got booked for his heroic stupidity.
With one less Newcastle player I don’t think made it easier for Tottenham. There was still an awfully lot of players behind the ball. The change came when Son entered the fray. He is purely an attacking player and with an attacking option on the pitch, Spurs lifted a gear, pushed up the tempo and started finding gaps and their interplay picked up a notch.
The first goal came shortly afterwards. There was a lovely build up for the Dele goal. Delicious interplay between Eriksen and Kane and as no one tracked Dele’s run, Eriksen delivered a trigonometry style chip into a position where Dele produced a fine finish to gain the reward.
The second one was even better for me, though the finish was fortunate. Dembele passed left to Davies. Davies returned the pass and headed forward, with no Newcastle player tracking him. No need surely? He’s only a defender.
Dembele pushed the play forward to Dele and with a lovely pass, Dele found Harry. In turn he pushed it to Eriksen in the box who was running diagonally across the defence. He somewhat over hit the ball only for the Calvary from Wales to enter the fray and score. 2-0 to Spurs and, in truth, game over. Kane should’ve had a couple – the post and a close offside denying him. Though “it’s too early in the season for Kane to score” We can afford to laugh at that as we’re very relaxed with this Tottenham side.
I thought Eriksen was the key, especially when the tempo lifted, his vision and key movement won us the game. There was even a moment near the end of the game where he lifted the ball over a Newcastle player, who was headed at him, and continued with his run.
There wasn’t too much to purr about with this game, but the points are ours, at a ground where we’ve stumbled in the past. The next game will be a test against a true challenger and it’s a chance to shut up the media, who are full of cliches and lazy reporting, when it comes to Wembley.