PERHAPS it was fitting that on the day the great Bobby Smith passed away, discussions at White Hart Lane should centre on whether football is for the fearless or fainthearted.
Smith was the spearhead of Tottenham’s famous double-winning side 50 years ago, a striker of such physique and power the epithet ‘barnstorming’ could have been invented for him.
He would think nothing of barging an opposing goalkeeper or centre-half into the net, nor would he complain if he took one for the team. He gave as good as he got, scoring 176 goals in 271 games for Spurs, acquiring legendary status at White Hart Lane as one of the club’s greatest strikers.
So when Mick McCarthy’s post-match press conference revolved, somewhat predictably, around Wolves’ harsh reputation as a team of cloggers, he was adamant the game needs to retain a bit of the Bobby Smith spirit.
“It’s a competitive game. You’re not going to get me bitching about tackling because I don’t – not to the referees, the opposing players or staff,” McCarthy said.
“Take tackling out of the game? I think FIFA or UEFA might like to take that competitiveness out of the game, and you can have a nice tippy-tappy game, but no-one will come and watch it I am afraid because I think you’ll find the British public enjoy watching people tackling and competing.”
Wolves held out stubbornly before taking the lead shortly before half-time with an opportunist goal from Steve Fletcher, their first attempt on target. But three goals in the final 14 minutes prevented Wolves from repeating last year’s shock victory at White Hart Lane and gave Spurs their first home win in the league this season.
“It was a great game today,” added McCarthy. “Overall we’ve played well, not come here and kicked anybody. We treated our hosts with the greatest of respect. We just didn’t score another goal and were the architects of our own downfall.”
Tottenham’s fightback only really started in the 77th minute, when Wolves full-back Stephen Ward lunged in foolishly on Alan Hutton to stop the Scot’s rampaging run illegally.
Dutchman Rafael Van der Vaart dispatched the penalty for his first Spurs goal before Roman Pavlyuchenko and Hutton completed the turnaround with late goals.
The Russian striker replaced Robbie Keane midway through the second-half but looked as ineffective as the Irishman had until the ball fell at his feet from a deflection in the 87th minute, allowing him to slide the ball past Marcus Hahnemann.
Spurs had another stroke of luck four minutes later when Hutton scored his first goal in English football as Richard Stearman’s attempted tackle forced the ball on to his leg and up over Hahnemann into the net. It was harsh on the USA keeper, who had kept Wolves in the game with superb saves to deny Van der Vaart, Gareth Bale and Peter Crouch, among others.
Bale, once again, was Tottenham’s most dangerous player when delivering the ball from the left. Redknapp would love to try a system with three central defenders, and Hutton and Bale as attacking wing-backs. “Imagine that system, with the players we have. You would have two amazing full-backs – they would be up there with the best. It is something that interests me, and something I might do.”
It would require three fit central defenders, though, and Redknapp is struggling to find two for tomorrow’s Carling Cup clash with Arsenal.
Redknapp is delighted to have come back with a victory after Tottenham’s Champions League debut in midweek. “It was good to win and apart from losing to Wigan, we have made a great start to the season.”
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